• accessories,  apple //e,  vintage

    Yellowstone Universal Disk Controller Now Available

    Big Mess O’ Wires (BMOW) has begun selling their new Apple II-series universal disk controller card, the Yellowstone Universal Disk Controller.

    Yellowstone is a new disk controller card that can be used by retro computing enthusiasts in their Apple II-series machines, including Apple and clone machines, with an array of 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch disk drives from the 1980s. Further, Yellowstone also supports BMOW’s own Floppy Emu disk emulator and naked Macintosh 800k and 1.44MB drives.

    Yellowstone is a universal disk controller card for Apple II computers. It supports nearly every type of Apple disk drive ever made, including standard 3.5-inch drives, 5.25-inch drives, smart drives like the Unidisk 3.5 and the BMOW Floppy Emu’s smartport hard disk, and even Macintosh 3.5-inch drives. Yellowstone combines the power of an Apple 3.5 Disk Controller Card, a standard 5.25-inch (Disk II) controller card, the Apple Liron controller, and more, all in a single card.

    I am excited to have received my Yellowstone card this week because I also received a second unenhanced Apple //e. (Have I mentioned that I have a deep fondness for my first Apple computer?) I plan on using the Yellowstone card in one of my //e’s as a way to get 3.5-inch disk drive support since finding new old stock 5.25-inch floppy disks is a bit difficult.

    I ended up ordering the “Everything Bundle” ($169). This bundle, as the name implies, includes the Yellowstone universal disk controller card ($139) and two DB-19 female disk adapters ($19/ea) so that I can connect two sets of drives to a single computer at a time.

    My end result could look something like an enhanced Apple //e with the DuoDrive and the BMOW Floppy Emu connected for easy image-to-floppy creation or to archive the original floppies in my small collection. Another configuration that I am looking forward to trying is connecting my Apple 5.25″ drive and a Macintosh 800k floppy drive to the same system to make a bootable floppy disk with a few different programs on it.

    And that is what makes these new cards for old computers so interesting – you can mix-n-match new and old parts to extend and customize the Apple II-line just like Woz intended.

  • apple //e,  mac mini,  mac os x server,  mac se,  macintosh,  vintage

    Restoration Projects Update

    Back in December (2021) I posted a picture on Twitter of a pair of Mac SE compact Macs and a Power Macintosh 7200/120.

    They were part of my Christmas break project to occupy my time while on vacation. A nerds gotta nerd.

    I also picked up an Apple //e. And, a Mac mini.

    So, I figured now is a good time to give an update on where these projects are.

    Mac SE Rebuild (January, 1987)

    My first Macintosh was the Mac Classic (1990). It was a great machine to have, and it felt like the natural, albeit without color, extension of my Apple IIgs and GS/OS. A few years later, once I got into the workforce, I was introduced to the Mac SE, the machine that the Classic was based on. I thought that it and the Mac SE/30 looked so cool with its Snow White design language. When I decided to do a rebuild of a compact Mac, the SE was the perfect choice since it represented my nostalgia for my Classic and a timeless classic of the compact Mac era from Apple’s history.

    The picture shows two Mac SEs because the first one was damaged in shipping and became the donor parts machine for the second, which was in better external shape.

    The case of the SE is cleaning up very well. I have used many cotton swaps, wipes, and IPA. Likewise, the motherboards cleaned up well also. I cut out the PRAM batteries before they leaked.

    The biggest problem is restoring the floppy drives. The three Sony 800kb floppy drives that I have need to be stripped down, cleaned, greased, and lubricated, and work needs to be done to carefully work on and clean the eject gear mechanism. This is clearly the most difficult part of the restoration.

    I believe that my Mac SE rolled off the assembly line as a dual 3.5-inch floppy drive model because it came with a third-party Microtech spacer in the top floppy drive position. On this project, I want to put the SE back into that configuration. I will be ordering the bracket that is used to secure two floppy drive cages together. With an open source BlueSCSI microSD card to SCSI interface board. When reassembled, the BlueSCSI board should sit nicely on top of just behind the stacked floppy drive cage.

    Apple //e Enhanced (March, 1985)

    As we saw in my welcome home video, the Apple //e is really good shape. At some point, I’ll need to remove the motherboard, clean it, and then reinstall a replacement set of plastic standoffs and screws. I’ll wait to do all of that work until I find the parts I’ll need.

    The //e is working fine, and it has pasted its built-in diagnostics test (hold down both Apple keys and then power the unit on). I can keep using with a Dell LCD monitor and my Big Mess of Wires Floppy Emu. While I don’t have my first Apple //e anymore, I do have the 5.25-inch disks that came with it, and I would like to connect a pair of disk drives to it. The card that is installed in my current //e uses the newer I/O Controller Card and connects to a DB19 disk port. I will be placing an order for a refurbished Apple 5.25-inch Apple 5.25 Drive (A9M0107). It will let me use my old disks again to boot up the computer. the I/O Controller Card can also be used with a Duodisk Drive. I liked it because it seemed to be more compact and had a spring loaded eject mechanism. My original //e had a Disk II controller card and a pair of Disk II drives. If I can find a working card and drives at a reasonable price, I would buy them. I didn’t know this at the time, but the Apple //e could use the 3.5-inch floppy drive that I had with my Apple IIgs. The //e needed an Apple LIRON disk controller card. Those cards are a bit hard to find on eBay, however, Big Mess of Wires has developed Yellowstone – a universal Apple //-series drive controller card. Think of it as one modern disk controller to rule them all.

    Power Macintosh 7200/120 (April, 1996)

    Of the current restoration projects, the Power Mac 7200 needs the least amount of work. It is running fine as is. I did run across an eBay vendor who had two 512kb VRAM (video RAM) chips at a reasonable price. The 7200 has three VRAM slots on the motherboard. With the two new chips, I’ll have 2MB of VRAM and will have filled all three slots. Nice.

    Looking ahead to other components, I may pick up a period accurate keyboard. My recollection of the Apple Design Keyboard was that it was supposed to be a less expensive all plastic replacement for the fan favorite Apple Extended Keyboard II. That wasn’t even a contest. I held on to my Extended II at work for as long as I could. I still have one, but I only use it sparingly as I am worried about RSI issues from prolonged use.

    If the original Quantum Fireball SCSI hard disk fails, I will switch to either a SCSI2SD or BlueSCSI board. The only other upgrade that I might to do the 7200 is to install a PowerPC G3 accelerator card. At some point, my 7200 had one, as the third-party upgrade badge sticker was affixed to the front of mine. Since the card was removed, I removed the badge. I feel that installing Apple upgrade kits keeps the purity of the computer. I still haven’t made up my mind about third-party accelerators. In my past experience, they seemed like more trouble than they were worth requiring that you follow a maddeningly specific OS and extension software recipe to keep it running well.

    Mac mini (Mid-2011)

    While old, I would call my recently acquired Mac mini “vintage”. This wasn’t a restoration either. Think of it as recycling an old PC by giving it a new purpose. In my book, saving old equipment from a landfill is a noble cause.

    I wanted to build a home server to host selected videos and music that I purchased over the years from the iTunes Store. Yeah, I know I can just stream purchases from Apple’s server, but I grew up in a time when you had to pay for your bandwidth, and I remember what some of my monthly America Online and Verizon bills looked like. So, when possible, I like to stream video and music across my home network.

    With that in mind, I upgraded the RAM on the Mac mini to 16GB using a Crucial memory upgrade kit. Then, I installed a fresh copy of Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.6 and the corresponding Mac OS Server 5 software that I had previously downloaded from the Mac App Store. Sure, it’s not the newest or fastest computer on the block, but it was dirt cheap. The mini and the memory upgrade, all in, was just about $200. I connected an extra USB 2TB RAID box for file serving and downloaded iTunes content. Boom! Home server on the cheap.

    Future Projects

    Once I get the Mac SE and the //e fully restored and running again I plan to take a break from restore projects. I have learned a lot from these projects so far and I’m sure that there is still more to (re)learn from using and enjoying these machines again.

    As the weather turns cold again in the fall, the hunt will resume for more machines to restore or rebuild. My short list includes a Macintosh IIci, a Mac SE/30, and an Apple IIgs. If I happen across an Apple //+, Apple //c or //c Plus, Mac Classic, II-series, or Quadra 840av, well, I’ll probably scoop them up to be stored for refurbishment at a later time.

  • apple,  apple //e,  lifestyle,  vintage

    Welcoming Home an Apple //e

    Apple //e with Apple Disk II 5.25-inch floppy drives and green screen Apple Monochrome Monitor

    From January 1983 to November 1993, Apple sold the Apple //e personal computer. It was wildly popular with consumers, educators, and even business professionals. Over the Apple //e’s service life, it saw no less than three major revisions – the original //e, the //e Enhanced, and the //e Platinum – and four motherboard upgrades.

    For me, it was my first introduction the world of computing and set me on a course to be a life-long Apple fan and IT professional. My parents bought me a second-hand Apple //e in the late 1980s as an upgrade to my first computer, the V-Tech Laser 128, an Apple // clone.

    After letting mine go, I still had a soft spot in my heart for the //e. And, while I no longer had my Apple //e, I remained a fan of that early computer and continued to count myself as a member of Team Apple // Forever.

    Now, years later, though the magic of the worldwide garage sale website that is eBay, I officially belong to the Apple //e owner’s club again. I am so excited to have one of these popular computers once more that I posted an unboxing and walkthrough video on YouTube.

    Welcome home little buddy.

  • apple,  apple //e

    Happy Birthday, Apple //e!

    apple_2e_with_disk2_drives
    Image via TechHive.com

    Apple fan blog Cult of Mac.com reminds us that the famous Apple //e turns 35 years old today.

    The Apple //e was the undisputed sales winner when compared with the other two Apple computers released that same year, the Apple Lisa and the Apple ///.

    I have found memories of the Apple //e. It was the second computer that I owned, my first was a vTech Laser 128 – an Apple // clone, and my first computer from Apple. I had the same setup as the one pictured above. I loved that thing and used it form many years until the system board finally failed. The thing that I really enjoyed about the Apple //e was that it embodied that hacker sense instilled in the product by Steve “Woz” Wozniak. The //e was super easy to open (the top case just popped off), giving the user easy access to the many expansion bays and add-on cards. This computer fueled my interests in operating systems and hardware which would play a major role in my decision to enter the Information Technology field many years later.

    I still have my old Apple //e 5.25-inch floppy disks, including the disk with my favorite Apple //e program, Apple Presents Apple. It was the first Apple //-series program I used. As the name implies, Apple Presents Apple, was the program Apple included with the //e that taught people how to use their new computer. My favorite game was the apple bin game, which taught you how to use the open and closed Apple keys (which would later become the Command key) as keyboard shortcut modifiers.

    Happy Birthday, Apple //e!

     

  • apple //e,  apple //gs,  apple tv,  apple watch,  imac,  iphone,  ipod,  ipod touch,  mac,  mac pro,  power mac,  powerbook

    Happy 40th Birthday, Apple! Stay Foolish!

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtY0K2fiFOA]
    Apple – 40 Years in 40 Seconds video originally show during Apple’s Spring 2016 event

    In honor of Apple’s 40th birthday today, I decided to help celebrate by listing out all of the Apple gear that I have either owned (my own personal hardware) or I have used at work (which was a big Mac shop until the mid-2000’s).

    Items that I owned have a picture and the approximate year in which I started using it. All of the hardware listed below has been listed in chronological order by the year Apple released it.

    Apple //e, Apple

    ImageWriter II (1986)

    Apple IIgs (1988)

    Macintosh SE/30 (1995)

    Macintosh Classic (1990)
    Macintosh IIci (1996)

    Macintosh LC (1992)

    Macintosh IIsi (1995)

    Macintosh PowerBook 100 (1992)

    Macintosh PowerBook Duo 230 and DuoDock (1993)
    Apple QuickTake 100 camera (1995)

    Power Macintosh 7100/66av (1995)

    Macintosh PowerBook Duo 2300c/100 and DuoDock (1996)
    Macintosh PowerBook 5300ce (1996)
    Apple StyleWriter 1200 (1996)

    Apple Newton MessagePad 2000 (1998)
    Power Macintosh 7600 (1997)

    Macintosh PowerBook G3 “Wall Street” (1998)
    Power Macintosh G3 Blue and White (1999)
    Power Mac G4 Cube with Apple 17-inch Cinema Display and Apple Pro Speakers (2001)

    iMac 17-inch Flat Panel (2002)
    PowerBook G4 DVI (2002)
    Power Mac G4 Mirrored Drive Doors (2002)
    Power Mac G4 QuickSilver with Apple 20-inch Cinema Display (2003)
    Apple iPod with Dock Connector (2003)
    Power Mac G5 (2004)

    PowerBook G4 (2004)

    Xserve and Xserve RAID (2004)
    Apple iPod 5th Generation (2005)
    MacBook 13-inch (2006)
    Mac Pro with 23-inch Cinema Display (2006)

    iPhone 2G (2010)

    iPod Touch (2008)
    Apple TV 1st Generation (2009)
    MacBook Pro 17-inch (2010)
    iPad with Wi-Fi (2010)

    iPhone 4s Sprint (2011)
    iPad 3rd Generation with Wi-Fi (2012)
    iPad mini 1st Generation with Wi-Fi (2013)
    Apple TV 3rd Generation (2013)
    iPad Air (2013)
    iPhone 5s Sprint (2013)
    iPhone 6 Sprint (2014)

    Apple Watch Sport (2015)

    iPhone 6s Plus Sprint (2015)
    iPad Pro 12.9-inch with Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard (2015)

    iMac Retina 5k, 27-inch (2016)

  • apple,  apple //e,  peripherals,  throwback thursday

    Throwback Thursday: Apple Super Serial Card II

    When was the last time you saw one of theses?  The Super Serial Card II from Apple was the serial card interface for the Apple ][ line of computers, including the wildly popular Apple ][e.  This particular Apple serial card was released in 1981.

    For more information about the back story and history of the Apple Super Serial Card II can be found over on Wikipedia.