July 22, 2011, 7:16 p.m.
posted by lovezoom
Trick Out Your Apple ][
The Apple ][ by itself is a box that lets you type in code and run it. Turning the Apple ][ into a game-playing console requires a few additional parts, many of which you can find on eBay or even conceivably build yourself.
The first accessory I'd strongly recommend is a floppy drive, and preferably two or more of them to avoid a lot of disk swapping in multi-disk games, like most of the role-playing games out there. For Apples prior to the Apple //c, you'll also need a disk controller card. For more recent Apples, such as the //c+ and the IIgs, you may also want a 3.5" disk drive or two. Many of the drives on the newer Apples can be daisy-chained, letting you connect a drive to the computer, another drive to that drive, and so on.
I've always been one of those strange people who prefers to play games using the keyboard, joysticks, and paddles that are available for the Apple ][ series. Older Applesthe ][ and ][+, as well as some cloneshave a fragile 16-pin connector inside the case. There were a number of accessories available for bringing the connector outside of the case, or for making it easy to switch between joysticks and paddles. Newer Apples, from the //e onward, use a more protected 9-pin connector. Many old IBM PC joysticks were designed to work with either PCs or Apples, so it's not that hard to find workable joysticks.
Both joysticks and paddles reported a value from 0 to 255 to the Apple, and most joysticks have trim adjustment to set the joystick's center point more precisely. Some also let you turn self-centering on and off, while others offer auto-fire options or let you reverse right and left. Joysticks (shown in Figure) have two buttons, while paddles have one button each.
A joystick for the Apple II, with trim controls, auto-fire, and reversibility
A good monitor can be a big improvement over a television set, especially for later Apples with more advanced high-resolution graphics settings. For general playing around, though, a TV set is fine, especially since today's televisions tend to be a lot larger than the tiny screens a lot of us were using for games.
Most of the games available for the Apple ][ series either ran on an Apple ][ with 48K of memory or more and DOS 3.3, aiming for the largest range of customers, or were specific to the IIgs series. There are some games that run under ProDOS as well, though DOS 3.3 was more popular for game publishers because it was a fruitful medium for the copy protection schemes that have driven gamers crazy for years. There may be cases where you want more than 64K of RAM, and the IIgs got up to 8MB of RAM, but many of the classic games are happy to run in 48K or 64K of RAM. (If you're running a IIgs, much more memory may be attractive, especially for later versions of OS/GS. You can find memory on eBay, or buy new 4MB IIgs memory cards for $49 each at http://garberstreet.netfirms.com/RAM-4-GS.html.)
Similarly, while it is certainly possible to attach a hard drive to later Apple ][s, they aren't generally necessary for game play, and neither are 80-column cards, another common accessory. If you have vivid memories of using Visi-Calc on the Apple ][ or writing book after book on the system, you may want these anyway. Figure shows the most extensively expanded Apple ][ system I've found locally, one which is part of the Macseum at Babbage's Basement (http://www.lightlink.com/babbages/), a computer recycling organization where I found many of the parts I needed to do the hacks on original hardware. Its loving owner gave it:
- 1 Megabyte of RAM
- An Apple Super Serial Card for the ImageWriter printer
- An AE Serial Pro card with a clock, used for the modem
- An Apple DuoDisk Controller card and DuoDisk 5.25" drives
- A Laser Universal Disk Controller card and an AE 3.5" drive
- An Apple SCSI card and a 52MB Apple Q Drive hard drive
- An 80-column text card
- Various enhancements to the motherboard
People are still developing new enhancements for the Apple ][ series. The most interesting one I've seen lately is a Compact Flash adapter card for the Apple ][, which lets you use convenient Compact Flash cards like a giant hard drive. It takes up an expansion slot and requires either ProDOS or OS/GS. CiderPress software will let you write to the Compact Flash card from a PC, providing a new and convenient way to get information from the Internet to your Apple. The current list price is $105, and users report it working in computers from the ][+ to the IIgs. (The //c series and the IIe card for the Mac have no expansion slots, so it's not an option for those computers.) For more information, see http://dreher.net/?s=projects/CFforAppleII&c=projects/CFforAppleII/main.php.