Category Archives: CP/M

Multitech: Micro-Professor III

complete_box

I got this interesting Apple //e (64k) clone from a friend in Norway recently. When he got this at first time it was unopened and not used, all new. So it’s almost in new condition, used maybe 2-3 hours max. It came with seemingly as the day it came from the factory in Taiwan.

Multitech had released several models for it’s “MicroProfessor” line already before MPF-III.

-MPF-1 that was very simple programming learning “oneboard”-machine
-MPF-II almost Apple II compatible, with it’s own software but also hobbyists modified Apple II software for it.
-MPF-III that had two different models released, 310/311/312 and 327 that used MMU and ASIC chips as Apple //e did. According to info found on wed it had 128k RAM onboard making it real Apple //e compatible.

All these models were sold in Finland but MPF-II seems to be most “common” out of these.

Multitech became more known company called ACER in 1987.

box

The box. Seems they had modified the 310 model to 312 model. Wonder what’s the difference? 

serials_in_box

Box serial numbers are matching to hardware inside.

 

box_opened

Everything as it was new.

front

Out of the box then… front of the unit. It’s very slim as there’s no traditional vertical slots in this model. There is one expansion slot in side of the unit like vTech Laser 128 or CEC-E.

back

In back, there’s two floppy (20pin) connectors, microphone, earphones, switches for setting up the printers, printer connector, volume, ext. speaker, monitor, TV and power. Luckily the power supply installed had 115/230v switch on it.

right_side

In right side there’s keyboard and joystick connectors as well the regular Apple II slot expansion for additional Apple II bus card.

 

main_logic_board_edit_s

The main logic board is quite interesting… 

1) Floppy disk controller card
2) Z-80 CP/M Processor card
3) Video circuit board
4) Connector for optional Chinese Character Generator card 

video_rom_and_ram

The video ROM and the main RAM are under the video circuits card.

rom

The ROM’s.

 

ad_for_mpf3

Original advertisement for the MPF-III

 

mpf_iii_dual_floppy_drive

They also sold neat double froppy drive enclosure for the MPF-III. I’d like to get one of these!

 

slot_extender_s

There were also similar to Laser 128, external slot extender box to give more slots.

 

mpf-iii-board-layout_s

The manual have the main logic board layout pictured with chips info.

Technical specifications of MPF-III/312

Made by : Multitech / Taïwan
Released : 1983
Keyboard: 90 key, full stroke, internal conductive rubber membrane, 12+ function keys, numeric keypad
Processor : 6502P
Speed : 1MHz
RAM : 64KB DRAM + 2KB SRAM 
ROM : 24 KB
Text modes : 40 x 24 / 80 x 24
Graphics models : 40 x 40-48 (16 col), 280 x 160-192 (6 col), 560 x 160-192 (2 col)
Colors : 16 
Sound :1 bit Apple II compatible + AY-3-8912 Programmable Sound Generator.
I/O : TV RF out, Monitor Out, External Speaker Out, Cassette In/Out, Printer (16 pin), Keyboard, Joystick, External (Slot 2, Apple II compatible).
Power supply : Internal switch-mode, PS-007, AC INPUT 87 – 135V or 185-265V 47-67Hz, with switch between 110/230V.

The internal slots are configured as follows:

1 (virtual) Built-in Parallel Printer port – support for Epson, C-Itoh and CP-80 printers
2 (external) Accepts standard Apple II cards (on right side of the machine)
3 (virtual) Built-in 80 Column Card – Apple IIe compatible
4 (internal) Reserved for optional Chinese Character Generator card (EMPTY)
5 (non-existent)
6 (internal) Reserved for optional Floppy Disk Interface (INSTALLED)
7 (internal) Reserved for optional Z-80 CP/M card (INSTALLED)

I tried few cards with the expansion slot (2), but could not get Fastchip //e or Booti card work. Also the ProDOS 2.4.2 or 2.5.x did not load up. I think it might have crashed when ProDOS tries to create .RAM drive as the machine completely halted. I found some comments about this from the web:

ProDOS did not work (unpatched) on the MPF-III/312 for two reasons:
1) Apple put a test in the ProDOS initialization code that looks for the string APPLE in the monitor ROM. The MPF-III ROMs did not have this string. A one byte patch to the PRODOS file fixed this.

2) The Apple IIe came in 3 memory configurations – 64KB, 65KB (with 80 column text card) and 128KB  (with 64KB 80 column card). ProDOS checks for more than 1KB of Aux RAM and if it finds it, sets up a 64KB RAMdisk. The MPF-III/312 has 66KB which ProDOS takes to be 128KB and attempts to create the /RAM drive. Again, a simple patch to ProDOS fixes this.

I thought this was handled by ProDOS 2.4.2 already – but i informed John Brooks that heads the development of the ProDOS 2.5 about this.

apple_ii_mode

wDrive worked nicely. The keyboard is… well, kind of strange. It have quite light weight touch when typing, kind of similar as with Laser 128. I have one of these keyboard for my BOSS-1 clone, but it’s Finnish/Swedish layout localized. It also reads “Multitech”.

 

cpm_mode

CP/M loaded up as well.

ram_errors_s

But… then my fun playing and testing with the MPF-III ended with odd problems the unit started to have. It would crash occationally, freeze or then just would not load up anything enymore. There’s built-in hardware test that tests the RAM, ROM, Soundchip and Colors and it started to give odd errors for the RAM… I assume it’s the power supply. It would really need a repair as it havent been used for … 36 years so or. I dont seem to have similar power supply that i could swap in. The clones often had different connectors and order of pins/voltages.. I really need to open up that power supply and see what’s going on and if i am able to do anything to fix it.

To be continued….

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

Apple II clones: “BOSS-1″ – Multi-System Personal Computer” – Part II:

 

board_with_z80_installed

The original power supply let the magic smoke out of itself and is been repaired by a fellow hobbyist. Meanwhile i took a power supply from the Apple //e clone that came built inside a IBM 5150 XT styled case as the pinouts were the same.

rom-card_for_boss-1_topside

I also got the original BOSS-1 ROM-card from Juha Seppänen of https://kakkostyypinomenat.blogspot.com a while ago. I dumped the ROM contents and they are now in Asimov archives if somebody needs them.

bad_ic_s

I inspteced visually the chips on board, pressed them down, cleaned some and swapped some as they had rusty legs on them. Luckily i have few clone boards that are great for donating parts now..

 

fixed_trace_s

There was some broken trace close to Slot 7, but it was reapaired earlier on. So i didn’t touch it.

 

boss1-rom-card_s

The BOSS-1 manual says to my understanding, that you can boot the BOSS-1 two ways:

-ROM-card installed to system slot that is the slot 0
OR:
-ROM-chip installed to location U6 that contains the “OS” (Applesoft) that should start an boot menu when unit is booted.

M.S.P.C. VAR 4.1
1) FP BASIC
2) Z-80 CP/M

So it’s basicly a boot-menu, after choosing what you want to use, you insert the floppy and press 1 or 2.

-First i tried with just the ROM at U6, but nothing, buzzing sound and garbage on screen.
-Then WITH the ROM-card, with the same results.
-Last just the ROM-card installed and the unit booted fine to text on screen “BOSS ][“.

When i got this unit in the first place, it came with the ROM-chip at U6, no Z80 CPU but a cloned Apple ROM-card with 6 x Applesoft ROM chips and it naturally booted “APPLE ][” on screen before the power supply releated the magic smoke (it wasn’t just the typical RIFA’s). But really it doesn’t matter, i’ll keep the original ROM-card in Slot 0 as it’s not a big deal.

boss_1_cpm

As i had some loose clone boards i removed one Z80 processor and installed it in BOSS-1 and CP/M 56k booted without a problem.

 

 

HARDWARE TESTING:

boss-1_setup_s

All ROM and RAM were OK. Colors are very vibrant when using JVC PVM 9″ CRT and not so much with a modern LCD. The colors when using modern LCD are hossibly ghostly, black & white.

50-60-hz_pads_s

The board is 60Hz NTSC. It’s pretty clear that your luck with Plus era Apple II’s and LCD’s is really depend of the model and maker of the display. I’ve not been able to get my Apple II PLUS units output colors with just swap of the crystal. 

Tested few cards to see how this clone would work as the ROM-card might cause issues etc.

 

RAM-cards:

saturn_multirom_cards_s

As the ROM-card needs to be used, there’s no ROM in main logic board, RAM cards do not work well. I tried with the original ROM card and Saturn Reboot 128k card as well original 32k RAM card but it didn’t work at all.

locksmith6ramcardok_s

Only with David Mutimer’s MultiROM card and Saturn Reboot 128k i was able to get 16k RAM card functionality, by installing the 128k card in Slot 0, and the MultiROM card in Slot 1 (Applesoft).

80-column card:
I had boxed clone 80-column card so i installed that. The monitor i used (9″ CRT) is quite small so it was difficult to read the text, but it did work. 

total_replay

Booti (ProDOS HDD-emulator)
Slot #6, booted Total Replay hdd-image succesfully and played some games. 

accelerator_s

Accelerator II (clone) 65c02@4MHz
3.58MHz, Slot 0 = MultiROM (Applesoft), Slot 1 = Accelerator II (clone), Slot 6 = Disk II interface + wDrive.


Game Controller DIP16:
There’s regular, standard DIP16 game controller connector on board where you can install the paddles or joystick.

 

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

Applied Engineering: Z-RAM II for Apple //c

board_fixed_by_henry_s

Bought one Apple //c few years ago with Z-RAM II-card installed but i could not get it working. It had broken pins and some were replaced with wiring. It could not get it running so i sent to to Henry Courbis at reactivemicro.com for repairs. He did splendid job and got it working in notime! Big thanks to Henry!

 

What is it?

Z-RAM II is combined co-prosessor and memory expansion card that can be expanded from 384k to 1024k. The basic comfiguration is 256k (soldered to board) so you get 384k of RAM with basic setup. The expanded memory can be used in programs like AppleWorks and many others as well as high-speed solid state (RAM) disk. The card have also a Z-80 prosessor on it so it can run programs from large CP/M program library. The card was originally supplied with CP/AM 4.0B disk.

 

Installation

installed_s

The installation is fairly easy. Obiously needed to open the //c and then needed to remove the disk drive and the keyboard to have good access and have everything in sight.

-CPU -> removed and moved to empty socket in Z-RAM II  
-MMU -> removed and moved to empty socket in Z-RAM II  
-Also needed to attach the “pin grabber wire” to TGM chip (pin 2). I found out that the cable had to be covered with tape in order not to intefere the belt of the floppy drive.

Then just insert the card (carefully!) to the sockets of CPU+MMU by pressing the card down. i tried to take extra care and not to bend any pins.

There were one additional connetor for extra RAM but at the moment i do not have such RAM module that would work in this card.

 

Usage?

So what could be done with it then? Addional memory for the AppleWorks usage is obious, if that’s something you would be still doing, as well using the extra memory as RAM-disk – but maybe using the CP/M is more usefull, or is it? Depends your interests. 

cpm_s
Running CP/AM 4.0B

ramdrive_dos_s
RAM-Disk DOS 3.3 options.

ramdrive_prodos_s
RAM-Disk (ProDOS) options.

 

ram_test_s
There’s also RAM-test to ensure your card is running with all RAM working.

I must admit this card is more like collector’s piece, actual usage might be quite limited. But running CP/M is kind of cool with the Apple //c. Ramdrive is quite handy only if it would be backed with battery.. this system had ROM0 on it, i could upgrade it to the custom ROM to have more options enabled.

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple //c Forever.

 

 

Microsoft Softcard

ad_of_z80card

Apple ][ CP/M
56K Ver. 2.20B
(C) 1980 Microsoft

Found the Microsoft Softcard with original packaging and with the Osbourne CP/M book. This is not the first revision of the card/package/release, but the later with different packaging released in 1983 (?).

old_package_inside_s
Already had older version of the product but without the card, in brown fake leather packaging that came in two binders with manuals, floppies in both 13 and 16-sector formats.

Background:

The Softcard is a plug-in Zilog Z80 co-proessor card developed by Microsoft to turn the Apple II into a CP/M system. The card was originally released March 1, 1980 and it was first hardware product by released by Microsoft. It enabled running business applications, including compilers and interpreters for several high-level languages. Microsoft later released a updated version, the Premium Softcard IIe for the Apple //e. That card had 80-column and 64K RAM functions added so it would be installed to AUX-slot saving one slot on your //e.

Package:

setup_out_s
The package seems to be localized to Germany as there’s some additional pages in German language. Otherwise it’s all English.

setup_in_s
With even Microsoft product catalog..

Using CP/M:

setup_cards_s
Basicly any slot expect 0, or 6. Slot 6 must have disk contoller for drives A: and B: (as minimal setup). Ideal slots would be either 4 or 7, so i used the traditional slot 4 in this case. 

cards_setup_apple_iie_s

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.