Archive for November, 2013

Apple-inspired Emerson education

November 25th, 2013 10:59 PM
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Filed under Musings, People;
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Here in the States, it's Thanksgiving week, for which I'm thankful for a break from school. Even us teachers need time off now and then.

My undergraduate course in electronic publishing has completed 12 of its 14 weeks, with the remaining two dedicated to lab work and presentations. As I look back over this, my second semester teaching the course, I smile to consider how influenced it's been by my Apple II connections.

I always open the first night of class with a lecture on the history of the Internet — not because I want my students, born in 1992, to appreciate how good they have it, but because it's important to recognize that we didn't just wake up one day and the Internet existed: it evolved for reasons, to serve specific purposes. Props for the evening include punch cards and a Replica-1.

Almost every week of class includes a different guest lecturer, so continuing the theme of history, I brought in Jason Scott, an alumnus of both KansasFest and the school at which I teach. Rather than any prepared material, Jason hosted 90 minutes of Q&A about Wikipedia, Archive.org, Sockington, and more. His Mythapedia presentation was required listening, and the first chapter of BBS: The Documentary was optional viewing.

In the following weeks, the students had their first remote presenter: Kevin Savetz, another KansasFest alumnus, video chatting with us from his home on the West Coast. In another hour of Q&A, he shared with students his transition from writer to publisher (as also detailed in his memoir, Terrible Nerd), how Amazon.com has democratized print publishing in much the way the Web opened up online publishing, and how Kickstarter is doing the same thing for artists and inventors. I was intrigued that my students were most fascinated by Kevin's work archiving classic computer magazines. I discovered several of my students are considering careers in library science!

Another guest speaker was Chris Lackey, who is not an Apple II user but who designed the foundation for the modern KansasFest logo and appeared on one of the first episodes of Open Apple — a show that likely inspired me to incorporate podcasting as an exercise in my class. You can hear my students' work on The Pubcast, a weekly interview series.

The guest speaker lineup concluded on a high note with a detailed overview of how to use social media to promote and humanize a product or brand. The presenter, Annie Lynsen, has no Apple II connection — except I was introduced to her at a festival I was attending to hear chiptune artist 8 Bit Weapon perform.

The first wave of survivors of an Apple II educator.

The first wave of survivors of an Apple II educator.

Although graduates of my class will not have used an actual Apple II or done any research into vintage computers, they will nonetheless have indirectly been educated by the experiences and lessons that this early personal computer conferred upon a generation of the intellectually curious. My thanks to the many talented professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to my class, and for the Apple II that introduced us to make such academic collaborations possible.

Why is Apple DOS source code release important?

November 18th, 2013 12:09 PM
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Filed under History, Mainstream coverage;
2 comments.

Last week, the Computer History Museum released the source code to Apple DOS 3.1:

With thanks to Paul Laughton, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Damer, founder and curator of the Digibarn Computer Museum, and with the permission of Apple Inc., [the Computer History Museum is] pleased to make available the 1978 source code of Apple II DOS for non-commercial use. This material is Copyright © 1978 Apple Inc., and may not be reproduced without permission from Apple.

This disk operating system has been previously decompiled and the notes published online, which you'd think would make the Computer History Museum's release unimportant. And yet it's been reported far and wide — not just the usual vintage computing sites, but Apple news sites and broader IT outlets as well. Why all the commotion over old news for a 30-year-old machine?

It's not the product, but the process, that's significant. "What is interesting is Apple's agreement to release it," said Dr. Steve Weyhrich of Apple II History. "They never release stuff like this to the world." Agreed David Schmidt: "That is the only thing that is interesting about this: Apple's actual permission to leak any kind of intellectual capital."

However, there is also some original material in this particular offering of the source code. Weyhrich continued: "The code that was released also has that advantage of being scanned from actual printouts of Paul Laughton’s work in progress, with his comments on how the different parts of the system work… I've seen some of these [documents] before, but there are some that not even David Craig has gotten his hands on over the years. Historically, it’s quite interesting, and the Museum has comments from Laughton on the process of the creation of Apple DOS that give details that I didn’t get out of him when [I interviewed him — I guess] I didn’t ask the right questions!"

Click past the jump for an index of sites that have reported the source code's release.

Read the rest of this entry »

A new wave of Apple II books

November 11th, 2013 11:21 AM
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Self-publishing has paved the way for scores of books about computer history and retrocomputing to be published. Niche markets can now economically demand a small printing of a book, giving authors with stories to tell a means to reach their audience. Juiced.GS has been reviewing many of these books as part of its "Cover ][ Cover" series, but new books are hitting the shelves faster than we can read them, as evidenced by the pending release of Dr. Steve Weyhrich's Sophistication & Simplicity.

It therefore seemed a good time to compile a list of all the books that have been released in the past decade or so that would appeal to the Apple II user. Andy Molloy already has an exhaustive list of vintage Apple II books, so with his permission and with contributions from Bill Loguidice and Mike Maginnis, I've compiled this spreadsheet of recent books:

Anyone can edit or copy the information in this Google Drive spreadsheet, should they choose to adapt it its scope. For example, this revision doesn't focus on books about the history of Apple Computer Inc. or its most famous founder, Steve Jobs. It tries to list all books whether they be print, digital, or audio; you may wish to narrow the list to just one medium.

Regardless, I hope this compilation is a useful starting point for anyone looking to expand their Apple II library or provide such a resource to our fellow retrocomputing enthusiasts.

John Romero and Craig Johnston's Apple II podcast

November 4th, 2013 7:47 PM
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The Open Apple podcast launched to complement the existing podcasts dedicated to the Apple II — but with the hiatus of 1 MHz and the cessation of A2Unplugged, the community's first and second ever podcasts respectively, Open Apple has become the Apple II podcast. Other shows such as the Retro Computing Roundtable, RetroMacCast, and Floppy Days are all excellent shows that feature the Apple II, but it's not their focus. It leaves me a bit uncomfortable to have no podcast besides our own offering a dedicated, unique perspective on the machine.

Finally, we are in good company. Last week saw the launch of Apple Time Warp, a podcast hosted by KansasFest 2012 keynote speaker John Romero and blogger Craig Johnston:

John Romero and Craig Johnston talk about the early days of games on the Apple ][, interview Apple ][ game programmers, and generally cover topics relating to Apple ][ games and history.

The pilot episode (also available on iTunes) clocks in at 49 minutes of Romero — creator of Dangerous Dave, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake — reminiscing about the launch of his game programming career on the Apple II and the celebrities he met along the way, such as Nasir Gebelli. The tales may be familiar to the audience of his excellent KansasFest keynote speech, for which he interviewed Jordan Mechner, Will Wright, Bill Budge, and more.

As I discovered in this podcast, those interviews may've been part of a larger project I'd never heard of: The Romero Archives. Founded in 2009, it is a collection "dedicated to preserving the work of game designers and the history of game design… The Romero Archives is currently in the proposal stage with plans to launch in 2015. Online archiving is in progress." Those archiving efforts can thus far be seen in video interviews Romero recorded in 2010 with Gebelli, Ralph Baer, and more.

With only one episode published thus far, Apple Time Warp is too young to indicate if it will be a permanent addition to the Apple II airwaves. But the first episode is a promising and enjoyable interview that has already broadened the community's horizons. I wish my fellow podcasters the best of luck!