An Apple II appearance in Beep!

February 13th, 2017 12:48 PM
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I have a growing collection of documentaries in my watch queue, many of them springing from Kickstarter. If I see a topic I like, I can't help but throw $15 at it — especially if it'll get me a digital copy of the movie, years down the road.

Such is the case with Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound. This movie, crowdfunded in 2014, chronicles the evolution of audio composition technology in the interactive entertainment industry, featuring interviews with composers for such classic games as Marble Madness. A variety of hardware platforms and sound processors are featured, especially the Commodore 64 and its infamous SID chip — but disappointingly, at no point did I hear mention of the Apple II.

But I did see it! In two scenes, the narrators' commentary is overlaid with B-roll footage of convention-goers (perhaps at MAGFest?) using classic computers. At 25:19, the machine on-screen is very obviously an Apple IIGS, though the exact software being demoed is indeterminable; minutes later, at 32:44, an Apple RGB monitor — perhaps the same one previously featured, but from a different angle — can be seen in the background.

Playing an Apple IIGS in Beep documentary

Apple IIGS monitor in background of Beep documentary

Given the breadth and depth that Beep set out to cover, it's unsurprising that they wouldn't have the opportunity to focus on our favorite retrocomputer. But the Apple IIGS's Ensoniq chip was one of the platform's hallmark features, warranting acknowledgement right in the model's name — the 'S' stands for "sound", after all. At least it had its cameo.

For more opinion about Beep, read my review on Gamebits.

8-bit iTunes

January 2nd, 2012 10:42 AM
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While putting together last week's post of floppy disk music videos, I came across an odd and obscure video that demonstrates iTunes running on an Apple IIe. It is of course no more real than "Maxster", my Napster client for the Apple IIGS. But it's a professionally shot composition that nonetheless doesn't take itself too seriously, making it a fun and short watch:

In the video's comments, the creator explains some of the steps he took:

Using a special app, the Apple IIe samples the audio and stores it on a floppy disk. Then, it can be played back from the floppy over the Apple's internal speaker. It is a very primitive digital voice recorder using 1980s technology.

The goofy music at the beginning is from a 1957 film called In the Suburbs — this and many more films are available for download at archive.org under Prelinger archive. They are public domain so you can use and edit for YouTube. The clip at the end was actually coming from the IIe on a disc from the 80s — I think it's What's on Your Mind by the Information Society — Leonard Nimoy's voice was sampled saying "Pure Energy" in this song.

The video was uploaded a year ago this month and, at this time, has only 760 views. I should drop the uploader a line and ask him what his goal with the video was and his involvement with the Apple II. Faking a trick like this is one thing, but he obviously has some familiarity with and fondness for the actual hardware, wouldn't you say?

On editing Juiced.GS and Open Apple

June 6th, 2011 11:17 AM
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As I spent this weekend writing and editing both Juiced.GS and Open Apple, it occurred to me how different the processes are.

When I write for Juiced.GS, I edit as I go: words are substituted, sentences experimented with, entire paragraphs moved or scrapped. By the time I finish my first draft, it's often very close to a final draft.

But with Open Apple, there's no going back. Once I click "Record" on the computer, the first take attains as much permanency as the second and third, with no distinction between garbage and eloquence. It's more akin to brainstorming, where we just keep talking to get the ideas down to be sifted through later. There's an editing process, for sure, but it's entirely distinct from the content production phase.

But then I thought, isn't that similar to the relationship between writers and editors? Writers may edit as they go, but their work isn't truly edited until it's fallen under the scalpel of a separate editor who prepares it for publication. In recording an episode of Open Apple, I'm more akin to a writer who then submits his work to an editor. Everything that doesn't fit the vision of the final product is sloughed at a later date and time.

It's a challenging distinction, but that's how I like it. I've enjoyed every stage of Open Apple production because it's so new to me. My first professional experience with audio editing came as the post-production editor for the now-defunct Computerworld Editorial podcast, which opened with one of the same songs heard in Open Apple. The Apple II podcast marks the first time I've also participated in outlining and then producing the content. Being involved in a project from beginning to end is the best way to learn what goes into a finished piece and what parts are enjoyable, as I discovered when I became editor and then publisher of Juiced.GS.

I feel right now like I'm at the same point of educational experimentation with Open Apple that I was six years ago with Juiced.GS. Neither will ever be perfect, and both provide unique and ample opportunities to innovate — but Open Apple's learning curve is currently much steeper, and I couldn't be happier.

Open Apple returns to the airwaves

March 7th, 2011 2:00 PM
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By the time you read this, the second episode of the Open Apple podcast will have aired. That's one data point closer to a trend!

When Mike and I first conceived of the Apple II community's first co-hosted podcast, we weren't sure what our publication schedule would be. RetroMacCast has been covering related topics nearly every week for two years and are fast approaching their 200th episode (wow!). The nascent Retro Computing Roundtable is currently recording (and often publishing) new episodes every three weeks. By contrast, the monthly schedule Mike and I had set our sights on seemed tame.

But after doing two episodes of Open Apple, we're feeling good about our decision to not pursue anything more ambitious at this time. Mike and I each have diverse interests that relate to the Apple II, whether it's writing for Juiced.GS, preparing KansasFest sessions, or updating our blogs. We want to give each project the time it deserves; for Open Apple, that means collecting feedback, outlining the next episode, and lining up guests. Even if the quality of the show didn't suffer for a more frequent schedule, the quality of our other community output might, as there are only so many hours in the day.

So enjoy the second episode — you have a month to enter the "Name the Game" contest! We'll return with our third episode one issue of Juiced.GS, one KansasFest registration opening, and and ten blog posts later.

Introducing the Open Apple podcast

February 7th, 2011 3:37 PM
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February 7, 2011 — Mike Maginnis and Ken Gagne, two long-time Apple II users, are proud to announce the Apple II community's first co-hosted podcast. Open Apple, a monthly show dedicated to Steve Wozniak's most famous personal computer, begins broadcasting today at http://www.open-apple.net/ with a new episode to come every month.

"When we got home from KansasFest 2010, we didn't want the experience to end," said Gagne in the show's first episode, referring to the annual Apple II convention. Added Maginnis, "One of the great things about the Apple II is the community that surrounds it. Having a podcast where we can chat with other Apple II users fosters that community feeling you get at events like KansasFest." In keeping with that theme, the two co-hosts are joined in their first episode by KansasFest veteran Andy Molloy, the first of many guests to appear on Open Apple.

The Apple II was the first personal computer produced by Apple Computer Inc. after its founding in 1977. More than eight models and five million units were sold before it was discontinued in 1993. Nearly two decades later, the computer still enjoys regular releases of new hardware and software, thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of both loyal fans and retrocomputing newcomers.

The Open Apple show aims to spotlight that vibrancy and serve that community with regular segments that include "II News", a roundup of the latest Apple II activities and announcements; "Retroviews", a look back at classic hardware and software; "Apple Pickings", which spotlights Apple II sales on eBay and Craigslist; and "Name the Game", an audio trivia challenge in which listeners can win prizes.

"There are plenty of other great retrocomputing podcasts that we enjoy listening to," said Maginnis, "but none dedicated to the Apple II is produced on a regular basis, and nothing that consistently features multiple voices from the community. With this show, Ken and I are looking forward to keeping in touch with each other and other Apple II geeks every month."

Mike Maginnis blogs about Apple's pre-Mac computers on his blog, 6502lane.net. Ken Gagne is editor and publisher of Juiced.GS, the Apple II's longest-running print publication, and is marketing director for the community's annual convention, KansasFest.

The Open Apple podcast is available immediately at http://www.open-apple.net/ where it can be streamed live or downloaded.

Apple airwaves

November 8th, 2010 1:47 PM
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In May 2006, Apple II coverage gained a new channel: the podcast. This popular form of timeshifted radio finally gained its own broadcast dedicated to our favorite desktop computer when Carrington Vanston, a Canadian previously unknown to our community, debuted 1 MHz!, offering "8-bit Apple news and 2-bit Apple reviews."

Later in 2006, the show was joined by Ryan Suenaga's A2Unplugged, which took a different tact with its regular programming coverage and celebrity interviews.

A2Unplugged continues publication to this day, though sporadically, with its 36th and most recent episode having been published five months ago. 1 MHz, on the other hand, published only a dozen episodes in its first two years before going silent in February 2008.

iTunes podcast iconNot all was lost: the Apple II was still a frequent guest of general retrocomputing shows of the weekly RetroMacCast, as well as Earl Evans once-weekly, now-sporadic Retrobits. Along with A2Unplugged and the archival Echoes of KFest, these were our best and only radio shows.

David Greelish of Classic Computing recently decided to complement those sparse offerings with his own show, and his debut is a knockout. The Retro Computing Roundtable has published its first episode with lively chatter and insightful discussion among a star-studded panel consisting of David, Earl Evans, VintageComputer.net's Bill Degnan … and Carrington Vanston.

I guess I should take it personally that the Canadian never answered my emails, as David somehow got him back onto the retro scene. Not only that, but in the RCR podcast, Carrington off-handedly dropped a bombshell: 1 MHz would be back.

And it is. Last Friday, for the first time in 2.5 years, a new episode of the 1 MHz podcast was published. With little mention of his absence, Carrington launches right into his usual fare of news and reviews:

Krüe releases the TreeHugger GS/OS Printer Port driver, but will you dare to install version 0.0? The daredevilry continues as you risk blowing your mind when you view the Visual 6502 emulator. For less risky but no less enjoyable online ogling, check out Dr. Matt Barton's book excerpt about LucasArts adventure games called The Maniac in the Mansion. And then come with me on a journey to the post apocalyptic world of Wasteland where we'll fight mutants, build robots and learn to repair toasts. Finally, I track down the rare and elusive Wasteland Survival Guide for the Apple II, which just makes me want to play Wasteland one more time.

It's a great episode, filled with Carrington's usual zany humor and mile-a-minute gushing (does he ever breathe?). The episode is apparently made possible (or motivated by) corporate sponsorship, though it remains to be seen whether that will prove enough for future episodes.

We can hope so.

Find all these shows on iTunes:

• 1 MHz
• A2Unplugged
• Echoes of KFest
• Retro Computing Roundtable
• RetroMacCast
• Retrobits