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The Apple ][ Language Card Rabbit Hole – Part II

The Apple Card

Apple had two versions of the Language card that I know of. Apart from the silkscreening and part numbers (820-0015-01 and 820-0015-02) they seem to function identically. They both have the provision for a modification that almost sent me down another rabbit hole on EPROMs. I was researching enabling lowercase on my ReactiveMicro motherboard when I stumbled upon Chris Torrence’s Assembly Lines #32 YouTube video. In this video Chris explains how to use the Apple Language card to modify the F8 ROM to handle lowercase characters. Part of the video discusses how to modify the Apple Language card to use a 2716 EPROM instead of the Apple mask ROM. Both of my cards had different F8 ROMs, one of them even has Microsoft printed on the ROM which was a little interesting. As I mentioned in Part I, these cards all look to have had various ROM and chip swaps over the years. Both cards do indeed load the F8 ROM into memory as I was able to remove the F8 ROM from the motherboard and both booted fine. However I was unable to get either of these ROMs to boot the Apple II if I installed them on the motherboard. My research implies this is possible but I couldn’t get it to work.

The Microsoft Card

The Microsoft card was the first card I came across to not have an F8 ROM. It is truly a memory card only and the Apple II wouldn’t boot if I removed the F8 ROM from the motherboard. I liked this card a lot as it has LEDs on the top that show when the RAM is being read or written.

The Clones

Both no-name clones appear to be copies of the Apple Card and both have a ROM. Both lack any manufacturer details however one does have “LANGUAGECARD” printed on it. Having no name or branding was common for clones so that the manufacturer could not be identified. Surprisingly both look like they have the ability to be modified to use 2716 EPROMs the same as the Apple card. Even more interesting is that neither of them will boot the Apple II when the motherboard F8 ROM is removed and the ROMs on both boards won’t work when swapped. This might require more investigation but it is probably beyond my technical ability to make any sense of the results. Once again the sins of owners past was obvious with one of the ROMs having a handwritten sticker “NORMAL ROM”, I have to assume this means a copy of the Apple F8 ROM.

The Clone of a Clone

This card was a bit of a weird one as it has a toggle switch on the back and no ROM. After a bit of googling and asking some questions on the Apple2Infinitum Slack it would appear that this is a clone of the Andromeda memory card which was a card that allows either the the motherboard ROM to be enabled or use what version of BASIC that was already loaded into RAM after a soft reset.

The AP.RAM/16 Card

During my research for this article, Bill Martens of A.P.P.L.E was extremely helpful. He also pointed out that A.P.P.L.E sold their own 16kB memory card called the AP.RAM/16 card. Announced in Sept 1982 this card was ROM-less so similar to the Microsoft card. For historical purposed I have added a picture of this card and an ad from Call – A.P.P.L.E both provide by Bill.

I found my trip down the Language card rabbit hole very fascinating. It was a motivation for me to go through my Apple II card collection and to find some really interesting bits of early Apple II history. It also forced me to start cataloging my Apple II card collection. I currently have this in an Airtable database but will be converting this to an Apple II Appleworks database. I am sure this adventure will certainly provide some content for a future blog article.

One Comment

  1. Scott C Elliott Scott C Elliott

    I’d wager that the ROM chips on those two no-name Language Card clones are purely cosmetic. Third party cards didn’t really have any motivation to worry about upgrading an F8 Monitor ROM to Autostart, and programming an EPROM would just increase labor (and copyright liability) without generating any revenue.

    Indeed, the Language Card’s ROM can pose a hindrance. So long as there’s an authentic Apple Language Card installed in slot 0, its F8 ROM will pre-empt Saturn and Legend RAM cards from working in other slots. By contrast, ROMless cards don’t pose that problem.

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