CFFA3000 video review

December 15th, 2011 1:42 PM
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As mentioned on the latest episode of the Open Apple podcast, Brian Picchi has lately been putting out some remarkable YouTube videos. He started this time a year ago with a review of the IIGS itself. Lately he's cast a wider net, highlighting a variety of Apple II products from games to NDAs. One of his latest is a review of the CFFA3000, the CompactFlash and USB card from Rich Dreher. It's a card I had the opportunity to purchase in-person at KansasFest 2011. I passed at the time, as I was still months and thousands of miles away from my Apple II. Now I'm kicking myself, as not only does the card have scads more features than I realized, but the first batch sold out like hotcakes, with no more expected until 2012.

Brian's video is a good overview of what will have you too lining up for the second batch:

If you're looking for other ways to expand the hardware capabilities of your Apple IIGS, Brian's overview of several peripherals is also worth a watch. And be sure to read the comments on this and his other videos — unlike most YouTube comments, these are quite knowledgeable and constructive, suggesting yet more ways to improve your retrocomputing experience.

Keep up the great work, sir!

Classic Prince of Persia on Xbox

July 7th, 2011 6:06 PM
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Plenty of Apple II games are getting sequels and reboots or are serving as inspiration for spiritual successors. But, except maybe on the iPhone, fewer games get outright remakes: one-to-one translations that preserve the gameplay and layout of the original while adding modern graphics and controls.

Prince of Persia is a notable exception, having been recrafted for the Xbox 360 four years ago. Available as a $10 downloadable title, it lets today's console gamers experience the classic fun of Jordan Mechner's best-known game.

Steve Melton's review (published just last week — a retro review of a modern classic that's a remake of an original classic? — gives the game a seemingly lukewarm reception, saying that though it's fun and attractive, it boasts no additional content over the Apple II version and thus is overpriced at $10. I'm a bit biased in the matter, as Melton points out that the game is aimed at folks like me — "those wanting to relive their days sitting in front of a DOS PC" (or Apple II, if you want to be authentic). And true, the game runs on a sixty-minute timer before which it's game over. But trying to defeat the evil Jaffar before that clock runs out takes much longer than 60 minutes, courtesy the multiple deaths and wrong turns the challenging game will force you to experience.

IGN's review, also published last month (why all the recent interest in this game?), is a bit friendlier to the game:

The sequel to the original 1989 game, The Shadow and the Flame, was ported to the original Microsoft Xbox, but only as an Easter egg in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the 2003 reboot of the franchise. Perhaps it too will enjoy a renaissance, as LucasArts' Monkey Island games recently have.

In the meantime, I encourage other retrocomputing enthusiasts to download the free trial, or spring for the full game right off. POP Classic was one of the first games I bought for my Xbox 360 when I got it as a Christmas gift in 2008, and I consider it an investment well-spent.

The portable Apple IIc

February 3rd, 2011 10:50 AM
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Last month, we saw two reviews of the Apple IIGS, but it's this model's less powerful siblings that tend to garner more media attention. Two different Apple IIc computers selling on eBay for four digits in the last three years proved sufficient for Matt's Macintosh, who provided one of the previous IIGS reviews, to turn its attention back to the pre-Mac era with this review of the Apple IIc:

The Apple IIc was a powerful and revolutionary computer. As Steve Weyhrich of the Apple II History site told me for another story, "The Apple IIc was to the Apple II platform what the PowerBook was to the Power Mac: a more portable version of a desktop computer — not as elegant as the PowerBook, but pretty good for 1984." Yet its lack of expansion slots that so defined the rest of the Apple II line has often left it overlooked by peripheral developers. Could the recently announced CompactFlash interface give the model some much-needed love?

(Hat tip to Mike Maginnis)

A review of the Apple IIGS

December 27th, 2010 11:45 AM
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Brian Picchi, who sometimes goes by the Star Trek-inspired handle TanruNomad, was surfing YouTube recently when he noticed a dearth of reviews of the Apple IIGS. With all the other videos the site hosts, from bad dancing to drying paint, Brian was surprised at this obvious oversight — so he set out to correct it.

This is a great and succinct introduction to the Apple IIGS. The part of Brian's review I enjoyed most was the software showcase, which includes several action games I'd forgotten or had never seen. As Brian notes, "It's hard to believe those kind of graphics and sound are coming from a computer made in 1986!"

There's more to the Apple II than games, though, and I suspect a full-fledged review would require more than the seven minutes Brian allocated himself. I would like to see a comparative analysis of the Apple II and its contemporaries; personal memories of favorite software; and unique hardware features. But then, such a comprehensive review could go on for hours, so Brian's survey of the computer's history and most notable features, as well as what separated it from its 8-bit predecessors, may be the best approach.

The only point I question is that Apple II accelerator cards of the early 1990s cost in excess of a thousand dollars. I bought two of these cards sometime between 1988 and 1996, which I never could've done had they cost more than a few hundred each — though given theses cards' modern rarity, I wouldn't be surprised if Brian's estimate was simply ahead of its time!

Brian has accomplish his goal of plugging a hole in YouTube's library: his review currently shows up on the first page of search results for "Apple IIGS review".

A review with higher production values is available as part of Matt's Macintosh video podcast. Matt Pearce's review focuses on the 8-bit models and even references the Apple III technologies they incorporated — a topic that Juiced.GS recently published an entire feature about. However, I find it to be more historically oriented and less opinionated than Brian's review, as the only software Matt demonstrates is BASIC. It's possible that his interest lies with the titular Macintosh and that he has no personal experience with the Apple II, making it difficult to offer much more than a factual overview.

What other new videos about the Apple II would you like to see produced?

(Hat tip to the Vintage Computer Forums)