Tag Archives: computer

Introduction to my MERLIN handheld electronic game from 1978

I created this short teaser video to introduce you to my MERLIN handheld electronic game that I played with when I was 8 years old. It still works!

And if that short 1.5 minute teaser left you wanting more, then you’re in luck! You can also watch a 23 minute detailed walk-through version where I spend time explaining and playing each of the 6 games!

Here’s the classic Merlin commercial from 1978! If you were alive then, you will surely remember it! Good luck getting this ear-worm of a jingle out of your head!

“Merlin is a computer with personality! Plays 6 different games! Talks with 20 sounds!” I love the marketing creativity!

And here is commercial number 2 from 1980! They used the same ear-worm of a jingle with different lyrics.

Merlin was invented by former NASA employee Bob Doyle. I think he may have created this website called TheElectronicWizard.com which has an awesome interactive Merlin app which actually lets you play with Merlin right in your web browser! Incredible!

Thanks for your interest!

Kurt

My Apple IIe: Introduction to AppleSoft Basic

This simple introduction to AppleSoft Basic is demonstrated on my working Apple IIe from 1983. It’s meant for beginners, so it doesn’t dive deeply into any one topic.

This 30 minute video lightly covers the following topics:

  • numeric and string variables
  • moving around the text screen
  • common error codes
  • procedural programming in RAM
  • editing and debugging
  • low resolution graphics
  • high resolution graphics
  • beeps and audio

If you want to try AppleSort Basic for yourself on a Windows PC, the best Apple IIe emulator I’ve found is called AppleWin and it is located here:
https://github.com/AppleWin/AppleWin
Scroll down to the bottom of the GitHub page to click on the release link to download the zip file. Admin rights are not necessary. Just unzip the file and run the executable. Then click the Disk 1 button and choose the default (master) file. Then click the Apple button to boot up!

Thanks for your interest!

Kurt

My Apple IIe: A simple text based arcade game in Applesoft Basic

apple-second-logo-rainbow-bitten

If we type this simple 8 line Applesoft Basic program into my working Apple IIe computer, we will end up with a cool little text based arcade game!  Watch the video below to see the game in action!

This small Applesoft Basic program was published in one of my Beagle Bros Apple Software Catalogs from 1987 (volume 0, number 10).  This little program was credited as being submitted by Beagle Bros customer Tim Boehme, who received a box of Beagle Bros magnetic write protect tabs for his efforts!

Wow!  Write protect tabs!  Amazing!  🙂

Applesoft Basic

Applesoft Basic is the programming language of all the early Apple computers and was provided in ROM (memory) to make it available to the user without the need for a startup disk or the need to load it into memory from a cassette tape.

Applesoft Basic was actually created by Microsoft for Apple.  Hence the name.  It is interpreted and not compiled, so it is not very fast.  And it can throw syntax errors at runtime if it’s unable to interpret a line of code.

One sort of funny feature of Applesoft Basic is that variable names are only significant to 2 letters, although it allows more.  So if you initialize a variable named “KURT” to a value of 10, you can PRINT the variable “KU” and also the variable “KURT” and also the variable “KUPP” and they will all three show a value of 10.  They are all three pointing to the exact same memory location.

applesoft-iia

Code

Here’s the source code:

10 REM "MUNCH THE SNAILS!"
20 TEXT: HOME: H = 20: PRINT CHR$ (21): POKE 35,22
30 K = PEEK (49152): ON K < 128 GOTO 40: H = H + (K = 149) - (K = 136)
40 POKE 49168,0: IF RND (1) * 10 < 1 THEN VTAB 20: HTAB RND (1) * 20 + 10: PRINT "@": GOTO 70
50 VTAB 22: HTAB RND (1) * 39 + 1: PRINT CHR$ (46)
60 IF PEEK (1535 + H) = 192 THEN S = S + 1: VTAB 5: HTAB H: PRINT "#"; CHR$ (7): VTAB 23: PRINT "MUNCHED: ";S: GOTO 80
70 VTAB 5: HTAB H: PRINT "V"
80 T = T + 1: IF S < 10 THEN 30
90 TEXT: VTAB 23: PRINT S;" SNAILS MUNCHED IN ";T;" SNAIL SECONDS.": END

Emulators

If you don’t have a working Apple IIe of your own to try your Applesoft code on, you can first try it in a JavaScript implementation of Applesoft Basic.  There are some things that this emulator cannot do, though.  It’s just not terribly robust.

A very robust option is the standalone Apple II emulator program that you can install onto your Windows computer.  It’s called AppleWin.  Just scroll down to the bottom of the Github page and download the latest release.  It’s in a zip file, so just unzip it and run the executable.

Once it starts, just click on the floppy disk 1 icon and choose the master disk file that comes installed with the emulator.  Then reboot with the Apple button and it will boot to Applesoft Basic.  Or, you can download ROMs for various Apple games and programs from the Internet and boot those instead.  It emulates the speed of the processor, so it’s a very realistic emulation of the Apple IIe.  Including several monitor types to choose from.

Thanks

I hope you found this post informative and/or entertaining!  Thanks for your interest!  And feel free to leave comments or questions below!

Thanks,
Kurt

My pocket computer from high school – Sharp EL-5500 III

Yep.  I was the kid who had a “pocket computer” in class when all the other kids just had a simple calculator.  I was recently going through some old moving boxes and found this beauty:

Sharp Scientific Computer

(click for full size)

It’s a nice scientific calculator on the one hand, but on the other hand it’s a pretty capable programmable computer.

I loved this thing.  I used it in high school and junior college and also during my first year in a 4 year engineering university.  I remember using it at the university during my first year there because it actually got stolen by a kid a few doors down in the dorm and the campus police found it in his backpack and returned it to me because my name was etched into it with an X-ACTO knife.  I etched my name on the back and also etched my initials in underneath the glass display cover so it could not be easily removed or rubbed off.  I’m awesome that way.  🙂

So I used this thing for probably four years between about 1987 and 1991.  About that time, the HP RPN and graphing calculators were all the rage at the university and this old workhorse was put away in a drawer.

This thing used BASIC for it’s programming language.  So it was pretty easy to program.  One limitation was the single line output screen.  Because of the single line, I had to get creative with my output formatting, sometimes, in order to push a lot of information to the screen at one time.  The other thing I remember is that it only stored one program, and I did not have a means to transfer programs to and from it.  So I always kept one giant program on the thing with a start-up menu that allowed me to run a different part of the program based on what I wanted to do.  So I merged many different programs into one and every time I thought of a new program to add to it, I had to add it to the start-up menu so I could select it to run.

One really nice feature that was built into this device was the matrix math capabilities.  I could create very large matrices, and it would step me through filling in the values then it could perform transformations and math functions on those matrices.  I used this feature a lot during some of my engineering and math classes.

Here is a short web article on it:

 

http://www.leonidastolias.com/Site/SharpEL5500III.html

 

And here is a guy who figured out a way to record the program dump from it to his Laptop as an MP3 file, rather than the standard means of recording it on a cassette tape player:

 

http://www.increa.com/computers/calculators/index.html

 

Cool stuff.

Kurt

Gifts for your geek

Oh boy.  You’ve put it off and now only one week of shopping remains.  Here is my best advise for those of you who have a geek to shop for.  Just click on one of these ad banners below and shop away.  Trust me … geeks love this sort of stuff in their stockings.

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Holiday Sale-Headstart

New DC Shirts

New Star Wars Stuff

You can get some truly awesome and amazing geek gifts and accessories from Think Geek!  Think Geek thinks of absolutely everything that your resident geek might be longing for this year … including Death Star ice cubes, Star Trek pizza cutter, Bazinga t-shirt, retro super hero drinking glasses (no longer offered), the Zombie Survival Guide book, soft headphones that you can sleep in, the Etch A Sketch iPad case (no longer offered), and even bacon lip balm (no longer offered)!

May the force be with you.

Kurt