Archive for July, 2010

Floppy preservation

July 8th, 2010 12:31 PM
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Filed under History;
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There seems to be an emerging number of technologies for salvaging old data — not only the recent FC5025, as reviewed in the latest issue of Juiced.GS, but other methods that continue to enjoy developer support, such as ADTPro. I first used ADTPro after setting up an Apple IIGS in my office and wanted to make backups of its aging hard drive. Having done so, it's now occurred to me that I have overlooked a trove of much older data.

Box of floppies

So much data, yearning to be preserved!

A brief perusal of the disks reveals several Apple Writer and Dazzle Draw data disks. Neither appears to be a format supported by MacLinkPlus, but the original Apple Writer is a free download courtesy the Lost Classics Project. In the worst case scenario, perhaps I can use Sweet16's text screen capture function to convert some of the text, and standard screenshots for the images.

My collection also contains several games that aren't exactly lost treasures. Every Apple II user seems familiar with the likes of Ultima or Tass Times in Tonetown, but I've never heard anyone sharing fond memories of Ardy the Aardvark — and I can find no online reference to Pylon Racer and Electra Laser. The clamshells for those latter games don't even have screen shots; I'll need to boot them in an emulator to stir my own memories.

Finally, my collection doubtless includes numerous pirated programs, as we were all younger and stupider at the dawn of the personal computer era. Though I cannot in good conscience enjoy these programs now, I am glad for the opportunity to preserve them for posterity, should legitimate copies prove extinct. With magnetic media subject to decay, now is the best time to save this data before it is too late — assuming it isn't already.

I expect to convert these programs into disk images over a period of several lunch breaks, with cataloging of their contents to come later. A disadvantage of ADTPro over the FC5025 is that it requires a working Apple II computer. But since I have that hardware, I appreciate the advantage of having access to both 3.5" and 5.25" drives connected ot the Apple II. Access to both formats from a Mac or PC is possible but require different approaches, whereas ADTPro can handle both with ease.

Who knows what lost classics of my own I might discover?

Classic gaming inspirations

July 5th, 2010 11:25 AM
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Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
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In January of last year, Darren Gladstone posted a blog to PCWorld.com entitled "Classic Apple II Games That Inspired Today's Greats", though it wasn't until three months later that I found it. Wanting to spread the word of the Apple II's influence, and under the content-sharing agreement between PCWorld and my own employer, I reposted the blog to Computerworld.com. For some reason, that republication got noticed more than the original, and sites like Virtual Apple experienced a noticeable increase in traffic.

That same blog post got me thinking not just about classic Apple II games, but also their modern analogues on the Mac or online. I started drawing mental comparisons, similar to the Life & Death / Trauma Center similarities I've already outlined here. As the list grew, I decided to present my findings at KansasFest 2009. To streamline the presentation by remaining within a single operating system, I downloaded YouTube videos demonstrating the gameplay of Apple II classics and had their Mac or online equivalents ready to show. I didn't have time to make all the comparisons I'd prepared, but here are those that were showcased:

Apple IIEquivalentMaciOSFlash
Montezuma's RevengeMidnight Mansion
Conan: Hall of VoltaMidnight Mansion
RobotronGrid Wars
Lode RunnerAndroid
Qixl1neum
ChoplifterChopper
SolsticeAlien8
ShadowgateMalstrum's Mansion
Oregon TrailThule Road Trip

Click on the checkmark in the appropriate column above to find that version of the game. Note that Grid Wars is listed but no longer available from its official source due to a potential copyright infringement with the popular video game Geometry Wars. Grid Wars' Wikipedia entry suggests alternatives.

I've compiled a YouTube playlist demonstrating the gameplay of the above Apple II games:

The session was better received than I anticipated. I didn't think anyone would enjoy watching me play games, but the trip down memory lane paired with modern gaming somehow seemed to resonate. In hindsight, the only game I should not have included was Solstice, as it turned out to be for the Nintendo only and was never released for the Apple II — no wonder my audience didn't recognize it!

The positive feedback from my 2009 session has motivated me to revisit the topic later this month at KansasFest 2010. I have nearly a dozen more games to compare and contrast, but I welcome your suggestions. What Apple II entertainment software would you like to find an equivalent for on a modern platform?

Learn assembly programming at A2Central.com

July 1st, 2010 2:03 PM
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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.