Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Apple //GS

In September of 1986, Apple released the Apple //GS. Of course, in 1986 it wasn’t nearly as easy as today to get tech news. I found out about the new machine weeks later when I went to a local magazine shop and saw it on the covers of the Apple // magazines. I promptly bought every one of them and went home to learn about the new machine.

It seemed to have everything I wanted in a new computer. The CPU was a 16-bit version of the 6502, a 65816. It was clocked at 2.8 MHz versus the 1 MHz of the Apple ][+ I had (note that as I write this, 2.8 GHz machines and faster are common). It came with 256Kb of memory versus the 64Kb I had. And, it had a mouse, detached keyboard, 3.5″ floppy drives (external) and an RGB monitor. But best of all, it had much better graphics and sound. The graphics modes were 320×200 with 16 colours or 640×200 with 4 colours so it wasn’t necessarily competitive with the Atari ST or the Amiga but it was a huge step forward from my Apple ][+. The sound though was probably better than anything on the market at the time with a real music synthesizer chip capable of 16 stereo voices. Add in a Mac-like interface and it seemed like the perfect machine.

That winter I started reading everything I could about it. I bought lots of magazines and as usual, Nibble seemed to have the best technical coverage. I also bought a book from Apple called “Technical Introduction to the Apple //GS” and read it multiple times. I had to have this machine.

At the time, the cost of an Apple computer in Canada was far more than buying it in the US and bringing it across the border, paying all the duties even with the exchange rate. As we did every summer, we vacationed on our sailboat in western Lake Erie so we made a quick stop in Sandusky, OH and visited a local Apple dealer. They had a few Apple //GS’s on display and I went right to one. We tried a few applications but the ones we liked best were Bard’s Tale and Instant Music. So, along with those two software packages, we bought an Apple //GS, an external 3.5″ floppy drive, an RGB monitor and a 256K RAM card to bring the total memory to 512K. Our existing pair of 5.25″ floppy drives would work with it so we would re-use those from the old Apple ][+.

Then, I waited until we got home to actually set it up and try out my new computer. It was a long wait but eventually, I got my chance to try it out. I unpacked the boxes and started setting everything up. I opened the computer to add the RAM card and to plug in the interface card for the 5.25″ floppies but found the inside empty. Well, it did have a power supply but there was nothing else. There was no motherboard in the case. I grabbed the receipt and we called the store in Sandusky and told them what happened.

Apparently they had swapped the motherboard to fix someone else’s system who was having a problem and sold us the empty case! Thankfully, they agreed to send us a motherboard by courier. When the courier got to the border, he was having problems bringing it across because they insisted on duties being applied to the value of the part. After getting copies of receipts and documents showing we already paid the duties, and he was allowed to proceed. But it began to seem like someone didn’t want me to have a new computer.

When the motherboard arrived, I installed it in the case, plugged in the power supply and finished setting up the system. Shortly thereafter I had the familiar, reassuring beep to tell me everything was fine and my new computer was working. Many hours playing Bard’s Tale and making strange music with Instant Music ensued.

In the glow of this new computer, the old Apple ][+ clone which my dad and I built started to gather dust. We could still use Visicalc and all our old Apple // software on the new system so it very quickly replaced it. A friend of ours was looking for another Apple and without thinking too long, we sold it to him. A few years later, my dad and I realized we had let go something which was actually quite valuable to us. Compared to the new system, it just didn’t seem worth keeping at the time. But to this day, I would love to have it on my desk next to my current computer(s). It really was a one of a kind. We did go back to the man who bought it from us but he had scrapped it long before. The “Rand X” was gone.

But, I did have this fancy new computer which did do a whole lot more and I really wanted to write programs for it. But Applesoft Basic didn’t seem to be the way to do it anymore.

Ryan’s Birthday Party

Ryan's 5th B-Day - 24Matthew’s friend Ryan had his 5th birthday party recently. The party was at Pro-Style Martial Arts and Matthew had a great time. He loves birthday parties and Ryan is a great friend so he was guaranteed to have fun. But more than that, he really enjoyed karate.

Pro-Style offered a one month trial so we took advantage of that to see if Matthew wanted to keep doing it. Karate is good for Matthew because it is a good physical activity but more than that, it will help him develop discipline, listening skills and his memory. After the trial, Matthew was still having a great time so we have signed him up for a year.

He gets a sticker with each session as long as he is listening and trying. After he has enough stickers, he will get a new belt. He still is on his first belt but he is getting close to the next one now. And Matthew has already decided where he wants to have his 6th birthday party…

Samantha At Seven Months

Cheerleading Samantha - 2Samantha is starting to change more quickly. She is sitting now. You have to put her in a sitting position but once she is there, she balances very well and reaches for things and only rarely falls over. She rolls over onto her stomach all of the time and is definitely close to crawling. Samantha will pick her body up and be in a four point position and then rock a bit. Then, she will go back onto her stomach, lift up her arms and legs and flail for a little while. Then, back up on all fours. She will figure it out soon I am sure.

But still, she is pushing herself backwards with her arms. Of course, she is looking at something in front of her and trying to go in that direction so she ends up pretty frustrated when it ends up farther away. But, if you look away for a moment, she will have moved some distance when you look back.

The latest thing she is doing is clearly saying “ba” over and over. Just a couple of days ago, Samantha and Matthew were saying “ba ba” to each other back and forth. Cynthia and I looked at each other knowing that before we know it, we will have another voice in the house and the volume will be that much louder.

Easter Morning

P1000208.JPGEaster came and went about month ago and Matthew had a wonderful time. The Easter bunny came and hid eggs all over the house (actually mostly on the first floor) and left a chocolate T-Rex for Matthew. He also left a chocolate bunny for Samantha but she is too young for that so Matthew and Cynthia took care of that for her.

Matthew did a great job finding most of the eggs but the Easter bunny was pretty tricky and he needed some help finding the tougher one. Like the one on top of the door bell, well out of his reach. Together, Matthew and I got that one but putting him on my shoulders.

The chocolate T-Rex didn’t last too long but I think we still have chocolate eggs left a month afterwards. So, if you stop by to visit, ask for a chocolate egg. I am sure we have some to offer.


P1000036.JPGWe got some snow this winter. And then we got some more, and a bit more. The picture shows that the snow got nearly as high as the bannister of the steps down from our back deck which has to be about three feet off the ground. The other pictures show Matthew trying to dig out his pedal-powered tractor. You might notice that he had a fair bit of it exposed and then suddenly it is buried more. Those pictures are taken on different days and another snow storm covered up his tractor more, undoing all of his work.

I helped him try to get it out just to see how deep the snow really was. We were making OK progress but then we got to a bunch of ice. At a certain depth, the tractor was just encased in a huge block of ice. There was no digging out the tractor and besides, what was Matthew going to do with it anyways in so much snow?

Thankfully, my tractor wasn’t encased in ice because it was very busy this winter. I have a snow blower attachment for it and was out there clearing the driveway more often than I would have liked. Most times I can do the drive way in about 20 minutes but we had several very heavy snowfalls which took much longer. One weekend, I decided to clear what had fallen while it was still coming down so it wouldn’t get too deep. While working through it, I had a couple of technical problems when the chain came off one of my tires and had to refill with gas. With those delays, I had to re-do from the start again because the snow was coming down fast enough to cover what I had already done.

It was a good winter for skiing and Matthew went a few more times. By the end of the season, he seemed much less interested but I think he was just done with winter as we all were by then.

Thankfully, it is all gone now. In the past, our sump pump tends to work pretty hard for 24 hours during the spring thaw. This year, it was busy pumping water for a solid week. Worried about the risk of a failure, I bought a backup sump pump just in case. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it until very late and the very next day when I was considering installing it, the sump pump started working. So, we didn’t have the benefit of the backup this spring and thankfully we didn’t need it. But, I will get it installed so we won’t need to worry about a sump pump failure in the future.

Samantha’s First Meal

P1070064.JPGI have been delinquent in updating the website so this isn’t exactly news because it happened two months ago now. But, Samantha had her first real meal and we have the pictures to prove it. As you can see, she did fine and only had a bit on her face. Of course, since then we have had some messier meals.

Now she is up to having three meals a day. She is eating cereals like rice, barley and oatmeal with a bit of something else mixed in like peas or sweet potatoes. But what she really likes are the rice cookies afterwards. She gets to feed those to herself and she sucks on them until they disappear.

Still no sign of teeth but they should be starting to arrive soon.