Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Computer Museum: Apple IIe

A while ago I became obsessed with getting my Apple IIe back up and running in my Wall-O-Vintage computer collection. I thought I'd share the resources I used to do that. :)

Simply put is a data transfer utility for floppy disk back up. That means that you can transfer data between your modern computer and your Apple IIx (I use the term IIx to signify the range of Apple II's. II, IIe, IIc, etc) writing that data to 5.25" floppy disks. This is done by connecting your computer to the Apple IIx by one of 3 or 4 methods. 1: Serial, 2: Ethernet crossover cable, 3: audio (set at normal distortion-free levels). The 4th method is my favorite. Or 4: through a USB to serial adapter. The reason why I listed that separate is because essentially your adding a serial port to your computer through USB and the utility doesn't know any different. You will need the SuperSerialCard (SSC) adapter for Apple II's installed in slot 2 of the Apple IIx you're using if you decide to go the serial route. Or you will need an Ethernet adapter in your Apple IIx. Most people, if they have neither, opt for the audio route (very slow). However SSC's are very easy to find since there are quite a few companies still making them (as clones of the original spec), sometimes better than the original. Places to buy these things will be listed at the end of the post.

A USB to serial adapter
Usually these come in the DB9 variety and are primarily meant for old PDA's that use a serial connection. Most likely you will find you have to buy a DB9 to DB25 connector adapter unless you had the foresight in finding a USB to DB25 serial adapter. They're also great for old serial modems (Mac or PC. "Mac," since most "Macintosh" modems are really PC serial modems in disguise and all you have to do is adapt the DIN connector to a DB9 connector or toss aside the Mac cable and connect the adapter directly to the DB9 port on the modem). Really anything requiring a serial connection. Most of these adapters are by default, being very basic and standard types of hardware, supported by most operating systems (OSes) and in turn the Java app ADTPro will see them since the OS sees them. I'm using the adapter that came with the Collectorz application/barcode scanner set I have.

Ziotek Adapter Thin DB9 Female to DB25 Male ZT1310142
In case your adapter ends in a DB9 (9 pin) instead of a DB25 (25 pin) connection and it didn't come with an adapter here is a connector changer that will solve your connector woes. The connector on a SSC is a DB25. Item # 131 0142

You will also need at least 1 (ONE) Apple 5.25 Floppy Drive to even start using ADPro. I use 2 for games that require a second floppy disk. Just follow the directions on the ADTPro site and you'll be off to the races! And depending on what kind of floppy drives you have you will need floppy disks that are compatible. Usually this means not using the 1.4MB (MegaBytes) 5.25" floppies in the original Apple 5.25 Floppy Drives as they were sold before the 1.4MB floppies came out for x86 PCs. You will run into errors using ADTPro if you use the wrong floppy disks. That isn't to say that there aren't floppy drives that can use 1.4MB 5.25" floppies for the Apple II line of computers. There are, I know there are (I'm not crazy! I know there are! Get me out of this straightjacket! LOL just kidding), I just haven't been lucky in finding them. What you need are the old 720KB (KiloBytes) single-sided 5.25" floppy disks. I have many 1.4MB ones and I was lucky that I still had working 720KB ones. 1024KB = 1MB. So 720KB x 2 sides = 1.4MB approximately.

You will also need a source for old Apple II disk images. Don't ask me as that's a legal gray area that I won't venture into. I have my sources. I suggest Google-ing for them. Though most of those old Apple II apps are abandonware and have fallen into public domain. Some haven't though (especially the office apps), so my refusal to show you where to get them stands.

If you have any apps on old 5.25" floppies you'd like to back up onto your modern computer's hard drive ADTPro is great for doing that as well.

What ADTPro is NOT is a server for simply using floppy disk images on your modern computer's hard drive as a replacement for a physical Apple 5.25 Floppy Drive. Essentially using your modern computer as a virtual floppy drive for your Apple II by connecting your modern computer to the floppy drive port on an Apple II. It's a good idea and there are ways of doing this, but the link I had for that is lost to me. I had a link, but unfortunately I didn't save that link. Basically you'd use ADTPro in conjunction with this method (if the method didn't already do it) in order to make the floppy images for the image server to use. ADTPro IS a server, but it's mainly for writing data to and reading data from physical floppies, not simply to send data to the Apple II as a virtual floppy drive. ADTPro is often confused as a way to virtually use floppy disk images in place of physical floppies. It's just a back up utility. You still need physical (real) floppies and floppy drives.

Here is that hardware source I promised:

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