Archive for the 'Hacks & Projects' Category

More Macworld Mania

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Macworld Logo

Since my last update on the articles I’ve written for Macworld in November, I’ve written at least a handful more vintage-related stories for the publication that I haven’t mentioned on this blog. To remedy that, I thought I’d share them below in convenient digest form.

The Mac Plus Clock piece is particularly fun, and I think VC&G fans will really enjoy it.

Mangin’s MacinShelves

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Charles Mangin MacinShelves

Hot on the heels of my recent post about the “Mac Pedestal” in which I suggested building shelves with compact Mac supports, VC&G Reader Charles Mangin informed me that he did just such a thing and wrote about it on his blog in 2007.

You can see the result above. Nice work, Charles. With all the Macs I have in my garage, maybe I should try this myself and redefine the meaning of “Mac Shelf.”

The Mac Pedestal Encounter

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Mac Pedestal photo by Mike Melanson
Long-time VC&G reader Mike Melanson recently emailed me this photo of an interesting encounter he had with a stack of retired Apple Macintoshes. He writes:

Upon visiting my alma mater last week (University of Colorado @ Boulder), I snapped this picture of a stack of vintage PowerMacs topped with an old iMac that was rotating through some generic campus announcements.

Not a bad use for five Power Macs, I’d say. I could imagine an interesting table with Power Macs for its legs — or a bookshelf supported only by Mac Pluses at the ends. Any other ideas?

Have you seen any vintage computers in the wild recently?
If so, snap a photo and send it in.

Steve Wozniak Announces the 2 GHz Apple IIpc

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Apple IIpc LogoFor the last two years, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has toiled away in secrecy on a brand new computer system, which he announced today in a surprise press release. The machine, sure to stun the computer industry, carries the torch of the classic Apple II computer line and brings with it a massive installed user base. Wozniak calls his creation the Apple IIpc — a fitting name for a modern update of his venerable Apple II design that sports both a 2 GHz processor and full compatibility with all Apple II software and accessories.

In a special email to the vintage computing press, Wozniak laid out the details. “I’m emailing this to you frist [sic] because I know you’re the ones who supported me all these years,” he writes. “After all, I’m counting on you to make this new launch a success.”

A Modern Marvel

Apple IIpcPowered by a new 2.0 GHz 6502-compatible chip from WDC, the IIpc will retain full backward-compatibility with both Apple II and Apple IIgs software. In a further nod to the past, the computer will ship with three Apple II slots (in addition to the three PCI-X slots on the board) and will include user ports for Apple II keyboards, mice, paddles, and numeric keypads. The IIpc will support memory up to four gigabytes, although Wozniak plans on shipping the first model with only 1GB of RAM.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell in this announcement deals with the IIpc’s new 64-bit CPU. WDC, suppliers of processors for the Apple IIc and IIgs in the past, developed a special chip specifically for this project called the W65T64 Terbium Pro. Long thought to be vaporware by the computer press since it had no known application, the Terbium Pro has finally materialized, although it’s still in the late prototype stages.

“I’m extremely pleased with WDC on this project,” Wozniak writes. “Unlike modern emulation methods, the W65T64 runs Apple II code natively at 2.0GHz, along with more advanced software.”

The IIpc was initially designed as a drop-in replacement for the Apple IIe motherboard, but Wozniak soon realized that the antique IIe case and power supply would severly limit his design’s capabilities. He has commissioned a completely new all-in-one case from Jerry Manock specifically for the Apple IIpc. Manock, an Apple veteran, previously designed the Apple II, Apple III, and Macintosh cases. “Jerry and I work together like magic,” writes Wozniak, “and he’s got an incredible design for a new case that we’ll be testing soon.”

Apple’s Take

Apple Computer LogoSo what does Apple, Inc. and Steve Jobs think of all this? “Every time I talk to Steve, he tells me they still receive over 5,000 calls a day at Apple asking for an upgrade to the Apple IIe,” Wozniak writes, “So he’s happy that I’ll be getting them off his back.”

In exchange for permission to use Apple’s trademarks for a limited-run, limited distribution project, Wozniak had to sign a contract saying that he would handle any and all support issues that might arise. Apple even issued him his own support number, 1-866-866-8668, which satisfies his love for phone numbers with repeating digits.

Regrading trademarks, Wozniak felt it was important to stick to his roots. “I thought I’d stay with ‘Apple II’ as a basis for the name, because my machine is the next step in this long family of computers,” says Wozniak. And what about the model name’s two-letter addition? Wozniak explains: “The ‘PC’ modifier stands for ‘private computer,’ since it’s designed to be used by one person at a time, in other words, by yourself.” He continues,”I though about calling it the “Apple IIrf” — for ‘really fast’ — but I figured people wouldn’t take it seriously.”

Release Plans

Steve WozniakAccording to Wozniak, The Apple IIpc will be available for sale on his website by “fourth quarter 2008” and will retail for $1666.66. But there might be delays. “Aside from the case we’re working on, the W65T64 is really the bottleneck in terms of getting this thing off the ground,” Wozniak writes. “The chip is going into production in June, so until then, I can’t launch.”

Wozniak and Manock formed a new corporation to distribute the Apple IIpc called Wozniock Computers. According to Manock, Wozniak has been waiting years for the opportunity to design something new that people will enjoy. “This is the project that Woz would have worked on at Apple if he hadn’t left the company in 1985,” says Manock. “I really hope people love using it as much as he did making it.”

[ Happy April Fools’ Day — This is not real. ]

Shining a Rotten Apple

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

What is Nasty?

Nasty Apple II Plus Keyboard

Nasty is the keyboard of my well-loved 29 year-old Apple II Plus.

It’s always a bad sign when a keyboard that’s been sitting untouched for ten years in climate-controlled storage is wet beneath the keys, coated with a glistening, gooey gunk of unknown origin. Mix in two decades of fuzzy dust and moldy cat hairs, and you have yourself a potent cocktail of pure, unadulterated Nasty.

[ Continue reading Shining a Rotten Apple » ]

Vintage Apple Computer Web Servers

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Apple Macintosh Mac SE Web ServerThere exist, in various pockets of the World Wide Web, dark corners in which vintage machines are tucked, quietly whirring away as they make occasional contact with the outside world. This loose confederation of devices constitutes a New Old Web, composed of computers previously considered useless or obsolete.

Serving HTTP from vintage computers is nothing new — it’s been link fodder since the dawn of the public Internet — but I’d like to highlight a wonderful website that maintains a directory of vintage Apple computers functioning as working web servers.

[ Continue reading Vintage Apple Computer Web Servers » ]

Tales From the Benjside: BABY DRAGON IS SLEPT

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Tales from the Benjside

[ ‘Tales From the Benjside’ is a column where Benj writes silly things about computers, video games, and tangentially-related stuff in a blog-like fashion. ]

It’s Christmas time once again in the Land of Benj, and you know what that means: more presents! So get out your stockings and you elf caps and follow me once again into another…

What? It’s March, you say? Egads, man! Seems that I’m a bit late on the festivities (or early?). But then again, the Land of Benj does not observe normal rules of space and time. Only the Rules of Christmas. And the Rules of Christmas clearly spell out (Section 8c, Paragraph 4, Line 3) that it’s time for another Tales From the Benjside. Let it commence.

[ Continue reading Tales From the Benjside: BABY DRAGON IS SLEPT » ]

StarTTY: Turn Your Vintage Computer Into an Information Appliance

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

StarTTY ServiceInstead of simply letting their classic machines collect dust on a shelf as display pieces, vintage computing enthusiasts regularly struggle to find modern uses for their equipment that also double as good excuses to keep them “around” and active. I know this because I’ve been looking for novel ways to use my obsolete computers since I started collecting them. Thankfully, a new Internet service just popped up that will give us all a reason to pull that old terminal out of the closet again. It’s called StarTTY.

StarTTY, created by Dorian Garson, is an information “push” service designed for old serial terminals and computers than can run terminal emulators. It turns your old computer or terminal into an “information kiosk” by displaying live, up-to-the-minute weather, news, date/time, and other features directly on your terminal’s screen. It accomplishes this feat through the ancient-but-perennially-useful protocol known as telnet, which is commonly used for remote server administration, MUDs, and Internet BBSes these days.

StarTTY Screenshot 1 StarTTY Screenshot 2

[ Continue reading StarTTY: Turn Your Vintage Computer Into an Information Appliance » ]

Why Super Nintendos Lose Their Color: Plastic Discoloration in Classic Machines

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Discolored SNES

Sure, consoles age and get dirty. Heck, I remember a suspicious incident involving my Super Nintendo (SNES) console and a can of Coca-Cola in the early ’90s that left my SNES looking more like a moldy loaf of bread than a video game system. But around five years ago, I noticed that my SNES console was aging particularly badly. I cleaned off all the remnants of fossilized Coke residue from the chassis with a wet washcloth, but the “moldy bread” look still remained. The top half of the console’s plastic body retained a uniformly nasty yellow-brown hue, while the bottom half flaunted its showroom shine — that native SNES gray that we all know and love. I soon realized that a much deeper mechanism was responsible for the aesthetic disfigurement of my beloved SNES than mere dirt and sugar.

To further complicate matters, I have another SNES unit that was obviously produced more recently than my original one, and that console shows no sign of aging whatsoever. Comparing the units and the way different parts of them had discolored led me to believe that there is something different about the two batches of plastics — the one for the top half of the SNES chassis and the one for the bottom, or the plastic for the old unit and plastic for the new — that made them age differently over time.

Immediately below are two photos I took of my actual SNES units. Notice the difference between the colors of the top and bottom halves of the plastic chassis on the older unit, and also how the newer unit shows no sign of discoloration at all.

Discolored SNESMy first SNES console (right) exhibits discoloration on the top half only.
The newer unit on the left, however, looks as good as new.

Discolored SNESThe top half and bottom half of my first SNES console, disassembled.
Notice that the underside is yellowed with the same uniformity as the top.

[ Continue reading Why Super Nintendos Lose Their Color: Plastic Discoloration in Classic Machines » ]

The Return of Cottonwood BBS: The Last Dial-Up Commodore BBS Online?

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Cottonwood BBS SetupAndrew Wiskow emailed me today with news that his long-planned Commodore dial-up BBS’s return to glory is now complete. The Cottonwood BBS, perhaps the last dial-up only BBS running on authentic Commodore hardware (feel free to correct me on this!), is now up and accepting callers at 1-951-242-3593. Andrew also posted a comment about his BBS on another VC&G post, which I have reproduced below:

Well, after a bit of a delay, Cottonwood BBS is now back up and operational! As it turns out, the 1200 baud modem wasn’t the problem, but instead it was the VoIP line I was trying to run the BBS on. I had to switch back to a regular phone line in order to get good results. The 2400 baud modem I tried to used wasn’t working well, so I’m back to where I started on the 1200 baud modem.

Anyway… You can call Cottonwood BBS at (951) 242-3593. Open 24 hours a day, running at 300/1200 baud. For more information on the BBS, or to get some tips on connecting, check out the following website:

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Be sure to check out his website to pick up a copy of C64Term for the best Commodore BBS experience for PC users. I haven’t made a call yet, but I plan on it when I get the chance. If you give it a call, please let us know how you liked it.