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?

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.

Capturing KansasFest

October 28th, 2010 1:46 PM
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I'm a moviegoer and a video gamer, but I generally enjoy those media as a consumer, not a producer. If I had to choose one medium as my all-around favorite, it'd be literature: as described in GET LAMP, there is no means of communication that speaks so directly to the imagination. Accordingly, most of the content I publish for the Apple II takes the form not of software or hardware, but the written word, as evidenced by my multiple blogs and by Juiced.GS.

But when Jason Scott gave his KansasFest 2009 keynote speech, I realized that his presentation could not have been delivered by anyone but him: the content and the delivery were inseparable. A historian, Scott usually records his own speeches, but his travel arrangements had left him without his recording devices. Fortunately, Sean Fahey grabbed his Flip camera and saved the day, but I determined then and there that a more conscious effort had to be made to preserve KansasFest 2010's moments.

After consulting with my workplace's multimedia guy, videoblogger Steve Garfield, and a professional photographer who happens to be my uncle, I had an idea of the hardware I'd need. I bought a Kodak Zi8 digital video camera, Manfrotto tripod, and two external microphones (the Audio Technica ATR3350 and Sony ECM-DS70P). I could've gotten much better, but only for much more money — and at this point, the Apple II is still a hobby with the appropriate budget.

Recording the sessions was rather effortless. The resulting files were trimmed in QuickTime 7 Pro. If the video needed further editing, it was imported into iMovie; for audio, Audacity. The files were then converted from MOV using MPEG Streamclip, per Vimeo's guidelines, and uploaded them into a KansasFest 2010 album. I chose that video service instead of YouTube because of the ease with which high-definition movies longer than ten minutes can be posted and even made available for download. I bought a one-month premium account that could accommodate the multiple gigabytes I needed to upload in a short amount of time; when that month was up, I renewed for a year, lasting me through KansasFest 2011.

All was well and good — except that most of these videos are longer than the average viewer's attention span. When I needed to rewatch Mark Simonsen's keynote speech, I exported the audio to my iPod and listened to it in the car. Steve Weyhrich mentioned his wish for the same ability to listen to the speech en route to work, instead of sitting at his computer for 90 minutes straight, so I set out to make this option available to others.

Echoes of KFestAs I'd ended up using the Zi8's inbuilt microphone instead of either of the external mics I'd brought to KFest 2010, the video's audio captured the background noise of the complex in which the sessions were held. I used Audacity further to remove as much static as I could, via a combination of the noise removal, amplify, and bass boost functions. I then uploaded them to the KansasFest Web site and, upon the recommendation of the event's former logo designer, used the Blubrry plugin for WordPress to make the files available for streaming and to iTunes. The latter, ironically, required an episode to be published before it would accept the podcast submission — but I wanted an iTunes subscription option to be available for the initial announcement of the podcast's availability. I worked around this chicken-and-the-egg scenario by backdating an episode so that nobody but iTunes would notice its publication. The result is the Echoes of KFest — technically more an audio archive than a podcast, but still only the third podcast (after 1 MHz and A2Unplugged) to ever be dedicated to the Apple II.

Since Echoes of KFest was an afterthought not conceived of until after the recordings were made, the audio is one area that's obvious to improve. For KansasFest 2011, I will be investing in a Azden WMS-PRO external microphone. I've also ordered the latest version of iLife for use with non-Apple II projects — experience which I hope will translate back to KansasFest.

I've learned much by stepping into the multimedia realm; now I can say confidently that I really do prefer text! The number of technical steps to get all this media merely presentable meant that further refinement to make it truly professional was beyond me. I don't want to dismiss the flaws of this work by saying "It's better than nothing," but I do hope its audience (if any) will recognize that my methodology is a work in progress and is attempted with the best of intentions.