Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

Getting an Apple II on the Internet Super Easy

Hey, have you wanted to get on the internet and connect to a BBS (bulletin board system) using a retro computer like the Apple IIe? Or maybe you just want to get away from the toxic online experience….escape to a world where you can interact with others and there are no ads, no trackers and no social media. Or maybe you want to do something completely pointless, quite difficult but a lot of fun! I spent a month ordering the correct cables, chipsets and making schoolboy errors! Here’s a run down of what you need to do from start to finish so hopefully you don’t waste as much time as I did!

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

Why Bother and What Can I Do With This

When it comes to being creative and writing I came to the conclusion the internet can just be a total time sink. It can ruin everything. I explain this in a bit more detail here. For me it all started with a tune, I was using a midi interface and connecting up my turntables to mix when it became obvious that having a more simple setup can really help creative output…kind of leading to the world of retro computing.

This whole piece is around the Apple IIe computer. This was super popular in the 1980’s and is widely regarded as the machine that revolutionised how we use computers. Specifically, what in my opinion really makes this computer fascinating is that it is built to be customised, as a consequence it is very powerful for those wishing to push the boundaries of how they can interact with the outside world. Creatively.

A simple example is the use of an Apple IIe to intercept signals from the International Space Station and decoding to obtain images. I don’t know this setup technically well and granted remote space sensing has always been here but it’s fascinating to think we can interact with space exploration in realtime using the actual signals being used.

Last but not least, net neutrality is very much a thing. Being able to have discourse by not using the well known social media platforms I feel may provide a means for debates… without the trolls and associated abuse.

Before you get stared you will need:

An Apple IIe. You can purchase one on eBay. As a rule of thumb you should pay in the region of $200 for one in mint condition. Whilst you’re there you’ll need to pickup a monitor and two disk drives.

Modern laptop, I used my Macbook Pro.

Communications software, I used ASCII Express Pro 4.3, I’ll explain how to get that shortly.

Blank floppy discs, this is 5 1/4 Double Sided Double Density disks, commonly known as 2S2D.

Cables Null modem cable to connect to your modern laptop, easy to find. This is a USB port to 9 pin male, 9 pin female to 9 pin female null modem cable, 9 pin male to male adaptor, 9 pin female to 25 pin female, 25 pin male to male RS232 cable. This setup of RS232 cables is really simple and described in detail below.

Modem, go for a wifi modem such as WiModem232 available from CBMStuff.

Apple Super Serial Card (SCC), again available from eBay.

Optional: Apple IIe enhancement kit. Just makes things easier when you want to try other comms software. It’s inexpensive and available from Reactive Micro.

What you need to do

Download the Communications Software and Prepare discs

Step 1 Ensure you have all cables connected to your computer as in the pictures below.

The cables you need

Step 2 Use ADTPRO to burn a copy of ASCII Express 4.3 PRO. Theres lots of stuff documented on the internet on ADTPRO so I won’t go there.

Connecting cables toigether

Step 3 When using SSC ensure you have your dip switches correct. Here’s a pic of what you need. This isn’t so well documented online.

SCC Dip setting when working with ADTPRO

Step 4 Once you’re all set and have downloaded the software on disk ensure you setup the SCC for modem mode, the dip setting for this are shown here.

Floppy disc burnt and ready to install the software

Get WiModem232 Online

SSC dip setting for connecting to a WiModem232

Step 5 Connect the WiModem232 to your Apple and ensure the SCC is inserted correctly into slot 2.

WiModem232

Step 6 You need to now follow the instructions from CBMStuff to get your WiModem232 online. It’s actually really easy. I’ll also describe it further.

Step 7 Run the comms software you burned in step 4. Press enter when you see AERUN.

Step 8 TypeAERUN to load the comms software.

SSC connected inside my Apple IIe

Step 9 Connect your modem to your Wifi by pressing WPS on your router and then typeAT(WPS) on the term line. Your modem should now be ready.

Your modem is now connected to Wifi

Step 10 Now this is a bit fiddly. You need to set the comms software to 1200 baud and your modem to the same rate ensuring its full duplex.

AD*B1200

Now that the modem is set to 1200 baud. Ensure your software is also.

Select B and 1200
Press CTRL Q and then I for a full reading of what your settings are.

Step 10 Connect to a BBS, you should also see your WiModem232 connect.

ATDT particlesbbs.dyndns.org:6400

If you get a login prompt then well done…you on the internet and connected to the outside world!

Particles login page
WiModem232 connected

Useful Things to do

The modem is fully Hayes compatible, what that means is you can use all the well known AT commands to connect to the outside world. I’ve detailed below my list:what is I’ve found useful.

AT*WPS        #Find router
AT&W #Save to ROM
AT*BAUD1200 #Set baud rate
AT*D1 #Device has DCD pin inverse from what Apple II wants
ATE1V1 #Set these so you can see what you’re typing ATI #Get info on the conn
ATDT particlesbbs.dyndns.org:6400 #Dial up to particles
ATH #Hang up connection
ATI1 #Detailed Information
AT&Z? #Show all phone book entries AT&Z3=particlesbbs.dyndns.org:6400 #Set phone book entry ATDS=3 #Dial stored phone book entry

Useful links

ASCII Express Download

BBS Dir Listing

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