K-Fest a.k.a. KansasFest is an annual convention dedicated to the Apple II computer. Held at Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, K-Fest invites hobbyists, retrocomputing enthusiasts, and diehard aficionados to gather from all corners of the world. It includes presentations, workshops, competitions, swaps, a vendor fair and other activities. K-Fest 2014 ran from July 22 through July 26.

What did we do?
We took some photos! We attended the keynote address by Margot Comstock, co-founder of Softalk magazine; and, many presentations; and, the wednesday night "Build a Computer" workshop by Vince Briel of Briel Computers where Ivan & Andrew soldered together a Replica-1 and Micro-Kim (KIM-1 replica) computer, respectively. Ivan's computer worked! Andrew's required some trouble shooting into the next day (the old man carelessly swapped two pair of transistors). Ivan participated in the HackFest competition, winning 2nd place. On Thrusday, July 24, in theCorcoran Hall basement commons, we gave a one hour presentation titled, Controlling I/O via game port interface or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the Apple II rocket launcher".

Our 10:45am Presentation on 7/24
We presented numerous applications and components that we developed over the course of the past 3 years:
  • I/O inteface board built 11/2011
  • I/O board test utility app written in BASIC, then ported to Kyan Pascal
  • "Ball Drop Tube" built 1/2012
  • Gravitation Acceleration "G-Calc" app written in BASIC (and compiled)
  • K'NEX Cyclone Coaster & Snap Circuits interfaces developed Feb. & March 2012
  • EXPO 2012 app controling the Coaster & Snap Circuits
    • originally demo-ed 3/15 at the H.A.S.D. Spring EXPO
    • demo-ed again 7/29 at the Outagamie County Fair
  • 2-Liter Bottle & Water Rocket Launcher built 6/2012
  • Bottle launcher app developed 7/2012 & updated for K-Fest
  • Alarm & event scheduler written in Kyan Pascal 3/2013
  • Dbl-Lo-Res character plotter app & Screen Wipe Effects app developed 5/2014
  • Dbl-Lo-Res Slide Show Presentation app developed for our K-Fest presentation

How & Why did we do all this?
Our slide presentation sheds light on this. In a nutshell it started with a Snap Circuits kit Ivan got as a gift, which led to another and another, until in the summer of 2011 he had hooked up a laptop to a circuit and was displaying electrical properties via an oscilloscope app. At this point he wanted to do more, but, the path forward for creating his own apps to control & monitor the Snap Circuits from his laptop was too complicated. Meanwhile, after being reminded by his wife of a basement box, unopened for 20 years, Andrew unpacked & setup an old Apple //e for Ivan. Programming in BASIC came easily to Ivan, but no interface existed allowing the Apple //e to connect to the Snap Circuits in a way that would isolate the two so that an 'oops' on the Snap Circuits side didn't lead to a bigger 'oops' with the Apple //e. Once that interface was built, Ivan was able to write apps in BASIC that interacted with his circuits.

With this hurdle crossed, the rest of the adventure seemed to fall into place by itself. When his school had a Science Fair, Ivan decided to incorporate his ability to program with his ability to 'build stuff'. He build a tube that could sense when an object was passing through it at 3 specific points. Although Andrew built the photo-detection circuits, the rest of the project was all Ivan: from getting equations of motion out of a physics book, to writing the code for the app, to running tests, to compiling results and putting them into together on his poster board.

The school district's Sping 2012 EXPO offered another opportunity to program and build stuff, only this time without the constraints of the scientific method. This time it was all about putting together something cool. In this case cool was fitting the K'NEX Cyclone Coaster (Christmas Gift) with sensors to know when a car was at the top, and, modifying the motor so it could be turned ON/OFF via relay & external power; then, adding sound effects, flashing lights, a spinning motor, a disc launcher and a motion detector (all care of Snap Circuits). And, then, controlling it all from the Apple //e.

That following summer Andrew, Ivan & Ivan's sister built a 2-Liter Bottle launcher from PVC available at the local hardware store. Ivan decided that controlling it from the computer would be more fun than the original 3 button controller.

In Fall 2012 we moved, so, winter & spring 2013 didn't afford much time for Apple //e related adventures. We missed K-Fest 2013 which was attended by iWoz. When we decided to attend K-Fest 2014, we revived all the projects, sprinkled-in some new ones and that's how it all came together.

Why bother with Apple // technology in an age of cheap single board computers?
We love our RaspberryPi's - we own three. We love our Arduino. We love the other SBC's we have, too. But, they're complicated compared to the 6502 based apple //. One person can understand everything about the apple // from the system monitor, to the memory map, to graphics and sound, to disk I/O, to circuitry, etc. You can't say that about contemporary computers. There are too many software layers and the chipset is too complex for any one person to understand everything about the device. Yes, there is a great market for SBCs as hobbiest devices. Yes, a child can learn Scratch. But anyone who's learned the in's and out's of an apple // gets hooked on the simplicity & elegant design. To this day there's a very dedicated community of apple // developers that are doing all kinds of stuff to extend its original applications and build new ones.

Why Kyan Pascal as opposed to the other Pascal options for the Apple?
Because it uses the ProDOS file system. Because the way it implements libraries is easy. Because its editor is farily user friendly and the compiler is good, too. Because the KIX (Kyan unIX) envronment is similar to Linux. Need any other reasons?

What's Next?
Andrew & Ivan plan to streamline the process of fabricating the Game Port I/O Interface via our Shapeoko CNC Mill and make the device available at K-Fest 2015. It'll give us an opportunity to learn about scaling-up, procurement and figuring-out how to make something that other folks can buy. Not a bad skill for a kid to learn and for an old man to brush up on.

Our Presentation
  • download the Dbl-Lo-Res slideshow
  • ProDOS formatted disk1 contains executables, disk2 contains source files of the assembly code
  • Run the disk image files on an emulator or the real deal

Ivan's apple //e projects
  • I've written lots and lots of code, mostly in BASIC, on my apple //e.
  • I've dabbled in Kyan Pascal and Assembly as well.
  • I've used DOS 3.3 with 5.5" floppies, and ProDOS with a memory stick
  • click here to have a look at my apple //e web site page
Source Code courtesy of Ivan (originally written when I was 9) - download the DOS3.3 zipped DSK image
note: in order to make the BASIC code run fast, it was compiled using the Microsoft TASC complier

Code courtesy of Andrew (I was a bit older...)