The APF Imagination Machine

May 2010:             NEW! More large pictures added
March 2008:
         NEW! APF Emulator (March 2008 Version) and APF Yahoo Group Link (Scroll Down)
November 2007:   NEW!  New Large Pictures of the APF, Accessories, and Screen Shots! (Scroll Down for Link)
April 2007:            Download "Space Destroyers" and other games for your APF!
November 2006:   Pictures of Building Block BB-1 and Floppy Drive & Controller
February 2005:     Information from Ed Smith, one of the original engineers on the MP-1000 and Imagination Machine!
May, 2002:           New Version of the APF PC Emulator Online

September, 2001: New Pictures Added
August, 2000:       Q&A with Philip Lipper (son of APF's CFO and nephew of APF's CEO).
                              Second APF Imagination Machine emulator (PC) project started (Link)

            The Complete APF Imagination Machine             The APF M1000/MP1000 Game Console
                                                                     (as a stand-alone)

               TEXT OF THE AD:
  The only computer with color, sound, user
  programmability, and expandability at $599.
  The Imagination Machine offers more at its
  price than any other personal computer on
  the market today. Consider these features:
  9k RAM, with 14k BASIC in ROM. 53-key
  typewriter keyboard. A fine resolution
  picture, generated on your television set
  or monitor in 8 colors. A built-in,
  dual-track cassette tape deck with 1500 baud
  rate for APF's digitally recorded, (??) tape
  programs. A built-in sound synthesizer.
  And two, built-in, game style controllers
  with joysticks and numeric keypads.
  When you want to go beyond APF's library of
  educational home and personal management or
  entertainment programs... when you want to
  create your own programs... you can. The
  Imagination Machine is programmable in BASIC
  and 6800 machine language. The Imagination
  Machine is also expandable. Just add our
  "Building Block", an optional, four-port
  expansion device, and you can hook up a
  printer, telephone modem, and additional
  memory cartridge or mini-floppy disk drive.
  For the name of your nearest Imagination
  Machine dealer, call TOLL FREE:
  1-800-223-1264 (New York residents call
  (212)758-7550) or write: APF Electronics,
  Inc. 444 Madison Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. 10022
  $599 Manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Before I bought my first CoCo, the first computer I actually ever owned was an APF Imagination Machine. Made by APF Electronics (now out of business), and bought through the mail from "Protecto Enterprises" in Illinois when I was still in Jr. High, the APF Imagination Machine made a great first computer. Motorola 6800-based, the machine had an excellent full-sized keyboard, 9K of RAM, and connected to your TV set via an RF monitor. The Imagination Machine was really an extention of APF's video game console, built to compete with the likes of the Atari 2600. You could first buy the video game portion by itself, and then later add the "rest" of the computer, though I wound up buying mine as one complete unit, as many were later sold. The main drawback (like so many other computers of its day) was a lackluster BASIC. To program graphics required a lot of POKEs or CALLs, and I still remember the command to clear the screen after all these many years: CALL 17046. The machine did have some major pluses though: * The games written for it were surprisingly good (both in cartridge or cassette form). * Each of the two controllers on the game console had numeric keypads. * The built-in cassette recorder (used to load and save programs) was stereo: one channel would be used for saving/loading program data, while the other could be used for recording/playing your own voice (helpful if you wanted to record comments on what you're saving, or for just having fun). For instance, below you can click on, and hear the audio you'd hear out of the the APF's speaker while loading APF's cassette-based "Space Destroyers" arcade game. This was a very unique (and sadly, never imitated) feature on the cassette system. * To help conserve memory while programming in BASIC, tokens were used for just about every BASIC command. In other words, if I typed out "PRINT", that would take 5 spaces in memory, but if I entered "PRINT" as a token (by pressing -- I think it was "CONTROL" plus another key), it would be entered as a "token", and take up only one or two spaces in memory. I wound up selling my APF Imagination Machine about a year after I bought it. I wish I could have kept it somehow, but at the time, I was only a young kid, and needed the money to buy a CoCo. The APF Imagination Machine was a lot of fun, and incorporated a lot of unique features. It really was one of the better home computers of its day. The main reason I traded it in for a CoCo was the differences in each machine's BASIC interpreters: the APF had a weak BASIC, while the CoCo had -- hands down -- the strongest BASIC on the market. Since the thing I liked doing most on computers was PROGRAMMING and tinkering (in BASIC) rather than playing someone else's games, in the end, a strong BASIC was what was most important to me, so I sadly gave up my Imagination Machine. Though today they are extremely rare (by now, most have probably been recycled, and have come back as plastic dashboards on Nissans), thanks to R. Cotoia, I now once again have a working APF Imagination Machine.
The Complete Imagination Machine... Closeup of the MP-1000 Game Console Connector Between the MP-1000 and Keyboard Console The APF Building Block BB-1 (For connecting disk drive controllers) APF Floppy Interface FL-100 & Disk Drive D100-0 Carts (incl. the APF BASIC Cart) and Cassette

Magazine Review and Ads found! I recently came across an old "Mechanix Illustrated" magazine that not only contains a nice two-page advertisement for the APF Imagination Machine, but an in-depth article and review of the system as well. The pages below appeared in the October 1980 issue, called "Mechanix Illustrated Personal Computers Number 2." Click on the smaller images to see the full-size ones. The 2-page APF Advertisement: The 3-page Article and Review on the APF System:
Here are some APF game carts...
NEW! Download "Space Destoryers" and other programs for your APF! Below is a set of three sound files that are digitized WAV files of original APF program cassette tapes. If you still have an APF Imagination Machine at home, you can download these, put them on a cassette tape, and then pop the cassette into your system and (hopefully) be able to load the programs. If you don't have an Imagination Machine at home, they're still interesting to download and listen to, as they give you an idea of how the system worked (listen to it in stereo -- the left channel is the actual program loading data, and the right channel is often an actor's voice describing the program that you're loading). The files are courtesy of Lance Squire, who made them and sent them to me (Thanks!) He says he can't get them to work on the APF emulator yet, but perhaps someone else will have more luck. Regardless, if you have an Imagination Machine this should be of some help to you -- but even if you don't, they should be of interest to anyone who is curious about how the APF loaded its programs. Have a listen! It's a ZIPped set of three WAV sound files that can be played back on your PC/Mac. (2.4MB) -- contains three WAV sound files consisting of the loading audio (program data and actor's voice) for the following programs: APF Space Destroyers, APF Billboard8, and APF Demo8.
Q&A with Philip Lipper (son of APF's CFO, and nephew of APF's CEO): In 1999, I received an email from Philip Lipper, who had stumbled across my web page. APF was his family's company: I found it amazing to see that you have a web page dedicated to the APF Imagination Machine. It was a company near and dear to my heart, as my father was the CFO, my Uncle the CEO, and my brother came up with the name "TV Fun." APF was actually making an Imagination Machine II when they went out of business. The IM II was a machine that had the microprocessor game built into the machine. I don't know if you know this, but this was actually APF's 2nd computer: the first was the "PeCos", which ran on its own programming language, a variation on the Rand Corps' JOSS. Upon receiving this email, I emailed Philip back with a few questions that he graciously answered: Q: What did "APF" stand for? A: APF was named by the two brothers who founded the company: Al & Phil Friedman. Q: What were the product lines that APF dealt in? A: The company was first set up to import stereos from Japan to the U.S. -- their first big things were quadraphonic sets and 8-track players. Then, they started to import calculators. My uncle Sy was there at the beginning, and at about the time they decided to import calculators, they decided to go public. My dad was a partner in a brokerage firm and did the underwriting, joining the company a couple of years later. Q: Why did APF go out of business? A: The company went out of business because the TV Game business ceased to exist (remember, Nintento was years later -- there was a 10 year gap of no games, basically). The calculator business disappeared and became a market for low end games players, and there was no reason yet for the public to have a personal computer. Q: Did APF manufacture any of the products themselves, or was it all OEM? A: The company did both. They owned a factory in Hong Kong, and had product built for them by others in Taipei (Taiwan) and Japan. Q: Did APF also design the products (calculators, computers, etc), or were those just bought off-the-shelf from Asian companies? A: All the products were APF-only products. Q: What size staff did APF have at the height of the company? A: There were staff at the New York HQ, service in Queens NY, and the Hong Kong factory... all in all, aproximately 300 people. Q: Were there any products that never saw the light of day, perhaps because of the bankruptcy? A: There was a computer that ran on BASIC that never met the light of day. Q: About the PeCos you mentioned in your earlier Email... can you tell me a bit more about it? A: PeCos (for Personal Computer) was designed from the bottom up by APF, for APF. It ran on its own propriatary language that was based on the Rand Corp's JOSS. It had two cassettes built-in, wood sides, and was larger than the Imagination Machine. It came out after the TV Fun, but before the Imagination Machine. The keyboard and CPU were all in one package, and it shipped assembled. Q: Can you tell me a bit about the TV Fun? A: The name "TV Fun" was my brother's idea. He was paid $1 for the name, and he still has the check. It was designed by APF, and also sold at Sears under the name Hockey/Jockari. After "Pong", it was the second-biggest selling game of its day. APF was sued for patent infringement by Magnavox (as were all game builders), but my dad traveled to Germany and bought the original TV game patent from the creator of the V2 rocket. The original game was developed after WWII on a radar screen. Q: Tell me a bit about the Imagination Machine. A: APF was, at that time, one of the 3 big TV Game manufacturers (with the other two being Coleco and Atari). After the microprocessor game came out, the decision was made to use it as the centerpiece for a computer. This was done because it was thought that it'd be an easy transition for the consumer to go from a game machine to a personal computer. At about this time, APF almost hired a programmer that had a company in New Mexico called Microsoft, but the powers that be thought that Bill Gates was a cocky kid. Q: Who wound up programming the Imagination Machine's BASIC? A: A Brit named Howie something, who worked for APF. Q: I wound up getting my Imagination Machine from "Protecto Enterprises" in Illinois. Did Protecto buy them all up? Do you have any units (for sentamentality's sake) yourself? A: I have no idea who Protecto is or was -- no relationship to APF. I have a few. Q: For the Imagination Machine, were the games done in-house by APF staff, or farmed out to independent programmers? A: Everything was done internally. Q: Who was the voice for the loading audio on the "Space Destroyers" game? Was it family, or just some actor? A: Some actor. Q: If I understand correctly, APF sold a "disk drive cartridge", but once you bought that, you could use ANY brand of disk drive, as long as you bought the APF "building block" and the APF disk drive cartridge, correct? A: Correct. That's the way it worked. Q: I saw some mention of an Imagination Machine II, and a picture of it in a magazine... didn't it have the "guts" of the MP-1000 (the game machine part) built INSIDE the unit, instead of on top? A: The IM2 was close to coming out... it had the MP-1000 built-in, and was more powerful. Q: If it's not too personal, can I ask what the APF guys (your family) are doing now? A: My father is a Wall Street guy and has always been, except for the time at APF. My Uncle Sy is retired. And Al & Phil Friedman have both since passed away.
Original Loading Audio from the "Space Destroyer" game Click here to listen to the cool loading audio for APF's "Space Destroyer" cassette game! (490k) (This is the soundtrack you'd hear as you waited for the game to load from the unit's cassette recorder).
NEW! February 2005 Information from Ed Smith, an original engineer on the MP-1000 and Imagination Machine In late 2004 I received an email from Ed Smith, who was one of the original engineers on the MP-1000 and Imagination Machine. The email had lots of interesting information on the units, and he graciously allowed me to post it here. On a whim, I did a search for APF. My name is Ed Smith, and I was one of the original engineers that built the MP1000 and the Imagination Machine. In fact I was one of the first African Americans to develop a video game or PC (see magazine photos). I was thrilled to see that someone actually kept the Imagination Machine alive. I'm sure Steve Lipper will be pleased to know I have connected with you. We were good friends at APF. The primary programmer for the Imagination Machine was a Brit named Harry Cox. Howie was Howard Boylen, VP of Sales. His brother, Kenny Boylen ran R&D. I worked for Kenny. APF was one of the best places I have ever had the opportunity to work at. It was a sprongboard to my technology career. Since APF, I have worked for Apple, Novell and am currenly VP of Soltions and Alliances for Infosys Technologies. A second email followed: Here are some memorable moments at APF: - We reverse-engineered the TRS80, Commodore Pet and Apple I computers to come up with the design for the Imagination Machine. I still have the original manual for the Apple I. - When developing the IM, engineering wanted to take a modular approach to adding peripherals. Marketing wanted to give customers some built-in capabilities. After much haggling, marketing won and we built the tape deck into the IM. No more than 3 months later, the first set of floppy drives hit the market. This stalled all sales of the IM and we scrambled to remove the drive. In the end, we ran out of money and APF was history. - We worked directly with Fairchild at the time, and got much of our I/O design directly from Andy Grove, now of Intel. - We decided to build the IM mainly due to Atari announcing they would build a PC console for their game unit. We wanted to get the jump on Atari, yet in the end, they never built the console. Had APF remained focused on the video game, their life span would have been much longer. - The APF sales team knew nothing about computers and could not articulate the features of the IM. Hence I was asked to go on the road with the sales team and be the technical voice for APF. During one meeting with Montgomery Ward at the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago, I made a very compelling presentation. The next day while sitting at the drafting table, the sales rep approaches me and pats me on the back. "Nice job, Ed" he exclamed. "You just helped me make 30 grand on this deal." Until then, I had no idea how much salespeople made. I got up from the drafting table, went into Howie's office and asked if he thought I could sell the IM on my own. Howie thought this was a brilliant idea and gave me my own sales territory - New York City. - Since then I have worked for The Computer Factory, Apple Computer, Novell and now Infosys Technologies. What a ride!! --Ed Ed also gave me permission to post his email address, but please be respectful with emails. He can be reached at: (remove the "NOSPAM")
* NEW! MAY 2010 -- More Pictures Added * NEW LARGE PICTUERS OF THE APF, ACCESSORIES, AND SCREEN SHOTS Click here to see some new pictures of the APF Imagination Machine, its accessories, and some screen shots.
* NEW! March 2008 (March 2008 Version of Emulator)* APF Imagination Machine PC Emulator Enrique Collado of Spain has just released a new version (March 2008) of his APF Imagination Machine Emulator, with instructions in English and Spanish. I will also keep the older versions available on the web page as well for those who might want it. Note that I have nothing to do with this project -- except having the honor of being able to place it up on my web page. Now you can play and program an APF Imagination Machine right on your PC! NEW! Click here to download the new March 2008 version. Click here to download the May 2002 version. Click here to download the older version. Second APF Emulator project started! EmuCompBoy has started a second APF Imagination Machine emulator project for the PC. You can download the current version on his web page here, as well as his Tandy MC-10 emulator. Other 8-bit Computer Links are on the Tandy CoCo Page
* NEW! March 2008 * Yahoo Groups APF Forum There is a new, very active forum on the APF with lots of discussion about the machine (including emulation of it). Come check it out!
Memories of an Imagination Machine... Click here to read a nice article about one person's fond memory of his APF Imagination Machine.
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