An Apple II standing desk

March 26th, 2018 8:02 AM
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As part of starting a new job, my employer bought a standing/sitting desk for my home office. I moved my filing cabinets of Juiced.GS back issues to make room and set up the new furniture. To get a sense for its range, I then adjusted it to its maximum height.

Uplift's Bamboo Stand Up Desk, raised

A giant desk.

When I examined what I'd wrought, I didn't see a desk. What I instead pictured was this:

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Dust cover

September 12th, 2016 8:49 AM
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I'm someone who likes to keep his Apple II at the ready: you never know when you'll need to convert a disk image, access an old document, or just chill with a round of Oregon Trail. At my last two day jobs, I had easy access to my IIGS, with it occupying a position of prominence on my office desk, right next to my work-supplied machine. It was a great diversion, conversation piece, and point of pride.

Sadly, my current workplace has not yet been graced by my favorite retrocomputer. Bringing outside, unmanaged machines into a HIPAA-compliant environment is always frowned upon; that and other factors have compounded to leave my Apple IIGS at home, where it's kept in storage.

Fortunately, I recently cleaned and reorganized my unfinished basement such that my Apple II gear now has a dedicated workspace. It's not convenient, but at least it's neat, visible, and easy to find.

Still, a basement is a basement, and all the dust and other particles from elsewhere in the house will eventually settle there. Wanting to keep my Apple II clean from falling particulates but lacking the rolltop desk of my childhood, I asked on Facebook's Apple II Enthusiasts group, "Any recommendations for a dust cover?"

I was surprised by many of the answers I received, which included Saran wrap, garbage bags, and pillow cases. All these affordable, makeshift approaches were offered sincerely, but they didn't strike me as particularly retro or especially classy — an Apple II doesn't deserve to ever be placed in a garbage bag!!

Sean Fahey of A2Central.com to the rescue: he pointed me to an eBay listing for a "Heavy Duty Clear Vinyl Waterproof Desktop Computer Monitor & Keyboard Dust Cover". The well-rated seller has hundreds of the item available for only $14.90 each with free shipping within the USA. The product arrived 48 hours after I ordered it and came with two separate covers: one each for the computer and the keyboard. The computer case is clear, sturdy, and spacious rather than form-fitting (measuring 19" tall, 17" wide and 16" deep). In this photo, you can see it enveloping the Apple II with room to spare:

Dust cover

Bubble computer.

Since the cover is hardly touching the Apple II itself, it comes off easy, making for easy access to the machine, which might not have been the case with a garbage bag or plastic wrap. (While those would be good for a computer in storage, I can't imagine them facilitating use of the protected Apple II.)

So thanks, Sean, for steering me to a product that meets both my functional and aesthetic needs!

The Apple II goes to work

March 4th, 2013 11:27 AM
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It's been almost two months since my Apple IIgs and I left Computerworld. It's been almost as long that I've been in my new position — the first one ever to afford me an office with windows. As much as I love the view, it seems empty without a certain rainbow Apple logo somewhere in the room.

I wasn't sure how long I should be at the new place before making a request to move in my own personal desktop computer. But my easygoing boss had no problems with such a setup, as long as I ran it past our IT department, to be politic. All that accomplished was a remark about how "that Mac must be older than you, Ken!" — two false statements in one, both designed to set me on edge. But I focused on the fact that they had no objections and thus visited my office on a weekend to set up my machine.

My Apple II seems quite happy in its new home. Other than turning the IIgs on to ensure it survived the disassembly and setup processes, I've not had the opportunity to use it — nor have I determined if this institution's network will accommodate my Uthernet interface, which is my preferred configuration for ADTPro.

Although that functionality is essential for certain projects, for now, I'm just happy that my office is beginning to feel like mine.

The Apple II leaves Computerworld

January 7th, 2013 4:01 PM
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My New Year's resolution?

New Year's Resolution 2013

Done.

After six years as an editor at Computerworld magazine, I've given my notice. It's time to try something new.

Although I'm looking forward to new opportunities, I'm also reflective of all I've accomplished here since my first day on February 5, 2007. I was not hired as a features writer yet nonetheless managed to produce more than three dozen stories. Many of my articles were influenced by my experiences in the Apple II community, such as "CompuServe, Prodigy et al.: What Web 2.0 can learn from Online 1.0" (I was the APPUSER Forum's Member of the Month [MOTM] — October 1992, I think) and "Ben Heckendorn takes a mad-scientist approach to game console design" (which also became Juiced.GS's December 2008 cover story). Even more articles were directly about the Apple II itself, including "Sold on eBay: New-in-box Apple II, never opened" (Juiced.GS's March 2008's cover story), interviews with Apple II users who are experts in their field, and coverage of KansasFest every year from 2007 through 2012.

Computerworld also put me in touch with several folks who became KansasFest keynote speakers: when I liveblogged from KansasFest 2007, Lane Roathe left a comment to the effect of, "That event is still going on??" Using my administrative rights, I pulled the contact info from his comment and got in touch. A year later, he was our keynote speaker — an attendance he repeated in 2012, putting him back in touch with his id Software co-founder, John Romero.

The effect of these connections is long-lasting, and for as long as Computerworld maintains a persistent online archive, those stories will remain — and possibly grow, as the invitation to freelance has been extended. So though I'm not concerned about the state of this body of work, I am nonetheless saddened as I clean out my cubicle to realize the Apple II's presence is not long for this office.

My cubicle has sported an Apple IIGS since December 2008, when I came into the office over Christmas break to set it up for the first time in 11 years. Seven months later, Computerworld moved to a new office building, and the IIGS came with me. It then started making annual appearances in various media. It first showed up in this 2010 photo gallery:

It then served as a backdrop to this YouTube video commemorating Steve Jobs:

Finally, it showed up on the summer 2012 cover of Juiced.GS:

My Apple II hasn't seen a ton of use in its days at Computerworld, but the tasks it performed were essential. With ADTPro, it saved my brother's college papers, my friend's childhood memories, and the source code of PublishIt! It was the occasional lunchtime diversion as I would boot up Lode Runner, Oregon Trail, or Microzine. And it was a talking point for any new employee, whose eyes would widen slightly at the sight of such an ancient computer — yet not as ancient still as its host, with Computerworld having been founded in 1967.

Given my employer's history, it's no surprise that I'm not the only Apple II alumnus in the building: Computerworld all-star reporter Gregg Keizer is formerly of Softdisk, and CIO.com executive editor Dan Muse was editor-in-chief of inCider/A+, which employed many folk who are still with IDG, Computerworld's publisher. But I've not seen any of these esteemed colleagues, all authorities in modern enterprise IT, cling to their old tech and bridge it into their modern careers. After my Apple II, the next oldest computer I've seen here is a 2006-era Mac mini.

So my departure from Computerworld invokes not only the usual regret when bidding adieu to such wonderful co-workers, many of whom have become friends for life. It also means the end of the Apple II's official relationship with a storied institution. I've been invited to freelance for this and other IDG publications, but though some of my Apple II stories were occasionally the top-read stories in their months of publication, in general, I doubt the free pitches of computer nostalgia that the editors were happy to entertain from a passionate in-house writer will warrant tapping their limited freelance budget.

So yeah: I'm wistful. Nostalgic. Melancholy. The Apple II will come with me to my new workplace. But that will be a smaller team, in a less social environment, with stricter network regulations and fewer media opportunities. It won't be the same. Nothing ever is. But it's time to move on.

I've been cleaning out my cubicle for the past week. I thought it would be an appropriate bookend to this blog post to share a photo of my cubicle, sans Apple II. But that's not how I want to remember this small space that, for a few years, was a corporate gateway to the retrocomputing community.

The Apple II will be the last thing I pack up. That's when the heart has gone out from the building.

The Apple II is a part of me. When it goes, I go.

Apple office blueprints

November 17th, 2011 1:31 PM
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Apple II Bits reader Kurt Geisel recently pointed me to a nifty historical artifact. Chris Espinosa, Apple's most veteran employee (#8!), has unearthed and published a document he drew by hand on January 30, 1978.

Blueprint of Apple's offices at 10260 Bandley Drive

Who sat where in 1978?


This blueprint shows the floorplan for Apple's offices at 10260 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, California 95014. In his blog post, which offers a PDF scan of the drawing, Chris identifies the employees whose offices are marked on the graph, as well as the meaning behind areas marked "Advent" and "Tennis courts?"

Apple quickly outgrew Bandley 1, just as the company is now outgrowing its current digs at 1 Infinite Loop. A new hundred-acre campus is currently being designed to expand Apple's Cupertino presence. It's comforting to know that Chris will continue to be a source of continuity throughout Apple's many homes and epochs.

Every office needs an Apple II

June 14th, 2010 1:31 PM
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Ever since I moved out of my parents' house in 1997, I've not had space for a proper Apple II setup. I'd left behind two Apple IIGS computers in the basement: one from which my father ran the family business, another leftover from when I ran a dial-up BBS (1993–1997). In December 2008, I finally rescued the latter from years of inactivity when I installed it in my office cubicle.


It was a great relief, though not a surprise, to find that everything still worked fine after 11 years. Only two things failed me, both memory-based. The first was the ROM 01's inbuilt battery, which stores various settings in the BRAM. But I had previously installed Bill Tudor's BRAM.Checker, which stores the contents of BRAM to the hard drive on shutdown and restores them on startup, so it wasn't a big deal. Nonetheless, it was cheap enough to buy a battery pack from ReactiveMicro.com at KansasFest 2009.

The other failing was my own memory. For more than a decade, I had relied on emulators — first Bernie ][ the Rescue, then Sweet16. I've now been reminded that computing on the metal is a very different experience. I was soon asking myself and others many basic questions: to ensure my revived machine is still good, how do I run a self-diagnostic test at boot time? (Hold down Open-Apple and Option.) What does it mean that the test returned "0C000003 GS Diagnostic Self-Test error/ Sound Test: Data register failed"? (It means I have a ZipGS accelerator card installed.) All sorts of little things, I had to relearn — though strangely enough, I danced around ProTERM's various keyboard shortcuts for several minutes before realizing I had no reason to remember these esoteric commands.

It was also vaguely embarrassing to boot up a machine that represented my teen philosophies. The startup splash screen made it clear that no IBMs were allowed, and the mouse pointer was replaced by an ominous skull. What I saw in the 1990s as amusing frivolities, I see in 2010 as a waste of resources.

The first new acquisition I made for my computer was from RetroFloppy, run by David Schmidt, creator of ADTPro. The combination of hardware and software he provided allowed me to create disk images on my Mac of the Q-Drive from which I'd run my BBS. As Jason Scott would say, I don't know what among this data needs to be preserved, but it's better to make backups now, lest it not be available later when I decide it is worth preserving.

My IIGS hasn't seen a ton of use since its initial corporate installation. I sometimes spend lunch break playing Lode Runner or trying out old copies of Scholastic's Microzine. I want to put it on the corporate network, but the Uthernet card sells as quickly as they're produced. (I can't wait to see the look on the helpdesk tech's faces when they get that support ticket!) An easy way to transfer individual files between the Apple II and my MacBook would also be handy; to that end, I am an eager future customer of Rich Dreher's CFFA3000 model of his historically popular IDE/CompactFlash interface card. I'm also awaiting the delivery of a ROM 03 machine — my first of that model, and my first Apple II purchase in eighteen years — that will serve as a backup (or maybe even a replacement) to my primary machine.

My Apple II was to be the subject of a Computerworld.com video, as I teased on the A2Unplugged podcast last year. We shot a half-hour of footage and winnowed it down to about 12 minutes, which was the longest video we'd ever produced in-house. Unfortunately, we never found the appropriate context in which to launch the video, and a few months later, its producer was laid off. We found the raw footage on his workplace hard drive, but the final cut was never found.

The bright side is that I now have a cubicle that sports three generations of Apple computers: an Apple-1, an Apple II, and a MacBook Pro. I still get some amused looks from my co-workers — unfortunately, nothing quite as delighted as this gentleman was with his surprise retrocomputer: