51 Shades of Geek

Apple II

Enhanced Apple IIeThis, they said, was the computer that would conquer the world.

But it didn’t, did it? If it had, you might be viewing this page on a mega-advanced variant of the mighty Apple II series of computers.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer in the 1970s with the creation of the Apple I, a Heathkit-style, build-it-yourself computer kit. The sales were so promising on the Apple I that the two, with the help from some marketing geniuses of the day, stepped up to a mass-produced, ready-to-use unit called the Apple II. Armed with a cassette data storage device, a couple of small game paddles, and an RF modulator to hook it up to users’ TV sets, the Apple II took off. The beauty of the Apple II’s architecture was its expandibility. When the Apple II+ arrived, there was a disk drive, a dedicated monitor, 48k of RAM (impressive for a home computer around 1980), and third party software publishers were making it a viable platform. Not long after, the Apple IIe hit the market, with 64k of RAM and even more software. The Apple IIc – a heavy all-in-one unit with a built-in floppy drive, 128k of RAM, and a suitcase-style handle – was touted as a portable computer for business, and in 1984, the Apple IIGS appeared, completely changing the structure and offering unbelievable graphics and sound for a home computer at that time. Sadly, around 1984, two other machines yanked the carpet out from under the feet of the Apple II series – IBM’s increasingly prolific PCs, and Apple’s own Macintosh.

The Apple II computers may seem out-of-place in a retrospective about video games, but I feel compelled to make that exception. The Apple II was my first computer (well, actually, the Franklin ACE 1000, a clone machine that landed Franklin Computers on the losing end of an Apple copyright infringement lawsuit, was my first computer). It not only allowed me to play the games I already loved, such as Zaxxon and Robotron: 2084, but it introduced me to more sophisticated games that my beloved old Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2 consoles would never have been able to handle. Strategic games, simulations, and more. And I could also now program my own games on the Apple II, and I did so quite frequently – or at least I tried to!It was a cool machine.

When I got that 300 baud modem in 1983, I remember thinking how cool it would be to program a game that two people could play, “live.” And I tried to program it myself, but no other kids at school had an Apple II, so I gave up on it for the time being, instead getting into the world of online Bulletin Board Systems…in other words, the Apple II is responsible for this site’s existence. The original LogBook episode guides were written in an Apple II text editor.

This section of Phosphor Dot Fossils will take you back to an earlier age when game play was still the key element…but real computer power, all 128 whopping kilobytes of it, meant that the game play could be much more interesting than ever before.

Apple II

Apple II

Did you know that the author of Phosphor Dot Fossils once wrote his own (unreleased) game for the Apple II? Find out more about Intergalactic Trade: Mark II here.

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