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8 bit Apple II Expansion

When the Apple II was on the drawing board, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs argued whether it should have expansion slots. Fortunately, Wozniak won the argument and the Apple II was not a closed system. The range of cards below gives an indication of how much more powerful a basic Apple II could become.

For the II, Plus and Europlus owner

Card linkDigitek 16KB RAM: Business users of the II and II+ had little choice but to buy a memory upgrade if they were to use some of the more demanding software products. The Digitek RAM card is unexceptional but looks to be very well made. Note the three status LEDs (top edge of card near the Digitek logo) which would be concealed by the lid of the Apple II when installed. Presumably, the card appealed to hackers who were happy to work with their computer open on the workbench.

Card linkClone 80 column text: Another essential for the business user was the 80 column text display card. The one illustrated is a very cheap "clone" example. The original Apple II and II+ models did not have the Aux slot and the RCA composite synch connector is located, rather clumsily, on the back vertical edge of the card.

Card link"Slinky" RAM card: If you really needed lots of memory, the "slinky" card was an additional option. Although you could have lots of RAM on one of these, software had to be specially written to make use of it. The card can also be used as a RAM disk for fast access, so it can even be useful in a IIgs.

Card linkSuper Serial Card (SSC): The Apple II standard for serial communications so every enthusiast should have one. Until recently, clone SSC cards were available from Sequential Systems so you shouldn't find it hard to locate one. The SSC works in two modes -- terminal emulation and printing -- and supports up to 19200 bps. David Empson wrote a brief guide to setting up the SSC, a copy of which can be found here.

Card linkClone "Softcard": The Softcard provides a Z80 processor on a card in order to run popular CP/M software such as WordStar on the Apple II. The Add to your Apple page lists some third party Z80 expansion options promoted by Apple. The example shown opposite is labelled SPAOE. Can anyone identify the manufacturer or help with the DIP switch settings?

Card linkEpson parallel card: A basic card for driving Epson parallel printers. More sophisticated cards were available from companies like Orange Micro in the USA and U-Microcomputers in the UK.

For the IIe owner

Card linkClone 80 column text (Aux slot): On the IIe, an Aux slot is provided for memory and video enhancement. This clone has no additional memory -- Apple also made a similar card but a more useful card is shown below.


Card linkApple 80 column text with 64KB memory expansion: This card is pretty much essential because most recent Apple IIe software requires 128KB RAM.

A faster Apple II?

Card linkSaturn Titan accelerators: The example on the left is for a IIe, the one on the right is for a II or II Plus. The slot connectors look slightly different but they're both for a standard expansion slot. The blue DIP switch is used to configure the card so that it does not interfere with timing sensitive cards in other slots. A guide to setting the DIP switches can be found here.

There are other accelerators -- notably the ZipChip which fitted into the 65C02 socket in a IIe. This is allegedly the ultimate 6502 series accelerator although I've never seen one.

Card linkClone 6809 accelerator: Further acceleration could be provided by cards such as "The Mill" which have a 6809 processor. Software would have to be especially written to perform computer intensive calculations on the card and a 6809 specific operating system is available for the Apple II. This example is a clone of The Mill.

Apple IIe enhancement

Card linkU-Microcomputers U-Print 16: This is a combined Serial and Parallel printer card with a RAM buffer. It could support two printers connected to the card simultaneously. The U-Print was marketed widely in the UK in much the same way as the Orange Grappler in the US. Different EPROMs are required for Apple and Epson parallel printers. I can provide copies of documentation for the U-Print 16 cards if anyone is stuck.

Card linkCirtech SCSI: Another card from the UK, this time from Cirtech in Scotland. This is just a basic SCSI card which is supposed to work in both the IIe and IIgs. I haven't thoroughly tested this card so I'd be pleased to hear comments from other owners.

David Wilson reports that there was a later revision of this card that supported a 2.5" laptop SCSI drive internally.

Card linkApplied Engineering Ramworks: The ultimate memory expansion card (plugs into the IIe Aux slot). The basic card provides up to 1Mb of RAM expansion with 80 column text support. Piggy back cards were available to support different colour displays and to provide up to 3Mb of RAM. Alas the piggy back cards are very difficult to locate. The basic card is supported by many applications, including AppleWorks, and is well worth owning.

Card linkNumeric keypad: Not a card but an essential if you used your Apple IIe for lots of spreadsheet work. The keypad plugs into a D socket on the back of the Apple IIe which is connected by a ribbon cable to a bunch of pins on the IIe motherboard. The final "Platinum" versions of the IIe had a numeric keypad built in.

5.25" disk drive controllers

Card linkDisk II controllers: The upper card is a clone and the lower one is an Apple example that has seen better days. The photo demonstrates how little effort the clone makers expended in concealing their piracy. Drives are connected by 20 pin ribbon connectors to the appropriate set of pins; by convention the Disk II controller is located in slot 6 in a floppy based system. This card is supported by all of the Apple II family. 

Card linkUniDisk /DuoDisk 5.25 controller: Apple made a couple of minor variations of this card. The 19 pin D connector supports either the DuoDisk 5.25 (two 5.25" drives in a single unit) or the UniDisk 5.25 (also known as the Apple 5.25 drive). Two UniDisk 5.25 drives can be daisy chained from a single controller card.

* When buying a used DuoDisk, be sure to get the cable from the controller card to the drive unit as these are difficult and expensive to purchase. 19 pin D connectors are difficult to obtain so making your own cable is difficult. If you were really pushed you could make one by cutting down a 25 pin D connector.

This page last updated: 16 October 2005

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