Examining Vintage Printer Server Hardward for Apple II

II-easy-print-reverse-engineering

Need to share a printer between several Apple II computers? Of course you don’t, but back in the day this would have been a really awesome piece of hardware to own. It’s a Pacemark iiEasy Print (we’re not sure on the capitalization of the name so talk amongst yourselves). It is an automatic buffer and switch that you can have now-a-days for just a couple of Hamiltons. [David] doesn’t mention where he “acquired” his specimen, but all the details about his adventures reverse engineering the card are shared in detail.

First off, we have to mention his unorthodox bench tools. To the untrained eye it would appear that he has attached the iiEasy Print to a Commodore 64; and that eye would be right. [David] says he uses the C64 something like an Arduino (if that’s even possible). The green card is plugged into the C64 memory bus, connecting to the DIP socket breakout board on the left and the chip select pins for most of the other IC’s on the original board. The gist of this setup is that it’s simple to use the “passthrough” DIP socket to monitor what the 6502-like processor is doing, while mapping the memory with the help of the chip select signals.

What did he learn from all this? Quite a lot but you might as well click that link above and hear it from his own mouth.

Rant: Why I love what the Chromecast stands for

chromecast-and-box

I’ve had my hands on this Chromecast for almost a week now and I love it. Years ago I hacked my first Xbox after seeing [Kevin Rose] do it on The Screensavers (I did the hardware mod but that’s inconsequential). Why did I do this? So that I could run Xbox Media Center, the predecessor of XBMC. Since then I’ve dreamed of a device which can be hung on the back of the TV with Velcro and run XBMC. We basically got there with the Raspberry Pi, but the Chromecast is the form-factor that I had always envisioned. This lets me watch Netflix, while the RPi runs XBMC. The two are match made in heaven for under a hundred bucks.

That’s why I love the Chromecast device itself, but the bigger picture is that I love what it stands for. Keep reading to see what i mean.

[Read more...]

Anachronistic Hard Drive for the Apple II

applefile

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.

Apple MagSafe cord repair

repairing-apple-magsafe

[Tommy Ward] had a big problem with the cord for his laptop power supply. This thing’s not cheap so he figured out a way to fix the frayed cord on his Apple MagSafe. He asserts that the shortened rubber collar on the plug end of the cord is to blame for this type of damage. We think rough use may have something to do with it too, but having had to repair our own feline-damaged power cords we’re not about to start pointing fingers.

To pull off an appropriate fix [Tommy] pries apart the case housing the power converter. This lets him get at the solder connections of the cord. After removing it from the circuit board he clips off the damaged portion of the cable. To reuse the strain relief grommet he drilled out the old portion of wire and insulation, making room for the undamaged cable to pass through, adding a cable tie on the inside to aide in strain relief. The last part of the fix involves gluing everything back together.

If your power supply problems have to do with the computer connector itself there’s a fix for that too.

DIY $6 serial cable for vintage Apple QuickTake cameras

diy-serial-cable-for-vintage-apple-cameras

Knowing he was a guy who liked electronics and taking things apart, one of [Erik]‘s friends sent him a vintage Apple QuickTake 100/150 digital camera as a bit of a joke. [Erik] enjoyed the gift, but since his friend hadn’t sent the necessary serial cable he really couldn’t do that much with it. He searched online only to discover the cable is very difficult to find these days, and thus very expensive. So, being the handy guy he is, he built his own.

Starting with an Apple MiniDin8 Male cable, he cut off one end and attached the wiring to a RJ45 connector. That got plugged into a modular adapter with a DB9 Female Plug end and wired up. The procedure required no soldering, and cost less than $6. Awesome.

Unfortunately the lack of serial cable isn’t the only problem he faced. QuickTake isn’t compatible with newer Apple computers that use Intel. You have to either have a much older Mac, or use a Windows XP emulator. If that wasn’t bad enough, the cameras only want to save photos in QuickTake file format. Luckily, [Erik] documents how he overcome all these issues in his post.

[Thanks Erik]

Comparing USB to Ethernet converters: Apple vs. Knock-off

usb-ethernet-comparison

[Angus Gratton] recently cracked open a pair of USB to Ethernet converters to see what’s inside. One was an Apple branded device, the other a no-name from eBay. The former rings in at $30, with the latter just $4. This type of comparison is one of our favorites. It’s especially interesting with Apple products as they are known for solid hardware choices and the knock-offs are equally infamous for shoddy imitations.

From the outside both devices look about the same. The internal differences start right away with a whole-board metal shield on the Apple dongle and none on the off-brand. But the hardware inside is actually quite similar. There’s an RJ-45 jack on the left, followed by the Ethernet isolation chip next to it. From there we start to see differences. The off-brand had a blank chip where Apple’s ASIX AX88772ALF USB to Ethernet bridge controller is located. There is also a difference with the clock; Apple is using two crystals with the other using just one.

[via Reddit]

USB Apple ][ disk emulator

apple

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.

[Read more...]