Damn You Canada Post

So I got my copy of the December issue of Juiced.GS the other day, and it included a special bonus, a 5 1/4″ floppy with demos! Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced a few weeks ago.

Ken and his team took all reasonable precautions by stamping the envelope with “Magnetic Media, Do Not X-Ray, Do Not Bend” Of course, how do you think that it showed up in my mailbox?

If you guessed rolled up and shoved in, you’re right.

2016-01-06 18.30.47-2Needless to say, I was not impressed, and I did not have a good feeling about this. I opened it up to inspect the damage, and unfortunately, it looked like the floppy disk had been rolled up with it.

2016-01-06 18.31.35Look at the cracks in that casing!

Fortunately, when I contacted Ken, he told me that they were going to to do another run of the floppy disks, and was able to send me one for just the cost of shipping (or I could download the disk image, but it’s just not the same!)

Great customer service as always! I never had the experience back in the day, so I’m looking forward to trying out the first Apple II software disk that I’ve received with a magazine. Getting them off eBay isn’t quite the same!

Apple II Disk Images: SofTyme Volume 10 Number 6

Every time I miss a week, it turns into 2 weeks, then 3, then before you know it, 3 months have gone by. Well, better than the almost year from the last time I took a break.

So, where were we? Shortly after my last post, I had to tear down my system due to the space that I was using for it being needed for something else. But, I had gotten about two dozen disks archived by then, and they’ve just been sitting there waiting for me to upload. (And I have a large box that still needs to be imaged – just got another 100ish 3.5″ floppies the other day too). So lets start looking at disk images.

First, though, I want to show off a picture of my imaging setup!

2015-08-04-14.33.45ADTPro is running on the MacBook in the dock beside the printer, and is hooked up to the IIGS by USB to serial cable. I’ve got a wireless mouse beside the IIGS to and manage the transfers. For fun, I also hooked up the 5th monitor (I’ve got 4 normally) beside the IIGS so that I could read stuff while I was swapping out disks. Unfortunately, that desk is in use now, so I had to tear the system down.

Anyways, I’ve been promising disk images for far too long and haven’t delivered, so let’s get started with SofTyme Volume X Number 6 (Side A) (Side B)

Softyme Vol. 10 No. 6

I wasn’t able to find much information on the Internet on this one, but it looks like it was one of many disk magazines that was published in the 80’s and 90’s before the rise of the Internet.

SoftTymeWhile it may not have been all that notable, it was popular enough to run for at least 10 years. (Assuming from the volume X on the ones that I have), and may have ultimately morphed into the Apple II version UpTime Magazine around Volume 11 Issue 2 or 3.

I suspect that this is the case, as I have SofTyme Volume 11 Issue 1, and UpTime Volume 11 Issue 3, and they are incredibly similar, sharing the same cover style, layout, mailing address, and much of the staff.

UptimeAnyways, I’ll update this if I learn more.

SofTyme takes up both sides of the disk, with A cover page, editorial, and feature sections on the front side, as well as advertising information, a classifieds section, and a number of programs, with the feature program being “Home Budget”.

Softyme TOCOther programs on this disk include:

  • Jousting
  • Flying Gammits
  • Auto Program
  • Take A Tour
  • Inventory
  • Voltaire
  • French Military
  • Marooned
  • Graphix Fun

There is also “The Flip Side” which is an entry point for flipping the disk. Its back side contains additional programs, this month featuring “Paul Zelman’s Shamrocks”. Unfortunately, the disk that I have appears to have been written with side A on both sides, so I don’t have a copy of the “Flip Side” for this one.

So, that’s it for this one. Download the disk images (Side A) (Side B), grab an emulator like Sweet 16 and try them out. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

What comes next? I’ve still got a pile of disk images, I have an SE/30 sitting on the desk beside me that needs a bit of love, and I just made what feels like a big score on eBay. I’m sure that I’ll find something to write about!

Cleaning an Apple Platinum 5.25″ Floppy Drive (A9M0107)

I was about two dozen disks into my archiving efforts when my 5.25” floppy drives stopped reading disks. Both of them. At almost the same time. I was afraid that I may have broken something permanently, because I had made the mistake of hot-plugging them one time. But a little bit of Googling suggested that the solution might be far simpler – the timing was a coincidence, and they might just need a bit of cleaning.

Neither of the drives had been cleaned since they have come into my possession, and I was doing some fairly heavy use on questionable media, so I figured that it was worth a shot. A little further Googling showed that while there were plenty of guides on doing this on an older disk ][ unit, there was nothing for the Platinum 5.25” floppy drive (A9M0107). So, I figured that I would write one up myself.

2015-08-10 16.00.43Very first, the usual disclaimer for these sorts of things applies. You follow this guide at your own risk. I cannot guarantee anything about any of the procedures depicted here. Anything that you do to your hardware is your own responsibility. With that out of the way, lets get started!

Tools: Not much, just a standard #2 Phillips, a little flathead for prying off a metal plate that we’ll find inside, and some rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip for cleaning the drive head.

A9M0107 ToolsStep 1: Remove the Phillips screws on either side of the rear of the case.

2015-08-10 16.01.24Step 2: Remove the top case. The easiest way to do this is to put your thumb under the lock slot and push up at an angle. It should just pop off.

2015-08-10 16.02.24Step 3: Remove the screw holding the top plate and grounding wire to the chassis.2015-08-10 16.02.42Step 4: Using the little flathead screwdriver, carefully pry off the top cover. Note that it hooks over the front of the frame, so will need to be lifted at an angle.

2015-08-10 16.03.28Step 5: Disconnect the 4 connectors on the analog board, making sure to note which way they are attached so that you can plug them in again correctly later.

2015-08-10 16.05.37Step 6: Remove the two screws holding the analog board to the frame, and carefully remove the board, making sure to pull the cables out of the way. Set the board on a static-free surface.

2015-08-10 16.07.45Step 7: Remove the spacer and the metal plate that sit under the analog board and put them off to the side.

2015-08-10 16.09.07Step 8: Lift up the top part of the read-write mechanism (it’s spring-loaded) and use a  Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean the read-write head (the white square in the center). Note that since these drives are single-sided, there is only one head, as opposed to the two that you’d find on a double-sided or high-density floppy drive.2015-08-10 16.09.38Step 9: Follow the instructions in reverse, and put the drive back together.

I wound up clearing a bunch of gunk out of my floppy drives. After putting them back together and hooking them up again (with the power turned off this time), they were happily back to copying disks.

2015-08-10 16.10.46Next time, I’m going to start looking at some of the disks that I’ve been copying – see if I can’t find something interesting for show and tell.

Fun with Floppy Disks

I received the part that I ordered and have begun imaging disks, but more on that later. (I also need to figure out why none of my 3.5″ Floppy drives are working). Today, I want to talk about floppy disks. 5.25″ ones specifically.

A standard disk sleeve is very boring, corporate, and to the point, like the example below.

Generic Disk ReverseAs I’ve gone through the pile of disks, I came across one company – Elephant Memory Systems – who decided to have a bit of fun with it. As a nice bonus, the disk must have been stored well, so it was still readable too!

Elephant Disk Reverse It’s always nice to see companies having fun with this sort of thing. If we were still using floppies in 2015, this sort of sleeve would be right in line with modern design sensibilities.

For Want of a Nail

Short post this week – I had intended do get started on disk copying using ADTPro. While the easiest way to do this is using a Uthernet card, the Uthernet I is out of production (and I don’t have one), and the Uthernet II hasn’t been released yet.

So, that means that I need to fall back to a serial null modem. To hook that up to a modern Mac, I also need a USB to serial adapter. I was sure that I had both of those, as I had used ADTPro to copy disk images to my Apple IIGS before. But, after searching through several boxes and drawers, I was only able to find the null modem cable, so I had to order the adapter. Fortunately, RetroFloppy offers one that is guaranteed to be compatible with ADTPro (you can get null modem cables there too).

USBMacI have one on order, and will be able to get back to this project when it arrives, which will hopefully be within the next couple of days.

Christmas in July

I have been neglecting this blog for far too long – it’s been the better part of a year since I posted last. So, I’m going to make a point of trying to get a post up at least once a week – if nothing else, just to get myself back into the habit of it. Fortunately, I have some ideas for content. Thanks to some choice eBay finds, I’ve been bitten by the retrocomputing bug again!

Here’s what I picked up:

Item 1: A lot of 5.25” disks. On a quick review, it looks like there are a bunch of disk magazines, and various disks from user groups, as well as a few other odds an ends.

5.25floppiesItem 2: A lot of 3.5” disks. A lot of shareware from the Christella Enterprise Catalog, as well as a bunch of fonts and graphics software, as well as a few games and other odds and ends.

3.5floppiesItem 3: An Apple IIGS ROM 00 with a Transwarp GS card. What’s exciting about this one is that I was able to acquire the whole setup for US$710 + shipping. The Transwarp usually sells for about that much on its own. But, for that price, I got a ROM 00 IIGS with Transwarp GS and RAM cards, a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and two 3.5” 800K disk drives (which is good, because it looks like my old 3.5” drive has died). So, I consider that a pretty good deal!

IIGSAll of this came in a couple of days ago, so when I get a chance to play with it, my plan is to sort through and image the surviving disks and make them available, as well as to write about anything interesting that I find. It looks like the disks were stored relatively well, so I’m hoping to get a recent recovery rate from them. But, that’s a topic for another post…

Adventures in Retrocomputing: The Apple IIGS

When I was a kid, the Apple IIGS was the computer to have. It was the cream of the Apple ][ line, with a great library of games and software. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one as a kid. Instead, I got a Macintosh LCII, which was definitely the right decision in 1992. The Apple ][ line was just about dead, and the Macintosh was the future. I got many good years out of that computer, and last time that I checked, it still works.

However, one of the nice things about growing up, (and the invention of eBay), is that you can now afford to get the “toys” that you really wanted as kid, usually for a reasonable price. The same principle applies to those who collect classic cars.

So, starting last February, I did a bit of research, then took to eBay and started collecting parts. By consulting various sources, I came up with the following list of must haves to assemble a capable “modern” IIGS system:

  • A IIGS CPU (ROM 01 or ROM 03)
  • A color monitor (either an AppleColor Composite Monitor or the preferred AppleColor RGB monitor)
  • A monitor cable (harder to come by than you’d think)
  • A Keyboard, Mouse and Joystick
  • A printer (Probably an Imagewriter II – a Laserwriter if I’m really lucky)
  • Disk drives (At 1, preferably 2 each of the 5.25” and 3.5” floppys)
  • A Memory Expansion card (Min 4MB, 8MB preferred)
  • A SCSI card (Apple Fast SCSI preferred)
  • A hard drive
  • A CD-ROM drive
  • An uthernet Ethernet card (http://www.a2retrosystems.com/)
  • An accelerator card (a Transwarp GS or ZipGS)

Long list, eh? I also needed media, and a way to get software from a modern computer to the IIGS. The community has long had a solution for in the form of ADTPro.

I’ve been making good progress down the list, acquiring a ROM 03 IIGS, an AppleColor RGB monitor, (although it took me another 6 months to get the cable for it) and a disk drive. I even wound up acquiring a complete ROM 01 IIGS system with composite monitor, keyboard, mouse, joystick, 2 disk drives, and printer (and bonus Kensington SystemSaver IIGS) because it was cheaper to buy the whole system and only use what I needed, rather than to buy individual parts. Unfortunately, the printer got destroyed in shipping, but insurance covered it.

By the beginning of the summer I had all of the components together, but the ROM 03 system that I had was fairly barebones – I think that it may have originally come from a school – so it had no expansion cards, and even with the ADTPro software, it was rather tedious to copy floppy images over. Pickings were slim on eBay, so I put the project on hold. I was not too keen on investing in a 30 year old hard drive anyways, especially when much more modern technology was available.

Back in February, I had put myself on the waiting list for the next run of CFFA3000 cards. These let you plug in a CF Card or USB flash drive and load disk images (both hard drive and floppy images) from it, allowing you to use modern solid-state technology to replace old magnetic media entirely. In September, Rich Dreher announced that he would be starting the new run of cards, so I put in my order, and received it early in November.  This let me put the system properly through its paces, installing GS/OS 6.0.1 and trying out a few games. Everything worked great!

Now I just need to source some more software, and a Memory upgrade, SCSI card, and a CD-ROM drive to bring the system to it’s full potential. An accelerator would be nice, but not necessary, and I have some good news on the uthernet front – a new production run should see the light of day before too long. No hard dates of course, but the project is still alive.

It’s nice to see that the community is still alive and active, and I look forward to getting deeper into this project, as soon as I can scrape up the last few parts that I need.