Apple /// FAQ

By David Ottalini

WAP /// SIG Co-Chairman

- with thanks to Mitchell Spector (m
) and Jeff Marraccini, System
Administrator, the OAK Repository (

Version: 2.0
October, 1995

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What is the Apple ///?

The Apple /// (code name: SARA) was the first computer ever
designed from the ground-up by Apple Computer as a company. It
included many of the "extras" one had to buy separately for the Apple
//: an 80 column card, a serial card, larger memory, etc. In
addition, it came with the most advanced operating system for small
computers of its day: SOS or the Sophisticated Operating System. So
good, in fact, that Apple later based its ProDos Operating System for
the Apple //e, //c, and //gs on SOS. The Macintosh's HFS, or
Heirarchical Filing System was also based on a similar system that
was part of SOS.

Design work on the Apple /// started in late 1978 under the
guidance of Dr. Wendell Sander. It was officially introduced at the
National Computer Conference in May, 1980. But the machine was never
properly tested and when shipments of SARA started in the fall there
were almost immediate problems. Of primary concern: the chips would
pop out of their sockets after only a few hours (primarily due to
heat). This lead to the famous "two-inch drop", where owners would
pick their machine up and drop it two inches to reset the chips. Such
a short-term solution was not totally satisfactory, however, and
Apple ended up relacing every main circuit ("mother") board. (In
fact, Apple's policy through June, 1981 was immediate replacement -
no questions asked.)

And there were other problems - a promised built-in clock/calendar
chip did not work, and there was very little software (people
complained "I spent $4000+ and got Visicalc and a paperweight!")

The problems hurt Apple's reputation. By December, 1981 Apple
"reintroduced" the Apple III - a revamped system with all or most of
the serious problems gone. But the damage had already been done. The
IBM PC was introduced in August, 1981 - between the old III and the
"fixed" III. And while the PC did not meet immediate acceptance, it
was helped along by the ///s problems.

With the Lisa already out and the Macintosh in development, Apple
was unsure what to do about the ///. They finally decided to release
an updated version, the Apple III Plus - but it did not hit dealer's
shelves until December 1983. The /// Plus had a new //e-style
keyboard and a few other upgrades (power supply/video interlace) and
was problem-free. Yet the entire Apple III line was discontinued only
four months later! All in all, some 100,000 machines had actually
been built.

Here's a visual timeline graph to make things clear. Note that
each notch in the graph represents two months.

|- <--------------- Apple III
1981 |-
|- <--------------- IBM PC
1982 |- <--------------- Apple III (fixed version)
1983 |-
|- <--------------- Lisa, Apple IIe
1984 |- <--------------- Apple III Plus
|- <--------------- Macintosh
|- <--------------- Apple IIc [Apple III discontinued]
|- <--------------- Mac 512
1985 |-

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What are the ///'s capabilities?

Keyboard Friendliness

Arranged in a strictly traditional typewriter layout.

Sculptured, stepped and angled keys.

Numeric key pad. Recognized differently from main

Software definable character set. Can be used for

All characters used by programming languages.

Dedicated cursor or arrow keys.

Two-key method to boot a disk without powering on and

Alpha lock key. Shift locks alphabetical keys only.

The entire ASCII code.

Automatic repeat for all keys and the speed can be

Can print 224 distinct characters.

Little bumps on D, K and 5 keys for finger positioning.

Numeric keypad can be redefined into 12 special function

Dvorak American simplified Keyboard available on file.

128 byte type ahead buffer.

Many different fonts available on file.

Character set can be changed under program control at any

Up to 13 control keys.

Computer "ON" light.

Two system keys, Closed and Open Apple keys redefine

73 total keys.

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What about its built-in features?

80 Column display.

143K internal Disk drive.

Interface for up to 4 disk drives.

RS232-C. Can be made to serve six devices with a

Color : All 16 colors with 192 lines of 280 dots per

Graphics: 16 shades of green with 192 lines of 560 dots per

Sound : 64 volume settings and over seven octaves.

Speaker : of speech producing quality.

Monitor ports: RGB or any video device; NTSC 80 column

Real time clock (location 3-B on mother board).

Two Joystick ports, A&B. Silentype printer can share port

Diagnostics in ROM.

Audio output: SOS Audio Driver can be rewritten to your

Built-in security mount to prevent theft.

256k RAM ability, 512k potential without strain.

Four expansion ports.

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What about SOS - The ///'s Operating System?

First ever written to be user friendly.

Data base capabilities. Hierarchical file-structure.

Manages ALL memory locations and I/O.

One disk format for ALL allows file sharing and

Able to share files with Apple //e; c and gs ProDos

Easily updated without hurting existing compatibilities.

Abilitiy to rewrite software drivers instead of changing

Will locate which drive a file is in for you.

Error proof menu system.

Automatic date/time stamping of every file.

Any destruction of data requires confirmation.

Intterupt driven.

Device-independent I/O.

Stores information using all empty space.

Programs that request printing could continue during

Powerful drivers for graphics, console, audio, printer and

Programs can run 20% faster by pressing Control-5 on keypad
(no video).

Uses all available memory.

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Is my Apple /// still useful today?

Despite the fact that the Apple /// was built more than 10 years
ago, it is far from useless. To the contrary, it was designed as a
business machine and it remains one of the best Apple // family
computers ever built by Apple. In fact, you can put together an
excellent system based on the Apple /// for about $100.00 (or less)
that will provide you with powerful word processing, data base,
spreadsheet, and telecommunications capabilities that are unmatched
for the price. The bottom line here is: Can the machine do the basic
things you need it to do? For many, given the low cost of both
hardware and software, the answer is yes.

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What other hardware/software do I need?

a) A second disk drive. It speeds up your work considerably, makes
it easier to load and save data, etc. Also usable: 1.4 MB Superdrive
and 800k Unidisk for the /// (using Apple // interface cards and On
Three drivers) and many hard disks (Profiles and SCSI).

b) System Utilities disk. This program lets you copy files, format
disks, and configure your SOS.Driver file (WAP PD disk 3UTL-02).

c) /// EZ Pieces. This is an excellent integrated software program
that is easy to learn and use. Its files are also compatiable with
the Apple // version called AppleWorks. (Sun Remarketing)

d) Printer. The kind is up to you. You can run it off of the RS232
port in the back of the /// or by using a Serial or Parallel card you
plug into one of the four slots internally. To connect your serial
printer to the /// you will need what is called a Null-Modem cable.
Local computer dealers and national chains like Inmac sell them. You
will also need specific device drivers you have to install in your
SOS.DRIVER file using System Utilities. WAP has a disk full of ///
drivers (3SYS-07). The /// can print to laserprinters as well as dot
matrix, but does not have access to inkjey printers (no

e) A surge protector to prevent electrical surges from destroying
your machine.

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What's this about SOS?

As mentioned earlier, the Apple /// uses an operating system
called SOS, or Sophisticated Operating System. It is entirely
ram-based. That means every time you load a program, it loads the
operating system as well. You will find three files on all program
disks: SOS.Kernel; SOS Interp and SOS.Driver. The KERNEL is the
operating system itself. You want to make sure you have the latest
version: 1.3. You can tell what version you have when you boot up.
You will see a message that tells you the version along with the
Apple copyright. You can get an auto-upgrade disk from WAP - ask for
disk #sys-01.

The INTERP file is the language the program uses or it may be the
program itself. Applewriter, Basic, and Pascal are examples of
SOS.Interp files you will find. Finally the DRIVER file (SOS.Driver)
contains the drivers that enable the /// to talk with your printer,
disk drives, modem and hard disk properly. At the minimum you will
need the console driver, called ".Console" and you might find others:
".Printer" to drive your printer; ".RS232" operates the RS232 port or
a serial card for telecommunications; ".Audio" lets your /// beep and
play music to you; ".Grafix" is the graphics driver. There are many
more. You install these using the System Configuration Program on the
System Utilities disk. In most instances, you want to make sure you
have the 1.3 versions of the drivers installed (WAP /// SIG SOS
Drivers PD disk; 3SYS-07)

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What is BOS3?

BOS3 is a wonderful upgrade to SOS, released in December, 1994.
Developer by Bob Consorti, it was financed entirely by the Apple ///
community. BOS3 adds a tremendous number of capabilities to the ///
with a hard disk. They include an easy to set-up and use menu system,
disk caching, password protection, screen saver, macro capability to
run programs with just two keystroke and compatibility with Selector
/// pathnames. It is available from On Three (Bob Consorti).

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What about emulation mode?

Your /// can operate as-is in an emulation mode to make it think
it's a 48k Apple//+ (WAP has the emulation software: Disk 3EMM-01).
Titan made a ///+// card for the /// you might also be able to find -
it increased memory up to 128k in //+ emulation and offered a RAM
disk in native mode.

You might also be on the lookout at computer garage sales for the
"Titan ///+//e" - a set of two cards that turns your /// into a 128k
//e. You'll want to add a 65c802 CPU (in place of the 6502) to ensure
compatibility with newer Apple // programs (it has no effect on
native mode applications). The cards offer a RAM disk in native mode
as well. (WAP has a wonderful set of RAM drivers for these cards -
disk 3DAD-10).

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Where do I find information about the ///?


A user group is a great way to obtain more information about the
Apple ///. Members are knowledgable, ready to answer questions and
most offer PD (public domain) libraries with Apple /// software.
There is only one Apple /// user group still active:
Washing Apple Pi
/// SIG
12022 Parklawn Drive
Rockville, MD. 20852
(303) 984-0300
Check out WAP PD disks 3INF-01 through 15, as well as WAP01-10 for


The best place is on CompuServe, where SARAsaurs meet on board 13
of the Micronetworked Apple Users Group (MAUG) (GO APPUSER). MAUG's
Apple /// section (13) provides a fantastic forum for information
exchange, and its Data Libraries for the /// has a number of files
for downloading. (WAP PD DISK 3INF-03 offers the "Best of MAUG" for
the ///.)
Apple's EWORLD On-Line service offers some Apple /// services - Apple
// tech notes are available for download. Unforunetly, it is only
available to Mac or (soon) PC folks. (WAP is working to convert these
files to include them into our PD).


There's only one real place to go on the Internet for Apple ///
discussions - West Virginia University! Message:


and ask to be added to their Apple /// Discussion Group so you can
get other member's messages. The group here is small - BUT it is very
knowledegable and eager to help. Jeff Fritz (JFRITZ@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU)
is the Sysop. There is also an FTP site there. Goto:
[editor's note - doesn't seem to have an ftp server
anymore. However,
seems to be the correct archive.]
One other place to go is the Apple // Discussion area, a Usenet
newsgroup on the Internet. Check out the comp.sys.apple2
board - where Apple ///ers lurk and answer questions on occasion.
This FAQ is also posted there from time to time.

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Where can I find public domain software?

At this point in time, WAP is your best bet for PD offerings -
there are some 250+ disks. Costs for the software is minimal and the
slection is excellent (the entire library was just reorganized to
make it easier to use). There are some unique offerings along with
many of the "old standbys." You will get a better deal on PD software
by joining WAP.

Most disks are double-sided and self-booting. WAP is the only
active Apple /// group remaining, and the only one still actively
developing PD software for the Apple ///. Software is also available
on the WAP TCS - an 8 system BBS that includes a complete file
download library - offering Apple /// Programs, Information and
Essentials (members only).
On Compuserve - MAUG's Data Library contains a modest amount of Apple
/// information and PD software for downloading. Most information is
in ASCII text file format or is in an archive format using a
shareware program called DAR (Disk Archive and Retrieval) from On
Three's Bob Consorti.

The Apple /// Listserv on the Internet at West Virginia University
also offers a growing list of files for download.

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Are there still sources for hardware and commercial software?

Yes, there are still some places we can go to obtain not only the
old-line products like Visicalc, Apple Writer, and /// EZ Pieces, but
new hardware and software that is still being developed for us.

Joe Consorti
Apple /// Products,
6303 Green Garden Drive,
Bakersfield, California 93313
(NOTE - This is a NEW Address as of 6/95)

As excellent source of software (primarily). On Three's programs
include BOS3 - the new SOS Upgrade, DAR - a disk archival and
retrieval program (shareware, Disk Directory/File Fixer /// - a
must-have repair disk. There's also Draw-On Three (a graphics
program), DeskTop Manager (a background utility). On the hardware
front, there's a 512k upgrade (limited availability), SCSI hard
disks, etc. Call for availablity. NEW PRODUCT: Driver for the Apple
// "Blue Card" that allows the /// to use any PC disk drive for
storage! Other drivers allow the /// to use the // Unidisk and

Sun Remarketing
P.O. Box 4059
150 E. 400 N
Logan, UT 84321
1-800-821-3221 (Orders only)
1-801-563-3226 (Fax)
Inet :

Sun Remarketing remains a major support organization for the Apple
/// - offering a host of products. They have a large selection of ///
commercial software and hardware (including paarts) at mostly decent

Sun also offers a nationwide service for the /// community (and you
can call them for help as well using a 900 number). Software prices
are reduced if purchased with the computer.
B&R Computer Services
PO Box 7195
San Diego, CA. 92167
(916) 225-8281

B&R Computer Services in San Diego has on hand a wide range of old
Apple /// commercial software.

(An Apple Resource Center)
1014 Central Ave.
Tracey, CA 95376

Order Number 800-753-0114
Fax Number 209-832-3270
Info Number 209-832-4300

A source of Pre-owned Apple II, IIgs, /// and Mac hardware. They seem
to buy/sell, and repair.
Here are some other sources of parts you might find useful:

COMPANY/NAME: Jameco Electronics
PHONE : 415-592-8097
ADDRESSS : 1355 Shoreway Road Belmont, CA. 94002

COMPANY/NAME: Shreve Systems
PHONE : 1-800-227-3971
ADDRESSS : 845 Lark Ave. Shreveport, LA. 71105

COMPANY/NAME: Pre-Owned Electronics
PHONE : 1-800-274-5343
ADDRESSS : 30 Clematis Ave. Waltham, MA. 02154

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Where can I get my Apple /// repaired?

These are some of the best sources - but be sure to call the WAP
office if you're a member, since the club has experts that may be
able to help you without the long-distance 900 charges.

Company: Sun Remarketing
Phone : 1-800-821-3221
Contact: Bob Cook
Address: P.O. Box 4059
Logan, UT. 84321

Contact: Bob Consorti
Phone : 1-617-631-0622
Address: 179-B Kent St.
Brookline, MA. 02148

Contact: Tom Linders
Phone : 1-408-741-1001
Address: 1204 Wardel Ct.
Saratoga, CA. 95070

Contact: WM Enterprises
Phone : 1-301-268-4242
Address: 1932-D Lincoln Drive
Annapolis, MD. 21403

Contact: B&R Computer Services
Phone : 1-619-225-8281
Address: PO Box 7195
San Diego, CA. 92167

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Are there any Apple /// newsletters or magazines?

There is really only one publication that still has articles most
every other month - the WAP Journal. It's available only to WAP
members. However, ALL Apple /// articles for the last 10 years are on
disk and available to all. Call or write to the WAP office for more
details and costs.

On Three also published an excellent magazine that came out for
years. It provided a wide range of reviews (usually of its own
products), beginners tutorials and a letters section. Back issues and
"Disk of the Month" disks available from Joe Consorti (see

You might also want to check out the WAP /// SIG PD Library, which
has on disk the entire set of newsletters from ATUNC - The Apple ///
Users of Northern California (3INF-06 through 11). There are also
disks with information from TAU - the Third Apple Users Group of
Wheaton, Illinois (3INF-05) and many more.

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What about Apple /// books?

Only a few books were ever written about the Apple ///. There are
three specific books worth mentioning:

The Osborne/Mcgraw Hill Guide To Your Apple /// is the first book
on the list. The other two are by Eddie Adamis: Basic Keywords for
the Apple // and Business Basic for the Apple ///. The Guide covers
only the Apple /// and not the Plus version. The author is Stanley M.
Miastokowski. It's a good, beginning-level test for new /// owners
and good to have for us older SARAsaurs who've had their machines
around for a while. It has a good overview of Business Basic and
sections on the .Audio and .Grafix drivers that are excellent.

The Adamis texts are straight-forward, no-nonsense books that
essentially describe Business Basic version 1.1, its key words and
provides examples.

The only other ///-specific book on the market at one point was
"Using Apple Business Computers" by Kenniston Lord Jr. It discusses
Business Basic from a number of perspectives and includes lengthly
Basic programs for business users.

Unfortunately, all these books are now out-of-print. But you may
still be able to find them at local new or used bookstores. WAP
members: All these books are availble in the WAP library.

If you are a /// EZ Pieces user, you can check out any of the
older AppleWorks books in most libraries, since the two programs (at
least in earlier versions) shared the same file format (Appleworks
3.0 and 4.0 can read older AW or 3EAP files, but there will be
incompatibilties once those files have been worked on and saved -
especially with spreadsheet and data base functions). There are also
some excellent books out on Apple Writer and Visicalc - which you
might be able to find at your local library or at a computer garage
sale or Ham Fest.

Finally, Sun Remarketing offers a booklet designed to help Apple
/// users diagnose and repair their machines.

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What about technical materials?

Apple produced a /// Service Manual that includes schematics,
information, service tips, etc., along with a host of Technical
Notes. WAP has a copy of the Service Manual and can make copies for
those interested. The cost for a copy of the double-sided manual
(printing + P&H) is $75.00 (the manual is huge). All the Apple ///
Tech Notes are available on Apple's EWorld On-Line Service. WAP is
working to convert the information into a set of PD disks for the ///
PD library, since EWorld is only available to Mac or (soon) PC Users.

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What kind of communications software is available?

There were a number of communications programs produced for the
Apple /// over the years, but there are three generally considered to
be the best:

a) Access /// Interp Version: An excellent assembly-language terminal
program that can provide VT100 emulation. Scripts can be used to
automate log-ons to Compuserve and other on-line services. It does
NOT offer Xmodem protocol. It is available in the WAP /// SIG PD
library as disk 3TEL-02 (which includes an excellent Apple ///
communications tutorial).

b) XMODEM /// is also in the WAP PD - an excellent stand-alone
telecom program that offers the user XMODEM protocol for error-free
downlaods and uploads. Disk 3TEL-05. Manual is on disk

c) The Communications Manager is a commercial program available from
On Three (Joe Consorti). It is the best /// communications program
ever produced and offers a host of features, including XModem and
turbo downloading capabilities. It can be run as a stand-alone
program or as a Desktop Manager module (call for the latest

Please see the Apple ///
Communications FAQ (by Al Bloom and others) for more details
about telecommunications on the Apple ///.

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What about modems?

You can connect just about any speed modem to the ///, but the
terminal programs above have settings that only go up to 9600 baud.

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Can the /// access the Internet?

You bet! The /// and its communications software is definitely
equal to the task of accessing an Internet host to "surf the
Internet". In fact, internet access via the /// is both viable and
enjoyable. The lack of graphics seldom is a barrier.

The world's most popular Internet hosts are still Unix computer
systems. Unix systems have traditionally integrated well into the
Internet, and plenty of text-based Internet software is available on
these hosts to enable your Apple /// to become a powerful Internet

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What does it take to surf the Internet with the ///?

In most areas of the United States, Internet host access is
available for under $20.00 a month. Similar services for similar
prices can be found in most places in the world. Normally called
"shell" access, an Internet provider generates an account for you on
their host(s). Then, using the Apple ///, a modem, and a
communications program such as Access /// or The Communications
Manager, you call into their host and begin using the programs above
in any combination to explore the Internet. In some areas popular
systems known as FreeNets are available. These offer free, text-based
access to the Internet and generally have the same capabilities as
any other Internet host. Please see the Apple
/// Internet FAQ for more information.

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What is the Apple /// Software Development Fund?

Established by Washington Apple Pi, the SDF is used to help fund
specific software projects for the ///. Through donations and
contributions from WAP and ATUNC (the old Apple Three Users of
Northern California), the SDF helped fund the development of a
Superdrive driver and BOS3 - the first upgrade to SOS in some 10
years. Although hopes to fund a new communications program are on
hold, we are working on some other projects - including a driver for
the popular ZIP Drive (a definate go!).

The SDF also provides encouragement and support to programmers
working on Apple // projects we think may be able to have an Apple
/// application as well.

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OK - I'm stumped - What is a SARAsaur?

Anyone who still loves the Apple /// as a great computer!

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