The Joys of Retrocomputing; also, Announcing a MicroDrive/Turbo image tool

For a bit over two years, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the Apple II. Some of this is rank nostalgia; some is the joy of retrocomputing: limited environments where even a less-than-expert programmer can reach their arms around the whole system. (All right, not the whole system, but a much greater percentage than when I’m working in Python or Go with a dependency chain nine levels deep.)

A few summers ago, I implemented John Conway’s Life in 6502 assembly language, a project I’ve had in mind since age twelve, when I implemented it in Basic. It’s not yet feature complete, nor is it performant, but I delivered for myself on this long-term goal.

As I was preparing to return to work this fall, I added a few more features–then I got the urge to convert it to a ProDOS application This led, eventually, to the purchase of an Apple IIGS, and a MicroDrive/Turbo, which enables use of a CF card as a set hard drives.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that the only tool to manipulate the partition table was the one that ran on the Apple 2, and the only tool to move files onto or off of it was CiderPress, which is Windows-only and whose interface I didn’t love.

In turn, these discoveries led me to implement microdrive, a Go tool for manipulating compact flash (or HD) images on the Unix/Linux/Mac OS X command line.

It’s still under heavy development, but now you can add partitions to your disk and copy existing .hdv or .2mg images directly into those partitions.

Thanks to Henry Courbis of ReActive Micro, who has supported this project with the donation of an external CF drive–saving me from opening up my IIGS a dozen times a day, or leaving the darned thing open all the time!

Now all I have to do is get a desk in my office for my Apple //e, and a second MicroDrive/Turbo. (If you’ve got a spare DuoDisk lying around, that’d be handy too!)