Have a look here - probably similar to articles floating around elsewhere
Have a look here - probably similar to articles floating around elsewhere
Bridged chat on:
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happy to hear again from you....
yep - it´s the one that corey checked up before it moved ahead to Bonhams:
is the thread with some great pictures made by corey....
Thanks for posting. I really love working on this stuff and get a kick out of reading the articles.
I think I'm up to getting my 5th Apple-1 working now. Some will see the light of day (when they do I will post images with the owners permission), and some I think the owners will simply take out every so often to play with, but want their identity secret. FYI: An Apple-1 board fits perfectly in a large bank deposit box when not in use
When you start working on the real thing you realize how fragile the originals were, seriously. The quality of the Mimeo board due to modern PCB techniques and the choice of vendor by Mike W is light years ahead of both NTI and the original PCB mfr. Until I worked on my first real Apple-1, I thought MITS had terrible quality boards for their early stuff. The Apple-1 is way worse. I won't get into the details here, but needless to say some of those qualities are very useful in authenticating the boards. I have even carefully inspected a recent Newton-1 since he moved to the older PCB technique and even he doesn't capture those aspects of the board. It's almost like Jobs cut a deal to get the cheapest boards possible and the PCB house skimped to make money on the deal...Don't know if that's true, but I have boards made by NTI for other systems of the 1976 vintage and they are different in many qualities.
Anyway... thanks again....
Slight correction, I realized I have gotten 5 boards working, but I fixed have couple that were working but stopped after being shipped by the owner.
I always enjoy seeing my Apple 1 "graphics" sideshow for these auctions. I should ask for a percentage of the sales! J.K. I like that it is one of the semi official checkout programs - thanks for using it.
I love your Graphics slide show which is why I use it as a great way to show off the Apple-1 terminal section scrolling. I use it as often as I can.... Sure I confirm a system can load basic and run programs like Star Trek or lander, but it's so cool to watch Woz and Jobs scroll from a working machine.
If you want to come up with a new version of the slide show and put your name in there and remove the newer apple stuff, I'll use that one instead.
The slideshow is the perfect demo program and it's second best thing, right behind my memory test in finding latent hardware issues. For finding video issues, it's on top of the heap.
I usually use your memory program, loading basic, loading StarTrek 8k (it uses all the rest of the 4k available after loading basic) and finally Resman's Ascii Graphics program. The Ascii Program actually is easier to get running than Basic since it uses less memory so only 4k has to be working, but yes it helps troubleshoot video problems.
I'm not sure I would agree with that. I've actually handled a real Apple-1 (pre-NTI), and, while the quality of the board was nothing to write home about (especially compared to boards produced today), I would say it was on par with typical PCBs produced in that era. It looked very similar to Atari arcade PCBs produced around the same time. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Steve Jobs had the first batch made at the same place the Atari boards were made, considering Jobs worked for Atari, and Howard Cantin, who layed out the Apple-1 PCB, also did work for Atari.
I haven't worked on Atari arcade boards, so I can't compare though that makes sense since Jobs worked there he used the contacts he knew to make them, but I have worked on a ton of boards from the same period(s100, mark-8,...). Even some from NTI, but none are as bad as the Apple-1 in manufacturing quality. However the layout of the Apple-1 is better than most of that day because typically there were mistakes and even out of the factory cuts and rework, which the Apple-1 had none.
I will state one exception to this quality statement. The early 1975 Altair Rev-0 motherboard. It wasn't necessarily poor quality, but economics. It was too thin, you could literally flex a trace off the board inserting and removing a card. They fixed that very quickly with a thicker PCB.
Some were probably made at Santa Clara Circuits which was at 1881 Martin ave. There happened to be an Atari Coin Op. Games Division facility at 2175 Martin Ave at the time.
The NTI boards are a little more problematic - there was a circuit board company called NTI in Mountain View in the mid 80s and a couple of other possibilities.
My guess on the NTI is they had different quality boards available. Apple just took one of the cheapest options. You can see that NTI must have had different quality options from the ACI. The NTI ACI don't match the NTI Apple-1 boards. The NCC version of the ACI seems to be a better quality PCB.
I have quite a few S-100 cards including a couple of Altair boards myself, and I would say that the Apple-1 board (I can't attest to the NTI Apple-1) is of equal if not better quality than most of them. However, there is one thing that might account for the "fragility" of Apple-1 PCBs that you have experienced; The Apple-1 boards are all wave soldered. The Altair boards were hand soldered. Wave soldering subjects the whole PCB to high temperature for an extended period and this can affect the adhesion of the copper laminate to the fibreglass, which in turn can lead to pads and tracks lifting very easily, especially if the wave soldering temperature was too high or the transport rate was too slow over the wave.
Atari arcade PCBs were also wave soldered, and track lifting is a common problem with them.
I agree there are a ton a "cheap" no-name S100 cards (I won't buy those). I'm referring to the ones with solder mask like the Processor Tech used and Cromemco. The MITS solder mask cards are pretty good. Their no solder mask, aren't bad, however you still see a missing pad here or there, but usually because of a non-temperature controlled iron. You do have a good point about the wave soldering, but many consumer items were wave soldered and don't have the problem. I think it might have been a combination of the PCB house used by Apple and Atari, their choice of materials (which I'm sure they had cost options) and the wave soldering. So I think we are in agreement in the end.
I think the quality of S-100 and other computer PCBs improved drastically after about 1977 as hobby computing started to really take off and they were being manufactured in greater quantity and with better quality control, but in 1974-1976, when home computers were still effectively a cottage industry, PCB construction was often variable with little quality control.
For the time (1976), having a solder mask on both sides and a component overlay on the Apple 1 PCB was a luxury. It wouldn't have been the cheapest option. The laminate itself might not have been the best quality, but I think a lot of the "roughness" of the Apple-1 PCB can be attributed to the wave soldering. If you have never seen an older PCB before and after wave soldering (this wouldn't apply to modern SMOBC boards) you may be surprised just how much the process can rough the board up, especially if it gets too hot (resulting in rippling and bubbling on both sides of the board, and solder mask flaking off). Since the Apple-1 was only made in small batches (of 50-100 or so) there may not have been much effort put into tuning the process for best quality.
For reference I've uploaded a photo of the underside of an Atari arcade PCB made in 1976; http://www.applefritter.com/content/atari-arcade-pcb-underside
It may be a little hard to tell from the photo but the color and texture of the solder mask looks practically identical to a pre-NTI Apple 1. Also, note the rippling effect caused by the wave soldering, especially on the thicker tracks, which is also very similar to the Apple 1.
At some point I'll try and get a photo side by side with the real Apple 1 (It's not mine, it belongs to a collector friend in Australia).
Yes you see that on a lot of wave soldered boards. My point about quality wasn't about that though. That is caused by the older technique of fully "silvering" the board and then putting the mask on top. The "silvering" solder starts flowing from heat. My point was actually about the quality of the board itself.
I took a look last night to double check date codes and I have about 6 very high quality S100 boards from 1975. The thing about 1975/76 in the hobby computer industry was that there were people making dirt cheap "mask-less" boards, I agree they were the worst. There were those making very high quality solder mask boards, and all those in-between. For a solder-mask board, which is really a requirement for wave soldering a complex design like the Apple-1, it was on the cheaper side of the PCB quality. I think Processor Tech's solder mask boards, IMSAI and Cromemco from late 1975, early 1976 really show what you can get in the Valley (where Apple was) if you were willing to pay.
My guess was Nolan Bushnell got the cheapest boards made that he could confidently wave solder, and Jobs use the same contacts to get his boards made. We know he did that for the PCB layout among other things.