Pete Perkins' Apple II clone

September 23rd, 2019 1:13 PM
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As proprietary as Apple likes to make their products, given enough effort, even Apple's hardware and software can be copied. Some Apple II clones were broadly distributed commercial products, such as the Franklin Ace 100; others were region-specific, such as the Bulgaria's Pravetz computers. There were enough other clones and manufacturers to fill an entire Wikipedia page.

But not all clones end up being historical footnotes in Wikipedia; some were commercially available but produced in such small quantities that they flew under Apple's radar. Pete Perkins, proprietor of Honda Computers in Tokyo, was such an entrepreneur, using his technical wizardry to build on and profit off Apple's innovations by implementing expansion ports for networking and selling his creation for half of Apple's.

We might never have known about this early hacker and pirate if not for Thames Television, the production company behind the British television series Database, which IMDb describes as "an early series for computer addicts". For the episode that aired July 6, 1984, host Tony Bastable traveled to Japan, where he interviewed Perkins about his homebrew machine.

I love how guileless Perkins is in this interview. He claims he didn't copy the Apple II, since it looks different — a defense that leads to a knowing grin that such an argument would never hold up in court. Later he goes on record as saying it might be illegal — he just hasn't gotten caught yet!

Where are they now? Bastable passed away in 2007. Perkins later ran the CortNet BBS and Janis II; in 1996, he was running a combination Internet caf√© and classroom. Where he's gone since then, I don't know — though I remain hopeful he escaped Apple's wrath.

Building an Apple II games database

August 18th, 2014 6:48 PM
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Whenever I've blogged about Brian Picchi, it's been in the context of the games he's made, such as Retro Fever or Deadly Orbs. But his latest undertaking is more meta and Sisyphean: a database of every 8-bit Apple II game.

The list, most recently updated on August 12, 2014, currently indexes the title, publisher, developer(s), year of publication, and media for 2,160 titles. The data are culled from such sources as MobyGames, GameFAQs, YouTube, and wikis

"It started both as a project Alex Lee and I were talking about, and because I was just curious as to how many Apple II games there are," said Picchi in an email to Apple II Bits. "Every site I had seen had under 1,000 games listed, despite claims of several thousand by other sources, including Apple."

But the database's value is in more than just verifying or setting records. "I also thought it might be helpful because I hear lots of people asking questions like 'What was that game from my childhood I can't remember, I know it was in an issue of Microzine?' or 'How many games supported Mockingboard?' or 'How many games did Sierra release for the Apple II?'" continued Picchi. "The list is available to anyone who wants to use it for any purpose." Anyone who wants to contribute to the database may do so via Google Docs.

As a metadata junkie, I'm excited to see so much information being compiling and to consider how much more can be added. Data such as game genre, additional assets such as box art, and links to related resources, such as Virtual Apple II or the Internet Archive's Console Living Room implementation of JSMESS. Picchi agrees: "I'd love to see it built into something like http://www.c64.com/ where you search for the game, can view screenshots, download it directly, etc."
Games databaseCollecting so much information is only half of this vast undertaking, with organizing and presenting it being another. The database is currently implemented using TablePress, one of my all-time favorite WordPress plugins. It's a powerful tool, but one that is ultimately limited in how much data it can associate and present with a single software title. The database may be better served by creating a Content Post Type, which would allow the definition of fields and attachments unique to this database.

The end result would be exactly why I was briefly enrolled in a Master's of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program: I love collecting and organizing information but lack the programming skills necessary to structure and host such vast quantities of data in a useful, meaningful way. But one thing I've learned about Picchi from reading his Juiced.GS article is that he's constantly expanding his boundaries, mastering new languages and platforms. Could WordPress be next? If so, it will be to the benefit of Apple II gamers the world over!