Retrochallenge meets WOzFest – Check Your Caps!

Retrochallenge 2017/04 is almost over!

WOzFest PR#6 has now started!

It’s time for the two parts of my retrocomputing life to collide in the most resourceful of ways…

My “europlus Refurbapalooza”, whereby I’m trying to get all my europluses operational, has been the thrust of my two Retrochallenge entries in 2016/10 and 2017/04. With the vagaries of “real life” impinging more the second time around (just that time of year, I think), I’ve gotten even less done this month…but that doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely unproductive.

I’ve been able to test the electrolytic capacitors in all seven of my europlus Astec AA11040C power supply units (PSUs). Despite 14 electrolytic capacitors per PSU (so 98 total) and the PSUs being at least 35 years old, I was pleased to find only four capacitors are exceeding (or almost exceeding) their maximum ESR (Electrical Series Resistance) value.

I’m also going to follow the general guideline to replace the C1 filter capacitor, even if the original hasn’t blown (two of the seven originals have definitely blown, and a further three or four are showing cracking in their plastic covering). I’ve bought all the replacement capacitors I need, and hope to install them all and test the PSUs during WOzFest PR#6.

While carrying out these ESR tests, I wanted a ready-reference to the capacitor specifications for determining the correct ESR value to be testing and for when I came to purchase replacement capacitors.

As a non-expert, I also wanted a reference to the position and polarity of the solder points for each capacitor on the underside of the PSU circuit board – I was testing the capacitors “in-circuit” rather than removing them for testing (while not ideal, I’m trying to keep the task manageable).

I had found online a scan of a 1982 document from Apple which provided a great start to what I wanted. It has schematics and circuit board layouts for several Apple PSUs, as well as a components list for each of the PSU models it includes.

Although it has info on the AA11040B (while I have AA11040Cs), upon inspection I believe the primary difference is the AA11040C is the 230V version of the AA11040B with the “115V Select” wire removed and a 250V/2A fuse replacing the 125V/2.75A fuse.

So I decided to prepare just the sort of ready-reference I would have liked to have started with. Over several iterations to refine the design and info included, and taking input from enthusiasts with more PSU repair experience than me, (thanks Mark, Martin, Jon, Geoff and John!), I’ve created the “WOzFest Labs Apple Astec Power Supply Unit AA11040B/C Electrolytic Capacitor ‘Spec & Check’ Sheet” (it just rolls of the tongue!) – and I’m pleased to announce the release of v1.0 of this “Spec & Check” sheet for use by other enthusiasts looking to test and refurbish their AA11040B/C PSUs.

This release is the major result of my Retrochallenge 2017/04 entry and in line with WOzFest PR#6’s theme of “Preservation”.

I’ve designed the sheet so that it can be printed at 100% on A4 (297✕210mm) or US Letter (8.5″✕11″) without any information being cropped. When printed at 100%, the picture of the underside of the PSU circuit board is “life size”, so it’s easy to correlate the highlighted solder points to a physical circuit board.

The sheet can be used as a checklist of capacitors that are in or out of spec, has the maximum ESR values listed for each capacitor (as well as other specs) in both tabular and “call out” forms, and the polarity of the solder points are annotated and colour-coded.

This is only v1.0, and suggestions/corrections from other enthusiasts will be included in updates. If I’m able, I’ll also release versions for other PSU models that Apple used in Apple ][s.

This is the first resource issued under the name “WOzFest Labs”, and hopefully there’ll be many more (I’ll probably re-release my Silentype Font under that name, too). I’d be interested in collaborating on other resources, too, so hit me up if you have any ideas you”d like to work on with me.

A few notes:

  • I’ve provided specs and solder points for the C1 filter cap to ease replacement of this component along with any out-of-spec electrolytic capacitors;
  • Capacitors C13 and C14 are in parallel on the circuit, so testing either one to half the usual maximum ESR is adequate when testing them “in-circuit” – if capacitors are removed for testing, double the stated maximum ESR value for these two capacitors;
  • Capacitors rated to 105°C are recommended;
  • The 1982 document from Apple has at least two errors in the components list for the AA11040B PSU, so check its information carefully if you’re using it as a reference.
  • If you’re wondering about the typewriter-like font I used, it’s Prestige Elite, which, by my reckoning, is the font used in early Apple spiral-bound manuals such as The Applesoft Tutorial. It’s my theory that these early manuals were “typeset” using material printed by the ubiquitous IBM Selectric typewriter.

So, other than some soldering, testing and writing a recap on my re-capping adventures, that’s pretty well it for my Retrochallenge entry this time around. I’m looking forward to getting to the meat of my europlus refurbishment – testing (and hopefully repairing) motherboards – next go ’round in October!

Caverns of Mordia Re-released at WOzFest 5¼″

I’m very happy to announce that Australian-produced text adventure game, Caverns of Mordia, was officially re-released at WOzFest 5¼″.

Written by Hans Coster, it was originally released in 1980, and the game saw an update in 1982. Hans had further updates which were never released.

At the prompting of another WOzFest attendee, Hans attended WOzFest ///, and attempts were made to image an original game disk. Unfortunately, efforts to create an EDD image were unsuccessful, but a still protected .dsk disk image file was able to be provided to Hans.

A short while ago, prompted by a Comment on this blog seeking disk images for Caverns of Mordia, I began to consider releasing an update with Hans as I was aware he was working on deprotecting and updating it.

With WOzFest 5¼″ being a celebration of the 5¼″ disk it seemed a great thing to not only announce the re-release, but to prepare physical disks to give to attendees and participants.

Hans was keen, and his grandson Sebastiaan was already engaged in typing in the manual.

Once I had the manual text and a scan of the original, I began laying it out and tidying up the graphics (the original manual was printed on orange paper to make copying difficult, so the graphics needed some tidy up work).

There were 20 copies produced for WOzFest 5¼″ – attendees and participants accounted for 17 copies.

What that means for you, dear reader, is that you have a couple of ways to secure your very own copy of this limited edition disk and manual.

Firstly, one lucky Juiced.GS subscriber will be randomly drawn from all subscribers (except those who already have one of the 17 distributed copies) to receive copy #10 with their December issue. The winner will not be pre-announced – we’ll all just have to wait for the lucky winner to crow about it online! Thanks, Ken Gagne, for being willing to be involved in the re-release.

The other way to score one of the remaining copies (copies #1 and #20) will be via eBay auctions for them. I’ll be posting the eBay auctions this coming Sunday, 27 November 2016, and making announcements everywhere I can. They’ll be 10 day auctions, so bid early, and bid often!

Proceeds from the auctions will offset the production costs of the physical disks and manuals, as well as some WOzFest-hosting incidentals, and the remainder will go to Hans.

For those unlucky enough to not score a WOzFest Special Edition physical copy, there is still one small consolation prize: I’ll be posting the disk image and manual PDF on the Internet Archive to play there or download (links to come).

To any potential bidders, and all Juiced.GS subscribers, I say: good luck!

UPDATE: I’ve now uploaded the disk image and manual PDF to the Internet Archive – you can find them here.

The game is playable in your browser, or you can download for use on a real Apple ][ or via an emulator.

The manual is worth a quick read through before playing, and it has a command reference you’ll want as well. Enjoy!

[On a side note, there was a printing error I noticed on the night {page 2 reprinted in place of page 4}, and I corrected all manuals…except three whose owners declined the update {I’m not sure if this is some sort of rarity speculation}. I’ve also made a slight modification to the Preface in the posted version compared to the printed manual: I was made aware that a non-EDD disk image was able to be made at WOzFest ///, so I’ve changed the Preface to reflect that. Three versions in three days! Who’s going to collect them all?!]

UPDATE #2: Copies #1 and #20 of 20 are now on eBay.

The europlus Retrocomputing Podcast Playlist

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a retrocomputing enthusiast who does not listen to at least one podcast related to the hobby.

There are a large number of podcasts related to retrocomputing, and I have a set of them that I listen to. For whatever value my readers get from it, here’s a list of the currently active ones on my playlist:

Retro Computing Roundtable: For a general retrocomputing podcast it’s hard to go past RCR. Now approaching its sixth anniversary, a ragtag fugitive fleet of retro enthusiasts from around the world (including my veritable neighbour, Michael Mulhern) get together roughly weekly to discuss news, a host topic, eBay finds, and anything else relevant (and sometime irrelevant and/or irreverent). [Subscribe in iTunes]

Open Apple: current hosts Quinn Dunki and Mike Maginnis host this Apple ][-themed podcast now in its sixth year. It covers news, doesn’t officially cover eBay, and the hosts have interviewed some of the movers and shakers in the Apple scene both from the early days and currently. My What WOzFest Is…and Isn’t post is dedicated to the Open Apple Fact Checking Department. [Subscribe in iTunes]

RetroMacCast: one of the early podcasts for retrocomputer enthusiasts, still going and currently up to episode 415 and approaching its 10th anniversary in December. James and John look at eBay finds, news from the Mac arena both past and present (and sometimes the wider Apple retrocomputer sphere), sometimes dip into a historical issue of Mac magazines from decades past and generally shoot the breeze. [Subscribe in iTunes]

FloppyDays Vintage Computing Podcast: Randy Kindig hosts this general retrocomputing podcast I’ve only recently started listening to. Randy is roughly following a timeline of 8 bit retrocomputers, detailing their development and time on the market, and then the current resources and accessories available for them. Randy often gets movers and shakers relevant to the original or current development of the computer he covers on an episode. Special interview and event episodes are interspersed and give further insight into historical and current retrocomputer topics and events. [Subscribe in iTunes]

As with anything in life, sometimes things go awry and podcasts go on hiatus. Retrocomputer-related podcasts I’ve listened to in the past which haven’t been active in some time include:

1 MHz Apple II Podcast: What about that Carrington, eh? Carrington Vanston wore all the hats on this podcast which was active from 2006 till 2012 (if you’re loose in your definition of “active”). Carrington has a style all his own, and I’m pleased we’ve not lost it completely as he often co-hosts the RCR. [Subscribe in iTunes]

The Retrobits Podcast: Earl Evans’ general retrocomputing podcast had a good mix of info on current happenings in retrocomputing land and interviews, as well as Earl’s own projects. Earl also often co-hosts RCR. [Subscribe in iTunes]

A2Unplugged: active from 2006-2010, A2Unplugged was one of the first retrocomputing podcasts I listened to. Hosted by the late Ryan Suenaga, it had a yearly roundup roundtable, and discussed then current happenings in the Apple ][ world.

While inactive, the published episodes of Retrobits, 1 MHz and A2Unplugged are often still worth a listen, if only to get a glimpse of the retro-retrocomputing scene!

What have I missed?! If you enjoy a retrocomputing podcast I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the Comments below (and I’m aware of non-Apple platform-specific podcasts like Antic and Chicken Lips Radio – but I keep my own listening to Apple and general retrocomputing podcasts for the sake of time).

Silentype Font v2.0 Released!

I have great pleasure in announcing that v2.0 of my Silentype font is now officially released as a New Year gift to the Apple ][ community. I originally made this font so I could recreate my Year 10 Technology magnus opus.

I’ve generated versions for pretty well all major modern operating systems – and a few not so modern ones (Mac OS 9 [and prior], I’m looking at you!).

I’m releasing it under the SIL Open Font Licence (OFL), which I recommend you check out if, like me, you’re a not-for-profit font designer who would still like guidelines placed on how your creations are used. The OFL’s aim is:

…to enable a true open typographic community to spring up and grow. The OFL provides a legal framework and infrastructure for worldwide development, sharing and improvement of fonts and related software in a collaborative manner. It enables font authors to release their work under a common license that allows bundling, modification and redistribution. It encourages shared value, is not limited to any specific computing platform or environment, and can be used by other organisations or individuals.

It seemed a good fit for what I was hoping to achieve with my Silentype font. Oh, and if you’re wondering, “Silentype” is officially a “dead” trademark, so I didn’t have any qualms about using it as the actual name of my font.

The letterforms were all independently created by me in 2003 and 2004, with recent modifications to accommodate later OS X versions’ predilection to fill in the counters on the letters “o”and “O”, the number “8” and the ampersand (“&”). I recognise what it is about those characters’ counters that is common to them and not with other characters with counters, but I don’t know why that particular attribute caused the counters to fill in current versions of OS X when in 2003 and 2004 OS X as it was then was quite happy to display the characters correctly.

Oh, and I’ve added a (very) low-res Apple logo to the font at the appropriate location. I may extend the character set further during January, but don’t have any firm plans on that front at the moment.

I used Fontographer v5.2.1 for this version, as I’d used v3.5 to create the original font and I wanted as smooth a path from the original .fog file (rather than being recreated from the generated font files). The .fog file is available upon application.

The font is released as a free resource for the Apple ][ and Apple /// communities. I would appreciate a heads-up if it’s bundled with any applications.

Please also let me know in the comments if you use the font, or even just if you had a Silentype “back in the day”.