Using an Apple IIgs in 2017

June 26th, 2017 10:19 AM
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When I started college twenty years ago this year, I bought my first non-Apple II computer. I desperately wanted to move my IIgs into the dorm, but at the time, that computer didn't have the networking capabilities or development environment necessary to enable my pursuit of a degree in computer science. I was frustrated, because outside that academic context, the IIgs could still do everything I needed from a computer.

If that was barely true in 1997, how true is it in 2017? Could I get by with only an Apple II as my primary computer? I don't know if I could, but Bryan Lunduke recently tried to find out if he could. Lunduke, a freelance blogger for Networkworld (sibling to Computerworld, which is my former employer and still occasional source for freelance work), hosts a YouTube series called The Lunduke Hour, where he investigates various Linux, open-source, and other non-mainstream technologies. In his May 2, 2017, episode, he asks, "What would it be like to use an Apple IIgs in 2017?"

The resulting video is primarily a tour of System 6.0.1 and some essential applications, such as AppleWorks, HyperCard, and Wolfenstein 3D. Although not too deep a dive, it's a surprisingly informed tour for being Lunduke's first day with the machine. With the possible exceptions of Marinetti and Contiki, he omits many of the community's developments in the past two decades, including unofficial updates to the operating system, though that may have been intentional if he's trying to recapture a classic experience. Despite that, thanks to emulating all his hardware and software, Lunduke doesn't suffer through unaccelerated load times like many of us have.

For those who already use the Apple IIgs on a daily basis, the Finder won't be foreign. But from the perspective of someone who's hasn't seen it before or in a long time, it's fun to realize how many GUI conventions were established on this machine, with Lunduke referring to the interface as "surprisingly modern".

For all that fun, why did Lunduke subject himself to this experiment (other than to produce channel content)? Says he:

I like to see what it was like; I like to reminisce about the 1980s, the 1990s, to see what it's like to live, computing-wise, in an environment that is totally different from what most of use day-in, day-out. Maybe that will, in some way, help me get a better understanding of where we've been, where we've come from, our computing history, and maybe just how not so far we've come. Maybe it will give me an idea of some cool features we've lost along the way.

Kudos to Lunduke for giving my favorite retrocomputer a try. I wonder how he's describe the results of his experiment?

The audio podcast version of The Lunduke Hour is available to Lunduke's Patreon supporters.

(Hat tip to Jesse Blue)

Raspberry Pi: The next Apple-1?

March 12th, 2012 10:34 AM
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A computer named after a fruit? Hey, it worked for Apple. So why not Raspberry?

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized computer that, like the original Apple-1, comes without a monitor or keyboard. But unlike any product of the Homebrew Computer Club, this device can compete with computers of today.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is powered by ARM1176JZFS CPU (part of the ARMv6 architecture) and Videocore 4 GPU. It will do everything from run Python to power a Blu-Ray DVD player through its OS of choice, Linux. Raspberry Pi comes in two flavors, both with 256MB of RAM. $25 gets you the Model A, with one USB port; for an extra $10, you get a second USB port plus an Ethernet jack.

"Inspired by computers like the BBC Micro and the Commodore 64 in the 1980s, the group of engineers set out to build a new programmable machine for a new generation," reports CNN. And just like its predecessors, Raspberry Pi looks to revolutionize computing. According to the foundation's Web site:

Developing countries are interested in the Raspberry Pi as productivity devices in areas that simply can’t afford the power and hardware needed to run a traditional desktop PC; hospitals and museums have contacted us to find out about using the Raspberry Pi to drive display devices. Parents of severely disabled kids have talked to us about monitoring and accessibility applications; and there seem to be a million and one people out there with hot soldering irons who want to make a robot.

Could the Raspberry Pi be the next Apple-1 or even Apple II — a machine that's so affordable, so expandable, and so flexible that it can be whatever anyone with some know-how wants it to be? Or is it more notable for selling out on its Leap Year launch date of Feb 29, 2012, with nothing notable to come of it? It wouldn't be the first product whose potential went unrealized — witness the Apple II's own Carte Blanche card. Or will Raspberry Pi do great things yet be remembered for what it didn't do? One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program accomplished great deeds but was faced with significant criticism. Can Raspberry Pi live up to its hype?

Pi is not the computer for me, but I am eager to see if it becomes the next Arduino, making possible infinite amazing projects.