The Apple IIe Becomes a Lisp Machine


Way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a few very awesome people around MIT were working on Lisp machines. These computers were designed specifically to run Lisp as their main programming language. Around the same time, a few [Steves] in California were working on the Apple II, which would soon become one of the most popular computers of all time. The Apple II ran BASIC as its main programming language, fine for the time, but surely not as elegant as Lisp. It took more than 30 years, but [Alex] and [Martin] figured out a way to turn the lowly Apple IIe into a Lisp machine.

Developing Lisp for the Apple IIe was surprisingly easy for these guys – they simply wrote a Lisp interpreter in C and used a 6502 compiler to generate some machine code. The main problem of porting Lisp to an Apple II was simply getting the code onto the Apple. We’re assuming this would have been easier had the same project been attempted in the 80s.

To get their interpreter onto the Apple, they used the very awesome ADTPro library that allows data to be loaded onto an Apple II via the cassette port and a modern computer’s microphone and speaker jack. After a solid minute of loading analog data onto this digital dinosaur, [Alex] and [Martin] had a Lisp interpreter running on ancient yet elegant hardware.

The source for the 6502 Lisp interpreter can be found on the GitHub along with all the necessary tools to load it via a modern computer. That’ll give you all the ancient lambdas and parens you could ever want. One warning, though: backspace doesn’t exactly work, so be prepared for a lot of frustration.

You can check out the demo video below.

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Anachronistic Hard Drive for the Apple II


Not wanting too many disks lying around his Apple II battlestation, [NeXT] started looking into hard drive solutions. There is the old-time solution – a ProFile hard drive initially designed for the Apple /// and Lisa, but those are rare as hen’s teeth, and just as expensive as newer Compact Flash adapters. [NeXT] had another option – SCSI, with an adapter card, but most of the SCSI devices of the era didn’t fit in with the cool ‘stackable’ aesthetic of AII peripherals.

With a bit of Bondo and some paint, [NeXT] modded an old dual disk drive into a retro-looking hard drive perfect for storing and running hundreds of old games.

[NeXT] began his build by taking an old Apple DuoDisk (the two-disk drive seen above) and Bondoing over the holes in the front. A drive activity light was added above the Apple logo, and the old drives saved for another day. Inside the new enclosure, an old 40MB hard drive, tested on a Macintosh SE/30, was installed along with a small power supply for the drive. With a few custom SCSI cables, the drive will be ready for it’s grand debut. We think it looks awesome just sitting there, and is sure to be the pride of [NeXT]’s collection.

Animated GIFs on an Apple II


Before the Internet, computer enthusiasts needed to get their cat pictures, image macros, and animated gifs somehow. If only [Nate] was writing code back in the 80s: he created a video player for the Apple II, essentially turning the classic computer into a machine that can play one or two animated gifs.

Vintage microcomputers aren’t especially noted for a huge amount of RAM, or being very fast, so [Nate] needed to bring in some extra hardware to give his recently acquired Apple II+ a 64k RAM disk to store the gifs.

The gifs are loaded off the floppy drive after being converted on a PC with a Python script, reducing the resolution and colors to 280 x 192 pixels and an amazing rainbow of four colors. For some gifs, seen below, it’s actually slightly impressive an Apple II can pull off this trick. It’s amazing  [Nate] got this thing to work, as well.

If you have an Apple II set up, you’re awesome. You should go peruse [Nate]’s git and make your own animated gifs for your awesome classic computer.

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USB Apple ][ disk emulator


One of the most commonly frustrating things about having an old Apple ][ lying around in your basement or attic is the lack of software. While at one time in the late 80s you may have had your own copy of Oregon Trail, that disk is either lost or non-functional, and it’s pretty hard to get new disk images onto 5 1/4″ disks.

To solve this problem for himself, [Eric] came up with an Apple disk emulator. A project like this has been done many, many times over the last few decades, but [Eric] put his own twist on it: he doesn’t use a microcontroller. Instead, he used a simple USB FTDI device to talk to the Apple disk drive.

The FTDI device in question is a UM232H chip that takes a USB connection and turns it into an SPI bus. Of course the Apple ][ disk doesn’t speak SPI, so [Eric] needed to do a little logic conversion with a 74LS251 multiplexer and a 74LS161 counter.

In the video after the break, you can see [Eric] loading Apple disk images on a IIc from his new Intel Mac. It’s a neat build, but it’s not done yet: [Eric] plans on adding a microcontroller with an SD card, allowing just about every Apple ][ game every made to fit in your pocket. Yes, [Eric]’s project is quite similar to the A][ pocket serial host we saw just a bit ago, but this will hopefully have a lower component count.

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Pocket Serial Host acts as an Apple II disk drive


[Osgeld] is showing off what he calls a sanity check. It’s the first non-breadboard version of his Pocket Serial Host. He’s been working on the project as a way to simplify getting programs onto the Apple II he has on his “retro bench”. When plugged in, the computer sees it as a disk drive.

The storage is provided by an SD card which is hidden on the underside of that protoboard. This makes it dead simple to hack away at your programs using a modern computer, then transfer them over to the retro hardware. The components used (starting at the far side of the board) are a DB9 serial connector next to a level converter to make it talk to the ATmega328 chip being pointed at with a tool. The chip below that is a level converter to get the microcontroller talking to the RTC chip seen to the right. The battery keeps that clock running when there’s no power from the 5V and 3.3V regulators mounted in the upper right.

The video after the break shows off this prototype, the breadboard circuit, and a demonstration with the Apple II.

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Hackaday Links: June 3, 2012

When pigs fly…. close enough.

There are too many jokes to be made about this one. It’s a quadcopter made out of a dead cat. [Bert Jansen], the artist behind this, calls him Orville. He died from natural causes, and what better way to remember a feline friend that liked chasing birds?

Refurbishing an Apple ][

That thirty year old computer in your parent’s attic isn’t going to clean itself, is it? [Todd] put up a series of videos tearing down a 1982 Apple ][ plus, cleaning everything along the way, and doing a very nice demo of AppleSoft BASIC. This is where the revolution started, people.

Ohm sweet Ωhm

Cross stitch isn’t for grandmothers anymore. Adafruit put up a cross stitch tutorial to go along with their resistor color code cross stitch kit. Now down to Hobby Lobby to find black cross stitch cloth and make the ‘ol skull ‘n wrenches.

Welcome! To the world of yesterday!

Boing Boing found an amazing cyberpunk photo spread that appeared in the Mondo 2000 ‘zine back around 1992 or 1993. Even when keeping in mind that this is a self-parody, it’s still incredible. Hackers have laser pointers? And pagers?

Making Arduino projects smaller

[Scott] caught wind of a way to shrinkify Arduino projects, so he turned an Arduino protoboard into an ATtiny85 programmer. As a neat bonus, [Scott] can use the attached breadboard to build circuits around the ’85.


Giving a Powerpoint presentation with an Apple ][

When [Vince] saw a coworker give a presentation with an iPad, he thought to himself what a tremendous waste of computing resources he was witnessing; an iPad is just as powerful as an early Cray supercomputer, and displaying slides isn’t a computationally intensive task. We’re assuming [Vince]’s train of thought went off the rails at that point, because he came up with a neat way to give a presentation with an Apple ][.

To get his slides onto his Apple ][, [Vince] created a tool to convert the text and images for a presentation to an Applesoft BASIC program. Yes, six-color images are supported in a wonderful 280×192 resolution. The presentation was transferred onto a CompactFlash card and loaded onto the Apple with the help of a CFFA card, making it much faster to load images during the presentation than a 5.25″ disk would allow.

Of course, after the presentation some of [Vince]’s coworkers wanted to play Oregon Trail, a request easily handled by the voluminous CF card loaded with Apple ][ programs. You can check out video demo/walkthrough of his presentation after the break.

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