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Relive the Apple II days

For many people, entrance into the realm of computing came via an Apple II. Although Apple abandoned the Apple II line a long time ago, you can relive those days from the comfort of your Web browser. Here's how.

For many people, entrance into the realm of computing came via an Apple II. Although Apple abandoned the Apple II line a long time ago, you can relive those days from the comfort of your Web browser. Here's how.

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One of the first popular home computers in the 70s was the Apple II. Along with the TRS-80, it defined personal computing until the IBM PC came along. Although they were primarily used as home computers, the Apple II snuck into many offices as well as on the back of Visicalc.

Even after the IBM PC and its clones conquered the microcomputer market, the Apple II kept itself going in the home and especially in the education market. As a matter of fact, the Apple II GS line was so successful that Apple was worried for a while that GS sales were eating into Mac sales. Although the market resisted for a long time, Apple eventually abandoned the Apple II line and focused exclusively on the Macs.

Emulating the Apple II

Thanks to the Internet, however, you can relive the days of the Apple II. Much like I mentioned with the TRS-80 Model I, you can emulate an Apple II right in your Web browser. All you have to do is visit the Virtual Apple Web site.

Unlike the TRS-80 Model I Basic emulator page, the Virtual Apple site doesn't use a Java machine. Instead, it uses an Active X control if you're using IE or an extension if you're using Firefox. As such, running it is a little more dangerous than the Model I site, but the Virtual Apple site claims to be spyware free. I loaded it on a test machine, and it didn't seem to cause any problems, but if you're worried about or if your organization doesn't allow Active X, you may want to try a different machine.

The Virtual Apple site doesn't emulate a full Apple II. Instead, what it does is load custom images of old Apple II programs. Virtual Apple has taken old Apple II programs and converted them to loadable disk images that work within the Active X controls. They claim to have over 1,250 programs online now and are adding more regularly.

This brings up another question regarding the Virtual Apple site. That question is obviously the issue of copyright violation. Even though these programs are in some cases 25+ years old, probably the original publisher -- if they're still around -- still holds the copyright. If so, I'm sure that Virtual Apple would be liable, but it's a question for the lawyers if you would be running the programs from the images.

How good is it?

The graphics are about as good as they were on the original machines. For example, here's a version of Flight Simulator:

On my test machine, which is a 3.0 Ghz Windows Vista machine, the performance was pretty disappointing, but your mileage may vary.

If nothing else, the emulator is good for those who used an Apple II in the past and want to play some of the old games on it. If you don't have your Apple anymore and want to relive the past, give it a shot.

9 comments
techrepublic
techrepublic

Being Active X, illustrates that early Apple ][ adopters have essentially moved to the PC to satisfy their whiles. They obviously still seek the command line, and for many years, Apple have not provided this venue of control for the enthusiast. However now with a Unix base, the OS X operating system offers more control than they ever had. You can even play text-based screen games in Terminal mode. If an Apple ][ site does not support Apple users, (via Active X) it seems to indicate that the people who regarded themselves as Apple punters have either moved on (to future Apple platforms), or stayed with their hobby (of command line control). It would seem an apt time for these people to catchup and move to the OSX platform.

David.L.Fretz-1
David.L.Fretz-1

My first Apple was a used Apple II+. However, my parent later got an Apple IIGS with the Woz signature. Which I still happen to have and a ROM 3 IIGS as well.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

The Apple II and TRS-80 pretty much formed the basis for the home computer market in the late 70's. The Apple II found a very nice niche in the education market it that allowed it survive until the end of the 80's. In Classics Rock, I introduce you to Virtual Apple - a Web site which hosts virtualized disk images of old Apple II software: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=186 Did you get your start on an Apple II? If so, which version? The E, C, GS or original? Or maybe one of the Franklin Apple II clones?

jmacg
jmacg

The plugin needed to play Apople II refuses to install, on either Firefox or IE. In the Firefox security section I allowed plugins to be installed by www.virtualapple.org, but it refused, saying Download error #228. IE wouldn't even let me get that far.

dodell
dodell

My parents bought us an Apple II + for Christmas. The manuals were so detailed they even came with a schematic diagram for the motherboard. I would stay up until the early hours of the morning playing Utlima. The favorite game of the rest of the family was an Olympics game. You competed in the decathlon by doing things like alternately pressing two keys as fast as you could to race around a track. It still lives in my parents attic. I would set it up, but I don't think my wife would be too happy since she's trying to get me to get rid of old PCs around here. Maybe in another 20 years.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Typed many a term paper on the IIe at the library in college. Sold a ton of Apple IIGS computers on an early computer sales job. Although the GS cost a fortune, if you showed parents the 'reader rabbit' software or printed out a picture in color on the Applewriter, it was an easy sale. They also had some simple music applications and games which helped that machine to sell itself. It had pretty amazing graphics and sound for 1986. All in a pretty platinum case..... GS = Graphics/Sound

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I couldn't get the Firefox plug-in to work either. I didnt fiddle with it too much, because I figured it was an issue with the Vista64 box I was using. The ActiveX control worked fine in IE7 however. The performance was lousy however. I suspect a real Apple II would have been faster.

Tink!
Tink!

I think we had the same one! Wow that brings back memories. Good ones :D

Tink!
Tink!

Family got an Apple IIGS, brother had the IIe for school. I learned to type on the Apple IIGS at the age of 6. Using a software called MasterType. :D Still had that computer up until about 4 years ago - finally ditched it.