Retro Home Computers – The Apple 2e

Apple 2e – 1983

E for Enhanced

The Apple IIe was the third Apple II revision. The “e” in the name stood for enhanced, referring to the fact that several popular features were now built-in, which were only available as third party upgrades and add-ons in earlier models.

The Apple 2e was release three years after the introduction of the Apple 3 due to poor sales of the Apple 3, which was apnned by the press and considered a complete failure.

The Apple 2e also improved upon expandability and added a few new features, which all combined, made it very attractive to first-time computer shoppers as a general-purpose machine.

Apple 2e

Above: Apple 2e.

Longest Selling Apple Model

The Apple IIe has the distinction of being the longest-lived computer in Apple’s history, having been manufactured and sold for nearly 11 years with relatively few changes. For this reason, it is the most commonly recognized model in the Apple II line.

One of the most notable improvements of the Apple IIe was the addition of a full ASCII character set and keyboard and the ability to input and display lower-case characters.

Other keyboard improvements included four-way directional cursor control and standard editing keys Delete and Tab, two special Apple modifier keys Open and Solid Apple, and a safe off-to-side relocation of the “Reset” key.

The auto-repeat function any key held down to repeat same character continuously was now automatic, no longer requiring the “REPT” key found on the previous model’s keyboard.

64KB and Auxillary Port

The machine came with 64 KB, with the equivalent of a built-in Apple Language Card in its circuitry, and had a new special Auxiliary slot replacing slot-0.

Through this slot, the Apple 2e included built-in support for an 80 columns text display on monitors and could be easily doubled to 128 KB by alternatively plugging in an Apple’s Extended 80 Columns Card.

As time progressed even more memory could be added through third party cards using the same bank-switching slot, or alternatively general purpose slot cards that addressed memory 1 byte at a time (i.e. Slinky RAM cards). A new ROM diagnostic routine could be invoked to test the motherboard for faults and its main bank of memory.

Lower Production Costs

The Apple IIe lowered production costs and improved reliability by merging the function of several off-the-shelf IC’s into single custom chips, reducing total chip count to 31 from a previous 120 chips count. For this reason the motherboard design was much cleaner and ran cooler too, with enough room to add a pin-connector for an optional external numeric keypad.

Apple 2 Circuit board.

Above: Apple 2 Circuit board. Notice the density of chips compared to the 2e image below.

Apple 3 plus home computer

Above: Apple 2e Circuit board. Notice how the board is much cleaner than above.

Also added was a backport accessible DE-9 joystick connector, making it far easier for users to add and remove game and input devices, previous models requiring plugging the joystick/paddles directly into a 16-pin DIP socket on the motherboard; the IIe retained this connector for backwards compatibility.

Also improved were port openings for expansion cards. Rather than cutout V-shaped slot openings as in the Apple 2 and 2 Plus, the IIe had a variety of different sized openings, with thumb-screw holes, to accommodate mounting interface cards with DB-xx and DE-xx connectors.

The Apple IIe maintained full backwards compatibility with the previous two Apple II models, allowing most hardware and software from those system to be used.