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bluejay

Is the Apple II closer to a home computer or a hobby computer?

Home or hobby computer?  

29 members have voted

The result of this poll is hidden and will be revealed only when it's closed


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This was brought up by a status update from @Keatah. Is the Apple II closer to home computers from Commodore, Atari, Tandy, etc. or hobby computers like the Altair and IMSAI?

Keep in mind that, at least according to Keatah, some early Apple IIs were sold in kit form that required you to buy parts like the keyboard and power supply and assemble everything yourself, and that they also came with non-autostart ROMs that required you to type commands to boot into integer BASIC or activate your floppy drive. You had to load Applesoft FP BASIC from disk or tape. The computer also featured all off the shelf components that anyone could buy.

However, most IIs were marketed and sold as home computers. That's how most people remember the Apple II. It was made and sold in the era of home computers, and all but few Apple IIs came with all parts necessary to function from the factory, just like normal home computers. Even as a kit computer it was meant to be used with a proper keyboard and a monitor and run BASIC, unlike the Altair or KIM-1 where those were optional. You'd mostly (but not always) use keypads, switches, and LCDs and LEDs with those.

What do you think the Apple II is closer to, a home or hobby computer?

By the way, you might want to read some of the stuff that Keatah posted if he decides to ctrl c ctrl v into this thread. Might help you decide.

 

Crap, accidentally checked a box that I shouldn't have. I'll close the poll after a month or so.

Edited by bluejay

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Apple Computer offered the Apple ][ in 1977 as a Motherboard Only or as a completed system..  The Motherboard Only wasn't offered for very long, from what I have learned, so for the Most Part, the Apple ][ was a Home Computer...

 

All the slots did mean that you could add on to it...... ;)

 

 

MarkO

 

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What really is the difference though?

 

You see people all over here with tricked-out Ataris.  Just because they lacked internal slots didn't mean they weren't upgradable.

 

I'll throw something else out:   The quality of emulators for each system.  To me it seems like emulator quality would reflect the number of highly technical fans for a system who are motivated to recreate it.   Atari has some very high-quality emulators.   C64 does as well.   Apple II and especially IIgs emulators are lacking by comparison.

 

I'm thinking cost is a factor here.   Apple II price made it a bit of a status symbol, and its fan base reflected that to an extent.   Sure it has its share of hackers, enthusiasts and tinkerers.   But the average teen computer enthusiast bugging their parents for a computer BITD were probably not given an Apple II.

 

So in the end, I think these cheap computers ended up being the real hobbyist computers,  while the pricier Apple II/IBM PC were the systems purchased by people who wanted to get actual work done with well known applications.

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19 hours ago, MarkO said:

The Motherboard Only wasn't offered for very long

See my specific thread on that subject:

 

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It's important to define "hobbyist computer". It can mean do-it-yourself socket & solder kits from the early-mid 1970s. It can also mean complete turnkey systems like the stuff sold in department stores and toy stores.

 

I propose the Apple II was more akin to the Kim-1, Sym-1, Aim-65, and other single-board trainers than anything from Atari or C=. Also very similar to the S-100 systems in how things w

 

The Apple I, Apple II, and Apple II+ were like single board micro trainers because of their design philosophy and sheer number of discrete logic chips - not because of their temporal proximity to the revolution in home computing. The Apple II was built the old-school way with off the shelf parts. Parts that any engineer or hobbyist could purchase. There was no custom integration like in the Vic-20, C64, Atari 400/800, or TI-99/4A.

 

Apple even wanted you to pop the top and experiment inside. They made all the schematics available and they listed everything in excruciating detail. Everything socketed, equipped with 8 expansion slots, warranty cards more like survey cards - asking you what you were doing, what future products and ideas you had.. And more.

 

Once Apple began refining the II and II+ it became suitable for boutique retail. Too expensive for K-Mart & Venture. Just right for specialty shops like Compu-Shop and Data Domain.

 

 

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52 minutes ago, Keatah said:

It's important to define "hobbyist computer". It can mean do-it-yourself socket & solder kits from the early-mid 1970s. It can also mean complete turnkey systems like the stuff sold in department stores and toy stores.

I suppose it comes down to a different types of hobbyist.   Apple and other kit computers would appeal more to someone interested in tinkering with hardware.

 

The inexpensive home computers were not so friendly for that purpose, usually having little or no expansion slots, and soldered-on RAM.

 

But for a hobbyist tinkering with code, most systems of that era suited that purpose.

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IMHO, clearly a home computer.  Look at the software and hardware markets that arose around the Apple 2 line.  You could do a lot of useful (and fun) things with it.  Buy and off-the shelf Apple 2, off-the-shelf peripheral, and off-the-shelf, retail software... and do things.  It was used by non-computer people in schools, homes and businesses all over.  IMHO this is waaaay different from the Altair and other hobbyist computers of the era.

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I honestly think it's a bit of both, but in conclusion closer to the home computers. Yes, it served as a hobby computer in the very early days, but for most of its lifespan served as a home computer. Next to no one thought of it as a home computer bitd, no one does now. I think a deciding factor would be whether Woz and Jobs thought of the Apple II as a home or hobby computer.

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Short answer...

Yes...

;-)

 

It depends on your definition of a hobby computer.

If by that, you mean it is aimed at hobbyists and ease-of-use isn't the aim, then I think the Apple 1 is definitely hobbyist.  But the Apple II was designed to also be end user friendly...  And it was, for the time...

I'd fall into the side that says the Apple II and on are home computers that also appeal to the hobbyist.

I don't think real hobbyist computers lasted that long.  But that is my definition of hobbyist computer...

Edited by desiv

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I believe it's more of a personal computer much like the IBM PC.  They are higher in cost than the other (low cost) home computers and contain expansion slots as opposed to dedicated hardware for sound & graphics, and are more suited for more serious applications (even at home).  In fact the reason why the Apple II survived the Home Computer Shakedown was because they didn't bother with the race-to-the-bottom like Commodore and TI did.

 

Now what exactly is the definition of a "hobbyist computer" for this discussion?  If it means playing around with BASIC programming, than any inexpensive home computer also qualifies.  And of course any personal computer can also be used for the same purposes as home computers could (ie. BASIC & Games).

 

 

 

 

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Yes definition is important. I like to stay with the back-in-the-day meaning. Or the definition that applied when the hardware was actually on sale. And then changing that definition as new models in the series came out. Not imposing an out-of-time definition. And this means a couple of years before the day of the inexpensive department store computer.

 

The Apple I and II were designed with the basic 74xx & 74LSxx TTL logic of the time, that's a given every enthusiast probably knows. These were discrete parts available to engineers and hobbyists alike worldwide. A standard catalog. That's what Steve'n'Steve had to work with. That's what countless trainers were made from. That's what desk-sized "micros" and S-100 were made from. That was before the day of custom chippery like SID and POKEY, VIC and ANTIC and GTIA. That was the same construction in S-100 systems too. Clearly hobby hardware at launch and shortly thereafter.

 

The Apple I and II were not designed with any purpose in mind aside from WOZ wanting to be able to make it Pong/Breakout capable. A marvel at the time. Insignificant even a year later. So therefore it was not optimized for a given task, not that there were any tasks at that early juncture to optimize for. The name of the game was to have a board that accepted input into RAM, under minimal guidance from ROM, and directly through the CPU with no funky in-betweens. Wozisms not withstanding, naturally!

 

With the advent of the II+ the II became a series and started to grow up with an increasing amount of software packages. Indeed. I remember having PFS, Decathlon, Typing Tutor, Apple Invaders, and other stuff come with my Family System's Disk II "kit". It wasn't a kit to assemble, but, rather a collection of the drive, the software, a set of paddles (IIRC), modulator, more manuals, and a few other miscellanea. So.. Kit..! A grab bag (box!)(carton treasure chest!) full of things. But Personal Filing System was utterly useless to a kid my age. I shelved the thing till a year later when I wanted to make a catalog of all my software. The idea crashed and burned because of the tedious typing and slowdown in record-searching once ~400 entries was reached. I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to play games!

 

So. The II+ incorporated some enhancements like making most models a full 48K, a revised or evolved motherboard, and Applesoft. It was a big stink back in the day to flip the powerswitch and get the by now iconic beep and tin can banging sound of the drive seeking track 0. As opposed to having to type 6 <ctrl> P. And Applesoft BASIC was more suited to science and math compared to Integer BASIC.

 

 

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47 minutes ago, MrMaddog said:

Now what exactly is the definition of a "hobbyist computer" for this discussion?  If it means playing around with BASIC programming, than any inexpensive home computer also qualifies.  And of course any personal computer can also be used for the same purposes as home computers could (ie. BASIC & Games).

Part of Apple's marketing and positioning was to promote discovery and experimentation. Self discovery through use of the computer, through making things for it, for exploring a new frontier - a new art. Mind amplification - an important theme of the 80's. Sometimes they made this clear in their advertisements. Sometimes not. But in any case BASIC programming was just one route available. It was the route I most often took.

 

I enjoyed learning BASIC and programming thoroughly by ways of experimenting with "art hidden in nature". Combination of the sines and cosines and touching on fractal geometry - expressing it through BASIC. It was a canvas. A blank tapestry of light and pixels where my mind could daydream and weave and illustrate. Not wholly unlike an electronic Spirograph and LiteBrite all-in-one. The tools to record and recall and demonstrate to the rest of the world (my bedroom hacker-wannabe buddies really) were all there.

 

47 minutes ago, MrMaddog said:

I believe it's more of a personal computer much like the IBM PC.  They are higher in cost than the other (low cost) home computers and contain expansion slots as opposed to dedicated hardware for sound & graphics, and are more suited for more serious applications (even at home).  In fact the reason why the Apple II survived the Home Computer Shakedown was because they didn't bother with the race-to-the-bottom like Commodore and TI did.

Yes mostly. I believe that toward the tail-end of the II+ run and with the advent of the //e and //c Apple had genuine personal computers. In fact I might even say that the software defined the transitional moment between traditional hobby computer and everyday personal computer. I would vote that PrintShop from Br0derbund was one such package that endeared the II series to many users. It was totally novel and practical to make cards and banners and signs.

 

The //e ushered in things like Dazzle Draw and AppleWorks and NewsRoom, thus furthering the movement. Not only that but the documentation style started changing with the //e. The consumer was more at the forefront. Previously it was the explorer and hobbyist. Now it was the user.

 

The II and II+ saw documentation that had waveform printouts for every chip via Sam's "Apple II Circuit Description" and Jim Sather's "Understanding The Apple II". Both those combined with the original Apple documentation was the best in the industry for some time. Oscilloscope readings and timing diagrams were par for the course. The material was forefront and readily available. 800 pages of it for free with every rig + drive.

 

With the //e's arrival the style became more consumer oriented. More abstract. It was the absolute prelude to and beginning of the dumbing down process we see today - quick start guides or nothing at all. Less technical information was provided with the computer, but made available for additional purchase.

 

Whatever computer you had it was certainly an exciting time with something new every weekend.

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1 hour ago, MrMaddog said:

In fact the reason why the Apple II survived the Home Computer Shakedown was because they didn't bother with the race-to-the-bottom like Commodore and TI did.

 

I didn't like it that Commodore came out with things like the 16 or Plus 4. There's only so low you can go before something becomes more trouble than it's worth. The machine may have had a built-in word processor but just how useful was it? Could you write a novel on it? Could you do editorial work? You could on the IBM and Apple II.

 

All this "home" shit and "entry-level" garbage is exactly that! Dustcart filler material! Why struggle against limitations when you can struggle against your own potential and actually grow and learn? In other words why buy something that isn't versatile and expandable?

 

Racing  to the bottom is nothing but a spoil on technology. In any century. RTTB does NOT bring out the best in people. It is even detrimental in that there is risk a customer/user will be turned off permanently from any product. RTTB only benefits a corporation in the short term.

 

And I don't know what TI was thinking with trying to limit who created what on their system. It was an immediate non-contender for anything serious back in the day because of that. Though today there is a good following for the system - and that's alright.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, MrMaddog said:

I believe it's more of a personal computer much like the IBM PC. They are higher in cost than the other (low cost) home computers and contain expansion slots as opposed to dedicated hardware for sound & graphics, and are more suited for more serious applications (even at home).

Custom chips for sound and graphics are an asset in game consoles. But not computers - where they are a liability. A liability because expanding a system whose data bus is intertwined with media output chips is very very difficult. Difficult enough that the only expansion option would be to do an end runaround and develop a parallel solution that did its own thing independent of the main system. Thus leaving the main system or host system just that, a babysitter or host. This same situation arose with early accelerator cards too. A card would often contain the new fast CPU end enough circuitry to interface with the host's I/O facilities. The rest of the host was then became useless baggage when the accelerator was running. This even applied to early MPEG hardware acceleration on the 486 rigs.

 

So.. I used to love the idea of specialized hardware for a certain task, like, well, sound & graphics. All sorts of magic seemed to happen. Magic more sophisticated and tricky than anything bare discrete logic could do. This was evident with the Atari VCS' TIA chip even. But it had hard upper limits. And breaking those limits involved creating a whole new system that sat inside the host system.

 

The Apple II had no such thing as a video chip or sound chip. The Apple II relied on shortcomings of the composite NTSC signal to get color, by banging signals at the wrong time and smearing the oscillators in the monitor. Hence the notion of "artifact color" or "false color". Rough analogy though apt.

 

And sound was done by hitting the speaker cone with a single-amplitude electric pulse, or not. There was no waveform synthesizer. No variable frequency or volume. Just a click, on or off, albeit you could do that very quickly to make tones.

 

Additionally, the character generator ROM was "patched in" by the video scanner circuit, and the data in the ROM was used to tickle the monitor signal directly. Way way simpler than Commodore or Atari with custom chips. This "video scanner" circuit is a simple digital circuit that "ticks" the video signal at a certain time or not, thus disturbing the output and putting a dot on the screen. Worked both for text and graphics. That's a rudimentary explanation but there's complete in-depth theory of operation sections in those two books I mentioned earlier. Read those!

 

Because the II didn't have any sound or graphics chips or any real sound or graphics at all, is likely why most modern-day vintage gamers dislike it for gaming. Any kind of gaming. It's too primitive and that makes it part of the early-hobbyist category.

 

The Apple never really had any video card add-ons aside from the ubiquitous 80-column cards for the II+ and the odd-ball TMS based Arcade board and Sprite board. The 80-column cards were important and gave the II+ a level of sophistication above other micros of the day. But there TMS based boards never went anywhere. Programming for them would have had to have been done from scratch and they weren't compatible with any existing software. A go nowhere catch-22 situation put the smack dab on those - hampered even more by a high price. Might as well spend a little more and get a budget Commdore 64 or Atari and have TWO computers!

 

There was a board called SecondSight, a VGA adapter. It bought a real PC VGA chip to the Apple II. It was useful for using PC monitors and moving away from the monotonous B/W of Apple's text. But it was even MORE expensive than the other two offerings and thus also went nowhere. About this time the 1MHz bus of the II series was becoming more and more limiting. 1MHz wasn't enough to get the kinds of graphics other systems were doing. And the existing software was all written (in conjunction with the native firmware) for the video scanner bit map method. The board came with good documentation however.

 

Today we have several VGA adapters that are less intrusive and more in spirit with outputting the Apple II graphics screen to a modern display. Now these are popular because they are totally software independent and don't try to offer fancy tricks that are irrelevant.

 

Similar situation with soundcards. The Mockingboard, the most famous soundcard of all for the II, was popular because it had some limited support. But I thought it was always mis-matched to its host system. I always  sound like that belonged in a console with "console graphics" not "Apple graphics". It felt inhomogeneous.

 

All that aside, the PC was designed from the ground up to have modular subsystems. This modularity both enforced standards and forward/backward compatibility, as well as requiring them. The Apple II had little or no standards outside its eco-sphere. Neither did any other micro of the time.

 

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Yes, hardware wise it is very much like a hobbyist computer, for the reasons you have pointed out. It has all of the requirements for a hobbyist computer, but it also has all of the requirement for it to be a home computer.

Come to think of it, this is really a pointless discussion. Since it's, hardware wise, a complete hobby computer setup from the factory, It'll be a hobby computer if you want to use it like a hobby computer, and it'll be a home computer if you want to use it like a home computer. You can't call it one thing or the other, hence this discussion is "what is it closest to."

The early motherboard only versions were 100% hobby computers. The fully built systems were hobby computers upgraded to be home computers hence it is closer to a home computer that a hobby computer. Blech, this is confusing.

Edited by bluejay
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50% Woz's Opinion (What Woz thinks it is)

15% Hardware (How it was designed and built)

15% Function (How the end user used it)

10% Documentation (What the manual suggests the computer to be used for)

10% Marketing (How Apple marketed the computer)

 

This is the criteria I decided would be best to determine the answer to the question. I don't have access to the first on the list but I still think it's very important. I didn't take it into consideration when making the list below.

Anyways, it varies drastically between the different Apple II models. The entire line can't be clumped together in to one category.

 

So far, I've decided on: Apple ][ kit(1977)  100% hobby   0% home   

                                  Apple ][     (1977)  51%   hobby 49% home   

                                  Apple ][+   (1979)  30%   hobby 60% home   

                                  Apple //e    (1983)  12%   hobby 88% home

                                  Apple //c    (1984)    2%   hobby 98% home

 

While I was searching around I noticed that the original Apple II was heavily marketed as a home computer, an appliance. Then, as the line progresses only the legacy of the old hardware remain the same, being more and more integrated and compact. The documentation became more user friendly, and hobby computing as a thing started to vanish as it became obsolete.

All in all, there are too many variables for me, or anyone, to give a definite response.

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14 hours ago, MrMaddog said:

I believe it's more of a personal computer much like the IBM PC.

I always found the distinction between "home computer" and "personal computer" funny.

 

"home" computer implies you share a machine with everyone in your family, while "personal" computer implies everybody gets their own.

 

So you would think a 'personal' computer would be a relatively inexpensive device, while a home computer was more expensive.  Reality was quite the opposite!

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12 hours ago, Keatah said:

All this "home" shit and "entry-level" garbage is exactly that! Dustcart filler material! Why struggle against limitations when you can struggle against your own potential and actually grow and learn? In other words why buy something that isn't versatile and expandable?

Back then, there were a lot of people who didn't really know what they wanted a computer for.   The cheap computers served a purpose of a way of allowing people to experiment without having too much buyer's remorse.   Some loved them and felt limited and went on to better systems while for others they never really met any needs and collected dust.

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22 hours ago, carlsson said:

See my specific thread on that subject:

 

Very Interesting...

 

I was at my "local" Apple Dealer, "Team Electronics" pretty frequently..  I would guess that it wasn't in their, ( best ) interest to offer the Apple ][ / ][+ / ][e as a kit, since this wasn't offered as an option..

 

Possibly a more "hobbies oriented" place, like The Byte Shop would have different clientele and offer different services.

 

I think I would have liked growing up in the Silicon Valley in the 1970s..    Alas, at least I benefited from growing up near the Silicon Forrest..

 

MarkO

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18 hours ago, Keatah said:

There was no custom integration like in the [..] TI-99/4A.

That one is a bit interesting to me. What clearly started as custom chips for TI:s own computers (the TMS9918 VDP and 9919 PSG), after less than two years were offered to all other manufacturers and became off-the-shelf integrated chips (often as 9928/29 and SN76489). Sure, not as common place as using 74 series chips like Apple did but the wide availability - possibly even second sourced and I know Yamaha continued the VDP series later on - made those chips seem slightly less custom than before.

14 hours ago, Keatah said:

I didn't like it that Commodore came out with things like the 16 or Plus 4. There's only so low you can go before something becomes more trouble than it's worth. The machine may have had a built-in word processor but just how useful was it? Could you write a novel on it? Could you do editorial work? You could on the IBM and Apple II.

We need to remember that Commodore sold almost exclusively on price, at least for home users. Like it has been discussed before, the TED chip was designed with the goal to make the cheapest possible computer with colour graphics and sound, to be able to sell it at $49 and price out all competition, in particular in Europe where the inexpensive ZX Spectrum already threatened C64 market shares. Now the TED project didn't get finished in time, suffered massive feature creep and the final products were no longer that shockingly cheap though IIRC the rubber keyed C116 was introduced at $79 which isn't too far from the price mark. The Plus/4 with its built-in productivity software was significantly more expensive, more than a C64 even though it has simpler graphics and sound.

 

But yes, Apple always had their market segment and were doing well. They didn't need to race for the $200-300 customers. While they tried to eliminate clones, to some part I think Apple enjoyed having those on the market for people who wanted a taste of Apple but didn't want to pay for the quality of the real deal. After all it must have helped the platform itself grow and as long as Apple could explain to serious customers why a real ][, ][+, IIe etc was better than a pirated clone, they still made money. I mean without the clones some cheap people might've bought a C64 instead and suffered... or waited for a cheap IBM PC clone instead of getting late into the Apple ecosystem.

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I got into the Apple II+ back in 1981. Bought the computer at the stores price, they had a sale going on, also a single disk drive, and an rf modulator to hook the computer up to my small color tv, I didn't have the money for a monitor. Also bought a few games. I never really tinkered with the insides, other than adding a 16k expansion card. I used it as a gaming machine, until I bought a copy of Newsroom and a printer, in 1984. Then the II+ became more of a personal/home computer. I ran a newsletter for the military air traffic control facility I worked in, and later a newsletter for a Star Trek fan club.

 

In 1985 I bought a decked out //e. It came with 128k RAM, 2 disk drives, amber monitor, printer and printer interface card, and a 300 baud modem! That was a big change. Suddenly I was able to dial into BBSes, talk to people across the country via Usenet(this was prior to IRC), play BBS games and download stuff. I eventually bought Appleworks and upgraded my newsletter program to Publish It!. I had tried GeoPublish, but didn't like having to import Appleworks files into GeoWrite before I could use them in GeoPublish. With Publish It!, the very first version, I was able to import Appleworks files directly into my newsletter, use Dazzle Draw, Mouse Paint and Beagle graphics, besides its' own.

 

So, at least IMHO, I'd say the Apple II is a home/Personal computer.

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Not sure how I got wrapped up such a ridiculous discussion. The Apple II clearly began life as an advanced hobby computer and evolved into a home/personal system later on. Even fulfilling professional tasks along the way.

 

Well whatever it's classified as I'm just happy to have experienced the early years in person.

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3 hours ago, Keatah said:

The Apple II clearly began life as an advanced hobby computer and evolved into a home/personal system later on. Even fulfilling professional tasks along the way.

QFT. Though apart from the //c it never really threw off the vestiges of its roots.

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