Apple II screenshots required a whole lot of extra hardware

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Running Apple II programs on a Mac with an Apple IIe Card was pretty darn awesome.
Kids today don't know how lucky they are.
Photo: Microwavemont/YouTube

Taking a full-screen screenshot on a modern Mac or iPhone is just a matter of tapping a couple of buttons. But things used to be a whole lot more challenging, as longstanding Apple employee Chris Espinosa recently shared on Twitter.

Kids (and “how to” article writers) today don’t know how good they’ve got it!

Espinosa, Apple’s all-time longest-serving employee, joined the company at the age of 14. At the time, the company operated out of Steve Jobs’ parents garage.

The challenge of Apple II screenshots

Chris Espinosa made the Apple II screenshots that went in the official manual
Remember when Apple used to make manuals?
Photo: Eric Havir/Flickr CC

On Twitter, Espinosa said he was tasked with creating the Apple II Reference Manual. While screenshots may be easy to take today, they weren’t so straightforward in the late 1970s.

“I sat for a whole day in a dark room with Keith Cassell, an Apple II, and a Polaroid camera taking physical photographs of the Sony monitor,” Espinosa wrote.

The painful experience may explain why things are much easier today, though. “To not have to go through that with the Mac, I wrote a program to dump screen shots.” These were stored in MacPaint format as a bitstream to a dial-up line.

“On the other end was a minicomputer connected to a phototypesetter at George Litho in San Francisco,” Espinosa wrote. “It took the phototypesetter about 15 minutes to typeset each screen, black pixel by black pixel, and then another 10 minutes in the fixer and developer.” Espinosa says the finished product was couriered back to Cupertino that day.

Does anyone reading this remember the first time Apple made screenshots a part of Mac OS? “Print screen” was a function of Windows in the early 1990s.

But I don’t remember using this on Mac until the OS X days. (That is likely me not having a reason to do so rather than the feature not existing.) Let me know in the comments below.

Chris Espinosa: A person worth following

Apple II screenshots aside, Espinosa is well worth following on Twitter if you love Apple history. Officially Apple employee Number 8, he consistently serves up interesting tidbits about the company’s history.

For instance, last year he shared a treasure trove of pictures of Apple memorabilia as employees moved to Apple Park. (Espinosa was cleaning out his office.)

As far as I know, Espinosa today works on the iOS Family Sharing system. At more than 40 years with the company, he’s been a fixture at Apple longer than anyone. Long may he continue sharing great stories on Twitter!