Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.


Maybe you’ve heard of Apple. Maybe you’re viewing this article on Apple’s newest handheld mobile device right now.

When I first heard of Apple, I was three or four years old, and I was introduced to it as my first gaming machine. You might know about about iPhone and Macs, but do you know about the machine that made Apple a household name and carried them into the ’90s? Read on!

Grandfather of the PC

Apple-1 You may have heard of Steve Jobs. Contrary to contemporary lore, he doesn’t go around kidney-punching his underlings for their precious internal organs. What is true is that he began Apple Computer Corp. in the ’70s with geek hardware idol Steve Wozniak: who literally cobbled together their first computer and is credited for inventing the floppy disk — among other things. When the Apple was released in 1976, most PCs were bare-bones hobby kits lovingly assembled by enthusiasts. The Apple I was no different; only 100 were ever released, hardly the makings of a vast computer empire!

The Apple II

AppleII-MonitorIII Enter the Apple II in 1977. This was Apple Computer Corp’s first mass-produced personal computer. Created at the dawn of the PC age, Apple has an instrumental place in history bringing this otherwise exotic device into the average home. Sure, we use such computers now to do our office work and surf the internet for nude pictures of barely-legal former child stars, but chances are that you owe the existence of your high-end Alienware box with its dual-monitor display to the Apple II’s most novel function: gaming.

Apple II Gaming

Apple-Joystick Where some kids grew up with Atari, I had the Apple II. Well, the Apple //e to be exact, which came out in 1983. Since I wouldn’t even hear the word “Nintendo” for two more years, the Apple II became my game machine of choice. One of my earliest memories is playing Jumpman with my dad… and punching him in the eye when I lost. It was an accident, I swear!

The list of games I played was long — so long I’m sure I can’t remember them. Many were ported or reprogrammed entirely for TV game systems of the era: NES, Sega Master System, Commodore 64, and others. You may have heard of Wolfenstein, the game that launched id Software to fame (and, more recently, arguably ruined Raven Software). The original game was Castle Wolfenstein, developed by Silas Warner for Muse Software specifically for the Apple II. It certainly wan’t much to look at by today’s standards, but its influence would go even further as it inspired one of the first game mods (something else id Software’s games are known for): Castle Smurfenstein.

CastleSmurfenstein As a young child barely in kindergarten, this was certainly the version of the game I played the most. Who doesn’t love Smurfs? More importantly, who doesn’t love SHOOTING Smurfs? The game had a super-memorable opening sequence, a horribly garbled wave recording played through the Apple II’s antiquated speaker, which sets the tone for the entire experience. (Silas Warner is also responsible for the process that allowed this to be possible through the Apple II hardware.)

My gaming wasn’t limited to these two titles. I was also a big fan of Apple Cider Spider, Congo River, Choplifter, and Ghostbusters — complete with a karaoke opening sequence! Later additions include Jeopardy, Family Feud, some Electronic Arts one-on-one basketball game starring Dr. J and Larry Bird and Alf. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to play Alf again…

How you (yes, you!) can play Apple II games again!

Hey, speak of the devil! As I already mentioned, many Apple II games were ported to other gaming systems, but were either updated graphically or otherwise altered in gameplay in the process. I’ve played (and bought) the NES and SMS versions of Ghostbusters, but something’s just not the same. How does one get the original experience again without having to pay for shipping an Apple II from eBay and hoping they can find a 5.25″ floppy disk that still works?

One solution is to check out the Virtual Apple website. They claim to have every (crappy) Apple II game ever made. Does it stand up to the challenge? Well, right on the front page it has a link to a flight simulator game that I hadn’t remembered playing until I saw the screen shot, so I think it’s a pretty good bet that they’re not lying.

And, hey, I have links to practically every game I mentioned! Here are a few to get you started:

Alf Apple Cider Spider Choplifter Ghostbusters Jumpman

There are also apparently sites out there that have the actual floppy disk image of the games in question, but what good are those without an Apple (or decent emulator)? One drawback of the Virtual Apple interface is the mouse input. I wish I had an actual joystick to use. Maybe I should figure out of an Xbox 360 controller would work…

Later models

AppleIIc-Plus The Apple II was revised several times before being discontinued forever in 1993. My best friend had an Apple //c, for instance. I never saw an Apple //GS. But nothing could stop the march of technology. By the early ninteties, the Macintosh had overtaken the Apple’s original computer as its principal money maker, and Windows 3,1 was opening eyes on IBM PCs and their clones everywhere (well, the ones that weren’t running OS/2 anyway, chuckle, guffaw). What hope did a command line OS have in comparison?

Regardless, the Apple II had made its mark. Between bringing some of the first PCs into homes, creating the first gaming experiences for a generation of gamers, and serving as an avenue for later gaming giants such as Activision and EA, and keeping afloat a company that would later start a telecommunications and pocket PC revolution, the Apple II (and its descendants) deserves its place in history for anyone who loves electronics anywhere.