SLIDESHOW

Recreating the Apple-1

Assemble an Apple-1 replica from scratch, just like the machine Woz built in 1976.

Celebrating the Earliest Apple

At KansasFest 2009, July 21 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri, retrocomputing fans from around the world gathered to celebrate the Apple II, the computer that launched Apple Computer to fame.

But going back even further than that is the Apple-1 (a.k.a. the Apple I or the Apple 1), the machine Steve Wozniak invented and first demonstrated at the Palo Alto Homebrew Computer Club in 1976.

In attendance at KansasFest was Vince Briel, who has created an authorized reproduction of this classic machine. Briel's Replica 1 sells for $149 and comes as an unassembled kit. He held a workshop at KansasFest to help new owners put together their own working Apple-1 machines.

As a regular KansasFest attendee (and the conference's marketing director), I was one of his students. Follow along as I assemble a fully functional Apple-1 clone, as documented in these photos by Emily Kahm.

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Replica's Guts

The Replica 1 includes 88 component parts. There's also a packing list and instruction manual to help you unpack and assemble the machine.

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Getting Started

The first step in the Replica 1 assembly is to insert all the resistors into the circuit board, solder them, and snip the extra lead.

Having never soldered before, I need to be shown how to use the soldering iron to melt the alloy and fuse different parts together.

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Building Blocks

After the reset and clear screen buttons (the two black squares with tiny white buttons) are soldered to the board, the 5MHz crystal comes next.

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Next: Sockets

Top photo: Several sockets, ranging in size from 8 pins to 40, need to be installed to house the chips that will come later. Most of the sockets can be soldered in any position, as long as they are the right size and the notches on the sockets align with the diagram on the board.

Bottom photo: The socket on the left is properly aligned; it just needs to be pushed into the board and soldered in.

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Soldering Snag

The exceptions to the "install sockets in any position" rule are the two 16-pin sockets: one is specifically for an ASCII keyboard.

I've just started to solder my ASCII socket when I realize I have it in the wrong position. Briel and I are able to remove it but then have to "punch" the correct socket through the solder left over on the back of the board from my previous soldering job.

Capacitors Come Next

After soldering in a 1MHz oscillator, I next install the .1uF and 0.1uF capacitors in a fashion similar to the resistors.

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Function, Not Form

Early computers were designed for functionality, not aesthetics. The Apple-1 did not come with a case; hobbyists instead designed their own, including carving wooden cases or retrofitting briefcases.

The Replica 1 is similarly utilitarian, so there's a power LED right on the board to indicate the on/off state. Here I'm holding the LED, which has two leads that slide into the appropriate holes, in my left hand; the longer lead is the positive end and is inserted where the + symbol indicates.

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Detail Work

Top: Here, some of the interface components are being inserted and soldered.

Bottom: From left to right are a composite video output, a serial port, a DC power input, and the on/off switch. Not all of these parts were included in the original Apple-1; the RS232 serial port, for example, allows the Replica 1 to interface with and download data from modern computers.

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Minor Deviations

A 40-pin expansion connector (far right) was used by earlier models of the Replica 1, but with the addition of a 44-pin, Apple-1-compatible expansion port in this, the third edition, the connector is no longer necessary for expansion.

Two new parts not found in the Apple-1 will be installed nearby: a connector for an ATX power supply and the aforementioned 44-pin expansion port, similar to those found in the Apple II.

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Technical Assistance

The Replica 1 uses two distinct power regulators that are not interchangeable and must be installed with the correct orientation.

I identify the two unique regulators correctly and put them in the right spots -- but rotated 180 degrees from their proper orientation. Thus the parts need to be desoldered from the board. This is beyond me, so Replica 1 creator Vince Briel and KansasFest attendee Paul Zaleski grab a soldering iron and a "solder sucker" to fix my mistake while I watch helplessly.

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Inspection

Now that I've finished installing all the components that need to be soldered, Briel inspects my work before I proceed to the next step.

A couple of spots have extra solder that needs snipping, but otherwise, Briel finds my work admirable for a first-timer.

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So Far, So Good

I feed the board DC power and flip the on switch, and the LED lights up. Then I insert two chips into the sockets and connect a monitor, which displays a monochrome @ symbol.

Both tests confirm that everything thus far has been installed correctly.

Inserting the Chips

Top: Next I insert several chips into the sockets. The pins on each spread out a bit wider than the sockets, so that once inserted, the tension keeps them in place.

Bottom: Note that one chip -- the one to the right of the empty socket along the bottom -- has not yet been properly seated. That will need to be corrected.

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In Goes the CPU

Top: The final chip to install is the main processor, the 65C02, a slightly upgraded version of the 6502 used in the Apple-1.

Bottom: The 65C02 goes in the bottom-left socket on the circuit board.

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Troubleshooting

Everything's installed, so I plug in the keyboard and monitor and see if it boots up.

It doesn't! What could possibly be wrong?

Look closely at the bottom photo on the previous page and you'll see the 65C02 is installed backwards compared to the other chips, and that the notch on the 65C02 doesn't line up with the diagram of a notch on the board. This mistake could've fried the CPU.

I carefully unseat it, rotate it 180 degrees, reinsert it, and hope for the best.

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Back in Business

With the 65C02 properly aligned, the Replica 1 now boots perfectly and displays the bytes currently stored at various memory addresses, indicating that the computer is ready to accept programming.

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Hello, World

Now that the reproduction of a 33-year-old computer is functional, what does one do with it? For starters, any BASIC or assembly code that runs on a 6502 chip (such as the software on the Replica 1's included CD) will run on an Apple-1, after being manually typed in from the keyboard or sent from a modern computer to the Replica 1's RS232 port.

If you run out of space in which to store all this code, or you want an easier way to get code onto your Replica, you can install a CompactFlash reader. And Tom Owad's book "Apple I Replica Creation: Back to the Garage" gives additional suggestions for ways to enjoy your new retrocomputer.

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