A Full Speed, Portable Apple //e

A while back, [Jorj] caught wind of a Hackaday post from December. It was a handheld Apple IIe, emulated on an ATMega1284p. An impressive feat, no doubt, but it’s all wrong. This ATapple only has 12k of RAM and only runs at 70% of the correct speed. The ATapple is impressive, but [Jorj] knew he could do better. He set out to create the ultimate portable Apple IIe. By all accounts, he succeeded.

This project and its inspiration have a few things in common. They’re both assembled on perfboard, using tiny tact switches for the keyboard. The display is a standard TFT display easily sourced from eBay, Amazon, or Aliexpress. There’s a speaker for terribad Apple II audio on both, and gigantic 5 1/4″ floppies have been shrunk down to the size of an SD card. That’s where the similarities end.

[Jorj] knew he needed horsepower for this build, so he turned to the most powerful microcontroller development board he had on his workbench: the Teensy 3.6. This is a 180 MHz ARM Cortex M4 running a full-speed Apple IIe emulator. Writing a simple 6502 emulator is straightforward, but Apple IIe emulation also requires an MMU. the complete emulator is available in [Jorj]’s repo, and passes all the tests for 6502 functionality.

The project runs all Apple II software with ease, but we’re really struck by how simple the entire circuit is. Aside from the Teensy, there really isn’t much to this build. It’s an off-the-shelf display, a dead simple keyboard matrix, and a little bit of miscellaneous circuitry. It’s simple enough to be built on a piece of perfboard, and we hope simple enough for someone to clone the circuit and share the PCBs.

VCF East: The Swyft Card

Ninety five percent of the population will say Apple computers is the brainchild of [Steve Jobs]. The other five percent will be right, but what nearly no one knows is that the Macintosh project was originally conceived by [Jef Raskin]. He holds the honor of turning the Mac into an, ‘information appliance’ and being one of the first people to seriously consider how millions of people would interact with computers.

The Mac wasn’t [Jef]’s first project at Apple, though. Before the Mac project he was working on something called Swyft – an easy to use command line system that was first implemented as a firmware card for the Apple IIe. [Mike Willegal] was kind enough to bring one of these Swyft cards to the Vintage Computer Fest this weekend, and did a demo of it for us.

The basic idea behind the Swyft card was to have an integrated word processor, calculator, and access to Applesoft Basic. Holding down a ‘leap’ key – in the case of the Apple IIe add-on, the open apple key – allowed the user to search for text and perform operations on any result. It’s odd, but it just makes sense in some strange way.

[Mike] is doing a build class at the VCF today where anyone attending can build their own Swyft card. He also has instructions for building your own, should you want to experiment with one of the ‘could have beens’ of user interface design.

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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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Hackaday Links: August 11, 2013

While we’re not much for fashion hacks, we’re reasonably impressed with [Karolina]’s faux Chanel bag made of chips. Apparently a grid of black squares is one of Chanel’s trademark looks, and a thousand or so QFP chips makes for a reasonable substitution.

News of the death of our retro edition has been greatly exaggerated. [Brandon] got an old Apple IIe up on the Internet and loaded up our retro edition, so we’re sort of obliged to mention him. He’s using a Super Serial Card connected to an OS X box running lynx. With getty running, he can shoot the output of lynx over to the Apple. Awesome.

Take an old Yamaha organ, convert the keyboard to MIDI, throw in a few Arduinos, thousands of LEDs, and a handful of bubble machines. What you end up with is the bubble organ, as seen at the Bass Coast Festival last weekend. If you want a hands on, you can also check it out at the Rifflandia festival in BC, Canada this September.

Some guy over on reddit created the smallest Arduino in the world. We’re looking at a rank amateur here, though. I’ve been working on this little guy for the last 18 months and have even created an open source cloud based github design for the production model. It’s less than half the size of a Digispark, and also Internet of Things 3D interactive education buzzword buzzword.

[Moogle] found an old Super 8 camera at an estate sale. No big deal right? Well, this one is clear, and it uses light-sensitive film. Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but if you know what’s up, drop a note in the comments.

One day [John] decided he would put a PC inside an old G3 iMac. After a year, it’s finally done. He took out the CRT and replaced it with a 15″ Dell monitor. The G3 was discarded for an AMD, and the internal speakers and slot-load CD drive still work. It’s a really, really cool piece of work.

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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AppleCrate II doubles the cluster computing fun


Back in 2004, Apple hobbyist/guru [Michael Mahon] built a cluster of Apple IIe main boards dubbed the “AppleCrate” as an experiment in parallel computing. Now that a few years have passed, he is back with a new iteration of the device, aptly named AppleCrate II.

AppleCrate II was built to address some of the design limits of his first cluster project as well as to expand his parallel computing capabilities. His gripes with the first model were primarily structural in nature. The new system is organized in horizontal layers, using metal standoffs between each main board, rather than relying on a shaky wooden superstructure to keep things together. He also found his previous 8-processor configuration a bit limiting, so the AppleCrate II has 17 nodes – 16 slaves and one main board dedicated to running the operation. The cluster even uses his own homebrew networking stack known as NadaNet to enable communications between the boards.

The project is pretty impressive, so be sure to swing by his site if you want to learn more.  He has a ton of technical details there, as well as copies of all of the software he used to get the cluster up and running.

[via BoingBoing]

Apple IIe Twitter ticker

A hand input bootloader and a custom communications protocol are what bring the Apple IIe Twitter ticker to life. [Chris Yerga] bought the decades-old machine for $20 at a flea market. Having just completed his TweetWall he decided to adapt the idea for the 1 MHz machine. He manually input a 50 byte bootloader that would let him dump programs into memory via the joystick port. From there he rigged up a connection with a USB FTDI cable. Now the images and text are processed by a modern-day machine and fed to the Apple IIe at 3600 baud. See this in action after the break.

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