Whilst the annual Apple II celebratory activities were drawing to a close, I found myself wandering the vendor fair, my mind agog with the oddities and wonders that can only fascinate the Apple II eccentrics and their onlookers. It was during this experience, that I stumbled across the table manned by Charles Mangin, who had presented several variations of RetroConnector in an earlier presentation.
“What the hell is a RetroConnector“, you ask. Hey, no need to get ill-tempered, my level-headed friend, just collect yourself and I’ll explain. The RetroConnector that I own is an Arduino shield interface that turns the built-in keyboard of an Apple //e into a standard USB keyboard that is recognized by any modern computer. There is also a version for the Apple //c. “Why would I want to do that”, I can hear you thinking. Again I will tell you: Because it is wonderful.
I bought a RetroConnector for my IIe, stuck it in my cargo pocket and rode all the way home, through TSA, who seemingly unconcerned about the RetroConnector as a threat. Monday evening I hustled my desk area into a new configuration, wherein I deployed the Apple IIe as my main keyboard. I simply grabbed my fully stocked Apple IIe, pulled the keyboard cable from the motherboard, popped the keyboard cable to the RetroConnector, and integrated the device betwixt the Apple IIe and my laptop with a USB Type-A to Mini-B connector.
At this frame in time, the universe paused for a moment, I saw a preternatural golden shimmer transverse the green hues of my motherboard circuitry and I think Slot 6 winked at me.
Immediately upon trying it out on my lappy, the tactile response was perfect. It was exactly the subtile ingredient missing from hundreds of base station set ups I had tried over decades to get the feel right. For me this feel is right, as the Apple II is the keyboard that I learned to touch type on, and the keyboard that will always feel right to my sense of how a keyboard should function. It is also the keyboard I have been writing this post with.
For the past 2 weeks or there a bouts, I have been using this Apple IIe keyboard as my daily rig and have been loving it. The first thing I noticed is that the DELETE key functionality has been restored to the way I have learned it should work; as an erasing backspace instead of a cursor that eats letters to the right of it. It took me years to retrain my brain and fingers to accept this lie when I started using a PC. So, I’d like to thank Charles for showing up in the Nebuchadnezzar and pulling me out of the Matrix. Of course, there is a quick firmware change to fix that functionality if you decide to take the blue pill and live the lie.
But what if I were to tell you that the RetroConnector could do more?
Well buckle up, Spanky, you going for a ride. Check out this video that details the result of a RetroConnector experiment involving a Raspberry Pi and an Apple IIc. Do it. Do it even if you are not interested because the music is great.
And then get yourself one of these things!