Saturday, August 10, 2013

Here Comes Franklin!

First things first... check out the new design for the blog! It's no longer got that Tommy Vercetti Hawaiian shirt look that the old one did. It's probably a little bluer than necessary, but that's nothing a new background image won't cure! I'll plug one in later this week.

So, I was out yard sailing with me madre, and happened across this beast...

I found this mysterious computer at a garage sale a couple of months earlier, but left it behind, thinking it was just another IBM PC clone. Some online research later that evening revealed that it was an entirely different animal, worthy of closer inspection. Luckily, I would get a second crack at the machine when it turned up at a later sale. I wanted the computer and the previous owners wanted it gone, so after two dollars exchanged hands, we both got what we wanted.

So, what exactly did I get? It's the Franklin Ace 2200, the last in the company's line of Apple II clones. Back in the 1980s, when IBM PCs were obscenely expensive and largely relegated to the business sector, it was Apple's hardware that was relentlessly copied by hardware manufacturers. Franklin Computer Corporation led the charge with the Ace series of desktop computers, which one-upped Apple's official systems with higher performance, smaller footprints, and lower prices. The system shown above is roughly half the size of a common PC tower, with built in disc drives and a detachable keyboard you can rest on your lap. These were all luxuries conspicuously absent from the Apple IIe, a tan behemoth that gobbled up half your desktop and looked only marginally more modern than the wood-carved original Steve Wozniak pieced together in his garage.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration.
(image courtesy of Engadget)
Naturally, Apple wasn't happy about this, and was determined to force Franklin off its turf. Franklin scored an early victory against the company when a district judge ruled that Apple could only copyright code written on paper, not discs or microchips. However, anyone familiar with our civil justice system knows that a company is allowed as many re-rolls as it can afford to emerge victorious in a legal battle. Apple took its grievances to an appeals court, which reversed the decision and doomed Franklin to a long, miserable life of making pocket translators.

However, Franklin must had enough time between the two court cases to thoroughly saturate the market with Ace computers. I've seen three of these in the wild so far, including two 2000 series machines and a 1000 my mother had brought home from a yard sale some years earlier. I don't doubt for a second that there are many more out there... after all, if you were shopping for a computer and had the chance to buy the same hardware as a major brand, but for less money, why wouldn't you?

While we're on the subject of pinching pennies, I guess I could have saved myself two dollars and downloaded an emulator instead. However, I can also use this Ace to retrieve some of the games I wrote in Apple BASIC over twenty years ago. Sure, they were hilariously crude, but the nostalgia would make it oh-so worth it.

(Special thanks to Wikipedia,, and for their assistance in writing this article.)

No comments:

Post a Comment