My First Exposure to a Computer – Apple ][ Plus

This must have been a common setup. This is nearly identical to what we had. Only missing the Apple Graphic Tablet.

This must have been a common setup. This is nearly identical to what we had. It’s only missing the Apple Graphics Tablet and the Hayes modem. (image found here)

As a kid, I was lucky enough to have had an Apple II plus (late 1981 or 1982 model) with a Hayes Modem (110 and 300 baud), RAM extension board(s), EPSON dot matrix printer, and an Apple Graphics Tablet. The computer and accessories were originally purchased by the agricultural supply and services company that employed my father.

In 1981, my parents attended an agricultural convention in Las Vegas that was showcasing the latest technology in agriculture. When they returned my dad recommended to his company that they purchase an Apple computer to keep track of customer soil sample results and historically keep track of applied fertilizer and chemical applications. He also mentioned that at some point the remote offices could move from the paper ledgers to the Apple.

The RAM Extension Board

Memory Expander

Memory Expander

I don’t recall the details around the extension boards. I do know there was more than one board and one still had empty sockets.

The Modem

Example of an Apple IIplus with a Hayes modem (100 and 300 baud)

Example of an Apple IIplus with a Hayes modem (110 and 300 baud) (image found here)

One of the first applications that I can remember seeing was a program that would use the Hayes modem to communicate with Harris Labs in Lincoln, NE in order to obtain customer soil sample results. It just so happened that during that demo a Harris lab technician was online. I remember my dad sending messages to the person and receiving their response. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. I never got to experience that again until I was in college using IRC and BBS.

The Graphics Tablet

Apple Graphics Tablet

Apple Graphics Tablet (image found here)

My dad’s company used it heavily. They primarily used it to sketch out farmers’ fields. Then they would apply the soil sample data along with the amounts of applied fertilizer and chemicals.  I had only seen it in action a few times. By the time we had it home it stopped working and my parents couldn’t justify the repair.

Sadly, due to the nation’s farm crisis,  the agricultural supply company folded in 1986 and liquidated. My dad purchased the system. I did as much as a 9 year old could do with it by himself. I’d open its cover and stare at all of the boards and circuits. I’d read the manuals and try to comprehend as best as I could. I did use it to write a few papers and I tried my hand at the sample BASIC programs in the back of one of the manuals. I’d spend the time typing the code in but they would never compile. I have a feeling the system didn’t have the BASIC ROM or if it did, it wasn’t working. We certainly didn’t have the BASIC floppies.

Ag Business Application

At some point my dad purchased a fairly large software package that focused on ag management. I remember it costing north of $500 back in ’86 or ’87. It also required additional RAM to be usable which back then was very expensive. My dad never did get the RAM but did use the program a few times. I believe it was usable up until a certain point, which then it would either error out or explicitly state it needed more memory.


We did have one “game” floppy. It was the result of a few Lineville-Cilo (Iowa) high school students’ efforts to learn how to program. As you could probably imagine they were very basic text games. I can only remember two: basketball and tank (or it could have been battleship).

Basketball was simple. It would go through a routine displaying what was going on such as if the ball was shot, passed, rebounded, or went out of bounds. I believe it even supported fouls and shooting free throws. When the ball was passed to you, it would prompt you for your move: pass or shoot.

The other game was coordinate based so I don’t recall if it was call tank or battleship. Either way you had to enter in coordinates of where you wanted to fire and it would tell you whether it was a hit or miss.

 Later Years

As time went by I became less interested the  Apple ][ plus. Mainly because there wasn’t much more that I could do with it unless I found someone that could show me more. Additionally, the NEC CRT quit. But on my own dumb luck I figured out that I could use the TV in the den by using my Atari 2600’s TV adapter.

When the NEC CRT quit, I experimented with trying my Atari TV switch. It worked!

When the NEC CRT quit, I experimented with my Atari 2600 TV switch and it worked! (image found here)

Around 1988, the Apple ][ plus and accessories were sent to the attic. It was later sold to Tom Patterson, a local farmer.

Computers at School

About the time I got to 3rd grade (1985) my school started using the Apple IIe. I remember thinking they were okay. They weren’t anything new to me since I did get to play on the Apple II plus at my dad’s work. Although the games like “The Oregon Trail” were entertaining.

As I progressed through the grades I used the Apples (IIc, IIgs, Macintosh) more for word processing. In high school I used a few specific programs for the class I was taking. For example, I took a drafting II course that used a very basic drafting program that could also drive the basic educational pen plotter.  Another example was using a spreadsheet during my high school business classes. Around 1993-94, I began to use x86 machines running Windows 3.1 when my mom’s office purchased a few Gateway 2000 machines.

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