Given that Apple helped pioneer the business model of getting customers to upgrade their computers (and, later, their smartphones and tablets) every few years, the term “built-in obsolescence” is sometimes thrown around by critics looking to bash the Cupertino company.
That phrase couldn’t be used to describe the Apple II, however — which not only still has an enthusiastic fanbase of users 39 years after the first model rolled off production lines, but recently got its first software update in almost a quarter-century.
Called ProDOS 2.4, it wasn’t issued by Apple, but rather is a fan-created operating system update made by coder John Brooks. Having since gone onto a successful programming career — including coding Sega Genesis games for Electronic Arts — Brooks told Digital Trends that the Apple II kicked off his love of computer coding.
“I got my first Apple II+ in 1979 when I was aged 10,” he said. “At the time, we had no way of storing our programs in our household. I had a book called 101 Games in Basic, and I used to type in the programs one at a time, and then when I got bored of one game I’d move onto programming in the next one. I had to do that for nine months or so, before my family could afford to buy a disk drive. That’s what put me on my path toward understanding how computers work.”
The release notes for ProDOS 2.4 read like those for a new MacOS or iOS over-the-air update, circa 2016. There are bug fixes, speed boosts and a handful of new features, just like you’d expect from any other Apple update. The difference, of course, is that rather than being an update for software released last month or the month before, ProDOS 2.4 is an update to ProDOS 2.0.3, which first shipped way back in 1993 — when Bill Clinton took over as president, Jurassic Park was running wild in theaters, and Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You swept the music charts.
You can check out the whole list of updates here and, if you don’t happen to have an Apple II model of your own, the same page lets you boot it as a webpage emulator too.
But while this news will likely prompt the fondest reaction from people old enough to remember the glory days of Apple’s original breakout hit computer line, John Brooks said that the machines still have something to offer younger users today.
“Older computers like the Apple II offer a great introduction and set of training wheels for anyone wanting to learn about programming,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the Raspberry Pi, but it’s so much more complicated by comparison. I think a throwback to those earlier computers could help people discover coding.”
Somewhere, Steve Wozniak just punched the air in agreement!