Vintage computing start-up ∀2 Retro Computing has launched a shiny new video card designed for the classic Apple II family of eight-bit microcomputers — powered by a Raspberry Pi Pico, mounted above a surprisingly thin add-in board.
"Extending the great work of Mark Aikens," ∀2 Retro Computing's David Kuder explains, referring to the earlier AppleII-VGA add-in card, "the ∀2 Analog is a VGA video solution for your Apple II computer. We've added support for 16-Color 140×192 and Monochrome 560×192 'Double-HiRes,' 80×48 'Double-LoRes,' and 80 column modes for Apple IIe computers."
Designed to both expand the capabilities of vintage Apple II systems, a family of MOS Technology 6502-based microcomputers which launched in 1977 and drove Apple's early success, and to make it easier to interface them with modern display devices, the heart of the ∀2 Analog is a Raspberry Pi Pico W microcontroller board — surface-mounted to a section of the PCB which stands proud of the main body, the major components of which are limited to a single major glue-logic chip.
The ∀2 Analog has a little more up its sleeve than simply adding in VGA-compatible video output and unlocking some handy display modes, though: Its creator describes "alternate function modes" which offer Wi-Fi modem and network card functionality — explaining why the Raspberry Pi Pico W, with its integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio module, was chosen over the cheaper but radio-less Raspberry Pi Pico.
"The firmware of the ∀2 Analog has been expanded to support Apple IIe compatible DGR, DHGR, and 80 column video, as well as Apple IIgs-compatible registers for Text, Background and Border colors," Kuder writes. "Multiple alternate firmware modes including a PCPI Appli-Card emulator and more features are still being added."
Kuder has also revealed two additional work-in-progress boards: the Pivot, which adds an HDMI connection and an "Ultra-Wide" 132-column mode plus "Big Picture" support for showcasing every mode and page simultaneously; and the Rocket, which upgrades Apple II and Apple II+ for full Apple IIgs compatibility — multiple of which can be installed in a single machine to "run parallel computations just like an AppleCrate."
The ∀2 Analog is available to buy on the ∀2 Retro Computing Tindie store now at $90 fully-assembled, dropping to $50 unassembled and with no Raspberry Pi Pico W included; design files and source code are available on GitHub under the permissive MIT license.