I thought of interviewing a long-term Apple II user, Aapi Juntura, to my blog and to collect his thoughts and memories of early Finnish Apple II history and his career with Computers, hardware and Information Technology.
I sent few questions to Aapi by email. This is rough English translation from the original Finnish interview.
Who are you and where you come from?
Aapi Juntura: Siina Maria Keskinarkaus gave birth to me in April 1943. My father Otto Jalmari was a small farmer. A total of 11 children were born into the family, of wich seven are still alive. I am the middle one.
I attended elementary school in Peurajärvi in 1950-1956, secondary school in Ranua in 1956-60.
I got into TVH (Road and Civil Engineering Authority) as a trainee in summer of 1960 and after that i took map drawing course. In the spring of 1961 i took engineering job at district of Kemijärvi where a giant company Marion dug a new riverbed in the Kemijoki river. Served in the Finnish Army in the Oulu Artillery Regiment 1962-1963. I was a rookie from Ranua, who protested against the superiors.. According to the military passport i’m a sergeant.
I applied for Oulu University of Technology in 1960, and i got to choose wether to start in 1961 or 1964. So I rented a room in downtown from a elderly person. He heated the oven and kept the washing water in the enamel containers. In addition, he often talked about nice things about human life. In the dances of the workers house 1965 I met a postwoman who worked with IBM punchcards and got even paid for doing so. I didn’t want to live together because she was moody and only 18 years old.
Reindeers in Lapland
I graduated as a civil engineer in 1968. I went in the summer of 1968 to Sodankylä to work as a foreman on a forest road road construction site. Engineer Esko Valtanen from the district asked me to apply for a job in the engineering district and there i designed bridges, forest roads, drains etc. I handled the checkups of water passages in Lapland. Mikko Puronlahti advised to become a vocational school teacher for techical/map-drawing. In Lapland, vocational school students were in 1960s and 1990s the most eager to learn in my opinion. The work as of a teacher was very rewarding, the teacher learns the most. A couple of times they asked me to apply for a principal’s post but that would have ment less summer vacation time and the daily race for resources and have pecking order i didn’t care much of.
What was your first touch to computers and when?
VTT (technical research centre of finland) had purchased computers of the size of a closet and there Pekka Malinen taught us FORTRAN-programming at TEKU (University of Technology) in the spring evenings. The first print of the program that was run, we got “SYNTAX ERROR”. It was just colon being incorrect.. A third run produced a table with a line printer moments at different points in the beam. At that time, there were electronic calculators with the tube screen and they were able to calculate trigonometric calculations as well. The real big change happened in 1972, the HP35 calculator made spreadsheets unnecessary. It’s reverse Polish logic RPN was handy in my work for at least a decade. Popular Elektonics-magazine i found through a family friend, Hannu Ylioja. There were ads for devices and components and wiring diagrams.
Vocational school had electrical and radio engineers and i was also interested what they studied. The first radio I built in 1974. That’s where my Electronics hobby began. In 1977 there were rumors of memory circuits and microprocessors. So the school acquired a microcomputer building kit in 1978.
Apple II setup for drawing and printing
The first Apple II came to Lapland central vocational school in 1980 by a new teacher of telephone dept. Four programmable SHARP-calculators were networked in it.
At school, Markku Siivola (a psychiatrist from Muurola) held Apple evening courses about Word Processing and Spreadsheets, Magic Windows and VisiCalc. Then it became clear in seconds that typing had taken a giant leap. No scratching or correcting but proofreading and editing on screen before printing. Cost estimates and lists were redone due to minor changes. All you need to do is make changes to the spreadsheet and at the same time the total amount is done. Maybe a 90% improvement compared to the mechanical calculators.
Watanabe digi-plotter, map of land division drawn (1982).
In addition, with Apple II’s graphics tablet most maps could be digitized and then edited in many ways, the scratch pen and knife became obsolete. The Watanabe Digi-Plotter was able to print A3-size illustrations. The print scale and details could be selected or added. Lots of development opportunities at once!
I was a map drawing teacher and immediately made a purchase proposal for Apple ][ despite the fact that back in 1972 the acquisition of an electronic calculator (HP35) the Principal found it unnecessary. I remembered this in my purchase proposal presentation, total cost: 40,000 FIM. The normal annual purchase limit was 2000 FIM. To my surprise, there was no quarrel and a year later, in 1981, we reached the digital age with the students.
The jobs for the following years had been selected. I programmed just about everything about map and document production on a computer, if a good program didn’t exists. There were thousands and thousands of BASIC program lines.
As a tool for teaching and learning, the Apple II turned out to be a great tool for about five years, the limits came against the limitations of speed, display and memory at the end naturally.
Graphics charts were used as a basic tool for digitization for surveying training in mapping. In this case, the map on paper became adaptable and versionable for different uses. Although the accuracy of digitization was not good, it was a good fit for teaching assignments. In addition to the lines were needed map characters, text size and gradient variation, color rendering was needed. Areas were created when the pattern was digitized to be closed.
Splitting the map into sub-drawings came at the same time, so it could print separately, borders, roads, buildings, fields, plots, landmarks, etc … I needed to control the printers one by one, for example the HP-GL had to be learned. The mapping software expanded to PC’s, including terrain measurement and related computing. The whole project i was able to sell to other schools for 5000 FIM from wich the taxation took 60% off …
When you obtained your first computer and what was it?
Ohio-scientific was in used before the first Apple ][. Ohio Scientific’s motherboard ad was on the back cover of Popular Elekronics Magazine. It could be ordered from the US and paid with a VISA card. So I immediately got a credit card and an import license from the License Office, which was then needed for foreign trade. I remember the device arrived in a few months in 1980. The price was less than a thousand marks.
In addition to the boot rom, the motherboard had a BASIC interpreter. Similar to Apple without line drawing capablity. The only block graphics was the ASCII extension 128 … 255. The display has 24 rows and 24 columns. There was 8 kilobytes of static RAM-memory but the expansion seemed troublesome to get done.
The tape recorder was 150 baud for the Kansas City code, which almost could be read in the contents of the download code on screen. It took about 8 minutes to fully load the memory.
There were games from around the world, Aarvark from Canada had done a couple of cassettes of shooting games. Within a couple of year i had about a dozen of casettes
It could be used to learn the basics of programming just like any other system of its time. The children were also interested in it. Neighbors (religious) denied visits by their own children when they heard about the computer.
As a monitor i used a 14 “mobile TV which i modified with capasitor after the video selection circuit. The school’s TV-dept teacher Eero Niemelä told me how to do the modification and not get killed by electricity. TV-deflection requires a voltage of 25 kV.
Ohio Scientific had to switch to an EPROM-monitor program. It allowed you slightly editing the editable line.
Self built Apple II clone.
Due limited memory and display in Ohio Scientific, a better system had to be purchased. It was Apple II that was available as components and with floppy drive from Germany. Paying for an order in advance by check annoyed me greatly. Risky business so to speak.
Self built Apple II with Silentype printer.
The pictures above shows the first Apple II clone built by myself from components on a circuit board. The cases were self-made with using the school’s edge machine and a cutter (damper cost 10mk/m2). Joystick has two potentiometers joined (i wrote article how to buld it at Omenahyve magazine). There is a film of both sides of the circuit board in my storage. I still could make the circuit board.
I ordered the components from Germany in 1980-81. I waited a couple of months. The guy sent a paper picture of the device and was going to ship as soon as he got all the parts (about 150pcs). The import license had to be obtained from the licensing agency. In Germany i had to pay “Vorkasse Schek” in advance 4000FIM (back then Apple II cost about 10.000FIM). When the delivery was delayed and customs numbers had to be given to customs i felt anxious. The announcement i saw in German-language magazine MC (Micro Computer).
Later, my wife’s sister’s husband was working in England at the time. He bought a used Apple II and sent it to Finland. I bought Finlux TV and a MiniTel-text terminal as a scrap in Kajaani to be used with it.
In this picture (from 1983) shows a used Apple II i purchased from England (it had unstable power supply). Also the 12″ green monitor came from England. The thermal printer printed on 5″ paper, but paper availability was poor. Print accuracy was moderate (the cord was twisted around the axis as on old radios).
Pictured here is my work horse, Apple II 64KB RAM, PAL, Color TV, MV Monitor with 80 characters / line custom sync, joystick (self-made), thermal printer (silentype), 2 * floppy 143 kB Sheet metal enclosures made from 1mm sheet metal by my self.
I built the last Apple II around 1985-86 for nephews as a gaming machine. I also made the power supply myself.
Apple II, why Apple II? What was best on it?
Apple II was selected by needs and features it fullfilled:
* Line drawings or graphics are required.
* Expansion, 7 slots
* Easily expandable memory.
* Sounds and games.
* Applesoft was well documented and easily usable.
* Support, that is, the network of user’s existed.
* Clones and motherboards readily available and ROM-copying easy.
* Peripherals available: printers, plotters, graphics tablets, PAL and RGB-color cards, etc..
* A wealth of articles in German, English, Italian …
* Large variety of good usefull software: VisiCalc, DB master, Word Processing.
* Lots of pirated software available.. and copy protections easily defeted.
* Lots of enthuastic users!
I actually borrowed the school machine for the weekend and came with the boys to the conclusion that we had to get it, it had colors and audio!
Was it difficult to get programs or hardware from Finland at the time?
A few programs were purchased with VISA from USA, for example: DB master, Spredsheet, Magic Window, Copy II Plus. There are not many original packages left. Mainly programs were exchanged with acquaintances. Cracked programs were bought from Singapore, for example.
Popular games included : Karateka, Boulder Dash, Choplifter, Chess, Space Invader, Spider, Sammy Lightfoot, The Spy Strikes back, One on One, Minit Man, The Quest, IFR Flight Simulator, Starblazer, Ultima IV..
What did you do with your Apple II?
Maps, databases, programming, gaming .. hardware building.
I was on vacation in Italy in 1981 and it was raining so I went around bookstores and found Applesoft the book had a whole bunch of interesting program examples. Magazines had examples of voices programming and drawing a plot map. Fine coincidence and generous rain.
You have also lectured about information technology?
In southern Finland I went to give few presentations around 1983-85 about Apple II and computer-aided design and digitalization. Some listener was amazed about where i came from. Some people were amazed that somebody from Lapland arrived and acted like expert on such matters..
Few years ago, when I bought an old mowing machine, i met a man who said that he was my course back then and had stated to his wife that “it was a futile course”. Now he had changed his thoughts about it and found that their children do everything with their computers from morning to night.
YLE (National Radio/TV) reporter made a story about me on the radio. Later, a TV-program for School-TV was shot at school for a couple of days. The program was aired a couple of times during prime time. MTV (Commercal TV station) also filmed a news clip about house design.
On YLE-TV program
The YLE archive contains 1985 new school tools:
https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2014/08/14/tietokoneet-koulujen-opetuksen-tukena (only watchable in Finland, geoblocked)
There is a video on the use of information technology at the Central Vocational School of Lapland. Our part starts at about 12 min
You have made and published programs for Apple II, would you tell more about them?
Because Apple II had better drawing and graphics features, in one Saturday morning a element-housebuilder/salesman (private constructor) arrived to my doorstop and wanted a piece of computer equipment and a program to do everyday routines for him. At the same time, it would be a good selling point in advertisements that it was “computer desgined”. We ate, bathed, and played around with the computer equipment, went to the sauna and the house salesman took the train back home.
I looked at the elements of the house suppliers. They were 30cm wide, then, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 cm. The base images of such are simple and 1/10 size would fit the entire floor plan. First you had to make the elements by manufacturing and then using them (selection, transfer, turning). Texts and dimensions had to inserted. Saving the image as a bitmap and element database was required also. I added more features to the database, such as price. Surprisingly from the ground plan pages and ends and cost estimates were also added and created. I didn’t get the process taught for the element-housebuilder, that he would have sold houses with. Result was, plain zero.
I offered the program to a software bank and set the price at 20,000FIM, same as one Apple II’s price at the time. I was surprised when they paid and so they got their first CAD software (Computer Aided Design).
You also wrote articles to “Omenahyve”-user’s magazine?
The articles in “Omenahyve” were published in 1982-1988 and contained, among other things, the following topics:
-Automatic Drawing (Apple Graphics Tablet, Watanabe digi-plottter)
-Purchasing Ananas (Taiwanese Apple II+ clone)
-Apple for Musical Instrument (La Mela Musicale)
-Making graphical patterns
-New power supply to Apple II
-TV as monitor
-Building a EPROM programming card
-Micro-Computer assisted House Design
-Terminal for Monitor
-Copy Programs (CopyII+, EDD, Locksmith etc) and protections.
-Game port expansion
Most “Omenahyve” magazine issues are scanned to pdf:
Just the file size is unreasonably large, sorry about that.
I also wrote a couple of pages of “Light Pen” magazine about a house design program.
Article how to build your own joystick/Omenahyve.
You are also published author of Computer books?
“Mikrotietokone työkaluksi” / Microcomputer as a tool (National Board of Vocational Education, National Printing Center) 1984/1991 editions.
The Board of Vocational Education asked the school to make a textbook for group work and learning. Others refused but i collected a couple of hundred pages and asked for a opinion from the principal.. but all the material i delivered got lost by him! Maybe it wasn’t good enough, so i did an another draft, and i no longer offered it to others to review.
I wrote, photographed and rasterized the material, text printed through printer adapter of disc typewriter. I glued the rasterized pictures to the openings and my son’s line art clips as well. I sent an A5-size booklet to the subscribers. I remember that the proof-reader was the real pain in the ***. The cover image had been transformed looking like crazy person! What a butcher!
So i did the book a second time. That’s where thousands of copies were sold and taken to print an another edition. I think I got an hour’s pay for this job just like the school cleaners. Jealous double. But i did heard a couple of praises as well. A relative of mine was at the University of Oulu and he was amazed that my book was used as the basis for the lecture. I went to Jyväskylä for a course and there were 20 pages of my book copied for me to study from!
What happened after the Apple II?
I searched the drawers for pictures and found some. It explains why Apple II was left aside in the end. It was better than the IBM-PC but worse than the Olivetti M21. Variability was imitated by many manufacturers. From xerox sheet metal i made PC-V30 (8086 Clone, 10MHz), with floppy drives, old power supply from HP. It had display card text 80/24 and resolution 640*240 (as far as i can remember) and the TV was used as monitor. I ordered a few 14″ monitors from Germany without a case, also for school. I made tin covers myself. They still work, in 2019. Apple’s Macintosh wasn’t practical at school with a lack of variety of peripherals needed. So it was app IBM-PC compatibles after that.
FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.