krpalmer: (apple)
I'm cautious about invoking "political content" on this journal, but when I saw some "Apple commentators" bring up a Twitter post on the account of the Prime Minister of Canada, my thoughts veered in a direction I did want to say something about. Seeing Justin Trudeau promote with enthusiasm (and in both official languages) an article about the Macintosh emulation now available on the Internet Archive got me supposing that while there are people who were using Apple computers in the 1980s and people who've seen themselves as having "bought into a story" afterwards (as I suppose I was, just earlier than some), they don't amount to a constituency to be talked up in an analytical fashion. I was therefore willing to suppose Trudeau had used a Macintosh back when the game Dark Castle was a standout on it, and from there I could wonder if Pierre Trudeau had bought one of the computers (although this does bring to mind all those smirking juxtapositions of "the computer for the rest of us" and Apple's pricing strategies, along with how the elder Trudeau had been well-off before becoming Prime Minister) after retiring from office, and if he'd used it himself or supposed himself "too old for this sort of thing" even with its much-promoted graphical user interface and left it to his sons. Of course, the computer could also have been in a school lab with games floating around.

In any case, I was already aware of those Javascript emulators, but can admit to thinking I'd rather stick with files saved on my own computer for use with the self-contained Mini vMac emulator, especially given its recent push from the small black-and-white screen of the original Macintosh towards the larger, more colourful screen my own family's purchase not that far into the 1990s provided us with. (There was a comment in the article wondering if the author's return to MacWrite could be extracted from the emulator; I can do that with Mini vMac, even if I don't do that often.) After a first bit of difficulty that had me supposing the PCE Javascript emulator demanded disk images formatted in a way Mini vMac couldn't do anything with, though, I did find at least some of the files from the Internet Archive can be put to that offline use, and that before this somehow amusing bit of unexpected attention paid to the whole thing.
krpalmer: (apple)
When iTunes announces there's been another iPad operating system upgrade I tend to be pretty quick giving the okay to download and install it, but I can be a lot slower when it comes to the operating system of the iMac that first program runs on to begin with. I guess I always feel I have to fight past a miasma of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" and the lurking presence of those people who've refused to upgrade for half a dozen major revisions by now. It does so happen I have a black plastic Macbook bought used that can't be upgraded much past system 10.6.8, but the awareness of the recent programs that can't be run on it is now getting to me. I did get around to setting up a double-boot system on it with a version of Mint Linux (which does seem to get more updates than some hypothetical scenario of "settling on perfection to be followed by lots of security updates" might seem to have it), but the unfortunate feeling of not being clever enough to really get things configured and installed just the way I like it gets to me in turn.

While last year I "upgraded" to "El Capitan" by the expensive method of buying a new iMac with the operating system pre-installed on it, I knew I'd have to resort to a more typical method when it came to "Sierra." The one thing I did pick up on was that the interactive fiction programming language Inform, and all the major text adventure game engines, weren't working properly with the new system. After a few months of waiting (and the peculiar awareness that "Sierra On-Line" had been a historical force in the however-ambiguous rise of graphic adventures), though, I'd heard about the language and some of the interpreters being revised in turn to work. Waiting just a little longer turned up one more point revision to the system, and I stepped off the deep end.

After making several backups of the old system, I ran the installer in place to save on having to reload old files, and yet it all started up again. So far I've only used the new operating system for a few days, but even so things do seem to be working and I'm settling in. I might not have noticed but for creating some custom folder icons that the regular folder icons are just a shade darker than they'd been in the system previous; I've begun a bit of work on that with another program that continued to work afterwards.
krpalmer: (apple)
I delve back into enough old computer systems that I do seem to let them lie fallow and then return to dig deeper. A big part of this depends on contributions made by other people, though, whether in the form of scanned documents or emulator programs. Pushing past the early 1980s, three different emulator programs for the Macintosh can get me to the end of the 1990s. One of the jumps between them is a bit bigger than the other, though, and it just so happened one single thing fell into that space to get my attention.
A gradual process )
krpalmer: (apple)
With just a bit of practice, I found that typing on my iPad's "glass keyboard" didn't seem "that" different from using a more physical input device. (I can suppose that for those who've grown accustomed to entering short notes and posts on the keyboard of a smart phone, there might be that much less of a deal to be made about something larger.) With a small collection of text editors and a Dropbox account, I can "pat out" quick-and-dirty rough drafts and transfer them to my computer. (This might not be that different from how the TRS-80 Model 100 was used by many. I suppose the Model 100's keys had more "travel" than indeed just about any portable computer keyboard available these days, but then in at least some circumstances I can see more than eight lines of forty characters each on an iPad's screen, and "filling the memory" doesn't seem to be an issue the way it might be with just thirty-two kilobytes to work with...)

However, if there was one thing that could slow me down, it was how there are only four punctuation marks available on the iPad's regular keyboard. To keep from sounding like one of those science fiction cultures that never use contractions, I'd have to reach down, call up the "punctuation keyboard," and type an apostrophe. To type any other punctuation mark, I also have to "put that keyboard away" once I'm done with it; adding HTML tags to a comment can be pretty involved. After a while, I began looking for alternatives. Considering keyboards sized to fit into an "iPad cover" kind of cramped, I bought a very cheap black-plastic Bluetooth keyboard (with a suspicious resemblance to the layout of the more solid Apple Bluetooth keyboard of the time) from a local surplus store; it was easy enough to carry it as well on a typical sort of day in a regular messenger bag. However, putting the batteries back in the keyboard and getting it connected did always seem to be just a bit of a production. I then managed to find a "third-party software keyboard" that was actually a "stylus input area," which at least brought thoughts of how these "keyboardless devices" were "once" supposed to work; however, writing on the screen seems just a little more involved than writing with a pen on paper. Doing a bit more searching, I happened on a software keyboard that squeezes skinny punctuation keys in around the regular screen keys; it was possible to get used to it, but I did get to thinking there was a slight air of lessened aesthetics about it, and that there could be something to "leaving keys out to fit in limited space" after all.

There were enough options to that new keyboard, though, that in exploring it I began to pick up on how you could "tap and hold" some keys and have extra characters pop up, the way I already knew to produce accented letters. All of a sudden, though, I was thinking about just where the apostrophe and punctuation mark are on the punctuation keyboard, and if there might be a trick to the regular iPad keyboard after all... Switching back, I found I really could hold down the comma to get an apostrophe, and hold down the period to get a quotation mark as well. This feels useful enough that I can wonder if it was my fault I hadn't seen anyone else notice it until now, but then there's always the chance someone else might yet hit on this tip for the first time here.
krpalmer: (apple)
On my way into the once-a-month meeting of the local Apple user group meeting, I looked at the table where the raffle prizes are set out only to be hit with a sudden thrill of recognition. Among the assorted bits of hardware and envelopes with software licenses in them, I could see the iconic shape of an antique Apple II computer, complete with Apple-branded monitor and two Disk II drives. It would be a rare and unusual prize, I thought, and yet I was stuck remembering. Every paid-up member of the user group gets one raffle ticket a month, but for all that I have won a software license or two for programs I've found useful I've been very aware of sitting and watching as number after number not my own is drawn and people go up to the front of the room to claim prizes as big as old Power Macintosh G5 towers. (I've seen three of those metal-cased "cheese graters" won, although I have wondered if they were the same computer every time, returned by people who had got to wondering if they really needed another old computer.) This time, I took a picture with my iPad's camera of what I could now tell was an earlier Apple IIe to leave me at least a little proof the prize had been there.
The picture, and a bit more )
krpalmer: (apple)
A link on an "Apple news weblog" to "the very first issue of Macworld" caught my attention. That the link was to the Internet Archive raised my interest that much higher; as soon as I'd followed it, I knew I'd been pointed to quite a bit more than that first description might have said by itself.

Quite a few long-folded computer magazines for old systems have been scanned and placed in different corners online, but in noting the Commodore and Atari and even Tandy-specific magazines, and as even some Apple II sources filled in, I suppose I took it for granted that since some important Macintosh resources had kept being published until just a few years ago, they wouldn't be found. I did say a while ago how the thought had crept up on me that it might be interesting to learn something about the early years of the Macintosh from sources biased towards it, but the only thing to do had seemed to be to look for the online auctions that weren't charging too much for sets of old magazines. Now, though, someone has got around to scanning those early issues, and indeed all the way to the end of 1995, just when the biggest crisis of the saga was really setting in. (I suppose I have noticed issues of MacAddict magazine online before, which started in that darkest hour only the next year.) In taking that in, I also happened on a nice selection of books about the Macintosh, going all the way from the introduction days when they couldn't do much more than rewrite the Apple manuals to the dawn of OS X. That other people may not have to spend the money I did matters more than the magazines I now have stacked on a shelving unit in my basement.
krpalmer: (apple)
Buying a new iMac for the sake of its USB 3 ports (which do make backing things up much faster) and high-resolution display also happened to be an expensive yet definite way of upgrading to the latest operating system. Intent on getting over "fear, uncertainty, and doubt", I installed the system 10.11.1 upgrade as soon as I had the computer set up, but as I got to using it I did notice that whenever I closed a Finder window and then opened it again it had scrolled back up to the top, or almost so. As I turn off the "toolbar" and operate in an old-fashioned way by having a new window open each time I double-click on a folder, this might not have hit me as often as it might for someone who uses the "back" command, but I did get to wondering if this was to be considered a new default behaviour when I saw the computers at a local store were doing the same thing. I reminded myself all I had to do was type a few letters to jump to a particular icon, and that dwelling on little things is a recipe for trouble.

When the system 10.11.2 update was released, I waited a few days just in case some subtle problem would start catching people and then installed it, but as I started feeling it out all of a sudden I realised I could close a Finder window and then re-open it to see the icons right where I'd left them. Not dwelling on a little thing is one thing; not having it to dwell on (and getting one sign that "bugs aren't creeping in to defy any potential effort to deal with them") is another. In any case, I do seem to be settling in to the new operating system with its brighter, more stylised icons and new system font, but I can suppose a part of that has to do with the high-resolution display. I saw a comment when the really big iMac first got a "Retina Display" that you ought to avoid looking at it because of the risk of becoming dissatisfied with your current display; having set up my previous iMac again to prepare it for handing on in the family, I can understand it better now.
krpalmer: (apple)
Hearing there'd be another new version of the Macintosh system software this year too got a few things unstuck in my mind. I'd made a few visits to Apple Stores just to accustom myself to the new appearance and system font of system 10.10 "Yosemite," but by the time I might have started really telling myself that if I was going to fixate on that sort of thing I might as well have just stuck with the black-and-white, 32-by-32 icons and Chicago system font of System 6 back in the 68000 days, the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" injected into comment threads about "things breaking" had become ferocious. That just reminded me of how I'd never upgraded to system 10.7 "Lion," even if I had worked up the courage to jump straight to system 10.8 "Mountain Lion" and then moved on to system 10.9 "Mavericks." As I weighed "if it works, you don't need to fiddle with it" against certain programs and potentials I knew my current system couldn't do and worried about what would amount to "surrendering to complete paralysis at last," I also happened to replace the burnt-out hard drive in an old black plastic-cased Macbook with a solid-state drive, installed system 10.6 "Snow Leopard" on it because I didn't have the single more advanced system it could run, and then partitioned the drive to install a newer version of Mint Linux on it than the one I'd installed on my old plastic-cased iMac just as a hedge against some troubling unspeakable future. With that particular computer, the open-source operating system did manage to activate the wireless networking, but I did still have the distinct feeling that even with the customizability I could work out how to add it still had a bland, Windows-like look at heart.
Jumping in at a deep end )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Today I read through the last of the PDFs of Softalk magazine. They had been pretty interesting, a bit different from the other computer magazines of the early 1980s anyway with their "here's what famous and/or interesting people are doing with their Apple computers" human-interest articles (even if there were occasional letters complaining those pages could have been used for the usual articles about what to do with their computers themselves) mixed in with the regular columns on more technical topics. I wound up a bit readier to understand why the sudden disappearance of the magazine (and its associated titles) had seemed like "the end of the golden age" to those who'd been reading it.

In an unrelated development, I also went back to the Internet Archive's collection of Creative Computing magazines, and was surprised to see some new titles in that archive, even if they'd been there for a few months already. The first three years of that magazine hadn't been available there (although the volumes that had reprinted most of the articles from them can be found elsewhere), but now some of the earliest magazines were available, including the very first, now more than forty years old and a few months older than the cover story of Popular Electronics that introduced the Altair 8800, back when the slim, printed-on-newsprint issue was meant for educators using minicomputers in high school or thereabouts classrooms. I might yet do better moving on to something a bit more different for now, but what I saw was interesting to see anyway.
krpalmer: (apple)
As I started into the scanned files of Softalk now available online, I just happened to notice a new e-book collecting a column introducing assembly language that had run in that magazine for most of its life. Remembering how all the serious programs were written in that cryptic code I started reading the book with half an eye towards my Apple II emulator programs and the archives of old software on disk images, but this book had a crucial advantage in a new appendix explaining how to use a particular assembler. More than that, the original author Roger Wagner took things not just in small steps but offered some genuine "instant gratification" somewhat similar to the


programs near the beginning of the "how to program in BASIC" books. While I have seen a modern "teach yourself 6502 assembly" project online (proposing the whole project could be looked at as similar to learning Latin), most of its exercises seem a bit more abstract, a matter of looking at register numbers. The wrinkle, of course, was that in looking at 6502 assembly language even with the simulated hardware of the Apple II to command, I could feel a few reproachful thoughts of how I just might have embraced the CPUs I was actually using back then and tried learning 6809 assembly (I've long seen the Motorola chip praised by those who did program it) or even Z80 language.

In any case, this is pretty far removed from modern programming languages, which may ultimately compile down to modern assembly language but use what I imagine to be decades worth of accreting libraries. I suppose I've done nothing more so far than put a pebble on top of another one while wondering how solid the footing is underneath the mountain nearby I've never bothered to even look up at; the most elaborate thing I'm thinking ahead to is trying to convert the "Color Eater" program I started tinkering with again a little while ago to assembly, as I heard was done. (There are even some simple routines in the Apple II's ROM that ought to make working with the low-resolution screen a bit less involved than I'd first imagined.) Learning something, though, does seem to me better than not trying anything.
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Not that long after I posted about a good deal of Softalk magazine being posted on the Internet Archive, several more issues showed up, making the collection now very close to complete. That the project page there had mentioned there having been forty-eight issues of that magazine in total had left me waiting and hoping, but also wondering if there was something about the last issue not listed that made it hard to get. After all, I was waiting to receive in the mail an issue of Creative Computing that hasn't shown up in the Internet Archive yet.

Towards the end of the week, though, the forty-eighth issue turned up in the list of Softalk, and at the end of the week I picked up the issue of Creative Computing from the local post office, filling in the last gap in a collection formed from scanned copies, reprint volumes of the early years, and a few fill-in issues. There, of course, there's a trace or more of personal boasting, but at least I am facing the perpetual issue of wishing there'd been more of the magazine. If it, or Softalk, had managed to continue into the second half of the 1980s or further it might have had some interesting takes on things. At the same time, of course, if it had continued it might not have been so easy for people to wink about making the old issues available online.
krpalmer: (apple)
I've already mentioned how the "old computer magazine most intriguing to me for being out of reach" changed from Creative Computing to Softalk. With the first title, when I began digging into online archives of scanned magazines I'd at least managed quite a while before to take in its last year of publication (starting with a self-congratulatory tenth anniversary issue), books reprinting articles from its first years, and some issues from in between. With Softalk, I was just going on comments from other people how its sudden disappearance had seemed to mark the end of an era for Apple users. (It also so happened that I came upon the short run of another Apple magazine that had included a column by Softalk's former editor, dwelling to some extent on the mid-1980s hangover from the cyber-utopianism of the first few years of that decade, and at one point trying to put a brave face on the thought the computer market had saturated at as insignificant a size as "the avid reader population.")

Along the way, I did happen on what proclaimed itself an organised project to scan in Softalk, but for all the length of time the site had been around it didn't seem to have any genuine content. I bookmarked it anyway and kept checking it every so often, and a news item did show up about how the project was going to be working with the Internet Archive, now home to great quantities of other scanned magazines. Again, though, I still had a bit of a feeling of "promises, promises."

On getting back from vacation, however, I managed to see in the Twitter feed in a sidebar on the site that the first two issues of the magazine had been uploaded to the Internet Archive. While I already had a different, higher-quality scan of the first issue, it was something tangible, and I contemplated making a post about it only to wind up thinking it still might be better to wait for this to be something more than a "one-time accomplishment." The waiting came to a sudden end, though, when I did a bit more checking and saw that all of a sudden the archive had expanded from two of forty-eight issues to forty-two of forty-eight. A comment I'd seen years ago sprang to mind: "You could have knocked me down with a feather."

Of course, even as I begin downloading the issues (not quite as small in file size or nearly as sludgy-looking in their graphics as some of the material I've found on the Internet Archive) and starting a journey that will end with having to face how a potential experience has become reality and boundless imagination will have to be compared to mundane reality, I'm wondering about the last six issues not in the archive yet. There remain two Creative Computing magazines from 1983 not in the archive; I managed to buy one of them in an online auction a while ago, and I've now paid for the other one, but until it shows up I suppose I'm left thinking I can't be certain I'll actually get it until I have it.
krpalmer: (apple)
I went and bought Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs (produced with the cooperation of Jobs himself, as the promotional talk said) right when it was published; the national bookstore chain did seem to be pushing it, and it was that much easier to get it with the small bookstore in the shopping mall on my corner still open then. As I read through it, though, I did seem to wind up somehow dispirited that the Jobs presented in it, for all of his increased success as a businessman, never seemed to get past petty tantrums and casual, unfeeling cruelty to those in the wrong place at the wrong time: the closest he might have come in the biography to personal growth was a broken-down admission near the end of his life that he was who he was and couldn't change.
Maybe you can't discuss one book without discussing another )
krpalmer: (apple)
A bit over a year ago now, I ordered a new piece of hardware that plugged into the back of the old Macintosh Plus I'd managed to get several years before that and served as a floppy drive. Instead of having to load the programs that can be found in various corners online onto a handful of old 800K disks through a multi-stage process, I could just copy disk images to a thoroughly compact camera memory card and load them in... one at a time. Even with part of the Plus's four megabytes of memory devoted to a RAM disk to hold some system software arranged with care to fit into one startup disk image, loading new programs still meant going around to the back of the computer and pushing small buttons attached to a seemingly vulnerable circuit board. What with needing the dining room table for other things and the awareness the computer is getting close to three decades old and might not last forever being turned on and off (especially since the fan pack that had come with it had a damaged power cord which made me reluctant to try and cool the "beige toaster"), I suppose I wound up not trying out the new setup that much more often than I'd tried using what floppies I did have.
Upgrades do happen, though )
krpalmer: (apple)
The Multi Emulator Super System promises a vast number of computer emulators built into a single program, but so far as software goes it does seem pretty austere to me. Part of that might be that while there are some "front ends" available for it, I just start from Terminal the executable file someone's been thoughtful enough to make available. At the same time, it does offer a hardware feature for the Color Computer 3 that lets me run disk images I made (after about two decades of letting the disks sit in the basement) of my files for a particular "MacWrite clone" word processor (although the stories certainly weren't very good). Beyond that, though, I suppose I have been thinking a bit about the Apple II emulators built into it. While I paid to register a full-featured emulator for that computer and I'm quite of how the Atari and Commodore users proclaimed their computers had better graphics and sound than the Apple II (poised as it was in between "appealing and inexpensive home computers" and "powerful and capable business computers), perhaps its being near the top of an alphabetical list has some small influence there.

However, to get MESS working you need ROM files first of all, and while I have turned up a grey-market archive or two every time I tried to start most of the Apple II emulators from the MESS internal menu I would get an error message that ROM files were missing from the packaged files. In wondering if I was winding up with "old files," though, I eventually came across a list of supported systems with the required files listed for each. By decompressing the downloaded files, I figured out just was missing, and in something like a fit of frustration I searched for the code name of the missing files only to find myself delving deep into a different archive. With the image files renamed and added to new compressions, now I could get the emulator started, and I even happened to discover its Apple II systems can be set between their "fringy" six-colour graphics and a simulated green screen (although the "amber" option looks more just plain orange to me.) As much as I wonder if this was all doing things the hard way, if there's the slightest chance someone else will make their own search in frustration and turn this up I suppose there may be a bit of a point to this post.
krpalmer: (apple)
The news that Macworld magazine would no longer be printed (and that most of the people who'd also contributed to its web site would be losing their jobs) was one of those unfortunate announcements which all the same make a certain hard sense in hindsight. I had bought one issue earlier this year for its "thirtieth anniversary of the Macintosh" article and thought the whole thing awful thin; before that, the previous issue I'd bought had had a twenty-fifth anniversary cover story. For that matter too, I know PC Magazine and PC World had already stopped printing issues, so one can hardly suggest "the smaller platforms go first, even if at last." Even so, its continued existence might have served as a personal link back to the days when my family had left the "8-bit era" by buying a Macintosh LC II for our home and we'd started buying the magazine just months before the typeface of its cover logo changed (after which it didn't look as attractive to me). There's also the little complication that even in an age where the instant information of web sites may have obscured the value of a more permanent month-by-month record, I've managed to start going back to some of the earliest issues of Macworld...
The saga of the early adopters )
krpalmer: (europa)
Now that I've managed to see just about all of Creative Computing, the old computer magazine most intriguing to me for being out of reach at the moment seems Softalk. It showed up in the early days of "system-specific magazines," devoted to the Apple II with part of its startup funds coming from game show winnings. Unlike some other early magazines (including Creative Computing itself), it stayed independent even as it spun off magazines devoted to computer gaming, the IBM PC, and the Macintosh, but that independence did seem to doom it exactly four years after its first issue as deeper-pocketed competitors pressed into its market and advertising dollars stretched thin. (Of course, this far from the early days, the magazines that sold out to big companies all wound up closed down by corporate penny-pinching sooner or later...) The Apple II users who read it still seem to remember it with fondness all the same. This, though, hasn't yet translated into all of it being scanned and put online as with Commodore and Atari magazines, but when I saw someone had at least done that with the slim first issue I didn't hesitate.

Beyond the obvious novelty of a "first issue," I could also take definite interest in its cover story, "Apple Helps The Empire Strikes Back." I'd already seen the Apple II system the article talked about (which not only catalogued the pieces of special-effects film being produced by ILM but also calculated "start frames" to speed putting them together) pictured in "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back"; the picture in the magazine was just as recognizable with its fairly small monitor and the single disk drive right on top of that monitor. What I hadn't expected was for the references to the second sequel to follow the success of the first (and there was a sense of "things aren't what they used to be" when the article led off by talking about how "the conventional wisdom in Hollywood" was that "sequels are almost surely doomed to failure--financially if not artistically") to say "Return of the Jedi."

"Empire of Dreams," the documentary now ten years old included in the DVD box set of the "Imperial Trilogy," had at least mentioned how George Lucas had put "Return of the Jedi" on his very first draft only to be told he needed something a bit punchier, whereupon he changed it to the "Revenge of the Jedi" everyone seemed to know about in 1981 and 1982; that title was mentioned in "Once Upon A Galaxy," the period "making of The Empire Strikes Back" book presumably wrapped up in time for the movie's opening. I suppose that while I can dwell on implications overheard of "Revenge of the Jedi" representing something unspecified yet appealing to to those who've schooled themselves through long practice to be dissatisfied with, or to altogether miss the point of, Star Wars as it is, this hint at last of the actual title being mentioned in public much sooner than everyone supposes these days was both interesting and intriguing.
krpalmer: (apple)
(subtitle: The Life and Times of the Apple II Computer)

As new books about the computers of the 1980s get published, I've gone ahead and bought some of them, but it may not always be just out of the pure curiosity to know more about some specific subjects than can be found in different corners online. I ordered a book about the original TRS-80 because that was the first computer in my family's home and a book about the Color Computer that followed it because we'd used them for years, but I ordered a book about the Commodore Amiga in some part because it was by someone whose weblog I'd been reading, and this seemed a way to "support" his ongoing history of computer games. When I heard that someone with an online history of the Apple II was converting his web site into a book, I might not have had as much of a compulsion to go and order it as those previous cases. When I happened to walk by the computer bookshelves in the local bookstore and spotted a copy of "Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II Computer," though, it might have been the sense of the book being "ready right to hand" that made me buy it then. I did think it would be interesting to have in permanent form a history of the Apple II computer itself as opposed to the company, as much as the downs and ups there have appealed to writers (but sometimes leave partisans of other computers complaining their favourite models were better, and cheaper anyway), and yet I did wonder about how that larger history might lend a darker tone to parts of the book.
Further reflections on the book and some ramblings built on it )
krpalmer: (apple)
BYTE was around for a good while so far as computer magazines go, from the days of enthusiasts soldering together their own microcomputer kits to at least the first years of "official web sites." The influence that longevity built up might be reflected in some small part in how I noticed scanned versions of its early issues online earlier than with certain other "multi-system" magazines, and those scans are still higher quality than some of those that showed up later. BYTE did have a reputation for being technical and "high-level," though, and I have to admit a lot of what was in it seems to go over my own head, and I do seem to prefer reading some of those other magazines. There have been things I've found in the issues I've looked at that have interested me, though, and sometimes it's the little things that most catch my attention.

One page near the beginning of the April 1977 issue promised that next month's issue would have an article by Steve Wozniak on his design of the Apple II, which the magazine's editor Carl Helmers suggested might be the first "appliance computer." In relating how Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs had shown a prototype to him, he suggested they write a "Color Eater" program for it, taking the idea from a demonstation he'd seen "in an advanced graphics research laboratory in 1975". The three of them wrote the program in the Apple II's original "Integer BASIC" in half to three quarters of an hour (although with the conventional wisdom nowadays it's easy to suppose Jobs was kibitzing as "Woz" and Helmers did the actual work), and the preview was illustrated with a screen shot of the program running on the computer's low-resolution, 16-colour mode. It looked more jumbled than the symmetrical kaleidoscopes and "random line" programs I'd found on disk images and tried on Apple II emulators, but there seemed more substance to its globs and shards of colour than a "random point" program might produce. That eventually started me thinking.
Screenshots within )
krpalmer: (apple)
One day after a certain thirtieth anniversary, I got around to trying out a small piece of hardware I hoped would bring me back to the earlier days of the Macintosh. A few years ago, I went to a sort of "estate garage sale" at the house of a late member of the local Apple users' group, and there saw the distinctive cardboard box the first Macintoshes had been in. Most of the original manuals were still inside, along with a computer that had been upgraded from 512K to a Macintosh Plus. Getting to buy the whole package for less than I'd been ready to spend, I took it back to my own place, confirmed the computer still worked and could still load the handful of floppy discs included, and then found myself wondering just what else I could do with it. While nowadays the Macintosh Plus is described as "the first really capable Macintosh" (with, perhaps, an implicit dismissal of the two years preceding its introduction as just a handful of early adopters battling the constant frustration of limited memory and storage), it could still only load 800K discs, not the higher-density 1.44 MB discs that followed. Heading back home and looking for more 800K discs turned up just a handful of them, and to get software on them from the disc images I'd found online that worked with the "Mini vMac" emulator would mean using an intermediate computer as a bridge. I wound up keeping the Macintosh Plus in my basement and only taking it to special sessions of the user group for people to try MacPaint on if they wanted, aware that "DriveWire" made my family's old Color Computers more connected to modern computing.
Then, not that long ago... )

September 2017

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