6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2012
For anyone interested in the Apple II and IIgs, this book is a must. It is equally of interest to newcomers, and old hands alike, covering everything from setting up your Apple II, to programming in Basic. It also has chapters with the technical information on how it works, and how to interface with it. Nothing has been left out, and most importantly, it brings us up to date with hardware that is still being designed and launched on the market, with the latest software that is also being released.
There are many programming examples and photographs to help you along the way with your Apple II, all expertly laid out in the nearly 800 pages that makes up this weighty tome! A must have book in my opinion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2014
This is the question that the author set out to answer - "Why Still Use the Apple?". The clearest explanation can be found on the first page of this book - "Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Apple II is that after three decades, it's still not finished yet. Or in other words, not everything that can be accomplished, has been accomplished."
I just brought my old Apple ][+ out of the basement after a 20+ year hiatus, and I have found David Finnigan's book to be extremely useful. Just reading his book has changed my own attitude towards my computer, from a dusty relic (maybe fit for playing a few games) to a machine that is still viable and relevant.
The author takes an exciting, fresh perspective on the Apple II computer. Rather than rehash old history, or wax nostalgic about the good old 8-bit days, the book takes the approach that this is a "new" computer. It may be 30+ years old, but nevertheless, if you just acquired an Apple //e off of ebay, or dug your old ][+ out of the basement, it's still "new" to you. David Finnigan starts off with a chapter entitled "Meeting Your Apple", and then leads you through setting up your Apple, BASIC programming, mouse and game controllers, the file I/O system (DOS and ProDOS), graphics & sound, printing and networking, a brief intro to assembly language, and finally the Apple IIgs.
Finnigan does a great job at blending both the old technology with newer advances. For example in the chapter on networking, he talks about using a Super Serial Card (old tech), but also explains how to use the Uthernet card (new tech) to hook your Apple up to the internet and even use a twitter client. Some of the most useful sections are the Appendices, where you will find tables of commands, special locations in memory, how to transfer disk images to/from a Mac or PC, and a repair & troubleshooting guide.
Overall, I would highly recommend Finnigan's book for anyone who owns an Apple II or is thinking of buying one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2013
(Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. There was no discussion of what I might say about it and this review is my honest assessment.)
It's not often that a book is published with the goal of instructing readers thoroughly in the use of a particular 8-bit computer in a contemporary setting, but The New Apple II User's Guide by David Finnigan is such a book. Released in 2012 and immediately the talk of the town in Apple II circles (yes, these circles exist) this sturdy 774 page paperback sets out its twin goals in its introduction: (A) To enable anyone who is a newcomer to the Apple II computer to acquire a mastery of the machine, and (B) To serve as a reference book and refresher for those who are already experienced with Apple IIs, or indeed, experts. The book is named after the original The Apple II User's Guide (1981) by Lon Poole et al, which was very popular in its day. The scope of Finnigan's book encompasses the entire range of Apple II models, from the original II of 1977 right through to the 8/16-bit Apple IIGS (1986), though the last computer's 16-bit persona, comparable to that of the Amiga and Atari ST in behaviour, is a world unto itself and not a focus of the book.
The first line of The New Apple II User's Guide rhetorically asks "Why still use the Apple?" and supplies this answer: ". . . after three decades, it's still not finished yet. Or in other words, not everything that can be accomplished, has been accomplished." This state of affairs is what makes the arrival of such a book today a viable proposition, as well as a novel one. In his author's bio, Finnigan declares only eight years' experience with Apple IIs prior to writing the book, demonstrating that he could have benefited from its contents back in 2004 if only it had existed at the time.
Chapter 1, "Meeting Your Apple", begins with an overview of the nature of the Apple II's longevity, then moves into an explicit "Who This Book Is For" section, anticipating the various relationships the reader might have with the Apple II (ranging from "I just got one off ebay!" to "I am a grizzled veteran" - my words, and I am the latter) and advising them in turn on how best to make use of the book. It also makes the important statement that the book assumes no prior knowledge of Apple IIs on the reader's part. If you did just score an Apple II off ebay or from somewhere else, the book will guide you through the process of getting it up and running from absolute first principles, beginning with identifying which model of Apple II you have acquired. Concise descriptions and occasional black and white photos ensure that important features of the computer are always clearly identified when you are being walked through hands-on technical tasks. This is particularly important when the guide later turns its attention to the interior of the computer and its expansion slots; how and where to connect the various cards which support features like printing or telecommunications, or what to plug into the equivalent ports found on the back of later Apple models. The book's completist approach allows it to stand in for any original manuals that might be missing when you acquire a second-hand Apple II.
In its third chapter, the book opens onto the enormous subject of the BASIC environment and BASIC programming. It is worth pointing out for those unfamiliar with the computer that the Apple II's BASIC prompt is a genuine gateway to all its capabilities. Apple II BASIC programs can utilise both main graphics modes (lo-res and high-res), produce noise from the speaker, read input from peripherals (paddles, joysticks, mice), send output to printers and other hardware, and address any memory location in the computer. For anything that you might like to try to do with the machine, the BASIC environment is where you can instantly explore your ideas, switching between editing and execution in a single environment without any time spent compiling code. This is obviously why the bulk of The New Apple II User's Guide - roughly half of it, though not consecutively - concentrates on this environment. Chapter 3 begins by describing the use and syntaxes of BASIC, and introduces procedural programming concepts in a manner appropriate for folks who might never have encountered them before. The logical progression of the lessons and demonstrations has been carefully plotted. They start with a one line program producing ye olde "HELLO WORLD!" and build the reader's skill set up to such complex projects as the development of a basic but functional word processor, a database which can read and write text records from disk, and ultimately a few programs which demonstrate the Apple's sprite and audio features with the aid of a dash of assembly language.
In the case of the shortest code examples, the reader will have no trouble typing them in and will appreciate each example as a result. But the most substantial program listings, such as that for the word processor, can run up to eight pages in length. Digital copies of all the program listings are freely available for download at the author's companion website, which is rich with many other Apple II links and resources in general. However, the digital program listings can obviously only be copy-pasted into Apple II emulators, meaning that if you're working with real hardware, you will indeed have to type them in if you want to run them. Those of us who lived through the days when magazines and books routinely published multi-page listings for readers to type in might experience a twinge of nostalgia at the recollection, but the romance of the experience was definitely outweighed by the fact that you would often end up with a program that didn't work, and no way of tracing your mistakes. Mercifully, the biggest program listing in The New Apple II User's Guide is still an easy to read baby compared to the average hobbyist listing from the 1980s, but I'm still surprised that the author hasn't made a disk image available containing all the programs from the book.
Then again, not disseminating such an image may have been a deliberate choice. The book's belief in building up the reader's understanding of each new topic from first principles means that Apple II newbies will emerge from The New Apple II User's Guide with a great sense of self-reliance. From my Grizzled Veteran perspective, I can confirm that there are no oversights which would result in a newbie having to look anywhere else for information; the book is indeed the one-stop shop of practicality that it claims to be, obviating the need to go trawling around the Internet for the thousands of slices of information which have been collated here. The same observation is relevant for veterans with regards to using this volume as a reference. The last third of the guide consists of appendices, including a complete BASIC/DOS/ProDOS command reference and a list of important memory addresses. This is the kind of detailed information which Apple II programmers usually have to look up in one of numerous 20 to 30-year-old reference books (which they also have to keep handy while they're working) or which has to be extracted from the higgledy-piggledy of the web.
Understandably, the guide doesn't enter into a discussion of which commercial Apple II software products from back in the day might make a lot of workaday tasks easier, thus avoiding the legal, ethical and logistical minefields related to the varying copyright statuses of these programs. To veteran eyes, there's a slight element of frustration in imagining having to go back and use the simplest file maintenance tools included on the vanilla DOS 3.3 and ProDOS system master disks (tools necessarily described in the book) while knowing that stuff like Copy II Plus is out there. It is similarly difficult for me to contemplate manually coding up a shape table (the Apple II's built-in sprite container system) today, an arduous process fully demonstrated in the book, when so many utilities can expedite that process. Only in the case of tasks which are thoroughly beyond the terrain of rolling-your-own is third party software mentioned, and these tasks tend to coincide with the modern era in which suites of free software have been produced by Apple II enthusiasts to tackle them. For instance the tenth chapter, on the subject of networking, offers explicit instruction in the use of several free modern programs for the purposes of getting an Apple II online, or connecting it to other PCs.
Nevertheless, I find it hard to argue against any of the book's first-principles-first stance. The guide works with the reader at the level of the metal. Even in the uncommon circumstance in which you had only the Apple II computer itself to work with - no disk drives or other storage media or operating systems in sight - you could flip its power switch, be greeted by the BASIC prompt and proceed from there to code, test, explore or produce whatever other effects you wanted to, armed only with knowledge gained from The New Apple II User's Guide. Ultimately, the nature of the book complements the nature of 8-bit computers in general, and reminds us what is so attractive about them compared to today's powerful but largely impenetrable boxes. The 8-bit machines represent self-contained worlds which are immediately accessible to users and infinitely flexible, but still simple enough to be understood or controlled by a single person.
I can highly recommend The New Apple II User's Guide to all newcomers who have a practical interest in the Apple II (the book is 100% practical - it contains no history) and to readers who already have a degree of interest in the machine, whether that interest stems from a past acquaintance they may seek to reignite or from ongoing Grizzled Veteran status. The newcomer can start at the front of the book and develop their skills in the chronological order of the chapters, working towards the back where the solid reference section stands in for numerous reference tomes from the Apple II's heyday. Another advantage of this being a 2012 book is that the reader can be sure they're getting the best version of each piece of information. The Apple II community has had a long time to track down any bugs and discrepancies in the computer itself, its tools, operating systems and the vast body of historical documentation about all of these things. The trouble with relying on random online reference materials for the Apple II is that they often consist of ancient scans of already ancient pieces of paper, and even veterans can get caught out by, for instance, googling up information from 1981 that ended up being corrected in 1983. Finally, in the course of reading The New Apple II User's Guide, I even learned some things I didn't know about the computer's commands and features, and I've had the Apple II in my life for over 30 years.
About the reviewer: Wade Clarke is a Sydney-based musician, artist, game author and Apple II head.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2012
Not everyone will want this book. But then, not everyone wants to putter around with their "new" Apple II. What I liked most about the book was the idea that there was a lot of great info in here, which could take lots of other books (usually out of print) to collect and put in one place. I also liked getting ideas about various projects and fun stuff. And the appendix references were really great. The best part is, you can pick it up, read a chapter quickly then put it down. You dont really need to start at any given chapter and work thru the book. A real plus. Anyway, this book was obviously made "With Love" and I appreciate the efforts that went into this. It's a long, hard road to be a "solo author" and David did a very admirable job with his research, writing, and publishing.