Archive for February, 2020

A clear case for the IIGS

February 24th, 2020 8:47 AM
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Last fall, MacEffects launched a Kickstarter campaign for an injection-molded clear case for the Apple II and II Plus. Its 68 backers pledged $21,171, falling short of the $29,000 goal.

Deciding that the fatal flaw of their campaign was the limited audience of Apple II and II Plus owners, MacEffects has returned to Kickstarter with a new crowdfunding project. This time, it's to create a clear case for the more popular IIe and IIGS models.

But despite the project title of "Injection Molded Clear Case for Apple IIe and IIGS", you don't get to pick whether you want a IIe case or a IIGS case. Instead, only the IIe case is available, which the IIGS board can be adapted to fit using a kit included in certain reward tiers, such as "Clear Case Kit for Apple IIe > IIGS" ($350) and "Kitchen Sink" ($675). These options are proving quite popular, as evidenced by the first 32 backers raising $12,855. That's an average of $402 per donor, higher than their previous campaign's average of $311 per donor.

Even though MacEffects' previous campaign was unsuccessful, they've upped the ante this round with a goal of $35,000. At the current rate, they'll need a total of 87 backers to reach their goal.

I'm tempted to splurging on one of these cases for my own IIGS. But I recently transitioned to a nomadic lifestyle, putting most of my possessions in storage. It's motivated me to buy fewer things that I won't immediately use, including Apple II peripherals, sadly.

But that's a unique situation and one that shouldn't keep others from considering this project, which ends on April 19!

Starblaster launching for PS5

February 17th, 2020 1:57 PM
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As my PlayStation 4 sits in storage with a massive backlog of unplayed and unfinished games, Sony is trying to bury me further with news of the PlayStation 5. The new console launches at the end of 2020… and one of its launch titles may be of interest to Apple II users.

According to such news outlets as PlayStation Universe, one of the first games to be released for the PS5 is titled Starblaster. Many were quick to make a connection to an Apple II game by the same name.

Starblaster was a side-scrolling shoot-em-up, or "shmup". It was published by G&G Engineering, a company that included Gifford Computer Systems, as seen in this advertisement from BYTE Magazine. Bill Machrone called Gifford Computer Systems "the firm that first made hard disk subsystems a reality for [Bill Godbout's] CompuPro hardware". G&G was located at 1922 Republic Avenue, San Leandro, CA 94577 (415-895-0798), which is now home to an Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

BYTE Magazine from April 1983
Why would Sony make a sequel to an obscure 8-bit indie title instead of creating their own IP? We'd have to ask Mike or Dale Gifford, the co-founders of G&G. I'm guessing this is the LinkedIn profile for Michael Gifford, based on his location near San Francisco; a résumé that includes Microsoft, Apple, and Dell; and working as an "independent product design consultant" 1983–1987, around the time of Starblaster's release.

Or maybe we don't: other fans are theorizing that Starblaster is not a PS5 launch game, but a reference to a Sony CLI development tool.

In which case… maybe we should make the rumor a reality. Who's up for interviewing Mike Gifford to inquire about a PlayStation 5 port of his classic game?

Burger Becky's Out Of This World

February 10th, 2020 2:21 PM
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Six years after I backed its Kickstarter, and four years after the final product was due, I received the documentary GIRLS GAME: Women Who Game (originally entitled No Princess in the Castle). The film features interviews with women gamers and game developers about their experiences and passions.

GIRLS GAME features a few names that will be familiar to Apple II users: Jeri Ellsworth and Rebecca Heineman. Jeri has been a KansasFest attendee, a Juiced.GS cover story, and a guest on my Polygamer podcast. Alas, the topic of her Apple II origins and passions did not come up in the documentary.

Fortunately, Burger Becky ensured our favorite retrocomputer was represented. Toward the very end of the film, she holds up two games from her impressive résumé, declaring "They said it couldn't be done!". The movie offers little context to that statement, but it's not hard for us to figure it out.

Burger Becky holding up two game boxes
The games in question are Out of This World and The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate. It's no wonder they said Out of This World couldn't be done: when Jess Johnson asked Becky what her greatest achievement was, she cited this game.

That’s a tough call, since I’ve done so many projects in my career so far. I think I’d have to say was the evil MOD I had to do to get Out Of This World for the SNES to copy backgrounds quickly. Since Interplay wouldn’t pay for a SuperFX chip, I found a way to do it with static RAM on the cart and DMA which got me a great frame rate. Interplay wouldn’t pay for the static RAM either, so I ended up using Fast ROM and a MVN instruction. Interplay wouldn’t pay for a 3.6 MHz ROM either. So, frustrated, I shoved my block move code into the DMA registers and use it as RAM running at 3.6 MHz. It worked. I got fast block moves on slow cartridges and made a game using polygons working on a 65816 with pure software rendering.

This impressive feat could be worth a documentary of its own. In the meantime, thanks for working it into this film, Becky!

The legacy of Adam Rosen

February 3rd, 2020 9:22 AM
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A Massachusetts-based Apple II user recently reached out to me to ask where he could locally donate some aging software and documentation. I came up with a short list of potential recipients, including Adam Rosen of the Vintage Mac Museum, home to over a hundred classic Apple devices.

It was then that I belatedly learned that Adam had passed away on August 31, 2019, from pancreatic cancer; he was 53.

I'd met Adam only once, at a launch party for a proposed Boston-based retrocomputing museum known as the Digital Den, where I snapped photos of Adam and his many machines. We had both known of each other — he of his museum, me of Juiced.GS — and we were pleased to finally make each other's acquaintance. I didn't know that would be the first and last time we'd meet.

David Pierini of Cult of Mac called Adam "one of the biggest Mac fans ever". "Apple museums have popped up all over the world, but none with the quirky love that filled the rooms of Adam Rosen’s Massachusetts home," wrote Pierini. "Adam Rosen was happiest standing over an old Mac computer, all pulled apart with wires sticking out and components scattered across his kitchen table." You can hear that happiness from Adam himself, when the Retro Computing Roundtable interviewed him way back in episode #33 (September 2012).

Adam is gone before his time, but his computers live on. His collection has been donated to the American Computer and Robotics Museum of Bozeman, Montana. In Massachusetts, these machines were privately stored and visible only online; in Montana, they will be available to the public, starting in the fall of 2020.

I'm glad that a home has been found for these Macs — but the collection will be incomplete without Adam. His passion is what brought it together and kept it alive. I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to know him better.