Vectronic's Apple IIe
Originally Published: Feb. 4, 2003
I remember using an Apple IIe system with this same monitor and disk drives in grade school back in the mid-1980s. In those days, computer literacy classes usually consisted of instruction in Applesoft BASIC and DOS 3.3. Windowing operating systems were still very rare. The Macintosh platform wasn't able to catch up to the Apple II's market share until the late 1980s. It would not be until the early 1990s that the Macintosh platform was able to best the Apple II in the education market. In the 1980s, many schools began purchasing the Macintosh for desktop publishing. They were used by media departments to create school newspapers and yearbooks. However, the Apple II platform remained the dominant force in school computer literacy programs for most of the 1980s. Computer science or computer programming classes in high school or junior high tended to be Applesoft BASIC courses using the Apple IIe and later the Apple IIgs.
My Apple IIe system uses an Apple Monochrome Monitor IIe. It is a composite monitor capable of producing shades of green. The display is inset on a swivel that can be angled for more comfortable viewing. The Apple IIe has two text modes: 40-columns text (24 lines, 5 x 7 dot matrix), and 80-columns text (24 lines, 5 x 7 dot matrix)(80 Column Card required). It has three graphics modes: low-resolution 16-color graphics (40h x 48v color blocks, 40h x 40v with four lines of text), high-resolution 6-color graphics (280h x 192v dots, 280h x 160v with four line of text), and double high-resolution 16-color graphics (560h x 192v dots)(80 Column Card required). Since the monitor cannot display color, it cannot take full advantage of the IIe's color modes. A color television with AV jacks can be used if you do not have a color composite monitor, but the low resolution of a television CRT keeps you from enjoying the use of 80 columns. 80 columns on a television screen looks fuzzy, but 40 columns is not problem.
My Apple IIe system includes two Apple Disk II drives (actually spelled Disk ][ on the drive label). The Disk II drives were revolutionary for their time. Steve Wozniak substantially designed the Disk II in the late 1970s when the Apple II was Apple's only product. He figured out a way to build the drive for a fraction of the cost of comparable 5.25-inch magnetic drives at the time. Even at a cost of about $600 each (including controller card), these drives were an incredible bargain. They were fast, quiet, durable, and relatively inexpensive. Woz accomplished with a small controller card the same thing it previously took a card many times the size with many more chips. The Disk II Interface Card is made to work only with the Disk II. The process of connecting the Disk II drives to an Apple IIe is shown below. The Disk II drives are attached directly to the card, unlike later generation Apple 5.25-inch drives that use a 19-pin connector.
(Click) Installing a Disk II Interface Card:
The top of the Apple IIe easily pops off. Cards can be added to 7 Apple II expansion slots. The motherboard also has a dedicated slot for the 80 Column Card. My Apple IIe has three cards on the motherboard. It has the 80 Column Card that allows the IIe to display 80 columns across the screen and also has 64K additional RAM, a Super Serial Card for connecting an ImageWriter II printer, and a Disk II Interface Card for connecting the Disk II disk drives.
The Apple IIe was replaced by an improved version called the Apple IIe Enhanced in March 1985. The Apple IIe Enhanced was nearly identical to the original IIe, the only difference being four socketed chips had been changed on the motherboard: 6502, CD and EF ROMs, and the Video ROM. The IIe Enhanced has an improved ROM chip that corrected bugs and improved Applesoft BASIC. The ROM chip also included MouseText characters Apple introduced a year earlier in the Apple IIc.
The Apple IIe was a very popular computer used extensively in schools. In the 1980s, it introduced a whole generation of children to computers. It was also very important for Apple's bottom line. During the lean years while the Macintosh struggled to gain widespread acceptance, the Apple IIe provided Apple with a steady stream of revenue that gave them the capital to develop and market the Macintosh platform.
(Click) Apple IIe connected to an Apple Color Composite Monitor: