The Apple IIgs (also known as Apple //gs) was the last member of the Apple II (//) line of computers. This model was also the most powerful machine in this line. This computer was built around a Western Design Center 65C816 processor running at either 2.8 or 1 Mhz; and included expanded graphics and sound functions.
Introduced: September 1986.
Codename: Cortland, Phoenix, Rambo, Gumby, Tenspeed, Blockbuster.
Processor: CPU – Western Design Center 65C816. CPU Speed: 2.8 MHz. FPU: integrated. Bus Speed: 1 MHz. Register Width: 16-bit. Data Bus Width: 16-bit. Address Bus Width: 16-bit.
ROM: 128/256 kB (expandable to 1 MB).
Onboard RAM: 256 kB (expandable to 8 MB).
Maximum RAM: 8 MB.
Video Maximum Resolution: 2 bit 640 x 200, 4 bit 320 x 200. An enhanced 320 x 200 video mode 3200 colors (16 unique colors in each of the 200 scan lines). Note that this was the only computer of that era capable of displaying more than 256 colors.
Video Out: DB-15.
Storage: Floppy Drive – 5.25-inch Disk ][ or 3.5-inch Sony 800 kB, via floppy port.
Input/Output: ADB – 1, floppy – DB-9.
Serial: 2 Mini DIN-8.
SCSI: via expansion card.
Audio Out: mono mini.
Power: 60 Watts.
Dimensions: 4.6-inch Height x 11.2-inch Width x 13.7-inch Deep.
Weight: 8.72 lbs.
Discontinuation and Price
Discontinued: December 1992.
- The Apple IIgs was shipped with a Mac-like interface and an Apple IIgs-specific OS.
- This model ran most other Apple II software. The secret of its compatibility was a single chip called the Mega II, which contained the functional equivalent of an entire Apple IIe computer (sans processor). This, combined with the flawless 65C02 emulation mode of the 65C816 processor, provided full support for legacy software.
- The model was on of the first computer to include a Large Scale Integration (LSI) chip, called the IWM (Integrated Woz Machine). The IWM chip had been already used in the Macintosh, the IIc and the Unidisk 3.5-inch controller card for the II+ and //e. It was based on Wozniak’s Disk ][ controller.
- The device could also hold a SCSI adapter card.
- Many 3rd party refinements and expansions have been offered for the Apple //gs (including processor upgrades up to 18 MHz), and there is still a fairly large installed base.
- Each Apple IIgs had a built-in Ensoniq 5503 Digital Oscillator, a music synthesizer chip capable of wavetable synthesis. There was 64 kB of dedicated RAM (separate from main RAM) to load waveform patches into. The chip had an 8-bit sound resolution and could do stereo output and record sound with it’s ADC, but Apple only shipped the machine with a 1/8-inch mono headphone jack. Users had to purchase third party hardware to demultiplex the stereo signal already there and input sound. The chip had 32-oscillators, meaning it was capable of 32 voices. The GS firmware paired the voices (and reserved two for timings) to come up with 15 voices as standard. Up until the early to mid 1990’s, Apple IIgs was the most powerful home computer in existance for music and sound capabilities.
- The Apple //gs’s Mac-like interface and a //gs-specific OS was called GS/OS.
- On Apple Iigs, in a departure from earlier Apple II graphics modes, the new modes laid out the scanlines sequentially in memory and up to 16 scanline changes could be made. For example, sixteen palettes of sixteen distinct colors each (that was equal to 256 colors) without slowing down the CPU.
- According to Wikipedia, programmers working on this model and searching for a graphics challenge could turn to 3200-color mode, which involved precisely swapping in a different 16-color palette for each of the screen’s 200 scanlines as the monitor’s electron beam traced the screen line by line. This technique did not leave many CPU cycles available for other processing, so this mode was best suited to displaying static images.
- This Apple’s model included a 32-voice Ensoniq 5503 DOC ‘wavetable’ sample-based sound synthesizer chip with 64 kB dedicated RAM, 256 kB (or later 1.125 MB) of standard RAM, built-in peripheral ports (switchable between IIe-style card slots and IIc-style onboard controllers for disk drives, mouse, RGB video, and serial devices), built-in AppleTalk networking, and a ROM toolbox that supported a graphical user interface derived from the Macintosh toolbox.
- Even though the Macintosh line gradually eclipsed the Apple II line in the early 1990s, the latter had remained the Apple’s primary revenue source for years. Altogether the Apple II line was the first to attract a loyal user community. They say that many outspoken Apple II fans were bitter that the company had invested its Apple II profits into the Macintosh rather than using them to further the Apple II series.
- Apple later aired eight television commercials for the Apple IIgs, emphasizing its benefits to education and students, along with some print ads.
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LGR – Apple IIGS – Vintage Computer System Review. Video published by Lazy Game Reviews on August 24, 2012. The Apple II was one of the first major successes in personal computing, and as a result Apple released several variants, culminating in the IIGS in 1986. Although soon phased out in favor of the Macintosh, the IIGS was a worthwhile machine for years. But is it still worth owning to a current collector of vintage computers? This is an overview of the history, hardware, and software of the IIGS from the perspective of a classic computer collector.
Photograph by Cbmeeks, photo in public domain.