Resurrecting my old (486/Pentium) PCs and imaging old hard drives

TLDR: I attempt to get my old PCs running with some success and manage to image old hard drives (<540MB) via a PIII 600 system.

Why are you doing this?

So I’m mostly writing this up for my daughter because she likes reading my posts. And partly as a journal/historical record for myself. And partly because it may be helpful for others. It may get kind of long…

No really, why are you doing this?

Ok, so my wife said I had to clear out a bunch of my old computer stuff that’s just taking up room in our loft. Otherwise it was “going in a skip bin on Jan 1. I mean it!”

So what are we talking about here?

Basically PCs and related tech. Not any of the Apple II gear. And I’ve also got a bunch of Amigas and other ancient stuff. None of that.

The first stop was getting rid of a whole bunch of other old tech – some old mobile phones, old routers, cable modems, usb hubs, etc and lots and lots of cables – I mean how many spare power, network and USB cables does one need?

That big box on the right was overflowing before this photo was taken
This is after throwing out the extra cables and junk

PC History

Here are the PCs we’re dealing with.

PC 1 – 1993
  • 486 DX2/66
  • Motherboard TK 82C480 / VESA 4N D14B with AMIBIOS
  • 8MB RAM
  • Creative Sound Blaster 16 ASP CT1730/1740 DSP CT1741 4.05
  • Double speed cd rom
  • Cirrus Logic CL-GD5426 graphics card
  • 2 hard drives
    • d1 – Maxtor 7245AT – 245MB
    • d2 – Maxtor 7131AT – 125MB
PC 2- 1995
  • Pentium (P54C) 166MHz
  • DataExpert ExpertBoard 8551 Motherboard with AMIBIOS
  • 64MB RAM
  • Creative Sound Blaster AWE32 SB32 PnP CT3600
  • 8x speed cd rom
  • Diamond Stealth 64 DRAM 2MB 2D graphics card
  • Diamond Monster 3D II PCI 8MB – 3dfx Voodoo 2 3D graphics card
  • 2 hard drives
  • d1 – Seagate ST32140A – 2GB
  • d2 – Quantum Fireball EX – 6GB
PC 3 – 2000
  • Pentium III 600 MHz
  • Gigabyte GA-6VX7-4X motherboard
  • 384MB RAM
  • Sound Blaster Live
  • Diamond Stealth III S540 32MB graphics card
  • lots of cd drives, even a dvd drive!

PC 4 – 2005 – Pentium 4 – not really going to to talk about this or later ones

Imaging the hard drives – first attempt

I already have an enclosure for connecting hard drives but it only does SATA which is obviously no good for these older PATA drives. So I went online searching for PATA to USB adapters. Found this one and bought it off Amazon:

Unitek adapter

I took the hard drives out of the PCs and tried plugging them in.

Tried PC1 disc 1 – nothing.

Tried PC1 disc 2 – nothing. (Note, they were actually spinning up, just not showing in the logical disk manager)

Tried PC2 disc 1 – didn’t spin up.

Tried PC2 disc 2 – came up!

So I made an image of that drive using Macrium Reflect.

Yay! 2GB partitions!

PC3 disc 1 – worked as well – imaged that

PC3 disc 2 – didn’t spin up.

Let’s open up a hard drive!

Ok, so I opened up PC2 disc 1 and gave it a bit of a nudge and actually got it to spin. Still didn’t show up though.

Also note, I tried all the various jumper settings – slave, cable select, etc – whatever was available for each of these drives. At first PC2 disc 2 actually didn’t come up until I set the right jumper.

The problem with old drives

Ok, so some of you out there will be going “duh”. But for the rest of you – the issue is thus: we’re talking really old drives here – less than 540MB – not GB, but MB.

Computers have a way of accessing hard drives – usually via something called LBA – logical block addressing. These older drives use something called CHS – cylinder, head, sector. I.e. in the computer’s BIOS, you need to specify how many cylinders, heads and sectors the drive has. If you’ve got a fancy BIOS, it can autodetect it.

The thing is, these modern PATA USB adapters don’t handle CHS drives.

So, we’re going to have to take a copy of the drive while it’s plugged in to one of these old computers.

Except the first two don’t even have USB ports.

Spoiler – the third computer was to become the gateway.

Resurrecting PC1

But first I thought it was worthwhile to attempt to get the PCs running.

First up, PC1.

I unplugged the drives just in case there was an issue with the power supply – I didn’t want to fry the drives. At this stage, I was just wanting the thing to POST. Then I plugged in the power, an old keyboard and my 17″ Samsung CRT. Turned it on and there were signs of life! Fans started spinning and the LED which shows LO or HI on the front turned on. (Yeah, the good old turbo button to make the computer go faster!)

Lo and behold

No beeps. Nothing on the screen.

Ok, so I turned it off, plugged the hard drives back in and tried again. (Although my memory may be a bit hazy – this was 2 months ago).

Now I got 8 beeps. Looking things up online, it usually means a problem with the graphics card. So I tried re-seating and pushing down on the card.

Cleaning rusty ports with vinegar

Looking at the graphics card, the VGA port on the back was pretty rusty. Hmmmm. Did some googling and found that vinegar can help with rust.

So I took the graphics card out, got some vinegar from the kitchen, put some in the bottom of a jug that would fit the graphics card – just enough to cover the VGA port – and put the card in. Left it there for about 10 minutes. Sorry no photos of the actual soaking.

Vinegar – Yum

Took it out of the vinegar and it actually looked pretty decent. I was wondering how I would scrub the inside of the vga port holes and struck on the idea of using something called piksters – they can be used to clean around teeth. They worked great! I dried the outside and left it for quite a while so the internal bits could dry.

About as pleasant as flossing

Plugged it back in and turned the PC on again. Now it only gave 3 beeps. Progress!

RAM problems

So, 3 beeps generally mean a problem with the memory.

So I mucked around with the RAM, taking sticks out, putting them back in in various combinations. Nothing helped.

Look at those cute little RAM sticks

Then I thought, hmmm, these old PCs have some RAM directly on the motherboard. How about I just press down on all the various chips on the motherboard. There was definitely some creaking and I could feel that some of the chips moved.

Pretty sure those chips in the top left are the first 640K of RAM

Turned it on.

It worked!

Got the bios coming up on the screen.

AMIBIOS from 1992

At this point I went into the BIOS and had a look around. Had to set the date and time.

Obviously the cmos battery was dead, so I replaced that. After all that, it actually booted!

Autoexec still had a message from a friend

I had a quick look around – both drives seemed to be working fine….

Unfortunately, while cd’ing and dir’ing around, the C drive seemed to die. Yikes! Tried rebooting with no luck.

This is what sadness looks like

Hmmm, ok, we’ll come back to that.

Resurrecting PC2

PC2 exhibited the same 8 beep issue. After pressing down on the graphics card, it POSTed successfully and I was able to get into the BIOS. Yay – easy going.

AMIBIOS from 1995

I set the date and time and detected the hard drive successfully but unfortunately this didn’t seem to stick.

It was the same CMOS battery problem…. but for the life of me I couldn’t find the battery anywhere on the motherboard. Did some googling and found it’s under some special enclosure thingy that requires some surgery to get to. Looked perhaps a bit beyond my skill level. I could maybe do it but there’s a good chance I would stuff something up. I’d rather sell it as is and leave it to someone else to sort out.

Why on earth did they come up with this ridiculous design?

Resurrecting PC3

Time to try out the third PC. This one actually went really smoothly. Booted up into Windows 98 no problem.

Ah – Windows 98

Well, that’s not strictly true. There was a whole hassle with Windows drivers. I initially booted up using the Samsung CRT. I then plugged in a Dell LCD and Windows tried to install drivers which totally didn’t work. It would boot up and then after a minute or so, if I tried to do something like move a window around, it would totally freeze. And then I tried some other things and it wouldn’t start Windows at all. (Very boring) long story short, after booting up in Safe Mode and stuffing around a lot, I got it working. (Partly the fix involved plugging the the CRT back in, so windows would stop freaking out about the Dell screen.)

Aaaaanyway, I now had a working PC which had USB ports. Hooray!

Adventures in imaging

So, now I was ready to plug the older PC hard drives in to PC3 and suck all the data off.

I unplugged one of the cd-rom drives and plugged in one of the other PC drives.

Very professional setup here

Booted into the bios and it detected the disk!

CHS detected – (LBA) Mode is Off

Booted up into Windows and sure enough, there was the drive (PC1 disc 2).

See that Tie directory? That’s Star Wars Tie Fighter!

I quickly did a copy to a USB drive just to make sure I got at least a file copy of everything.

Disk Imaging on Win98

After that, I tried looking around for software that would create a disk image rather than just a file copy.

This was a FAIL. I downloaded all sorts of imaging software and couldn’t get any of it working. Most of them wouldn’t install because they rely on more current versions of Windows. I tried downloading older versions to no avail. There were one or two that started up but totally barfed when trying to actually do anything.

I’m sure there’s older software out there that people have that would actually work but for me that would involve downloading dubious files from shadier parts of the internet. In short, I reached my limit of caring. File copy would do.

What? You want something more modern than Win98? Bah
Sticky disk

So I copied PC1 disk2.

PC2 disk2 I’d already imaged with the adapter.

That left PC2 disk 1 and PC1 disk 1.

PC2 disk 1 wouldn’t spin up. So I opened it up and it definitely felt stuck. I gave it a bit of a nudge with my finger and eventually got it spinning freely. Booted the computer back up and it showed up! Another success.

This really isn’t a problem

That left PC1 disk 1. Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck. It has some odd behaviour. If I leave it for a couple of hours and then turn on the PC, it will spin up. I have enough time to go into the bios and it can communicate enough to detect the drive CHS values. But then, by the time the computer has restarted and starts to boot up, I can hear the drive spinning down again. And it won’t spin up again unless I leave it for a couple of hours. Anyone got any ideas?

That’s all

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you enjoyed the journey. I found it hard to find information on the web about imaging old hard drives that aren’t detected by modern USB adapters. So hopefully there’s something in here that may help someone in future. And my daughter likes reading my blog posts. And that’s enough for me.

If you want to see more images of the first two PCs, I’ve currently got them up for sale on eBay. (I’m keeping the 3rd).

Postscript – resurrecting PC4 – Windows activation

Just thought I’d mention, I booted up PC4 and it complained about Windows XP needing to be activated. Not sure why exactly.

Anyway, I did some googling and finally learnt that ringing the number actually works!

You ring the number and go through the options. It’s all totally automated. Kudos to Microsoft for keeping that system alive.

Championship Lode Runner Certificate

When people are asked to name their favourite games for the Apple II, Lode Runner is usually somewhere on the list. Funnily enough, I never played much of Lode Runner. For a long time I didn’t even know it existed…

My first computer was an Apple //c, bought when I was 14 or so in 1985. I already had experience of the Apple II from a friend whose dad was a Maths lecturer. We spent many an hour playing things like Wizardry, Sneakers and Snoggle.

When we got the Apple //c, it came bundled with some software that I got to choose. Naturally, I chose Wizardry 2 and Wizardry 3. But I also had a 3rd choice. So (I think on the salesman’s recommendation) I got a cool looking game called Championship Lode Runner. I had no idea it was a sequel to a previous game.

For Lode Runner exports only? Yeah, whatever!

Anyway, not knowing any better, my brother and I delved in. It was quite tricky at first to say the least, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when we managed to finish level one!

One important thing to note about this game: it has save games but every time you restore you lose a life. So ultimately your save game self-destructs after too many restores and you’re back to level one. And while all the levels are hard, some are completely bonkers. The amount of trial and error is extreme.

I played it on and off over the next couple of years. It was damn hard but I wanted to get to the end. We had a legit non-pirated copy and there was the possibility of getting a certificate!

You hear that? It’s suitable for framing!

So anyway, yeah, after about 2 years, I eventually did it! I completed level 50, the most crazily fiendish level which definitely earned its right to be the last one.

After completing the last level, a screen appears asking you to type in the serial number on your registration card. With nervous fingers I typed it in and got the special password, copied it carefully to the card and mailed it off.

Some time later, I was more than excited to receive this in the mail:

Opening it up, the contents:

The thing on the left is just a piece of stiff cardboard.

Here’s the letter:

And finally, I was a proud owner of a Championship Lode Runner Certificate!

The signature of Doug Carlston on the letter is just printed but the signature on the certificate is done with a pen. Though I’m not even sure who that is. C D Toomey? Joomey? It doesn’t seem to match any name in the manual or hint book. If anyone can figure it out or knows, let me know and I’ll update this post.

And that’s my Championship Lode Runner story.

I never did frame it…

For more info on the history of Lode Runner, check out the excellent article by the Digital Antiquarian.

Also note, there’s a hint book which is available here.

Scott Adams adventure 3: Mission Impossible

I finished it without cheating!

Like Pirate Adventure before it, this one was pretty good in terms of it being a cohesive setting. Who you are and why you’re there isn’t given any time of day but who cares about that stuff! We’re on a mission! And it’s impossible! (Not really.)

This time I was determined to get through the game without looking at any walkthroughs.

There were only two places where I got mildly stuck. In the first instance, I eventually looked at the dead saboteur’s card again and figured out what was required.

At another point I lucked out because I just tried something random with a certain door and it worked. Later, when I looked at a walkthrough, it was interesting to note they had used a totally different verb noun combination. Nice that Scott put in enough verb noun variations to make it work.

So after about 2-3 hours I won through without resorting to cheating – not even looking at an online map! Yay me!

I wonder if maybe I’m getting used to the way Scott thinks. I’m enjoying these cheesy, small adventures.

Anyway, I could only find one map online and again, it looked kind of weird, so here are mine.

This first map has just the room names:

And here’s the one with item names included:

I may take a break before I do the next one.

Scott Adams adventure 2: Pirate Adventure

So I decided to play the next Scott Adams adventure, Pirate Adventure (also known as Pirate Cove).

This one was much more cohesive than the first. Where Adventureland was a jumble of stuff thrown together, this one pretty much stuck to its theme. I say “pretty much” because the first part where you start in a London flat is a bit odd.

Anyway, I tried my hardest this time to not cheat.

And failed.

I eventually succumbed at two frustrating points after wandering around for far too long without any progress. “Where do I find a damn empty container?! And how can I unlock that door?” The answer to the second question relied on a description I’d long forgotten. The answer to the first was kind of ridiculous. Oh well, at least the rest of the game was fairly straightforward after that.

Herewith are two maps. The first one is just the locations, so it’s kind of spoiler-free in some ways.

The second one includes all the items in the rooms, which in a couple of cases is a giveaway. So if you want to try solving it yourself, look away!

On to Mission Impossible!

Scott Adams adventure 1: Adventureland

I recently decided to play some classic text adventures that I tried when I was younger but never finished.

First up I had a go at Zork. Still got stuck and had to use maps and a walkthrough. Then listened to the great podcast about it by Kay Savetz and Carrington Vanston – Eaten by a Grue

Then I decided to play the first ever microcomputer text adventure – Adventureland by Scott Adams. This time I tried my hardest to finish without cheating (I had to get a few hints in the end). As part of this effort, I decided to do my own mapping – even of the maze!

To do the mapping I decided to figure out what the current state of the art is in digital mapping tools and found It’s not a perfect tool but it’s pretty damn close. The important thing is to learn the keyboard shortcuts.

Anyway, after looking at the other maps for Adventureland online, none of them seemed to capture everything. So I thought I’d share mine. Herewith is my map:

I played the SAGA version with graphics on the Virtual II emulator.

Resurrecting my Apple IIGS after 20 years

“Will the hard drive spin up?”

That was the question that haunted my thoughts.

You see, I bought an Apple IIGS back in the dim dark past of around 1987 – (a ROM version 01 without the Woz Limited edition signature) – and used it quite extensively for things like uni assignments, games, and attempting to write really amateur mod music. Over the years I souped it up with a TranswarpGS and a 100MB “Cutting Edge” brand SCSI hard drive. And it was good. And the FTA demos were awesome. And I did some programming and the hard drive got a decent work out.

But then I turned to the dark side and got a PC (486) in 1994. And lo, Star Wars X-Wing was awesome and the Second Reality demo by Future Crew was amazing. And my GS languished.

And then I got married in 1998, and the GS went into a box as I moved house.

And there it stayed.

And then got transferred to a new box with at least a plastic bag for lining.

And there it stayed.

And we moved houses a couple more times.

And the box moved.

And I occasionally worried about bit rot.

And it sat.

And sat.

And then after many years, and through various happenings, I went to WOzFest ///. And it was great!

And so after a few more WOzFests, WOzFest PR#6 came along, and its theme was preservation, and it was time at last to dig out the box! So I took it along.

Boxes in the garage

On arrival, there were lots of projects on the go. There were plenty of people to help. At various times, Jeremy, Leslie, and Jon helped me out.

Some of the people at WOzFest

We were fairly methodical about trying things out.

First of all, after a quick look inside (motherboard was all good – no leakage from the original battery), I plugged in the computer, keyboard, mouse and monitor – no disk drives connected. The monitor power light came on – a good sign.

Next, we turned on the computer. Hmmm, no beep… oh wait, there’s the sound of the Transwarp GS whoosh. Excellent.

Hmmm, nothing on the screen. Leslie noticed I, being a doofus, hadn’t plugged in the monitor to the computer! Did that, but still nothing. Tried fiddling with the controls but no dice – no static charge on the screen. So there’s obviously something wrong with that – bummer. Although even 20 years ago it was getting a bit dodgy – slow to warm up and required taking the case off to adjust the focus. I might fiddle with that at a later stage. In the meantime, we hooked it up to Jeremy’s screen. And that worked!

So, successful startup of the computer.

Next was connecting up the disk drives. I had a standard 5.25″ drive, a Duodisk and a 3.5″. Tried out the standard drive first (there was a Wizardry disk still in it!) It spun but didn’t seem to attempt any reading. Leslie constructed a disk cleaner and we tried cleaning the heads but it still didn’t work.

So we tried the Duodisk, and that worked. Also tried the 3.5″ and it was fine.

My IIGS in need of some retrobriting- hard drive hiding under the other disk drives

We ran the self test (Open-Apple, Option, Reset) and everything checked out. One thing I confirmed is that the battery is dead. After changing a setting in the Control Panel and power cycling it, the setting was reset to default.

And now it was time to connect up the hard drive…


My ‘Cutting Edge’ hard drive – 100MB – I think it cost $1000!

Look at the size of that thing! SCSI adapters are BIG

I turned off the computer, connected the massive SCSI cable and switched on the hard drive (separate power back in those days). We heard it spin up! A good sign.

We turned on the computer and “Yes!” it started booting into GS/OS!

And then it crashed before it got to the desktop. Yikes. It seemed to be due to one desk accessory not loading properly.

IIGS hooked up to Jeremy’s monitor – desktop almost loaded before crashing

So we tried resetting and holding down the shift key to load in safe mode (thanks to Jeremy et al for reminding me of all these things I used to know).

And it worked! We were in to the desktop!

And wow, there were all my files. And what the heck was I thinking when I created those partition names?

I didn’t take a picture at the time – but it looked something like this

So we had a brief look around and then it was on to the next question – how can we make a disk image of these partitions?

It was time to whack in Sean’s CFFA3000 and a USB drive.

CFFA3000 is the card in slot 2 with the black and red USB sticking out the front

Without any battery to store the settings, we had to do some fiddling for the CFFA3000 to work properly because we couldn’t power cycle the GS.

After a few misguided attempts, we eventually struck on the right approach to imaging – just select “Import to disk image” and select the slot (7), partition (1-4) and the .po file name. It took about half an hour to do the first partition and when it was done, we tried setting that as the boot disk and booted it up. It all worked fine! Awesome.

So we went ahead and imaged the other 3 partitions. Over the course of imaging there were a total of 5 bad blocks. A little disappointing but not really that bad out of a total of 200,000!

Imaging the third partition – it had the most errors

And that took us to the end of the night. Thanks again to Jeremy, Leslie, and Jon.

After coming home, I proceeded to get the disk images up and running under an emulator. After various attempts without success (because I was a bit clueless about what I was doing), I eventually got it working.

Basically, I used CiderPress to convert the disk image files to 2mg format and I was then able to mount them in Sweet16.

I had my old system back.

I’ve since had a lot of fun walking down memory lane looking at the files and documents on there, listening to old mods and I’ve even found some of my old code…

My old files and programs

The programs I wrote are somewhat half-baked but usable and I plan on releasing them and putting the source on github. There’s a Mandelbrot generator, a really lame NDA demo, and the other’s a game that’s fairly complete and surprisingly playable. Stay tuned…

Caverns of Mordia 2/2 – Q&A with developer Hans Coster

In part 1, I explained how I came across Caverns of Mordia.

Here is the Q&A I had with Hans Coster, the developer. Note that this was done before he came to Wozfest and before the re-release.


Q: It’s great you’ve still got the source code – has that been transferred onto a more recent storage medium?

A: No, it hasn’t.  I should transfer it from the floppy disk because that media has a finite retention time.  There are still service bureaus that will transfer such material.


Q: Which prompts the question, was all the coding done on an Apple or did you have access to other ways of doing it, perhaps on a uni mainframe or mini?

A: I did it all on an Apple II.


Q: Is it all written in BASIC or is there some machine code used?

A: Most of it is written in Applesoft (BASIC) and compiled using the Microsoft Applesoft compiler.  There is some machine code in there as well, mainly for sound effects etc.


Q: I only have an original disk. Was there a box and manual? How was the product packaged?

A: Yes a special box/package was made and it contained the disk and manual and command entry table.


Q: Do you have any original copies left?

A: Yes I have some original copies of the manual etc.


Q: The scanned manual I’ve found online mentions A L D’Assumpcao – how did that collaboration work?

A: Tony D’Assumpcao was a Professional Officer in the School of Biochemistry at UNSW at the time.  He was a very keen Dungeons and Dragons player (which I was not!).  He talked me into writing Caverns of Mordia.  He also did most of the drawings in the manual/story book.


Q: How did you distribute it? Was it ever distributed outside Australia?

A: By direct sales using ads in computer magazines and by word of mouth.  Some orders did come from overseas but we did not actively market it outside of Australia.


Q: I can only find one small reference to Lothlorien Farming on the internet:

Did you produce any other software? What else did LF do and how long was it in business?

A: Yes, following the Caverns of Mordia, I wrote a number of Tutorial programs for School students.  These were rote learning exercises and included The Geography Tutor, The Spelling Tutor, The French Tutor, The German Tutor and The Universal Tutor.  These all came with prepackaged lesson files but also included a facility to enter new lesson files.  The program tracked the student performance and adjusted the probability of question selected from the list to favour the student weak areas.   They did also provided feedback on nearly correct answers.

In addition library catalogue and archiving programs were produced.

These were all marketed under the Lothlorien Farming logo.

Later, I wrote a much more complicated software system for Library management.  That was marketed by Lothlorien Software.  It was called the Integrated Microcomputer Library System.  It was very comprehensive and performed all the functions then available on Mainframe library management systems, including a financial package for library acquisitions. It provided for multiple PC terminals in a network with very rapid searching. It was more comprehensive than the Mainframe library system at Fisher library at Sydney University at that time, except that because of limitations on Hard drives available for PCs, we were limited to libraries with <100,000 books.  The Integrated Microcomputer library system initially ran on both Apple IIe’s and other PCs, but later versions only ran on PCs as they offered more memory etc etc.  It was installed in many Schools throughout Australia and some sites abroad.


Q: Are you perchance a fan of Lord of the Rings 😉

A: Yes indeed!  Many of the characters and items in the game are named after those in The Lord of the Rings.


Q: The manual has a copyright date of 1980. How long did it take to write?

A: A few months.  The original version was written for my children and friend, many of whom were into Dungeons and Dragons.  It evolved and was distributed (and copied) amongst  them. Only later, Tony D’Assumpcao suggested to market it and helped write the manual.


Q: Roughly how many copies did you sell?

A: Marketing was haphazard so I cannot recall but it was in the thousands.


Q: Roughly what proportion were DOS 3.2 and DOS 3.3?

A: Not sure about that but probably 50:50


Q: This post mentions a copy protection system. Can you tell me about that?

A: Yes there was a copy protection system that I devised. This became necessary because the game proved popular and pirate copies started to appear.

For the copy protection I amended the DOS.  The altered DOS program would not show the game software in the Directory list if a user listed the Directory.  Instead a loading program appeared that itself was not the usual  loading program but contained hooks to allow the game to be loaded. In a pre-booted machine running the normal DOS, the program appeared not to be there either as the File allocation had been performed using the altered DOS and was different from what the normal DOS used. Thus it could not be loaded (or copied) from normal DOS. If the supplied diskette was booted up, the altered DOS was loaded and it could find the program although it still did not show up in the Directory and file saving was disabled.  In the game, the players status is recorded and that required the file saving to be temporarily dynamically  re-implemented. .

The whole disk could, of course, be copied by Bit copiers but they came later and in any case were not in possession of  the large majority of potential copiers


Q: There’s a downloadable dsk version of Mordia online that seems to crash a lot – would this be due to the copy protection system? Or possibly the emulators not working properly?

(My Apple IIGS is in a box in my garage!)

A: I was unaware that there is a downloadable dsk version on-line. I would be interested in getting details.

The crashing could well be due to the copy protection because that is called within the program here and there.  I have been meaning to remove the protection and re-do the whole thing to run on a PC.


Q: Someone on the whirlpool forums mentions an IBM version – was there an IBM version or is that person thinking of something else?

A: I am not aware of an IBM version.


Q: Do you still have an Apple II?

A: Yes, indeed.


Q: I’ve attached an image showing the back label of the disk. Any comments?

Caverns of Mordia disk – back label

A: The making of the recording on the diskette was somewhat laborious because it had to be initialized with the altered DOS. But that DOS had  the file saving code removed and a scrambled Directory function. Because there was room for error in this many-step process, each disk was individually tested.  The signature is that of my daughter who was 11 at that time and who was involved in making the disks as orders came in!


Q: At the end of the manual there is a registration card and mention of “The Caverns of Mordia Club”

Did you ever send out any news or updates to club members?

A: Yes indeed.  There were some very active groups playing the game. Sometimes the game nights would go right through the night!


Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Not that I can think of at the moment, but I would be pleased to discuss it further.


Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer!

A: It is my pleasure!

Caverns of Mordia 1/2 – How a vintage Apple II game came back from the dead

“What on earth is that game?”

I was mixing two of my hobbies:

  • working on a side project, my eBay frontend software, AuctionSieve
  • testing it by searching for vintage Apple II stuff

I wasn’t really expecting to find anything. I’d just fixed a bug and was doing some testing to make sure everything was working. But an auction came up. It was a ‘lot’ of old Apple II games – original disks! And the bid was still at one dollar.

eBay auction of Apple II games – this is just half of them

Let’s see – Ultima 1, Cranston Manor, (Sierra) Online systems Hi-res adventures 1-4, stuff from Broderbund, Muse, etc – around 30 games in all – all originals (no boxes or manuals though). Wait a sec, that’s a California Pacific version of Ultima 1. Some quick googling ensues. Yep, these are worth quite a bit of money.

And some weird game I’d never heard of called Caverns of Mordia.

So I put a bid in and after several days, couldn’t believe my luck. I won the auction for $10.50!

The games arrived a week later and I did a closer examination of what I got. All in good order. Yep, this was definitely a bargain. And what on earth is this Caverns of Mordia thing?

Caverns of Mordia disk

So I did some searching. I actually found a copy of the disk online in the asimov archive. Downloaded it and played it in an emulator. Real old-school stuff but unfortunately it crashes at certain points – perhaps a bad crack?

Did some more searching and found a pdf of the manual. Looked through it and found the authors – H. G. L. Coster and A. L. D’Assumpcao – published in Sydney by Lothlorien Farming copyright 1980.

Hm, I wonder who these guys are? Searched for A L D’Assumpcao – no dice. Did a search for H G L Coster and hit pay dirt – found he’s a professor at Sydney Uni and UNSW – one Hans Coster!

Hans Coster

Could it really be the same person? So I sent him an email.

Dear Professor Coster,

I recently bought a bunch of Apple II games off eBay.

Your game, Caverns of Mordia, was included – see attached image.

I’m interested in the digital preservation of items such as this and there’s not a lot of information on the internet about it.

What I did find was a scan of the manual with your name – and a quick google search later, you were easy to find.

I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about it?


Neville Ridley-Smith

And the next day, he replied!

Dear Neville,
What a surprise to r of this; a real blast from the past!
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Actually, I still have the source code etc.
I look forward to hearing from you,

Wow, I had made contact with an original Apple II game developer.

And then I got to meet him!

By chance, Wozfest /// (a gathering of Apple II enthusiasts in Sydney) was just around the corner and after some Q&A with Hans, I invited him along and he was very enthusiastic.

We had a great time on the night. He brought along some of his original disks, which unfortunately couldn’t be imaged.

Hans at Wozfest ///

He also brought along an original manual (printed on orangey-red paper to prevent photocopying)

Caverns of Mordia manual – cover

Caverns of Mordia Manual – inside

and some of his notes and graphs he drew up when designing the game.

Caverns of Mordia graph

Much fun was had – there were even some Apple II product announcements on the night. Recap here :

So that was that.

Time passed…

Wozfest $04 came and went and I wasn’t able to go.

But unbeknownst to me, the organiser and host of Wozfest, Sean McNamara, planned something a bit more elaborate for Wozfest 5.25” – he hinted at something big in the mailing list.

Fortunately I was able to go along to this one. And what a surprise it was – a new updated re-release of Caverns of Mordia!

Hans had a slightly updated version of the game which was never released.

Caverns of Mordia source disk with never released version

He deprotected it and had his grandson type up the manual afresh. With Sean’s help they created 20 copies to give away and I was one of those lucky ones to attend in person and receive a copy! Here it is pictured below.

For more detailed info about the re-release, follow these links.

And that’s how a retro game can come back to life and be preserved. I’m glad I was able to play a small part. If you have any interest in digital preservation, now is the time to act.

Read on to Part 2 – a Q&A I did with Hans about the game which contains fascinating historical and technical information.

AppleColor RGB Monitor

So here’s a brochure I haven’t seen anywhere else online. Also known as a Product Information Sheet.

It’s for the AppleColor RGB Monitor – the recommended monitor for the Apple IIGS. It’s from 1990 and published by Apple Computer Australia.

The image shown on the monitor is from some version of either Paintworks Plus or GS Paint. I’m a bit unsure because some things aren’t quite right. I loaded up an emulator and ran Paintworks Plus and Paintworks Gold and couldn’t replicate the screenshot. The menus aren’t right and the bordering of the image is different. Apparently the image existed in Apple’s clipart library since the launch of the GS. Thanks to Tony Diaz for help with this! 

Here’s the front


And here’s the back


And here’s an OCR’d PDF: applecolor-rgb-monitor.pdf