Hand-built by Woz Disk Controller

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macnoyd's picture
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Hand-built by Woz Disk Controller

A travel through time for those interested in the history of the Disk ][ ...

One of my long-time goals was to try and replicate the Disk ][ controller that Woz originally designed.
Part of it was the challenge, part was to see what Woz went through and the differences that
this board has from the production board produced by Apple.

It took me a while to sort out those differences.  You'll note there are a few less components
on the Woz built board as with Apple's production board.  That, and the chips he used were
slightly different as well.  I noticed on the oldest of Disk ][ production boards, Apple used
a 74LS259 in place of the 9330 chip used on most of the Disk ][ driver boards out there today.
Interestingly, from what I could tell, the schematic diagram Apple released was almost pin for
pin identical to the hand-built Woz board.  Missing was the transistor "switches" that powered
down the D-Flop storage register and P5 PROM. On the Woz board, they were always powered on.
Also, it appears there is a missing pull-up resistor between pins 9 & 10 on the hand-wired board.
I could not see it in any archived photographs.  The 74LS05 is an open-collector device and
would have likely contributed to some level of instability without that pull-up.

The two 555 ICs were replaced with a single 556, reducing the chip count.

A note-worthy story regarding the Apple ][ Disk Drive here:

You'll note that the article talks about Woz spending December 25th, 1977 working on the Disk ][
prototype, but if you look at the photo of the original board Woz built, it's dated 24-Feb-78.
Something is not right about the story.  This distinction is also noted on Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_II#Disk_II   Everything I have found in searches indicates Woz
spending his Christmas Holiday building the Disk ][ interface, so why is the original board dated
24-Feb-78?  Either this is not the original board, or he built this prototype as a pre-production

Conflict in facts ...

Here is a link talking about the original hand-wired (by Woz) Disk ][ board...

I like this article because it describes the board in-brief fairly well, though without photos.
I believe it was the description of the board when it went for sale several years ago for about 15K.
I believe Woz originally used this board to "settle" on his 13 sector scheme, as there is evidence on
the board itself that he moved some traces around using a different color wire wrap (blue noted) ...
likely because that's what was readily available to him at the time.  The P5 PROM is missing from the board
which makes sense because that's the PROM that determines 13 sector from 16 sector R/W's to the disk.

Interesting article with a photo of the Disk ][ Drive & hand-built by Woz card:

PDF file showing the Disk ][ interface at a different angle. (zoom-able)

The only place I could find a decent photo of the back side of the board. (scroll down the page)

By itself: PCB back-side: https://bitrebels.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/apple-computer-rare-products-7.jpg

My conclusions:

This was an interesting build.  Worth my time.  I enjoyed learning a bit of "hands-on" history.
The original Woz-built Disk ][ Driver board works fine on both 13 and 16 Sector, and I was able to
boot up ProDos without issue with the 16 sector PROM installed.
The 555 timer circuit pulse for the power-on Reset circuit was considerably shorter than the
production unit.  This became obvious with the circuit using a 0.1uf capacitor on the Woz board vs.
a 22uf capacitor on the production board. Sometimes the computer wouldn't reset properly upon power-up.
The 74LS259 "8-bit latch" used in the Woz board is virtually identical to the 9334 chip used on the
production board.  I'm unsure why they changed it but I'm guessing it had to do with timing consistency
or drive current. (fan-out)

The unknown:  Why does the hand-built Woz board have a date of 24-Feb-78 when the story says Dec 25, 1977.

Comments welcome! Hope you enjoyed the write-up.

Picts:  Original Woz hand-built board, followed by my hand-built replica.



Last seen: 17 hours 22 min ago
Joined: Jul 31 2014 - 17:48
Posts: 47
Nice work! Thanks for sharing

Nice work! Thanks for sharing. That was an interesting read through the links and your description.

Lee Adamson's picture
Last seen: 8 min 32 sec ago
Joined: Oct 11 2018 - 22:53
Posts: 75
Thaaaat's really cool.

Thaaaat's really cool.

Last seen: 20 hours 51 min ago
Joined: Jun 5 2008 - 07:26
Posts: 435
Welcome to the world of hands

Welcome to the world of hands-on archeology.  Often events didn't take place exactly the way people remember them.


While it's very likely that Woz worked on the disk ][ implementation over Christmas break, it's also clear that work continued into January and beyond.  The fact that the prototype differs from the production unit, is evidence of that.  I think the evidence points to that sticker being added when the team thought that they were ready to freeze the design, not when it was initially constructed.



Mike Willegal







macnoyd's picture
Last seen: 58 min 9 sec ago
Joined: Oct 15 2012 - 08:59
Posts: 549
Mike, thanks for your comments ...

Mike, thanks for your comments ...

Re: I think the evidence points to that sticker being added when the team thought that they were ready to freeze the design, not when it was initially constructed.

The only thing I can think of that may counter that is that the labels placed on the board appear to be in Woz's own handwriting.

That, or (as you say) he continued to refine the design after the Holidays and placed that dated tag to the board when he finished.  There's write-ups that say he was working on improving sector mapping after the initial design, so that might have come into play.  Maybe someone who knows Woz can ask why the board was date-tagged later on?

tokabln's picture
Last seen: 6 days 2 hours ago
Joined: Dec 30 2015 - 10:48
Posts: 209
APPLAUSE... well done.

APPLAUSE... well done.


Do you really remember which one the original is/was  :-)

macnoyd's picture
Last seen: 58 min 9 sec ago
Joined: Oct 15 2012 - 08:59
Posts: 549
Recreating the Disk ][ Drive 0001

I guess I should call it 0001a? 

Recently, I was able to get ahold of a pair of NOS original Shugart Mdl 390 drives with original Shugart manufactured Analog

boards that were used in the very early production of the Disk ][.  Notice the similarities?  I was a lucky to find these.  I thought

this would complimant the Disk ][ Card replication.  At some point, I will be installing an original 13 sector PROM into the

card and connecting the drives using un-shielded rainbow wire.  Should be a close replication of the original setup. (hopefully)

Might not ever see another set of Shugart drives like this. It's likely I will use an Apple Disk ][ cover over the drives to protect.

Not sure what to do with the plain faceplate though. ;-)  j/k

Another History link here: https://apple2history.org/history/ah05/

Hope you like it.






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