Saturday, May 21, 2011

Apple IIe Card Saga


Recently I was looking through the frustratingly rebranded and redesigned Apple Support Discussions, now known as Communities, specifically the Older Hardware area, when I came across an interesting plea.

Hi All,

I have been using a Mac LCIII with an Apple IIe card for 18 years. Recently, my hard drive died. I was able to buy a replacement hard drive and put it in my old LCIII. When I tried to partition my new hard drive so that I could use my Apple IIe card, the computer gave a message stating that I needed a newer version of the installer cards. My installer cards are labeled "Version 2.2." I understand that there ARE later versions labeled "Version 2.2.1" and "Version 2.2.x." I need to get my hands on one of these later sets of disks so that I can get my Apple IIe card up and running again. Can anyone out there help me? I am in dire need of these so that I can get back to using some important Applesoft database programs I created. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Regards,

Dr. James E. Williamson

Dubuque, IA

I logged in and posted a reply. The software for the Apple IIe card is luckily still available from Apple's download site. Unfortunately, Jim didn't have a means of creating Mac floppies from his Internet connected PC, so I offered to make him disks. In return, I asked Jim to explain his setup and use of this cool Mac/Apple IIe rig for this blog and to send me a few photos. Here is what Jim explained about his setup.

My first taste of computing came in 1968. My wife had a computer project for her Masters Degree. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing, but between us we got the correct programming lines. In 1969, I went to Western Michigan University to work on my Ph.D. in Mathematics. In 1970, I was asked to serve on a committee to select a new computer to be dedicated to academic computing. We selected a state-of-the-art Control Data Corp. PDP-10 for $875,000. The computer filled a large room and needed to be air-conditioned. Programming access was by batch cards or hard-wired Teletype terminals. The computer operated in a time-sharing environment. When the machine was installed, I took two courses in Fortran, which I immediately put to use on mathematical research. One of my programs used 22K of core memory. The tech people politely asked me to run the program only at night because it slowed down the system too much during the day. I earned my Ph.D. in 1973. I then went to teach at Southern Illinois University for a year and a half.

In February, 1975, I secured a position at the University of Dubuque, a small Presbyterian college of 650 students and 45 faculty. In 1981, we hired our first computer science professor and launched a Computer Science major housed together with the Math Dept. The next year I found myself as the Chair of a combined Mathematics and Computer Science Department. We now had 3 mathematicians and 3 computer scientists, although most of us taught some courses in both majors. Enrollment grew to 107 Computer Science majors, and 35 Math majors by 1984. Along the way we set up a lab filled with Apple IIe computers. We also had a mainframe computer that we had to share with the administration. I felt I needed to know more about Computer Science, since I was the Chair, so I took Systems Analysis, 2 courses in Cobol, 2 courses in RPG 2, Pascal, and Data Structures. I also learned Applesoft and Integer Basic on my own. I was hooked on programming.

At about the same time I developed an interest in Postal History. Postal Historians are interested in all aspects of the workings of the U.S. Postal Service, mostly from a historical perspective. This is a very active hobby with many people doing research, publishing books, and contributing articles to journals and newsletters. Postal History can be very data intensive with so many facts and dates pertaining to the myriad of post offices and postal stations in the country. I decided to specialize in the postal stations of my birth city of Chicago, and in particular, to the various canceling machines and handstamps that had been used at the more than 200 facilities. I also got interested, in a similar fashion, in the post offices of the state of Iowa. Before I knew what hit me, I was wallowing in data piles with 20,000-30,000 records. I definitely needed assistance from some database computer programs. In the mid-80s, there was a dearth of useful canned programs, so I set about writing my own in Applesoft on an Apple IIe. As my data grew and my need to work with it and present it in various formats also grew, my programs became much more compact and efficient. When I started bumping into the limits of memory capacity on the Apple IIe, I was forced to use all the programming skills I had absorbed from more structured languages. My programs became modularized, and data was stored in both random access and sequential files, to be pulled in as needed.

In 1985, the Computer Science major was split off from the Math Department. From that time on, it was all down hill for both programs. The University enrolled an ever dwindling cadre of students willing to put forth the effort to master “hard” majors like Math, Computer Science, Chemistry, and Physics. In 1990, the greatly diminished computer major elected to dispense with instruction on Apple IIes, and work strictly in a mainframe environment. I was able to purchase one of these castoff rigs, complete with monitor, two floppy disk drives, and a pin-feed paper printer for $50, so that I could continue my work at home. I still have the setup and I believe it would all still work today although I haven't used it in 15 years. In 1993, the university's tech support person contacted me and said that I should seriously consider purchasing one of Apple's newly announced Macintosh LCIII computers. He said I could get it fitted with an Apple IIe card that would allow me to continue working with my Applesoft programs, plus it would have all the best of the current Apple Macintosh capabilities. He didn't have to twist my arm very hard. I bought an LCIII, the Apple IIe card, a disk drive for reading 5.25” floppy disks, a disk drive for reading CDs, and an Apple Color Stylewriter 2400 printer. This was the perfect computer for my needs.



In 2000, I moved to a new teaching post at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and was immediately introduced to the modern world of the internet and e-mail. I retired (for the first time) in December, 2007. Since I had become addicted to the internet and all the many things we all can do with our modern computers, I purchased an HP Pavilion notebook so that I could stay connected to internet at home. My LCIII, still purring along, was incapable of establishing any meaningful internet services, so I had to have a new machine. Until one fateful day in early April, 2011, I used both my computers for their own special purposes. I had been using my LCIII for most of the day and then turned it off for the evening. Late that night I attempted to turn it back on, but it wouldn't boot up. After 18 years of faithful service, the hard drive had died. I believe the cause of death is called “sticktion.”

After 25 years of perfecting and using all my homemade postal history database programs, I was not about to let a little thing like a dead hard drive turn me in a different direction. Local computer repair shops could do nothing for me, so I fairly easily found another LCIII for sale on eBay and bought it. When this computer arrived I discovered that it would be easier to switch the hard drives than to move my Apple IIe card to the new LCIII. It took only a couple minutes to do this. Everything appeared to be moving along smoothly until I attempted to partition the new hard drive so that I could store all my postal history data and programs on the hard drive. Disaster! The LCIII monitor said that my Apple IIe card installer disk was too old to work on this system. Evidently the new hard drive had a newer operating system than my original hard drive.

I spent days searching the internet for a newer version of the installer disk and its companion Apple IIe startup disk, but to no avail. None were for purchase that I could find. I spent more time off the internet trying to find a person who might have the disks. Along the way I learned that there was a free library of old Apple programs that could be downloaded off the internet. Unfortunately, my HP notebook is the computer attached to the internet, and not my Macintosh LCIII. Even if I could use my PC to download some Apple programs, I could not get them onto a floppy disk that my LCIII could read. Fortunately, in one of my browsing sessions, I stumbled across the Apple Support Community. I registered to join the community and put my sad tale out there with the hope that someone could solve my problem. My solution came in less than 24 hours, when Joshua Burker responded to me concerning the Apple library downloads. I put up another message that I would need help getting the programs on disks my LCIII could use. Once again, Josh came to my rescue and volunteered to make up the disks for me, nice fellow that he is. Is my problem finally solved? I will know when I get the disks. Don't ask me what I will do when my LCIII dies a second time. As you can probably tell, I would be lost without my LCIII. If I have to start over with a database program on a modern computer, it would probably take 6 months of steady work to reload all the data. At my age, that's too big of a price to pay. Thank You Apple Support, and Josh!

I downloaded the disk images to my MacBook, but for some unfathomable reason in OS X 10.6 they turned off floppy write access. So I had to use my wife's 10.5.8 PowerBook to move the disk image to a floppy disk, which I then used with my Quadra 610 to create a set of physical disks. When I tried to boot the Quadra with the disks, it complained about needing a newer set of disks for the system, which sounded exactly like the issue Jim was experiencing. I made him a System Tools 7.1 disk with the proper System Enabler for his LCIII and wrote directions on how to partition the disk with the System Tools floppy and install the Apple IIe Card software.


Jim returned from a trip to Peru anxious to get his system running again, but ran into a few issues. However, rested and relaxed, he got the system going again!
I also told you that I had some difficulty establishing the partition, so I wasted a lot of time and got mentally exhausted. Today, my brain was finally free of other distractions (and rested), and I figured out what was wrong. I had focused so long and hard on getting the partition to work that i had neglected to reestablish my Macintosh files on the Mac part of the hard drive. Once I did that, and rediscovered how to run Apple files, everything worked like a charm! I still have to reload everything from my backup files and discover whether I had remembered to back everything up after my last major revisions of data. If not, I will be able to use my notes to get back up to speed, so I am now very happy. This happy camper will be going camping (and fishing) before I get around to that, so I probably have some considerable amount of work to do yet I know I did lose a lot of Microsoft Word files from the Mac HD because I hadn't backed that stuff up in a long time. This, at least, is not a major problem. Not getting back my Apple files, or the capacity to run them, would have been. Hopefully, my new hard drive will keep on ticking for a few more years.
The Apple II community, as well as the Vintage Mac community, does a great job of looking out for its' members. I've thrown some obscure questions to the crowd and been rewarded with answers. It was great to get Jim back on his computer!

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