Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the VELA (Versatile Laboratory Aid)

14 replies [Last post]
paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7

Hi All, This is my first post to these forums and I have to confess, I'm an Apple noob to the point that I've never actually used any Apple hardware in my 42 years on the planet Shock

In fact, I'm actually a collector of hardware produced by Acorn Computers and I also collect related hardware that I used growing up and that is why I find myself here today.

One of those pieces of hardware is called a VELA or Versatile Laboratory Aid for which I'm probably the only person on the Internet that maintains any pages and content dedicated to it. I even had to write the Wikipedia page for the VELA.

So the VELA is the reason I'm here. It could be used as a stand alone device or you could connect it to pretty much any contemporary 8-bit machine. It was primarily used with the BBC Micro in schools in the UK and the BBC Micro ran some software to download data from the VELA for analysis. The primary software for the Beeb as VELAnalysis or VELA Analysis (depending on which version you are using).

VELAnalysis however was also available for the Apple ][ and IBM PC so I find myself here looking for help in locating what is more than likely to be extremely rare Apple ][ software.

The software was sold as "VELA Analysis software" in the January 1989 Schools Price List and the software was published and distributed by "Educational Electronics" in the UK.

If anyone has ever come across this software or could point me in the direction of some suitable Apple ][ software repositories that I can trawl through myself that would be great. Also, if someone could point me in the direction of getting an Apple ][ up and running under emulation (on a Win 10 machine) so if I do locate the software I can have a play with it, that would be great.

Thanks in advance for any help you could provide.

Paul

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
6502enhanced's picture
Offline
Joined: Feb 23 2006
Posts: 243
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Here you find software and here you find emulators - I would suggest AppleWin.

Dog Cow's picture
Offline
Joined: Dec 11 2008
Posts: 463
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Here is the Apple II software search engine. I couldn't find it there after trying a few of your keywords, but maybe you can think of other ways to locate it.

__________________

Email me: dog_cow@m acgui.com
Mac GUI Vault: http://macgui.com/vault/
Apple II Book: http://macgui.com/newa2guide/
Inside Allerton Park book

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Thanks for the pointers, most useful. The software is likely to be UK only distribution and rare simply due to the fact that it is for a piece of hardware aimed at schools and Universities in the UK in the 1980's where the BBC Micro was dominant. It's taken me over 4 years to bring together the software that I do have for the VELA which is all BBC Micro based but I'd love to be able to find software for other platforms.

VELAnalysis was written and clearly sold as it does get mentioned in many of the supporting documents I have, the issue is that a lot of old software and hardware like this simply ends up in landfill when the schools clear out the old technology and none of it ever gets archived. I've even gone as far as contacting the original designer of the VELA for help and although he has the prototype hardware models to this day, he doesn't seem to be able to locate any software.

I know it's a really long shot that it will have been archived and trawling through the archive linked to and going though the index file, nothing seems to jump out as being the software I'm looking for.

As for other possible keywords for this software, I think the only other one's that would be applicable would be "Data Harvest" and the more general term of "data logging" or "data logger" but none of those turn up anything in the software archives that looks right.

Thanks again

Paul

speedyG's picture
Online
Joined: Nov 16 2011
Posts: 2377
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Hello Paul,
as far as you and the docs mention there has been different versions for different platforms....
and as far as you explain you have at least some stuff from the BBC micro version....
so just 3 questions:
What kind of code is at the disks or tapes ? Basic or Assembler ?
As afr as i could identify by the information provided the data is aquired by access to a 8 bit parallel dataport.
That would demand a connection to a VIA or similar chip in a interface at the computer.
The interface access coding at the Apple is rather well documented...
Is it documanted that same quality at the BBC Micro ?
maybe it´s not too difficult to port the software availiable - to use with a interface at the Apple II ?
sincerely
speedyG

__________________

In early days I had a lot of money but no time - now I have no money but a lot of time....
the second part includes less friends but a lot more joy on life....

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Thanks for the interest SpeedyG, you raise some good questions.

Yes, the data transfer from VELA to "micro" was via an 8-bit user port. On the BBC Micro, rather obviously, the 6522 VIA based "User Port" was used to connect to the VELA. Internally, the VELA used a MC6802 and several MC6821 PIA's.

According to the 1989 VELA price list I've recently acquired and intend to scan and publish, the Apple II required a "VELA to Apple" cable and an "Apple User Port" which retailed for £24 (GBP) and £30 (GBP) respectively. No details of whether the Apple User port was 6522 based or not are available but I suspect it probably was.

As you suggest, the data transfer routines for the BBC Micro, Commodore PET/C64, RM380Z and Apple II should all be very similar and I do have documentation providing listings for all of these machines as published in the later editions of the VELA technical manual which can be downloaded here... VELA User & Technical Manuals. The Apple II listing is on page 65 of the Technical manual.

In terms of software, I'm not looking for it from the point of view of simply interfacing the VELA to the Apple II and looking at the data it captures, instead I'm actually attempting to locate it so that I can preserve it. I'm aware that the software is extremely rare and is likely to be sat on an Apple II floppy disc owned by a probably retired British physics teacher who has a fondness for computing and electronics. If it were just for the purposes of interfacing the devices, I'd look into writing or porting software to do the job. That is after all what I did originally with the BBC Micro before I sourced any original software from the period.

For the purposes of this thread, it's specifically the version of VELAnalysis for Apple II that I'm interested in locating, archiving in the best way possible for use with emulators and real Apple hardware and making publicly available for others to use as it's the software that's of historical interest to me now.

I've contacted the original designer of the VELA hardware, the original distributor of the hardware and I've also contacted Leeds University here in the UK where the VELA was born in an effort to track down this software all to no avail as I've received replies confirming that they do not have copies of this software for any platform, hence I'm hitting the Apple forums in order to see if any Apple II enthusiasts might have this software on a disc or have had it archived already.

Thanks again

Paul

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

For completeness, here's a screenshot of the VELA documented Apple II BASIC source code for basic data transfer...

Paul

gsmcten's picture
Offline
Joined: Oct 4 2005
Posts: 2609
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

paul2004v,

Just wanted to say

"WELCOME to Applefritter!"

Steven Smile

__________________

Steven (gsmcten)

"Apple ][.....It's ALIVE!!!!!"

speedyG's picture
Online
Joined: Nov 16 2011
Posts: 2377
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Hello paul2004v,

meantime i´ve taken a close look to the manuall of the VELA.....
though it refers to the Apple Parallel card
( you may download info´s and manual of that card from here:
http://mirrors.apple2.org.za/Apple%20II%20Documentation%20Project/Interface%20Cards/Parallel/Apple%20II%20Parallel%20Interface%20Card/
)
it seeems to me to be better idea to use as interface

either the 32Bit IO from Aplied engineering
(you may download info about that card from here:
http://mirrors.apple2.org.za/Apple%20II%20Documentation%20Project/Interface%20Cards/Digitizers/AE%20IO%2032/
)

or as alternate interface the card from John Bell:

which is offered several times repeatingly at ebay
( manual of the card at:
http://filedump.glitchwrks.com/manuals/john_bell/6522_parallel_interface.pdf
).

The big advantage of second or third solution would be that you may interface both parallel ports
"straight through" from VIA chip at VELA system to VIA chip at Apple Interface without need
of further multiplexing of the two ports like it would be required by the first solution.

I do guess that the availiable software of the VELA is restricted only to the listing published in the manual itself....

In fact the VELA itself has it´s own CPU and storage and also the own measurement programs stored in the Eproms.

So the main purpose of the software for the apple II is restricted to 3 points:

A) => publish kind of measurement command to the VELA and the VELA performs the task by itself and stores
the data in it´s own RAM ....

B) => then issue commands to VELA to pass over the stored data to the port
and picking up that data and store it at the RAM of the Apple

C) => and then display the data at the Apple II display.....

the task A) can be handled just by simple Basic program and is rather easy

the task B) is a bit more complex but also can be handled by rather simple Basic programm
- but you can speed up the transfer if you write the subroutines in Assembler and load them as
"ampersand commands" in the basic programm

and finally task C) which is the main portion of work:
writing a program portion that transfers the data to a plotting routine that displays the results
of the measurement at the Hires screen as plotted graph....
and that also can be speeding up by use of assembler ( also similar to the previous task
using the technique of creating "ampersand routines" for the graphical display )

In that case it might be usefull to visit my site at:
www.appleii-box.de
and scroll down to several contributions related to programming of "ampersand commands"
and the handling of routines related to graphical display at the Hires screen....

maybe there is a bunch of stuff you might discover to be usefull....

anyhow - just my 5 cents to the topic....

sincerely speedyG

__________________

In early days I had a lot of money but no time - now I have no money but a lot of time....
the second part includes less friends but a lot more joy on life....

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

speedyG wrote:

So the main purpose of the software for the apple II is restricted to 3 points:

A) => publish kind of measurement command to the VELA and the VELA performs the task by itself and stores
the data in it´s own RAM ....

B) => then issue commands to VELA to pass over the stored data to the port
and picking up that data and store it at the RAM of the Apple

C) => and then display the data at the Apple II display.....

the task A) can be handled just by simple Basic program and is rather easy

the task B) is a bit more complex but also can be handled by rather simple Basic programm
- but you can speed up the transfer if you write the subroutines in Assembler and load them as
"ampersand commands" in the basic programm

and finally task C) which is the main portion of work:
writing a program portion that transfers the data to a plotting routine that displays the results
of the measurement at the Hires screen as plotted graph....
and that also can be speeding up by use of assembler ( also similar to the previous task
using the technique of creating "ampersand routines" for the graphical display )

Thanks for all that information but I think you missed the point of my original post... I DON'T want to write my own software to do this, that's a trivial thing for me to do even learning a "new to me system" like an Apple II.

I'm looking for the commercially published software available for the Apple II so I can preserve it in my VELA repository online making it available to all.

Reading through your assumptions about the VELA, some of them are incorrect.

Task A is impossible as the VELA is "programmed" by way of its own keypad.

Task B works differently to how you imagine. You have to set up the Micro to "listen" for a transmission, then use the VELA to choose the output source which can be a chart recorder, oscilloscope or Micro. After choosing the destination, pressing the "START" key transmit's the information to the target device.

Task C is what the already commercially written software does that I'm trying to track down.

Thanks again for the information though if I do decide to buy an Apple II and user port card and write my own software, it'll come in very handy Laughing out loud

Paul

speedyG's picture
Online
Joined: Nov 16 2011
Posts: 2377
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Hello paul2004v,

yes i did recognize that your own question was limited specificaly only to the availiability of the disk.

However it´s not just us two in this platform.....

the explaining part was also adressing to the other members out there.....
There are several similar devices out there - also without the required software.....
Therefor i wanted to spot out, that even if software for such devices is missing
at the owner - the owner often has the chance to get such devices back to operating state
with some "homework" and that missing software does not mean every time, that such a
device should not be preserved as part of the computer history and dumped to the trash....

Anyhow back to your research:
First: In former days in Great Britain the BASUG was the largest Apple Usergroup.
One of the largest groups was located in Edinbourg and it had close relations to the local university.

In most of that User groups the users esatblished "subsections"....
we had for example in Germany a subsection of "teachers using Apple at school"
maybe some similar group existed also in Great Britian.....
and maybe a BUSUG member still has old but updated member list....
At the "second chance" there are still the old magazins of the BASUG availiable at:
http://mirrors.apple2.org.za/ftp.apple.asimov.net/documentation/magazines/basug/
it might be worth hunting along that trail ?

Second: Like in most european countries the former Apple User Groups changed to become local
Mac User Groups. So in local Mac User Groups there is quite a good chance to find among aged members
former members of the local Apple User Groups.

Due to the fact that the VELA system was distributed in rather limited local area in Great Britian
it might be a good idea to expand search to that trace of research.

sincerely
speedyG

__________________

In early days I had a lot of money but no time - now I have no money but a lot of time....
the second part includes less friends but a lot more joy on life....

gsmcten's picture
Offline
Joined: Oct 4 2005
Posts: 2609
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

paul2004v,

After reading the entire thread I have one question.

Did you attempt to contact the BBC Archives
to see if they happen to have a copy of the software
or the manual with the source code?

I did not see any comment about that, so I thought I would ask.

Steven Smile

__________________

Steven (gsmcten)

"Apple ][.....It's ALIVE!!!!!"

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

The BBC don't archive third party software and that is what I'm looking for. They didn't even archive their own BBC related artefacts such as the BBC Domesday project, instead they reached out to the community to help them in recovering and using the information on the laser discs they produced.

I've contacted the development company, the inventor of the VELA and the distribution companies involved with marketing and distributing the software. None of those entities have any archives of old products at all.

As it stands, my site is the largest (and pretty much ONLY) online repository of VELA related information for both software and hardware. It's one of those devices that has long since been forgotten by the majority of people that came across it and because of its rarity and niche area in computing items for it are rare.

There are however many active users of VELA's in the UK to this day and they often contact me regarding either laying their hands on bits of software or giving me new bits of information about the VELA and what they still use if for. However, every single user I've come into contact with uses a BBC Micro to connect to the VELA for data transfer and manipulation.

Paul

gsmcten's picture
Offline
Joined: Oct 4 2005
Posts: 2609
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Paul,

Well, I'm sorry that I could not be of assistance.

Maybe someone else has a better idea.

Steven Smile

__________________

Steven (gsmcten)

"Apple ][.....It's ALIVE!!!!!"

paul2004v's picture
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2016
Posts: 7
Re: Looking for some very rare Apple ][ software for the ...

Just to update this thread.

I found out that PASCO (pasco.com) were the official distributors of the VELA in the 80's and 90's for the VELA so being American they supported the Apple II more fully than it was supported in the UK.

I contacted them today on a longshot to see if they still had archives that went that far back. Their documents archives online go back to 1996.

Sadly, their archives don't contain any of the Apple II software I'm looking for.

Given that I now know that PASCO distributed the software, it means I can search the Apple II archives for different keywords at least to see if the software turns up under those searches..

Paul