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Armitage

Help identifying this IIgs video card

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Hey all, does anyone have any idea what this might be? All I can tell is it appears to be vintage and passes the onboard video through. I'd guess genlock but for the fact that it keeps the DB15 port. Anyone know?

 

s-l1600.jpg

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It's not a Mac.  But not everyone accepts it as an Apple ][ even though it runs Apple ][ software and takes Apple ][ addon cards.

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Posted (edited)

That looks like the video 'Color Switch' used by the PC Transporter, to me. It is used to put the PC Transporter DOS display on the //gs RGB monitor, and switch between the GS and DOS modes in software. 

 

Without the PC Transporter card, and the AE PC drives that work with it, it is a useless pass-through dongle. 

Edited by GameGeezer
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22 hours ago, GameGeezer said:

That looks like the video 'Color Switch' used by the PC Transporter, to me. It is used to put the PC Transporter DOS display on the //gs RGB monitor, and switch between the GS and DOS modes in software. 

 

Without the PC Transporter card, and the AE PC drives that work with it, it is a useless pass-through dongle. 

Great, thanks for the info! This popped up for sale with no system configuration details or pictures of the inside so I had no idea what I was looking at.

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1 hour ago, Armitage said:

Great, thanks for the info! This popped up for sale with no system configuration details or pictures of the inside so I had no idea what I was looking at.

 

As far as I can tell, the system lacks the PCT disk interface, but it may have a SCSI card. 

 

Why not ask for a photo under the bonnet?

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8 hours ago, GameGeezer said:

 

As far as I can tell, the system lacks the PCT disk interface, but it may have a SCSI card. 

 

Why not ask for a photo under the bonnet?

 

I should have done that! The auction ended with no bidders. I could have picked up the machine for $75 if I had been paying attention. Instead, the seller relisted it with more detail and it's already over $200 with 26 bidders now that it's apparent what's in it. I'm completely new to the IIgs so I am not sure what I'm looking at here, but I can tell a missed opportunity when I see it :(

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-II-GS-Computer-The-Woz-Limited-Edition/174327965378

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Posted (edited)

Aye. FWIW, the //gs (any model) is worth USD$75. The Woz model seems to demand a premium, but not as much as a ROM 03, although less software will run on it without a ROM 01 upgrade. 

 

Don't feel too bad about the PC Transporter. I own two, and finally picked up a replacement drive, but it has a lot of flaws that will limit using it.

 

1. It has a low RAM cap, and although RAM expansion addon boards exist, they were a poor seller and almost never seen now. 

2. It is an 8088, and although it was faster than a stock IBM PC with an 8086 from 1983, it can not run software that needs a 286 or 386, so your software library is limited versus a cheap 286/386 laptop. 

3. No ISA expansion. 

4. No joystick support. 

5. No TANDY graphics support. 

6. It requires proprietary disk drives. 

7. No HDD support. 

 

It was essentially designed to run Lotus 1-2-3, Wordstar, and similar business software. It is very far from a suitable expansion to run DOS games, although text games will of course work fine, as will old-enough CGA games if they do not need a joystick. 

 

You are basically eating up a slot that is better used for a stereo sound card, a SCSI (or other large media) card, or other valuable expansion, to emulate a very low end 8088 clone that may not run software properly, and has no mass storage media for DOS. 

 

To be honest, if I were to use one of mine, it would go into a //e, as that system may have fewer occupied slots, but then I would lose some capabilities of the card, or require a bulky external PC-AT keyboard. I also do not recall if it can use the Apple mouse, but I suspect not. As it is not at least a 286, you can't run Windows 2.x, either. I'm pretty sure that even GEOS/GeoWorks requires a 286, and although I may be wrong there, if you can't use a mouse, that option is out.

 

Overall I rated the PCT poorly back in the day, because of its flaws. I only ended up with them because I worked for a company that got them as samples, and I saved them from the recycle bin. We tested them a bit when they were new, and I barely remember how to use them, such as if you can freely shift between GS/OS and DOS, or not. I think that you could, which allowed extremely minimal multitasking, because you were running two complete computers at once, and shifting which had display and input focus, but I could easily be wrong about that. 

 

The only extremely good thing about them is that they apparently sell for quite a lot of money. I suspect this is a combination of them not being very common, so, they are desired by collectors, and the novelty factor of booting PC-DOS on an Apple II. 

 

IMO, you are far better off with a Z-80-CP/M card. 

Edited by GameGeezer
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Thanks for the detailed info! The Transporter doesn't sound too useful in this day and age so I don't feel so bad about missing out on the auction now. Do you remember how much it cost back in the day? I remember some other similar products for other platforms often cost near as much or more than just buying the real hardware.

 

I got a great deal on the IIgs I have now so no biggie. Someone else can enjoy this one!

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Posted (edited)

Transporters went for around $500 - $700 depending on the amount of onboard memory. Then you typically got some accessories to make it usable for about $500 more. Like cables, keyboard, switches, drives, a monitor.

 

It was like PC broken up into pieces you could fit it into your Apple. There was little or no integration with Apple II software.

 

Eventually you'd build up a complete & separate PC centered around the card. The Apple II side of things was just there to provide a power supply and box to hold it all.

 

A more versatile and practical choice would've been to get a PC, perhaps a used one and interface it to your Apple via serial/parallel cable - whatever was in vogue at the time.

 

Read the AE catalog here:

ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/documentation/advertisements/applied_engineering/

Edited by Keatah
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Posted (edited)
On 6/28/2020 at 5:24 PM, Armitage said:

Thanks for the detailed info! The Transporter doesn't sound too useful in this day and age so I don't feel so bad about missing out on the auction now. Do you remember how much it cost back in the day? I remember some other similar products for other platforms often cost near as much or more than just buying the real hardware.

 

I got a great deal on the IIgs I have now so no biggie. Someone else can enjoy this one!

 

The initial investment was around £800 at the time, which was around US$1000, plus the cost of DOS and software...

 

More, if you need an 8087 maths co-processor. 

 

For a typical //gs, you needed the card, a ColourSwitcher, one or (usually) two 5.25 drives (the PCT could work with the Apple 2. drives, IIRC), and a copy of PC-DOS. 

 

£230/$400 for two 5.25 drives, or £110/$135 for single drive (not daisy-chain).

£40/$50 for //gs Kit with ColourSwitch

£180/$230 for 8087 chip

£550/$700 for PCT with 768K

 

IBM PC-DOS 3.3, IIRC, was around £125 as a standalone product, and then you still need software to run on it. 

 

In 1988, a complete 8086 PC might cost about the same, or a tad more, so this wasn't a bad price, but in reality, in 1988, the i386 machines were out, and the 8086 hardware was simply already outdated. Note that for roughly 50% more, you also had expansion. 

 

Of course, it all depended on your needs. If your only need was to run WordStar, then this worked just fine. For about double the price, you could buy an IBM PS/2 Model 30, with a 20MB HDD. I still have at least one of our old Model 30s. I have been meaning to set up the IBM hardware, but I need to make a second computer room for it, or radically re-configure my current computer room to add space for these machines.

Edited by GameGeezer

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On 7/4/2020 at 1:12 AM, The Usotsuki said:

I have a 30/286. ;)

I have one of those, too. Last I recall, it had DOS 3 or 5, with Windows 2.1 on it. 

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Posted (edited)
On 6/28/2020 at 9:52 AM, GameGeezer said:

Aye. FWIW, the //gs (any model) is worth USD$75. The Woz model seems to demand a premium, but not as much as a ROM 03, although less software will run on it without a ROM 01 upgrade. 

 

Don't feel too bad about the PC Transporter. I own two, and finally picked up a replacement drive, but it has a lot of flaws that will limit using it.

 

1. It has a low RAM cap, and although RAM expansion addon boards exist, they were a poor seller and almost never seen now. 

2. It is an 8088, and although it was faster than a stock IBM PC with an 8086 from 1983, it can not run software that needs a 286 or 386, so your software library is limited versus a cheap 286/386 laptop. 

3. No ISA expansion. 

4. No joystick support. 

5. No TANDY graphics support. 

6. It requires proprietary disk drives. 

7. No HDD support. 

 

--

 

A few minor clarifications...

 

1)The PCT is limited to 768k of memory (which adds up to 128k used for "ROM", and 640k available to the PC).  If there are empty sockets on a PCT I imagine you could still get the old chips somewhere...  The few I've seen in the wild were already fully populated.

2)The CPU is actually an NEC V30, which is an accelerated 80186 clone.  Some very old games actually run too fast on it :D But, the fact that it's a 186 means that it can actually run some software intended for a 286- I guess these programs happen to use some instructions actually available on a 186, but since those weren't popular in mainstream PCs, it was easier to just say a program requires a 286.

3) Yes, alas, no ISA expansion... 

4) Right, no joystick support... But there are actually "keyboard" game pads that can work with it- and pretty much every old DOS game supports the keyboard.  The things are hard to find though.

5) Yes, the graphics are just plain CGA.  I've messed with one of those CGA to VGA converters that tries to simulate composite CGA artifact color, but it doesn't seem to work with the PCT's output.  The PCT's included composite output seems locked to monochrome (the first place I looked to see if you could get artifact color).

6) You can actually use "standard" PC floppy drives with some minor modifications.  But it will work with the Apple IIGS standard 3.5" drive if you have 720k disks.

7) It absolutely has HDD support in the form of native Apple II compatible hard disks.  Whatever mass storage you have on the Apple II side, you can use for "virtual hard disks" (by way of hard disk files) on the PC Transporter.  So, a total of two 32 meg "hard drives" are possible (since that's the amount of storage available on a ProDOS disk).  Unless you mean directly connecting an IDE drive or something, which of course it can't do.   But what it does support is pretty convenient, it's not too difficult to copy the hard disk images to a modern machine and add/remove files.

 

Edited by 01tracker

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Posted (edited)

Transporter sucks because all the reasons above! Especially..

 

Virtual Hard Disks on an 8088 though a 1MHz Apple I bus? That's gotta be faaaassstt! NOT! Copying and moving virtual hard disks that work on a transporter, to a modern PC, has got to be beyond tedious with too many steps. Might as well work with PCEM which is superior in every respect.

 

Transporter seemed to come from a time when engineering skills were greater than the industry's ability to place a product in a useful manner.

Edited by Keatah

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55 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Transporter sucks because all the reasons above! Especially..

 

Virtual Hard Disks on an 8088 though a 1MHz Apple I bus? That's gotta be faaaassstt! NOT! Copying and moving virtual hard disks that work on a transporter, to a modern PC, has got to be beyond tedious with too many steps. Might as well work with PCEM which is superior in every respect.

 

Transporter seemed to come from a time when engineering skills were greater than the industry's ability to place a product in a useful manner.

It's not fast, but not particularly slow for what it is.  It's not as if Apple II storage isn't already working on a 1 mhz bus.  As for manipulating the disk images, I was actually referring to playing around with it in a modern sense- as in picking up an old computer (Apple IIGS) on ebay with another old computer (PCT) inside of it.  Included in that is that modern storage is cheap and plentiful, and "anyone" could dedicate a couple of 32 meg chunks to it.

As for "beyond tedius", I'm not sure moving a USB stick from a IIGS card to a mac or pc and extracting an image is that bad.  But most of us don't play with 35 year old computers because everything is easy :) 

 

 

 

 

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Well yeh, if you're playing around with the hardware for fun and hobby I'm sure just about anything is interesting. Tedious or not.

 

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