Rescuing the Prince of Persia from the sands of time

October 15th, 2012 2:17 PM
by
Filed under Game trail, Happenings, History, People;
Comments Off on Rescuing the Prince of Persia from the sands of time

Jordan Mechner is a hot ticket these days. I don't know exactly when that happened — in 2003 when his Apple II classic Prince of Persia got rebooted for a modern gaming audience, or 2010 when the franchise was adapted to film, or 2012 when he was the PAX East keynote speaker. Regardless, he and his properties seem to be popping up everywhere these days, with The Last Express coming out for iOS this month and a new Karateka due out real soon now.

The Mechner story that was perhaps of most relevance to Apple II users occurred earlier this year, when the source code for his original Prince of Persia was found and salvaged. The effort was 95% Tony Diaz, with the other 5% being Jason Scott knowing to bring Diaz into the equation. As the connective tissue, Scott observed the entire experience and gave a presentation about it on Friday, September 28, 2012, at Derbycon. The entire 52-minute session is now available online (note: contains NSFW language):

Remove the foul language and the tendency toward eccentric clothing, and Scott is still an entertaining speaker who knows his material and has a good delivery style. I recommend this and any other presentation of his you have the opportunity to attend.

What's next for Jordan Mechner? At PAX East, he commented that computer gaming was essentially a sidequest toward his goal of becoming a Hollywood scriptwriter. Yet gaming seems to be where he's known best, and he continues to return to that scene. Whichever one makes him happy, I look forward to his continued works.

Hardware restoration done right

February 23rd, 2012 2:14 PM
by
Filed under Hacks & mods;
Comments Off on Hardware restoration done right

There is so much work being done to preserve Apple II software and documentation that we sometimes overlook the value of maintaining hardware, too. But that may be our most precious resource of all; after all, software can be duplicated, manuals can be reproduced, but hardware is unique and something they're not making any more of.

Just this month, two different Apple II users expressed their care and admiration for original hardware by rescuing vintage equipment, painstakingly restoring it — and exhaustively documenting the process in photos.

Kevin Rye of RescueMyClassicMac.com AppleToTheCore.me has saved two peripherals: first, a CH Products joystick; then, a week later, an Apple IIc external 5.25" floppy drive. Useful to the reader are Kevin's instructions for disassembling each piece of hardware, showing how he took everything apart then put it back together in working order. As for the actual cleaning, some of Kevin's techniques may seem crude but are effective: "I could just just wipe the whole thing down with some alcohol and have at it with some Q-tips, but there's too many little nooks and crannies that are caked with dirt and grime. It needs to be taken apart and washed in the sink. I might even give it a quick dip just to lighten it up a bit." But he does apply alcohol, peroxide, and Retr0bright where appropriate.

Meanwhile, Mike Maginnis had the opportunity to restore a full Apple IIc computer. His written documentation doesn't detail disassembly or cleaning techniques, but his photos of the IIc are brilliant, thorough, and artistic, as you would expect from Mike.

IIc keyboard

Before and after. Photo by Mike Maginnis.

For more details on how to restore your hardware to its original function and appearance, Tony Diaz has given multiple sessions on this topic at KansasFest. You can bring your goods to KFest for his expert evaluation, or view one of his previous presentations:

(Hat tip to the 68K MLA forum)

Apple II users on Computerworld.com

July 25th, 2011 1:40 PM
by
Filed under Mainstream coverage;
Comments Off on Apple II users on Computerworld.com

KansasFest 2011 is over — and thus begins my annual coverage of the event for Computerworld.com. Each year, I find a way to bring the Apple II to this enterprise IT site, giving both our retrocomputer a wider audience and Computerworld some diverse and fun content.

But the Apple II has been represented in many other articles during my four-plus years at Computerworld. Members of our community are IT professionals with staggering amounts of institutional knowledge, and as helpful as they are in-person at KansasFest, they have always been willing to be a resource during my research into related topics. I thought it'd be fun to index who has appeared as a source, or who has provided content, to Computerworld.com:

I look forward to other opportunities to put Apple II users' names in lights!

Learn assembly programming at A2Central.com

July 1st, 2010 2:03 PM
by
Filed under Musings;
Comments Off on Learn assembly programming at A2Central.com

With the latest issue of Juiced.GS now in the mail, it's only a matter of time before someone asks if a PDF version is available. The staff and I continue to explore ways to make our magazine's content available online — but for the latest news and reviews, it's hard to justify establishing a presence in a medium where we'd compete with the excellent A2Central.com.

Just as Juiced.GS is primarily a feature-driven publication with a smattering of news, A2Central.com, run by Sean Fahey, focuses on daily news updates with the occasional longer piece. In the latter category, its most recent offering is a series by site founder Eric Shepherd:

Over the coming weeks (or maybe months or even years), I'll be posting a series of articles introducing you to the glorious, glamorous world of assembly language programming for the 6502 series of microprocessors. While, sure, there are plenty of other languages out there, and in this day and age, assembly is something of a line of last resort among "modern" computer programmers, on the Apple II, assembly remains the optimal way to build software for the best possible performance.

Sheppy, who is the former publisher of Juiced.GS and still a regular columnist for that print publication, enjoys several advantages by writing the above series for A2Central.com. He can write at his own pace instead of a quarterly one, and at any length he likes instead of trying to fill a page. He can also make his content as accessible or esoteric as he wants, whereas Juiced.GS, which publishes several programming-related tutorials, is nonetheless more often aimed at the consumer.

The only downside to Sheppy's series is that it's published in a chronological blog format powered by WordPress. As such, as more news is reported, his posts will scroll off the homepage, with no tags or links from new installments to prior ones. One can choose to filter content by programming, but then you'll also be presented with news about new Apple II utilities.

I expressed this concern to site administrator Tony Diaz, and he quickly implemented my suggested solution: filtering by author. It's now easy to access an archive of all content written by Sheppy in reverse chronological order. Just scroll back to the series' start on June 18th, 2010, and you can find all his entries in this tutorial. Thanks, Tony!

The impact of A2Central.com's newest feature is measurable, as it's already inspired former HackFest winner Peter Neubauer to offer his own complementary article. Just as he wrote that winning entry in Macrosoft, Peter's tutorial shows how to write HELLO WORLD using the Mindcraft Assembler.

You can meet Peter, Tony, and Sean at this month's KansasFest, or read about the event at A2Central.com, courtesy the live reporting of Sean, Andy Molloy, and Mike Maginnis.