WOzFest /// Announcement

In Sydney on 29 April, 2016?

Love Apples, especially of the ][ variety?

Join me (and around 10-15 other retro-enthusiasts) at WOzFest /// – an Apple-lovers’ gathering at Wollstonecraft (on Sydney’s Lower North Shore).

Bring your soldering irons, bring your projects, bring your discards, but most of all bring your enthusiasm for…

…an exciting new Apple ][ hardware product to be announced – and demonstrated – on the night!

It’s not my product, but I’m overjoyed to be providing the venue (and audience [i.e. attendees]) for the announcement. I’m sure quite a few Apple ][ enthusiasts’ buttons will be pressed by it – it’s a real game changer! Beyond that, I can’t say anything about it.

It’s not strictly an Apple ][-only affair – there’s plenty of crossover into early Macs (and sometimes other computer brands) as well. We’ll have a few out-of-towners attending, and apple cider and pizza are the refreshments of choice.

“WOzFest ///? What of WOzFest 1 and ][?”, I hear you say.

WOzFest 1 was a hastily convened after party for OzKFest 2015 to take advantage of the fact Tony Diaz, who had flown over from the States, was in Sydney, along with his huge collection of Apple and Apple-related prototypes and gear. It provided a great impetus to tidy up the man cave and continue the OzKFest spirit.

WOzFest ][, held in July 2015, was a little more organised, and featured an Apple IIgs sound card “sound-off”. It also saw testing of a prototype of the Universal Drive Adaptor for the Floppy Emu. A surprise was the fact that Steve and Karina Howell from the Carte Blanche II project were in attendance.

I have a few projects I haven’t been able to get to because of the renovations – including testing my Uthernet II and testing my two Silentypes now I have the appropriate interface card, so I’ll try and get to that on the night. I’m aware of other attendees’ projects which will be worked on as well.

Drop me a line if you’d like to attend – it’s going to be a great night!

A new ]HOME

Welcome! I’ve decided to try self-hosting this blog – it may not see me posting more often, but I do want to make it more “my” place.

So, this is “The europlus Zone” – I’ll be consolidating things like the files for my Silentype Font under this domain (☑︎ done!), as well as the pictures I’ve placed on an old site I’d previously hung off my business’ domain (☑︎ done!).

I am hoping, now that our renovations are almost finished, to get back into retro goodness – consolidating and documenting my collection, testing my two Silentypes now I have an Apple ][ interface card for them, mucking around with the Uthernet II, writing a few more posts here and, should I be ready, finally entering the RetroChallenge.

Just a quick shout out to David Finnigan of the Mac GUI and A2HQ – without him starting the A2HQ hosting area, I wouldn’t have bothered starting this blog. I’m hardly changing the Apple ][ world, but it is a place for me to share what retro things I have done.

Apple ][europlus forever!

][ Years Later


I mean, real life really gets in the way, sometimes.

Moving, unpacking, re-organising, work, painting, nausea, planning renovations, dealing with strata stuff (as an owner and Executive Committee member), enjoying time with the family and just vegging out at times has seen the time just fly.

As I’m sure is not uncommon with personal blogs, my last post was certainly never meant to be “My Last Post”, but it so easily could have been. Even with nine post ideas/drafts in place before my hiatus, it’s taken this long to put fingers to keyboard.

This year, however, has seen my Apple ][ interests re-invigorated, and there’ll be posts (and pictures) about the whys and wherefores of that re-invigoration, hopefully shortly.

The best intentions often go astray, but I have a cunning plan to keep me on the top of my game, ahead of the pack, my head above water, two steps in front, and…umm…I suppose…umm…posting more often.

I could barely post less often, could I⁈

Hiatus? I hate it!

Well, it’s been 5+ months since I last put finger to keyboard and posted here. An unexpected hiatus brought on by bouts of the ’flu and the trials and tribulations of moving.

However, the blog is not forgotten, just temporarily on hold. Issues around the move now settle quicker than they arise, and something secured in our new place is a 41m² (440ft²) storage room, meaning I get to keep my Apple ][ collection at home (let alone at all) with a lot of space left over for workbenches and systems to be permanently set up – there’ll even be room for non-computer stuff!

So it’ll be a veritable retro-renaissance for me once we get through a few more move tasks and I start to get benches set up. That’ll also, hopefully, allow and drive a more regular posting schedule here.

Hope to see you here again soon!

Beyond ][s

In late 1983, a harbinger arrived to herald a new direction in the computers I would use in the years to come – while working part time during the summer holidays at our semi-local Apple dealer, Computer Lighthouse, I got to use a Lisa for the first time.

As were many others, I was blown away by the GUI, and fell in love instantly with it. Unfortunately, our family’s budget for computers couldn’t stretch to a Lisa, and I continued to plug away on our ][europlus at home.

However, I was primed and ready for the Mac as word of it spread – I avidly collected news stories about it and I anticipated the day I would get to use one regularly.

That opportunity, or at least the opportunity to use one semi-regularly, came in mid-late 1984, when my senior high school (John Paul II Senior High School, now part of St Andrews College) purchased a Mac for the Industrial Arts Department. I wasn’t doing any industrial arts subjects, but I was at the time heavily involved in the nascent school newspaper (The Papal Bull) – a bit of fast talking and we were able to convince the relevant teacher, Mark Samuels, to let us use the Mac during lunch breaks to lay out the newspaper.

What a joy it was – we used MacWrite, MacDraw and MacPaint, did some paste up, but, most of all, just swapped floppies (one drive only, initially). However, the results spoke for themselves and the end result was far and away better than the typewritten first couple of issues. I still have copies of all the issues I worked on (if you hadn’t guessed, I’m a bit of a hoarder).

As I headed towards the Higher School Certificate (Australia’s leaving certificate) exams in 1985, I had to scale back my use of the Mac and involvement in the newspaper at school, but just before my final exams I caught my Dad reading some Mac manuals and he confessed he’d bought a Mac, but I wasn’t allowed to use it until I’d finished my exams. It wasn’t even at the house, so it at least wasn’t something I had to actively resist. Unfortunately (in retrospect), the ][europlus moved to an in-law, who passed it on to a cousin and I then lost track of it – I really wish we’d held onto it.

Those summer holidays happened to be one where my parents visited my oldest sister in New Zealand (she lived there for a few years), so the Mac moved onto the desk in my room and I went crazy, delving into as much of its (software) workings as possible. I learnt about resources pretty early on and used ResEdit to craft new Trash icons, add menu shortcuts, correct interface elements’ names/descriptions to UK English spelling and just generally mucked around.

I especially enjoyed the design- and layout-type work – I bought disks of fonts, played with MacPaint and MacDraw and drew up the family tree (which when Dad saw it, prompted him into his great genealogical adventure, much to our occasional chagrin).

When I started Uni, I joined the Mac user group that met in the Uni grounds (Club Mac, still around today) and started buying disks of public domain and shareware software. After a year and a half of Uni, I realised it wasn’t for me, and, on reading an Australian Macworld article about desktop publishing bureaux in Australia, I decided to try and get a job at one.

I did my resumé on our Mac (of course), printed it on the Uni library LaserWriters, and sent it off, not really knowing what to expect. I landed an interview with the mid-level bureau from the Macworld article, Creative Computer Company, and they agreed to give me a two week trial. After one week, they offered me a full time job.

My desktop publishing career was up and running, and would see me through the next ten years, which will perhaps be the subject of another post.

I know some readers have never stopped using their Apple ][s, but I’m pretty sure all of them have also moved onto other computers. I’d be interested to hear about other users’ transitions to their first post-][ computer/s.

Silentype Font v2.0 Released!

I have great pleasure in announcing that v2.0 of my Silentype font is now officially released as a New Year gift to the Apple ][ community. I originally made this font so I could recreate my Year 10 Technology magnus opus.

I’ve generated versions for pretty well all major modern operating systems – and a few not so modern ones (Mac OS 9 [and prior], I’m looking at you!).

I’m releasing it under the SIL Open Font Licence (OFL), which I recommend you check out if, like me, you’re a not-for-profit font designer who would still like guidelines placed on how your creations are used. The OFL’s aim is:

…to enable a true open typographic community to spring up and grow. The OFL provides a legal framework and infrastructure for worldwide development, sharing and improvement of fonts and related software in a collaborative manner. It enables font authors to release their work under a common license that allows bundling, modification and redistribution. It encourages shared value, is not limited to any specific computing platform or environment, and can be used by other organisations or individuals.

It seemed a good fit for what I was hoping to achieve with my Silentype font. Oh, and if you’re wondering, “Silentype” is officially a “dead” trademark, so I didn’t have any qualms about using it as the actual name of my font.

The letterforms were all independently created by me in 2003 and 2004, with recent modifications to accommodate later OS X versions’ predilection to fill in the counters on the letters “o”and “O”, the number “8” and the ampersand (“&”). I recognise what it is about those characters’ counters that is common to them and not with other characters with counters, but I don’t know why that particular attribute caused the counters to fill in current versions of OS X when in 2003 and 2004 OS X as it was then was quite happy to display the characters correctly.

Oh, and I’ve added a (very) low-res Apple logo to the font at the appropriate location. I may extend the character set further during January, but don’t have any firm plans on that front at the moment.

I used Fontographer v5.2.1 for this version, as I’d used v3.5 to create the original font and I wanted as smooth a path from the original .fog file (rather than being recreated from the generated font files). The .fog file is available upon application.

The font is released as a free resource for the Apple ][ and Apple /// communities. I would appreciate a heads-up if it’s bundled with any applications.

Please also let me know in the comments if you use the font, or even just if you had a Silentype “back in the day”.

Speaking of Apple Writer…

Having recently posted about using Apple Writer v1.1 for my Yr 10 Technology assignment, I saw a post in comp.sys.apple2 pointing to an interview with the author of Apple Writer, Paul Lutus.

He’s led a varied career, and it was well worth a listen – he talks about his time at NASA, how Apple Writer came to be (and allowed him to retire a second time), his philosophy on life and just what free software is all about to him. His website is apparently worth a look, too, so I’ll be checking that out when I get some time.

First Class Work

As previously noted, my curricular time with Bob Bates came to an end in 1983, when he taught the half-term Technology syllabus to all six Yr 10 classes in turn. Our class, 10/1 Science, had Technology first, which I was certainly happy for (I continued to do elective computer classes throughout the year outside of normal timetable classes).

The culmination of the course-work was an assignment due in late March (the Australian school year starts in late January and finishes in December) reviewing a personal computer of our choice. By now, the Apple //e had been released, but I’m sure you won’t find it too hard to guess which computer I chose to review – the Apple ][europlus, of course.

I threw my heart and soul into that assignment like I had never done before (nor since). I used pictures from the October 1982 National Geographic, which had articles on computer technology and Silicon Valley.

I also used photos and information from the Fall 81/Winter 82 Apple In Depth publication (N.B. I appreciate that’s not the greatest scan of the cover, but I don’t currently have a flatbed scanner – watch this space) as well as product brochures and magazine ads.

One thing we’d been lacking on the europlus, though, was a word processor. If I was going to do an assignment on the Apple ][, I wanted to do it on the Apple ][. So I ducked out to Computer Lighthouse to select a word processor – I ended up with v1.1 of Apple Writer, which worked around the europlus’ lack of lower case letters by inverting letters that were to be printed in capitals, while non-inverted letters would print lower case. Coupled with the fact the Silentype didn’t descend its descenders, it all felt like a kludge, but it worked.

I roped in my sister, who’d done a secretarial college course, and my Dad, who was the source of my pedantry, to proof-read as I revised and printed drafts. Although I had the bulk of the material on hand early, I distinctly remember a mad rush on the weekend before the assignment was due, handing pages to my sister and Dad as they were printed for the next round of proofing. I duly handed in the assignment on time and awaited Bob Bates’ verdict along with the rest of the class.

As was my wont, I was sitting at the back of the class when the assignments were handed back – they were handed to the person at the front of each row to be passed back till they arrived at the person who’d written them. I seem to recall an odd smile on Bob Bates’ face as he handed mine to the guy at the front of my row (I could still recognise my handiwork from the back of the room), and, in typical teenage boy fashion, each boy on its way to its rightful owner would flip to the last page to check out the mark – as that happened for the five or six boys in front of me, they’d give me an odd look as they passed it to the next boy in the path to me.

When I got my hands on it and checked the last page, I discovered why I was getting all these odd looks. Written in red ink in large numbers and circled was my mark – 100%! And Bob had added a comment – “First class work! Congratulations.” To say this was one of the highlights of my time at school would be an understatement. I’d never felt such a sense of accomplishment. I’d gotten 100% for other things before and have since, but no “top mark” ever felt as “top” as that.

It had such an effect on me, I still have the assignment along with the course notes from that last half-term taught to me by Bob Bates. Wanting to recreate the assignment using modern computers was the reason I created my Silentype font all those years ago (watch this space on that front, too!). It probably also helped cement the old europlus in my heart, too – a review of that machine done on that machine that got me 100% from my favourite teacher – who wouldn’t love a machine like that?!

Did you have a stand-out school experience of the Apple ][? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.