Preparing for the CFFA3000

July 9th, 2012 9:21 AM
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Filed under Hacks & mods;
4 comments.

The July episode of the Open Apple podcast debuted yesterday (a Sunday! Unprecedented!), featuring an interview with Rich Dreher, one of the Apple II community's foremost hardware developers. After having long been an admirer of his work, I met Rich at KansasFest 2011 — yet despite all that, I've never actually owned a product of his company, R&D Automation, LLC. By the time I'd dusted off my physical IIGS to complement my decade-long exclusivity with emulation, the second model of CFFA had already sold out, and the mythical CFFA3000, promising both CompactFlash and USB interfaces for the Apple II, was on the horizon. As I've reported before, I didn't buy one of the first batch — not even when presented with the opportunity to buy it directly from the dealer at KansasFest — because I spent last summer geographically removed from my Apple II and didn't want a card I could not immediately use. Foolish me! The first batch sold out faster than anyone expected, and the second was another year off.

Finally, the second run is now available and is shipping at the rate of fifty per week. I am invoice #3410, order sequence #134 — whatever that means. Regardless of when my particular order ships, I am looking forward to putting it in my Apple.

… but then what? I've heard folks say that the CFFA3000 revolutionized storage on their machines, eliminating the need for any other drive from floppy to hard. I don't see that happening in my case: I still have my 5.25" disks that need to be imaged, so floppy drives will always have a place in my daisy chain. But the CFFA will certainly make the imaging process faster and easier, eliminating the need to transfer files across a serial or Ethernet cable via the excellent ADTPro.

I'll have my own experiences to report soon, but in the meantime, I'd like to hear from other users of this device. Did you immediately grok the CFFA3000's potential and start using it to the fullest? Or was there a learning curve as you slowly transitioned from 30-year-old technology to this new hardware? Did the card live up to the hype in your experience?

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)