A techno-historical landmark

Apple, the Computer History Museum, and the immortal Paul Laughton have made the source code for the original Apple II DOS available for public use:

Apple only had about 15 employees, and none of them had both the skills and the time to work on it. The magician who pulled that rabbit out of the hat was Paul Laughton, a contract programmer for Shepardson Microsystems, which was located in the same Cupertino office park as Apple.

On April 10, 1978 Bob Shepardson and Steve Jobs signed a $13,000 one-page contract for a file manager, a BASIC interface, and utilities. It specified that “Delivery will be May 15″, which was incredibly aggressive. But, amazingly, “Apple II DOS version 3.1″ was released in June 1978.

With thanks to Paul Laughton, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Damer, founder and curator of the DigiBarn Computer Museum, and with the permission of Apple Inc., we are pleased to make available the 1978 source code of Apple II DOS for non-commercial use.

In these days of 36-month development programs with teams in the triple digits, it is incredible to think of an operating system being delivered in months. It’s great to see that some of the early computing world’s history is being saved. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in technology to save these documents and thereby increase the chances they will survive for the perusal of future generations.

I spent hours at the Radio Shack playing Akalabeth. I spent more time than I can possibly estimate in the chilly, otherwise empty room down in the basement playing everything from Wizardry to Ultima to Seven Cities of Gold and Alpine Adventure on the Apple //e that my father later bought me. I never really learned to program anything serious, much to my later regret, but I did acquire a near-encyclopedic knowledge of games, and more importantly, the mechanics that underlie them.

So I ended up becoming a sophisticated user and designer rather than a programmer. There are worse fates. And despite my loathing for what Apple became, I still have great affection for the Apple II and all those early games. In fact, I have CandyApple installed on all of my various Android devices and was showing Swashbuckler to Ender just the other day when we were waiting for an appointment.