Archive for the ‘Mainstream coverage’ Category

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

Teaching computer classes to seniors

February 24th, 2014 11:23 AM
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A year ago this month, the Gulf Coast News of Baldwin County, Alabama, reported how Anne Hinrichs, 74, got her start on the Apple II; now she's helping other seniors get their start with modern computing.:

As a typist in the 70s, she realized computers and word processing were the future of her profession. Anne bought an Apple II computer in 1977 right after she accepted a job typing for a court reporter.

"I took the computer apart and put it back together again so I would know the ins and outs of it," she said.

Anne's interest in computers grew quickly. It became a hobby that soon turned into a job. In addition to typing, she contracted with Olensky Brothers in Mobile, setting up computer systems in offices and teaching people how to use them.

As computer technology became more and more complex, Anne immersed herself in learning. Instead of reading novels, she read computer books. And she never gave up on something challenging, like learning computer languages.

Hinrichs may no longer be teaching on the Apple II, but she still has her original machine:

Anne Hinrichs

Photo by Jill Clair Gentry of the Gulf Coast Today staff.

Alas, her students are not learning on the Apple II, but it makes me wonder if certain demographics would cotton better to that platform, given that kids at the Joseph Sears School in Illinois are playing on retrocomputers. A common stereotype is that today's kids have a natural affinity for technology, since they have grown up alongside it. Is learning the Apple II therefore easier for them? Or is it more challenging, since they are accustomed to GUI interfaces and mobile devices, neither of which the 8-bit Apple II naturally accommodates? How easily do they transfer what they learn on the Apple II to a modern platform — or are these skills transferable at all?

Likewise, would seniors do best with older computers and then graduate to modern platforms, just as Hinrichs did? Or does it make more sense for them to jump right into today's machinery, with no background or context?

I've never had to teach computer literacy so don't know where I would begin. But whatever her platform of choice, I'm glad Hinrichs hasn't stopped!

A matter of style at Computerworld

December 16th, 2013 12:36 PM
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The longest I've ever stayed at one job was six years at Computerworld, during which time I saw the publication's transition from a magazine with a Web site to a Web site with a magazine. Through it all, we had copyeditors to ensure the continued quality of all our content, checking articles for clarity and consistency issues that may've escaped the news editors who worked directly with reporters on assignments and story structure.

As with most publications, Computerworld maintained a style guide — a shared document that all copyeditors referenced to verify whether the magazine presented quotations are in the past tense or present, if it was "Web site" or "website", and other common questions. My own first need to consult this guide came in March 2008 when contributing to the anthology, "Tales from the crypt: Our first computers". I was unsure if I should write my model of Apple as IIGS, IIgs, or something else.

This is what the style guide had to say on the matter:

Computerworld style guide

Ancient microcomputers from Apple?!
Click to enlarge.

As Computerworld's resident Apple II fanboy expert, I long wondered if this style guide entry was not written with me in mind as a sort of gentle ribbing. Although most of my co-workers had been in the industry long enough to remember and appreciate the elegance of the Apple II — heck, one of my colleagues was none other than the former editor-in-chief of inCider/A+, Dan Muse — it is nonetheless difficult to explain why one would carry that torch into the 21st century. Easier to poke fun at it, right?

It was only when researching this blog post that I confirmed this particular entry in the style guide well predates my tenure at Computerworld. It figures that a publication that had been around since 1967 would've addressed this issue long before my arrival. I should've checked my ego at the door!

Computerworld was a great source for Apple II news during my time there, and they continue to entertain the topic with coverage such as video profiles of KansasFest 2013 attendees. Given this support, readers should be glad to know the Apple II has earned a place at Computerworld, both behind the scenes and on the front page.

(Screenshot used with permission.)

Apple II, King of the Desert Bus

December 9th, 2013 8:50 AM
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LoadingReadyRun, a comedy troupe named after the Commodore 64 but which has avowed Apple II users among its ranks, is in this business for more than just giggles. They're also here to make a difference with the Desert Bus for Hope, an annual video game marathon to raise money for Child's Play, a non-profit that provides toys to children's hospitals around the globe.

The seventh annual Desert Bus kicked off on November 16 and ran for more than six days, all of which was streamed live over the Internet. The event featured many special guests, among them Penn and Teller, Paul and Storm, and Bill Corbett — but none as special as the Apple II.

Audience participation is a key factor of Desert Bus, and one challenge invited viewers to create a six-second looping Vine video that somehow commemorated Desert Bus. Apple II community member Lady Sephiroth submitted this entry:

Lady Sephiroth tells me that the featured Apple IIe was in fact connected to the Internet at the time of the video. So this was no academic exercise: she truly was navigating to DesertBus.org, using the IIe as a terminal to access the event's IRC channel.

Desert Bus to IIe

Connecting to the Desert Bus IRC channel via an Apple IIe. Photo by Lady Sephiroth.

An Apple II being featured in a live event is neat, but the real win? Desert Bus for Hope raised $521,450 — more than half a million dollars — for a lifetime total of $1,790,133.57.

For the children.

UPDATE (2-Jan-13): The total raised by Child's Play Charity in 2013 is $7.6 million.

Why is Apple DOS source code release important?

November 18th, 2013 12:09 PM
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Last week, the Computer History Museum released the source code to Apple DOS 3.1:

With thanks to Paul Laughton, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Damer, founder and curator of the Digibarn Computer Museum, and with the permission of Apple Inc., [the Computer History Museum is] pleased to make available the 1978 source code of Apple II DOS for non-commercial use. This material is Copyright © 1978 Apple Inc., and may not be reproduced without permission from Apple.

This disk operating system has been previously decompiled and the notes published online, which you'd think would make the Computer History Museum's release unimportant. And yet it's been reported far and wide — not just the usual vintage computing sites, but Apple news sites and broader IT outlets as well. Why all the commotion over old news for a 30-year-old machine?

It's not the product, but the process, that's significant. "What is interesting is Apple's agreement to release it," said Dr. Steve Weyhrich of Apple II History. "They never release stuff like this to the world." Agreed David Schmidt: "That is the only thing that is interesting about this: Apple's actual permission to leak any kind of intellectual capital."

However, there is also some original material in this particular offering of the source code. Weyhrich continued: "The code that was released also has that advantage of being scanned from actual printouts of Paul Laughton’s work in progress, with his comments on how the different parts of the system work… I've seen some of these [documents] before, but there are some that not even David Craig has gotten his hands on over the years. Historically, it’s quite interesting, and the Museum has comments from Laughton on the process of the creation of Apple DOS that give details that I didn’t get out of him when [I interviewed him — I guess] I didn’t ask the right questions!"

Click past the jump for an index of sites that have reported the source code's release.

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John Romero and Craig Johnston's Apple II podcast

November 4th, 2013 7:47 PM
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The Open Apple podcast launched to complement the existing podcasts dedicated to the Apple II — but with the hiatus of 1 MHz and the cessation of A2Unplugged, the community's first and second ever podcasts respectively, Open Apple has become the Apple II podcast. Other shows such as the Retro Computing Roundtable, RetroMacCast, and Floppy Days are all excellent shows that feature the Apple II, but it's not their focus. It leaves me a bit uncomfortable to have no podcast besides our own offering a dedicated, unique perspective on the machine.

Finally, we are in good company. Last week saw the launch of Apple Time Warp, a podcast hosted by KansasFest 2012 keynote speaker John Romero and blogger Craig Johnston:

John Romero and Craig Johnston talk about the early days of games on the Apple ][, interview Apple ][ game programmers, and generally cover topics relating to Apple ][ games and history.

The pilot episode (also available on iTunes) clocks in at 49 minutes of Romero — creator of Dangerous Dave, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake — reminiscing about the launch of his game programming career on the Apple II and the celebrities he met along the way, such as Nasir Gebelli. The tales may be familiar to the audience of his excellent KansasFest keynote speech, for which he interviewed Jordan Mechner, Will Wright, Bill Budge, and more.

As I discovered in this podcast, those interviews may've been part of a larger project I'd never heard of: The Romero Archives. Founded in 2009, it is a collection "dedicated to preserving the work of game designers and the history of game design… The Romero Archives is currently in the proposal stage with plans to launch in 2015. Online archiving is in progress." Those archiving efforts can thus far be seen in video interviews Romero recorded in 2010 with Gebelli, Ralph Baer, and more.

With only one episode published thus far, Apple Time Warp is too young to indicate if it will be a permanent addition to the Apple II airwaves. But the first episode is a promising and enjoyable interview that has already broadened the community's horizons. I wish my fellow podcasters the best of luck!

Digital Den launch party

October 28th, 2013 10:59 AM
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Mary Hopper began making waves this August when she announced her intention to found a computer history museum in Boston. News of the Digital Den was picked up by Open Apple, the Retro Computing Roundtable, the Boston Globe, and Apple II Bits.

The museum continues to evolve into a extant institution, as evidenced by the launch party held on October 20. As a backer of the museum's Indiegogo campaign, I received an invitation to the event, where I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Dr. Hopper, Adam Rosen of the Vintage Mac Museum, and Ian S. King of the Living Computer Museum, as well as catch up with fellow retrocomputing enthusiast Dave Ross. On-hand were classic computers such as the Apple II, TI-99, and Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as newer tech like the Oculus Rift. It was an encouraging occasion for a museum that continues to seek a permanent home.

My photos from the event are posted below and are available under a CC-BY-NC license. The book featured below, Gordon Bell's Out of a Closet: The Early Years of The Computer [x]* Museum, is available online as a PDF. For more photos from the event, including a silly one of me by Rus Gant, see the Digital Den's first exhibit photos.

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