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Compiled and written by Steven Weyhrich (C) Copyright 1991, Zonker Software

(PART 11 – THE APPLE IIGS, CONT.) [v1.0 :: 06 Dec 91]


   Other features Apple engineers added to make the AppleIIGS a next generation computer included a built-in clock, slot space for internal expansion cards, and the electronic equivalents of seven more expansion cards.<1>  Taking the cue from their experience with the AppleIIc, they included as built-in features the peripherals that most users would want to use.  They allocated serial ports to slots 1 and 2, the classic 80-column firmware to slot 3, the mouse controller to slot 4, a Smartport controller to slot 5, a 5.25 inch disk controller to slot 6, and AppleTalk capability to slot 7.  (AppleTalk was Apple's network protocol that had been designed originally for use with the Macintosh).
   Because the engineers wanted to make the IIGS capable of connecting to the AppleTalk network, the serial ports they planned were based on a different communications controller chip than was used in the older Super Serial Card and the AppleIIc serial controller.  Although the new controller chips were more capable than the older ones used on the 8-bit AppleII's, telecommunications programs written for those older Apple's wouldn't work.  This was because most terminal programs, for the sake of speed, were written to directly control the old Super Serial Card (rather than going through the slower, built-in firmware commands).  The controlling commands necessary to manage the newer chip were very different, and so caused such software to "break".<2>
   The case and motherboard used in the AppleIIGS was made smaller than that found in the IIe, both in order to make a smaller "footprint" on a desktop, and also to make it easier to make an upgrade available for IIe owners.  They had wanted to make it possible even for AppleII and IIPlus owners to upgrade, but in the end it turned out to be just too expensive and difficult to execute.<2>
   The Macintosh engineering group was at this time designing a protocol for interfacing standard input devices, such as keyboards, mice, and graphics tablets.  This protocol, called the "Apple Desktop Bus", was first implemented on the AppleIIGS.  It made possible the interchangability of hardware devices between the Macintosh and AppleII lines, allowing Apple to sell a common set of peripherals that both computers could use.<2>


   Firmware, you may recall, is that layer of controlling programs in ROM on a computer that sits between an application program and the hardware it is trying to control.  On the IIGS, the firmware was designed after the hardware was finalized.  Unlike the older ROM that Wozniak included with the original AppleII, the IIGS software engineers tried to make it more than just a set of addresses to call to carry out a function (such as clearing the screen).  Rather, they wanted to make a more comprehensive system (called a "toolbox") which could be more flexible for future enhancements of the hardware and firmware.  In particular, they didn't want to have the addresses for carrying out certain functions to be fixed in a single location as on the older Apples.  This toolbox would have a single address to call, and a specific command would be passed on through that address.  Set up like this, it would allow Apple's firmware programmers to modify the ROM in the future without having to take trouble to make multiple addresses in the ROM "line up" properly.  Additionally, they made it easy to "patch" the toolbox code in the ROM using code loaded from disk, allowing programmers to fix errors that were later found without having to replace the physical ROM chips.
   At first, they were given 64K of space for the ROM, over four times as much as was available on the original AppleII.  Later, they had to go back and ask for 128K of ROM, because of the many things that they needed and wanted to do.  Of course, Applesoft had to be present in ROM in order to maintain compatibility with the older AppleII software.  Additionally, they also put all of the mouse-handling tools into the ROM (unlike the II, IIPlus, and IIe, which had to have the mouse firmware on a card in a peripheral slot).<1>
   A boost to the firmware design of the IIGS came, unexpectedly, as a result of the merger between the AppleII and Macintosh divisions.  This merger came as part of the reorganization that coincided with the departure of Steve Jobs from Apple.  Since the Macintosh team was now working in the same place as the IIGS designers, they were available to offer help and ideas.  Bill Atkinson, the programming wizard who wrote MacPaint and many of the mouse tools for the Macintosh, helped in the creation of the mouse tools and QuickDrawII for the IIGS.  (This was the name given to the ROM tools used to draw on the super hi-res screen, and was borrowed from the older QuickDraw routines on the original Macintosh).<1>
   To allow the user to easily configure certain features of the IIGS to their own tastes, a "control panel" was designed (another idea borrowed from the Macintosh).  It was used to set the clock, the system speed (between a "normal" 1 MHz and a "fast" 2.8 MHz), change the standard text display from 40 to 80 columns, set colors for the text screen, set sensitivity of the mouse and keyboard, and make the standard settings for the printer and modem ports.  These preferences were saved in a special battery-powered RAM that would survive even when the system power was turned off.<1>


   ProDOS needed to be updated to better take advantage of the additional memory on the IIGS, as well as the larger storage devices that were not very available when ProDOS was originally written.  Back then, five megabytes was felt to be quite a large disk size.  By the time the IIGS was designed, 40 megabytes was becoming a common standard.  The new IIGS-specific version, called "ProDOS16", would also be able to handle any number of open files at the same time (the older version of ProDOS was limited to eight files open simultaneously).<1>
   The first version of ProDOS16 was more limited than Apple's designers wanted it to be, but they didn't want to hold up the new IIGS until a better version was ready.  The version of ProDOS that would run 8-bit AppleII software (on the IIGS or older Apple II's) was renamed "ProDOS8".  That version was modified to handle system interrupts better, which was important on the IIGS because of the control panel feature and the way in which the Apple Desktop Bus worked.  (An interrupt refers to a special signal that is sent to the microprocessor by a hardware device.  This signal "interrupts" what the processor is doing, redirects it to do something else, and then returns the processor to what it was previously doing.  The mouse on the IIc and the mouse card for the other AppleII's use interrupts to handle movements of the mouse).<2>
   (Further details about ProDOS16 and its later replacement system, GS/OS, will be found in an upcoming part of the AppleII History).


   The earliest name used internally at Apple for the IIGS project was Phoenix (as mentioned earlier).  It was also known as "Rambo" (when the design team was fighting for final approval from the executive staff), "Gumby" (from an impersonation done at Apple's Halloween-day parade), and "Cortland".<1>,<3>
   Some of the members of the design team not yet mentioned here include Nancy Stark (an early and energetic champion for the IIGS project); Curtis Sasaki (IIGS product manager); Ed Colby (CPU product manager); Jim Jatczynski (Operating System group manager); Fern Bachman (who worked to ensure compatibility with existing AppleII software); Gus Andrate (who developed the sound tools and the unified drive firmware); and Peter Baum, Rich Williams, Eagle I. Berns, John Worthington, and Steven Glass, who each developed part of the IIGS system software and firmware.<4>


   In September of 1986, Apple introduced the new AppleIIGS, bundled with an Apple 3.5 drive, for $999 (not including a monitor).  Apple management, somewhat surprised by the response that occurred in their "AppleII Forever" event two years earlier, made the decision to heavily promote this new AppleII.  Why they came to this change of heart was unclear.  Although they showed no slowing in their plans for the Macintosh (which was making steady progress in gaining acceptability in the business world), a multi-million dollar marketing and media blitz was arranged to promote the new IIGS as the ultimate home and recreational use computer.  Even employees at Apple who had worked on the IIGS project were startled (but pleased) at the marketing intensity that was begun, and the order for this came directly from the top.  John Sculley himself had insisted that the AppleIIGS be given highest priority.  (Apple's CEO since 1983, he had just a year earlier ousted founder Steve Jobs from day to day responsibilities at Apple).  Rumors flew, but were never confirmed, about a shaken Sculley who had come to an executive staff meeting in July of 1986 with stories of strange things he had experienced.  He had supposedly received a frightening nighttime visit from a yellow-garbed alien who called himself "Darth Vader" from the planet Vulcan.  "He told me that he would meld my brain if I didn't put all I could into marketing the AppleIIGS!  I have to do it!!", he was reported to have said, white-fisted and pale, at that meeting.  Despite the obvious references to science-fiction movies and television of the 1960's and late 1970's, the executive staff bowed to his requests (which were no less firm after Sculley had taken a Valium and had a couple of Diet Pepsi's.  After all, he WAS the boss).
   Of course, the IIGS was received by the AppleII community with enthusiasm.  After initial sales broke all previous records, including those for the Macintosh, Apple re-doubled its efforts to promote this as the computer for nearly everyone.  After all, it had ties into the past (compatible with Steve Wozniak's 4K Integer BASIC AppleII at its core), and ties into the future (with the 16-bit technology and expanded memory).  Within a year it was outselling the Macintosh (which had also received a boost in sales, thought to be benefiting from the wave of IIGS sales).
   By 1988, a significantly enhanced AppleIIGS was released, with more advanced system software (which worked more like the easy-to-use Macintosh interface) and higher density graphics (the cost of better color monitors had come down considerably since the initial design of the IIGS back in 1985).  Apple even decided to take the unprecedented move of licensing the AppleII technology to a couple of other companies, who worked on producing IIGS emulators for other computers, including IBM and its clones!  Software and hardware sales hit a spiraling upward curve, which stimulated more sales of computers from Apple, which increased software and hardware sales further.  Apple even produced a IIGS emulator of its own for the Macintosh and MacintoshII series of computers.  Eventually...

(Hold it. Something just doesn't seem right. I don't recall things going NEARLY that well for the IIGS. Computer!

APPLE IIC: [ Tweedlesquirge ] State request, please.

AUTHOR: Compare time events just outlined in previous section with known events in database notes.

APPLE IIC: Working… [ Blinkitydinkitydinkityzeerp ] Events just described are from a parallel timeline, which diverged from our own timeline in July 1986.

AUTHOR: Hmmm. Any way of moving into that timeline?

APPLE IIC: Negative. Insufficient energy available in my power supply brick to actually make changes necessary to alter the events in our timeline to allow the above scenario to actually occur.

AUTHOR: Then HOW did we come across that information in the first place?

APPLE IIC: Flux capacitor was affected by a momentary surge in power lines due to a nearby thunderstorm.

AUTHOR: Interesting. Well, maybe someday I'll have to beef up this power supply a bit and have a talk with Mr. Sculley if I can find my yellow radiation suit… So how do we get back to the correct information?

APPLE IIC: You could effect a complete shutdown and memory purge, then reload correct data from protected archives.

AUTHOR: Very well. Make it so.

APPLE IIC: Working… [ Blinkitydinkitydinkityzeerpity… ]


AUTHOR: What? Yes, well I had a CPU conversion done in the early 24th century…

APPLE IIC: Data reload completed. You may proceed when ready.

AUTHOR: Now, let's see if we can get it right this time…)


   In September of 1986, Apple introduced the new AppleIIGS, bundled with an Apple 3.5 drive, for $999 (not including a monitor).  The AppleII community was excited about the new computer, and inCider magazine featured a exuberant Steve Wozniak on the cover of its October 1986 issue with the caption, "It's Amazing!"  
   Apple, for its part, did do some advertising for the new computer in the pages of current AppleII publications of the time.  However, there was no major push for the new computer, and again it seemed destined to be dwarfed by Apple's preoccupation with the Macintosh.
   Though announced in September, the IIGS was not widely available until November.  Early production models of the IIGS had some problems; one of the new chips did not work properly, and necessary changes to fix them caused a delay.  The upgrade that would turn an AppleIIe into a IIGS was also delayed until early 1987.<5>


   In September 1987 Apple made an incremental improvement to the IIGS with the release of a new ROM.  The ROM 01 revision made a few changes in the original IIGS ROMs and included an improved video controller chip.  Bugs in the ROM code were fixed, and a problem with a "pink fringe" effect with certain graphics displays was fixed.  The new ROMs were not compatible with any IIGS System Disks earlier than version 2.0.  The new ROM was identified by a message at the bottom of the screen when booting the IIGS that said "ROM Version 01".  The original IIGS had no message in this location.<6>
   The next change came with the release of the ROM 03 version of the IIGS in August of 1989.  This new IIGS computer came standard with 1 meg of RAM on the motherboard, and twice as much ROM (256K versus 128K on the older IIGS).  This allowed more of the operating system to be in ROM, rather than having to be loaded from disk when booting.  Additionally, fixes were made to known bugs in the ROM 01 firmware.  (The latest version of the IIGS system software made patches to ROM 01 to fix those bugs, but these patches still had to be loaded from disk, which slowed startup time.  Having the latest new tools and fixed new ones already in ROM made booting the version 03 IIGS a bit quicker).   The new AppleIIGS also had the capability of using both the internal slot firmware as well as using a peripheral card plugged into a slot.  The ROM 01 IIGS could, of course, use cards plugged into the slots, but only at the expense of being unable to use the internal firmware for that slot.  With so much useful system firmware built-in, a ROM 01 user who wanted, for example, to add a controller card for a hard disk would have to give up either AppleTalk in slot 7 or use of 5.25 disks in slot 6.  Almost everything else had to be set in the control panel to the internal firmware.
   The ROM 03 IIGS also included enhancements for disabled users.  A feature called "sticky keys" made it possible to do multiple keypresses.  (To execute an "Option-Control-X" sequence, for example, required pressing three keys at once.  This was something that a paralyzed user with a mouth-stick to press keys could not previously do).  Also, more things that had required a mouse now had keyboard equivalents (using the keypad).  The new IIGS also had somewhat "cleaner" sound and graphics.  However, because the improvements made were minimal compared to the cost of providing upgrades to previous owners, no upgrade program was announced by Apple.  In any case, many of the new features could be obtained on older IIGS's by upgrading the memory to at least one megabyte and using GS/OS System Software 5.0.2 or greater.<7>
   A feature that was added to the ROM 03 firmware that was entirely fun, instead of functional, was accessed by a specific key-sequence.  If the computer was booted with no disk in the drive, a message that said "Check startup device" appeared, with an apple symbol sliding back and forth.  At that point, if the user pressed the keys "Ctrl", "Open Apple", "Option", and "N" simultaneously, the digitized voices of the AppleIIGS design team could be heard shouting "AppleII!"  Also, the names of those people would be displayed on the screen.  If running GS/OS System 5.0 or greater, the user would have to hold down the "Option" and "Shift" keys, then pull down the "About" menu in the Finder.  It would then say "About the System".  Using the mouse to click on that title would cause the names to be displayed and the audio message to be heard.


NEXT INSTALLMENT: Peripherals & the Apple II Abroad



   <1> Duprau, Jeanne, and Tyson, Molly.  "The Making Of The Apple IIGS", A+ MAGAZINE, Nov 1986, pp. 57-74.
   <2> Pinella, Paul.  "In The Beginning: An Interview With Harvey Lehtman", APPLE IIGS: GRAPHICS AND SOUND, Fall/Winter 1986, pp. 38-44.
   <3> Hogan, Thom.  "Apple: The First Ten Years", A+ MAGAZINE, Jan 1987, p. 45.
   <4> Szetela, David.  "The New II", NIBBLE, Oct 1986, pp. 5-6.
   <5> Weishaar, Tom.  "Miscellanea", OPEN-APPLE, Nov 1986, p. 2.74.
   <6> Platt, Robert, and Field, Bruce.  "A.P.P.L.E. Doctor", CALL-A.P.P.L.E., Nov 1987, p. 58.
   <7> Doms, Dennis.  "Apple upgrades IIGS hardware", OPEN-APPLE, Sep 1989, p. 5.57.
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