Archive for the ‘Mainstream coverage’ Category

The Apple II is everywhere, as evidenced by these reports.

Stephen Hawking, Richard Garriott and the Apple II

March 19th, 2018 9:21 AM
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The average intelligence of the human race dropped last week with the passing of Dr. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who conducted groundbreaking research into black holes, general relativity, and quantum gravity — none of which he may have been able to communicate without the Apple II.

The text-to-speech program that became synonymous with the renowned scientist was founded on the Apple II, as reported Wired in 2014:

Equalizer first ran on an Apple II computer linked to a speech synthesiser made by a company called Speech Plus. This system was then adapted by David Mason, the engineer husband of one of Hawking's nurses [Elaine Mason, whom Hawking would later marry], to a portable system that could be mounted on one of the arms of a wheelchair. With this new system, Hawking was able to communicate at a rate of 15 words per minute.

Hawking [became] very attached to his voice: in 1988, when Speech Plus gave him the new synthesiser, the voice was different so he asked them to replace it with the original. His voice had been created in the early 80s by MIT engineer Dennis Klatt, a pioneer of text-to-speech algorithms. He invented the DECtalk, one of the first devices to translate text into speech.

His trademark voice wasn't Dr. Hawking's only intersection with the Apple II over the years. He became friends with Richard Garriott, the intrepid explorer whose legendary role-playing games, Akalabeth and Ultima, took many an armchair adventurer into realms unknown. Garriott was likewise accompanied by Dr. Hawking on some extraordinary exploits: the two flew together in a "zero-g" flight in 2007.

Dr. Hawking's passing coincided with the annual media festival SXSW, prompting a programming change to accommodate a remembrance to the late physicist, "A SXSW Tribute to Stephen Hawking with Stories from Richard Garriott, Karl Gebhardt and Stephen Wolfram".

The world is poorer for the loss of Dr. Stephen Hawking — but Dr. Hawking and the Apple II community were richer for having known each other.

(Hat tips to Steve Weyhrich, Cult of Mac, India Today, iNews, and Spectrum Local News)

What Remains of Edith Finch

January 15th, 2018 10:29 AM
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After investing hundreds of hours playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I needed something smaller and more narrative-driven to cleanse the palate. A game I'd long had on my to-play list was What Remains of Edith Finch, an indie game that takes only 2–3 hours to complete. My friend Susan had called it one of her favorite games of 2017, so I booted my PlayStation 4 and played it through.

The game is a series of vignettes told from the first-person perspective of various ancestors in the Finch family across the last century. As such, it is set in different eras, and their house is redecorated each time to match the period. Naturally, this put me on the lookout for an Apple II computer, which can be an obvious visual signifier of one's setting. And although I did find a desktop computer, it was an unidentifiable, generic machine.

I finished the game sad for this missed opportunity and watched the credits crawl.

But wait — what was that?!

What Remains of Edith Finch

Each developer is represented in the credits by an actual photo from their childhood… and lead artist Brandon Martynowicz is featured with his Apple II! I thought it might be a IIe, which would've been era-appropriate: looking at Martynowicz's LinkedIn résumé, I'd estimate him to have been born around 1982, and he appears 2–2½ years old in this photo, putting it at 1985, two years after the IIe's debut. But Steve Weyhrich clarified: "The badge should be on the left if it was a IIe. They keyboard is much more Apple II/II Plus-ish, particularly the power light by itself on the left. My guess would be either a II/II Plus with some other sticker to the left of the regular badge, or a clone with a different badge."

Sadly, Martynowicz left Edith Finch developer Giant Sparrow in February 2017, two months before the game's debut. He now works at Riot Games, developer of the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends, inspired by Warcraft III. It's unlikely we'll see his Apple II in that fantasy setting… but I'm glad he worked it into as fitting a game as Edith Finch!

Christmas lights

December 25th, 2017 4:52 PM
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Merry Christmas! What better time of year to decorate your abode with gratuitous displays of light and sound. It's become tradition for creative homeowners to design increasingly elaborate audio/visual performances, synchronizing music with flashing luminescence.

Such showmanship has been around as long as personal computers have enabled them. A recent story in WIRED interviews the artists behind several such displays, including one who attributes the trend to the Apple II:

The craze began in the 1980s with pioneers like Chuck Smith of Franklin, Tennessee, who linked his Christmas lights to an Apple II in the garage. "I was on the bloody cutting edge of this and I didn’t even know it," he says.

Beyond this article, I can't find any online references to Chuck Smith or his Apple II-powered holiday displays, nor videos of same. I'm curious to know how author Graham Hacia, making his WIRED debut with this byline, tracked down this early adopter. In the meantime, if anyone has examples of other Christmas lights that connected to the Apple II, I'd love to hear about them — please share in the comments below!

Stranger Things teaser on the Apple II

November 6th, 2017 4:26 PM
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The next Star Wars movie is a bit more than a month out, but fans aren't waiting for its release to create art inspired by the film. In July, Wahyu "Pinot" Ichwandardi remade the trailer for The Last Jedi on an Apple II. The monochromatic, cinematic result was a sight to see.

Not content to develop this workflow and then apply it only once, Pinot has returned to his 8-bit medium to create yet another trailer. This time, it's for the small screen as he re-imagines the teaser for the second season of the Netflix series Stranger Things.

For reference, here is the original teaser:

Stranger Things is a horror series set in the 1980s, with generous allusions and actors from that era. Reviews have often described it as a lost show that looks like it was created in the 1980s and is being discovered just now. As such, it's fitting that the Apple II would be the medium of choice to create its teaser.

To do so, Pinot once again returned to his Apple IIc and Dazzle Draw, as detailed on Twitter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Debbie Reynolds' Apple II for auction

October 2nd, 2017 10:21 AM
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Like the rest of the world, I was shocked when Carrie Fisher — Princess Leia, General Organa — died suddenly this past December. As much as the world loved her, no one loved her more than her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died of a broken heart the next day. This double loss of celebrities, feminists, and icons who inspired generations was a terrible end to a terrible year.

We've not fully closed the chapter on their passing, as only now, nine months later, will their estates be auctioned off. The items that were not specifically outlined in their wills or which were not wanted by their beneficiaries will be sold by Profiles in Auction this weekend, October 7–9, 2017. On the first day of the auction is an item of interest to readers of this blog: Debbie Reynolds' Apple II.

481. One of the first Apple II computers – serial # A2S1-0082. First generation Apple II A2S1-0082, one of the first 100 case-designed computers built by the newly formed Apple Computer, Inc. and the model widely credited with launching the home computer market, with millions sold well into the 1980s (not to be confused with the Apple II Plus, the next generation Apple). [Reynolds' son] Todd Fisher took delivery of this computer directly from Steve Jobs in Los Altos. This computer faithfully served as an inventory database with Debbie Reynolds digitally archived her collection. It's been souped-up from the standard 8K all they [sic] way to 24K ram, many of the ROM chips have Apple logo stickers copyright 1978, a built-in speaker, cassette interface audio jacks, and video out on the rear panel. The power supply was replaced due to a faulty first run under warranty. The case exhibits soiling and slight discoloration (to be expected from so many years of use). Electronics untested. This very early Apple II represents a milestone in computing history that launched uninterrupted Apple brand loyalty from Debbie and her organization. $1,000 – $2,000

Debbie Reynolds is not a celebrity whom I would expect to have used an Apple II or to have kept it all these years. It's unknown how recently it was used, or what about it may be unique to its previous owner. Unlike Apple-1 auctions that seem to occur twice annually, this estate sale is perhaps the most unusual and unexpected Apple II auction since the TV show Lost's Apple II Plus.

Interested parties who wish to bid online may do so immediately at Invaluable.com.

Debbie Reynolds' Apple II

You were meant for me.

If I had more disposable income, I would certainly count myself among the bidders.

(Hat tip to Charles Mangin)

Trello for the Apple II

September 18th, 2017 10:08 AM
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When I started at my current day job two years ago, I asked my Apple II friends for some good team-based project management tools. My quest was made more difficult by me not knowing what I was looking for, as I'd never used any such software.

Still, even though Trello came highly recommended, I found it inscrutable: it seemed to be just a series of lists in which items could be dragged from one column to another. How was this not simply a cloud-based, collaborative spreadsheet — like Google Sheets? I didn't understand how to make it work for me and my team.

Maybe I should given Trello another try, as it's recently proven its heart is in the right place. Their latest commercial is bookended with homages to our favorite classic computer:

Whenever I see the Apple II appear in unexpected places, I wonder how it got there. Who on the Trello team decided that a callback to a 39-year-old Apple computer was the proper frame for their latest advertisement? Where did they get the hardware used in the video? And what's going to become of it?

It may not be a story for the next issue of Juiced.GS… but it's one that puts a smile on my face.

(Hat tip to Eric Shepherd)