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Vectronic's Apple IIc

Blue Arrow Archives Section:  Apple II Collection Archive

Vectronic's Collections (New Site):  Apple IIc (ROM version '255')

Originally Published:  Jan. 10, 2003

Apple introduced the Apple IIc in April 1984. The IIc was replaced by the Apple IIc Plus in September 1988. The IIc can best be described as a "luggable" version of the Apple IIe. The IIc is compact and has no expansion slots but comes with most anything anyone really needed to put in any free slot available on the IIe. The IIc is an 8-bit computer that uses a 1 MHz 65C02 processor. I purchased this fine example of a complete original Apple IIc system for $50 in 2001. In 1984, Apple sold the IIc for around $1300 without a monitor.

The IIc has the following ports: a DB-9 mouse (or joystick) port, a DIN-5 serial modem port, a DIN-5 serial printer port, a DB-15 video expansion port, an RCA jack, and a DB-19 disk drive port. The IIc's DIN-5 serial ports are unique and require special IIc-only cables to connect to peripherals. The video expansion port can be used to connect to an RF modulator that converts the IIc's composite signal for use in a television that does not have an RCA jack. The video expansion port can also be used to connect a compatible RGB monitor or Apple IIc LCD display (Apple Flat Panel Display).

Apple IIc ports

Apple offered a special 9-inch, green on black, composite monitor to use with the IIc. The monitor sits atop a metal stand that can be adjusted to better angle the monitor for more comfortable viewing. The IIc has the same graphics capabilities as the Apple IIe. It 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). 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).

The IIc's handle doubles as a means to angle the case for more comfortable typing. It can be locked into its recessed port or pushed down to angle the keyboard. Unlike the Apple IIe, Apple considered the IIc a closed system and as such, it is not easy to upgrade. It is difficult to crack the case open and difficult to put it all back together. Much care should be taken during the process.

Apple IIc used with a larger Apple Monochrome Monitor IIe

The IIc is meant to be portable, but not in the same sense as a modern laptop. Unlike the Apple IIe, it is compact enough to take with you on a business trip, but like the Apple IIe, it does not have a battery. It is portable, but unlike modern laptops, it requires a power plug to run. The whole system with the monitor, metal stand, power supply, and computer chassis included weighs a little over 15 pounds. The IIc has an external power supply brick that alone is quite heavy. The power supply plugs into a wall socket just like any other adapter. Third-party vendors offered battery packs that could be used to run the IIc in lieu of its external power supply.

The IIc originally shipped with System Utilities, Version 1.0 on a 5.25-inch floppy disk. The System Utilities makes things like formatting disks (in DOS or ProDOS), copying disks, copying/deleting files, identifying the contents of a disk, and configuring the printer port or modem port very easy. It is far easier to use than DOS or ProDOS alone because you really don't need to know text-line commands to use it. Basically, you scroll through easy to use menus. System Utilities, Version 1.0 is not compatible with any other Apple II computer. The IIc can use a variety of disk operating systems including DOS, ProDOS, and Pascal. It also has Applesoft BASIC, a version of the BASIC programming language used in Apple II computers, built into its ROM.

System Utilities, Version 1.0

The IIc has a built-in 5.25 disk drive. As with any Apple II, you really need two disk drives to keep from constantly swapping disks. A good scheme is to use the internal drive as the master disk and the external drive as the data disk. The IIc has its own special external disk drive but other than the design, it is basically the same as any other Apple II disk drive and will work with a IIe. The number of external drives and type of external drives the IIc can support depends on the ROM version. ROM '255', the IIc's original ROM and the ROM version in my IIc, only supports a single 5.25-inch disk drive. ROM versions '0', '3', and '4' support two external drives and one can be a UniDisk 3.5-inch, 800K floppy disk drive.

IIc internal disk drive

IIc external disk drive

Apple introduced three ROM versions over the life of the IIc.

Apple IIc ROM versions:

  • ROM version '255' (original)
  • ROM version '0'
    • Consisted of a chip swap and minor motherboard modification
    • Added support for UniDisk 3.5
    • Mini-Assember added
    • Monitor "Step" and "Trace" commands added
    • Rudimentary support for AppleTalk
  • ROM version '3'
    • New motherboard
    • 34-pin socket added for plugging in a memory card up to 1 MB
    • AppleTalk support removed
    • Keyboard color changed from beige to platinum
  • ROM version '4'
    • Better detection of installed RAM chips
    • Correction of a problem when using the serial modem port in terminal-mode
    • Bug fix for keyboard buffering

To determine the ROM version in your Apple IIc, type PRINT PEEK (64447) at the command prompt. The ROM version is returned by the IIc as follows:

PEEK (64447) Responses:
  • 255 - original ROM version '255'
  • 0 - ROM version '0'
  • 3 - ROM version '3'
  • 4 - ROM version '4'

  See Vectronic's Apple IIc - ROM Version '0'

The IIc has 128K onboard RAM expandable to a maximum of 1 MB. ROM versions '255' and '0' cannot be expanded past 128K RAM without a third-party solution. Apple never officially supported RAM expansion on these early versions and doing so would void the owner's warranty. Beginning with ROM version '3', the IIc gained a 34-pin memory expansion socket. Both Apple and third-party vendors offered memory expansion cards.

The IIc has a "keyboard" button on the top of the case to turn the IIc keyboard layout from standard (QWERTY) to Dvorak. Dvorak keyboards have the keys laid out in a fashion that makes it easier for people who do not know how to type. There is also a "40/80" button that is used to toggle between 80 or 40 columns. The IIc boots to 40 columns by default. A user can switch to 80 columns from the command prompt by typing PR#3, which just like on the earlier Apple IIe tells the computer to activate the 80 Column Text Card. The IIc doesn't actually have an 80 Column Text Card, but the functionality is the same for compatibility reasons. Otherwise, 40 or 80 columns is usually controlled by the Apple II software running in the computer. There is a audio-out jack with volume control on the left side of the computer. The only other source of audio is a tiny built-in speaker located in the front-center of the case.

Reset button, 80/40 button, and keyboard button

Audio-out jack and volume control knob

It is relatively hard to find a IIc that has not substantially yellowed due to exposure to air and light. My IIc has, alas, lost much of its original off-white color. The monitor has fared worse than the IIc itself, but the metal stand doesn't appear to have lost any of its original luster. Given the age of this great computer, I think it is in excellent condition. Vectromania

Turning the lights off...

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