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Unitron - Apple II clone

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    Unitron - Apple II clone

    I picked up an Apple II clone system locally last week for $50 CAD (~$40 USD).

    This is my first Apple II system, so I went into this knowing nothing, thought I've read a ton in the last week!

    It was listed as unknown condition "as-is". It came with:
    • Zenith monochrome monitor
    • Disk II clone (Labelled "Data Drive" on case, and "Shugart" inside the drive chassis)
    • Unitron computer w/:
      • 48k RAM
      • 16k RAM expansion card (Is this the same as an Apple language card?)
      • parallel printer card
      • 80 column video card
      • floppy drive controller card


    The base computer and monitor seem to work perfectly. The drive seems to function mechanically, but I don't have any Apple II formatted disks to test the drive with. I managed to get ADTPro bootstrapped using the tape ports, but I'm getting errors when using it to format disks - still working on that.

    This is my first real exposure to an "Apple II" system, and I can see why this hardware had/has a loyal following. I've never seen a computer quite like this before. It's like something build by and for a hardware hobbyist... everything is labelled and socketed, and it has basically no custom ICs at all - it's like an "open source" computer - very cool!

    Anyway, I took some pictures when I disassembled it for cleaning and thought you guys might find them of interest.




















    #2
    Nice! I never saw that particular one before, but I've seen lots of other Apple clones, and in every case the hardware was better, sometimes much better than a real Apple.

    Where was this one made? Taiwan?
    Be polite and I may let you live.

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

    Comment


      #3
      According to Lowendmac, Germany.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
        According to Lowendmac, Germany.
        It seems odd that they would go through the trouble of having a custom lower-case modification, and not use a QWERTZ keyboard with umlauts.

        I think I just answered my own qvestion: I looked again at the above picture, and can see MADE IN ?????? R.O.? on the sticker on the right hand side of the motherboard.
        Be polite and I may let you live.

        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

        Comment


          #5
          Unitron clones were developed in Brazil, they even made a clone of the Macintosh, boards were probably produced elsewhere.

          http://www.cultofmac.com/266710/meet...cintosh-clone/

          Comment


            #6
            What's interesting about yours is that it has a Multiflex Tech Inc. made card. I wonder if these computers were purchased from Unitron and resold through Multiflex Tech Inc of Markham, Ontario? I also have the Zeus 80 that is an S-100 computer with Multiflex Tech Inc ties here.

            I have an Apple II clone that I think is similar but my board is green so I'll see if I can take some pics and see if they match. I remember the ROMS being in a similar configuration which I found odd. Could be sourced from a Canadian company also as mine was acquired from a fellow Canadian as well.

            EDIT: If you haven't seen this page, you might want to check out the links on page. It has a picture of a blue motherboard. http://www.applelogic.org/UnitronAndI.html
            Maintainer of http://vintagecomputer.ca

            Comment


              #7
              I have pretty much the same machine. Mine was branded a Linden and has different keycaps but the rest is identical. I have been trying to buy another one because the keyboard broke while I was using it to try to restore a real Apple II.. I suspect the eprom is toast. Hopefully one day I can find a dump of it somewhere.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by snuci View Post
                What's interesting about yours is that it has a Multiflex Tech Inc. made card. I wonder if these computers were purchased from Unitron and resold through Multiflex Tech Inc of Markham, Ontario? I also have the Zeus 80 that is an S-100 computer with Multiflex Tech Inc ties here.

                I have an Apple II clone that I think is similar but my board is green so I'll see if I can take some pics and see if they match. I remember the ROMS being in a similar configuration which I found odd. Could be sourced from a Canadian company also as mine was acquired from a fellow Canadian as well.

                EDIT: If you haven't seen this page, you might want to check out the links on page. It has a picture of a blue motherboard. http://www.applelogic.org/UnitronAndI.html
                Anyone could have put that card in at any time. Especially if the stock 80 column / lowercase card was foreign language specific.

                That site is interesting! So this may be a very good copy of an illegitimate clone!
                Be polite and I may let you live.

                https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by falter View Post
                  I have pretty much the same machine. Mine was branded a Linden and has different keycaps but the rest is identical. I have been trying to buy another one because the keyboard broke while I was using it to try to restore a real Apple II.. I suspect the eprom is toast. Hopefully one day I can find a dump of it somewhere.
                  That's sad. The second best part of owning these fascinating machines is seeing what substitutes for "APPLE ][" in the ROM.
                  Be polite and I may let you live.

                  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Wow! I have the exact same machine, with the blue PCB. Same Zenith monitor too and a Shugart floppy drive though I could never get my drive to work. These must be fairly common in Canada especially in the GTA.
                    Currently working on new DOS game, Chuck Jones: Space Cop of the Future, Check out my Dev Blog. WARNING: contains rocket powered El Caminos

                    Vintage Computers:
                    Unitron Apple II clone, 2x Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 500, Macintosh Plus, Macintosh SE, AST Premium 286, 3 386sx PCs, Atari TT030
                    sigpic

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                      I think I just answered my own qvestion: I looked again at the above picture, and can see MADE IN ?????? R.O.? on the sticker on the right hand side of the motherboard.
                      Yep, to me it looks like it says R.O.C., ie Taiwan.

                      There's something else interesting about that sticker, though. The serial # is 7100013, so either they made hundreds of thousands of them or the "71" is a prefix and the OP has the 13th one made.

                      Edited to add: After typing that, I had a look at the Unitron page linked to above. The serial number of the board on there is 721172, so I'm not sure what to make of that.
                      Last edited by roberttx; March 11, 2017, 01:14 PM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Some serial numbers are truly serial. But in my experience this is pretty uncommon. Most are coded, and some appear to be random.
                        Be polite and I may let you live.

                        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                          Nice! I never saw that particular one before, but I've seen lots of other Apple clones, and in every case the hardware was better, sometimes much better than a real Apple.
                          Since I got this machine, I've been keeping an eye on Ebay hoping I could upgrade to a real II+, but damn they are pricey.

                          So there isn't actually a quality upgrade with going to a real Apple? Any other practicle reason to upgrade to a real Apple II+ over the machine I have here?[/QUOTE]

                          Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                          Where was this one made? Taiwan?
                          Yeah, a few of the boards had a "Made in Taiwan" sticker that came off while cleaning. And as you already noticed, the mainboard was made in Taiwan.

                          Originally posted by snuci View Post
                          What's interesting about yours is that it has a Multiflex Tech Inc. made card. I wonder if these computers were purchased from Unitron and resold through Multiflex Tech Inc of Markham, Ontario?
                          Ah, I didn't realize Multiflex was based in Markham.. interesting. I bought this one off the original owner in Brampton, so not too far from Markham.

                          Originally posted by snuci View Post
                          EDIT: If you haven't seen this page, you might want to check out the links on page. It has a picture of a blue motherboard. http://www.applelogic.org/UnitronAndI.html
                          Wow, nice photos there. The main board looks to be the same as the one I got, though a few of the cards are different. Interesting history, thanks.

                          Originally posted by falter View Post
                          I have pretty much the same machine. Mine was branded a Linden and has different keycaps but the rest is identical. I have been trying to buy another one because the keyboard broke while I was using it to try to restore a real Apple II.. I suspect the eprom is toast. Hopefully one day I can find a dump of it somewhere.
                          The keyboard eprom, "Unitron K" in my photo?

                          Originally posted by KC9UDX View Post
                          That's sad. The second best part of owning these fascinating machines is seeing what substitutes for "APPLE ][" in the ROM.
                          Hah, I was going to ask you guys if it made sense to swap the eprom with real Apple ones. Are these clones usually 100% compatible, even with Apple brand hardware? I was thinking about getting an Apple Super Serial card for this.

                          (What the best part of owning these machines?)

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by PgrAm View Post
                            Wow! I have the exact same machine, with the blue PCB. Same Zenith monitor too and a Shugart floppy drive though I could never get my drive to work. These must be fairly common in Canada especially in the GTA.
                            Does your drive have those bodge wires and snipped resistors on the analogue board? (See last photo, next to the bodge wires, two resistors were snipped an pulled back.) I was wondering if those were last minute bug fixes or if someone modded the drive somehow...

                            I got a hold of an Apple II formatted disk and did more testing: the drive boots and reads fine, but still refuses to format. If I try to format a non-Apple disk, it returns I/O error, but I try to format a disk already formatted to Apple, I get a write protect enabled error. I checked the write protect switch with a multimeter and it's fine. I read somewhere to try reseating all the ICs, but on this clone drive all the ICs are soldered in...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              In my experience, the clones are as good as or better than a real Apple. But I haven't used them all. I don't recall any issues with software incompatibility, but again I didn't try everything on the market. Even the Laser 128 supposedly has a handful of high profile software titles that don't work.

                              Oh on the other hand, I do recall some issues; some poorly written programs assume that the Apple can only display characters that real ][s display. So occasionally, you'll get Chinese characters mixed in with English text. I don't recall that being a huge problem, though. The same thing can happen on real Apple hardware, with lowercase kits, or other legitimate alternative ROMs. I'm sure I've had punctuation marks where there were supposed to be uppercase characters on my upgraded ][+.
                              Be polite and I may let you live.

                              https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...5NBVfKX5471R9U

                              Comment

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