Resolved Apple II Plus Language Card Error. Please Help!

Discussion in 'Apple Collectors' started by tevion5, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. tevion5, Jan 24, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014

    tevion5 macrumors 68000


    Jul 12, 2011
    First of all, Happy birthday Macintosh! I'm glad to see my 512Ke was the most popular "first mac" of all mac users! :D

    Anyway, down to business. I recently bought a beautiful Apple II Plus complete with Apple Monitor III with stand, Joystick, Disk II, a ton of software Disks including Dos 3.3 and Pascal and a bunch of expansion cards including:

    • Grafstar Printer Interface
    • Disk II Interface
    • Z-80 Co-Processor
    • JDR Language Card with 16K RAM Expansion


    However, it only seems to work when the language card is plugged out :(

    This of course means I can't do very much at all with it, even boot a game from the 5 1/4 drive.

    When I turn it on while the language card is plugged in, I get a load of horizontal lines across the screen.




    When I remove the language card, it seems to work fine.


    It won't read anything from the floppy drive as I have waited for a long time with many Floppies, most importantly the 3.3 Master.

    I have tried reseating the Card many times and flipped the RAM cable around several times too.

    The previous owner stated the language card was "temperamental" but i have seen pictures of him playing Thief and Ultima on it meaning he did get it to work.

    Any ideas? :confused:
  2. tdiaz macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    With only the machine to troubleshoot it .. your options are a little challenging.

    First, which kind of language card?

    Does it lock the computer up, simply being installed?

    Does it have the interconnect cable to the motherboard or not?

    Does it matter if the cable is connected or not?

    If it has a cable.. it most likely uses 4116s.

    Use a marker and number all the DRAMs, and remove them.

    Put the card back in, does it still lock up? If so, the DRAMs are not the problem.

    If it does not. Re-order the DRAMs and see if the problem goes away. I put #8 where number 1 is, and 1 where 2, 2 where 3..

    IF you find it works after that, and you can boot A DOS 3.3 system master, there's a good chance the issue resolved itself.

    If not, you can use the first row of DRAMs and remove the others, booting the DOS disk, to isolate good/bad parts.

    Again, this is more like a "Giligan's Island" scenario where you have nothing else but what's in front of you to check it. If you've got a RAM checker, you can move stuff around to get to a point where one will load so you can check specific DRAMs.

    In theory, I could mail something.
  3. MacTech68 macrumors 68020


    Mar 16, 2008
    Australia, Perth
    I assume that when you're removing the card that you are putting a RAM chip back into the empty socket on the motherboard?

    Odd that when you remove the card, there appears to be a video memory page error 40 times across the screen. There may be some connection between these like a stuck bit somewhere.

    The only pic I can find of the JDR card shows all ICs socketted. It's possible that oxidation of socket contacts or IC pins is occurring, especially given it's age.
  4. tevion5 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Jul 12, 2011
    I don't have the original RAM chip that used to be there. This thing was upgraded a long time ago, at least two owners ago.

    I actually get the error screen when the card IS in. When I remove it, I get the Apple II screen pictured and I can click reset and use BASIC. (I think, I have a lot of experience with computers, especially Macintosh's, but Apple II's are completely new to me. Don't attack me if I'm saying something stupid please! :p I have done quite a bit of reading though so I am not totally clueless. I know the ribbon cable from the language card must go into RAM slot E3, top left. It is on mine BTW.)


    Okay I will try to answer the questions.

    1. JDR Language Card (Like this one:

    2. Well when I get all that crap on the screen, it still responds to the RESET key as I can see the lines flash when I press it and hear the Floppy drive humm off and on again. Mashing the keyboard results in the occasional flash of light from a random point on the screen too, almost as though it's typing but I can't see it properly, like a video error?

    3. Yes, and connected.

    4. I have yet to attempt using the card without the interconnect cable connected. I do know that when I plug the interconnect cable in the wrong way around, it won't even power up at all. Although, I assume this is normal behaviour.

    How practical is removing each RAM chip for someone with no experience doing any similar work? I fix electronics and computers regularly, but modern devices never require me to pull chips from a motherboard or solder or anything! :eek:

    Is there anything I could do from the regular built in "operating system"/BASIC that comes up when I have no language card in to check the RAM at all?

    What exactly could you send me?

    Thanks for the help guys, I'm lost here! :)
  5. MacTech68 macrumors 68020


    Mar 16, 2008
    Australia, Perth
    These type of 16K RAM cards were usually supplied minus one 4116 RAM chip. The one you remove from the motherboard is then added to the card.

    They may be marked as 4116 or 5290 (National Semiconductor) or even D416 (NEC).

    So you should be able to remove one from the RAM card and put it into the motherboard socket. Take note that it needs to be orientated the correct way. The other RAM ICs on the motherboard will have a notch or a dot marking one end. Make sure the replacement IC is orientated the same way.

    To remove them take a thin flat blade jeweler's screwdriver (the thinner the better) and insert it between the IC and the socket at one end and carefully lift that end a millimeter or two. Then, swap to the other end and do the same. Keep swapping ends until the IC is free of the socket. Be careful NOT to lift the socket itself, ie, don't put the screwdriver flat on the circuit board.

    Inserting and removing them may be more difficult, especially with old, 'tired' sockets and/or IC pins that are near corroded through.

    There are tools for extracting ICs from DIL sockets, but I found they are more trouble than they are worth. Prizing them up slowly a tiny bit at a time, alternating ends prevents the pins getting bent.

    It's possible that some ICs on the RAM card may need re-seating. You could try that first. Use the above screwdriver method to lift them up a millimeter or two at each end, then push them down again.

    Pardon my long post - just trying to cover all bases. :)

    On an Apple II, there isn't a way of testing RAM other than a diagnostics boot floppy, or a rare interface card that had testing software in ROM.
  6. tdiaz macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    Putting the ribbon cable in the other way is Bad. :)
    Don't do that.

    The reason I say to put it in without the cable hooked up, is you'll have a somewhat better idea of what the issue is. Somewhat..

    Any one of the 4116's on there can be put back on the motherboard. You'll see that there are nine DRAMs on there. One may even be different than the other 8. That one probably came from the motherboard.

    Look through your disks for anything diagnostics.

    If you've got RAM checking utilities, you could swap out the DRAMs a few at a time and run the checker.

    Removing chips isn't horribly hard.
  7. tevion5 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Jul 12, 2011
    Alright, I removed the IC on the Ram card that was most limey taken from the board. It is as you guessed a 5290.

    I tried a few combinations:

    • IC removed from card while card in.
    • IC place on motherboard with card removed.
    • IC on board with card removed.
    • All IC's in with card, leaving ribbon cable unplugged.
    • All IC's in with card, ribbon cable plugged in.

    Every time I got the same results.

    Whenever the card is in the slot, the lines appear on screen as in my 2nd picture.

    Whenever the card is out of the slot, I get "Apple II" to come up on the screen as in my 5th picture.

    Any other ideas? :confused:

    Thanks for the help so far guys.


    I have ordered an Apple Computer Inc. Language card for $20. It may be sometime before I get it though as it is from the USA and I'm in Ireland.

    Hopefully this will solve my problem! :eek: If not, at least I'll get a bunch of IC's to have spare and use as transplant...
  8. MacTech68 macrumors 68020


    Mar 16, 2008
    Australia, Perth
    My guess is that one of the 74xx series logic ICs on the JDR language card is faulty.

    That then becomes a trial and error process of swapping ICs (as you've suggested) or using a TTL IC tester, which I'm lucky enough to have! It's actually a card and software for an Apple II. Neat bit of "kit".

    There's a small chance that Slot zero is bad. :eek:
  9. tdiaz macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    That's what I was afraid of, but wanted to see if it could be resolved to a DRAM IC.

    Make note of what IC's are where on the language card and pull them off, a couple at a time.

    Do you have any other cards, hardware, source of chips?

    Or perhaps can you just get another 16K card, or you can get a Saturn 128K card, and put it in Slot 0. I know being there makes acquisition a bit different.

    You can pull off the other ICs on the card a couple at a time and see if it comes to life with it. That would be a good possibility of figuring out the bad one, but not necessarily 100% as the one that you pul out could be good, and just due to it not being there, the rest of the problem isn't occurring.

    Though your message indicates that you did try one DRAM IC from the RAM card installed in the motherboard.

    Perhaps pick a different one and see, and at least you'll have a 48K machine.

    Otherwise, I sorta suspect there are multiple issues with the card and it's contents, and your plugging the cable in backwards may not have helped.

    Red stripe/dot, always goes to the notch/pin #1 indicator on the socket. (Provided the socket is installed correctly which on an OEM board.. I've never seen one not :)
  10. tevion5, Feb 9, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014

    tevion5 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Jul 12, 2011

    I received my "untested" original Apple language card and as far as I can tell, it's working perfectly!

    Lacking a working Disk II drive, I booted ProDOS via bootstrapping with the awesome ADT pro. I hooked up my MacBook to the Apple II Plus's casstte ports via audio cables.

    I was able to boot ProDOS 8 as well as the "ADT Pro" client. Because "ADT Pro" doesn't support systems with less than 64K ram, my language card must be working! :D

    Therefore te JDR Micro card is clearly the sole problem. While I still don't know what's wrong with it, I can at least enjoy using my computer now.

    I've discovered my Disk II drive is actually not functional either so that's my next issue to overcome.....
    All the joys of retro-computing hey?

    Attached Files:

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