Is there a floppy disk interface for the Apple I ?

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Is there a floppy disk interface for the Apple I ?

Would be nice if there would exist a floppy disk interface for the Apple I.

Alas, all my searches on the web and on this site always tend to lead to Apple II floppy interfaces, i.e. based on the Disk II controller card.

Hence, my question to this forum. I am a newbie with Apple I so I can't know any better.

I also would think that any floppy interface for the Apple I should keep up the correct spirit and be based on the Woz state machine, and be able to read and write Apple II DOS3.3 floppy disks.

I noticed that the Apple I has somewhat inconsistent timing due to the refresh not being transparent, which may screw up the timing loops, especially in the write routines.

So I have some doubts the item I want does exist.

Any hints ?

 

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Must be ESP Bernie...

Must be ESP Bernie...

I was thinking about the exact same thing this morning.  Maybe I'll take this on if I find a bit of time this summer.

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I seem to recall a Shugard

I seem to recall a Shugard interface of some sort. Might have been for their 8-inch drives?

 

Also, see: http://www.apple1notes.com/old_apple/Peripheral_Boards_files/Apple%201%20Expansion%20Documentation%2020150528.pdf

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It must be ESP ...

It may have been ESP. For me, ESP is real. I have many patents but some didn't make it to be granted as somebody else, at the same time, had the same idea, and filed just before me. In late 1983 I invented a unbreakable floppy disk copyprotection method for the Atari 400/800. Offered it to the software producers without telling any detail. No takers. A few months later, in 1984, Electronic Arts published "ARCHON" which had a copy protection based on the very same inventive idea. They botched the "unbreakable" part, though. But no disk copy tool oder floppy enhancement for the Atari 8-bit ever was able to duplicate my formatting trick. I'd really love to meet the other inventor who did the same trick for Electronic Arts, to have a chat.

So far for ESP: we are all connected by the Universal Mind, of which our self-consciousness is only a mere manifold. Ant colonies use it to much greater effect, the number of neurons in a single ant brain being far too small to accomplish what they do as a collective connected through the Universal Mind.

As for the Disk 2 controller, I have marveled over it all my life, since it came out, and I can implement it at a press of a button on my logic synthesizers for any target technology, PROM, PLD, EPLD, FPGA, full custom CMOS, anything, in a few seconds.

The real trick is - or better said: would be - to implement it with period correct technology for the Apple I. Which means either a bipolar PROM or bipolar PLDs, such like the 16R4, 16R6 or 16R8, which MMI just had brought out back in the day.

So far I was unlucky with that mission. Of course I could do it in mere seconds if I wanted to waste a lot of these ICs on it, but that's unacceptable for me. I cannot use more ICs than what the Woz set as a benchmark: eight. Everything else would be unworthy. Even for me.

Needless to say, I also despise anyone who dares to hook modern, non-period-correct, ICs to the Apple I. Even if this may make things much easier, it also negates the purpose of having such a vintage piece of hardware. The look and feel - and the limitations of the period correct semiconductor technology - must be preserved as faithfully as possible. Otherwise I'd buy just one of those ridicolously cheap Raspberry Pi and run the POM1 emulator on it.

 

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I've also had this happen, where someone beats you to market.

And not just with Apple ][ stuff but with other inventions as well.  I did manage to invent and patent a new way of measuring liquid viscosity though. :)

 

UncleBernie wrote:

The real trick is - or better said: would be - to implement it with period correct technology for the Apple I. Which means either a bipolar PROM or bipolar PLDs, such like the 16R4, 16R6 or 16R8, which MMI just had brought out back in the day.

I agree, but to a point.  SpeedyG was quite faithful to this with pretty much all of his designs.  But there are instances that make this really hard, especially with emerging technologoes in storage and communication.  Designing an Ethernet board as example, using TTL technology would be a task that would rival the design technology on the Apple 1 itself.  Also, in the case of the CFFA for Apple 1, utilizing the Compact Flash technology would be a no-go, because none of it was around at the time.  But I sure wouldn't want to give that up, as it has paved the way to keeping the old Apple 1 technology and software alive today.

 

UncleBernie wrote:
Needless to say, I also despise anyone who dares to hook modern, non-period-correct, ICs to the Apple I. Even if this may make things much easier, it also negates the purpose of having such a vintage piece of hardware

I'm sure you don't mean that literally UncleBernie, but I understand your point.  I had designed a spinoff of the SuperSerial Card that included Ethernet and Serial, but I used a pre-made micro Ethernet Server module that was manufactured by Lantronix to make the task easy.  From a design standpoint, I cheated a little, but I tried to keep the nostalgic part of the design intact.  You can view a detailed photo of my finished card here: Super Serial Ethernet Card  but you will need to click on the photo and zoom in for full detail.

 

It's OK to be a purist at heart and deed when it comes to nostalgic stuff like old computers, cars, etc.  I get that.

There are different levels of purist.  I know I'm at the Apple ][ and ][+ level myself.  I've always felt that the ][Plus with 64K could do whatever the ][e could do by paging the memory, etc. but as technology goes, they decided to add commands, improve the archetecture, increase resolution,  etc.  with the ][e and ][gs.  But it's hard to accept the limits of the technology when those slots were put there for add-ons and improvements.   I'm not so sure there was a time limit on that.  But I do understand there are technological limits within the range of time those computers were released and the reasons for keeping within that era.

 

Your comments are always welcome.

 

 

 

 

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Use of non-period correct ICs with vintage computers
UncleBernie wrote:
Needless to say, I also despise anyone who dares to hook modern, non-period-correct, ICs to the Apple I. Even if this may make things much easier, it also negates the purpose of having such a vintage piece of hardware
 
macnoyd wrote in response:

I'm sure you don't mean that literally UncleBernie, but I understand your point.  I had designed a spinoff of the SuperSerial Card that included Ethernet and Serial, but I used a pre-made micro Ethernet Server module that was manufactured by Lantronix to make the task easy.  From a design standpoint, I cheated a little, but I tried to keep the nostalgic part of the design intact.

 

Well, macnoyd, you are right I did not mean that literally. I respect anyone who is able to design and develop hardware and software for these vintage computers. People like us are rare now and most do a great job, even if they "cheat" a little. I myself got so desperate with my floppy disk controller design that I was considering to grind off the type code of a plastic encapsulated EP610, and then make a rubber stamp to put MMI 16R6 - or such - on it. A little cheat to make it look period correct.

But I think you (and other cherished readers of my drivel) did understand the point I wanted to make. It is not about the technology being used at all. It is all about the human psychological factor that is involved. In the movie industry, there is something called "suspension of disbelief". You see, for instance, the Millennium Falcon coasting through empty space, and you can hear the roar of her engines. From the standpoint of the outside observer. Not only from inside scenes showing the crew and the passengers.

Anybody with some elementary education in Physics knows that in Space, there is a vacuum, so sound waves have no medium to propagate in. There is no sound in Space. But the movie would be much blander if it had no such spaceship sounds. So we all are willing to agree with the artistic freedom to add sound to Space. We are also willing to suspend our disbelief of what we see on the silver screen. We could argue everything is fake, an illusion. But would be pointless to watch the movie then ... a world without much fun.

Sometimes a movie script writer or a movie director makes a minor mistake that leads to a break up of the suspension of disbelief. For the willing audience this is kind of a shock. They wake up and see through the illusion. Big disappointment. The movie will be slammed by the critics. The audience will certainly not come to watch it again, and again, and again. People only love movies that keep the suspension of disbelief alive from the beginning to the end.

 

We keep vintage computers around because people want to do time travel: to go back to their youth, to their first experiences with computers back in the day, where computers were a magical thing. Observers of vintage computers want to feel that magic again. Which often works, if the vintage computer is presented in a period correct setting. Meaning a real, period correct i.e. Shibaden brand B & W monitor, but never a modern LCD display. And no visible, modern ICs attached anywhere to the vintage computer. If any of these are spotted, that magic feeling instantly goes away.   At least for me, but I suspect this simple psychological effect is present in most, if not all, vintage computer aficionados. Much like sudden breakdown of the suspension  of disbelief in a movie, it is not a pleasant experience.

 

Hence, my above rant. What I really meant is that if you use modern ICs (or modern technology) attached to a vintage computer, you run into a high risk to inadvertently destroy the "feel"  part of the "look and feel" we all seek from vintage computers.

 

So if you use non-period correct parts, you better hide them from view, and hide them well. 

 

And yes, I despise people who push visuals or noises into my face that burst my bubble.

 

But that's only me. You have noticed I'm no native speaker so "despise" is maybe a bit too harsh of a wording. But if I ever see such an abomination on an Apple Fest or Vintage Computer Festival, I will walk away from this particular display in disgust, and look out for those who present their machines in a way I consider tactful and proper towards the time period the machine was made. I don't care if it is a mere artifact that does not work anymore, and there is some hi-tech FPGA board with billions of gates hidden somewhere, as long as the illusion works on me, and there is no suffering from breakdown of suspension of disbelief.

 

We are all in a movie we can't get out.

 

- UncleBernie

 

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UncleBernie wrote:You have
UncleBernie wrote:
You have noticed I'm no native speaker so "despise" is maybe a bit too harsh of a wording. But if I ever see such an abomination
 

 

I'm relieved to hear you're not a native English speaker. In the context of IC preferences amongst hobbyists, "despise" does comes across as far too harsh a term. Calling somebody's toy project an abomination is also needlessly harsh.

 

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When does a toy project turn into an abomination ?

Tom Owad wrote:

"Calling somebody's toy project an abomination is also needlessly harsh. "

 

I would argue that this depends on where that "toy project" is presented. 

Just look at what happened with VCF and other "vintage" computer events:

Nowadays, VCFs and similar events are so full of LCD monitors, modern keyboards, modern switchmode power supplies, and flash card disk drive substitutes, or "upgrades" that simply could not have existed back in the period, that at least for me, the magic of these events is mostly gone, and I walk away in disgust more often than not.

Note that this is not only me: many more true vintage computer aficionados have expressed the same concerns, disgust, loathing, etc., etc., about where these events are heading, and such critical voices can be found on the web.

If the trend continues, then soon they can put up signs in their "vintage" computer events: "Find the piece of period correct hardware, win a candy bar."

The crowds will come, regardless. But the true aficionados will stay away. Then you have just another boring trade fair left.

And we hardware designers should keep in mind that if we don't use period correct ICs in any of our creations meant for vintage computers, we become part of the problem, enabling these impostors (another word that may be too harsh, but I found no better one for people who, using sort of "doping" tricks,  steal the show from others who play fair).

This is why I do insist on using only period correct parts in my own designs, at least for those who are targeting vintage computers.

This is all what I wanted to convey with my above posts. And not start a discussion about harsh wording. I'm quite confident so far no snowflake broke out in tears because of some of my words being a bit harsh. Never was a diplomat and never will be. And Webster's Unabridged is just too big and heavy to take out of the bookshelf whenever I write a post.

I would like to see some comments on all the trickery and cheating going on in the vintage computer scene, and no further comments on wording. I have thought that some people here who expended great effort towards period correctness, at least towards period correct looks, of what they did for the Apple 1 scene, would give me a well educated opinion on whether an Apple I disk controller should use period correct ICs or not.

 

- Bernie

 

 

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Interesting idea. It may be

Interesting idea. It may be easier to just use a floppy drive from that period, like the CBM2040, and design an IEEE interface to use that. Looking at the internals of the 2040, I think that making a floppy controller from scratch is a daunting task!

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Not too daulting...

 

Not too daulting...  :-D

 

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macnoyd wrote: Not too
macnoyd wrote:

 

Not too daulting...  :-D

 

To me, this looks like an Apple 2 disk controller and drive. I have some of those, although not handwired.

The Disk 2 contoller perhaps is the most marvelous hardware / software design ever made for microcomputers, given the limits of the technology of the day. Doing the same task with just 8 ICs rather than the typical 40 TTLs others needed to make a floppy interface is pure stroke of genius.

But ... I think this won't work in an Apple 1. The DRAM refresh cycles will interfere with the correct timing of the software loops. I think with some luck, reads would work most of the time, but writes would not work properly. I didn't try that with real hardware though. I have a software simulation of the whole Disk 2 system having also 6502 emulation and from that I can conclude the unmodified Woz machine would not work properly on an Apple 1.

I think some additional pipelining / buffering of both the read and the write data would be needed, as Apple did with the IWM.

But the IWM did not exist in 1977. It came 5 years later, in another period.

Now, doing all this pipelining / buffering needs a more sophisticated state machine with more inputs and more states.

The 256 x 8 PROM used in the Disk 2 can't take these add-ons.

So I tried to implement a Disk 2 controller using period correct PALs, like the 16R4, 16R6, 16R8. Over the months pondering I got closer to a fit, but still would need a 22V10, which alas is not period correct.

This begs the question how much "period correctness" would be appropriate for such an Apple 1 peripheral.

One thing is clear: it must use the original, Shugart look-alike, full-size floppy disk drive mechanics. If we can find the replacement drive belts ... NOS ones from the 1980s now are deteriorated to uselessness, too.

So where do we draw the line for period correctness in the Apple 1 world ?

Can we cheat a bit and use an EP610 that was re-stamped to look like an MMI PAL ?

Could we use more than 8 ICs without desecrating Woz' masterpiece ?

Questions over questions... so far not answered !

But they are very imporant to me. Look, Mike Willegal went so far to design his own font for his Apple 1 PCB and also got the curves in the traces right. These may be tiny little details others would shrug off, but for anyone seeking period correctness these are important and contribute to the overal impression of the finished "vintage" system.

 

 

 

 

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Apple 1 disk controller

You're right, this is an Apple ][ disk controller, (9-chip WOS recreation) the point being it can be done much the same way as it was for the Apple ][, though I'm not sure of the working space you'd have left after loading some 3K (or so) form of DOS.  I suppose 10 or 12K of available memory would be OK, but to most purists, a disk drive would by largely be rejected because there was no such storage for the Apple 1 at the time and a "mass storage cassette" interface was already available. :-D  Maybe the Apple 1 Disks back then would have operated like an analog record player with  (say) a dozen pre-set tracks available on it to record or playback.  That would have worked out of the gate without DOS or with substantial program overhead.  Such a waste of a Disk though, I'm sure.

Still, it wouldn't stop me from the challenge if I had more time for it.  Soon, I hope...

BTW,  The belt on the photo above looks and operates like new.  Not sure why they would deteriorate, as they are mostly a fiber composition.  But I guess that would likely depend on the environment long term.  I got lucky on the 2 I bought.  Finding NOS Shugart 390's are slim to none these days.  At least that's what I've observed.

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UncleBernie wrote:It may have
UncleBernie wrote:

It may have been ESP. For me, ESP is real. I have many patents but some didn't make it to be granted as somebody else, at the same time, had the same idea, and filed just before me. In late 1983 I invented a unbreakable floppy disk copyprotection method for the Atari 400/800. Offered it to the software producers without telling any detail. No takers. A few months later, in 1984, Electronic Arts published "ARCHON" which had a copy protection based on the very same inventive idea.

 

Ah, I see that I am not the only idiot that discussed models for things with companies only to have them tell you they weren't interested, or that the idea was impractical, only to see them pop it out a year later.

 

I learnt this lesson quite the hard way, several times, to the point that I stopped developing anything commercially-oriented, or at least, not without first applying for a patent an waiting the requisite notification period.

 

Hell, more recently, I developed chess game variations that I have never published a scrap about because I didn't feel like going through the patent process, but that I do not want toy companies or software companies to use for their own profit motives while I am still alive. This complete scum attitude has been a disease in the tech industry for forty years. If you openly discuss your idea, you lose patent protection, and they can happily steal it without ever paying you compensation.

 

 

Regarding hardware purity, I fall into a grey area. I prefer to use hardware appropriate to the system, and the era of the system, but I will use some modern community kit if I feel that it provides an environment that does not voilate the general feeling of how the hardware operates. 

 

I won't use something like a Paspberry Pi an a ][+ case, as to me, this has no soul; but I will put a SCSI card in a ][+ if I have a legitimate reason to do it, or replace a Vulcan with a CFFA3000 (if I could find one). Sure, if I had the option to attach one of those lovely old MFM drives to a ][+, I would prefer that to, say, a ZIP drive, but I do what I can. I would also love to put my ProFile on my ][+, but my ProFile card vanished and I can't find  replacement, so again, I don't allow this to bother me. 

 

I try to match parts to eras, too. While I can run a DuoDisk or UniDisk drives on a ][ or a ][+, to me, this ust feels wrong; and likewise, using a Disk ][ on a //e or //gs feels wrong.  There are simple system configurations that I was use to having 30->40 years ago, that I still feel are correct.

 

if someone can marry an Apple I to a disk drive, even if it was not something that was availabke in 1977->80, as long as they aren't doing it in some exotic manner that was physically impossible for the hardware in that era, I see no problem with purity. The Apple I was very much a kit micro and all hardware development reside in the userbase. There isn't too much that keeps a normal Disk ][ controller from working on it as-is. 

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On patents and idiots and ESP

 

Timelord wrote:

 

 

Ah, I see that I am not the only idiot that discussed models for things with companies only to have them tell you they weren't interested, or that the idea was impractical, only to see them pop it out a year later.

 

I learnt this lesson quite the hard way, several times, to the point that I stopped developing anything commercially-oriented, or at least, not without first applying for a patent an waiting the requisite notification period.

 

Uncle Bernie replies:

Well, Timelord, I'm not that kind of idiot because I never did disclose any hint about how my copy protection did work.  The particular, spooky, circumstances how I conceived the idea leave only one "rational" conclusion: ESP. I still would like to talk to the other guy to find out: a) whether we "received" some sort of supernatural message at about the same time, or whether b) I was the sender and he received it or c) he was the sender and I received it. a) would be frightening, and b) and c) would be another datapoint for the existence of  telepathy or remote viewing.

As for patents, my advice for independent inventors: never, ever apply for a patent for your invention. It is expensive, does not protect you from infringers, and more often than not is not the road to riches, but to ruin. If you want to stay mentally, organically, and financially healthy, stay away from the patent system, in any shape, way or form, as far away as you can.

Unless you can produce and market your invention yourself, let go of any hopes you ever will get rich with it.

I have been an inventor for 40+ years, both as an independent and as an employee, and the only inventions that ever brought me (relative) riches have been not patented, and I produced and sold them myself. Actually, I had cottage - industry style workers to mass produce them. But none, absolutely none of my privately held patents ever made me a dime. Zero, nada, nought, zilch. One I could have sold to a patent troll for a meager $50K but they changed the "final contract" slightly after my lawyers approved the first version so in the end they could have sued me, getting back the purchase price, while keeping the patent for themselves. How tricky ! I had to pass on that sale. The world today is so full of rip-off artists and parasites that the only safe way for us producers is going Galt. (Who is John Galt ?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my opinion there is a

In my opinion there is a place for both "period correct" hardware and modern hardware that will run vintage software.  The problem with "period correct" hardware is that it can be very expensive and time consuming to create and maintain a proper period correct piece of gear and many people don't have the time, money or necessary technical skills to do so.

 

 Compare a "period correct" Apple 1 reproduction costing $1000 to a $150 Vince Briel style "replica".  A lot more people will get a taste of the vintage gear with the replica.  My hope is that some of those will take the dive further into the period correct hardware of things and find out what the world was really like back in the day.

 

Personally, I find it a joy and challenge to recreate, run and maintain the old hardware, just the way it was back in the day.  I also have written and made extensive use of emulators mostly for the purposes of testing out software, since this can be much more difficult to do on the actual vintage hardware than in emulation.

 

Regards,Mike Willegal

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