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This Programmer Turned the 36-Year-Old Apple IIe into a Robot

Yet again the Apple II community has found something extremely cool to do with the vintage computer.

by Jason Koebler
Feb 20 2019, 2:00pm

One of the most iconic personal computers of all time, the Apple IIe, has been reimagined as a mobile, killer robot.

The “Apple IIe Robot” is the creation of programmer Mike Kohn, who rigged the vintage computer, originally launched in 1983, to sit on wheels and run on a LiPO battery. The robot uses Apple BASIC to send commands to an onboard motor, which allows the ancient computer to roll around Kohn’s floor like a prehistoric Roomba.

“This project was actually a bit harder than it looks,” Kohn wrote on his blog, adding that getting the Apple IIe to run on a battery, adding a motor control circuit to move it around, and making it communicate with the motor were among the more difficult aspects of the project. “Next goal is to slap a GPS on it and have it follow the Oregon trail. Just kidding.”

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Apple IIe managed to go viral for nonrobotic reasons last weekend, too. Fordham law professor John Pfaff went through his parents’ attic, plugged it in, and turned it on. It asked him whether he wanted to continue playing a game he’d started roughly 30 years prior. Pfaff spent the weekend tweeting things he’d found on the device (and the floppy disks he still had), including a letter his late father had written to him in a word processing program in 1986. Naturally, Pfaff’s tweets went viral.

The Apple II’s recent relevance isn’t totally unexpected. The computer was a massive success and remains a cult classic to this day, with fans of the device continuing to develop software and find new ways to squeeze extra life out of it. In 2016, for example, a programmer named John Brooks updated an Apple II operating system called ProDOS for the first time in 23 years. Every year in August, fans of the device meetup in Kansas City at KansasFest, a conference to discuss all things new in the Apple II world. Let’s hope Kohn’s robot makes an appearance.

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