Archive for June, 2011

A USB keyboard for the Apple II? Not quite…

June 9th, 2011 11:08 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
1 comment.

There have been many attempts over the years to bring the USB interface to the Apple II. Most, such as the iDisk and even Vince Briel's upcoming A2MP3 card, focus on the storage possibilities of the interface. But what about the variety of other peripherals modern computers have access to via USB? Even something as basic as a keyboard has eluded Apple II users.

Ironically, Andrew Filer's approach goes in the completely opposite direction, turning the Apple II into a USB peripheral. His hack turns the Apple II Plus into a keyboard for a MacBook Pro. This hack is made possible by Keyduino, an application of the open-source electronics prototyping platform Arduino.

Apple II Plus as a USB keyboardAn Apple II Plus as a USB keyboard? Sacrilege!

Filer says it was "surprisingly easy", but his brief blog post on the subject addresses few of the technical concerns he must've addressed to accomplish this feat. For example, KansasFest alumnus Rob, who first pointed me to this hack, asks, "How does he handle shift keys? Does he properly implement the game port shift key modifier?"

Regardless, it's neat to see the variety of modern uses that are still to be found in classic hardware — even (or especially) if it's not what we expected.

(Hat tip to Brian Benchoff)

On editing Juiced.GS and Open Apple

June 6th, 2011 11:17 AM
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Filed under Musings;
2 comments.

As I spent this weekend writing and editing both Juiced.GS and Open Apple, it occurred to me how different the processes are.

When I write for Juiced.GS, I edit as I go: words are substituted, sentences experimented with, entire paragraphs moved or scrapped. By the time I finish my first draft, it's often very close to a final draft.

But with Open Apple, there's no going back. Once I click "Record" on the computer, the first take attains as much permanency as the second and third, with no distinction between garbage and eloquence. It's more akin to brainstorming, where we just keep talking to get the ideas down to be sifted through later. There's an editing process, for sure, but it's entirely distinct from the content production phase.

But then I thought, isn't that similar to the relationship between writers and editors? Writers may edit as they go, but their work isn't truly edited until it's fallen under the scalpel of a separate editor who prepares it for publication. In recording an episode of Open Apple, I'm more akin to a writer who then submits his work to an editor. Everything that doesn't fit the vision of the final product is sloughed at a later date and time.

It's a challenging distinction, but that's how I like it. I've enjoyed every stage of Open Apple production because it's so new to me. My first professional experience with audio editing came as the post-production editor for the now-defunct Computerworld Editorial podcast, which opened with one of the same songs heard in Open Apple. The Apple II podcast marks the first time I've also participated in outlining and then producing the content. Being involved in a project from beginning to end is the best way to learn what goes into a finished piece and what parts are enjoyable, as I discovered when I became editor and then publisher of Juiced.GS.

I feel right now like I'm at the same point of educational experimentation with Open Apple that I was six years ago with Juiced.GS. Neither will ever be perfect, and both provide unique and ample opportunities to innovate — but Open Apple's learning curve is currently much steeper, and I couldn't be happier.

Steve Wozniak, car salesman

June 2nd, 2011 9:14 AM
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Filed under History, Steve Wozniak;
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Here's an oldie but goodie that shows Steve Wozniak's character and sense of humor. In 1979, when computers were the newest thing and its inventors were surprised by their own overnight fame, The Woz lent his image to a product endorsement: the Datsun 280ZX sports coupe, also known as the Fairlady Z. Why Nissan thought that 1979 America was ready to be hawked to by a computer geek, I don't know, but the resulting commercial follows:

On its own, the commercial is a fun snapshot of Silicon Valley's history. But Woz rarely lets a single joke lie, so nearly three decades later, he updated the promo
for modern times:

Note the wink to the audience in Woz's license plate: "APPLE II". Would he really be so proud of his most famous invention as to put it on his car, thirty years later? Even if so, I suspect the plate was a dummy manufactured for the purpose of the commercial (or for one of Woz's many pranks). Reviewing the personalized license plate ordering system of the state of California suggests that some designs of vanity plates can indeed be seven characters long, though using all of them leaves no room for spaces or half-spaces. However, requesting "APPLEII" reports that, "Sorry, The plate you have requested is not available."

Apple II vanity plate

License to geek.

If that plate is out there, I hope Woz has it!

(Hat tips to John Herrman and Sean Fahey)