VCF West 2017

Mountain View, CA
August 5-6, 2017

Current State of the Art in Apple II by Lester Barrows and John Valdezco

The promise was “Apple II Forever”, and there still exists a vibrant community of software and hardware development for the Apple ][ line of computers. Our exhibit focused on current projects which bring new life to a hardware line that launched in the 1970s. Software includes new releases of ProDOS and GS/OS, as well as new products such as Ninjaforce’s Kaboom! and Michael Packard’s current project, Alien Downpour. Also on exhibit were new hardware such as Tulip House’s IIGS DVI adapter, new //e and IIGS memory cards from A2Heaven and GG Labs, the 4play modern joystick adapter from Lukazi, a new 4-channel sound card from Manila Gear, the CFFA 3000 CF/USB storage device, and the new prototype TransWarp GS board from UltimateMicro. Manila Gear’s John Valdezco was there to talk about their current Apple ][ hardware projects. Two Apple IIGS systems, one Apple //e, and one Apple //c ran live demonstrations, including Ninjaforce’s 4 player Kaboom! game.

Here’s a summary of what we brought to the exhibit. Links to all projects are listed at the end of the article:

Les’s Apple IIGS had the following hardware:

  • Tulip House DVI Adapter
  • Ultimate Micro Transwarp GS Clone with Scalable Oscillator and 32kB Cache
  • Rich Dreher’s CFFA 3000 Compact Flash and USB Floppy and Hard Drive Emulator
  • Manila Gear 4soniq 4-Channel Sound Card
  • a2heaven 8MB RAM
  • Alex Lukcasz’s 4play Game Controller Card + 4 Hyperkin “GN6” Premium Controllers
  • LittlePower GS and 160w Pico PSU
  • RetroConnector USB Joystick Interface
  • 8bitdo AP40 Bluetooth Controller

Shown on the screen above is 8 Bit Weapon’s new fantasy Role Playing game Ancient Legends.

John’s Apple IIGS had the following hardware:

  • Manila Gear VGA Adapter
  • Applied Engineering Transwarp GS with Ultimate Micro Scalable Oscillator and 8kB Cache
  • ReactiveMicro MicroDrive with External CF Drive Adapter
  • Manila Gear 8soniq 8-Channel Surround Sound Card
  • GGLabs 4MB GS RAM Card
  • Manila Gear GS Cooling Fan (prototype)

Shown on the screen above is Ninjaforce’s Deskplay, a new Desk Accessory for playing MOD tracker files on GS OS.

Les’s Apple //e had the following hardware:

  • a2heaven RamFactor8M
  • a2retrosystems Uthernet II Ethernet Card
  • Manila Gear No Slot Clock
  • Marco Insinilla’s quikLoader Card

Shown on the screen above is Marc Golombeck’s new 3D Engine for the Apple //.

Vince’s Apple //c was running on stock ROM 255 hardware since we just got it the week before and the new hardware we ordered for it was still on the way, namely:

  • Big Mess of Wires Floppy Emu Model B
  • a2heaven RamExpress II A2S4000

Shown on the screen above is Tom Porter’s new game Dogfighters of Mars 2.

And the newest Apple computer in our collection, complete with mouse. Made the night before by Eiko’s Balloons.

Having incredible four player fun with Ninjaforce’s Kaboom! on the 4play game controller card with a 4soniq 4-channel sound card.

We rocked the entire VCF show floor using Soundsmith 2.0, the new 8 speaker channel music software from Brutal Deluxe, and Manila Gear’s 8soniq 8-channel sound card. A sample of our playlist included: Alphaville, Big In Japan, Can’t Get Enough, Footloose and Funkytown.

Karateka software (c/o Jordan Mechner) and Karateka soft-wear (c/o 8bittees.com)!

Michael Packard’s new arcade game Alien Downpour playing on the Apple //e.

We also ran:

  • Ninjaforce’s amazing new Kernkompetenz audio visual GS demo

  • Retro Ports’ pre-alpha version of Arcade Asteroids for the Apple IIGS
  • Richard Soberka’s Zephyr (c/o Brutal Deluxe)
  • 8 Bit Weapon’s Digital Music Synthesizer and DMS Drummer

We look forward to all the cool new hardware and software projects still yet to come. Watch out for accelerators, HDMI video adapters, flash storage systems, system coolers, and new games and utilities.

Les and I would like to send our heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended, to those who helped us put this exhibit together, and last but not the least, to those who created (and continue to create) the software and hardware that we enjoy and were able to share with the rest of the vintage computing community.

Digital copies of the posters used during the exhibit are available here:
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0urLsCNb60lRG5TckRwa3padGM

Check out the other exhibits at VCF West here:
http://vcfed.org/wp/festivals/vintage-computer-festival-west/vcf-west-exhibits/

Manila Gear Introduces the No Slot Clock

Mountain View, CA, 18 May 2017 — Manila Gear today announced the No Slot Clock for the Apple II series of computers. The No Slot Clock lets your Apple II remember the date and time.

No Slot Clock – Front Side

No Slot Clock – Back Side

This brings the amazing functionality of the Dallas Time Chip DS1215 to the Apple ][ and the Apple ][+ computer. No more typing in the date and time every time you boot up!

It also comes with a lot of new features:

  • Batteries – The No Slot Clock uses 1 or 2 user-replaceable CR2032 batteries. It also has break-off battery holders for flexible placement.
  • Configurable – The No Slot Clock can be configured for use on an Apple ][ or ][+, or an Apple //e or //c. It can even be used on a slot card that has an EPROM socket.
  • Sockets – The No Slot Clock has a machine pin socket on the top. This ensures secure and reliable connections to your EPROM. A regular IC socket is on the bottom. This preserves your motherboard or slot card IC socket. No more “socket stretch”!

A modified version of the NSC Utilities disk will be available on the Manila Gear website.

The No Slot Clock lists for only $49++ and is available for preorder at the ReActiveMicro online store at http://store.reactivemicro.com/product-category/49/apple2/ii-ii/.

For more information on the No Slot Clock specifications please visit
https://manilagear.com/product/no-slot-clock/.

Manila Gear Introduces the 2soniq and Announces New Partnership with ReActiveMicro

Mountain View, CA, 7 April 2017 — Manila Gear today announced the 2soniq interface card for the Apple IIGS. The card gives IIGS owners the ability to connect 2 powered speakers so they can enjoy stereophonic sound. This is a simpler version of the 4soniq – the quadraphonic sound card with a monophonic input digitizer that the company released almost a year ago.

2soniq Stereo Sound Card

Hardware – The 2soniq unlocks the capabilities already available in the Apple IIGS’ Ensoniq Digital Oscillator Chip. The simple design and robust engineering delivers clean, reliable sound. It features 2 channel output via one 3.5 mm stereo jack. Similar to the 4soniq, the 2soniq can also be setup for slotless operation.

Software – The 4soniq Programmer’s Guide is available on the Manila Gear website. The guide shows developers how to program for both the 2soniq and the 4soniq, and includes sample code on how to modify existing software to support multi-channel sound.

The 2soniq is now on sale for $69++ at the ReActiveMicro online store at http://store.reactivemicro.com/product-category/49/apple2/iigs/.

For more information on the card specifications please visit https://manilagear.com/product/2soniq-stereo-sound-card.

New Partnership with ReActiveMicro

In February 2017, Manila Gear contacted ReActiveMicro about working together to bring their projects to the Apple II Community. Manila Gear wanted to make sure their current and future products continue to be available to the community at scale. ReActiveMicro was Manila Gear’s first choice since they are the most experienced and longest lived Apple II vendor currently active in the Apple II Community.

Starting from April 2017, ReActiveMicro will be selling and supporting all the great items available from Manila Gear. These will include the new 2soniq stereo sound card, the popular Apple IIGS VGA Adapter, and a refreshed version of the 4soniq 4-channel sound card.

4soniq 4-channel sound card

Apple IIGS VGA Adapter

—–

Manila Gear is an electronics company founded by Jon Christopher Co and John Valdezco. Jon has been a hardware hacker for the past twenty years and maintains a blog at http://damntechnology.blogspot.com.au. John advises Silicon Valley startups, and has a degree in Electrical Engineering. Both Jon and John attended Philippine Science High School, and have been working together on cool stuff since then.

ReActiveMicro was formed by Henry S. Courbis in 2005 as a division of Reactive. Since 1990 the parent company Reactive has had many different divisions. They have worked with hardware, custom software, auto security and sound, auto repair, pay phones and electronics to name a few. Henry’s current project at Reactive Computers is related to the Apple II and Arcade systems. He also plans on teaming up and working with others to provide new solutions for the Apple II Community.

Scan Line Generator

We wanted to see what the output from our VGA Adapter would look like if we added a very basic scan line generator in the mix. We built a prototype and took the following pictures.

The picture on the left is the normal output. The picture on the right is the one with the scan line generator enabled.

 
 
 


 

Take a look and let us know what you think by voting on the poll below!

Would you buy a VGA Adapter with this Scan Line Generator feature?

View Results

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Apple IIGS VGA Adapter Video Test Results

Here are some photos showing the output of the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter on a 15 kHz capable VGA monitor – the Samsung SyncMaster 712N – using Dagen Brock’s video test program:

40-Column Mode

80-Column Mode

Lo Res Mode

Hi Res Mode

Super Hi Res 320 Mode

Super Hi Res 640 Mode
 

Compare them with the output you get on your screen and let us know the results!

You can download a copy of the video test program from the downloads section.

Adjust Your Samsung SyncMaster Settings

If you are using a Samsung SyncMaster and have an image that looks taller than it is wider, you can adjust the image!

Use the front panel buttons to adjust what’s called “Coarse” … it will let you widen the image. You can then adjust H-Position to center it back on the screen.

We’ve found that a Coarse setting of 860, and an H-Position setting of 73 works best for us.

syncmaster-coarse-settings

Manila Gear Introduces the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter

Mountain View, CA, August 26, 2016 – Manila Gear, makers of the 4soniq quadraphonic sound card for the Apple IIGS, today announced the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter. The adapter lets you connect your Apple IIGS to a VGA monitor that supports 15 kHz. It consists of a DA-15 to DE-15 adapter with an integrated sync separator.

This is a great solution for those of us who have aging AppleColor RGB Monitors, or are just looking for a simple VGA solution. Unlike other solutions that require either modifications to the Apple IIGS motherboard, or soldering your own adapter together, this is truly plug and play.

VGA-Adapter-front VGA-Adapter-back

The adapter has been tested and confirmed to work with a few Benq and Samsung monitors. It can also be used with monitors that do not support 15 kHz, by using the adapter in conjunction with a frequency upscaler such as the Gonbes GBS-8200. A list of supported monitors is maintained here.

The Apple IIGS VGA Adapter retails for $30, and is now available for purchase at https://manilagear.com/product/apple-iigs-vga-adapter.

VGA Monitors for the Apple IIGS

For the Apple IIGS, nothing beats the picture quality of an AppleColor RGB Monitor. The next best thing is a compatible CRT, like the NEC MultiSync 3D. For most of us though, the best modern option is a VGA LED Monitor that supports 15 kHz. We’ve listed a few of them in the table below.

If you are able to find one of these monitors, you will also need two things:

First, you will need an adapter to physically convert the DA-15 connector of the Apple IIGS RGB port, to the standard DE-15 connector of a VGA monitor.

DA-15 Male Connector

DE-15

DE-15 Female Connector

Second, you will need a sync separator. Some monitors, such as the Benq BL702A, work just fine with the composite sync signal from the Apple IIGS RGB port. Other monitors, like the Samsung SyncMaster 510N/512N and 710N/712N series of monitors, require a separate (vertical) sync signal.

LM1881 Video Sync Separator

LM1881 Video Sync Separator

The Apple IIGS VGA Adapter combines these into one adapter to get you beautifully sharp video. Easy!

Apple IIGS VGA Adapter with Sync Separator

Some monitors, such as particular revisions of the Dell 2001FP, have been reported to have 15 kHz support. However in our tests we so far have not been able to make it work unless we also use a frequency upscaler. We tried using the Dell 2001FP with the upscaler for a while, but we were never truly happy, until we found a Samsung SyncMaster 712N and used it with the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter.

Here’s our list of monitors indicating a “Yes” for those monitors that would need the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter:

 15 KHZ / COMPOSITE SYNC15 KHZ / SEPARATE SYNCNON-15 KHZ (ALSO REQUIRES UPSCALER)50HZ, 60HZ OR BOTHASPECT RATIONATIVE RESOLUTION
Benq BL702AYesBoth5:41280x1024
Samsung SyncMaster 510N/512NYes60 Hz4:31024x768
Samsung SyncMaster 710N/712NYes60 Hz5:41280x1024
Samsung SyncMaster 910N/912NYes60 Hz5:41280x1024
Dell 2001FPYesBoth4:31600x1200
LG Flatron M1721ATBCBoth4:31280x1024
LG Flatron M1921ATBCBoth5:41280x1024

Samsung SyncMaster 712N

w/no sync separator

Samsung SyncMaster 712N using an ordinary DA-15 to DE-15 adapter with no sync separator

appleiigs-vga-adapter-1

Samsung SyncMaster 712N using the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter

Manila Gear Introduces the 4soniq – a 4-Channel Sound Card for the Apple IIGS

Sydney, Australia, 29 April 2016—Manila Gear today announced the 4soniq interface card for the Apple IIGS. The card gives IIGS owners the ability to connect up to 4 separate powered speakers so they can enjoy quadraphonic surround sound. In addition to providing four channels of output, the 4soniq gives owners the ability to capture audio with a single channel input digitiser.

The 4soniq was announced at WOzFest /// where Jon Christopher Co demonstrated a prototype 4soniq card for attendees to inspect and use in KABOOM! gameplay.

“It all started when we were chatting about how the Apple IIGS  can generate 8 channels of sound, and fellow Apple enthusiast Andrew Roughan wondered ‘if anyone ever attempted such a design.’ John and I checked it out and we decided to give it a shot!” said Jon. “We hope Apple IIGS users enjoy using it and programming for it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.”

Hardware

The 4soniq unlocks the capabilities already available in the Apple IIGS’ Ensoniq Digital Oscillator Chip. The simple design and robust engineering delivers clean, reliable sound.

Features:

  • 4 channel output via two 3.5 mm stereo jacks
  • 1 channel input via one 3.5 mm mono jack

When paired with another 4soniq card, it is possible to achieve 8 channels of output.

The 4soniq can also be setup for slotless operation.

Software

A Programmers Guide for the 4soniq will be available on the Manila Gear website in the near future. The guide will show developers how to program for the 4soniq, and will include sample code on how to modify existing software to support 4 channel sound.

In addition, thanks to the hard work of Ninjaforce’s Jesse Blue, the recently announced v1.02 of its popular Bomberman clone KABOOM!, is fully 4soniq compatible.

The 4soniq will soon be available for pre-order on manilagear.com. For more information on the card specifications please visit http://manilagear.com/product/4-soniq-sound-card.

Manila Gear is an electronics company founded by Jon Christopher Co and John Valdezco. Jon has been a hardware hacker for the past twenty years and maintains a blog at http://damntechnology.blogspot.com.au. John advises Silicon Valley startups, and has a degree in Electrical Engineering. Both Jon and John attended Philippine Science High School, and have been working together on cool stuff since then.

4soniq4soniq 4-Channel Sound Card Prototype

KABOOM! Now Supports 4soniqKABOOM! Now Supports 4soniq 4-Channel Surround Sound