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Desktops (Apple) Hardware Hacking Apple Build

Building an Apple-1 From Scratch — Just Like Woz 99

Lucas123 writes "This year at KansasFest, computer fans from around the world gathered to celebrate the Apple II — the computer that put Apple on the map. But the Apple-1 (a.k.a. the Apple I), the machine Steve Wozniak invented and first demonstrated at the Palo Alto Homebrew Computer Club in 1976, has always been near to my heart. In attendance at KansasFest was Vince Briel, who created an authorized reproduction the Apple-1 and showed others how to build their own. '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.'"
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Building an Apple-1 From Scratch — Just Like Woz

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  • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@yahoo.GAUSScom minus math_god> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:18AM (#29073857) Homepage

    ...he will attempt to talk to women!

  • Authorized replica? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:18AM (#29073863)

    It was made in 1976. That's 33 years ago. Any relevant patents should have expired about 13 years ago.

    • by gilgoomesh ( 966411 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:24AM (#29073889)

      Copyright and trademarks (particularly "Apple" referring to a computer) can last much longer.

      Although in this case, the authorization may just be the annointing from Woz himself.

      • Yeah, you don't need "authorization" to build something patented. It's only when you use it for profit.

        • They are selling the kit, which sounds like it also includes software, so there could still be licenses involved.
        • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:57AM (#29075733)
          Yes, actually you do. A patent (in the US, anyway) gives the holder the right to keep others from "making, using, offering for sale, or selling" whatever is covered under the patent, unless it's a patented process, in which case it's "using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process".
          • by maxume ( 22995 )

            My basement has a strong 'neener-neener-neener' field, so as a practical manner, the rights of the patent holder aren't that big a deal there.

            • True - enforcing unauthorized use of a patent isn't usually practical. The parent poster was implying that use wasn't covered when it clearly is, however.
          • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

            Maybe you could explain the legal grey area that guitar effects pedal clones work in then? This is exactly the same, kits exist, the only difference is that the analog output is 15 pin instead of 1/4" plug.

      • Yes, but the hardware in question isn't subject to either copyright or trademark. The only thing that can be those things is the name and the software in question, and you don't "replicate" either of those two - you copy them.

        It is completely legal for me to build a replica of a 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB or other - I can even sell the cars or the kits to build them. I can't pretend they are the real thing, but I'm certainly entitled to sell them as 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB Replicas.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      But IP copyrights live forever :)

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:20AM (#29073873) Homepage

    There's something about it that sticks in my craw.

    It's "an antique" computer. It's a computer of historical significance. But to require authorization to recreate something that was essentially made of "off the shelf" components? The only thing I can imagine would require authorization would be the right to put an apple logo on it, and they give away apple logo stickers with just about everything Apple sells. Oh yeah, and the BASIC ROM, but I am sure someone could start an OSS project to create a compatible Apple ROM that doesn't infringe on the copyright.

    • by kgagne ( 983841 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:34AM (#29073919) Homepage
      There are some details about the legal hurdles behind the Apple-1 replica in this 2002 article from Wired: []
    • by captjc ( 453680 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:39AM (#29073945)

      Not only that, but didn't Woz give the schematics away to anyone who wanted it?

      • by grub ( 11606 ) * <> on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:19AM (#29074329) Homepage Journal
        Not only that, but didn't Woz give the schematics away to anyone who wanted it?

        The early Apple was a truly great company in the way it shared information. My first machine ever was an Apple ][+ I bought (with 50% of the cost from my parents) in 1981. It came with several spiral bound books, my favourite being the System Reference manual. That had an assembler dump of the ROM, schematics, etc. I cut my teeth on that machine (which I still have in working order FWIW). Replaced the resistor in a resistor/capacitor pair on a 555 timer chip with a potentiometer to have a variable repeat key speed.

        Yeah, that kind of shit is all done in software nowadays, but I did this by reading the docs from Apple and some Trial & Error when I was 15.

        Fast forward to today and, honest truth, I was THIS CLOSE to buying a pair of iPhones for the coolness and opted not to because of the way those NON TECHNICAL CUNTS who run things opted to SUCK THE COCK of AT&T rather than being true geeks.

        Obviously, I didn't buy the phones. Have a jailbroken iPod touch for Google Voice and future cool Bluetooth stuff but I'm saddened that I have to go off the grid for coolness when, back in the day, Apple == Cool.

        Now get off my fucking lawn.

        • It came with several spiral bound books, my favourite being the System Reference manual. That had an assembler dump of the ROM, schematics, etc.

          The IBM PC Technical Reference manual offered the same info for the original PC, although it wasn't included with the machine like Apple's manual was and had to be purchased for an additional cost. I miss those days.
        • +5 for using both C-words while referring to Apple :)
        • by Perf ( 14203 )

          Have to wonder if schematics exist for computers nowadays...

          If they do, where are they? Somewhere in Asia?

          Finally, does anyone actually comprehend them? (Ever wonder why so many computers have unstable hardware?)

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Fast forward to today and, honest truth, I was THIS CLOSE to buying a pair of iPhones for the coolness and opted not to because of the way those NON TECHNICAL CUNTS who run things opted to SUCK THE COCK of AT&T rather than being true geeks.

          Obviously, I didn't buy the phones. Have a jailbroken iPod touch for Google Voice and future cool Bluetooth stuff but I'm saddened that I have to go off the grid for coolness when, back in the day, Apple == Cool.

          And yet, you didn't bother buy an iPhone, on the no-con

        • by SN16k ( 1400805 )
          Right on, the old Apple Computer Company was much more approachable company and truly interested in sharing knowledge with the early adopters, Long before we were pigeon holed with that disparaging label. I was one of those folks, purchasing a Apple II, S/N 16,xxx/something. Paid $199 for my second bank of memory (16K I believe). Purchased an add on board so LC letters could be displayed. Attended AUG meetings at Computer World in Orange County, CA. Met the "Woz" at one of the meetings and looked at his scr
    • by type40 ( 310531 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:08AM (#29074081)

      If I recall correctly it wasn't that Apple was forbidding him from making the Replica 1. He was just worried that Apple MIGHT sue him. So he tried to get permission from Apple but kept running into brick walls.
      No one ever said no to him, they just kept saying no comment. So out of left field he calls up the Woz to see if maybe he knows who to talk to in Apple. He tells the Woz what he's up to and the Woz loves it. Woz told him to go ahead because the Apple 1 ROM is "open source". Woz made copies of the ROM code freely available to anyone who wanted it. Then Woz offered him copies of the original code and documentation.

      It's not so much Apple authorized but Woz blessed.

    • Given that there are no copyright protections, and if it's only built for personal use, I think it's completely OK legally. Where you start getting unwanted attention is if you start selling them or giving them away.

    • by triso ( 67491 )

      ... Oh yeah, and the BASIC ROM, but I am sure someone could start an OSS project to create a compatible Apple ROM that doesn't infringe on the copyright.

      Newsflash! Bill Gates is coming out of retirement to write a BASIC ROM for the Apple I. No pricing or release date was given.

  • A Kit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:26AM (#29073897)

    I was hoping for something more in-depth than just soldering stuff on a prefabricated PCB. That's a no-brainer.

    Now, go through the steps of doing a schematic, then translating it into artwork and etching the boards and it might be a pretty interesting article.

    • Re:A Kit? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by neapolitan ( 1100101 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:51AM (#29074015)

      Agreed. This is little more than assembling something from a recipe (IKEA, anyone?) that teaches you little. The descriptions "solder that resistor" and the fact he clearly doesn't understand the details of things makes it a less interesting experience.

      I would recommend a course on digital electronics instead -- many of these courses (including mine in college) have you assemble a 6502 computer yourself from components, and then you will understand the role of the memory and data buses, counter, memory addresses, A/D converters, in addition to understanding CPU timing, latches, machine code, and elementary programming, etc., etc. We built one that displayed output on an oscilloscope and hex LEDs. It will be 10 times as much effort, but infinitely more rewarding. One of the most difficult yet fun courses that I took in my life.

      • When did you go to college? These days I'm afraid they might not have courses like the one you described.

        • by name_already_taken ( 540581 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @08:55AM (#29075523)

          In high school I took a class like that, except it was at a much lower level - we actually worked towards the design of a 4-bit microprocessor based on discrete logic gates and flip flops. We started with simple AND, OR, NOR, NAND gates, the different types of flip flops, moving to using Karnaugh maps to design logic, and covering simple CPU design - things like bus registers.

          I remember one week's project was to design and build a hex matrix keypad - it was pretty neat to build something like that out of 74-series logic on a breadboard and actually have it work. I used a string of three inverters (1/4 each of a 7404) with the output of the last inverter feeding back into the input of the first, as my keypad's clock generator. The teacher was surprised it worked, and even more surprised that the 74-series logic was running at 24MHz (this was 1988, and the fastest computer we had in the lab ran at 6MHz).

          I also remember building a 7-segment LED display driver circuit, and things like adders and shift registers.

          I think the only reason our school was able to offer this class was because there was a State program that offered grants to high schools to improve their electronics labs. The total grant money available for the entire state was $150,000. We were told that the electronics teacher at the school was the only applicant for the grant program and our school had been awarded the entire $150,000. Needless to say, the electronics lab at my high school was better equipped than some university labs I've seen.

          • by Atario ( 673917 )

            You lucky bastard. I had to get to University of California before I got classes like that...

        • by maxume ( 22995 )

          I would be shocked if the EE program at a major state university did not include a rigorous lab (I didn't do EE or anything, but at my school, those folks consistently complained about their labs).

        • It was at Harvard in the mid 90's, but I don't think the course is THAT unique (I know that MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan, and numerous other colleges have similar courses.)

          The schematics for the computer we build is available -- appears that they still build the same computer!


          This is almost exactly what Woz did -- after the course you still have a wonderful respect for him, but at the same time realize that it is humanl

          • I was at Berkeley a few years ago, and I don't think we had any logic design courses that used logic family chips. The class I took in the EE department was FPGA based. While it's possible to do really amazing things with a chip that's basically a sea of logic, I fear that today's EEs are losing familiarity with the physical layer.

            It's interesting that the class you took is offered by the Physics department, and not the EE department.

        • by mog007 ( 677810 )

          Last fall I took a logic design course. It had a lecture and a lab, and the lab was pretty fun. Our final project was to design a circuit that could perform modulo 3 on any arbitrary number.

      • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

        Doing it from scratch is a dying art. These days ( well, for a while now ) the idea of 'low level classes' is where they pass around a Pentium chip "this is the CPU".

        Sad really.

    • by agrif ( 960591 )

      What immediately jumped out at me was not that the PCB was prefabricated, though I will have to disagree with a sibling comment and say that these can still be quite educational, though maybe not newsworthy. What really got to me was that there is clearly a Propeller Chip on the board! (look for the beanie hat icon)

      I have nothing against the propeller chip, and I have used it before and it is great for concurrency and really high-level stuff that you still want a microcontroller for. But I was under the

      • Well, the board also has a PS/2 keyboard interface, so the idea of it being a historical recreation is a bit fuzzy right off the bat. From the Replica 1's web site: "Improved video display using Parallax Propeller (works with most TV's and monitors) "
        • Re:A Kit? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:25AM (#29076113) Journal


          This computer even includes the ability to be powered by an ATX power-supply. It is most definitely not trying to be a perfect historical replica. The idea is that is be able to run the same software as the apple 1, and be compatible with the add-on cards of the apple-1. For the most part it achieves that goal. It may have some issues with any software that tried to be too smart for its own good, such as overwriting the basic rom, etc, but basic software should run fine.

        • Yeah, Briel's latest products are using Propellers as video chips. Previous revisions of the Replica-1 didn't use a Prop.

          There's also the A-One, which IIRC is somewhat more faithful (but still with modern components and compatibility with modern peripherals,) and the Obtronix clone, which is an attempt at an exact replica.

    • I was hoping for something more in-depth than just soldering stuff on a prefabricated PCB. That's a no-brainer.

      Exactly. This is what uneducated workers do on assembly lines. And not for fun or the learning experience.

      How people thought up the schematics on the first home computers, and how translatable it is to modern embedded systems etc. would be much more interesting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Or at least going thru the schematic on an FPGA. While not the same as the 'real' experience with solder in your nose for hours on end, at least you would have to understand how the components interact and play together as a team.

      Could even delve deeper into the chips, like the 6502, that way.

    • Then what you want is the Apple I Replica Creation [] book. The point of the article was that even someone who doesn't know how to solder at the beginning can, with a little help, build a functional replica using the full kit, and therefore learn skills they can later use for a more complicated project while having something cool to show off and feel proud of. If you've got the skills to hack away starting at the PCB instead, that's an option too, but it's a bit unreasonable to expect that beginners to this

  • There is a book (Score:5, Informative)

    by captjc ( 453680 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:29AM (#29073909)

    There is a book (linked in the article) called "Apple I Replica Creation: Back To The Garage" by Tom Owad that basically walks you through the construction of the Breil Computer kit, as well as a crash course in programming it in assembly and BASIC as well a a crash course in electronics design. It is a good read.

    All-in-all, this is nothing really special. Anyone who buys the kit can solder it together. I believe he also has fully constructed boards as well. This seems more like an advertisement than an actual story.

  • n00b (Score:1, Informative)

    by Lije Baley ( 88936 )

    He put the 6502 in upside down. FAIL, uninstall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 15, 2009 @12:49AM (#29074007)
    To get the true Woz experience have your best friend steal thousands from you and then lie to you about it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Admittedly, Steve Jobs isn't my best friend, but I've certainly experienced him stealing several thousands of dollars from me and then lying to me about it.
    • And then after you've shown you can handle all that abuse, you get to the grand finale - having to date Kathy Griffin.
    • But that experience is easy to get any day just by visiting the Apple Store, listening to what they tell you, and buying an expensive system there.

  • When I come up with the spare cash I have to order one of these kits. I love putting things together, and I've been looking for a major soldering challenge. This one would probably take me about 1.5 to 2 hours to build.
  • and I'd like to see more classic 8 bit computers recreated like that.

    I'm assuming they copied the Apple I ROM instead of creating one from scratch, and that doing so was authorized from Apple since they don't sell the Apple I anymore and this is a good PR boost for Apple to authorize computer hobysts to recreate their first computer.

    I'd like to see the following computers recreated:

    Timex/Sinclar 1000
    Commodore VIC-20
    Commodore 64
    Atari 800
    TI 99/4A
    TRS-80 COCO
    Coleco Adam
    Apple //e
    IBM PC
    IBM AT
    CP/M systems by Kaypr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 )

      IBM PC

      Erm, haven't we more or less been doing that for around two decades now? I mean granted, the design has improved...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hawk ( 1151 )

      >Apple //e

      Nah. A plain, straight Apple II. Not even a +, just a II. (OK, ][).

      And without the changes at the Rev 7 motherboard that took the purple tint away on the text.

      OK, I'll settle for an emulator that runs full-screen on linux or FreeBSD, with the purple-tinting, and with a parameter for how fuzzy my television is . . .

      For those under--oh, yikes!! can't admit *that*, the ][ had a purplish tint on most color displays because the color subcarrier was still present. In rev 7, this finally got supres

    • by Antony T Curtis ( 89990 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:09AM (#29074299) Homepage Journal

      I have a near-mint condition Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k safely stored away somewhere - I haven't powered it up in years... The reason is because they were designed quite cheaply: You have a 9V power pack which is both regulated down to 5V for the majority of the logic and in an inspired piece of electronics, it is also inverted for the +12V and -12V power lines with very few components. Why is that important? Well, early DRAM, as used in the Spectrum, required those power lines too. However, there is a slight failure mode which claimed the life of my first Spectrum: The inverter regulation could fail and the memory/logic is zapped with 40+V before it fries and takes itself out of commission.
      As a result, there are relatively few operational ZX Spectrums around, despite how massively popular and successful they were.

      My biggest lament is that I have lost the ZX Printer - I think it accidently was left behind in the last home move ... I still have 6 or 7 rolls of the aluminiumised silver paper for it.

      Ahh, fond memories of the smell of ozone and burning metal while it did print out for you...

      • by Mage66 ( 732291 )
        There really aren't all that few Spectrums around as they were made in the millions worldwide. They are on eBay constantly.
        • by Mage66 ( 732291 )
          Let me correct myself. At least a million Spectrums exist when you add up all the Sinclair units, the Timex Portugal units, the Amstrad units, and all the clones worldwide.
      • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @09:49AM (#29075711) Homepage

        The inverter regulation could fail and the memory/logic is zapped with 40+V before it fries and takes itself out of commission.
        As a result, there are relatively few operational ZX Spectrums around, despite how massively popular and successful they were.

        Actually, what happens is that one of the 4116 memories for the lower 16k fails by shorting its 12V line to ground. This kills the chopper transistor in the very simple inverter. The key symptom of that is flickery garbage with a distinct stripe in each square on the screen and no colour. The failed chip always seems to stick the output high, and the rest of the memory produces random values. The video is greyscale because the 12V line is also used to supply the colour modulator. It's trivially easy to fix this - find and replace the failed memory chip, and then replace the ZTX650 chopper tranny.

        As for there being relatively few operation ZX Spectrums around, this is just plain untrue ;-)

    • by kkwst2 ( 992504 )

      I must say I was pretty disappointed when I saw the project. From the title, I envisioned actually wiring the bus. They're basically just putting the chips into a pre-printed PCB.

      In college, we wire-wrapped an entire 8088 system complete with custom controllers. Then we programmed it in assembly. That really teaches you how everything works.

      Obviously that wasn't the point of the project, but the "from scratch" caught my eye and I figured they were custom-wiring. Guess it all depends on how you define "

    • by Mage66 ( 732291 )
      The Coco III has been re-created from scratch, it just isn't available in kit form. Someone is working on re-creating the ZX-Spectrum by replicating the ULA chip, which is the main component needed. The Commodore 64 has already been recreated in the form of a Joystick which contains a full C-64 inside of it. Just solder in connectors for a keyboard and disk drive, and you're all set. The Apple II has long been cloned, and you might still be able to find boards out there. Vince could probably use his Repl
    • I've seen kits for the TS 1000 / Sinclair ZX81 on ebay before.. in fact I bought a couple :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
      How about a kit for a small, Cray supercomputer?

      That might prove kinda fun...?

      Imagine a Beowulf cluster of those!!


    • Actually, the Commodore 128 would be a better candidate for recreation.

      2 modes of CBM, 1Mhz 40 column mode, 2Mhz 40 column mode, 2Mhz 80column mode (3! 3 CBM modes!)

      AND... CP/M.

      So, there's the classic pre-Windows "serious" computer environment to mess with as well.

      Of course, being a lazy sod, when I want to enjoy the Commodore experience, I boot up my 128 system.

      Yes, I still have my original C128, because sometimes, you really need a few hours of Pac-Man and Marble Madness on an 8-bit machine.

    • by Jim Hall ( 2985 )

      I'm pretty impressed that someone has taken the time to recreate an Apple-I kit. But I'd be really thrilled to see someone create a mini-version of an Apple ][. The embedded industry created very small (like, 3.5" x 3.7") SBC's like the PC/104. So it should be very possible for someone to design/sell a mini-board version of an Apple ][.

      I have one of those $40 joysticks with some cool classic arcade games built into it. I plug it into my TV. If there's a nostalgia market for those, maybe there's a market for

      • I had the same though - I have limited use for an Apple I, but I learned to program on an Apple II, so that would be a project I'd enjoy building...

        But I'd prefer it used parts and designs comparable (as much as possible) to the original, and not overly modified to use current technology.


  • Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by da ( 93780 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @02:43AM (#29074407)

    I'm not suprised he put the CPU in backwards if he can't tell the difference between an L.E.D. and a D.C. power connector...

  • His Hello World program had a bug, good job!

    • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

      Ha ha! Cut him some slack, it's probably because the kit did not contain the written instructions, with pictures, of the two line program.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's one thing to build a copy, it's quite another to build the original.

  • As someone else has mentioned here, this is a replica of an antique computer. Which set me wondering again, what other working antique computers are out there? Particularly dawn-of-the era mainframes like ENIAC. Has any eccentric millionaire with his own hydro-electric power station built one? Or any vacuum-tube operated computer for that matter.

    I did a fairly intensive search a few months ago and came up with nothing.

  • No, until you design it from scratch and push the envelope of what is possible before anyone else has done it, you aren't doing it like Steve, you are just copying his work.

  • My first home computer from 1978 was a Z80-based NASCOM-1 which also came as a bare board kit. Thing is, back then this was the *normal* way to buy a computer, unless you had the extra money to buy one pre-assembled.

    It's kinda sad that nowadays a "news for nerds" site thinks it's newsworthy when someone does something nothing more creative than soldering together a kit computer. OOh, look! Soldering iron! Hard core!

  • Finding a monitor may be the most expensive part; a quick check of eBay shows them above $100 and going for a lot more for an original name brand. My first composite monitor was a Sears brand that I got for $79 in 1985. I was so excited to hook it up to the Tandy 1000a I bought that had been the store demo. I could hardly contain myself racing home to get it all hooked up.
    • The monitor? The one used in that shot is a Monitor //c. They're dirt cheap, and if push really comes to shove and you can't find one, or any of the other myriad monochrome composite monitors out there, go to Goodwill and drop $5 or $10 on a TV with composite jacks. Then you even get color for any computers that have the ability to drive a color monitor.

  • This machine has too many 'improvements' for me to feel like it is an honest replica. Nonetheless, I like the idea. I might get one. I still have my Apple ][+, with the books, green composite monitor, cards including an Apple Cat 212 modem.

    I also have some old, 1977 original apple program cassettes. It would be kind of cool to run those on a replica Apple.

    Of all the apple books, my favorite was "Beneath Apple DOS", which was enough documentation for me to screw around with DOS 3.3 enough to do some wicked c

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors