Walking Through A Scene From Riven On The Apple II

Twenty years before the 1997 release of Riven – Cyan’s sequel to the critically acclaimed title Myst – a fruity company in California released the Apple II, a 6502-based microcomputer that would be produced until 1993. With the upcoming remake by Cyan of Riven into a fully 3D experience, [deater] found themselves wondering how much of the original game’s click-and-puzzle game would fit on a 140 kB floppy for the Apple II series of computers. Since Myst was able to be squeezed  onto a mere three floppies and provide a reasonably playable version of the game on the Apple II, surely the same could be done for this sequel?

The Maglev in the Apple II port of Riven. (Credit: [deater])
The Maglev in the Apple II port of Riven. (Credit: [deater])
Just a look at the system requirements for Riven (Win95+, 100 MHz Pentium, 16 MB RAM and 75 MB disk space) and the knowledge that the game came on five CD-ROMs (until the DVD release) should instill some trepidation that a serious demake would be needed. Ultimately [deater] managed to set the system requirements for the port to any Apple II with at least 48 kB of RAM. The same custom game engine as for the Myst port is used, with the original CG stills downsampled and the movies rotoscoped at fairly low framerate.

Although the ‘Disk 39’ in the video is currently the sole floppy, containing part of Dome Island and the Maglev, it is probably a fair assessment of how many 140 kB disks would be needed to port the entire game. Even with the downsampled graphics, [deater] reckons it would take on the order of hundreds of floppies to fit the whole thing.

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Wozamp Turns Apple II Into Music Player

Besides obvious technological advancements, early computers built by Apple differed in a major way from their modern analogs. Rather than relying on planned obsolescence as a business model, computers like the Apple II were designed to be upgradable and long-term devices users would own for a substantially longer time than an iPhone or Macbook. With the right hardware they can even be used in the modern era as this project demonstrates by turning one into a music player.

The requirements for this build are fairly short; an Apple II with a serial card and a piece of software called surl-server which is a proxy that allows older computers to communicate over modern networks. In this case it handles transcoding and resampling with the help of a Raspberry Pi 3. With that all set up, the media player can play audio files in an FTP network share or an online web radio station. It can also display album art on the Apple II monitor and includes a VU meter that is active during playback.

Although the 11.52 kHz sampling rate and 5-bit DAC may not meet the stringent requirements of audiophile critics, it’s an impressive build for a machine of this era. In fact, the Apple II has a vibrant community still active in the retrocomputing world, with plenty of projects built for it including others related to its unique audio capabilities. And if you don’t have an original Apple II you can always get by with an FPGA instead.

A bald white man stands behind a table with an Apple II, a large green PCB, and a modular purple and black development board system. Atop the Apple II is what appears to be a smaller Apple II complete with beige case and brown fake keyboard.

Mini Apple IIe Now Fully Functional

Here at Hackaday, we love living in a future with miniaturized versions of our favorite retrocomputers. [James Lewis] has given us another with his fully functional Apple IIe from the Mega II chip.

When we last checked in on the Mega IIe, it was only just booting and had a ways to go before being a fully functional Apple II. We really love the modular dev board he designed to do the extensive debugging required to make this whole thing work. Each of the boards is connected with jumper pins, which [Lewis] admits would have been better as edge connectors since he should’ve known he’d be unplugging and replugging them more than he’d like.

A set of PCBs sits on a table. There is a logic analyzer plugged into one end that looks like a grey square. Three boards stick up at right angles from the main plane which consists of a purple square PCB with the IIe ROM and MEGA chips and a black rectangular PCB with four sets of headers for PCB modules to slot into.

This modular prototyping system paid dividends late in the project when a “MEGA bug” threatened the stability of the entire system. Since it was confined to the keyboard PCB, [Lewis] was able to correct the error and, swapping for the third revision of the board, everything that had been crashing the system now ran.

There were still some issues going to the final unified PCB that nearly made him give up on the project, but perseverance paid off in the end. Combining vintage chips and multiple RP2040s isn’t for the feint of heart.

Now that you have a more conveniently-sized Apple II, why not teach it some new tricks like digital photography or ChatGPT?

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An Easy Z80 And VGA Upgrade For The Apple II

The Apple II was at the forefront of the home computer revolution when it came out in 1977. In its era, nobody really cared about hooking up the Apple II to a VGA monitor, but these days, it’s far easier than sourcing an original monitor. The V2 Analog is a useful tool that will let you do just that, plus some other neat tricks, besides.

As demonstrated on Youtube by [Adrian’s Digital Basement], The V2 Analog is basically a slot-in video card for the Apple II, II+, and IIe. It’s based upon the AppleII-VGA, which uses a Raspberry Pi Pico to snoop the 6502 CPU bus and copy the video memory. It then outputs a high-quality VGA signal that is far nicer than the usual composite output options.

As a bonus, the V2 Analog can be reconfigured to run as an emulated AppliCard Z80 expansion card instead. This card was originally intended to allow Apple II users to run CP/M applications. The V2 Analog does a great job in this role, though it bears noting it can’t handle VGA output and Z80 emulation at the same time.

Project files are available on Github for the curious. The Apple II may be long out of production, but it’s certainly not forgotten. Video after the break.

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APPLE2IDIOT Expansion Card Lets Your Apple II (Sort Of) Access The Internet

[Nathanial Hendler]’s Apple2Idiot expansion card for the Apple II family of computers is a nifty mix of modern and vintage, and provides a clever means of allowing the host computer to (indirectly) access the internet over WiFi while keeping things simple from the host computer’s perspective.

The PCB has plenty of space on which to silkscreen reference data. Click to enlarge.

It does this by embedding an ESP32 module and a dual-port RAM chip onto an expansion card. The Apple2Idiot, when installed into a host machine, presents as a memory location which the host machine can access. The ESP32 then takes care of all the WiFi communications and tasks requiring internet access, and the host computer directs these tasks (and reads their output) via PEEK and POKE commands.

This means that there are two pieces of software for any given task: one running on the ESP32 doing the actual work, and one running on the Apple II that communicates with the ESP32 on the card by reading and writing to memory. It’s a simple system, and one that [Nathanial] thinks works quite well for specific tasks.

Example programs include things like scanning and selecting a WiFi network, fetching weather data, and sending a message to Slack. Making new applications does mean having to write software on two ends, but the simplicity of the system also means flexibility, because anything the ESP32 does can have its complexity abstracted away by the time its data is presented to the host machine. Not that the Apple II is incapable of dealing with the modern internet more directly; we’ve seen a basic Apple II web server written in BASIC.

A computer program written in basic next to a modular synthesizer with many switches and lights

Modular Synth Pairs Perfectly With The Apple II

We have a soft spot for synthesizers – seriously, who doesn’t? So when [Joshua Coleman] combined his retro-looking DIY modular synth with the equally retro Apple II computer, we just had to share it with you.

The two machines are paired using a vintage digital-to-analog logic controller pack. This DAC was originally used to control model trains using your Apple II – something that we now desperately need to see in action. The pack can output voltages between 0 and 2.55 V at 8-bit resolution (or 256 steps), which is plenty for a retro synth.

With the card installed in Slot 7 of the Apple II and the DAC wired through to the synth’s CV/gate, it’s then a trivial matter of writing POKE statements in Applesoft BASIC to control the synth. The video after the break demonstrates playing a simple melody, as well as how one might use the Apple II keyboard to ‘play’ the synth in real time.

If you’re interested in building your own, the video below has all the information needed, as well as helpful advice on where to find a DAC for your preferred model of vintage computer. If all that doesn’t tickle your musical fancy, make sure to check out our coverage on the Game Boy MIDI synth, or perhaps this peculiar synth and visualizer combo.

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WS2812s On A 6502

We can still remember when the WS2812 LED first came into our consciousness, way back in the mists of time. The timing diagrams in the datasheet-of-questionable-veracity made it sound quite tricky, with tight timing tolerances and essentially a high-speed two-bit PWM data protocol at 500 kHz. It was a challenge to bit-bang with an ATtiny85 back then, but there’s no way something as old and crusty as an Apple II would be up to snuff, right?

[Anders Nielsen] took up the challenge of getting the venerable 6502 processor to drive Neopixels and won! After all, if the chip is good enough for Bender and the Terminator T-800, it should be able to blink some colored LEDs, right? The secret sauce is shift registers!

Specifically, [Anders] abuses the 74LS165 parallel-in, serial-out shift register for his dirty work. Instead of bit-banging the WS2812’s “long high is a 1, short high is a 0” signal directly, the first few bits of the shift register are hard-wired to VCC and the last few to GND.

The bits in the middle determine if the pulse shifted out is long or short, and they’re set by the 6502, through a 6522 VIA chip, just like the Apple II would have. Clocking the data out of the shift register handles the timing-critical stuff. Very clever!

Video below the break.

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