Steve Weyhrich's Minecraft Apple II

June 5th, 2017 10:30 AM
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Filed under Game trail;
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When it comes to video games, crafting is something I profess to hate. This is a gameplay mechanism wherein you engage in trivial quests to discover or harvest random materials that, by themselves, do nothing, but when combined, may create a unique, useful, or powerful item. But figuring out what items produce these meaningful combinations, and which others result in meaningless junk, is part of the "fun". The whole process is mundane, tedious, and frustrating.

And yet crafting is the titular theme of Minecraft, which is the second best-selling video or computer game of all time, behind only Tetris. I've never played Minecraft, so it's probably not actually as banal as I expect, especially since 121 million people would disagree with me.

One of those people is Steve Weyhrich, and even I have to admit that, whatever I think of the methodology, his results are astounding. Six years ago, Steve presented the fruits of his labor: a massive, to-scale Apple II Plus that you could walk around in. The attention to detail was remarkable, as was the amount of time and dedication such a creation must've required.

In hindsight, perhaps I should not have been so dazzled — because Steve certainly wasn't. Five years later, unsatisfied with his original effort, Steve set out to create an even better Apple II. In his latest video, released two months ago today, Steve shows off a virtual Apple IIe, complete with modem, retrocomputing magazines, and soda.

I don't know how or why Steve does what he does. And since I've never played Minecraft, I don't know if there's any way to share his creation — a sort of Shapeways for Minecraft creations. But I don't need to play Minecraft or explore Steve's Apple myself to be impressed. I knew both Steve and Minecraft were capable of fantastic works of art, but this latest invention surpasses all expectations.

Maybe crafting isn't all that bad, after all.

Building a Lego Apple

April 1st, 2013 2:26 PM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
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Creativity in one discipline does not necessarily lend itself to others. My tenures at Computerworld and Juiced.GS have developed my imagination such that I have no trouble pulling ideas for feature stories from thin air. But one area in which I have always gone strictly by the book, doing exactly what I'm told without deviation or desire for variance — is Legos. The lethally edged gouging objects taught me to follow step-by-step instructions, a skill that, as an adult, has proven handy in the kitchen. But it was always the picture on the box, not in my mind, that I was driving to make a reality.

So I'm all the more impressed by Chiukeung (CK Tsang), who used the Lego building blocks to create a model Apple II.

2013_LEGO_APPLEII01e2

Just like Woz intended, you can even open the machine for direct access to its motherboard and expansion slots.

2013_LEGO_APPLEII04e

CPU, lid, keyboard, floppy drive, monitor — this machine has it all! Everything except for scale, actually — there's nothing to compare its size to, though I suspect it's smaller than Steve Weyhrich's virtual Minecraft Apple.

The Apple II is not the first computer CK has rendered in blocks. Check out his model Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), aka the Famicom, which coincidentally also uses a 6502 chip.

(Hat tip to Kelly Hodgkins)

The Minecraft-Apple II connection

February 2nd, 2012 2:06 PM
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Filed under Game trail, History, Software showcase;
1 comment.

There are plenty of places on the Internet to find people's stories of their introduction to the Apple II: blogs, podcasts, videos, and tweets. Though games are often early computer users' gateway to the platform, I don't expect to find their stories within a game.

Troy Cheek is the exception with his YouTube channel, which features a daily Minecraft video blog. As he explores the sandbox world from a first-person perspective, he records his musings, which meander through both the virtual world and his own history. On day 142, posted on New Year's Eve 2011, Troy tells the story of his first Apple II program and its unexpected longevity. The first mention is at the 2:00 mark, but the below video starts at 3:24 with the crux of the odd juxtaposition of Minecraft and Apple II.

At 3:55, Troy says that his school bought computers "not for computer science geeks, but for the business office — the vocational education people." That reminds me of Mark Simonsen, who said in his KansasFest 2010 keynote speech that he first encountered computers in his college accounting class. I wonder how many people were introduced to the Apple II almost by accident, as a tangent to some other professional endeavor, without anticipating the impact it could have on their lives?

At 14:34, Troy mentions that the school attendance program he developed employed the bubble sort algorithm, which he calls "the redheaded stepchild of the sorting family". It's true that it's not the most efficient way to sort a large data set, but it's also one of the easiest to implement and the best-known. Heck, even President Barack Obama is familiar with it:

Of course, Troy isn't the first person to intersect the Apple II with Minecraft. Steve Weyhrich did so nearly a year ago with his amazing and faithful re-creation of an Apple II using Minecraft building blocks. He later presented his work at KansasFest 2011, including a virtual Apple Store.

What other inspirations of the Apple II have you seen in your favorite games?