Apple IIc revealed. (evaluation) Owen Linzmeyer.
The Apple IIc is like no other Apple computer ever introduced, and yet it is virtually an Apple IIe work-alike. The design of the IIc represents a change of philosphy for Apple. Gone are the expansion slots that hardware hackers loved. In fact, you can't even open the IIc easily. Apple has built a computer that is to be used as an applicance--like a telephone or a tape recorder.
The IIC is "aimed primarily at the consumer market," asserts John Sculley, President and CEO of Apple Computer. Will the IIc find a place in every home? There is no doubt in Apple's mind that the IIc will be their highest volume product ever. Will you be their next customer? Come, let's take a closer look so you can decide. Package
The apple IIc comes complete in one large box. For your hard-earned $1295, you receive a 128K Apple IIc with a built-in 140K disk drive, three instruction manuals, an external power supply, a set of five tutorial disks, and cables and adapters to hook the computer to a television set.
Physically the Apple IIc is one of the most appealing machines on the market. The sleek 12" x 11.5" x 2.5c case was developed by Hartmut Esslinger of Frong Design, the West German firm best known for designing the Sony Walkman. The ivory color, rounded edges, and high-performance look of the HHc have been dubbed the "Snow White" look and will be featured in all new Apple products. It is the look of the 80's, the Pepsi Generation, and you had better get used to it. You will be seeing a lot of it in years to come. Keyboard
The layout of the Apple IIc keyboard is identical to that of the IIe, with the exception of the RESET key. Located to the right of the DELETE key on the IIe, RESET is found above the ESC key and is recessed into the case of the IIc. Directly to the right of the RESET key is the 80/40 switch which selects the number of columns of text to be displayed on the screen. The number of columns can also be selected by typing ESC-4 or ESC-8, though software can override the setting of the switch.
The keyboard is arranged in the popular QWERTY (Sholes) fashion but by pressing the keyboard switch, located to the right of the 80/40 switch, you can select the Dvorak layout which offers a much more efficient placing of keys. After switching to the Dvorak mode, you can pull up the keys and reinstall them according to the Dvorak layout. Apple plans to offer a set of Dvorak keycaps that will fit snugly over the existing keys and eliminate this shuffling.
The 63 keys can produce all 128 standard ASCII characters, which include upper- and lowercase alphanumerics, as well as 32 special graphics characters called Mousetext. The full-stroke keyboard offers good tactile feedback and an audible click. In addition, the D and K keycaps have small bumps on them to aid touch typists in correctly positioning their fingers on the home row. Motherboard
The Apple IIc is testimony to the fact that you can re-invent the wheel and do a much better job the second time around. Thanks to large scale integration (LSI), the motherboard of the IIc is a masterpiece of engineering--40 custom integrated circuits do the work of well over 100 standard chips. For example, the Integrated Woz Machine (IWM) is a single chip that is equivalent to an entire Apple Disk II controller card.
Only five chips are mounted in sockets; the rest are soldered directly to the motherboard. This reduces costs tremendously and improves reliability. It also reinforces Apple's contention that the IIc isn't machine for people who want to hack around with the hardware.
The heart of the Apple IIc is an 8-bit 65C02 microprocessor running at 1.02 MHz. The C stands for Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) and means that the CPU draws significantly less power than a standard 6502 and, hence, produces less heat. These are important characteristics for a portable computer. The 65C02 is an enhanced version of the 6502 that has been the mainstay of the Apple II line, yet this new chip performs exactly the same when running the Ahl Benchmark Test. The improvements include 27 additional instructions which speed up graphics and allow for more efficient number crunching. These improvements may cause some compatibility problems (more on this later).
The IIc boasts 128K of on-board RAM which is equivalent to a IIe with an Extended 80-Column Card installed in slot 3. Since the 65C02 has an address range of only 64K, the second 64K of RAM is accessed via a process called bank-switching. According to Apple, the IIC is not expandable beyond 128K of RAM, but third-party developers have been known to do some surprising things with Apple hardware. I wouldn't bet against memory upgrades just yet. The IIc has 16K of ROM which includes the Applesoft Basic interpreter, the system monitor, and 80-column firmware less the diagnostics firmware of the IIe. Disk Drive
Built into the righthand side of the IIc case is a half-height, 5.25", single-sided floppy disk drive. This drive has a 140K formatted storage capacity, of which 124K is available with DOS 3.3, and 137K is available for Pascal and ProDOS users. Thanks to the flexibility of ProDos, third-party external drives may offer storage capacity in excess of 140K.
The built-in drive is treated as if it were drive 1, in slot 6 of a IIe. The optional external Apple drive ($329) is referenced as drive 2, slot 6. Apparently you will never be able to run more than two floppy disk drives on an Apple IIc, but if it is more on-line storage that you desire, Quark Inc. of Denver has announced a 10Mb Winchester hard disk drive for the IIc called the QC10. The 19-pin D-type connector for the second drive on the back of the IIc contains most of the pinouts to the internal bus, so if memory expansion units or CP/M modifications are ever designed, they will probably plug in here. Serial Ports
The IIc has two built-in serial ports located on the back of the unit. These ports are analogous to two Super Serial cards for the IIe. The 5-pin DIN serial connectors are keyed and labeled with icons to eliminate the possibility of connecting a cable incorrectly. Serial port 1 is to be used primarily for output to printers and plotters. You are limited to using only serial printers unless you purchase a serial-parallel adapter unit, several of which are already on the market with prices ranging from $129-$199. The second serial port is devoted to communications using an optional modem.
You may configure the ports to your liking using the system utility disk supplied with the IIc. Parameters such as word length, bit rate (baud), parity, echo output, linefeed, carriage return, and line length are user-definable. Along with the printer and modem presets, your custom configurations can be saved to the recalled from disk, thus eliminating repetitious setting of parameters.
The most commonly voiced complaint concerning the Apple IIc is the lack of expansion slots, which some people take to mean a lack of expandability. Not so. There are many devices that may be attached directly to the serial ports. These include port extenders, home controllers, print buffers, real-time clocks, music systems, sound effects generators, and speech synthesizers (see sidebar).
The lack of slots is really a blessing in disguise. It makes the IIc a "closed system." This is the kind of environment for which software developers like to program, since they don't have to worry about all the different cards and hardware kits that you may or may not have in your computer. With a closed system, if the program runs correctly on one IIc, it runs correctly on every IIc. I anticipate that software firms will flock to the IIc. This machine is a programmer's dream--a powerful closed system with a wide range of special features. Video Output
There are two video output connectors on the back of the IIc, an RCA phono jack and a 15-pin D-type connector. Using the supplied radio frequency (RF) modulator and switch box, you can use your television set as a display. The modulator, as well as external PAL and SECAM video adapters for overseas use, get their signals from the video expansion connector.
If you want to take advantage of 80-column text or double high-resolution graphics, you will want a composite video monitor. The RCA jack provides the NTSC signal required by both color and monochrome composite monitors. Monochrome monitors are best for crisp displays of alphanumeric information, but don't do justice to color graphics. The reverse is true for color monitors.
If you want both 80-column text and color graphics, you should get a red-green-blue (RGB) monitor. These are expensive ($600+), but the superb picture quality justifies the cost. In addition to the monitor itself, you will need to purchase an RGB adapter for the Apple IIc for about $200.
Perhaps one of the most desirable peripherals for the IIc is the flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD). Weighing in at 2.5 lbs and measuring a trim 11.5" x 6" x 1.5", the display has a resolution of 560 x 192 bit-mapped pixels. Since each text character is composed on a 7 x 8 matrix, the LCD panel is capable of displaying a full 80 columns by 24 rows of normal, inverse, flashing, and Mouse-text characters. The flat-panel display also has full graphics capabilities, including the much touted double high-resolution graphics. All but the fastest and most detailed animated graphics will be within the capabilities of the flat-panel display. Unfortunately, the projected lofty $600 pricetag makes the LCD panel a peripheral for the few rather than the masses. Controller Port
Looking at the rear of the IIc, the controller port is located at the far left. This 9-pin D-type connector is where hand controllers plug into the IIc. Joysticks designed to use the 9-pin controller port of the IIe are 100% compatible with the IIc, but controllers that connect to the internal 16-pin game socket cannot be used without a special adapter.
Other peripherals that use the controller port are mice, paddles, light pens, and port extenders. As software programmers begin to take full advantage of the IIc Mousetext features, a mouse may become a necessity. Packaged with the $99 AppleMouse IIc is MousePaint, Bill budge's adaptation of the incredible Macintosh drawing program, MacPaint. Few programs currently on the market allow mouse input, but you should expect to see many new releases that do.
Instead of a traditional X-Y pointing device, the mouse can be used as a paddle controller if your basic program uses PDL functions to read the paddles. To use the mouse instead of the paddle, boot DOS 3.3, type PR#4 to turn on the mouse, then type CTRL-A to initialize it, and finally, type PR#0 to restore output to the screen. Audio Output
The Apple IIc has an internally mounted 1 3/8" speaker located on the bottom front of the unit. This speaker is slightly smaller than those used in the Apple II line to date, but it provides a comparable response. Luckily, there is a volume control dial on the lefthand side of the IIc, along with a two-channel, monaural, mini-phone jack to accommodate headphones. When the headphones are plugged in, the internal speaker is disconnected. Power Supply
One of the most interesting things about the IIc is that it actually has two power supplies: one internal and one external. The 10 lb. external supply is referred to as the floor board unit and comes with a 12' cord. This unit draws a negligible amount of power even when the IIc is turned off, and due to its large size, it dissipates heat rather well.
The floor board unit converts 110V AC from a wall outlet to 15V DC which can be used by the internal power supply. The fact that the computer itself runs on 15V DC allows the IIc to be powered from a car cigarette lighter socket or equivalent power source. If you are on the run, Diswasher sells Cari, a $250 carrying case with a built-in battery pack that provides three to five hours of uninterrupted use without a charge. Equipped with Cari and the flat-panel LCD display, the IIc becomes a very powerful portable computer. Documentation
Three manuals are supplied with the Apple IIc. They are probably the best computer manuals ever written--for beginners. "Setting Up Your Apple IIc" explains simply and thoroughly how to get your computer out of its box and into operation. "Apple Presents the Apple IIc" is a 144-page spiral-bound interactive introduction to the IIc. It is to be used in conjunction with the four tutorial disks supplied with the system, though it can stand alone if need be.
"Systems Utilities" is a manual that describes the various functions and parameters of the powerful utilities disk included with the computer. The system utilities disk is ProDOS-based, yet the disk management commands contained therein allow it to read Pascal and DOS 3.3 disks.
Unfortunately for hackers and advanced users, detailed descriptions of Applesoft Basic, DOS references, system information, and technical specifications are not supplied with the IIc system. Several independent publishers have released Iic books, but beware, most of these do little more than reiterate the Apple manuals and press releases. Compatibility
One of the strongest selling points of the IIc is that it is compatible with the more than 10,000 Apple software programs already on the market. There are, however, many packages that are not fully compatible. The reasons for incompatibility vary. What follows is a description of the most common problems.
Software that makes calls to the alternate inverse character set in ROM will boot correctly, but will display strange Mousetext characters instead of the intended text.
If an Apple disk refuses to boot on a IIc, but works fine on other II computers, it probably has a special protection scheme common on entertainment packages. Spiral, synchronous, and half-tracking protection techniques rely on certain Apple Disk II drive idiosyncrasies that are not present in the IIc drives.
Any software that simply "hangs" in operation probably makes use of previously unused memory locations that were reserved for Apple's future use. Programs that rely upon 80-column boards manufactured by third-party vendors will not work correctly either.
all of these problems can be solved by rewriting the code, at which time the software manufacturers can take advantage of special IIc features such as 80/40 columns, 128K RAM, double high-resolution graphics, and mouse technology. I suspect that any existing incompatibilities will be reconciled shortly and that in the future all Apple software introduced will pay special attention to the IIc. As it stands, 80 to 95% of all Apple programs currently available work on the IIc, but the only way to make sure that the program you want functions correctly is to try it yourself at your local Apple dealer.
Apple Computer plans to sell 500,000 IIc's in 1984 alone. Will they make it? Who knows. One thing is for sure: they can count on my order. Although we at Creative Computing review several computers a month. I was so impressed with the IIc that I went out and bought one for myself. If you are looking for an Apple-compatible machine and are not too concerned with the fact that the IIc is slotless, this is the computr for you. If, however, you really want expansion slots, pick up a IIe. Either way, you can't lose.
Products: Apple IIc (computer)