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Wozniak's Original System Description of the Apple ][ 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-you-don't-eat-it-listen-to-me dept.
CowboyRobot writes "Opening with the line, 'To me, a personal computer should be small, reliable, convenient to use and inexpensive,' Steve Wozniak gave his system description of the Apple-II in the May, 1977 issue of BYTE. It's instructive to read what was worth bragging about back then (PDF), such as integral graphics: 'A key part of the Apple-II design is an integral video display generator which directly accesses the system's programmable memory. Screen formatting and cursor controls are realized in my design in the form of about 200 bytes of read only memory.' And it shows what the limitations were in those days, 'While writing Apple BASIC, I ran into the problem of manipulating the 16 bit pointer data and its arithmetic in an 8 bit machine. My solution to this problem of handling 16 bit data, notably pointers, with an 8 bit microprocessor was to implement a nonexistent 16 bit processor in software, interpreter fashion.'"
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Wozniak's Original System Description of the Apple ][

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  • Mistake (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday May 18, 2012 @03:57PM (#40046007) Homepage

    Spot the mistake on page 40: the timer used was a 558, not a 553.

    I re-implemented this system for a project to connect old game controllers to USB. It is low cost and works remarkably well for basic gaming.

  • Re:Almost, Apple... (Score:5, Informative)

    by lord_mike (567148) on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:20PM (#40046279)

    At the time the Apple II was released, there were only two other non-kit microcomputer systems available--the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Commodore PET. Both models were well $1000, while the Apple II was about twice as much for equivalent memory. Of course, the Apple II could do a lot more than the other two systems, especially in regards to graphics. However, as the technology improved, and competitors offered more powerful systems at lower prices, Apple never reduced their prices. At the peak of the microcomputer golden age, an Apple II system cost nearly 10 times as much as an equivalent Commodore 64 system.

    When Apple released their floppy disk drive, they priced it at $550. People asked why they priced it so high. Apple responded, "Because we can."

  • Re:Mistake (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:24PM (#40046317)
    Your mind is easily blown. How is a single slope A/D that's been standard practice since before Woz was even born a "brilliantly simple hack"? Jesus, I've got computer and electronics books from 1962 that are yellow and brittle that describe these circuits. Woz has a bit of an overinflated reputation IMO. Every single hardware engineer of the era worked the same way. Yes, even at Atari and Commodore.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:36PM (#40046461)

    The TRS-80 used the Zilog Z80.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:41PM (#40046505)
    Yes. There are so many people that labored in obscurity that are far more deserving of praise. You want "brilliant"? Try the MIT Rad Lab series. Or Englebart, or Sutherland.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Sutherland [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mother_of_All_Demos [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_Laboratory [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._C._R._Licklider [wikipedia.org]

    Somehow, some guy plugging a resistor to a 555, as described in the 555 datasheet, fails to amaze in comparison.

    I'm just sick and tired of the continuous hype for Woz when the people who actually invented computing are forgotten.

    Your mind should be blown by people who invent entire concepts from thin air.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:58PM (#40046671)
    Excellent. I hope I was to inform you and generate some interest in the history of technology. You want your mind blown? Try the history of the proximity fuze invented in WWII. You know, back when you had vacuum tubes. They managed to cram an entire doppler radar into the nose cone of artillery shells that had to survive 20,000G acceleration and 100,000RPM rotation when fired. Not only that, but be safe to handle and store, and come up to power within milliseconds after being fired. You'd find that hard to do with today's technology.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/MK53_fuze.jpg

  • Re:Almost, Apple... (Score:4, Informative)

    by CityZen (464761) on Friday May 18, 2012 @07:11PM (#40047681) Homepage

    You should look at oldcomputers.net for this info.

    Radio Shack TRS-80:
    basic unit with 4K RAM and B/W video monitor: $600
    basic unit with 16K RAM and Level II basic, monitor: $1000
    ($300 Expansion Interface required to add more than 16K memory)
    basic unit with 16K RAM, Level II, Expansion Interface, monitor: $1300
    5.25" disk drive (requires 16K, Level II, Expansion Interface): $500

    Commodore PET:
    PET 2001 (4K RAM, built-in B/W monitor): $800
    (not especially upgradeable memory-wise)
    PET 4032 (in 1980; 32K RAM, built-in B/W monitor): $1300
    CBM 8050 dual floppy drive (in 1980): $1700

    Apple II: (in 1977)
    Basic unit with 4K: $1300
    Basic unit with 16K: $1700
    Disk II floppy drive with controller card (1978): $600

    Atari 800: (in 1979)
    Basic unit with 8K: $1000
    (includes slots for 3 optional 16K RAM cartridges)
    810 floppy drive: $600

    Exidy Sorcerer: (1980)
    basic unit with 8K RAM: $900
    basic unit with 16K RAM: $1150
    S100 Expansion Unit: $420
    Video Disk unit (B/W monitor + 2 floppy drives): $3000

    Note that prices came down over time, especially due to decreases in RAM prices.

    So, I'd say that there was something of an "Apple tax" even back then, but it wasn't really so much. When you considered how much expansion capability you got with the basic unit (which for other systems was either an add-on or simply not possible), it was actually a good deal.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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