Floppy Emu I

(This post should have been put up in August of 2015)

I ran across an amazing piece of hardware on the internet.  It is called the Floppy Emu and is designed to connect to the floppy disk drive port of vintage Macintosh computers.  The Floppy Emu lets you store diskette images on a modern SD card and access them on your vintage Macintosh.

I won’t do a full review of this piece of hardware as I don’t think I could do it justice.  The ability to easily move disk images from the internet or my PC to my vintage Macintosh computers is the reason I bought one.

I ordered the Floppy Emu with the case, extension cable and sd card for a little over $130 on a Friday this past June.  It was shipped from southern California to Maine over the weekend and I had it on Monday afternoon.  It was simply, but well packed and fit in my small mailbox (like a small PO Box).

I opened it on the kitchen table and checked the contents of the package and found everything there.  The transparent case is laser etched and cut, and requires some assembly.  My daughter and I put it together in about half an hour, most of which was pealing the protective paper off the case parts.  If you wear glasses you’ll want them handy as things are small.  Altogether it presents a pretty little piece of hardware, with it’s clear case and several blinking lights and LCD screen.

Once it was put together, I plugged into my Macintosh SE and turned the SE on.  The Floppy Emu is powered by the Macintosh disk port and it lights up right away when I turned on the SE.  When the Macintosh is ready for a disk, you can see a list of images on the LCD of the Floppy Emu.  Using two buttons you can scroll up and down the list and a third button lets you choose an image.  When you choose an image, it is like putting a disk into the drive.

Last Update: 27-Aug-15


Terminal Emulation, Apple //c & Mac SE

In August, I decided to use my Apple //c and my Macintosh SE as terminals on my emulated PDP 11(Puff).  I wanted them to work as video terminals.

In the past, when accessing Puff, I would use a telnet program on one of my pc’s.  I went with a pretty vanilla kind of setup.  I configured all terminals as LA36, and all the telnet programs I used worked.

When setting up this latest generation of Puff, I configured it so it would use com1: and com2: as vt100 terminals.

Com1: is set up at 1200,8n1 and that is where my //c is connected using a null modem cable.  Com2:, meanwhile is setup at 9600, 8n1 and is connected with a null modem cable to my Macintosh SE.  Instead of using telnet software I use a communications program on both machines to connect to Puff.

This is very much like using a dialup connection, so the first program I tried on the //c was ZLink.  I got it to work by matching the 1200, 8n1 parameters.  Using the Open Apple T command to change emulation to VT100.  The only program I knew of that worked differently on a display terminal was VT50PY, so I ran that.  It worked as I remembered, displaying a running a systat.

For software on the Mac side, I ran Mac Terminal, again VT50PY runs well on it.

At the high school we had two VT52 terminals and later received two more display terminals that were, I believe, VT100 compatible.  I don’t remember much about them, except they were amber screened and made with a crisp metal edged case.

Inspired, partly by David Moisan’s 2012 Retrochallange project Hac-Man, I was thinking I would recreate an old game or two.  I wanted to work on a game that used the VT100 ‘s cursor control abilities.  In high school I worked on a game I called GALAXY which was loosely based on the star trek games of that time.  It was written to be played on a display terminal only, as it required the ability to use cursor control to keep a grid on the screen and update it during play.

I did some research and found several sites with VT100 codes, but was missing the key to how to use them.  Johnny Billquist and Dennis Boone from comp.os.rsts came back with the key answer to cursor control.  Printing an escape character with the high bit set chr$(27+128) followed by the open square bracket, the row, a semicolon, the column (fixed column from colon, 18-sep-16) and the letter H positions the cursor.

PRINT CHR$(155);”[“;NUM1$(ROW%);”;”;NUM1$(COL%);”H”;

The semicolon at the end is important as it keeps the cursor there.

I wrote a simple program to position the cursor at each corner of the screen and print something.  It didn’t work on either the //c or the Mac.

David Moisan said said in his blog (https://davidcmoisan.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/hac-man-retrochallenge/) he used tera term, an open source windows program, in VT100 emulation and it worked.  I ran my copy and used telnet to connect to Puff.  When I ran my test program, it worked as I wanted it to.

That being the case, maybe the programs I was running on the //c and Mac weren’t as VT100 compatible as needed.  I tried ZLink on the Mac SE and when I connected, ran my test program and it worked.  On the Apple //c, I found ProTerm worked with my test program.  VT50PY would not run properly under either ProTerm on the //c or ZLink on the Mac, which made sense since it was written for the VT50 series of terminals.

UPDATE:  After testing both ProTerm and ZLink on the Apple //c, I found neither handles the graphics characters well.  Zlink just displays regular characters and ProTerm does not do corners or intersections with line drawing. (02-SEP-16)


Macintosh Network

My Macintosh Plus had the original 1MB of RAM when I got it.

I worked for a printer/publisher back in the eighties.  I did some word processing and database work, as well as some desktop publishing on a similar Macintosh.  Back then, the original prices for this equipment was very high.  A Macintosh Plus with just the internal 800K diskette drive, would have gone for around $2600 dollars, which would be just around $5500 in today’s money.

You could get and use an ImageWriter or ImageWriter II dot matrix printer for use on the Macintosh, but the print quality would not be the best.  When the LaserWriter printer came out, you could get what was then astounding quality, at 300 DPI.  The big problem with that was the very high list price of just under $7000 in 1985, adjusted to 2015, roughly around $15,500.  Apple had addressed this by building networking abilities into the Macintosh, so several people could share this expensive hardware.

When I got my Macintosh SE, it had an internal hard drive, which I wanted to be able to share with my Macintosh Plus.  I only had an ImageWriter II printer which I use with my Apple II’s, but I wanted to share it with my Macintosh computers.  That meant I had to look into networking the Macintosh computers.

For months, I looked on the internet for details on networking the Macintosh computers.  I was able to find very little.

I did find some notes that said in order to share files or hard drives, you needed System 7 or higher.  System 7 wants more than 1MB RAM, which is why I wanted to upgrade to 4MB.

I still didn’t have all the information or hardware to network my Macintosh computers, but did have enough information to look into upgrading the memory in one or both as noted in earlier posts.

Last Update: 30-Aug-15


Mac Memory Upgrade Attempt

During the course of the last year I attempted to upgrade the memory in my Macs.  I have no electronics background or training, so I was learning as I went.

Starting off with a little research.  The upgrade can be similar for both models; open the case, switch the simms and cut a resistor.  Later models of the SE had a jumper you could change instead of cutting the resistor.  All the notes I ran across, said to cut only one leg of the resistor and move it to make a gap.  That way, if you want to return it to a 1MB system all you have to do is resolder the leg and put the old simms back.

I bought four 1MB simms on ebay and a long torx bit.

My Mac SE has a Prodigy SE upgrade by SuperMac.  The upgrade has a 68020 and 2MB of ram.  I opened up the SE and looked at the Prodigy board and the memory was soldered to the board as far as I could tell.  I closed it up and moved on to the Mac Plus.

I switched the memory, cut the resistor and put it all back together.  When I started it up, all seemed fine for a few minutes, then I got a Sad Mac error 0F0003.  Looking on the internet I found this code broken down  into 0F Exception (or software error), 0003 Illegal Instruction, which didn’t make any sense to me.  The Mac Plus worked fine before changing the memory, but the software kept crashing afterword.

The memory upgrade was a failure. I started looking for a replacement Mac Plus and found a working one that did not have a keyboard or mouse.  This worked out for me with a non working Mac, that I could borrow the keyboard and mouse from.

Last Update: 27-Aug-15



We Begin Again…

We begin again, or I do anyway.  I started this blog once before and lost it after a number of posts.  With no backup, it was just gone.

Here, I will write about my experiences with vintage computers.  Specifically, I have five vintage Apple Computers; a //e, a //c, two Mac Pluses and a Mac SE.  I’ve worked and used others, and will write about them as time goes by.

My first Apple computer was an Apple //c.  Following that, I was given an Apple //e and bought a Mac Plus and a Mac SE.

Last Update: 26-Aug-15