How and where to begin?

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How and where to begin?

Apologies if this is a very basic question. It seems everyone here is an advanced Apple 1 enhusiast but I was wondering if there is any document to guide a newcomer on how to compile the parts and bits to start building an Apple 1. I am experienced in electronics and building kits but not in Apple domain. I have been thinking of building an Apple 1 for a few years and feel like now is the time. For example I read about Uncle Bernie's component kits but not sure how to get them. I checked ebay but could not find anything. There are a few types of replica boards  and even old Sanyo monitors and replica Datanetics keyboards are available but it would be perfect if somene has compiled a list of all materials and potential sources. Appreciate this community's  passion, efforts and dedication to this hobby. Thanks. 

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Hi there, of course there are

Hi there, of course there are Apple-1 rookies here, like myself!

I started building the Apple-1 a couple of years ago and I am still not finished. However, I managed to get all parts and also got the kit of Uncle Bernie. So I am actually planning to build two Apple-1's. One that certainly works (based on Uncle Bernie's kit) and one that is close to the original as possible. This way I can cross-check when anything fails.

When I started I made a material list, so you have a start-off point. To the advanced Apple-1 people: please correct anything that is wrong.

 

https://www.applefritter.com/files/2023/06/23/Apple1BOM.pdf

 

Regards from The Netherlands!

 

 

 

 

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Uncle Bernie's famous Apple-1 kits are sold out !

In post #1, Pegaman wrote:

 

"I have been thinking of building an Apple 1 for a few years and feel like now is the time. "

"For example I read about Uncle Bernie's component kits but not sure how to get them. "

"I checked ebay but could not find anything. "

 

Uncle Bernie answers:

 

"Now is the time" --- you missed the past 4 years where my famous kits were available.

 

They now are sold out. The last Ebay auction ended just 2 weeks ago. Oh, there were bidding wars on the last few kits, they bid them up to $500 and more. But I don't think they paid too much - under the current market conditions and worldwide shortage of all critical ICs (Signetics 1404/2504, 2513, 2519, National Semiconductots DS0025, LM323K), even I probably could not make a kit anymore below $450, at a non profit price. This is why I stopped making those kits. The IC brokers just got too greedy. And the market is infested  with Chinese counterfeit ICs. I've threads here on Applefritter about these pitfalls.

 

Under these adverse conditions it's not viable nor desirable for me to make any further Apple-1 kits, sorry.

 

Has been a nice pastime during the pandemic, though.

 

All what is left for me is to complete a few of my Apple-1 projects, such as the Floppy Disk Comtroller, the DRAM card, and the color graphics card, and the little B&W monitor. I had been working on these projects for years, but all of them got stuck somewhere, despite they all do work. But there still are unsolved ugly spots in the designs which need to be solved before I could design PCBs for them. Getting proper clocks from the Apple-1 bus is one of the issues. There ain't no proper clocks, all what is available on the bus  is too slow and rings too much. But I'm working on sorting that out. Seems I need to add a PLL somewhere to clean the clock up such that I can get robust timing for all the state machines on these cards.

 

- Uncle Bernie

 

 

 

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Hi Pegaman!

I think you should start with the site of Mike Willegal. It's all about Apple-1. 

http://www.willegal.net/appleii/appleii-first_page.htm

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What about the populated boards on eBay

Thank you Uncle Bernie, you are a legend. I was wondering what you think about the prepopulated Apple 1 Clone boards at ebay for example from compused-ca or from apple1replica. Leaving the price aside, do you think these are viable options to acquire a working apple 1 replica board? 

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About commercial Apple-1 clones ...

In post #5, Pegaman wrote:

 

"I was wondering what you think about the prepopulated Apple 1 Clone boards at ebay for example from compused-ca or from apple1replica."

 

Uncle Bernie answers:

 

I know both gentlemen who make these commercial clones. The Canadian I never met in person but he got started with my IC kits. The German one (the only one with wave-soldered Apple-1 clones) I met in person in May this year when I visited Munich.

 

Actually, the latter one (Armin H.) realized my "100 wave-soldered Apple-1 clone" project, which got me into the Apple-1 scene, but turned out to be not viable anymore, at least for myself, after I had foolishly bought most of the ICs for the project. These went into my famous IC kits to recover the costs. So when he contacted me about his intention to really do it, I helped him with my expertise (and some shipments of ICs over the pond) to get started. He also has the finest, most authentic reprints of the original Apple-1 manuals, including the "BYTE SHOP" stamp used with permission of Paul Terrell, the founder of BYTE SHOP.

 

So "my" "100 wave-soldered Apple-1 clone" project is alive, it's real, except it ain't "my" project anymore, it's Armin's project now. Fair enough.

 

I happen to have brought a few of his wave soldered Apple-1 motherboards with me back to the USA, and I intend to populate the empty sockets soon. Only then I can tell how they perform. Armin is a honest businessman and he has the license (from me) to use my "diagnostics page" in the firmware PROMs. What he doesn't do is to add the "reliability mods" - as it has turned out that with the particular lot(s) of INTERSIL DRAMs and the special high performance bypass capacitors being used, the diagnostics don't throw any DRAM error messages. So the "reliability mods" are not needed in his Apple-1 clones. The same thing was confirmed by builders of my later kits, which used the same DRAMS Armin has found for me. He also found the DS0025 source. And he promised to buy so many 2519B from me that I could do the "final" big purchase I had to do because the first vendor in Israel I had sourced them from in the beginning got too greedy and suddenly wanted $65 a piece, even from me, who opened the market. The other 2519 source had fair prices but I had to buy all they had. Without the demand from Armin, I could not have closed that deal. Armin also found the grey Signetics CM2140 character generators which ended up in my later kits. Without Armin being a "big whale" in the Apple-1 scene, there would have been only about half the number of my famous Apple-1 IC kits.  It was a really fruitful cooperation. Due to his demand in ICs, and us working together in finding them, I was enabled to make more kits than planned.

 

The Canadian, AFAIK, does not use wave soldering, so he hand solders his Apple-1. Which is a tedious process that takes at least six hours of very focused work. But this also gives you the opportunity to have individual custom features (ask him).

 

Since both of these two Gentlemen run this Apple-1 cloning as a real business, they of course need to make a profit, unlike me with my kits (money can't motivate me anymore, to the contrary, I hate money as I have far too much of it and can't kill the "inflation rats" which nibble it away --- tracking how you lose purchasing power is a very subtle type of mental torture).

 

If you factor in the huuuge VAT in Europe and the ever increasing Ebay fees, then you will see that ~1/3 of Armin's asking price is eaten by the inevitable parasites. And then consider the costs for the assembly house which does the stuffing and wave soldering of the boards. Alone the custom made fixture to run the PCBs through the mave soldering machine without plugging up all the prototype area and without solder ruining the gold plated edge connector did cost a fortune.

 

And don't forget that my famous IC kits did not contain ALL the components to build an Apple-1. You had to add the three big blue Sprague capacitors, the heatsink, the IC sockets, ... all adds to the costs.

 

So in the end, I think that for a commercial offering, these prices asked are fair. Anyone who complains about these prices probably never tried to produce an Apple-1 clone commercially.

 

So far the comments I can make about these commercial offerings.

 

- Uncle Bernie

 

 

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masking

I am intrigued by the mention of a custom jig to protect the board during wave soldering. I understood that peelable latex mask (such as "WonderMask" or "Techform") is normally used for this.

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On the issues with protecting edge connectors . .

In post #7, robespierre wrote:

 

"I understood that peelable latex mask (such as "WonderMask" or "Techform") is normally used for this. "

 

Uncle Bernie answers:

 

I don't know what went wrong with these masks exactly, but the assembly house did have teething problems with solder contaminated edge connectors, so the "Wonder" mask - if that was the product they used - must have failed. No wonder ! (Snark). Based on the projected costs of making a new jig needed for slightly different PCBs I wanted to use in a custom production run, there must be more tricks involved than just using these peel-off masks. Might involve some mechanical clamps in addition to the masks, to protect the masks from being undercrept by solder. Otherwise the high costs for the jig could  not be explained. I finally decided against doing my own production run.  Looked as if I could never recover my costs. So I did not dig any deeper.

 

My takeaway is that reviving long obsolete manufacturing processes involves higher risks and extra costs, which may not be worth it.

 

- Uncle Bernie

 

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