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Macintosh, Mac Apps, iPhone, Steve Jobs, Apple

The Before Mac

by Adel on February 26th, 2006

If you want to split hairs, no, of course it isn’t a Mac. But before the Macintosh, there was the Apple II, the original Personal Computer. It was one of the precursors, and most likely the first Apple product people ever came across on a mainstream level. Certainly it was my first Apple product - an Apple II which didn’t even have a hard disk or a disk drive - I used a cassette tape recorder connected to an audio-in jack to upload and save programs (heh - more like games; I used to load up Centipede from an audio cassette, and it took about ten minutes to upload!).

I still have that Apple II somewhere in my Dad’s old house, and as far as I know it’s still working, along with a green phosphor Apple monitor and a pair of big, heavy, boxy 5.24″ floppy drives, although I’ll be damned if I can find them. I’d eventually graduate to an Apple II+ and an Apple //e, and then a Mac Classic and the later progeny. But I never forgot that first computer.

I loved the Apple II family. Still do, I find. I did everything I could on them - learn BASIC and CP/M, start my journal on WordStar, log onto bulletin boards, play Jordan Mechner’s Karateka and Lode Runner

I recently acquired an old, dirty, beat-up, not-quite-sure-it’s-working Apple IIe for next to nothing (thanks, Floyd Piedad!). Inside were the usual peripheral cards you’d expect inside an Apple II, all original, and I was delighted. It didn’t have anything else, just the Apple IIe itself, not even a power cord, but I was ecstatic all the same. I started my long-standing love affair with computers on one of these, and having a chance to tinker with one again is fantastic.

Disassembling it was second nature: I’ve taken it apart completely and cleaned it thoroughly, something I used to do more than two decades ago. I cleaned up the motherboard and the contacts (discovering inside the case, among other things, moldy pieces of crackers, two halves of a walnut shell and many empty cockroach eggs). I soaked and scrubbed the beige casing (and discovered to my dismay that the logo chipped a little, no doubt because of the age). Now it’s as immaculate and as clean as I can get it, and as soon as I have time I’m going to Dad’s house and dig up the monitor and the drives. I have the floppy disks with the OS and other programs stored away properly and they should work if the mold hasn’t completely taken over the disks.

I marveled at the simplicity, durability and hardiness of the thing, which is a testament to Apple and the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) even back then. Today’s complex (and delicate) PowerPC and Intel Macs are good, but the old, hardy Apples (you could hurl an Apple II down a flight of stairs and chances are it would still work!) are perfect examples of economy and clever design. Simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication. This is one restoration project I’m going to savor.

Here’s a before-and-after album of what took me the better part of the morning:


POSTED IN: Adel's Posts

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