Releasing an Apple IIe’s Magic Smoke

On July 21, 2016, Ancient Legends was released for Apple II home computers. The game is similar in design to classic role playing games from the 1980s like Ultima and Bard’s Tale, and I was greatly looking forward to trying it out on my vintage Apple IIe computer.

A few years ago I purchased a CFFA3000 card for my Apple II. The CFFA3000 card allows owners to play Apple II disk images stored on a USB stick. I paid approximately $200 (including the additional remote and shipping) for my CFFA3000, and $1.48 for the computer at a thrift store.

I’m in the middle of rewiring my computer desk (yes, those are boxes of Ghostbusters Twinkies and a ventriloquist doll…) so pardon the mess, but I was able to copy the disk images over to a USB stick and the game booted right up on my vintage Apple IIe computer.

2016-07-21 16.38.42

Five minutes into the game it began to act up. I was just about to declare the program buggy when I heard a loud POP, followed by the release of magic smoke. (For those who don’t know, all electronics run off of magic smoke. When you let it out, they stop working.) I quickly yanked the power cord out of the back of the computer and opened the case, releasing the smoke and the smell of burned plastic into my room. It didn’t take long to determine the source of the smoke — the machine’s old power supply had given its all and thrown in towel.

2016-07-22 09.17.23

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Specifically, that capacitor was the one that did itself in.

There has, and always will be, a debate as to whether emulation is better than real hardware. I, being a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, have long argued that there’s a time and place for each, but I’ve had people from both ends of the spectrum blast my opinion. I do enjoy the real thing when and where I can, but when one of these vintage machines literally blows up, it always makes you reconsider.

A few years ago I had half a dozen Apple II computers. The Franklin Ace 1000 died due to a tragic golf cart accident (don’t ask), one was gutted for parts, the IIc doesn’t accept internal cards like the CFFA3000 (a requirement) and my black Bell and Howell model has never worked. That means, in reality, I have two: the IIe Platinum model that I’ve been using (and is currently dead) and a spare, original, model IIe.

2016-08-15 15.40.48

I don’t know why I leave these prices on my old machines, but I do. It reminds me of those glorious pre-eBay days. As you can see, this one was priced at $3.98 before being lowered to $1.98. After a bit of dusting and cleaning, I swapped my CFFA3000 card into this machine and fired up a couple of games.

2016-08-16 09.17.31

The first one was last year’s “Flapple Bird,” a port of Flappy Bird (remember when that was a thing?). Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear my replacement IIe has a compatible 80-column card installed, which is why the graphics appear garbled.

2016-08-16 09.19.09

For round two I went with an older game, Accolade’s 1985 game “Law of the West.” As you can see, it fired right up.

My friend @QuinnDunki of BlondiHacks fame (if you’ve ever used a soldering iron or touched a vintage computer, you owe it to yourself to check out her website) pointed me to Ultimate Micro, a website that sells replacement power supply kits for Apple II computers. The site is currently down for retooling, but when it comes back, I plan on ordering a replacement power supply for my mostly-dead Apple IIe.

Since my primary Apple IIe imploded I have spent some time playing Ancient Legends through emulation. It’s a fun game. I haven’t got very far yet (I suspect the key to longevity in the game is finding a place to heal!) but it’s been enjoyable, and I can’t wait to take it out for a spin on a real Apple II once I get mine back up and running.

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2 comments to Releasing an Apple IIe’s Magic Smoke

  • Been there…done that…that magic smoke ozone smell is awful. It’s not like it’s the worst smell in the world on its own merits, but it does mean that something somewhere just shuffled off this mortal coil. Ugh.

  • Paul in AZ

    A $6.32 thrift shop receiver just went “Magnitude” >>>POP-POP<<< on me – a 47uF capacitor, and I have no idea how to solder (or how I'm going to get to that part of the board). I guess there's a first time for everything.

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