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Tag Archives: Apple IIe

In my last article I wrote about the iconic IBM 5150. This time we are going to look at another machine of the eighties that is just as, if not more iconic, the Apple IIe. The Apple IIe or Apple II “Enhanced” is the third model of the Apple II line and was released early in 1983. It was the longest produced Apple II and with little doubt the most iconic of the line.

Like many computers of the early 80’s and unlike the IBM 5150, the Apple IIe used specialized chips and was only able to use its own software specifically for the Apple II line. The Apple II was a bit more expandable then some other micro computers such as the Commodore 64 and Tandy CoCo as it does have a number of expansion slots available which we will take a look at once we open the Apple II up.

Keep in mind there were a few revisions of the Apple IIe. Mine appears to be the 1985 “Enhanced IIe” which involved several changes and upgraded chips which we will also talk about a bit later.

All versions of the Apple IIe were the popular at the time “keyboard computers” as in the computer was compact and featured a built in keyboard similar to a Commodore 64 or Tandy CoCo. The image above also features two DISK II 51/4 floppy drives which the Apple IIe was commonly found with. These drives accept 140kb Apple formatted disks.

Lets take a quick look at the monitor I’m using before taking a look at the rear of the apple II and then opening it up.

I am using the 13 inch Apple ColorMonitor IIe which is a composite color monitor that was widely used with the Apple IIe line. Mine is not in the best shape with a chipped power button and a missing front bezel but it works and the image is a good quality, generally higher then a similar consumer TV of the same size and time. There are several adjustment knobs as well as a “white button” which turns the Color IIe into a monochrome monitor.

The connector is a RCA style composite connector located on the rear of the monitor.

Unlike many of the home micro computers of the early 1980’s the Apple IIe line allowed for relatively easy expansion via expansion cards much like an IBM compatible PC. The Apple IIe does have a few built in ports located in the lower left hand corner.

Starting on the left we have a single RCA style composite jack for connecting to a composite color or monochrome monitor like the Apple ColorMonitor IIe or any standard TV with a composite input should work although Wikipedia states the output is “unreliable” and may have varied results when connected to anything besides a monitor.

video modes according to Wikipedia for the Enhanced IIe are as follows

  • 40 and 80 columns text, white-on-black, with 24 lines
  • Low-Resolution: 40×48 (16 colors)
  • High-Resolution: 280×192 (6 colors)
  • Double-Low-Resolution: 80×48 (16 colors)
  • Double-High-Resolution: 560×192 (16 colors

Next to the composite out jack there are dual 1/8 input and output jacks for connecting a tape deck. Lastly is a db-9 joystick port. This port is for Apple compatible paddles and joysticks.

This port is physically compatible with Atari and Genesis joysticks and gamepads but is not electronically compatible and can cause damage if connected.

Above these built in ports taking up expansion port cutouts 1 and 2 are the cables connecting to the dual Disk II floppy drives. Unlike most cards which would have a port on the rear of the card and be exposed on the rear of the computer through the expansion slot the apple II disk II controller card has dual internal pin connectors for the floppy ribbon cables. This means the cables connect to the card and then must be snaked out of the rear of the Apple IIe and to the drives.

Below is a Apple IIe disk II controller card

Down farther from the floppy drive cables at expansion port 6 is my Hayes modem card. I’ve never actually used this card but It came with my Apple IIe

The Apple IIe is relatively easy to open up and the cover can be removed by unclipping the two plastic tabs at the rear and then lifting up.

As I stated earlier my Apple IIe is the Enhanced IIe meaning that 4 chips have been replaced or “upgraded” including the CPU and a three ROM chips in order to make the Apple IIe more compatible with the Apple IIc. These changes did fix a few bugs and increase compatibility with newer software but also introduced some slight incompatibility issues with a few older software titles.

1) CPU – The Enhanced IIe uses the 65C02 processor running at 1.023MHz on an 8-bit bus. This CPU is an enhanced version of the 6502 CPU found in earlier Apple IIe computers and offers bug fixes, lower power draw and some performance improvements.

My Apple has the 65SC02 CPU which is a variant lacking bit instructions.

2) RAM – The Enhanced IIe like the Apple IIe before it comes with 64kb RAM built into the motherboard. This was fairly easy to increase up to 1MB by use of RAM expansion cards.

One common card used for expanding RAM on the Apple IIe was the 80col/64k card. This card when installed in the auxiliary slot on the motherboard added 64k of additional RAM bringing the total system memory up to 128k and allowing 80 column mode to be used.

My Enhanced IIe came with a RAM Works card from Applied Engineering. This card when installed in the auxiliary slot operated exactly like the 80col/64k card except it could upgrade your system memory all the way up to a full 1MB of RAM.

As far as games go I’m not sure any games required or took advantage of more then 128k of memory although several utility/productivity programs either required or ran better with more RAM on the Apple IIe.

3) Expansion slots – The Apple IIe used seven 50-pin Apple IIe Bus slots for expansion. This worked very much the same way as it does on any IBM compatible as you can buy various compatible expansion cards and simply install them in the slots. These cards ranged from the disk drive controller to modems, sound cards and even hard drive controller cards.

4) Auxiliary slot – The Auxiliary card slot is a 60-pin slot designed specifically for certain Apple IIe compatible cards. Primarily these were memory expansion cards but RGB video adaptor cards also used this slot.

5) Various connectors can be found on the right side of the IIe motherboard. The connector labeled “keyboard” is obviously for the built in keyboard cable. The “numeric key pad” connector is for adding an external numeric keypad which you would need to snake the connector cable out one of the various openings on the rear of the computer. Finally the game I/O is simply another internal game joystick/paddle port.

Sound – Sound for the Apple IIe was provided by a simple cone speaker. There were sound cards produced for the Apple IIe line such as the Mockingbird card but very few games seemed to take advantage of these cards.

Upgrades

Besides expanding the memory for my Enhanced IIe to 1MB there was also a few other simple upgrades I was able to try out.

The first was upgrading the dual Disk II drives to something that looked a little better. The dual drives worked fine but I feel like they looked a little crude and having both drives essentially hard wired to the case unless I removed the lid and disconnected them internally from the card made moving the Apple IIe a bit of a chore.

Thankfully in 1983 Apple released the DuoDisk which took two disk II drives and placed them inside a single case which connected to a controller card via a single detachable cable.

The second upgrade I tried was an accelerator card. The card I tried was the Titan Accelerator IIe. The Titan accelerator features the same 65c02 microprocessor as the IIe but this one runs at a blazing 3.58MHz and adds 64k of memory.

My card has a R65C02P4 processor installed which is supposedly running at 4MHz. Unfortunately I didn’t have much working Apple IIe software to do testing at the time but the game Planetfall which I did test did not seem to be running any faster then before and would lock up when landing on the planet while the Titan accelerator was installed.

Since all Apple IIe computers used the same CPU at the same speed rating games by nature were fined tune to operate at 1.023MHz and thus I find using any accelerator in an original IIe to be dubious at best. The added speed may be of benefit with some productivity software but since most of us retro computer enthusiasts primarily enjoy gaming on original hardware I feel like an accelerator may do more harm then good in an Apple IIe by throwing off the timing of games or even flat out locking up or refusing to run software.

The Apple IIe is an iconic computer that any hardware collector needs to have in their collection. The enhanced IIe is a pretty good choice when looking for an Apple II and should play most games and software just fine though keep in mind some older games may not function correctly due to the updated ROMs and CPU.

Unfortunately in the time I had my Enhanced IIe setup I found it getting fairly little use. Although there is a huge number of games available on the Apple II I found myself primarily running their ports on other machines which offered either superior visuals and sound or better ease of use. Despite the huge amount of games for the Apple II there seems to be relatively few exclusive titles and the titles that are exclusive seem to go for large sums of money on sites like eBay.

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