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A Piece of Apple II History Cracks Open (textfiles.com)
113 points by Mithrandir on May 24, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

This is about a collection of about 300 Apple II games playable in the the browser, but the best part comes at the end of the article:

    4am meticulously and [sic] carefully walks through 
    the entire process of cracking each program. The 
    code, the tracing of boot flow, the missteps, and 
    even the internal thought processes that lead to the    
    solved mystery. 
    They’re magical. And every 4AM item has one.

I cut my teeth programming this machine and learning the ins and outs of how it worked. We were much closer to the hardware in those days-- you could have things like disks that wouldn't work on some machines because the variance of the resistor in the disk drive caused a slight incompatibility when you tried to read data from a nonexistent track that only exists in the custom made disks the program originally came on but that doesn't exist in the operating system (which formats the disk you put the program on when you copy)... and which most disks with custom assembly code can read, but your particular drive cannot.

In 2008 I spent 6 months going thru my Apple II collection, many of the disks had spent years in a garage in Louisiana and Texas. Surprisingly most were still readable, but I lost some terrible poetry and equally terrible letters to my high school sweetheart (turns out she wasn't so sweet as an adult.)

IF you have Apple // disks, or any kind of old format, I urge you to recover it NOW. Time is not on your side.

I had a DEC Tape from the 1980s that eventually I think I just threw away because I couldn't find anyone on the internet who could read the data.

I have literally a thousand or so floppies (apple II, PC, some CPM). The vast majority weren't legitimate. A few years ago I went through and retrieved some of the ones with my own personal work on them. But the vast majority sit around waiting for the oxide to fall off.

I was actually thinking the other day it might be amusing to upload the text editor I wrote in applesoft basic to github.

I was lucky I guess, most of the ones I recovered worked, but the recovery process (IIGS, via appletalk to 68k mac, to pc via ethernet) is such a PITA, I quit after the first 5 or 6...

I figured that most of the games and apps were available in some of the abandonware collections that my pirated copies weren't really worth recovering.

Jason Scott has written a bit on the impending doom of 5¼" disks:


Those kinds of copy resistance schemes did a number on most disk drives, as they would often force the drive to violate operational limits.

I transferred most of my disks in the mid-90s and even back then many of them were corrupt. (I also lived in the south FWIW)

Apple IIs were part of my childhood, yet I never owned one.

In school, we had copies of Oregon Trail. Class time when we had spare time would often devolve into our own little version of "Twitch plays Oregon Trail", with one guy at the keyboard, and everyone trying to help make the decisions, usually ending up HEY LETS BUY LOTS OF AMMO and we spend 15 minutes collecting 22 metric shitloads of game and only being able to carry a tiny fraction back.... or fording the river and drowning. Every. Goddamned. Time.

Best part? The end game where you raft down the river on the final stretch, and its just everyone cheering on whoever hasn't managed to crash the raft yet. You could tell who actually had a video game console at home, whoever manned the controls and survived knew the horrors of Megaman and Castlevania; those who didn't, well, lived much simpler, less action packed, lives.

Fuck, when did games turn into a chore and stop being fun?

If you want to re-live good old Oregon Trail, I recommend the zombie-themed retro remake "Organ Trail". It's tons of fun... and I didn't even play the original!

Ultima games were a grind in the beginning to get enough food so you wouldn't starve. That was probably the worst part of the series as a kid.

For those of you experiencing a lot of nostalgia for your old faithful Apple II machine, may I recommend checking out some of the other wonderful 8-bit machines of that era, too? If you've got the druthers, you can get a really nice taste for my favourite 8-bit machine from that era, the Oric-1/Atmos.

You'll need an emulator:


And some files to use it with:


Take the first 10 or 20 entries from that list and have a lot of fun!

And remember: Old machines never die - their owners do!

This is a really cool machine! Never saw one here in the States. Too bad. Would have been a fun computer.

This is a great addition to the archive of publicly available Apple II software! If you like playing around with old Apple II programs, our Applesoft BASIC interpreter DiscoRunner comes with close to a thousand games and apps to play around with. Check it out at http://discorunner.com

I love how the text descriptions of the cracks are formatted to 40 columns. That's some serious Apple ][ fidelity. I'm grateful they used mixed case though.

I also cut my teeth programming on the old Apple IIe. Brings back some fond memories... bought a big tome at one stage that had an assembler you could 'install' by typing out pages and pages of machine code... I devoutly typed out all umpteen pages but I never got that assembler to work, even with checksum bytes at the end of every line. Back then programming felt like working magic to me. Ty Woz.

I remember the days of hacking Wizardry 1 and 2 on the Apple... for awhile we had an arcade in an upper scale mall named The Galleria called 2001 which used to let you rent time on Apple 2 computers.

As somebody researching automated reverse engineering, I would love for these to alongside the uncracked originals. While the text files document what it was doing, the ori isn't there to replicate the process.

There are file formats which record the raw head flux from spinning across the drives, which should archive any goofy drive-munging scheme employed.

That might work for most but not all schemes; spiral encoding encodes data while the stepper motor is moving, so you'd need some very fine-resolution imaging and some very accurate hardware simulation to make everything work properly.

Original post writer here; there is a plan to do this.

Under download options, there is "TEXT" and these are commentaries about each crack. Great to read.

A small group of us successfully cracked a program or two, using just the monitor and some utilities we wrote. It was a challenge and an education all in one! Highly recommend reading through a few of these.

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