Apple II in flight

November 12th, 2018 10:50 AM
by
Filed under History;
2 comments.

Once upon a time, before airlines had Wi-Fi, commercial flights were a disconnected oasis where passengers could not be reached by the outside world. It was the perfect time to put away the laptops and catch up on books, magazines, or even handheld games.

Now our computers are with us on every flight — a trend begun in 1983 by Jack McCornack, who put an Apple II on his ultralight aircraft.

"No brakes, no license, no parachute… What is there in this barebones aircraft to hang on to for even the least sense of security? It was designed with the help of an Apple II," writes Melissa Milich in Softalk Volume 3, Issue 5 (Jan 1983).

Jack McCornack of Pterodactyl in flight

Most of the article details how McCornack uses VisiCalc and Apple Writer to run his aviation company, much like any entrepreneur or businessperson might. But on page 125 is a sidebar in which Milich dives into the details of the above photo:

That's an Apple II Plus, monitor, disk drive, and Apple Juice power supply bolted to a wooden mount with foot-long bolts and protective pads. On the two-seater Pterodactyl pictured, the Apple sits where the passenger normally would. The control stick for the canard and winglets is managed with the right hand while the pilot reaches over with the left hand to type on the keyboard.

This sidebar is a fascinating look at the early integration between aviation and digital technology — not only to provide data that pilots and on-ground personnel can use to make decisions, but to actually control the flight mechanics themselves:

In a normal plane, ailerons are controlled by the stick and the rudders are controlled by foot pedals… McCornack is working toward a version of the two-seater in which you can control ailerons with a joystick hooked to the Apple. The computer would control servo motors that activate the ailerons.

Going for a theme, this same issue of Softalk has a similar article on pages 48–54: David Hunter's piece "Exec SubLogic: On Course and Flying High". It's a meandering piece about Bruce Artwick and Stu Moment, two other entrepreneurs who developed the early flight simulator A2-FS1 Flight Simulator (and, later, Night Mission Pinball).

SubLogic had many other innovations in development. Decades before Steel Battalion, they envisioned more complex interaction and input devices:

Not just another joystick, this multiplexed, seven-channel contraption will give a more realistic aspect to the flight simulator, possibly including foot pedals, a steering wheel, a separate throttle, and other features.

Softalk was a great magazine, and this issue in particular was a fun look at the Apple II in flight.

(Hat tip to Paulo Alves via Garrett Meiers, with help from Laine Nooney)

KansasFest 2014 teaser

February 17th, 2014 2:15 PM
by
Filed under Happenings;
3 comments.

Today, the KansasFest committee released this image:
KansasFest 2014 teaser

The blog post had no title (-20 to SEO), no body (-10), no ALT or TITLE tags (-5), and no informative filename (kfest2014.png) or slug (kfest-2014-teaser) — that is to say, no hidden clues.

But that isn't to say we can't make some inferences. Today is not the first time the KansasFest committee issued a teaser in advance of announcing the keynote speaker. In 2012, they posted this image to their Web site:

Quake logo

Three guesses who's coming to KansasFest 2012 — and the first two don't count.


The image made no attempt at being obtuse: gamers quickly recognized it as the logo of Quake, a quintessential first-person shooter from id software, original creators of the Apple IIGS game Wolfenstein 3D. Early id employees included Softdisk alumni John Romero and John Carmack, as well as former KansasFest keynote speaker Lane Roathe. Carmack still has a streak of the retrocomputing enthusiast in him:



Given Carmack's commitments to id and Oculus, it seemed unlikely he was available to speak at an Apple II convention. That left only John Romero — who was confirmed only hours later with an official press release.

So what can we learn from this latest image out of KansasFest? It features an entirely different style from the logos used for KansasFests 2006–2013. Presuming this teaser image is in fact the 2014 logo, and that its departure from tradition is not merely for aesthetic purposes, we should investigate its influences.

Fortunately, the committee has made this part easy. The logo was posted to not only the KansasFest blog, but also various social media sites, including the Softalk Forever group on Facebook. There, KansasFest publicist Peter Neubauer confirmed that this logo was designed in collaboration with committee chair Tony Diaz, who "created a new font using letters captured from original issues."

Softalk #1

The debut issue of Softalk.


I'm not a former reader of Softalk, so I read Steve Weyhrich's history of the publication. Of the names that were associated with the magazine over the years, two stand out. According to Wikipedia, "Softalk along with founder/editor Margot Comstock and founder/publisher Al Tommervik are named as pioneers of the microcomputer industry in the Smithsonian Institution." Of the two, Comstock is an active participant in the Apple II Enthusiasts group on Facebook. She has also collaborated with Mike Maginnis on providing material to the Apple II Scans project.

Perhaps Comstock is too obvious a choice for this year's keynote speaker — after all, the committee has done an excellent job in recent years of bringing unexpected celebrities out of the woodwork, such as John Romero, Mark Simonsen, David Szetela, and Randy Wigginton. But who else associated with Softalk would fit in the impressive lineup of past speakers?

No matter what, I'll be at KansasFest 2014. But for an opening act? My money's on Comstock.