A review of the Apple IIGS

Filed under Hacks & mods;

Brian Picchi, who sometimes goes by the Star Trek-inspired handle TanruNomad, was surfing YouTube recently when he noticed a dearth of reviews of the Apple IIGS. With all the other videos the site hosts, from bad dancing to drying paint, Brian was surprised at this obvious oversight — so he set out to correct it.

This is a great and succinct introduction to the Apple IIGS. The part of Brian’s review I enjoyed most was the software showcase, which includes several action games I’d forgotten or had never seen. As Brian notes, “It’s hard to believe those kind of graphics and sound are coming from a computer made in 1986!”

There’s more to the Apple II than games, though, and I suspect a full-fledged review would require more than the seven minutes Brian allocated himself. I would like to see a comparative analysis of the Apple II and its contemporaries; personal memories of favorite software; and unique hardware features. But then, such a comprehensive review could go on for hours, so Brian’s survey of the computer’s history and most notable features, as well as what separated it from its 8-bit predecessors, may be the best approach.

The only point I question is that Apple II accelerator cards of the early 1990s cost in excess of a thousand dollars. I bought two of these cards sometime between 1988 and 1996, which I never could’ve done had they cost more than a few hundred each — though given theses cards’ modern rarity, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian’s estimate was simply ahead of its time!

Brian has accomplish his goal of plugging a hole in YouTube’s library: his review currently shows up on the first page of search results for “Apple IIGS review”.

A review with higher production values is available as part of Matt’s Macintosh video podcast. Matt Pearce’s review focuses on the 8-bit models and even references the Apple III technologies they incorporated — a topic that Juiced.GS recently published an entire feature about. However, I find it to be more historically oriented and less opinionated than Brian’s review, as the only software Matt demonstrates is BASIC. It’s possible that his interest lies with the titular Macintosh and that he has no personal experience with the Apple II, making it difficult to offer much more than a factual overview.

What other new videos about the Apple II would you like to see produced?

(Hat tip to the Vintage Computer Forums)

  1. Steve Ashton says:

    I am waiting to receive a IIGS that I won on eBay. And I just now found your wonderful site.

    This is a glorious day!

  2. Congratulations, Steve! What took you so long? :-)

  3. Tanooki Katimoki says:

    I’m so glad that i found this site too. I won my IIgs from ebay may years back, mostly because during high school i would totally lust after that model as a jock would a hot chick, knowing I in my lifetime could never afford the steep price of one new. Severe geekoidism yeah I know.
    Once I finally got it on ebay..well let’s just say that it remained as a tinkering toy that I would use every now and then, trying to remember how I used to get very deep in programming on a IIgs back in high school where I spent my my entire lunch hour. I had a hard time trying to get myself back in that mode of programming so bought a few games off of ebay to make it somewhat useful. When that was unsuccessful I put it up in storage for many years where my parents live. (4 states away)

    Well before my Thanksgiving vacation to see my parents I started noticing something around me. I noticed at how many people have become sheep over the past few years because of how the advancement of technology has made computers, and phones more like internet appliances. Making technology easily usable even for the most dumbest human. I miss the days where if you want to own or use computer you HAD to be, not a genius, but somewhat smart, good with math and logic skills.
    That IIgs that I learn how to use back in high school brought my math, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry grades from a sucky D average to a solid A average. I ended up having to go into honor’s classes. If it wasn’t for my complete curiosity, persistence, and interest in computers back then I would be another typical “barely passed” dullard that graduated high school with very low math scores.
    I told myself that at least I can make a difference in my 3 year old son’s life by teaching him what computers were really all about by teaching him how to program on my IIgs. Since then I’ve been dying to get my hands back on my IIgs.

    Now this might sound silly but when I finally went back to my parent’s storage and saw my aging, dust covered, slightly yellowed IIgs I was almost in tears with happiness. I’m embarrassed to say that I picked up my IIgs, kissed the dusty computer and monitor, and told it that I would never leave it like that again while holding it. What can I say I felt like a father being reunited with his long lost child. I thought my wife would tease me all the way back to our place but she told me now she finally understands a man’s attachment to a machine and was actually happy to see me this happy.
    I’m back with my long lost child, which is now my main computer for doing the family budget, keeping a database of inventory, and mostly teaching my family how to program. My wife even wants me to teach her how to use it.
    I’m happy to say that I have all of the peripherals that go with my Iigs such as the ImageWriter II, joystick, mouse, 2 3.5″ and 1 5.25″ disk drives, memory expansion card, 2 null modem cables with gender changer and USB to serial adapter to interface with my Windows 7 laptop for ADTpro, and a supersonic audio card with the digitizer daughter board (blue) which I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work. If anyone has gotten the supersonic card to work any tips or hints would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Welcome, Tanooki! What a great story. I’m glad you and your GS have been reunited and that you’ll be passing on the hardware and knowledge to a new generation of Apple II user.

  5. Amazing graphics for 1986… at least until you see the graphics of the Amiga 1000 that came out in 1985. I won’t fault the IIGS, though. Excellent computer from one of the industry’s very best designers and team. I’m hunting for (a very cheap) one now, for one purpose: to run the editing software for my Kurzweil 150 synthesizer, which is a big, black rack mount synth, looking more like a piece of pre-war HAM radio equipment, with two pads of buttons, an 8-character display, and 240 oscillators (yes, 240) of additive synthesis, which can only be fully operated through software written only for the Apple IIe (and works in the GS, thankfully.) The IIGS also, at least in my opinion, ranks as a synthesizer in and of itself due to its Ensoniq sound chip, so I consider it not just the purchase of an old computer, but also of a vintage synthesizer. Once I get one, I think I will write an article about it for the Vintage Synth Explorer. It should be better recognized. Now, I just need to find a source of ROM upgrades to 03, because the ROM03 machines come up for sale so seldom, I’ll be an old, old man before I can get my hands on one.

  6. […] a look at Ken Gagne’s apl2bits.net blog here for a video by Brian Picchi reviewing the Apple IIGS. Nicely […]