This article is from the Apple II Csa2 FAQ, by Jeff Hurlburt with numerous contributions by others.
You are here! Should "here" mean "primarily a II+ (IIe, IIc, II clone) user", then you are acutely aware of being out of the mainstream of personal computing. (Either that, or you've been 'out' for so long that you're starting to think you're 'in'!) Not only is very little new software coming from the major vendors; but nothing looks as good as the super-res and VGA stuff you've seen on other machines. You CAN upgrade the II, even to the point of adding a VGA display; but the biggest problem isn't YOUR hardware. It's the thousands of other 'old II' users who must be persuaded to make the same changes-- that is, if you wish to create a recognizable 'super II' user base, develop and trade programs, attract vendors, etc., etc.. Recommendations: Keep your II, use it, enjoy it; and, when opportunities arise, improve it if the costs are not too steep. Hardware experimentation is a valuable, time-honored II owner activity. Given the rapid pace of microprocessor and component advances, there really is no telling what you might be able to achieve. Should you decide to sample the era of modern store- bought personal computing, go for the best, most II-like machine you can afford. As of Spring '91, this probably means either 1. take a risk on the IIgs OR 2. grab a PC-owner friend and shop the local grud establishments for a '386 PC/AT. "Here" may be the joyful realm of PC-ville. Your 'big problems' are deciding whether to 1. add another 2MB of RAM (to handle "Windows 3.0" stuff), and/or 2. fill that little vertical panel slot with a 1.44MB 3.5" drive, and/or 3. swap out your old 40MB drive for a 120MB unit, and/or 4. dump your old VGA card plus the non-multi-sync monitor and replace with extended VGA equipment. Recommendations: Yes, Yes, Maybe, Not yet. It may also be a good idea to keep your weekends open and your car gassed-up, just in case someone calls about doing some shopping. If "here" is IIgs-ville then you already know the 'old place' isn't what it used to be. I've lost track of the number of IIgs projects "cancelled for lack of market interest", deceased hardware suppliers, and major vendor PR persons who (politely) barely refrain from laughing when I ask about "availability in IIgs format". As to national/international publications which actually devote hundreds of column inches to II coverage on a monthly basis...; suffice it to say you won't need base ten numerals to count them. A sampling of local bulletin board listings pretty well sums up what has happened. In a printout from 1986, of 70 boards, 17 (24.3%) are listed as "Apple" BB systems, which ties with PC for the lead. By December 1990, of 298 boards, 8 (2.7%) are "Apple" BB's. Amiga and Atari shares are even smaller; C- 64/128 (4.4%) and Mac (3%) come in a bit higher. PC's share is 81.5%. You (we) were entirely justified in expecting Apple to make a major II series effort long before now-- if only to prevent nearly complete dominance of unit sales, peripherals development, and software releases by a platform with which no Apple product is compatible. Think back to the late '80's and you can see that the threat of a strong, improving IIgs was the last barrier to a no- name PC/AT sweep. When, by mid-'89, the "threat" evaporated, Amiga, Atari, Mac, and even IBM each had good reason to be very very concerned. If they weren't then, you can bet they are now. Mac's big watchword used to be "Friendliness"; today it's "Connectivity". IBM, who used to believe IT decided PC standards, dares not market the PS/1 without offering an optional expansion box to hold AT-compatible cards! So much for spilt milk. As they say in the beer commercials: "Well, Pard, (slurp) it don't get no worsen this!" 'It' could; but, evidently, it won't. Several bright spots on the horizon point to, if anything, the beginnings of a IIgs upturn. First, there's the Mac LC. Last Fall, according to "industry watchers", 'LC was destined to displace IIgs and, thus, signal the inevitable demise of the II series. Instead, as we now know, 'LC positions color Macs, more or less permanently, OUT of IIgs territory. Big Green's Mac cards are on the table. When Apple makes a serious low-end market play, it will be the 'IIgs card'. Every IIgs user is aware that most major software vendors are not releasing 'all of that great PC stuff' in IIgs format. Too little attention is given to the continuing strong support from sources like Beagle Bros, Roger Wagner, Byte Works, and MECC. Nibble and SoftDisk-GS regularly release quality software and individual programmers continue to produce useful, innovative shareware. Two recent product releases are especially encouraging. Apple's GS/OS 5.04 may come on as "just another revision of old, familiar GS/OS" to IIgs owners preoccupied with hardware needs. No problem; the 'Rule Book' says that if you use a machine, you're supposed to carp about the operating system. Meanwhile, PC/AT users are falling all over themselves in glee at the thought that they may soon have something like GS/OS. The other release is "Platinum Paint" from Beagle Bros. It's the kind of product that could have "mainstream users" wondering where the mainstream is. If the IIgs is dead, at least it's attracting some very classy flies. If it's not, what might we look forward to when the upturn REALLY gathers steam?! Though inCider's "Meet the Mac LC'" piece made no recommendations and was hardly enthusiastic-- well, actually, it reads like something one might come up with in a Mac prisoner of war camp-- even so, Roger Wagner responded with a full-page rebuttal. One comment was especially thought provoking: "The IIgs is the best platform with which to enter the '90's." My first reaction was something along the lines of "Poor RW. He's finally blown a 'higher functions' LSI chip. How can IIgs be the 'best platform' if it's not supported?" But that, of course is RW's point. Viewed 'in itself', instead of "Will it be around next year?", "Is it smart buy?", etc. the IIgs has remarkable potential. For starters, it is the ONLY platform to offer both an abundance of expansion slots AND sophisticated firmware. It is also a compact machine widely regarded as the best looking computer ever produced by anyone. (Well, it never hurts to be good looking.) Granting that IIgs is in the "Best Platform" running; what's the problem? Why isn't the Best Platform doing BP-type stuff? This one's easy. Just imagine that you've switched-in a bigger power supply and crammed a 1MB model IIgs with the best available performance enhancers. What is missing? Exactly! Until we can either swap-out motherboards or plug in a card to obtain 'state of the world' graphics capabilities, non of the other add-ons will be enough to spark a full-scale IIgs swarming. Conversely, once super graphics ARE in place, all of the other add-ons and the IIgs itself will immediately become vastly more attractive. Recommendations: Keep, use, enjoy, and learn about your IIgs. It could wind up as one of the big winners in Computer Wars II. Speed-up, math co-processor, and similar enhancements are worth a serious look, so long as you are willing to accept the risks (i.e. future compatibility) that come with 'leading the pack'. As to user hardware experimentation, why not? Your Apple club's IIgs VGA card project could be THE way to crack the graphics logjam. ("What about the CRT monitor and 'old IIgs' super-res?" Easy. We buy multi-syncs, plug them into your new super IIgs VGA card and 'standardize' IIgs as a dual color monitor machine! Now, what sort of programming, flight-sim, CAD, and adventure game software do you suppose THAT would attract!!)