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Apple II, best of the early micros? You bet it was!

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Why was the Apple II the best of the early micros?

 

Some say it was the excellent documentation for a completely open and transparent system. Others say it was as close to bare-metal as you could get - no bloated or complicated firmware.

 

Today some vintage computing historians say it was it was one of the first, if not "the" first computer that made sales based on the desirability of its software. Software sold the machine.

 

Personally, me, I liked the expansion capability, compatibility, and technical aspects of things like modems and clock cards. I also liked that it built-in BASIC which could access its limited-to-nonexistent graphics and sound hardware. It had the fastest disk drives of the day and was overall pretty durable. And switching between DOS, BASIC, or 6502 ML was done instantly. No need to futz with cartridges and loaders.

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I think this is overlooking a few things.
Level II BASIC on the TRS-80 was much better than Integer BASIC on the Apple II
Now, the Model I came with Level I BASIC at intro, but it was upgraded within a year.
Applesoft didn't hit until 78(?) and it lacked a lot of things like graphics.
Applesoft II (what we now associate with Apple IIs) didn't hit until the II+ was released in 79.
The original Apple II didn't have the nice autoboot disk drives, doesn't run a lot of the software later machines do, and the first DOS was horrible.
To even run Applesoft required a language card that was almost as expensive as a low end TRS-80.
At introduction, the Apple II was more of a hobby machine than the TRS-80 or PET.
As for software selling the machine... the TRS-80 outsold Apple until at least 1980.

As a platform, the II is a better machine in the long run, but if you talk about early micros you are talking about the II not II+ not IIe, etc...
I think we have a tendancy to see where things ended up rather than where the humble beginnings of these machines.
If you mean where they ended up then I agree. If you are talking about the Apple II vs the Model I and PET, then I say no.

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^ Agreed.

 

I also think the Apple II+ was the first truly usable in the series. But 1979 was also the year the Atari 800 came out, and while I didn't know it back then I now think the 800 was technically superior to the Apple II.

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^ Agreed.

 

I also think the Apple II+ was the first truly usable in the series. But 1979 was also the year the Atari 800 came out, and while I didn't know it back then I now think the 800 was technically superior to the Apple II.

 

The 800 blew the ][+ away (full color, four voice sounds, player/missile graphics, LOWERCASE!), but the Apple was a lot more open. Atari didn't really want to share anything about the inner workings. Plus, because of the FCC and Atari insisting that the computers include an RF modulator, meant any sort of slots were off the table. This really hurt Atari trying to compete.

 

I also didn't know at the time that Apple basically didn't let anyone sell the ][ mail order. This increased user satisfaction of the machine because users mostly bought local and had someone there for support. I think this sold a lot of Apple computers. By '83, once the 80 column card and AppleWorks was released, there was really no hope for any other 8-bit computer.

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I had both a 400 and a IIe. I think they both were great machines for what they were. The 400 was an awsome game machine and was a good platform for me to learn BASIC and assembly programming. The IIe wasn't nearly as good for games, but they were still fun to play. The floppy drives and expandability made it for me. I had the 128K 80 column card, dual floppy's and an internal modem. In addition to games, I used it to do my Pascal homework in highschool and spent a lot of time on buletin boards. I also liked the Apple printer. I don't recall what it was called, but it used a plastic ribbon and thermally transfered the print to standard paper. It was silent and near letter quality. But it burnt through ribbon like there was no tomorrow.

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Oh, another Apple II vs TRS-80 debate! I'm in!

 

James,graphics, I don't think you should go there. You merely invite someone to display something like this:

 

Chess

 

TRS-80 is on left. Pet is better. Apple is on right and needs no further explanation.

 

There was always a version of Apple basic that would display the color graphics of the Apple II, be it the original Integer Basic or something else. The appearance of Applesoft in January of 1978 predates the TRS-80 level II basic by a few months, giving Apple users the edge for small time in non-graphic stuff as well. Further, the cost of a TRS-80 floppy drive with the required expansion port was far beyond the cost of the minimalist Apple floppy drive in 1979... Tandy was a great company, but Woz didn't work there.

 

That being said, there was a lot going for the TRS-80 and I think these are the things to praise it for: the entry level TRS-80 was affordable, widely available, had local support (via Radio Shack stores), and had (for a significant time) a stronger home user network (who provided a lot of free/inexpensive software). The lack of real graphics *killed* it.

 

The Pet never succeeded in the home, but did a good job for a while of providing industrial applications. I like that one a lot, too, but TRS-80 and Apple drove it out of serious contention in the U.S. market. It did well in the business community of Europe. Commodore came back with a great computer (Vic-20) and greater computer (C-64), but those are a different generation of machines. In a world of C-64s, Atari 400/800s, TI, and IBM-PCs, the Apple II (II+, IIe, IIc) showed its age. In a world of Pets and TRS-80s, Apple II made history. IMHO.

Edited by akochera

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If the Apple II could teach me DOS and BASIC it can teach anybody anything..

 

Now:

Silentype is Direct Thermal. The paper gets hot, it turns color. Most fast food and gas station reseets are of that tech. And leave them sit for a year or two and they fade away. You can reuse them if so inclined.

The Apple Scribe is a Thermal Transfer. They melt bits and pieces of a plastic ribbon onto the paper. That's why you can't re-use or re-ink the ribbon.

I once had a printing calculator that electrically blew-out a metalized coating on paper with higher voltage. I put a drop of lighter fluid in it and it caught fire like I expected. And when it printed it made this ozone smell. The paper was also silver-metal in color.

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The great thing about the Apple in relation to the PET and TRS-80 was how flexible it was. It was freely expandable and the hardware was open to the point that the Apple II was like a transition from the early hobbyist kit machines to self-contained "appliance" systems like the TRS-80, Atari 800, C64, and the like (or what we now know as PCs). This was supported by the astoundingly detailed manuals and documentation (arguably unparalleled then or since in consumer market computers) included with it that explain how every conceivable thing about the system works on a cellular level. Just tinkering around under the hood can be as fun as actually using the damn thing.

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I had many kinds of magical "ohh wow this is so cool" moments with the Apple II it was almost ridiculous.

 

Aside from exploring the Disk II, and Micromodem, and using the gameport I/O to control relays and motors; I had a cool introduction to the world of multi-tasking via the Practical Peripherals Microbuffer. This was a box about 1/3rd the height of a standard Disk II, and fit nicely atop it physically and aesthetically. It had a parallel in and parallel out connection and of course the compulsory power brick jack.

 

It had a touch panel with a few buttons and LEDs on it. And my particular model was 16K IIRC. Still have it! It was incredible, once I got this external parallel buffer set up I could do real magic! My computer could do two, that’s right, TWO things at once. I could list out my BBS and once done I could reboot the computer and play games while the printing task continued on its own, just like magic! I was playing games and printing simultaneously. Remarkable. Excellent. Practical was this Peripheral. My parents didn’t think so though. The noise level increased in the room and my consumption of paper nearly tripled overnight. Wheee!! What fun!! Fanfolds and fanfare everywhere!!

 

When I learned how to use and manipulate more “printer things” via Graftrax III and the Grappler interface, I had my MX-80 F/T really cooking with gas. There was some article that explained how you could advance the paper by 1/219th of an inch or some other crazy-small amount and I wrote this one program that would dump pictures in like 10,000x10,000 dpi resolution or something bizarrely high. Made laser printer quality headers and titles, at the cost of taking 1/2 hour to print 3 inches worth of text. Had the best damned printouts in all of the neighborhood I swear.

 

Note:

I used the sob story of wanting to print my homework and while it was printing I could be reviewing the on-screen copy to check for mistakes and changes. And they, not knowing better, thought it was a good idea. And that’s how I got it! Remember, those old dot matrix printers took hours, if not days, to print something.

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As much as I would want to believe and say it was so.. I didn't learn the basics of BASICS on the Apple. My first introduction to the language what through RadioShack book. When I got the Apple it wasn't a big deal to transfer the knowledge, concepts, and syntax over to Applesoft - at least for this 6 year old kid.

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.. I didn't learn the basics of BASICS on the Apple. My first introduction to the language what through RadioShack book.

 

Hah! Same here. My father purchased me two books, several months before we got a computer. The first book was a collection of games in basic edited by David Ahl, yellow cover, which I bet a lot of ya'll have seen. The other:

 

RadioShackBasic

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Why was the Apple II the best of the early micros?

 

I deny your premise. The Atari 800 was the best of the early micros.

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Yes Apple II was the best of the 70's micros. Color graphics on your home TV. Wonderous slots and rich 3rd party hardware and software offerings. TRS-80s seemed bland by comparison. The big barrier to Apple ownership was price, at least to this poor college student. So when the Atari 400 came along and offered better graphics at half the cost, I grabbed one. Yes it was more closed, but I got lucky access to the hardware and firmware manuals, which opened the machine right up.

 

Maybe you have to be a visual person, as I am, to see graphics oriented machines as superior to text based ones.

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Yes Apple II was the best of the 70's micros. Color graphics on your home TV. Wonderous slots and rich 3rd party hardware and software offerings. TRS-80s seemed bland by comparison. The big barrier to Apple ownership was price, at least to this poor college student. So when the Atari 400 came along and offered better graphics at half the cost, I grabbed one. Yes it was more closed, but I got lucky access to the hardware and firmware manuals, which opened the machine right up.

 

Maybe you have to be a visual person, as I am, to see graphics oriented machines as superior to text based ones.

The Altair-Bus ( S-100 Bus ) systems started the BlackPlane/MotherBoard system in MicroComputers, But the Apple ][ Providing a Complete, Ready to Run, out of the Box Computer, with Schematics and ROM Listings provided the Best of Both Worlds... A Computer for the Users, but nothing Held Back from the Hobbyist/Hackers..

 

When IBM was designing the PC, they looked at the Apple ][ Design and saw what Hardware was developed for it, and made sure that IBM PC had those same sorts of Expansion Slots, to ensure that Hardware would be developed for it too...

 

MarkO

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I wasn't old enough to use any of the computers made in the 70s, because I wasn't born until 1981. I didn't know the apple II existed until I listened to a few podcasts like antic. For me I am primarily interested in a retro computer with excellent 8 bit graphics(native s-video support and the Antic) and excellent 8 bit sound( the pokey). From todays perspective I cant understand why anyone would by an Apple 2 instead of an 800, save nostalgia.

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Ataris are my favorite 8-bitters too but Apples get my respect. Delve into the ]['s logic design and see the real genius of Woz.

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depends what you are looking for, im more interested in writing software for the 6502, not playing more of the same games, and outside nostalgia the II is a good platform for that, there's not much if any crap tween cpu and user, ram and hard disk expansion's are easy to come by, 80 column text, great on machine tools, and its dead nuts easy to pretty much make it a peripheral to a current PC

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depends what you are looking for, im more interested in writing software for the 6502, not playing more of the same games, and outside nostalgia the II is a good platform for that, there's not much if any crap tween cpu and user, ram and hard disk expansion's are easy to come by, 80 column text, great on machine tools, and its dead nuts easy to pretty much make it a peripheral to a current PC

That makes a lot of sense. I remember hearing about how directly you could access the apple II hardware because of how woz designed it. A true 6502 programmers paradise. If I remember right , some of Atari's original software was written on the Apple 2. I can understand using one outside nostalgia to program on , but for the same games I'll stick with an 800. Im using the Assembly editor cartridge with my 800 to learn 6502 assembly . Maybe I should invest in an Apple 2 as a programming computer.

 

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk

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I'm not sure I'd call the Apple II screen layout a programmer's paradise.

That's probably given me the biggest headache to date (the Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad CPC both have a similar, non-contiguous RAM layout and i've ended up writing half-baked data converters for all three) although not having a guaranteed way to know when the vertical blank happens would be a fairly close second.

 

Most other 8-bit systems don't put any really strict barriers between the programmer and the hardware and a few offer more actual hardware to play with at the same time; the Atari 8-bit's shadow registers are a simple obfuscation, the PET, VIC 20 or C64 are famously "bare metal" even from BASIC and the Amstrad CPC can OUT to registers as the programmer sees fit. Even dealing with expansion hardware isn't much different, from what i've read the Apple II uses 16K memory windows like an expanded Atari 8-bit or bank switching cartridge on the c64 and i know from experience that working with a Mockingboard is similar to juggling a C64 with an SFX Sound Expander.

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