Apple I

Apple I

The history, or more correctly prehistory of Apple, can be traced back to 1975 – the dawn of the microcomputer industry. It was the year when the first widely known examples of microcomputers came out (the term personal computer was not in use at that time). Those were MITS Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080 – an upgraded version of Altair designed by IMSAI, Jupiter II by Wavamate, M6800 by Southwest Technical Products and JOLT by Microcomputer Associates. Each of the computers was in the kit form and could be assembled by the user himself. That is why they were bought by enthusiasts only. One had to make great effort and have a deep insight in microelectronics in order to make this kit work. No wonder, the owners of such microcomputers began to form clubs where they could consult on how to assemble, exchange programs and documentations and discuss new constructions.


One of the clubs was located in Silicon Valley in the small town of Palo Alto, California. One of the members, a 26-year-old Hewlett-Packard engineer Steve Wozniak, had long dreamt of assembling a self-designed microcomputer but the lack of funds prevented him from implementing this idea.
At first, Wozniak viewed Intel-8080 as the central processing unit of his system but the then cost of this computer (179$) made Wozniak look for a less expensive option. There was also another chip – Motorola 6800 – which Wozniak was also interested in due to its resemblance to a well known to him minicomputer Nova designed by Data General. However, he gave up on it as well because it cost too much – 175$. Fortunately, he managed to find the chip – MOS Technology 6502. It was almost the same as 6800 but cost just 25$. That fit the bill.

Wozniak designed his machine in such a way that it required using the devices without which modern computers are unthinkable – keyboards and video display terminals. Although, microcomputer users dispensed with tumbler switches on the front panel at that time, less commonly, with a teletype and LED-indicators. A usual TV-set was used as a terminal. The computer had 8 Kb dynamic memory. 4 Kb were taken by BASIC and the other 4 Kb were available for the user’s programs. It had a video output but the user was supposed to connect his own TV-set as well as the keyboard. The device was not provided with sound, colors and graphics, though it had an expansion slot for which there were no cards yet, actually.

Apple I

This is what the computer that Wozniak brought to the club looked like. Many club members thought that using a different processing unit that was incompatible with Intel 8080 was an insane idea because it was believed that compatibility with Altair-8800 was absolutely necessary and incompatible models had no chances. But Steve Wozniak’s 21-year-old friend supported him. Together they decided to start the production of custom-built kits of this model which was a typical way of selling computers at that time. So, on April 1, 1976 they founded Apple Computer Company.
The owner of “The Byte Shop” Paul Terrell was responsible for selling Apple computers which were later called Apple I. He agreed to sell 50 items but he demanded that the computers were completely assembled. The two Steves had to work hard to meet this demand. Ultimately, Terrell sold almost 200 Apple I computers through his shop within ten months starting from July 1976 at the price of $666,66 apiece.

apple 1 competer
Apple I was certainly a decent computer at the time. This machine was more advanced and user-friendly than Altair-8800 but it was only after putting Apple II into production when the company achieved fame.

 But it’s absolutely another story…

DR-DOS

In the early 70’s, there was a company known as intergalactic Digital Research. The name was just a little too geeky for even them, and was later shortened to Digital Research. The founder, Gary Kildall, created the first Disk Operating System for Microcomputers called CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers). This became THE operating system for hobbyist microcomputers. A few years later this changed a bit (or was supplemented) when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak designed a home computer that came prebuilt. It was a wild concept for the time, not having to build your computer — it was a wildly successful idea as well. The micro(home)-computer bloomed from a small little hobby toy, into something that many small businesses wanted and felt they needed. But there was still the other group of CP/M builders and users.

Digital Research’s original CP/M for the 8-bit Intel 8080 and Z-80 based systems spawned numerous spin-off versions, most notably CP/M-86 for the Intel 8086/8088 family of processors. Although CP/M had dominated the market, and was shipped with the vast majority of non-proprietary-architecture personal computers, the IBM PC in 1981 brought the beginning of what was eventually to be a massive change.

IBM originally approached Digital Research, seeking an x86 version of CP/M. However, there were disagreements over the contract, and IBM withdrew. Instead, a deal was struck with Microsoft, who purchased another operating system, 86-DOS, fromSeattle Computer Products. This became Microsoft MS-DOS and IBM PC DOS. 86-DOS’ command structure and application programming interface imitated that of CP/M. Digital Research threatened legal action, claiming PC DOS/MS-DOS to be too similar to CP/M. IBM settled by agreeing to sell their x86 version of CP/M, CP/M-86, alongside PC DOS. However, PC DOS sold for $40, while CP/M-86 had a $240 price tag. The proportion of PC buyers prepared to spend six times as much to buy CP/M-86 was very small, and the availability of compatible application software, at first decisively in Digital Research’s favor, was only temporary.

Digital Research fought a long losing battle to promote CP/M-86 and its multi-tasking multi-user successor Concurrent CP/M-86, and eventually decided that they could not beat the Microsoft-IBM lead in application software availability, so they modified Concurrent CP/M-86 to allow it to run the same applications as MS-DOS and PC DOS.

First DR DOS version

As requested by several OEMs Digital Research started to plan develop a new DOS operating system addressing the shortcomings left by MS-DOS in 1987. The first DR DOS version was released on 28 May 1988. Version numbers were chosen to reflect features relative to MS-DOS; the first version promoted to the public was DR DOS 3.31, which offered features comparable to Compaq MS-DOS 3.31 with large disk support (FAT16B aka “BIGDOS”). DR DOS 3.31 reported itself as “IBM PC DOS 3.31”, while the internal BDOS (Basic Disk Operating System) kernel version was reported as 6.0, single-user nature, reflecting its origin as derivative of Concurrent DOS 6.0 with the multitasking and multiuser capabilities as well as CP/M API support stripped out and the XIOSreplaced by an IBM-compatible DOS-BIOS. The system files were named DRBIOS.SYS (for the DOS-BIOS) and DRBDOS.SYS (for the BDOS kernel), the disk OEM label used was “DIGITAL␠”.

DR DOS offered some extended command line tools with command line help, verbose error messages, sophisticated command line history and editing (HISTORY directive) as well as support for file and directory passwords built right into the kernel. It was also cheaper to license than MS-DOS, and was ROMable right from the start. The ROMed version of DR DOS was also named ROS (ROM Operating System). DRI was approached by a number of PC manufacturers who were interested in a third-party DOS, which prompted several updates to the system.

At this time, MS-DOS was only available to OEMs bundled with hardware. Consequently, DR DOS achieved some immediate success when it became possible for consumers to buy it through normal retail channels since 3.4x.

Known versions are DR DOS 3.31 (BDOS 6.0, 1988-06, OEM only), 3.32 (BDOS 6.0, 1988-08-17, OEM only), 3.33 (BDOS 6.0, 1988-09-01, OEM only), 3.34 (OEM only), 3.35 (BDOS 6.0, 1988-10-21, OEM only), 3.40, 3.41 (BDOS 6.3, 1989-06, OEM and retail). Like MS-DOS, most of them were produced in several flavors for different hardware. While most OEMs kept the DR DOS name designation, one OEM version is known to be called EZ-DOS 3.41.

Novell DOS was Novell Corporation’s name for DR-DOS during the period when Novell sold DR-DOS, after the acquisition of Digital Research in 1991. Regarding features and performance, it was typically at least one release ahead of MS-DOS.[13] In 1993, PC DOS 6.1, MS-DOS 6.2 and PC DOS 6.3 were trumped by Novell’s DOS 7.0.

MSX

MSX is the name of a standardized home computer architecture, first announced by Microsoft on June 16, 1983. It was conceived by Kazuhiko Nishi, then Vice-president at Microsoft Japan and Director at ASCII Corporation. It is said that Microsoft led the project as an attempt to create unified standards among hardware makers. The system was designed to be plug and play, thus requiring no user intervention either on hardware or software to install extensions.

The MSX-based machines were seldom released in the United States, but were popular in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, South American countries like Brazil and Chile, and in the European market in countries like the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy and Finland. To a lesser extent, the MSX platform was also popular in the former Soviet Union and Kuwait. The MSX was released almost at the same time as the Nintendo’s Family Computer in the countries where both were marketed, becoming Nintendo’s main competitor. It is one of the major platforms for which major Japanese game studios, such as Konami, Sega, Compile, Falcom and Hudson Soft, produced video game titles. The Metal Gear series, for example, was originally written for MSX hardware.

In the early 1980s, most home computers manufactured in Japan such as the NEC PC-6001 and PC-8000 series, Fujitsu’s FM-7 and FM-8, and Hitachi’s Basic Master featured a variant of Microsoft’s Basic interpreter integrated into their on-board ROMs. The hardware design of these computers and the various dialects of their ROM Basics were incompatible. Other Japanese consumer electronics firms such as Panasonic, Canon, Casio,Yamaha, Pioneer, and Sanyo were searching for ways to enter the new home computer market.

Nishi proposed MSX as an attempt to create a single industry standard for home computers. Inspired by the success of VHS as a standard for video cassette recorders, many Japanese electronic manufacturers along withGoldStar, Philips and Spectravideo built and promoted MSX computers. Any piece of hardware or software with the MSX logo on it was compatible with MSX products of other manufacturers. In particular, the expansion cartridge form and function were part of the standard; any MSX expansion or game cartridge would work in any MSX computer.

MSX is a Zilog Z80-based family of home computers which appeared in autumn 1983 as an attempt to establish a single standard in home computing similar to VHS in video. MSX machines were produced by a large list of industry giants as Sony, Yamaha, Panasonic, Toshiba, Daewoo, and Philips.

The MSX standard was designed by ASCII Corporation in cooperation with Microsoft. The latter provided a firmware version of its BASIC for the machine. Because this BASIC version was an extended version of MicroSoft Basic, it was called “MicroSoft eXtended BASIC”, thus explaining the abbreviation MSX.

MSX computers proved to be popular in Asia (Korea, Japan), South America (Brazil, Chile), Europe (Netherlands, France, Spain, Finland) and the former Soviet Union. They were virtually unknown in the USA, however. The only MSX machines ever sold in the USA were an early SpectraVideo model and the Yamaha CX-5M, which while essentially an MSX, was marketed as a musical instrument rather than a home computer.

While MSX did not become the intended worldwide computer standard, it remained a versatile and easy to use computer. Thanks to its rich BASIC instruction set and uncluttered operating system, it proved to be especially useful for educational purposes. The Russian Ministry of Education bought hundreds of MSX1 and MSX2 computers, all grouped into “computerized classroom systems” of 10-16 machines, connected into a simple network. Entire generations of Russian programmers have grown up using these computers.

The MSX1 standard died quietly in 1988, but had already been superseded by the MSX2 standard two years earlier. By then, the MSX2+ standard had also entered the market, followed by the MSX turboR in the early nineties. More than a decade after the turboR, the 1chipMSX was conceived. The name refers to having all the MSX logic programmed into one big FPGA chip. It is debated whether this 1chipMSX with its reprogrammable logic is a real MSX or a kind of emulator, as the chip can also be used to emulate another computer. The fact remains that the 1chipMSX carries the official MSX logo.

According to Kazuhiko Nishi, the ‘inventor’ of the whole MSX concept, “MSX” can mean a lot more than just MicroSoft eXtended. In an article published in a Japanese business magazine in 1997, he stated that he had used the abbreviation MSX to contract a lot of companies saying that it meant “Matsushita Sony X-machine”, in which the X could refer to the company Nishi was talking to at that moment. Nishi also pointed out that he initially wanted to name the standard “NSX” (Nishi Sony X) or “MNX” (Matsushita Nishi X), but the name “NSX” had already been taken by Honda. Following this logic, Nishi could also say that the MS refers to MicroSoft. According to Nishi, Matsushita and Sony are the most important companies that have produced MSX machines and MSX hardware.

Other possible meanings included “Matsushita Sony Shake-hands (X)”. But actually, MSX does not really have a meaning; it is just a nice-sounding 3-letter combination. During the MSX fair in Tilburg on 21 April 2001, Nishi gave a lecture in which he stated that MSX meant “Machines [hardware] with Software eXchangeability”. A funny observation was that when MSX seemed to be successful, Microsoft said the “MS” in “MSX” meant “MicroSoft”, but after 1986, when it was clear that MSX had not become the intended world standard, Microsoft denied that the MS in MSX referred to their name.

MSX represents a hybrid of a videogame console and a generic CP/M-80 machine. Its main CPU is a Zilog Z80A running at 3.58MHz. The video subsystem is built around a TMS9918 or TMS9928 VDP chip, which was also used in the Texas Instruments TI-99/4, Colecovision, and Coleco Adam computers. In later MSX models this chip was upgraded to the V9938 (MSX2) andV9958 (MSX2+ and TurboR). The latest version of this chip is the V9990, which unlike them, is not upwards compatible with its predecessors. The audio system is handled by the AY-3-8910 chip by General Instruments, the same one used in the Sinclair ZXSpectrum128. The AY-3-8910 provides 3 channels of synthesized sound, noise generation, and two general purpose parallel I/O ports which are used for joysticks and some other things in the MSX design. Due to their hardware structure, MSX machines were perfectly suitable for games, and many good games were either written or ported to them.