The Beginning ///

By Richard and Lavona Rann

(with a bit of editing by Dave Ottalini)

(Originally published in On Three Magazine January, 1987)

Getting Started

This is the first in a series of articles dealing with the basics behind operating the Apple ///. Why now, when no Apple /// has been made for more than three years (editors note - now more than 13 years!)? Simply because many new people have come to the /// over the past few years. Some have experience, but most are new to microcomputing and need help to get the most out of their Apple ///'s. These articles will help the beginner while serving as a review for the more experienced user. Hopefully there will be a few new tricks for even the most proficient among you.

These articles will present topics about Apple /// operation beginning with the simplest and moving to the more difficult in a logical, step-by-step manner. We hope the newest beginner will follow each procedure, learning by doing. Some areas may be familiar, while others may be completely new to you. For your benefit, we will use CAPITALIZATION and [brackets] to set off particularly important facts, so you may find them easier when using the articles as a reference tool. In the end, we hope everyone reading this series gains knowledge of their Apple ///s and improves their efficiency.

An Apple /// Walk Around

Every experienced pilot walks around his airplane before taking off to make sure everything is working properly. Before booting your first program, let's do a quick walk around of your Apple ///. It is important to become familiar with its physical features, so let's examine the ///. Looking at the Apple /// with the keyboard facing you, you will see a standard typewriter-style keyboard and next to it a calculator- like numeric pad.


The Apple /// keyboard appears and operates much the same as a standard typewriter keyboard. Like most computer keyboards, it has a few special keys. ALPHA LOCK serves the same function as the Shift Lock key on a typewriter, except it ONLY SHIFTS THE STANDARD ALPHABETIC KEYS TO UPPER CASE. ALL SPECIAL CHARACTER KEYS AND PUNCTUATION KEYS REMAIN IN LOWER CASE. TO RAISE THESE KEYS TO UPPER CASE, THE "SHIFT" KEY MUST BE HELD DOWN.

Every key is equipped with an automatic repeat. Holding down the key causes the letter or number to be repeated until the key is released. Some of the special character keys have a two speed repeat. The longer the pressure on the key, the faster the character is repeated. This is advantageous when moving the cursor and drawing lines or dots.

Special Keys

Let's digress for a moment and examine the way you "talk" to a computer through a keyboard. Most programs (what you really talk to) follow one of a few generally standard human interface protocols. Older programs may follow a protocol which requires you to key in a line and then tell the computer you are ready to send it. In that case, the special key RETURN (or sometimes ENTER) is used to send the data you have typed. Unfortunately, not all programs use the same rules, so it will take a few moments to familiarize yourself with each new program. Some programs let you communicate and make choices by entering one character, without pressing RETURN or ENTER. Many programs, like System Utilities, permit options which use ARROW KEYS (up, down, left, right) to position a highlighted area on your screen and then follow with RETURN to verify the selection.

The Escape, Control and Apple-shaped keys tell the computer that a special instruction is coming. The ESCAPE key is usually followed by another key to form a command to the computer. Some programs, like System Utilities, use the ESCAPE key to allow you to back out of a section of the program to the previous menu.

Unlike ESCAPE, the CONTROL and APPLE- SHAPED (called Open-Apple and Closed-Apple) keys are used as the shift key is: they change the value of what is sent to the computer to allow for special commands. The normal use of the CONTROL and APPLE-SHAPED keys requires that you hold them down WHILE another key is pressed. The table below indicates some of the control codes which are available in many (but not all) Apple /// programs. If they don't mean anything to you now, don't worry. Most of them are nice-to-have's rather than necessities.

Reset - This key is located on the back edge of the keyboard just in front and a little to the left of the internal disk drive. It is used along with the Control key to load and start new programs. Basically the CONTROL RESET combination does the equivalent of a power off and power on for your machine without subjecting it to the wear and tear of performing an electrical on/off. The system BOOTS from the diskette in the internal drive (.D1). The term "boot" is a shortened way of saying that the computer must pull itself up by its bootstraps. (When we first started learning about computers, each job had to be preceded with a "bootstrap card.")

Most software packages produced for the /// come with bootable disks. This means that the disk already contains the files necessary to start and run the programs as soon as it is inserted in .D1 and when a CONTROL RESET is performed. In many cases, one of the files on the bootable disk must be tailored to operate with your own printer and with other add-on devices. We will cover this in a future discussion of SOS.DRIVER files. For now, just remember that whenever you do a CONTROL-RESET, EVERYTHING the computer had in memory which was not stored, or saved, on a diskette is LOST and the /// will try to load a new program from the internal drive.

Use of the RESET key alone is referred to as a "warm restart." This stops the program which is being run but leaves it in the computers memory. Some programs allow for a restart (Business Basic programs often do), but it is wise to avoid the RESET key unless you are certain you want to throw away what is in the machine's memory.

Numeric Keypad - This is located on the far right-hand side of the keyboard. In most programs this offers a way of quickly entering numbers, but the keys are programmable. Many times they are used for special functions. The ENTER key usually serves the same function as the RETURN key (some programs can tell the difference).

The numeric keypad offers an easier way to enter the numeric values found on the typewriter keyboard. However, there are programs that use these keys for special purposes.

Internal Disk Drive

Above the numeric keypad, in the body of the computer, is a disk drive. The drive is opened by lifting the drive door located in the center of the disk slot. This drive is referred to as the INTERNAL DISK DRIVE or .D1 (pronounced "DOT - D - One"). With the door open it is easy to see a small red rectangle at the bottom of the recessed area of the drive. This is the DRIVE OPERATING warning light. WHEN THE DISK DRIVE IS OPERATING, THE RED LIGHT COMES ON. DO NOT OPEN THE DRIVE DOOR WHEN THE LIGHT IS ON. Opening the drive door while it is attempting to read or write may damage the diskette.

Looking at the Back of the Apple ///

Besides the ON/OFF switch, the back of the /// has all the connectors for hooking up the various input and output devices which can be added to the ///. The standard monochrome monitor and an external disk are most often the first things added to a /// system. There is a serial port which can be used with either a modem or a MODEM ELIMINATOR CABLE which is used with a serial printer. Adding any devices other than the monitor will probably require that you change the SOS.DRIVER system file on EACH of your PROGRAM disks. If you have just purchased your first ///, we suggest you get it up and working without these additional devices before attempting to add them.

Putting Your System Together

First, no power should be on while connecting any cord. A short or power surge could damage your Apple ///. It is safest not to have the machine plugged in during setup. Many computer owners feel that a Power Conditioner (or Surge Protector) is necessary to go between your household current and the computer and its related devices. This is a personal decision but, if you are considering an extension cord to add outlets, we think a Power Conditioner with an on/off switch and multiple outlets is a better idea.

Plug one end of the monitor connector cable into the B/W Port if your monitor's screen is black and white, green or amber (all monochrome monitors and color monitors use a different port) and the other into the port on the back of the monitor. If you have an external drive, take the connector ribbon and plug it into the Floppy Disk Connector Port. NOTE THAT THERE IS A RAISED NOTCH INDICATING THE UP SIDE OF THE CONNECTOR TAPE. THIS MUST BE ALIGNED WITH THE MATCHING SLOT ON THE UPPER PART OF THE PORT. (Apple /// plus computers require an additional connector between the floppy disk connector port and the ribbon connector.)

If you serial printer you can connect it to a MODEM ELIMINATOR which you will then connect to Port C, the RS-232 port. If you have a parallel printer, it will require a special card to be installed inside the /// in an EXPANSION SLOT. We will cover parallel printers in more detail in a later article.

Connect the AC power cord first to your Apple and then to an electrical outlet. Next plug you monitor power cord into an electrical outlet. With the door on disk drive one (.D1) open and no disk inside, turn on the monitor and then reach behind the Apple /// and turn on the computer. The disk drive will spin twice looking for a program in .D1. The auto speaker in the front of your machine will beep and the word RETRY will appear in the upper-left corner of the monitor. You are now ready to run your first program.

Booting or Starting the ///

The Apple ///s operating system is called SOS, pronounced sauce, for Sophisticated Operating System. It is, by definition, present on every bootable disk. A bootable disk must have the following three files: SOS.KERNEL (the operating system code), SOS.DRIVER (the file which defines the input and output devices for your system) and SOS. INTERP (a special type of program which runs your system). These are the files an Apple /// must have to operate.

Anyone with an APPLE /// needs a copy of one of the versions of the SYSTEM UTILITIES program. If you did not receive one with your machine, contact (WAP - Disk 3SYS-02) to get one. In the next installment, we will use SYSTEM UTILITIES to demonstrate some of the ///'s capabilities and introduce some new topics.


Control Reset

Initiates a Boot (just like power on)

Control S

Toggles video display on and off

Control 6

Flush data from type ahead buffer

Control 7

Temporarily stops program in progress

Control 8

Makes Control codes visible on display


Initiates a Warm Boot (new program boot)

Control 9

Stops output to screen of printer

Control C

Cancels a program immediately (RESET)