It’s safe to say that the Apple ][ personal computer had a great an impact on my life as any other factor, short of the fact that I was born.
This is my tribute to the Apple ][ on it’s 40th birthday.
In 1978 I spent a day at my cousin’s factory in Grand Rapids, MI. I was 11 years old. I had never touched a computer beyond the Atari Pong my family had. After a tour of the factory, I think to get me out of the way, my cousin sat me down in front of his Apple ][ and fired up the game “Artillery”.
I was entrenched. For a few minutes anyway. Then I got bored.
Then I noticed The Applesoft Tutorial sitting there…
Shortly, I had figured out you could press Control-C to break out of the game in the the “Monitor”.
I learned I could type LIST and see the BASIC code for the program.
I learned I could change any line in the program by simply re-typing it with my changes. E.g. I could change
10 PRINT 2+3
10 PRINT 2-3
I learned I could then type RUN and the updated program would execute with my changes.
“OH MY GOD. THIS IS POWER.”
Never being one to actually, really, read instructions I dove in. I started changing things to see what would happen. I made Artillery my own.
Eventually I broke something and the Artillery game would no longer run.
In a panic, I shut off the Apple ][ and left to tell my cousin I was ready to leave.
From that point forward, my life’s direction was set. I wanted that power.
Later that year I conned my dad into buying a home computer so he could use VisiCalc for “business”. We visited the computer stores in the Phoenix area. One was a RadioShack and another sold Apple’s. My dad was leaning towards the TRS-80. I convinced him the Apple ][+ was better. I don’t remember why I thought so, but I ended up winning. He shelled out the dough for an Apple ][+, a Rana 5.25” floppy drive, and a color monitor. And VisiCalc.
For about 6 months the computer resided in my dad’s office (which was really a shared family room). He never really used it. I sat there for hours on end teaching myself BASIC by typing in programs from books and magazines.
Eventually the machine migrated to my bedroom, and as they say, the rest is history.
I had that Apple ][+ through high school, eventually adding a Microsoft Z80 Softcard to it. I had ‘graduated’ from Apple DOS to CP/M and from BASIC and 6502 assembly to UCSD p-system Pascal…and then Turbo Pascal.
When I got to college I upgraded to an //e (with a home-built external keyboard!) and put a 4MB memory card in it, which I used as a RAM disk for CP/M, Turbo Pascal, and my dear friend WordStar.
Eventually an IBM PC XT clone entered my life and I saw the writing on the wall w.r.t. Windows so I left the Apple ][ behind.
I still have all the old programs I wrote for the Apple ][ both on 5.25” floppies (that probably can no longer be read) and printed out in a set of 3-ring binders. Maybe I should crack open an emulator and get ‘em to run…
Thanks Steve & Steve for creating such a magical experience and setting me on my way.
You nailed it. I’m sure that there is a large group of developers of a certain age who have some very close version of this story. Mine was in a school where I was in the principal’s office because I was too bored to be in class. It wasn’t until a few years later when I found the local Apple “dealer” that I got to play one. I started on a PET. Here we are 40 years later still thinking “Oh my god. This is power!”