Oscar Vermeulen has created what may be the world’s cheapest Apple I clone – and is now turning it into a custom pocket computer with an Apple-compatible keyboard.
“There is something about the simple thing [MOS] Vermeulen writes that 6502 is a single-board computer. Six years ago I made a pocket-sized replica of the [Commodore] KIM-1 for this. This $2 Arduino clone is all the hardware you really need, but the optional “KIM Uno” PCB adds a battery, keyboard, and LED for standalone use. Since then, every time I come across a 1k sub 6502 coding gem, I’ve added it to my pocket-sized 6502 Museum – where I came to see KIM Uno. But there was another legendary 6502 SBC: Apple-1, Wozniak’s first computer. “
The KIM Uno kit, designed to emulate the Commodore KIM-1, now has Apple I compatibility – with the Pocket Computing Toolkit to follow. (📷: Oscar Vermeulen)
Introduced in 1976, the Apple computer, later rebranded the Apple I and also known as the Apple-1, was Steve Wozniak’s first commercial computer, built in partnership with friend Steve Jobs. While only about 200 units were produced, it was enough to launch Apple computers – and fund the development and production of the much more mainstream Apple II.
Today, the Apple I is a rare condition—helped by Jobs’ decision to offer a discount on the more powerful Apple II to everyone who traded in the original, then destroyed Apple I—Vermeulen’s efforts to make the price more reasonable. Pocket-sized clone. Rather than develop an entirely new piece of hardware, Vermeulen turned to the Arduino-compatible KIM Uno — originally developed to emulate the Commodore KIM-1, based on the same MOS 6502 processor as the Apple I.
“The new firmware now makes the KIM Uno compatible with both the KIM-1 and the Apple-1 at the same time,” Vermeulen explains. “You can go from hex programming to writing assembly code, and vice versa with the push of a button. A mini-assembler is ideal for DIYers like myself, who may remember some hex opcode, but certainly not all of it. Of course an Apple-1 program needs a screen and a keyboard (a laptop with Good terminal software, use Cool Retro Term for extra ambiance).Although KIM-1 was often used with its hex keyboard and LED lights, it also has a terminal mode.KIM code and Apple ROM can be done in one device seamlessly They are not in each other’s way at all.”
The upcoming ESP65 will be a huge upgrade to the capabilities of the KIM Uno. (📷: Oscar Vermeulen)
In addition to the dual-mode firmware, Vermeulen is working on a new project: a pocket computer, the ESP65, based on an emulated 6502 processor running on top of the Espressif ESP32 and a full keyboard in place of the hex keyboard in the KIM Uno kit. “[The] Pocket PC 6502 […] It will have a built-in display, an Apple-compatible keyboard, and a KIM-compatible hexagonal keyboard,” Vermeulen promises. Plus it works for DOS / 65 CD storage. [It] It may end next year.”
More details about the project are available on Vermeulen’s website, along with a link to download the new firmware – which can be flashed to an Arduino Uno or compatible microcontroller in the absence of a KIM Uno kit, or assembled for a more powerful board. “If you compile for a more powerful microcontroller, it will allow for a lot more RAM and ROM,” Vermeulen explains. “The [Espressif] ESP32 f [STMicro] STM32 “Blue Pill” are all supported. “
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