As I write this, it is the last day of “Not x86 Week” over at Reddit’s r/Retrobattlestations. As one might guess, this week’s competition is to display a vintage system based on any CPU other than an Intel 8086 or any of its descendants. For this round, I featured the Apple //c that’s situated on my desk in my D.C. workplace.
I setup the //c, which has lived in a few different spots since I acquired it back in 2005, on the desk in my cubicle over a year ago. Its serial port is connected (with a wire I put together from an old Atari 8-bit video cable) to a USB-to-serial adapter, which is plugged into a Raspberry Pi 2, which itself is connected to the guest WiFi network at the university. This allows me to use a terminal program on the //c, such as ProTerm, Modem MGR, or AGate, to allow it to become a standard serial terminal to the Raspbian Linux OS running on the Pi. (Old-school serial terminal support is still baked-in to modern Linux distributions.) I go into greater detail on the overall approach in my 2007 post detailing my first go at using this //c as a serial terminal — to a Mac mini, in a previous workplace.
It occurred to me this past Friday to use the //c for my entry, and as I mentioned, the competition ends tonight. Rather than just turning on the //c and putting some text on the screen, I thought it would be a nice touch to display an “Intel Outside” logo (quite popular over the years with Mac and Amiga folk) on the screen, but that meant finding the logo online, somehow converting it to an Apple II high-res (HGR) image, and getting it over to the //c. If the notion of using the //c for the competition had occurred to me earlier in the week, I probably would have just used my LAN-connected Apple IIgs at home to write out a 5.25-inch floppy with the image file on it, but this was my last day in the office before the weekend conclusion of the competition. Much was already in place, as described, to get this done, but it was a bit of a process to go the full distance.
I dug around online and found a program called Buckshot, which is an image conversion utility for macOS, Windows, and Linux that can convert modern format images to an image in any of the 8-bit Apple II image modes. It’s a nice little utility with a handy image preview function and is based on a program called bmp2hdr, which I covered / demoed in an earlier post on this blog. With this in hand, I did a few searches, found the amusing logo image, and created a mono, high-res Apple II image (280×192 pixels) from it.
The next step was to get the image from the Mac at my desk to the Apple //c. The //c has no attached device capable of reading SD cards or the like, so the image file needed to be transferred via serial. So, I transferred the image from the Mac to the Raspberry Pi via sftp and, from there, wanted to use sz (from the lrzsz package) to initiate a Zmodem transfer from the Pi to the //c. I found that sz wasn’t installed on the Pi, and there was a problem in attempting to install it via apt-get, so I had to take a different approach.
I logged into Web Host Manager on my remote web server and used RPM Package Manager to install lrzsz. I then sftp’ed the Apple II HGR image to the server and used the //c, running ProTerm 3.0 and acting as a serial terminal to the Pi, to ssh (from the Pi) to my remote server and kicked off a Zmodem send of the 8K image using sz, which ProTerm recognized and began receiving.
Once the image was on a floppy on the //c, I got to the BASIC prompt under ProDOS and performed a BLOAD INTEL.BIN,A$2000, which loaded and displayed the image on the //c’s HGR high-res graphics screen. And, with a few lines of BASIC, my text was in place.
This week’s competition was a fun exercise, as is usually the case with the r/Retrobattlestations challenges. And, of course, it’s always fun to show off this lovely little machine. I encourage any retro computing readers to join in the fun.