Apple IIe Card

Apple introduced the Apple IIe Card in March 1991. The Apple IIe Card is a processor direct slot (PDS) card that emulates an Apple IIe computer. It basically turns your Macintosh into a fully functional Apple IIe. All the functionality of an entire Apple IIe computer is built into a single card, except the ROM, which is held in the card’s Macintosh driver software. Apple originally intended the card to be used with the Macintosh LC, introduced in October 1990, but it is compatible with all Macs that have an LC style PDS and can run in 24-bit addressing mode. The Apple IIe Card originally cost $250. I purchased my Apple IIe Card in 2002 for $14.

One of the main reasons Apple heavily targeted the Macintosh LC and Apple IIe Card towards schools was because the Apple IIe was the most widely used computer in education at that time. Schools had a massive investment in Apple II software. Apple wanted to support 8-bit Apple II computers, but the company also realized that the line’s days were numbered. The Apple IIe Card gave schools an incentive to switch to the Macintosh platform while at the same time preserving their Apple II investment.

The Apple IIe Card can run at 2 MHz, the Apple IIgs’ speed, but natively it runs at 1 MHz. Timing-dependent software such as games may refuse to run at 2 MHz or run erratically. The speed of the Apple IIe Card is set through the IIe Option Panel. The Apple IIe Card is compatible with 8-bit software designed for the Apple II, Apple II Plus, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, Apple IIc Plus. 16-bit Apple IIgs software will not work.

The Apple IIe Card contains both a 65C02 processor and 256K memory. Half of the memory is used as standard Apple IIe memory. Upping an Apple IIe program’s allotted memory in the Mac’s Get Info box enables the application to use the Mac’s main memory as expanded Apple IIe memory. You can access up to 1 MB of the Mac’s RAM. The other 128K contains an image of the Apple IIe ROM. The ROM is, in fact, one of the few chips missing on the Apple IIe Card.

The Apple IIe Card can not only run Apple II programs and peripherals, but is also allows programs to use the Mac’s peripherals. For instance, the Apple IIe Card can use the Mac’s ADB mouse as if it were an Apple IIe mouse. When an Apple IIe program starts to look for a mouse, or for any hardware that might normally be attached to (or in) an Apple IIe, special circuitry in the Apple IIe Card stalls the 65C02 processor and lets the Apple IIe Card driver software in the Macintosh know that the IIe program is trying to access the hardware. The software in the Macintosh then reads or writes the same data that the IIe would have if the hardware had been present. With this scheme, the Apple IIe Card should work with almost all Apple IIe software, even programs that access IIe hardware directly.

Some IIe calls are modified to communicate directly with Mac software. These calls from the IIe program are mapped into a special device handler on the Macintosh. The handler translates the calls and goes to a pre-designated place to get the information the program needs. For instance, the handler might go to the Mac’s mouse port, grab information, and send it back to the program; from the program’s point of view, the data appears to have come from a IIe mouse.

A similar design lets compatible Macs run all the Apple IIe’s different video modes. Each display mode acts differently. Text mode generates only text. Low-resolution mode supports more color than high-resolution mode while double hi-res takes two screen buffers of single hi-res mode and interleaves them byte by byte to get the best resolution (560 x 192 maximum). The Apple IIe Card, however, doesn’t generate any video. Instead, it provides a value in a status register whenever the IIe alters the data in its video buffer. The IIe driver software installed on the Mac, upon noticing this alert, determines the address and data stored in the IIe display buffer and draws the relevant image onscreen. The Apple IIe Card driver software on the Mac can also look directly into the video buffer and see what information is stored there. The software determines what dot pattern this information represents, and then goes to the Macintosh screen and paints its equivalent.

The Apple IIe Card shipped with an owner’s guide, installation software on a 3.5-inch floppy disk, and a Y-shaped cable. The owner’s guide is comprehensive and gives you all the knowledge necessary to install, configure, and use the card with little trouble. A used card can be had for as little as $5 to $7 but this might not include the manual or installation software. A PDF manual can be downloaded from (minus the nifty pictures of the original). The installation software is also available for free on Apple’s website.

My Apple IIe Card is installed in a Macintosh LC III, but it is compatible with any Macintosh that has the LC style PDS and does not require 32-bit addressing.

This includes:

Macintosh Color Classic
Performa 400 series
Macintosh LC/Performa 500 series computers (except the Macintosh LC 580 and Performa 580)
Macintosh LC series computers (except: Macintosh 630 family, Power Macintosh 5200 LC and 5300 LC, Macintosh Performa 5200, 5300, 6200, 6300 series)

The following computers are in the Macintosh 630 family: Performa 630, Performa 635, Performa 636, Performa 637, Performa 638, LC 630, and Quadra 630.
The Macintosh LC 580, Macintosh 630 family, Power Macintosh 5200 LC and 5300 LC, Performa 5200/5300 and 6200/6300 series only operate in 32-bit addressing mode. Since the Apple IIe Card is not compatible with 32-bit addressing, the Apple IIe Card is not compatible with these computers. The Power Macintosh 5400 and 6400 series and the Macintosh Performa 6400 series and 6360/160 computers do not have LC processor direct slots. These computers have PCI expansion slots. Thus, they do not support the Apple IIe Card. The 68040 versions of the Macintosh LC 500 and Performa 500 series do not recognize the Apple IIe Card when there is a communication card occupying the communication slot.

The Apple IIe Card originally shipped before System 7. The Apple IIe Card Owner’s Guide for the Macintosh LC, copyright 1991, Apple Inc., advises against using the card with System 7. Furthermore, the guide states that the Apple IIe Card was tested only with version 6.0.8 of Macintosh system software. The guide suggests that if you use the card with System 7, you should have at least 4 MB of RAM and file sharing should be turned off. We use a Macintosh LC III with Mac OS 7.5.5 and have not noted any issues. We have IIe Installer Disk, Version 2.0, released in 1991. The final version is 2.2.1, released in 1993. The final version is compatible with System 7 up to Mac OS 7.5.5. From Mac OS 7.6 onwards, Macintosh system software does not support 24-bit addressing and thus is not compatible with the Apple IIe Card.

For installation you will need the following:

Apple IIe Card
IIe Installer disk
Compatible Macintosh computer (see above)
Apple IIe Card Y-cable (not necessary, but you cannot use an external disk drive or joystick without one)

Apple IIe Card attached to Y-cable

The first step is to install the card in a compatible Macintosh computer. The Apple IIe Card fits snuggly in the PDS of the Macintosh LC III. We found it difficult to install the card without removing the motherboard because the card must be seated before it will easily fit through the punched-out porthole on the back of the computer. When the motherboard is removed it is much easier to back the card into the porthole. If you decide not to remove the motherboard, it is possible to angle the card up almost 90 degrees, put the card’s port connector up to the porthole, and then force it down into the processor direct slot. The card’s PDS connector doesn’t take up the whole slot on the LC III. Install the card beginning from the back of the computer. This leaves several rows of slot holes vacant at the front of the slot. The installation process takes about five minutes and can be performed by someone with little experience. Originally, Apple required the card to be installed by an Apple qualified service technician. Otherwise, the warranty was voided. Since these components are so old as to be “vintage”, Apple no longer supports them making the warranty issue invalid.


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