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Best Classic Computer to keep investing in.

apple ii Atari computers

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#1 simbalion OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 10, 2016 3:52 PM

First off, I want to say this: I am still working on finishing my collections and, sadly, am no good at rebuilding stuff. Also, I mostly play games on my vintage computers as I started late into the computer game (Windows 98) and most technical stuff goes right over my head. Still, I think there is room to further invest in one of the lines of 8-bit computers I have to make them daily drivers for more than just games and I have narrowed the field down to two makes. Atari and Apple II. Now, which one is the best choice?

 

Atari 8-Bit:

Several models to choose from, both computers and disk drives seem to have that famous Atari durability to them. Nice graphics and sound. A lot of programs on cartridge and most will run on the earlier 800 that uses the near bullet-proof 9 volt power brick. Diskettes seem to be durable as well.

Downsides are:

You need a separate power supply for every accesory you hook into the 8-bit line, which can add up to a lot of wires and power bricks. XL series is very closed-box and the XE series is a bit shakey due to cost cutting the Tramiels did. Black ingots!

 

Apple II computers:

Built in one form or the other and supported from roughly 1978 until at least 1993! Very easy to work on, just power down and pop the top. Units seem fairly rugged and the Disk II drives seem durable. I've had even better luck with the later 5.25" unidrives. If the power supply smokes, it doesn't seem to take the computer with it and it also seems it can be repaired and put back into service. Most diskettes boot up by themselves, with no need to fiddle with DOS. Just power up the computer or hit reset. First computers I can remember getting to touch and see when in grade school. Just seems like an overall workhorse and there is an odd friendliness to the design.

Downsides are: You can't just plug these in to a TV. (Well I don't think so at least.) So, you need to find a working monitor which is getting harder to do. All programs are on aging diskettes which need to be run through aging disk drives. (I think there is a work around for that though.) Keyboard keys are REALLY easy to break off compared to the Atari. Graphics are ok, sound can be kinda meh. Oh, and too many of them and their parts are still getting ground up!

 

Downside of both: All are getting older and will eventually need rebuilds of some sort. I currently have three dead and one spare power supply for the Apple II, but those come out in one chunk and probably could be shipped to someone for rebuilds. Power supplies in the Atari models seem split between power brick and on the board.

 

So, which of these two makes would be the most practical to make into a daily driver? A computer that might still be able to have use in our modern world? I'm not ditching any of my vintage computers, but I would love to see if I can make one do practical things while still remaining what it is. Anyways, thanks for looking and sorry for the long post. :)



#2 Ransom OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:12 PM

Just a note: I've plugged my Apple //'s into LCD TVs with no problems.

Also: The Apple has good 80-column support and some nifty add-ons you can still get today (Mockingboard clone, CFFA3000, etc.). Lots of great software and plenty of info on hardware hacking and programming.

 

As to which to go with, it depends on what you want to do with them beyond games. Personally, I like and have a long history with both. If I had to choose one or the other, though, it would be the A8 since I feel like the community around it is more vital and more exciting these days.



#3 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:34 PM

you can plug an apple II into a TV, you wont like it on most tv's if you use 80 column text, though I use a small HDTV on mine and its fine 

 

if your more after (arcadey) games you might like the atari better, if your more into apps and programming and hacking, you might like the apple better... its kind of a toss up

 

I like the apple II, but im bias to it growing up with one, the 8 bit atari scene is a bit more lively though


Edited by Osgeld, Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:43 PM.


#4 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:44 PM

Apple II computers:

 

Downsides are: You can't just plug these in to a TV.

Yes you can. It's just composite out. Just plug it into the video input on your TV. Don't even need a special cord like the Atari does.
 



#5 simbalion OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 10, 2016 5:36 PM

You know, I think I do recall playing around with my IIc a couple years ago  and plugging it into my flatscreen in my bedroom. Just sort of forgot doing that.



#6 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:35 AM

The Apple II is a much simpler computer, and so are its graphics and sound capabilities. The Apple II community is getting old and almost all for sale come from dead owner's estate sales. The community is slowing down and there aren't really any good Apple II emulators in active development. At least not any that move at a pace worth checking on.

 

The Apple II community is loaded with money. You've got consoles and accessories going for 4 figures sometimes. And if they're special, 5 figures.

 

Apple II is a much more straightforward computer, and Applesoft Basic, though limited, is much easier to learn. Being simpler, it's just ram, rom, you and the 6502. Just as bare metal as a KIM-1 or COSMAC VIP. After all, the II was built with off the shelf parts, no custom chips whatsoever. And we loved it! There is no such thing as a sound chip or graphics chip in the II, II+, //e, //c. The IIgs doesn't count as it is a funky hybrid machine. There is no disk controller chip either, so floppy disk access is the fastest of the early micros.

 

The machine is incredibly well documented by apple, not to mention even more by 3rd parties! There is a stupid amount of written material available. There are only a few modern day hardware add-ons worthwhile, but they're golden!  And its DOS is so much simpler and faster, you can copy a standard disk in under 30 seconds, this includes read and write!

 

When it comes to hardware troubleshooting you'll get all sorts of support from the community and they're good at it, most being formal engineers like myself.

 

For $20-25 dollars you can get PC <-> Apple II file transfer capability.



#7 The Usotsuki OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:27 AM

And there's a growing number of games being made hard drive friendly on the ][ thanks mostly but not at all entirely to me ;)



#8 gozar OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:58 AM

I'd recommend an Atari 800XL.

 

  • For a power supply you can use any old 5-volt usb adapter, as long as it supplies at least 1 amp (1.5 if you have a lot of mods)
  • <$10 in parts lets you build an SIO2PC-USB adapter which lets you use any old computer as a floppy/hard drive (I use an old Thinkpad running XP)
  • $60-$70 will get you a compact flash hard drive
  • $60 will get you 1MB of RAM (Ultimate 1MB also gives you a real time clock, built in SpartaDOS X, flashable ROM slots)
  • The Last Word is a great wordprocessor, and ICE-T works well as a terminal to a Linux box

I play around with my IIgs with a CFFA 3000 and my //c+, but neither gets as much use as my 800 (with Incognito) or 800XL. If you haven't used an Atari, check out Altirra. It emulates basically any Atari and any piece of Atari hardware that has been released. 



#9 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:30 AM

Saying the apple community is old and drippig of money is a bit hooey

It's just not full of broke 15 year olds cause you can't slap a cart in the back and play vidia games

#10 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:23 AM

For $20-25 dollars you can get PC <-> Apple II file transfer capability.

 

Or $0 is you have a 3.5mm male to male cable lying around to go from the cassette port of your Apple II to the audio output of a computer or smartphone. You can run all of the games (and even make disks if you wish) you need directly from the Internet using your computer or smartphone. Just go here (to stream): http://asciiexpress.net/gameserver/
 
or here (to make disks): http://asciiexpress.net/diskserver/
 
(Only the Apple IIc and IIGS don't have cassette ports.)


#11 R.Cade OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:34 AM

"Investing"?  Haha....



#12 simbalion OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:50 AM

Oh, I love the Atari computers too, don't get me wrong. I am leaning a bit more towards the Apple II for expanding further. If nothing else, I would probably look into getting a CFFA 3000 for my Apple II's so that I can bypass the old diskettes and drives. Also, having something that can act a bit like a hard-drive in the Apple would be nice. I used to tinker with Applewin and I always thought it would be nice if I could take those disk images and run them on an actual Apple II. I guess part of it is nostalgia being that the Apple II was the first computers I saw in grade school. Though I think they did use Commodore 64's when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade for a short bit. After that, it was all Apple.



#13 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:57 PM

The CFFA3000 is a well tested and well characterized bit of hardware.

 

I also like the SuperSerialCard with ADTpro solution because it uses all old-school hardware and methodology. But that's me. Also make note that a big part of the Apple II gamer's experience was indeed working with and copying floppies. Half the fun BITD was figuring out how to do all that stuff.

 

I always like to say that the Disk II drive + its interface card is like the 2nd half of the computer. So many activities used it as a focal point, especially WaReZ and "user group" meetings.

 

A Platinum //e with a pair of 5.25" drives and 64K/80-Column card is a real good starter configuration. You then have 6 expansion slots to fill as time rolls on!

 

What I liked about the Disk II drives was that they were stupid simple and reliable. The stepper motor did its job by way of an Archimedean Spiral plate for utmost reliability. There was no onboard processing. The interface was simple. And the drives were fast and durable - always outperforming the 1541 and the 810. Disks I wrote to back in 1979 still work today! And this from drives that were tossed about in my RadioFlyer as a pulled it behind my bike on the way to warez meetings.



#14 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:14 PM

So, which of these two makes would be the most practical to make into a daily driver? A computer that might still be able to have use in our modern world? I'm not ditching any of my vintage computers, but I would love to see if I can make one do practical things while still remaining what it is. Anyways, thanks for looking and sorry for the long post. :)

 

I think that with CP/M and native 80 column support + expandability to something like 6MB ram gives the Apple II the edge in "daily driver" activities. Though personally myself I can't see any use beyond word processing and classic gaming. Maybe a database?

 

Word processing is a good use because these older rigs have far less distractions and don't nag you with OS updates. Recreational programming and experimenting with BASIC is another possibility too!

 

I was thinking of setting up an Apple II in the war room to act as a teletype machine. What you type on the keyboard is output to paper on a noisy dot matrix printer. Easy to make shopping lists with and command other family members to do your bidding as the orders come in down the line.

 

Then there’s always PrintShop which is simple and still usable. The only modern-day equivalent is Microsoft Picture It! Photo Premium 9 which was made back in the dot-com epoch. Everything else since is overbloated and complexified to the point of frustration.

 

But why not dig through ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.com/pub/apple_II/

There's got to something of interest there!


Edited by Keatah, Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:27 PM.


#15 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:57 PM

 

I think that with CP/M and native 80 column support + expandability to something like 6MB ram gives the Apple II the edge in "daily driver" activities. Though personally myself I can't see any use beyond word processing and classic gaming. Maybe a database?

 

Word processing is a good use because these older rigs have far less distractions and don't nag you with OS updates. Recreational programming and experimenting with BASIC is another possibility too!

 

That Apple II is not an ideal CP/M machine in my opinion because of the proprietary disk format. Of course, that's less of an issue these days, but still. Regardless, the Apple II has excellent native productivity software (better than on the Atari, for obvious reasons), although I always struggle with the idea that someone would actually want to use a vintage computer for any productivity-related stuff other than for fun. There are far more powerful, safer, and less cumbersome ways to create a distraction-free environment with modern devices.



#16 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:47 PM

 

That Apple II is not an ideal CP/M machine in my opinion because of the proprietary disk format. Of course, that's less of an issue these days, but still. Regardless, the Apple II has excellent native productivity software (better than on the Atari, for obvious reasons), although I always struggle with the idea that someone would actually want to use a vintage computer for any productivity-related stuff other than for fun. There are far more powerful, safer, and less cumbersome ways to create a distraction-free environment with modern devices.

Almost every different CP/M machine has a slightly different disk format so I don't think the disk format is an issue.

As you say, why use a vintage computer for productivity related stuff.
 



#17 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:54 PM

Correct, disk format isn't an issue. It can be worked around. Transffered from one machine to another via different means. It's more the file format and the ability of the destination machine to read them.

 

In my opinion file transfers between computers didn't become a commonplace consumer affair until the development of CD-R and then, later, Flash technology - memory cards and JumpDrives..

 

A one certain writing environment I enjoy is very simple. It looks something like this. Notepad on one screen, iTunes on the other.


Edited by Keatah, Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:06 PM.


#18 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:29 PM

Gaming? +1 for sticking with the Atari machine. Cheaper to maintain and parts more readily available AFAIK, way better sound, better graphics for the most part, uses standard joysticks, great variety of existing games, homebrew games trickling out still and inexpensive SD storage solutions abound.

The Apple ][ has always been more of a "serious" machine, but like most are saying, productivity on older machines isn't where it's at today. Unless you're really into using your vintage computers that way for the hell of it. Or have some other hobby that requires proprietary expansion or software. Had some HAM/SW buddies into the Apple for that reason and were the kind NOT to play games.

#19 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:31 PM

aye, when I do play games on my apple II its more of the big epic types, and not like dig doug, which has a good apple 2 port if you ignore the sound heh



#20 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:34 PM

There's no reason why you couldn't get an Apple II and then stack a smaller Atari machine right on top of it. I did that back in the day to save space. And it actually looked pretty cool!



#21 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:41 PM

I agree with the sentiment that trying to use vintage computers for serious, actual productivity today is mildly preposterous.

So that leaves using them for horsing around. If that means games, I'd go Atari. If it means tinkering around with hardware, low-level programming, and other technical stuff, I'd go Apple.

In broadstrokes, the Atari is a gamer's system and the Apple is a computer geek's system.



#22 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:05 PM

If you invest in a Microdigital TK2000, do you get the best of both worlds? :)



#23 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:12 PM

If I had money to burn, and did not already have my TI, I'd probably get one of these...



#24 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:22 PM

Yeah, the Beeb was the Atari ][ of UK (or even parts of mainland Europe).



#25 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

--- Ω ---

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Posted Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:31 PM

Yeah, the Beeb was the Atari ][ of UK (or even parts of mainland Europe).

 

Well, I did break down and purchase a lottery ticket for the 1.5 BILLION, yes BILLION dollar lottery tomorrow.  If I win, I'll get the best BBC Microcomputer money can buy.  Of course I'll also need a new game room to go around it, and a new house to go around the game room.. and a new location for the house...







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