Tag Archives: Apple II

What Is The Name Of Apple’s Second Computer

Not a trivial question: How do you spell the name of Apple’s second computer? The question seems trivial, and is simple enough to dive into; but, the answers reveal one challenge that museums, archives, libraries, and collections must face. Knowing one name is not enough – and that not even the company that generated the history gets the history right.

Archivists need to track artifacts. That sounds simple enough. Build a database. Fill in a description of every item. Pat yourself on your back. Then search the database for histories, connections, and relationships. If it was only that simple.

People are not automatons. They don’t know if or how an idea is going to progress. Why worry about consequences decades in the future when you’re scrambling to survive today?

HCLE is fortunate to have number 10 of Apple’s second computer. Great. Lets add it into the recently constructed database. Typos matter. Spell it right. Is it Apple 2, Apple II, Apple ii, Apple //, or Apple ][? Check a bit of history and find that the hardware may have one thing stamped on it. Apple ][. What’s a ][? A ][ is a clever bit of marketing, and a bit of fun, too. A ][ is not, however, something that works well with computers. Isn’t that ironic?

photo: bilby/wikicommons

Versions of the machine also used Apple II, Apple ii, and Apple //, if not on the plate, then at least in the literature. Journalists who didn’t check their details created other variants. How about Apple-2? We humans can translate the differences, but we must train our computers to do the same thing. For the archivist, it means knowing which variations to include in the databases so searches, searchers, and artifacts don’t get lost. Knowing all the names is necessary.

Original Apple computers are valuable. HCLE is fortunate enough to have a couple of the earliest, so getting this right is worth our time.

Protecting such valuable artifacts also means keeping them safe and secure, which gets in the way of checking such details. We resorted to the literature. That’s simple enough. Just do a search. And welcome back to the original problem.

Congratulations to Apple. The company is nice enough to have user manuals online that stretch back almost far enough. 36 pages into the support.apple.com/manuals site is a 74 page seemingly typewritten document for the Apple IIe, not the Apple II, but close.

Introduce a major distraction for historians and technical writers. Dive into that file. There are no graphics. Everything is laid out for standard paper. A few key terms are explained in the first few paragraphs. Hardware and software were new terms. Pages 49-62 are Glossary because owners and users had to learn a new vocabulary, some of which is archaic a few decades later, some of which is part of our normal language now. In the middle is a style of user manual writing that is uncommon today. Troubleshooting was broken up by topic, with each topic explained in a few concise but colloquial sentences that described the problem, the solution – and more importantly, used the error to teach the user more about the computer.

A major positive distraction for us at HCLE is the substantial amount of material in the document devoted to education. The computer was designed for the classroom, rather than today’s standard which is to design the classroom around the computer.

Educational Software

Programs that teach are called educational software, or courseware.

Computers are good teachers because they give you a chance to learn at your own speed in an interactive, entertaining way. To give you an idea of how entertaining a computer program can be, there’s a program that teaches touch typing in the guise of a shoot ’em up game. Letters and words are fired at your spaceship from the four corners of the screen, and you have to type the correct letter or word before the letters crash into your vehicle.

Educational software isn’t just for kids. There are programs that help you prepare for college entrance exams and that tutor you in foreign languages for your next trip abroad.

There are sections about PILOT, Programmed Inquiry, Learning, or Teaching that helped you design your own CAI, Computer Aided-Instruction; and Logo, a programming language designed to teach programming through computer graphics. There are also sections about how users can learn more either independently by going to a bookstore and thumbing through directors, or by finding local user groups.

Distractions aside, the gap remained. What was the official name of the pre-Apple IIe?

Did the original Apple even have a number? Just like World War I wasn’t called that until World War II, maybe that first computer had a different name. A quick search through a few of the publications that have been digitized brought up an ad for the original Apple. Sure enough, the first Apple was called Apple, at least in the ad. Why hint at the second machine when you’re not sure if the first is going to sell? There was also another image found in the search. It is a photo of HCLE’s original Apple. There, on the circuit board is the full name, Apple Computer 1, not Apple 1, or Apple-1, or Apple I, or Apple i, but Apple Computer 1. The problem just got bigger.

Apple 1

Very little of this matters to non-collectors, and most collectors are comfortable with imperfections because language is imperfect. The computer, however, must be taught tolerance.

Our best answer will come from a trip to the vault which, considering the value of the artifacts, is off-site and unfortunately inconvenient for now. In the meantime we have a bit of an expansion to make to our catalog.

Regardless of our museum’s issues, dive into the Apple IIe manual and learn things like:

  • 64k is enough memory for most homes and businesses
  • The only people who need surge protectors are those who are extremely cautious.
  • Losing data is extremely rare.
  • A short history of how Apple got its name. A deadline was involved.
  • and that
  • “Unless you’re a collector, the Apple I isn’t much of a bargain; the computer sells for between $10,000 and $15,000.”

So, even Apple didn’t know how to spell Apple 1. Yep.

Oh yes, and

Should I worry if I find myself talking to my Apple IIe?

No. Lots of people talk to their computers, especially when they’re just learning to use them.

What’s nice about the current crop of computers is that they can’t understand what you’re

saying. In a decade or so, you may have to watch your language.

Yep.

Early Apples, I And II, At LOOP Center

(An observation by HCLE’s founder, Liza Loop)

Stories about individual action are easily lost to history.

Not only did Steve Wozniak give the first Apple 1 to LO*OP Center, Inc. (now the host organization for HCLE), as noted in this article, he also gave the 10th Apple II.

Woz and Wayne

The $300 Steve Jobs made Woz pay for it was a big deal at the time, which made it a super generous gift. I hope we repaid him by taking the Apples to schools and teachers’ meetings beginning in 1976!

HCLE is working to gather stories like this from those of us who were present when this history was being made. If we leave the task to memory and anecdotes the facts are likely to get garbled leaving posterity with inaccurate cultural memory. Historians try hard to get it right but they need our active cooperation to get the story right.

HCLE At Living Computer Museum October 2013

Emails, phone calls, hangouts, tweets and retweets are all ways we communicate but sometimes the best thing to do is walk in the front door and say hello. That’s what I did at the Living Computer Museum on Friday (October 11, 2013). Living Computer Museum The visit was definitely worth the price of admission. The insights were thanks to conversations with the staff. The flashbacks were a bonus.

The Living Computer Museum exists thanks to Paul Allen’s philanthropy, which was greatly aided by his success developing software for that hardware. But it isn’t just an homage to Paul’s history and legacy. As is true with one of Paul’s other museums, if the equipment is there, it must be fully functional. For the Flying Heritage Museum it means the airplanes must fly. For the Living Computer Museum it means the hardware must be able to run, and the only way to prove that is to have the appropriate software. Historical and historic compatibility must be maintained.

PCs can best be understood in relation to mainframes, so the Living Computer Museum has an impressive amount of floor space dedicated to DEC, Data General, and IBMs. Living Computer MuseumThey even have an operator’s console from an IBM 360, the room-sized mainframe that I never saw but used as an undergrad. I was particularly drawn to a PDP 11/70 that was being resurrected, the type of machine that I used for years as an engineer. It was considerably smaller, about the size of a few refrigerators instead of the size of a house. An emulator box doing the same job is about the size of a small phone book, with lots of room to spare. If you are a geezer geek, drop by. They need to maintain, repair, and in some cases replace fragile components that never were meant to be used for decades. (If you have any spare RP-06 or RP-07 read heads they’ll be happy to hear from you.) Living Computer Museum

Despite my flashback moments, I was there because the Living Computer Museum has to deal with many of the same issues as HCLE. How do we sort, store, and catalog documents and software that were treated as disposable in their time? One task in particular caught our eye. We’ve been compiling lists of games, not for the games’ sake, but because games were educational tools, whether that was their intent or not. A few days ago, LCM tweeted a photo of one of their staff members steadily sorting through hundreds of games. If LCM is putting together a list of games, and HCLE is doing the same, we may find that there’s a lot of overlap. We’re not the only ones. PlayingHistory.org has not only compiled a list of games, but they also have them operating online in proper emulation environments. Want to play Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe? They can probably do that. We’re in contact with universities who have similar collections. Undoubtedly some portion of the government should have some games as well.

I was lucky enough to get an hour of the Chief Archivist’s time as she walked me through their cataloging process, database architecture, and how they network with similar institutions. I don’t have any pictures from that conversation because we were in the back room. The exhibit hall is much more colorful, and I’d rather show you that side. It is apparent that keeping track of thousands of artifacts is much more than a spreadsheet can handle. (Care to search their archives? They are online.) Proper cataloging can take years. Storing software may involve disks from back when they truly were floppies. There are also the instruction manuals, and even the boxes – especially, if the boxes provided information that wasn’t in the manuals. Manuals are rarely comprehensive. Every piece may be necessary, and must be tracked.

Living Computer Museum

After I monopolized enough of her time, I joined the visitors touring the museum. I opted for my self-guided tour because so many of the machines were familiar to me. (They even had a Newton MessagePad. I guess they don’t need mine.) What impressed me most regarding HCLE’s mission was LCM’s display of personal computers, including the Altair and early PCs. One PC was so early that its display was vertical, like a sheet of paper. Why did we ever switch to horizontal from vertical? I forgot to ask. Most of the PCs were running either graphics or games, and obviously were intended to be used. I had more fun watching people play. Living Computer Museum And realizing that they were learning, sometimes through trial and error, sometimes by asking someone for help. That has been the nature of our association with computers.

HCLE has a focus, preserving those lessons learned about how to teach and learn in that dramatically changing environment. As computers entered the classroom, teaching and learning shifted from person-to-person to somehow including a digital presence. Museums like Living Computer Museum are doing incredible work preserving fragile hardware. Some go as far as LCM in preserving software. We intend to preserve the lessons too.

This is the time for protecting such material. Little, if any of it, was produced on archival media. The tricks and traps of getting software and hardware to operate were frequently in human memory. Recording those stories and tying them to the appropriate devices and applications is a time-critical task. Those memories are passing with the people who hold them.

I am glad to have met the people at Living Computer Museum, and to have witnessed their impressive work – and to emphasize why HCLE exists and why we have a lot of work to do.