Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Apple ][ Cassette Port + Internets
January 4, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Finally! The unholy alliance of Apple ][ cassette port and Interwebs brings you the Apple Disk Server and the Apple Game Server.

For those unlucky few who don't have a ][ sitting around, you can watch the carnage via video here and here.
posted by pashdown (42 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew I saved that ][ e for something, I need to dig into the closet at the office and haul that thing home!
posted by tomswift at 11:18 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


THIS IS SO COOL!!
posted by capnsue at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is nuts. Is there anything they can do to make this more robust? Program on the apple side to implement a file transfer protocol with ECC? These are just straight up encoded the way tapes would have been, can they use more modern modulation with it's own CRC and ECC?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2012


Man, Zork I! Wow that is great. It starts off slow but about 30 seconds in it hits its stride with a real rhythmic click above a mellow background static, just a nice beat to it. I'm going to put that track in heavy rotation.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Drat the clicking stops at ~55 seconds and now it's just static again. Also my ears are ringing.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2012


Little-known fact: the game Ape Escape is encoded into Merzbow's "Stormy Tuesday," starting at 1:28.
posted by theodolite at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perhaps this is an overreaction, but I am absolutely floored.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2012


I must admit the awesomeness of this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2012


This makes me ask another question, can we write 300baud "software" modems to work over skype.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2012


Is this the computer piracy politicians are all up in arms about? Because I mean I just don't I just...
posted by chavenet at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Most of these games are about 25 years old. I wonder what their copyright status is?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:33 AM on January 4, 2012


ok now I get it, there is a bootstrap program at the beginning of the "tape". The rest of the transfer has modern compression and CRC, it isn't just a straight audio rip of the game
posted by Ad hominem at 11:34 AM on January 4, 2012


Sorry for my ignorance, how is the Apple ][ picking up the sound through the cassette port?
posted by stbalbach at 11:35 AM on January 4, 2012


Of course, now I will get nothing else done after work tonight.
posted by sonascope at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2012


how is the Apple ][ picking up the sound through the cassette port?

The A2 had two ports for the cassette player, input was hooked to a 1-bit analog-digital-converter, and output was hooked to a 1-bit digital-analog-converter. I can't recall the hz, but it was enough to turn it into a rudimentary audio sampler.
posted by pashdown at 11:39 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazing. What happened to all those ][+s and //es I used in graduate school?
posted by zomg at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2012


Here are some docs. It isn't "hearing" sound, it is just analog electrical impulses.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2012


"Egress"
posted by humboldt32 at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2012


The inclusion of Marc Goodman's game The Bilestoad shows he's a true connoisseur. Man, that was an interesting game.
posted by Nelson at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feb 2, 1982: The day I first used an Apple II.

Jan 4, 2012: The day I first used an Apple II cassette port.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


can we write 300baud "software" modems to work over skype.

Yes. Or rather, you could if you wanted to. I've gotten a fax machine to work at 2400 baud or so over VOIP. (SIP with G.711 codec.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2012


That is nuts. Is there anything they can do to make this more robust?

Just running it off a 44Khz sample rate digitial interface is making it vastly more robust than the original, where you had to deal with tape head tracking and tape deck amplification, and ground loops if you had both the input and output lines hooked up. Here's how it works.

Apparently, what they're doing is using the standard routine to load and run a better xfer protocol, 9600baud CRC. The standard Apple ][ method is only good for around 1300bps -- since it uses pulse length to determine if the bit is 1 or 0, the speed depends on how many bits are 0.

You can hear the 10 seconds of 770Hz leader tone, a lower burst, followed by a longer, noiser stream. The initial burst is the xfer protocol being loaded and executing, the longer stream is the actual data.

Clever.
posted by eriko at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. Or rather, you could if you wanted to. I've gotten a fax machine to work at 2400 baud or so over VOIP. (SIP with G.711 codec.)


Yeah, Every once in a while I think it would be cool to run a bbs on a C64 emulator and emulate the modem using skype. Probably leave it up for all of an hour, realize nobody could call and give up
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2012


Major TMTOTH, but nifty.
posted by Melismata at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2012


The inclusion of Marc Goodman's game The Bilestoad shows he's a true connoisseur. Man, that was an interesting game.

It's spelled Marc Goodman, but it's pronounced Mangrove Earthshoe. (GOD I loved that game. PvP has been all downhill since.)
posted by The Bellman at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pretty awesome. Does anyone have a way to emulate an Apple II printer? I've been wanting to make some Print Shop signs for the longest time.
posted by benzenedream at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2012


Has anyone out there tried any of the emulators, like this?
posted by ericbop at 12:50 PM on January 4, 2012


I don't have time to mess with it at the moment, but would this work with an emulator like Virtual ][?
posted by slogger at 1:12 PM on January 4, 2012


Or, what ericbop said.
posted by slogger at 1:12 PM on January 4, 2012


I can't recall the hz, but it was enough to turn it into a rudimentary audio sampler.

Since you're bit-banging, it depends on how tight your sampling loop is. Haven't done the detailed math but probably up to 50 kHz or so with a 1 MHz CPU. And since it's 1-bit resolution you'll just be storing the delta between zero-crossings, so it's sort of compressed.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:14 PM on January 4, 2012


Modems don't always work very well with internet streams, because the audio is compressed. It's supposed to "sound the same" to human ears, but maybe not have the exact same information. Obviously, if you use the right codecs (anything loss less would be fine. These files are done using raw .wav files) it can work. But stuff like skype won't work well.

Interestingly Skype tried to get an FCC ruling that acoustic couplers should be legal on cellphones, so people could attach devices to their phones using acoustic coupling, but the FCC wouldn't allow it.
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every once in a while I think it would be cool to run a bbs on a C64 emulator and emulate the modem using skype. Probably leave it up for all of an hour, realize nobody could call and give up

Probably getting a bit OT here, but you might be surprised. There's a ton of interest in retro-tech stuff like that.

There's even a hobbyist phone system, linked via VOIP, that has tons of old working telco gear connected to it. (So if you want to call into a 3XB or 1A2, hang out on a party line, or generally just dial around and relive the 2600Hz era... you can.) A C64-based BBS would probably fit in there pretty nicely.

While Googling around, I found what is supposedly a working C64 BBS accessible via Telnet: telnet://antidote.hopto.org. Says it's too busy right now to log in, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2012


You know, I never 'got' The Bilestoad, and in looking at it now, I'd have to call it the QWOP of fighting games. I know people loved it with fury and passion, and still talk about it, but man, what a bad game.

But I love the idea of using an iPod as a game server for your Apple 2. Back in the day, that's how we actually used cassette tapes. Like, for real! I had a really good tapedeck I used with my TI, one with three wires, not just two, so it could turn the tape motor on and off. It let me fit more programs on a tape -- I had a shoebox full of tapes with program names and counter positions written on them. To load a program, I'd have to find the tape, load it, press the button to zero out the counter, and then fast forward to the number I'd written on the tape. Then I'd tell the TI to load (I've forgotten the command), it would say something like PRESS PLAY ON TAPE, I'd hit play, and it would load the program, so terribly terribly slowly.

That third wire meant that the tapes had hardly any dead time, it was almost all data, but it was still a horribly, horribly inefficient way to store files. I just downloaded the WAV for Zork 1 to see how big it is -- 7.7 megs to store a program that fit on a 140K disk. That's basically how inefficient tapes were, but that was all normal people could afford. We had to walk uphill to store our data. Through the snow. Both ways. Why, we were thankful we could store it at all!

More seriously, nothing was designed to do any of this, so everything was a series of horrible hacks to make analog machines serve their new, digital masters. When floppy disks became cheap enough for normal folks to buy, that was huge... it actually made machines useful, instead of just toys to play with.

Digital storage to serve digital computers, in retrospect, was probably the single most important advance that was ever made in the home computer market. We've been doing it bigger and better ever since, but it was the transition away from analog storage that made computers truly useful for the first time. From there, all you needed was a printer to have the Holy Trinity -- input, processing, and output. I'd say GUIs and laser printers would be advances almost as significant. (Interestingly, wasn't it Apple that pioneered all three for the home market? The GUI was a collaboration with Xerox, and the laser printer was all Apple, but I'm not sure about the floppy disk. Maybe they were just the first company to make them cheap, fast, and reliable?)

Alvin Toffler had a book out before I was an adult, called "Future Shock". I never read it, but I believe the gist was that changes would start coming so fast that people couldn't handle it anymore. I think I'm experiencing a variation of that, where I am frequently just stopped dead in wonder at the incredible, unbelievable computer advances we've had during my life. Most things haven't changed that much. But computers, man. Shit.

And the thing is, to a kid growing up now, it doesn't really matter. They're not changing that much anymore. They're getting a little faster, but they're kind of cooked now. Society is changing around computers, but the computers themselves are kinda finished. Now the interesting stuff is in the applications, social implications, and handheld devices, not the desktop computer. So it's just not that important to look back at the old stuff. It's interesting in a trivial sort of way, kind of like looking at early trains or early automobiles, but it's not important.

I suppose it's us old people trying to share our perspective on the size of the changes that makes us, in a sense, old. I guess you have to be jaded and dismissive about technology to sound young. :)
posted by Malor at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Modems don't always work very well with internet streams,

By the way, I actually tried to do this with a Vonage fax line. I brought in the fax line and tried to use an analog modem to connect to an old BBS from my youth that was still up. It didn't work; the codec used on the fax lines works only for faxes, and the codec on the voice line doesn't work for any data transmission at all.

It's possible Skype might be better, but probably anything using a codec won't work for a modem. Codecs throw away frequencies that modems use to transmit data.
posted by Malor at 2:23 PM on January 4, 2012


I would have went out and found myself a //e if they had Wizardry.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 4:20 PM on January 4, 2012


the codec used on the fax lines works only for faxes, and the codec on the voice line doesn't work for any data transmission at all.

Malor, you should be able to use any modem up to 33.6kb/s provided your ATA is using one of the G.711 codecs, because those are uncompressed 8-bit 8kHz PCM samplers and they're also used internally by POTS. If you pick the right variant (G.711a or G.711u), then when your VoIP call emerges onto the POTS network there will be no recoding-induced data loss. The only dubious part is whether your modem's echo cancellation is good enough to deal with the increased latency of VoIP vs. a circuit-switched POTS connection.
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 PM on January 4, 2012


Okay, yeah, you're right, a sufficiently good codec should work, no matter what. It just has to have the frequency range (and, thus, bandwidth) that a copper POTS line does.

But I can tell you that the codecs that Vonage was using, as of several years ago, didn't seem to support modems of any type. I was unable to get sync at all, at any baud rate. When I called in to complain, they said it wouldn't work. They cancelled my fax line for me without a whimper (unusual for Vonage) because that was why I had ordered it.

Dunno nothin' about echo cancellation... isn't that all local, anyway? Just compensating for the fast that the outgoing sound affects the incoming sound electrically? I don't think the upstream transport would matter, that's a fix for the last fifty feet, isn't it?
posted by Malor at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2012


a working C64 BBS

...until someone finds an exploit that makes their floppy drive seek past track 0 and go "clunk".
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 7:48 PM on January 4, 2012


that's a fix for the last fifty feet, isn't it?

Near-end echo gets largely removed by a hybrid, but telephone circuits also generate reflections at multiple points along the way. High speed modems have always had to compensate for those using adaptive echo cancellers. If there's too much round-trip delay, the echo canceller won't recognize an echo as such.

I'm in Australia, so I know nothing about Vonage other than that it is a VoIP provider. Do they not allow access to their ATA settings?
posted by flabdablet at 7:59 PM on January 4, 2012


If I dig out the Apple //e in my parents' basement I'll probably have to move the box of diskettes out of the way. Y'know, the diskettes with all these same games on them.

I have no idea why I'm so stoked to try this.

You know, I never 'got' The Bilestoad...

You have my sincere and deepest sympathies.
posted by mazola at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2012


I'm in Australia, so I know nothing about Vonage other than that it is a VoIP provider. Do they not allow access to their ATA settings?

Well, I left them long ago, but at the time (2005ish), what they gave you was a closed box, and you had no access whatsoever. You plugged their box into power and your network, and attached a phone. If it was able to talk to the mothership, you got dialtone. That was the extent of your technical interaction with their service. Oh, well, I think you had the option of using their phone adapter as a router, and then you got some minor access to routing functions, but I'm not aware of any access to phone functionality whatsoever.

They were one of the first VOIP providers in the US, and as far as I know, are still one of the biggest in the country. But they don't use encryption at all, and they kept jacking up their prices, so between those two things, I cancelled service. By the time I left, they wanted more than $20/mo for the most basic of VOIP options. $15 was the sticker price, but then they tacked on all sort of bogus 'fees' that they weren't actually required to collect. And they're very hard to cancel. As companies go, I'd certainly put them on the 'evil' side of the scale.
posted by Malor at 1:44 AM on January 5, 2012


This is amazing.
posted by Paquda at 8:36 AM on January 5, 2012


« Older Max Zorn makes translucent art with a scalpel and ...  |  Sandusky, Ohio is probably bes... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments