The Apple //c

As far as 8-bit computers go, the Apple 2 is a great platform of well built computers. There are other computers with superior graphics and sound, especially by 1984 when the Apple 2 “compact” was released.

But the //c is itself a marvel of computer miniaturization for 1984. Its internal 5.25″ floppy drive and internal power supply could hardly be housed in anything smaller without eliminating the full-size mechanical keyboard or floppy drive itself.

The trade off was one of the Apple IIs key benefits – its expansion card bus. This expansive 8 slot bus was heavily debated between “The Two Steves” in the late 1970s in the early days of Apple, but by 1984, an appliance like compact edition seemed obvious and inevitable given the monolithic Macintosh.

The real magic of the //c is its packed hardware.

  • 128kB of RAM (a lot for an 8bit computer)
  • Built in 5.25″ Floppy Disk Drive
  • 2 built in RS-232 serial ports (modem/printer etc)
  • RGB video output & composite video output
  • Built in 80 column video support
  • Mouse Support / Joystick port (compatible mice are expensive)
The back ports of the Apple //c computer

All of those things would have required an add-on card if you were using the larger Apple ][ plus or //e, and the compact //c was offering it in something essentially 1/3 the size! The machine was so compact, they incorporated a handle (mid 80s Apple loved handles) which also served as a stand to raise the keyboard.

For its aesthetic design, Apple used this project to implement the first and foremost “pure” execution of its “Snow White” design language. The embedded lines in the plastic hid vents and convinced the eye the machine was smaller than it was. It’s pretty, though today over 35 years later, they often suffer from yellowing plastic given the type of brominated plastic used.

So what use is this computer today?

  • A great Mechanical Keyboard experience – Distraction free typing!
  • Retro-Gaming Fun with games from 1977 to today
  • Great way to learn an old-school Applesoft BASIC programming
  • Cool Data Terminal – You can get a wifi device and surf for under $100
  • It’s sleek SUPER RADICAL mid 1980s Retro-Battlestation!
  • It’s a well-built and well-engineered machine

It would be unfair if I didn’t at least mention as a footnote the follow up, the Apple IIc plus. It improves on the design and makes it even more compact, adding things like a 3.5″ floppy and totally internal power supply. However, the rarity makes it less likely you can come across one… and I don’t have any to sell to anyone!

Drawbacks?

If I had to complain, I would have liked to have seen the cassette port remain, however the dual serial ports make up for it. With a custom made DIN-5 null-modem cable, you can run ADTPro or use Terminal emulator software to connect the //c online. Get a wifi-rs232 modem and you’ll be soaring!

Better sound support would be nice, but a little device known as the mockingboard, of which a variant exists for the //c seems to be a must for those seeking chip-tune bliss on the Apple platform.

Interested in owning an Apple //c?

You know my opinion of the Apple //c. I’ve had one of these computers personally for almost 20 years. Now, I have a secret cache of rescued Apple //c computers that I am telling their story, refurbish-and-restoring, and releasing back into the wild. Please follow my blog for more information in the near future about these machines.