Vectronic's Koala Technologies Koala Pad+
Originally Published: Apr. 2, 2004
The Koala Pad uses the joystick port to connect to an Apple II. It basically emulates a joystick. I would consider it a low-end tool. It lacks the accuracy of the more expensive graphics tablets of its day. The movement of the cursor can be somewhat jerky because the pad's plastic cover is cheap. A slight wrinkle in the plastic can cause the cursor to jump across the screen. But for its price, it does an adequate job. It is more of a toy, not really suited for serious graphic work, even by 1983 standards.
Unfortunately, the Koala Pad uses a cheap plastic grid pattern insert to cover the sensor pad, which is itself rather cheap and has a spongy feel to it. Even though my pad is brand new-old stock, the pad cover insert has wilted due to age and is no longer flat. It has drawn up on its sides. Perhaps this pad has at some time during its long shelf life been stored in a hot warehouse. A quick trip to the ironing board partially corrected the problem, but the insert still doesn't fit quite right. Without the insert, the flat sensor region is exposed. I am not sure if the exposed pad will damage without the insert cover. I cut out a paper insert the exact dimensions of the plastic cover and it works better than the crinkled plastic cover that came with my Koala Pad. A word of warning is warranted. If you decide to iron the plastic insert, be sure to sandwich it in two pieces of paper, preferably white typing paper. Do not hold the iron over the insert for more than a few seconds. It will damage quickly under the heat.
The Koala Pad shipped with two 5.25-inch software disks, KoalaPainter (copyright 1983) and Graphics Exhibitor (copyright 1984). I am not impressed with Koala's software and prefer to use Broderbund's Dazzle Draw. It is far superior. Dazzle Draw prompts you to select an input device immediately after it boots up in the Apple II. Dazzle Draw is completely compatible with the Koala Pad.
The Koala Pad uses a plastic, pencil-shaped stylus. I suppose that any narrow, blunt stylus will work as the sensor mechanism is in the pad itself. Since the Apple II's pixels are quite large by today's standards (double high-resolution 16-color graphics: 560 h x 192 v dots), don't expect to turn out really dramatic works of computer-generated art.
I would suggest that you do not pay any more than $20 for a new Koala Pad. They can still be found on eBay every now and then. Don't give more than $10 for a used Koala Pad. They are interesting to play around with but are somewhat cheaply made. The Koala Pad is a lot of fun and will definitely give your old Apple II a new and interesting functionality.