So What Software

Archive for March, 2009

Chapter 1: The programming environment

by on Mar.26, 2009, under Programming

appleiigsWhere do we start… Probably the best place is the tools and information you would need to start programming. You could blow the dust off your old IIgs and start there but you’re a modern homo sapien and probably have a gig or better machine sitting in front of you. The IIgs mainly ran at 1 megaherts, 2.8 tops and frankly is a bit slow for this type of task. I do my assembly language programming on a modern Mac mini, more than fast enough for the task. Back in the day much work on the IIgs was actually done on the Mac, you will find the two very similar in many ways.

I use the Sweet16 Apple IIgs emulator by Eric Shepard for the IIgs portion of things. This emulator has no drawbacks as far as I can see and is really a brilliant implementation. I use the Apple IIgs Programmers Workshop (APW) and AppleworksGS in the emulator. No other IIgs software is really needed and AppleworksGS is only used for graphics. All other software is either Mac or Windows based. I have not found a place where you can buy a copy of AppleworksGS, I use my original copy purchased in 1988.

On the Mac I have the Sweet16 emulator installed as well as Parallels which runs Window XP. The only thing I use Windows for is to run a 65816 disassembler I found on the web called D816. It’s not the best one I have ever seen but with some coaxing, it produces useable source code segments. There are basically two Mac applications I use in my process, TextMate and HexEdit. Click here for a complete listing of the programming environment.

You may have noticed that I have disassembler capabilities in the environment which usually is not needed for regular programming but, in working with an old system like the Apple IIgs many times I want to upgrade existing software and I don’t have or have lost the source code. The techniques for disassembly are probably just as important for me as is straight forward programming.

With all the hardware in place it’s on to the reference documentation which should be as comprehensive as possible. Most of the documentation is still available from but be prepared to get some 3 ring binders because the reference manuals are only available in 3 hole punched, 2 sided xerox copy form these days. Finding some real old manuals on eBay or Amazon may be preferable or digging through an old timers documentation stash if you know one.

Although this development environment is on modern systems using emulation, you still should have a real Apple IIgs on hand for operational confirmation. There’s nothing like seeing your work running on the real deal. I have a couple machines on hand for these purposes, all Woz’s and they are just too cool for words. It makes people do double takes when they visit seeing an array of computers, some my development machines and some my play machines and some LINUX and Windows machines. Having the odd Apple II, +, C or E is fun too. Fortunately I never throw things out and over the past 30 years I have accumulated a virtual museum of great old equipment.

That’s about all for the preparation so next time we will get down to actually doing something with all this stuff.

Next post – Chapter 2: Dealing with files

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Introduction: In the beginning there was assembly…

by on Mar.19, 2009, under Programming

appleiigsAlthough many high level languages are in use today, they all have their roots in assembly language which up until the late 80′s was the way it was done.

Almost all software written for the AppleIIgs was written in assembly language. Sure, C and Pascal and some compiler based BASIC‘s were in use but the late  80′s was more a transition period for languages with these higher level implementations still virtually in their infancy, at least that’s how I remember it.

By the perceived  standards of today, assembly language programming is the grunting of primitive humanoids thrashing around in their caves. I find this view so short sighted as to be ludicrous. Assembly language is the secret that makes everything possible although most young programmers fail to see this.

As you can well guess, I love assembly language. I actually program in over a dozen languages but my all time favorite is assembly. I will be using this forum to expound upon the methods and madness of assembly language centered around the ultimate assembly language machine, the Apple IIgs. You may have a different opinion on this and I welcome any comments and/or suggestions which you can post here for all the world to see.

Technically, this is a blog (this site is built in WordPress) where readers can comment and the like. I am treating this blog however like the chapters in a book because what I will present here is instructional, informative stuff. Each posting will be a new chapter in the book so to speak, so scroll down to the bottom for the beginning and work your way back up. I know this is backwards from how things usually are but this is a brave new world with brave new ways!

Next post – Chapter 1:  The programming environment

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