24/05/2010: Storybook Weaver: Entirely Recovered! Remember the Children!

There's still some software for the Apple IIGS that eludes capture. Like missing episodes of Doctor Who, the likelihood of ever finding them becomes less likely as time drags on, but Bill Garber has slapped the face of depressing odds: back in December 2009, Bill scored the winning bid to an eBay auction that included a slew of MECC titles.

MECC, or the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium/Corporation, was the developer and purveyor of many quality 8-bit Apple II programs throughout the 80s, (one title not least of which was the Oregon Trail) and continued producing Apple II software well into the 90s, meeting demand in schools across the U.S.; all this in spite of the fact that all of the fruity logo company's attempts at this time were to ensure that the only Apple in education's eye was the Macintosh.

MECC also published Apple IIGS software, most of which is held within this archive. Storybook Weaver, a IIGS program I had only cottoned onto of its existence in recent years, was provided by Arnaud Brossard and cracked by Antoine Vignau only last year. This hidden treasure carries the quality traits of other IIGS MECC software.

Flicking through GS+ magazine, I came across a review for ‘Storybook Weaver: World of Make Believe'. MECC made more than one? Great news, except that no-one has ever approached me in the ten years I've been running this archive asking about it or offering it.

But then came this bumper auction on eBay, re-listed several times as the original asking price was asking one hundred times of what people are actually willing to pay for vintage software like this. But it's true to say it was rare, because not only did it include many 8-bit titles available on convenient 3.5" disks (sure reduces a lot of disk swapping compared to 5.25" inch disks) that weren't already on the Asimov archive, it also included Storybook Weaver: World of Make Believe AND Storybook Weaver: World of Adventure. Some great purchasing and imaging of the disks by Bill and more cracking by Antoine, and we've gotten another step closer to a complete educational software archive for the IIGS.

Speaking of cracking, Antoine is effectively keeping a log of his cracking exploits on the HackZapple site. It's a great record of how to deprotect various games and apps, so if you're vaguely inclined to open a sector editor to make unprotected and hard drive installable versions of software, be sure to join in.

Not only does a more complete archive go hand in hand with the objective of ‘What is the Apple IIGS?' (that is to archive every piece of commercial software) it also fulfils a personal wish to collect as much educational Apple II software as possible, especially if it's 8-bit software on a 3.5" disk. Some of you may be thinking why bother when there's loads more titles on 5.25" disks. Well, 3.5" inch 8-bit software has some advantages, especially used with a IIGS: for one, there's no disk swapping (no educational software should do this as it allows kids to tune out), two, using this software on a real IIGS becomes easier as 3.5" disks are much easier to find than 5.25" disks and three, chances are the software can be cracked to also allow use on a hard drive.

It's my hope one day to bond with my kids (when children do arrive one day!) by playing together on an Apple IIGS, learning first with McGee and the 8-bit Playroom, then moving on to Reading & Me, Math & Me, Milliken Story Teller, working up to the Orange Cherry, Unicorn and Davidson's software for ages 6 and up. Perhaps after that it might be hard to tear kids away from a Playstation 5, but I'd hope at least to enjoy sharing some Carmen Sandiego and the wonders of travel.

To that end, I've assembled a list of 8-bit educational software on 3.5" disk that isn't currently held on Asimov. If anyone can provide disk images of the following, Antoine will be able to crack them and more recorded history will be possible:

Stickybear Reading Tutor (Weekly Reader Software)
Grammar Gremlins (Davidson)
Word Attack Plus! Vocabulary (Davidson)
Algebra Blaster Plus! (Davidson)
The Treehouse (Broderbund)
Oregon Trail (MECC)

It's also likely that there are many other MECC titles available, but without a definite list/catalogue of those titles, it's hard to know what else was available on 3.5" disk, but Bill and Antoine are creating disk images of all the titles in that eBay haul.

Also, there are still these IIGS specific titles that still require disk images:

Talking Dinosaur Reader
Talking USA Map
Talking Academic Quiz Kid
Computer Video Reader: World of Nature - Reading About Animals; Reading About Sharks
Bird Watcher
Inner Body Works
Logic Master
Playwrite: the Talking Puppets.

So if anyone can provide any of the above, it would be incredibly appreciated.

In the spirit of furthering educational software, I've been continuing to scan the various manuals I have for IIGS specific titles. So parents, I hope you can stretch more worth out these titles:

Katie's Farm, McGee at the Funfair, Stickybear Talking Alphabet, Stickybear Talking Opposites and Stickybear Talking Shapes.

One last present from Bill Garber (for this update at least) is the documentation to the useful commercial NDA utlity Disk Access.