Re: Tandem, Compaq, Adam, Apple

Daniel M. Zimmerman (
Sun, 29 Jun 1997 14:03:02 -0700

At 13.27 +0300 97-06-29, Ron Resnick wrote:

>I owned an Apple II clone (remember Apple ][? Gee, that was fun typing
>those backwards square
>brackets again - just like old times :-).
>I owned one. Lots of people did. Kids did. Grownups did.
>Even businesses did. It was a closed, inextensible architecture. Actually,
>it didn't really have an architecture. AppleBasic in ROM hardly counts
>as an OS :-). Neither did its puny little DOS (they actually called it
>remember?). But how much better was MS-DOS at the time? Not.

Well, actually, Apple ][s were anything _but_ closed and inextensible - you
could (and still can) do almost anything with an Apple ][ - want to run
CP/M? Just throw in a CP/M card... Want to do video overlay work? Just
throw in a (little known) Apple ][ Video Overlay Card... Want to run PC
software? Just throw in a PC Transporter card...

And sure, Apple's original DOS was pretty puny, but ProDOS (which is still
supported today, insofar as Mac OS can read and write ProDOS disks), which
arrived around the time of the first Apple IIe's, was pretty nice...

>Win32 has won today mainly because it can trace a direct lineage back
>to the original 8088 based PCs of 1981. That meant that users never felt
>they had to start all over - chuck out all the software, all the concepts,
>all the learning. It just 'seemed' a gradual progression. Sure, Windows
>on top of DOS always sucked, and still does. But it was a market winner.

Unfortunately for everybody who has to use mainstream software today...

>Apple won the 'clean architecture' battle with the Mac introduction, they
>have the moral victory over MS,
>but they lost the war. Tactics and Strategy.
>Rhapsody is 13 years too late, and is just more of the same.

Actually, I'm not so sure about this. I do agree with the "moral victory"
part, but I don't know whether or not the war has been lost - Apple seems
to finally have realized that they can't stay proprietary, and the whole
"Rhapsody running over Windows" concept seems to me like it could really
take off, if it's positioned properly... I know lots (and _lots_) of
Windows users who would run Rhapsody for Intel in a heartbeat, and even
more who will want to run the Rhapsody "Yellow Box" APIs over Windows NT or
Windows 95, to (as Amelio said at WWDC) "make Windows invisible"...

>Can you imagine what might have been, had Apple brought out evolutionary
>releases based on the Apple II line, instead of the Mac? Eventually putting
>a windowing interface over it, adding a real file system, virtual memory,
>(I know, I know about the Apple ///. But it never stood a chance - never got
>company support/endorsement, and couldn't compete internally with Jobs&Mac).
>Sure, an upgraded Apple II would look atrocious. No better than windows
>;-). But we
>might all be running them today. Instead of horrible Win32, we'd be
>about horrible AppleII32. Instead of Intel, we'd have (who actually made
>the 6502s? Motorola? Rockwell? Was there a single vendor?)
>Had Apple done this, they may
>have actually retained the market share they had back in the early 80s
>all the way through to today.

Actually, Apple _did_ do this... No, I'm not referring to the Apple ///,
which was a complete and total disaster from day one... I'm referring to
the Apple IIGS, which (as it happens) was my primary computing platform
from 1990 until September 1995, when I got my current Power Macintosh...

The Apple IIGS was based on the 65816 chip, out of Western Design Center.
It was completely backward-compatible with old 8-bit Apple II stuff, but
had a _real_ 16-bit operating system, GS/OS, which had some incredibly
forward-looking functionality. It was the first platform on which the Apple
(Macintosh) GUI was implemented in color, a year or two before that
happened on the Mac itself. It was the first Apple to have filesystem
"plug-ins" (they were called "File System Translators"), which only later
showed up on the Macintosh as "Foreign File Access" and its accompanying
extensions. It was the first Apple OS to have a nicely organized System
Folder (seperate subdirectories for things like control panels, drivers,
file system translators, etc), a feature which has _still_ not been fully
incorporated into the Mac OS... In fact, a whole lot of the innovative
functionality, both in terms of user interface and in terms of OS
behind-the-scenes stuff, in the current Mac OS was shamelessly ripped off
from GS/OS.

When the IIGS was introduced in 1986, it had graphics capability built in
which equalled or exceeded that of all the other home computers out there
(320x200@65536 colors, 640x200@256 colors). Its sound capability was so
incredible, with its built-in Ensoniq sound chip, that Apple Records _sued_
Apple Computer for making a music-related product under the Apple name
(which is why the sound on all Macs produced after that pretty much sucked,
for a good number of years - part of the settlement :), and lots of
computers available _today_ don't even match the IIGS's sound capabilities.
It had built-in AppleTalk, to interoperate with Mac networks, and all sorts
of other stuff built-in too - multiple serial ports, game ports, RGB and
composite monitor ports (yes, you could still hook it up to a TV), a
"SmartPort" which handled both 3.5" and 5.25" disk drives (something which
never made it to the Mac), and more... It came with a whopping 256k of
memory, and a later model (released in 1989) came with 1.25 megs standard.

The system showed _incredible_ promise - Western Design Center was already
working on the 65832, a 32-bit version of the '816, which would have been
used in the next generation IIGS series machine. But then, something
happened to derail the progress of the platform. That something was John
Sculley, then-CEO of Apple, who decided that, even though the Apple II line
had _far_ more market penetration than the Mac line, it should be tossed
aside in favor of pushing the Mac platform. Among the things which would
have been done for the Apple II series, but weren't, are the introduction
of an Apple IIGS Plus (in 1990 or so) and the production (and integration
into the OS - which I actually saw in a prerelease of IIGS System 6 at one
point, back in the days when I was registered as an Apple II developer) of
the Apple II Ethernet Card, the existence of which would have removed the
main reason for my purchase of a new machine in 1995.
With third-party addons, the IIGS does standard SVGA resolutions now, and
its memory can be expanded to (for the GS/OS) reasonable levels (such as 16
MB). No doubt, if Apple had kept supporting it, I'd still be running one. I
believe that Apple would also be much better off today, if there were still
Apple IIs (or II-series derivatives) in production. I remember when Apple's
advertising slogan was "Apple II Forever", and it would have been a good
thing for them to stick to their word... :)

(so much for _my_ nostalgic ranting - the only place I use my IIGS now is
in a window on my Mac, on an emulator called "Gus" which was/is written by
the GS/OS engineers in the spare time they have when they're not working on
Mac OS 8 or Rhapsody... Apple II Forever, indeed...)

>When the Mac came out, I thought of getting one.
>But they were expensive, and there were no clones around. I've always
>bought clones. I've never bought a brand name. So, my clone Apple II
>was the first and last machine I ever had that put me in the Apple universe.
>I think there's an awful lot of people like me out there.

It's certainly likely... The only reason I bought a Mac (in 1995) rather
than a PC was because I simply can't stand the Windows/Intel architecture.

>I'm reasonably young. But I suspect I'm a bit older than the average age of
>most FoRKers.
>How many here have a personal sense of history and nostalgia back to the
>'first' computing
>revolution? To see the wars of today in perspective, you need a good sense
>of history.

Well, I was following the industry much more closely than most children my
age in the early 80s (I'm 23 now)... :)


Daniel Zimmerman Caltech Infospheres Research Group
M/S 256-80 - Caltech
Pasadena, California 91125 USA