A half-decade of Apple II blogging

April 27th, 2015 7:49 AM
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When I joined the Juiced.GS staff in 2002 as associate editor, I was given a quarterly column in which to ruminate about whatever Apple II topic I wanted. Over the next 16 issues, I wrote about exploring Boston with Ryan Suenaga, the passing of Gary Utter, BASIC programming, and more. The freedom write about whatever struck my fancy, combined with the structure of writing on a quarterly schedule, was enjoyable and inspiring.

Starting with volume 11, I become editor-in-chief of Juiced.GS and handed my column to Eric Shepherd. I still had my own column in the form of the quarterly editorial, but this one was a lengthier and a bit more formal and on-topic to the magazine. I've enjoyed writing it for ten years — but halfway through that run, I decided I wanted something more. I decided a blog would not only give me more options in what content to write and how to present it, such as the embedding of photos and video; it would also be timelier than a quarterly print pub could be, allowing pieces that were shorter but more relevant to everything that happens between issues of Juiced.GS.

Thus was born Apple II Bits, which turns five years old this Wednesday. A twice-weekly column for the first two years, and "only" weekly for the next three, it's now produced 367 posts — which, at Juiced.GS's publication rate, would've taken me 92 years to write.

Friends outside the retrocomputing community are baffled how I can find something new to say about the Apple II every week. While there are times that it can be challenging, finding a topic generally isn't all that hard: there's always someone releasing a new game, or developing hardware, or publishing a podcast to keep the Apple II alive and well. I enjoy this regular opportunity to be creative and hone my writing on the topic that made me a writer in the first place. My thanks to all the creators and readers that make this blog possible.

For a less fascinating and more quantitative look at this site's growth since last year, continue reading.

  • • As of today, the site hosts 367 posts (52 more than this time last year), 1823 tags (+186), 441 comments (+31) from 133 readers (+4), and 1 blogger. With the exception of the number of posts, each of these numbers is growing more slowly year-over-year.
  • • Year-to-year, our pageviews were down 8% and unique visitors down 8% in our fifth year. This is the second consecutive year of decline in traffic.
  • • Our busiest day was August 1, 2014. I have no idea what people were doing here that day.
  • • Our top posts three in the past year were all from 2011:"Selling to Pawn Stars", "Best computer games from the '80s", and "Taking the Apple II online with Uthernet". These were our top three posts the previous year, too. Correspondingly, the top search terms leading visitors to this site are "chris espinosa net worth" and "best apple ii games".
  • • Our top referrals were from A2Central.com, Twitter, and Facebook. This is the first time StumbleUpon did not break the top three and Facebook did.
  • • Traffic from mobile devices was up 10%, and from tablets, down 7%
  • • In the past year, we blocked 18,590 pieces of spam, down from 121,301 the previous year — WOW! More than half of all that spam came in October and November 2014 alone.

Celebrating four years of Apple II blogging

April 28th, 2014 7:49 AM
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Four years ago today, on Wednesday, April 28, 2010, Jon Stewart briefly featured an Apple II on The Daily Show. I wanted to share that video with the Apple II community, but I didn't feel like I had a good outlet for it. Despite having been on Twitter for three years, I wasn't a prolific user (and, by some degrees, I'm still not); the Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook is easy to get lost in; and my only WordPress blog about the Apple II, launched a year earlier, was the Juiced.GS site, which didn't cover non-Juiced.GS aspects of the community.

I needed a platform, fast. Fortunately, I'd already built one: in August 2009, I'd built this site, with consultation from Peter Watson and Mike Maginnis. That Thursday, without knowing my focus or publication, I pushed out that first blog post and rushed off to attend ROFLCon II at MIT.

The next Monday, I posted a story about Charles Mangin's Mac Mini in a Disk II drive. So far, I'd happened to publish posts on Thursday and Monday. I decided to let that be my schedule. Two years later, I narrowed it down to Mondays only. And two years after that, here we are.

A lot's changed since then: I helped launch the Open Apple podcast, providing yet another community voice; Juiced.GS's subscriber base has grown by leaps and bounds; I've resigned from the KansasFest committee. With all those changing outlets, I've enjoyed the stability and reliability of knowing I had to come up with something to say about the Apple II every Monday — a frequency that surprises my friends outside the community, who would expect a monthly or quarterly post to suffice. (Ha!) It's a tradition I intend to continue.

Celebrating four years of apples at Apple II Bits.

Another tradition is the annual reflection of the site's demographics, analytics, and statistics. As I did in 2011, 2012, and 2013, here is a look at the site's scope and growth.

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Apple II Bits turns three!

April 29th, 2013 2:59 PM
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Today marks exactly three years since Apple II Bits' first blog post.

Holy crap, did that go quickly.

I once wrote a quarterly column for Juiced.GS entitled "A Word or II". It was a short piece, only half a page, and could be on any topic on which I had a personal opinion. Figuring out what to write about was never easy, but I did so sixteen times before editorial responsibilities shifted and Eric Shepherd took over the column. Now I write Juiced.GS's monthly editorial, "My Home Page", and have so far done so 29 times. It's still challenging.

So if three years ago you had asked me to write 263 columns about the Apple II, I would've laughed in your face.

Birthday cake

Happy birthday, blog!


And yet, Apple II Bits has done exactly that! It astonishes me. Although there's more effort required to produce online content than print due to the blog's capacity for embedded multimedia and researched hyperlinks, those same resources provide an almost infinite wealth of topics on which to opine.

Despite that, a year ago this month, I changed the blog's publication frequency from twice-weekly to weekly. I'm glad to have done so, as it's freed me up to produce content for other channels, such as YouTube and TechHive. But there's still plenty more to be said about the Apple II, and as one of the three pillars of my Apple II publishing empire — Juiced.GS and Open Apple being the others — it helps improve the discoverability of the entire network. So let's keep this outlet going, too

In the meantime, here are some random numbers about the blog.

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Two years of Apple II Bits

April 30th, 2012 11:36 AM
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Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of Apple II Bits, where I have been publishing two posts per week without fail. Per my recent analysis of my time commitments, I shall reduce that rate to once per week, every Monday, starting today.

To mark that transition and the site's second birthday, here are some statistics about the site's growth since my last analytics breakdown:

  • • Apple II Bits received in its second year triple the pageviews it garnered in its first — and nine times as many mobile visitors, almost all of them on iPad or iPhone.
  • • In the past year, StumbleUpon, Facebook, and Twitter have continued to be the top social media referrers of traffic to this site. StumbleUpon is now the #1 referrer of any type; Computerworld, #1 in the site's first year, was #10 in the second.
  • • In particular, my coverage of ROFLCon 2010, a biennial convention last held the weekend Apple II Bits launched, is popular among StumbleUpon users. (I'll be attending ROFLCon 2012 this week.)
  • • Whereas search engines generated 25% of the site's traffic in its first year, in its second, they constituted 40%.
  • • The site's all-time busiest day was Nov 1, 2011, when the site got slashdotted. That's perhaps an exaggeration: my site was not the subject of the /. post, but when it mentioned Visicalc, its author linked not to creator Dan Bricklin's site, but to my post commemorating its public debut.
  • • The second most popular day ever has also been in the last year: my profile of Jeri Ellsworth.
  • • Throughout the site's life, 38% of visitors have used Firefox as their Web browser; 22.5% used Chrome; 20% used Safari; 13% used Internet Explorer (hi, Peter!).
  • • In the last year, Akismet blocked 56,120 spam comments (+44,169 since last April), with the busiest month being Apr 2012 with 7,919 spam. We're on track to block 67,635 spam comments in calendar year 2012, compared with 38,629 in 2011.
  • • As of today, the site contains 210 posts (+110), 1,237 tags (+515), 266 comments (+189) from 84 readers (+50), and 1 blogger.

My personal life has had some curveballs thrown at it in Q1 2012, and I expect the rest of the year to be equally dynamic. I look forward to the stability this blog will offer me, but with a less demanding schedule. Thank you for reading!

The Apple II turns 35

April 16th, 2012 11:58 AM
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On April 16–17, 1977, the West Coast Computer Faire was held, marking the debut of the Apple II personal computer. Marked by this public unveiling, the machine turns 35 years old today, and Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PCWorld and now Technologizer / TIME.com columnist, has pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

McCracken starts by looking back at the invention and inventors that shaped an industry, narrating the creation of the Apple II and the roles Woz and Jobs each played in its design. Demonstrating an intimate knowledge of the subject, McCracken acknowledges the contributions of other, oft-overlooked players, such as Mike Markkula, Rob Janoff, Jerry Manock, and Ron Holt. McCracken's written history features a complementary slideshow of 18 photos, visualizing highlights and milestones of the computer's early life, from its Apple-1 predecessor to Apple growing large enough to warrant a new office. The slideshow's last photo, as well as another from the retrospective article, are from Andy Molloy's KansasFest 2011 online album.

The occasion isn't all dry dates, names, and images. Want to actively participate in the Apple II's birthday bash? McCracken provides 14 ways to celebrate the computer's 35th anniversary:

  1. Read an epic account of its life and time
  2. Watch a so-so TV movie’s depiction of its launch
  3. Read a great first-hand report of the introduction
  4. Watch a very early ad for the Apple II
  5. Watch some later Apple II ads
  6. Buy your very own Apple II
  7. Seek Apple II support from Apple
  8. Play some Apple II games, on whatever computer you’ve got
  9. Watch a movie or TV show guest-starring the Apple II
  10. Visit the Apple II Day Spa in Arvada, Colorado
  11. Watch a 1988 TV show about the aging Apple II line
  12. Attend an Apple II conference
  13. Read classic Apple II coverage at TIME.com

Scott Miller plays Lode Runner

Scott Miller plays Lode Runner at KansasFest 2011
on the computer made famous by Technologizer.
Photo by Andy Molloy; used with permission.

Or, if you're a college student, you might celebrate by receiving a complimentary iPad 3.

Although the Apple II had more affordable and even more popular contemporaries, such as the Commodore 64, the Apple II is especially deserving of recognition. McCracken's closing statement succinctly summarizes:

… if Apple’s only computer had been the Apple I, it would be remembered today only by scholars with an arcane interest in the prehistory of the personal computer. But if the company had folded after releasing the Apple II, it would still be one of the best-known PC companies of all time. The II was — and is — that important.

Here's to 35 more!

A hundred bits of Apple II

April 11th, 2011 11:29 AM
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This month marks the first anniversary of the launching of Apple II Bits. It went live with little fanfare and hardly any self-promotional message board posts or emails to friends. Although I hoped it would be of interest to the Apple II community, I primarily wanted to use this space to explore different topics about the Apple II, in formats and with a regularity that would not be possible in my other retrocomputing writing outlet, Juiced.GS.

To that end, I consider this experiment a success, and one worth continuing.

I've had a variety of positive experiences by engaging with this blog. The post "The return of interactive fiction" directly contributed to the cover story of the March issue of Juiced.GS. An unpublished post, written last September, was folded into another article in that same issue, while another post queued for September was instead printed almost verbatim in that month's issue. I guest-blogged for Apple II History and had some neat complementary posts with 6502 Lane. Three posts have each attracted seven comments — a small number, perhaps, but they represent conversations among friends within and without the Apple II community, as well as strangers whose insights I'd never have otherwise encountered.

The content has been as diverse as the results. Sometimes I report news that's of interest to me, especially gaming-related; in those cases, unlike the objective stance that befits a more news-oriented outlet like A2Central.com or Juiced.GS, I'm able to add my personal take. Other times, the entire blog post is more egocentric, offering reflections and reminiscences. And perhaps unnervingly frequently, the site serves to stalk Woz, the man who brought us together in the first place. Other than being about the Apple II, there's been little consistency to the topic or approach of my writing, which I hope has not been too frustrating for readers.

Rather than wait for Apple II Bits' actual first birthday, I thought I would use this, the site's 100th blog post, to share these musings. To quantify things a bit better, and because I'm a data junkie, here are some objective measurements:

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