Apple II Clones FAQ

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What is an Apple II clone?

Why build a website about Apple II clones?

Why collect Apple II clones?

What can I do with an Apple II clone?

When were these clones built?

How many clones were sold?

How many clones are left?

Who built the first Apple II clone?

Why were so many different clones produced?

What was the issue with Apple II ROMs?

What is my Clone worth?

Where can I get a clone of my own?

Can I list my clone on Apple-Clones.com?

Can I use images from this site?


What is an Apple II Clone?

An Apple II clone is a computer that was designed to be compatible with the Apple II line of computers. Some clones were nearly identical in appearance and function to the Apple II, but others were very different and somewhat limited in their compatibility.


Why build a website about Apple II clones?

Because no one else would do it. Anyone who has ever tried to find information on Apple II clones can tell you that what little information exists is widely scattered around the Internet, and it's not always easy to find. There are other vintage computer sites that list clones in their inventory but there haven't been any sites devoted to Apple II clones. I saw a niche, and decided to fill it. Also, I collect Apple II clones, so it seemed right that I should build a site about them.


Why collect Apple II clones?

Why collect anything? Some people collect old cars or postage stamps. I collect old computers. I can't explain why, exactly. Partly its because I simply like old computers, but I also find it fun and relaxing to tinker with old electronic equipment. I enjoy searching for these old computers, and when I find one, I enjoy taking it apart and cleaning it up the way that other people enjoy restoring old cars or houses.


What can I do with an old Apple II clone?

You don't have to do anything with them, but if you choose to, you can do almost anything with an Apple II clone that you could do with an old Apple II computer. You can play games, write letters, program, compose music, keep a database of your books or recipes, or even send email or post messages to newsgroups. Some people still use their old computers on a daily basis, while other people use them as bookends. Many of these old computers are still functional but they are obsolete by today's standards. It would be unrealistic to think that a vintage computer could do anything that a modern computer could do, but that's not why a person would collect an old computer anyway.


When were these clones built?

Most of the Apple II clones on this website were produced between 1982-1985, which was the time when the Apple II was most popular. Clone production began to slow in 1984, when Apple released the Macintosh computer. The IBM PC was also gaining popularity during this time.


How many clones were sold?

That's an impossible question to answer because no one really knows? There were certainly thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands. I know, for example that Basis Computers produced 8000 computers before they closed -4000 were sold in North America. There were only 200 Mimic Spartans built, and most of them were sold in Canada and the US. Franklin and Vtech certainly sold thousands of their clone computers around the world. However, most of the companies that built Apple II clones were small, and it seems safe to assume that they were lucky to sell more than a few thousand, if even that many.


How many clones are left?

Sadly, very few. That is why it can be so hard to find specific models. In general, most of the old computers that were bought back in the 1980's were thrown away long ago. People buy new computers, and get rid of their older ones. The fate of most of the Apple II clones is the same. Fortunately, some have survived through the years, but of the thousands sold, I would guess that there are only hundreds left. There might not be any of particular models, or only a very small number. I know of only two or three Micro SCI Havac computers, and there are others that I've never even seen a picture of. I've collected 32 different clones, and I would not be surprised if a few of those are one of a kind. I'm very happy to have gathered pictures of more than 100 different models, but there may be as many as 100 more that I've never seen or heard of. That is why a website like this one is so important. It would be a real shame if there was no record of these old computers for future generations.


Who built the first Apple II clone?

That is a very good question, and it's one that I've been trying to answer for some time. The truth is, right now, no one really knows. The two that are commonly thought to have been first are the Franklin Ace 100, and the Pineapple. They are certainly among the earliest, and one of them might be the first. Based on advertising, the Basis 108 is the earliest. The earliest clone ad that I have been able to find is the Basis 108 “Non-Fruit Alternative” ad in the March 1982 issue of International Apple Core magazine. That doesn't mean that Basis was the first to build a clone but they were certainly one of the first. My hunt will continue, but I am beginning to think that there might not be many earlier ads than that one. I'm hoping to eventually find a early reference in a magazine that mentions the first company to build a clone, since I would think that computer users would have considered that to be newsworthy at the time. I'll be surprised if I find any ads from late 1981.


Why were so many different clones produced?

Simply put, the demand for Apple II computers was very high, and clone makers could sell their Apple II compatible computers for much less than the real thing. The Apple II was a very easy and very cheap computer to duplicate, and the platform was widely popular. Many people were not able to afford to buy a real Apple II but they could afford a cheap imitation at half the price. Companies realized this, so they began to make their own versions. There was a ready base of users, and hundreds of software titles for the Apple II, so its no surprise that so many companies built their own version of the Apple II. The profit margin was to high to resist.


What's the issue with Apple II ROMs?

Read Only Memory chips (ROMs) were where early computers stored their system software. By that I mean that when you turned the Apple II computer on, the ROM chips held the startup routines that told the computer how to function. The idea of the modern computer BIOS is kind of the same, except that the Apple ROMs had software like Applesoft Basic programmed into them, and without the software in the ROMs, the computer would not have been able to function like an Apple II. So, for an Apple II clone to be compatible with the Apple II, it had to use the same ROMs that Apple used. The problem was that Apple owned the software in their ROM chips, and they did not want anyone else use it. That meant that if you bought an Apple II clone in the US, you had to find your own copy of the Apple ROM chips. If a company built a clone in Canada, it could not ship the computer to the US. Many stacks of new clones were confiscated at the US border, and later destroyed. The way that companies worked around that problem was to sell their clones without the Apple ROMs, with the idea being that the buyer would find their own ROM copies. Most folks were OK with that, since the ROMs were easy to find, and the cost of these clones was so cheap. Apple wasn't OK with it, though, and they sued several companies for copyright infringement. They sued Franklin Ace for this. They also sued Formula International, and forced them to change the name of their Pineapple clone to Pinecom. Apple was tough on their competition, but who could blame them for it? Their product was being exactly reproduced and sold at lower prices.


What is my Clone worth?

This is a very difficult question to answer. The short answer is that its worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and that can vary quite a bit. Realistically, its probably worth less than $100.00. The average dollar range on eBay is somewhere between $30 to $50, but that can be much higher for particular clones. On the other hand, Laser 128's are hard to GIVE away. There are some clones that collectors watch for, and others they ignore. If a very rare Polymax Maxxi ever shows up on eBay, you can bet that there will be a bidding war for it, but a typical unnamed clone like this one attracts almost no attention at all. You can count on a nice B&H or ITT 2020 to sell for $300+, but they are highly sought after by collectors, while most clones are not -especially the more common ones like the Laser 128. Generaly, there are simply to many variables for anyone to make an accurate guess at what a particular clone would be worth at any given time.


Where can I get a clone of my own?

There are many places where you might be able to find a clone IF you are not to choosy about which clone want. Some clones are more common than others. The Franklin Ace 1000 and the Laser 128 are easy to find on eBay, but most of the time, you would be smart to just go with the flow and see what crosses your path. The best place to look for a clone is eBay, but you could also look at your local Goodwill or used computer store. You could also ask around on the comp.sys.apple2 newsgroup, since that is where most of the Apple II collectors hang out. The key is to be patient while you look. Some clones are of a better quality than others, in terms of compatibility and appearance, and like most old computer items, there is always the risk that the computer you buy will be broken. Use common sense. Ask if the clone works before you buy it, buy be prepared for the possibility that it might not be fully functional. Also, don't be afraid to buy a dusty, dirty, or grungy old clone if it works. These computers are very easy to disassemble and clean, and you'll probably want to take it apart and clean it even if it is in good shape. Basically, be patient while you look, and don't think that you have to buy the first clone that you find because you'll certainly find others if you look long enough.


Can I list my clone on Apple-Clones.com?

YES! I encourage you to upload pictures of your own clone here, especially if you have a clone that is not already on the list. I am also looking for system disk images, user manuals, sales brochures, and anything else that you think might be interesting to other people who like Apple II clones.


# Pictures should be in JPG format, and no larger than 640x480

# Software should be in a .DSK format (see ADT.)

# Scans of User Manuals and other documentation can be in TXT, DOC, or PDF format, or as images no larger than 640x480.


Can I use images from this site?

Yes. As usual, all that I ask is that you let me know that you are borrowing the pictures, and that you also reference my site. Drop me a note here to let me know.  

  

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