Apple Museum For-A-Day
November 14, 2002
The TrackSTAR PLUS, developed by Diamond Computer Systems, Inc., is an IBM compatible ISA card (MCA version was also available), enabling an IBM PS/2 or PC compatible to run software designed for the Apple IIe. Unlike software-based emulation solutions, this card is basically an Apple IIe shrunk into a single card.
The card itself is a full-size ISA card, and it'll fit in virtually any VGA/ISA compatible PC. However, the manual is quite specific about certain models of the IBM PS/2 family: Model 25, Model 25/286, Model 30, and Model 30/286. Currently, my set-up is an IBM PS/2 Model 30/286 Type 8530. And the TrackSTAR PLUS works great in this model.
Unlike the original Apple IIe, the TrackSTAR PLUS uses two 65C02 microprocessors. One CPU is used much like the real IIe, and the the other CPU is used to drive the video controller. Other features of the card include:
TrackSTAR PLUS emulates the following IIe slots (1 to 7):
To summarize the installation process, you basically connect the TrackSTAR PLUS to the existing VGA interface card. Depending on the type of PC you have, you can connect the video either internally or externally. As a result, this will let you use a single VGA compatible display to run both the PC itself and the Apple IIe emulation. On my Model 30/286, you can see via the photos that the video is connected internally.
You can run TrackSTAR PLUS on any MS-DOS or PC-DOS versions 3.3 or later. I use PC-DOS 3.3 because I'm also running other legacy applications, including Microsoft Windows 1.04 and WordPerfect DOS 5.1.
TrackSTAR PLUS has a really cool feature called "TrackStore". TrackStore is a system that manages virtual disks you can create, and stores them as disk images (*.APP, or *.HD1 for ProDOS volumes). TrackStore disk images can be stored either on the A: drive or C: drive. In either case, the size of the disk image is limited to either 40 tracks (regular format) or 80 tracks (stored as half-tracks, which comes in handy for certain copy-protected disks. 80-track is available only for disk images and not the ProDOS volumes.)
Besides disk images, TrackSTAR PLUS also supports ProDOS volumes, in sizes of 352KB, 704KB, 1MB, 2MB, 5MB, and 10MB. And, all ProDOS disk management utilities will recognize the ProDOS volumes. You do not need to partition your PC's hard disk to handle ProDOS volumes because the volumes themselves are stored as PC/MS-DOS files.
TrackSTAR PLUS comes with an Apple DOS 3.3 utility called FILE TRANSFER. This utility supports file transfers between different disk formats, including:
FILE TRANSFER is stored on a TrackStore .APP disk image, and you must boot from Apple DOS 3.3 in order to use it.
TrackSTAR PLUS also supports printing to either the LPT or COM port. The LPT port interfaces with the emulator's slot 1, and the COM port interfaces with slot 2. Besides printing to the COM port, you could possibly also use terminal software, such as ASCII Express Professional, to communicate using TrackSTAR PLUS. The manual does not indicate exactly what type of interface TrackSTAR PLUS actually emulates (super serial card, etc.)
The package also comes with a booklet listing a ton of applications that have been tested with TrackSTAR PLUS. And this list is HUGE! Among the applications listed, AppleWorks 1.0 through 3.0 are listed, as well as Broderbund's Print Shop, and many educational and not-so-educational software.
I hope this gives you a good feel for the TrackSTAR PLUS. If you like tinkering with old technology, and you have a legacy PC handy, I'd recommend picking up one of these cards if you come across one.
You can view a much larger version of the images below by clicking on the image itself.