Upgrading an Apple Iie

How to Upgrade Your Apple Iie

The mainstay of many schools computer programs for many years was the Apple IIe. As we enter an age where "Information SuperHighway"", "Multimedia", and "Interactive" are the every day buzzwords of our profession, many feel that they need to "upgrade" th eir labs by relegating their Apple II's to the scrapheap, and getting "modern" computers like Macintosh LC 575's or PC's with 486 processors.

While there are some tasks that are more easily done on some of the newer computers, most of what we need to teach elementary and middle school students is just as easily done with Apple II's as more expensive systems. Sometimes, in fact, it is easier to teach certain concepts with an Apple II than with a Macintosh or PC. It can also be a lot easier on your budget.

No one can say what "typical" computer technology will look like ten or fifteen years from now. Things change so fast, both in software and hardware, that any prophecy about the future would probably be wrong. However, we can say with some chance of b eing right that our elementary and middle school students will probably need to know how to use a mouse, windows, menu bars and the internet in high school. Are our Apple IIe's up to the task?

You bet! The rest of this article will show you how, and will also show you that it isn't that expensive. Think about it when it's time to prepare your budget.

First of all, we'll assume that you have an enhanced Apple IIe* (meaning that it has the 65C02 microprocessor and upgraded video and keyboard chips). This computer has one auxiliary memory slot and seven peripheral card slots, as well as a built-in RC A video connector. Typically, these computers have one or two 5.25" disk drives connected to a card in slot 6. You may have a monochrome (usually green) or color monitor. That's all we'll assume.

OK, now what do we want to do with this computer?

Well, we want our kids to know how to use a mouse, and how to use a program with pull down menus, knowing that they'll likely be using Word for Windows 6.0 or WordPerfect 3.1 for a Mac when they get to high school (in itself a big change...two years a go, the Mac would have been sure to be using MS Word, and the PC would be running WordPerfect...I told you things change fast). They also will want to use a high quality printer, since even in middle school we expect kids to hand in papers that look good . We also want them to get used to using more than one program for their reports.

The first thing our IIe needs is a mouse. This is easily done with the BitMouse card from Sequential Systems. For only $59.00 you get a card that you insert in slot 4 to which you can connect a standard PC serial mouse, which can be bought for as litt le as $10.00. With this you can use programs such as 8/16 Paint, MousePaint, MouseWrite, or BeagleWrite, and be using a system with pull down menus much like a Macintosh or Windows program.

The second thing to consider for your IIe is more memory...a IIe comes with 64K soldered onto the motherboard. It is common to find 80 column/64K cards in the auxiliary slot. However, for only $79.00 you can buy the ZMeg-80 for the Apple IIe from Sequ ential and have a full megabyte of RAM available. While that would be a puddle in a Macintosh or IBM, it is an ocean on an Apple IIe.

The third thing to consider for your Apple IIe is a hard drive. A good choice would be a hard drive from Charlie's AppleSeeds or Parson's Engineering. A 40 MB RoadRunner hard drive from Charlie's AppleSeeds costs around $199.00; a 120 MB Focus Hard Ca rd from Parson's Engineering would cost about $269.00 plus $15.00 shipping. Both of these are internal hard drives, which means no disk clutter. The speed of a hard drive versus floppy disks is hard to believe, and you'll really have a lot more time for your lessons when you don't have to spend as much time passing out disks or waiting to load software. Both of these drives come formatted with system software installed, so they are essentially plug and play (they are also available for a IIGS computer).

Fourth, we need to connect our computers to a high quality printer. There are several choices here, and my recommendation because of price and ease of set up would be a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 240. An HP DJ 240 costs around $290, and has a parallel co nnector, so you will need to install a parallel printer card in slot one of your IIe. The Q Print II cards are available for $49.00 from Quality Computers. By using a switch box, you can easily share your printer between from 4 to 6 computers.

Fifth, how do you connect to the Internet and other communication bases such as local Bulletin Board Systems (BBS's) and Online Systems? With a SuperCom serial card from Quality Computers for $59.00 you are ready to connect to a modem. Any external mo dem will work, although you will need a cable...and you can get that from Quality as well. You will also need some telecommunication software, and for the IIe, there is none better than ProTerm, which is available from Quality Computers for only $79.95. ProTerm also has a great macros/scripting capability, so you can even do some "programming" with this package.

Of course, unless you have a phone line for each computer in your lab, you will only need one modem, SuperCom card and copy of ProTerm, so I will not count that in the total. Nor will I count the cost of software now, since what you use will vary acco rding to taste as well as price.

At this point, the cost for upgrading our IIe is:

Product			Price

Subtotal				$197.00 

Subtotal				$396.00 

Subtotal				$476.00 

The most you will have to pay is under $500.00. And for that you will have a system that is perfectly suited to wordprocessing, database and spreadsheet work, and bit-mapped graphics. (I have purposely not figured in the cost of the printer here, as i t would be shared by several computers - we typically share 1 printer with 4 computers via switchboxes at my school, and there are switchboxes that can accomodate 6 computers. Plus, you will have the printer for a while. Hewlett Packard gives a three yea r warranty on their printers, so you can expect one to last quite a while.)

It is also a great system for telecommunications, and don't forget that you still have a few empty slots and the internal "game" connector that you can use if you want to add on things such as Robot Controllers to use with LEGO Dacta and LOGO. By upgr ading your IIe, helping it to "grow up" as it were, you will prolong its life and usefulness in your class and your students (and your budget!) will benefit.

* If your IIe is not enhanced, enhancement kits are available from Alltech Computers, Atlaz Computer Supply, and Quality Computers.

Vendors mentioned in this article:

Quality Computers
20200 Nine Mile Rd.
St. Clair Shores, MI 48080

Sequential Systems
1200 Diamond Cir.
Lafayette, CO 80026

Charlie's Appleseeds
9081 Hadley Place
San Diego, CA 92126-1523

Parson's Engineering
5010 Rimhurst Ave.
Covina, CA 91724

Alltech Electronics Co., Inc.
2618 Temple Heights Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056

Atlaz Computer Supply
616 Burnside Ave.
P.O. Box 110
Inwood, NY 11696

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