Give your Apple II a New Year's treat. (Apple computer) (Apple Picks)
by Gregg Keizer
Apple IIs used to sail off the dealer's shelves during the Christmas season. TVe commercials touted the saving graces of the Apple IIe, the IIc, and latr, the IIGS. Rebates motivated people to stop and shot for an Apple.
All that's history now. Apple's plans for the II line area a rearguard holding action at best. The company can only offer the ideologically correct phrases that promise continued support without any hard evidence that the line has a long-term future outside the classroom.
The result, as you probably know, is a declining interest in the Apple II on the part of dealers, developers, and consumers. The second surge of computers heading home doesn't even include the Apple II. Business Week's October cover story on home computing didn't mention the Apple II once.
Shrug it all off. News from the sales front may be gloomy, but you've already got your Apple II. And if you look in the right places, there are plenty of new things to occupy its RAM and your time.
Now that the Christmas holidays are over, why not treat your Apple II (and yourself) to a New Year's treat? It's guaranteed to be the best cure for your computer's Have-I-Been-Abandoned? blues.
GEnie, my favorite telecommunications hangout when I'm with my Apple II, dropped its rates this past fall and went to a flat-fee charge for over 100 of tis services. The $4.95 a month buys you as much GEnie time as you like to call up stock quotes, book flight on EAAsy Sabre, read news, send electronic mail, and much more.
But you pay extra - a still reasonable $6.00 an hour - to connect with the real reason to dial GEnie, its Apple II Round Table. GEnie's Apple II area consistently has the best Apple public domain and shareware software and the most interesting conferences. Call (800) 638-9636 for more information about GEnie and the new rates.
While we're talking about telecommunications, now's the perfect time for you to move up to a 2400-baud modem. You'll cut download times in half with the SupraModem 2400. This Hayes-compatible modem is priced right at $149.95 (you can save an extra $20 if you go through a mail-order company), and it works with your Apple II or any other computer you've got. You can reach Supra at (800) 727-8772.
If you can rustle up a friend, pick up Task Force, a high body-count IIGS action game from Brittanica. You can play solo, but it's a lot more fun to wade into the bad guys with a real buddy at your side. Task Force takes you to five cities; your job is to wipe up the riffraff.
For tools, Task Force gives you everything from machine guns to rocket launchers. A bit too sociopathic for some tastes, this game's rock-'n'-roll firepower at least gets your blood lust into the computer, where it belongs. Give Britannica a call at (800) 572-2272 for more details, or scan the mail-order ads (where it costs about $25).
For something a bit more redeeming, drop the kids in front of an Apple IIGS that's running Where in the U.S.A Is Carmen Sandiego? or sit them down at an Apple IIe or IIc Plus that's running Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. Both packages are the most recent releases in the series for their respective machines.
Though the Carmen programs have a deserved reputation as a teaching tool, they're more games than drill and practice. Br0derbund publishes the series; call (415) 492-3200 for details. Each of the games costs $25-$28 direct.
Ready to pot for some big bucks? If your IIGS doesn't have a hard disk yet, get one. The newest GS software cries for mass storage (Graphic Writer III is a good example).
Apple hard disk drives are still obscenely expensive when compared to those available in the DOS world, but Applied Engineering's 20-mega-byte Vulcan internal drive is as good as they get.
AE's phone number is (214) 241-6060, but you can drive a harder bargain by calling one of the mail-order companies that sell the Vulcan for around $500.
If you do any desktop publishing (see "Apple Picks," December), you'll want to splurge for one of the new hand-held scanners that plug into your Apple.
Vitesse's Quickie costs about $200 direct and is suitable for just about any scanning task. You've got to have a steady hand, but once mastered, the Quickie turns out four-inch-wide images and halftones in resolutions of up to 400 dots per inch. Ring up Vitesse at (818) 813-1270 for the details.
True to this column's title, these are just a few picks of the Apple litter. More are up for grabs. The gold rush days of Apple software and hardware announcements - when product rushed out the door as fast as publishers and manufacturers could cobble them together - may be over, but there are still a few nuggets washing down the slopes.
Treat yourself to one and rekindle that Apple holiday feeling.
Gregg Keizer, a former editor of COMPUTE and former publisher at SoftDisk, is currently freelancing. He is the author of science-fiction stories and computer books.