Apple Personal Modem rescue

April 16th, 2018 11:32 AM
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When I recall my first dial-up connection, I think about the Apple II and CompuServe. But I often overlook the piece of hardware that connected the two: the Apple Personal Modem.

The Apple Personal Modem was a first-party peripheral, matching the color palette and design aesthetic of the Apple IIe I used it with. The modem maxed out at a whopping 1200 bps, which, if I recall, was roughly reading speed — perfect for the all-text interface of CompuServe. The modem dutifully granted me access to the Academic American Encyclopedia (GO AAE), an invaluable resource for my secondary education.

When we moved houses and upgraded to an Apple IIGS, many other upgrades followed, among them more RAM, a SCSI card, and a faster modem, and then still a faster modem. These years later, I can't tell you the brand or model of those later modems that enabled me to download such games as Plunder and Bouncin' Ferno — but the Apple Personal Modem has remained memorable for its heft, handheld-sized form factor, and unusual power supply, eschewing a power cord or brick in favor of plugging directly into a wall outlet. In fact, it wasn't until I watched this unboxing video that I discovered there was another model that did not have the inbuilt prong but instead used a more traditional power cord.

I don't know what happened to my Apple Personal Modem; I haven't seen it in decades. Rather than it being buried somewhere in my collection, it more likely was disposed of as soon as it was no longer of practical value.

Recently, a friend who was visiting Apple Rescue of Denver asked me if there was anything I wanted salvaged. Of everything in the store's inventory, I don't know what drew me to the Apple Personal Modem, but as soon as I saw it, I knew we needed to be reunited.

Since I still have those faster modems and even an Uthernet II card, the Apple Personal Modem remains more a curiosity than the connection to the online world that it once represented. But for the reasonable fee of $15, I'm glad to again own this pioneering peripheral.

Now if only I could remember the name of the telecom software I used with it…

The course of my life with the Apple II

January 30th, 2012 11:56 AM
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Fellow Massachusetts retrocomputing enthusiast and all-around neat guy Dan McLaughlin recently started his own Apple II blog. He's actually had one for awhile, but its latest incarnation is powered by WordPress, the unofficial CMS of the Apple II community. I discovered the relaunch of Dan site's via the story of his introduction to the Apple IIGS:

[My father and I] pulled into the strip mall and entered The Computer Shop. In The Computer Shop, everything was gray: The carpet, the room dividers and shelving that held books and software, even the display tables. I take that back there was an accent color: beige. There might have been a touch of maroon in there as well. It smelled like new carpet even though it had been open for a few years. There was a large plate glass window from which sunlight was streaming in on this beautiful fall day.

After we had walked past the software displays, and aisles of computer books and magazines, near the back center of the store, I saw it. There for all to hear and to behold was the Apple IIGS.

Like Dan, I was introduced to the Apple II through my father. My family's business is commercial real estate, and once upon a time, we had an authorized Apple dealer as a tenant. It's for that reason more than any other that our first computer was an Apple IIe and not a Commodore 64 or one of the many other platforms of the personal computer revolution. My three older brothers and I all made use of the computer for school projects, personal correspondence, and especially games, but I cottoned to it like none other in the family: I taught myself programming (and in the process destroyed some software for which we had no backups), expanded the hardware, and became a part of the community on CompuServe. Whereas my three brothers went to college and got their first PCs, I got my first Mac, sticking with the only brand that I'd ever known. After college, I became part of a convention, a magazine, and a podcast, leading me to make friends, pursue education, develop skills, attain jobs, and relocate across the country.

Dan's post reminded me how a financial decision made decades ago for practical and immediate reasons can have a snowball effect that we continue to experience and observe well into the 21st century. It's no understatement my father's fateful decision has defined the personal and professional development of my childhood and my adulthood. Although I can never know what timelines might've developed from bring a different microcomputer into the Gagné household, it's an alternative I'm glad I never needed to explore.

How would your life be different with a computer other than the Apple II?