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Apple IIe – Booting A Z80 Microsoft Softcard Clone

So this card was part of the recent bundle'o'Mac and I honestly thought it was just a lowly 80-column text module. Turns out it's a lot more than that! Sure, it's a clone, but it happens to be a Z-80 SoftCard, based on the Microsoft Softcard.

It seems that you need to slap it in slot 4 or 7 and boot relevant software... let's give it a go!

Hardware Installation

Before we get near the machine, let's reset the card to factory default! Make sure all four dipswitches are in the OFF position, as per the photo above. Just for fun, here's the meaning of the four switches, in case you need to tinker:

Switch Function when ON
1-1 Disable address translation.
1-2 Higher priority DMA devices cause SoftCard to relinquish bus.
1-3 Pass NMI line to Z80.
1-4 Pass IRQ line to Z80.

Finally, don't forget to clean the edge connector with isopropyl alcohol, just to make sure there'll be no issues with conductivity once inserted.

Next, we need to get to the innards of your computer. Fortunately, all machines in the Apple II line-up make this part really easy. Make sure everything is turned off and remove the top cover from your machine. Regardless of your model, it'll be two clips at the rear of the top panel.

We're going to choose Slot 4 for this card...

It's the slot directly to the right of the 'Auxiliary Slot' and the card only fits one way. Once inserted, you can either leave the case open so we can see the LED turn on when the card is alive... or work in a clean environment and close everything up!


Before booting up, I'd recommend a full review of the CP/M reference. As with everything Apple II, we'll need a boot disk to get started. For today's post, we'll be using Microsoft Softcard CP/M Disk #1 in Drive 1. Thanks to this machine having two floppy drives, we can also insert whatever-we-want-to-run in Drive 2.

The CPM disks were written using ADTPro via serial from my Windows 11 laptop. I then slapped the first one in the first drive and cold-restarted the machine.

It was a beautiful site, albeit a little underwhelming. I initially had the case off and watched the monitor whilst the unit (very quickly) booted. I then looked back into the chassis of the Apple IIe and the LED on the Z80 board was dark... was it even used? I mean, the fact that CP/M was booted, and displaying on the monitor, should've proven that it did work... but no LED made me sad. I then typed dir...

And, yey! We're in DOS... no more weird Apple OS. Second yey was that... out of the corner of my eye, I saw the LED on the Z80 card flicker! So it only illuminates when it's being used? I rebooted the machine, watching the LED this time, and saw that this was the case: the LED flickered along nicely as CP/M booted.

We're up and running, what next?

Someone on Reddit already asked the question and a great answer was provided: ZORK! Can we boot from Drive A: and play from Drive B:?

Ooops... sorry, that was loaded from A:\. Here's a sample from B:\...

Or write a novel like George on WordStar 4.0. Don't forget to also try and recall your Douglas Adams Knowledge and boot up The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1984, Infocom).

It works!

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Apple IIe – Capacitors and Games!

This unit came in a recently-acquired bunch of Apple memorabilia. I was actually meant to be purchasing a Mac LC (I'll post on that later, when I'm happy with the unit... it's being a pest), but the seller mentioned that he "had some other stuff", and I happily offered bullion which was happily accepted. I was lucky enough to also receive an A2M2010P monitor, which quickly cooked itself after I applied power.

The shot above is the end result... there was quite a bit of work to get to that point!


I replaced all capacitors in the PSU of the Apple IIe. I know some say "if it ain't obviously broke/damaged, then don't replace", but I wanted to be able to slap a sticker on the PSU saying "totally recapped in 2023". Which I did...

With these cleaned up, the voltages were optimal. Note that there are two RIFA capacitors that REALLY need to be replaced.

A2M2010P Monitor

This green monocrome beast needed love. I was stupid enough at the start to just power it up and, although it worked for 5 minutes, one of the RIFA capacitors let out its magic smoke pretty quickly.

All were replaced and the screen was restored to its former glory.

65C02 Enabled Keyboard Light?

Here I was thinking the light labelled 65C02 on the bottom-left of the keyboard was some kind of indicator that the CPU was in some turbo mode? It's not. It's a bloody power LED and mine was dark! It's a bit of a hassle to get to: all of the base screws, lift the shell, 4 screws from the keyboard and you're there.

The LED is encased and should actually be removable with a good tug. It's actually seated in two pipes, which are soldered into the PCB. Unfortunately, one of the legs was totally fused in, so I de-soldered the lot.

The LED unit must have had a resistor in series as, when I initially soldered a LED direct, the current was way too strong! Instead I soldered a 470ohm resistor in series and got some illumination. I'd probably recommend a 330ohm, as the 470ohm is a little dull. It'll totally depend on your LED though. I should've also checked the supply voltage, but I assume it's 5v.

Getting Data Onto It!

I love it when my own articles come up when I'm trying to get something done. It seems that I've used ADTPro before with an Apple IIc to bootstrap and write floppy images. This unit didn't have serial, so I had to go another way and load images via the cassette port. All I needed was something that could play audio from Apple ][ Disk Server via a standard 3.5mm audio cable.

The instructions were simple. Boot the machine with no disks inserted, or no disk controller at all, and type LOAD at the prompt. Hit play on the audio device and watch the magic. The caveats? Make sure you plug the cable into the correct port. The correct port is the one right next ot the joystick port, where the arrow is pointing out of the little cassette tape! I may have spent a little too much time reviewing schematics and components on the board... wondering why there was nothing happening... (I had it plugged into the wrong port...)

Secondly, don't use a shitty audio device. My phone couldn't play the audio files loud enough. Neither could a Dell Inspiron 910. Finally my GPD Win Max 2 blasted the audio out and a disk was written! Many actually. If your audio is too low then you'll either get "Err", "ErrErr", "Error", "CHKSUM ERROR" or "Base 0x9xxx yada yada" errors... All of these mean MORE VOLUME PLEASE.

Which Games?

There's plenty of sites that think they have the best list of games on earth. I went for randoms! Bubble Bobble is a hilarious port... terrible really!

Price of Persia is fantastic... the motion is so smooth and the soundtrack is great.

I must admit that I was very impressed with the floppy drives that came with the bundle. The slimline black unit needed to warm up a bit, but operated perfectly after it got itself seeking. The apple-branded hulk just worked!

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