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Apple II Plus inside an IBM clone case?!?

SuperSVGA

Well-known member
I've had this for a little while, but thought I might as well post it here since I haven't shown it off much.

IMG_0201.jpeg

I have no idea who did this or why, but it appears someone has put an Apple ][+ motherboard inside an IBM clone case (I assume it's a clone case, but maybe all the branding has been stripped and I don't recognize the model). Though if by some miracle someone does recognize this computer, I'd love to know its story.

The keyboard obviously isn't original, and is very unusual itself with several keys that don't seem to be in their intended place (some obviously don't fit right at all) and most notably, is outside the computer!
Sorry, I'm not sure why I didn't take any pictures of the keyboard, I'll have to get it out later and do that.
I haven't been able to match the keyboard up with anything online, but it appears it wasn't designed for this purpose.

IMG_0208.jpeg
Here (garbage picture) you can see some sort of adapter board for the keyboard.


IMG_0271.jpeg
Here's the interesting part of the back side, the area where the ports have been "placed". I have no idea how they made that hole, other than terribly.


And now, the inside:
IMG_0202.jpeg
...I think it came like this, cards all over the place. Looks fine otherwise.
Inside was a disk controller, memory expansion, 80 column card, and some sort of debug board which can apparently interrupt code, thought it was often used for cracking software. There's a button and a switch that's mounted on the front of the case for interacting with it.

Does it work though?

...
IMG_0307.jpeg
So, it mostly appears to function, but often typing basic commands gives errors like the one above or dumps you into machine language monitor. I assume there's some sort of RAM or ROM issue, I'll have to figure out what that is at some point. I've got a spare ][+ board I've acquired along with some spare EPROMs and PROMs, though I really need a programmer for them.


I played around with a bit more, and then heard a horrible sound, followed by a very large amount of smoke.

I quickly pulled the power plug and feared the worst.
While trying to figure out what was wrong, I realized it still appeared to be running throughout all that. Which means...
IMG_0284.jpeg
Yep. Rifa cap.

I went to a local store that seemed to have basically everything, and looked through the capacitor section:
IMG_0280.jpeg
(don't mind the e-scooter down there, that thing nearly killed me and has thus been banished)
While they had a lot of capacitors, they unfortunately did not have the one I needed. I ended up getting some off eBay.


So that's where I am right now. Due to the scooter I had to put this project away, but at some point I'm going to get back to it.
I really would like to know the story behind this thing though...
 

BadGoldEagle

Well-known member
You know what, it ain't that bad.

Luckily you don't need to worry too much about slot alignment with the Apple II. Just get your drill out and some standoffs ready to install that motherboard properly. If it were my machine, I'd invest in a VGA scaler to complete the "PC" look and replace/remove the Videx card and that RF modulator (?) which was in contrast to the rest really poorly integrated.

The PSU looks properly mounted. I like the new toggle switch.
Have you tested the floppy drives? It almost looks like a factory install.

The one thing I couldn't live with though is that Macintosh badge on the front. Had it been a IIe, you could have stuck one of those refurbished IIe badges from maceffect's store. Alternatively, you could cover up the hole in the case and stick the bigger II plus badge...

In any case (pun not intended), it's a nice project!
 

linear

Member
did you get this from an online goodwill auction? i swear i remember seeing a machine exactly like this around november of last year.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
So... I remember when I went on a rathole scavenger hunt a few years ago for more information about the origins of my Syscom II I stumbled across evidence there were rotgut Taiwanese clone puppy mills back in the 80's that offered pre-built systems like this. (IE, an Apple clone motherboard wedged in a PC clone-style case. The same companies that made these gray-market Apple II clones went into the PC cloning business as soon as that became a "thing" so they had the parts to mix and match.) That is definitely not an actual IBM case, both the styling of the faceplate and the internal metalwork are wrong. But, and this is important: the case doesn't have the correct holes or card mounts for PC expansion slots, which means it isn't actually directly usable with a standard PC clone motherboard. PC/XT style cases with "generic" back panels were churned out and sold for various industrial purposes and you could sometimes order them from outlets like Jameco, but it's very interesting that this machine has one instead of a "regular" clone case like you'd find at a local computer store.

It might be worth taking a closer look at that motherboard to make *sure* it's an actual Apple board, some of the cloners were brazen enough to not only exactly copy the overall layout and traces of the Apple boards they'd even ape the silkscreen. I'm not entirely sure your machine didn't start life out as one of those weird Frankenstein monsters. (Even if it *is* a real Apple motherboard that doesn't necessarily dismiss the idea, my Syscom II had its clone board replaced at some point along the way before I ended up with it.) I wish you'd included more detail/photos about the keyboard and its adapter board, that might help shed a little more light on things.
 

ScutBoy

Well-known member
I know there were external keyboards made for the Apple ][ machines since I've owned two (and still have one) so it doesn't surprise me that these kind of builds exist. Done nicely, I think it's kind of cool, sort of like the "build your own Mac and save a bundle" thing back in the day.

What would be the Apple ][ equivalent of "hackintosh"? :)
 

SuperSVGA

Well-known member
did you get this from an online goodwill auction?
I believe I did, it's been a while.

If it were my machine, I'd invest in a VGA scaler to complete the "PC" look and replace/remove the Videx card
I might just do that. I was wanting to keep the Videx card just for the experience of cards of the era, but I might put it in the IIe I have instead.

It might be worth taking a closer look at that motherboard to make *sure* it's an actual Apple board, some of the cloners were brazen enough to not only exactly copy the overall layout and traces of the Apple boards they'd even ape the silkscreen.
I managed to drag it back out and get a picture.
IMG_2461.jpeg
It looks pretty close to me, but I'm no expert.

I wish you'd included more detail/photos about the keyboard and its adapter board, that might help shed a little more light on things.
Here's the keyboard and the adapter board:
IMG_2464.jpeg
IMG_2463.jpeg
The keys on the left side of the keyboard (Tab, Ctrl, Shift) don't really fit and the key drastically hits the edge of the case.

The adapter board doesn't seem to have much going on other than some logic ICs.
It has the 5 pin connector labeled "VCDRG". V is obviously Vcc and G is Ground, and I'm guessing the others are Clock, Data, and Reset. I'm guessing the keyboard is a standard AT/XT keyboard based on the pinout.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
I might just do that. I was wanting to keep the Videx card just for the experience of cards of the era, but I might put it in the IIe I have instead.

I'm not entirely sure you can put those Videx cards in a IIe, I think the IIe's ROM natively emulates the same BIOS hooks they use for their own 80 column mode. (Which on a hardware level is implemented completely differently.)

The "right" thing to have sitting on top of this would be a green composite monitor *not* made by Apple. NEC or Amdek would be my first choice. You know, like this:

jb1201-1.jpg
 

SuperSVGA

Well-known member
I'm not entirely sure you can put those Videx cards in a IIe, I think the IIe's ROM natively emulates the same BIOS hooks they use for their own 80 column mode. (Which on a hardware level is implemented completely differently.)
Well I haven't tried, but a quick search makes it look like it's mostly compatible, although I don't fully understand what this article is saying:
https://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n9/37_Videx_Ultraterm_high_fid.php

For owners of Apple IIe's, the tradeoffs are more complex. Although the UltraTerm card is a clear winner for word processing, it is not compatible with the Apple IIe 80-column card. Special Apple IIe features, like cursor movement with the vertical arrow keys, "upper-case restrict' entry mode, graphics mixed with 80-column text, and automatic graphics/text switching, are not available with the UltraTerm card.

With Pascal, this means graphics can be viewed only by physically switching the monitor connection from the UltraTerm to the regular video output of the Apple--an awkward procedure, since the monitor must be reconnected to the UltraTerm to view text. Because of these differences, the UltraTerm will also not work with many commercial Apple IIe programs, including Apple's Quick File II program.

Fortunately, there is a way around these problems, if you are a little daring and already have an Apple IIe 80-column card in the auxiliary slot. The trick is to remove the jumper on the UltraTerm J1 jumper block, and replace it with a three-wire connection and a two-pole, single-throw toggle switch. The switch is wired so that the J1 jumper can be switched between the II/II+ and IIe positions from outside the computer.

The UltraTerm display and all its display benefits are invoked when the switch is in the IIe position. But if the Apple IIe is powered up with the switch in the II/II+ position, the UltraTerm is disabled and the Apple IIe 80-column display will appear on the monitor (even though the monitor is still connected to the UltraTerm). All standard Apple IIe 80-column features work in this mode. This arrangement offers the best of both worlds: 100% compatibility with Apple IIe 80-column software plus ultra high quality displays when needed.
I don't think I even own an Apple IIe 80-column card, so I have no idea what this means for me.

The "right" thing to have sitting on top of this would be a green composite monitor *not* made by Apple.
Aww, but my poor Apple /// monitor :p
If only shipping monitors wasn't so difficult/uncommon. Being able to drive would probably help, I could just make the trip up to RE-PC...
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
Well I haven't tried, but a quick search makes it look like it's mostly compatible, although I don't fully understand what this article is saying:

I don't think I even own an Apple IIe 80-column card, so I have no idea what this means for me.

I'd be pretty surprised if you don't own an Apple IIe 80 column card if you own a IIe; if your IIe has 128k then it has one, and 64k IIe's are... pretty rare? I mean, I guess I'm not the one to ask but I think maybe I've seen one un-enhanced IIe in the flesh and even it had the "un-extended" 80 column card in it. (Basically if you look inside and see *any* kind of card in that one slot at the end that's not lined up with the others you have an 80 column card it. Most of the hardware for the 80 column mode is on the motherboard, the card in that slot just provides either 1k or 64k of extra memory necessary to use it.)

Also note of course that review is specifically about the "UltraTerm" card that has a jumper on it to enable a IIe compatible mode; it says if the switch is in "II/II+" mode it does squat. I have a plain VidTerm card lying around that has no such switch, so I assume if I stuck it in a IIe its built-in video would win? (But I only have a II+, so...?)
 

SuperSVGA

Well-known member
Also note of course that review is specifically about the "UltraTerm" card that has a jumper on it to enable a IIe compatible mode; it says if the switch is in "II/II+" mode it does squat. I have a plain VidTerm card lying around that has no such switch, so I assume if I stuck it in a IIe its built-in video would win? (But I only have a II+, so...?)
I'm pretty sure that's the card I have. I haven't played with it much but I remember specifically that this is the one that switches automatically without the need to swap cables or build an add-on board. It does appear to have a jumper as well as some dip switches.
IMG_0207.jpeg
I'd be pretty surprised if you don't own an Apple IIe 80 column card if you own a IIe
I think you're right. I looked inside across all the cards and the memory expansion does say 80 column. I guess I just haven't played with this one much since I got it due to the bad video connector.
Another thing I just noticed, this IIe has both the Berkeley IRQ Manager and the Mouse card installed, which if I remember correctly isn't necessary...
 
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