Ahh! The pinnacle of the Apple II line! Also the end of the
line for the venerable series. Let's take a quick look at its
strengths and weaknesses.
The Apple IIgs really was an Apple II on steroids. It came with
over a full meg of ram (256k on the earlier models), up to 3200 color graphics, and
32 channel sound. It
came in a sleek case that opened easily. Typical of Woz, the
inside was a testament to clean design. It supported the new 3.5"
drives. Plus, it ran all your old Apple II software, so you didn't lose
your prior investments. You could easily add things like expansion
RAM, fancy video boards, and, via SCSI, hard and Bernoulli drives. And it used all
those funky Mac-style mice and keyboards. Finally, the OS looked a heck
of a lot like the Mac OS, all nice and graphickey.
So why wasn't it a huge success? In a nutshell, Apple dumped it
in favor of the Macintosh. But why? I think the main reason is the
same reason other new but backwards compatible machines didn't do well.
You have a huge installed base of Apple II+ and IIe users. And you have
a very small number of IIgs owners. Are you going to write
software that takes advantage of the IIgs's extra features? Or are
you going to keep compatibility with that huge installed base and sell
many more copies? The Commodore 128 suffered from the same fate.
You also have multimedia powerhouses like the Amiga and Atari ST coming along,
running shiny new software in place of old Apple II programs.
Finally, I seem to remember that the IIgs had some problems with RF interference
shielding. While it had a great sound chip, its own RF emissions
would add static to its own sound.
All in all, it's a shame. The machine had some great features and
wonderful expandability options. But sometimes you just need to start
over. (Cue the Mac!)
Dan Price sent me the mother lode of Apple IIgs stuff. Along
with the unit itself, he included extra keyboards, memory expansion
cards, SCSI cards and drives, and tons and tons of software and
documentation. I'll eventually include scans of some of the
software and docs, but here's most of the hardware!