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.

Apple II at PAX East 2013

March 25th, 2013 10:41 AM
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I'm currently recovering from an exhausting, exhilarating weekend spent at PAX East, the annual video game convention hosted by Penny Arcade. The event attracts to Boston 80,000 gamers of the board, card, computer, and video variety, among them many Apple II users. I have attended all four years of the event with Andy Molloy, and lately with Wayne Arthurton as well; even Jordan Mechner has made an appearance. But it wasn't enough to have Apple II enthusiasts in attendance; we wanted an Apple II there as well.

I reached out to Joe Santulli of the Videogame History Museum, an organization that, along with Digital Press Videogames, coordinates PAX's retro room. This dedicated space features consoles and computers from years past — everything from Commodore 64 to Atari 2600 to Sega Dreamcast. They'd never had an Apple II in the collection, and I asked Joe if I could rectify that. He gladly accepted.

I decided to take the role of coordinator rather than donor. I put out a call on Facebook, Google+, and the KansasFest email list, asking if anyone could donate some aspect of a complete 8-bit gaming rig. I received enough responses that, courtesy Wayne Arthurton, Paul Hagstrom, and Mike Maginnis, with logistical support from Thomas Awrey, I was able to put together an unenhanced Apple IIe with 5.25" floppy disk drive, joystick, and bevy of memorable games.

The hardware and software was delivered to PAX as soon as the show opened Friday morning. I stopped into the room several times over the course of the three-day event to check on the machine. No matter the hour of the day, it was always in use, and even more people nearby were talking about it, usually to the effect of "I remember those" or "I can't believe they have an Apple II!" The computer was a hit! Oregon Trail was a popular choice, with Karateka a close second. Ghostbusters, Castle Wolfenstein, and even some BASIC programming also made appearances. Click the below thumbnails for evidence of its popularity (or visit Gamebits for a complete PAX East 2013 photo album).

The Apple II was not just a temporary exhibit for PAX East; it has been permanently donated to the Videogame History Museum and will make appearances at conferences and conventions throughout the country, such as the Game Developers Conference, MAGFest, and PAX Prime.

My thanks to all contributors and attendees who've helped the Apple II spirit come alive at PAX!