Information Appliance Inc. and the SwyftCard

original SwyftCard


In the early 1980s, Jef Raskin was at Apple Computer, leading a low cost appliance computer project called “Macintosh”.  Steve Jobs took over the project and moved it in a different direction. Jef left Apple and helped found a company called Information Appliance, Inc. The first product was the SwyftCard. It plugged into an Apple IIe and it transformed it into a Swyft Computer. The software was centered on a word processor application, which had access to the Applesoft programming language. It also included printing and communications capabilities built in. Information Appliance, Inc, later came out with the Swyft Computer, which ran an evolved version of the SwyftCard software. The design was licensed to Canon – which released it as the Canon Cat.

I don’t think that there is a better way to describe the SwyftCard, than reprint the introduction from the original SwyftCard manual. Also, the leaders of Information Appliance, Inc. were very concerned about providing credit to the contributors to the design. In the spirit of this and also to help provide additional background and history, I’m also reprinting the introduction and the credits page from the original manual. The text of the next few paragraphs  are copied from the original SwyftCard User/Reference manual.

SwyftCard Meets Apple IIe

When you plug the SwyftCard into Slot 3 in the interior of your Apple IIe and turn on the power, your computer will be ready to help you.

SwyftCard is Not Just a Word Processor

If it seems that it is, that’s because nearly everything you do with a computer consists of typing to it and having it type back at you. With the exception of graphic or audible output, everything done with a computer is some form of word processing. Much of the manual explains methods of typing and modifying text. This is a useful tool in its own right. But, as you can see from the list above, you can – without leaving the editor – do calculations and (if you are so inclined) write programs; you can communicate with other SwyftCards, computer bulletin boards and commercial data services; and you can move information to and from and among disks.

SwyftCard is perfect for instantly retrieving correspondence, names, addresses, and telephone numbers. You can, for example, find a name anywhere in your text in the blink of an eye. The same goes for a phrase, a word, or a part of a word. And it doesn’t matter to SwyftCard whether your text is neatly organized or a disorganized mess.


Movies have the fine tradition of giving credit (or blame, in the case of some) to nearly everybody who worked on the project.We can do no less:
David Alzonfon wrote, tested and edited the manuals and on the on-line tutorial. Paul Baker honcho’d the parts and circuit boards through production. Steve Bowling, the president of the company, did what a president does (a lot). His assistant Patti Okoniewski manages to be helping everywhere at once.

Terry Holmes did the initial internal software design and the actual programming of the early versions of SwyftCard, and insisted on making everything run as fast as possible. Richard Krause designed the labels and did manufacturing coordination; Jonathan Sand transformed the prototype software into the final product, adding features and fine-tuning. Dr. David Lavond programmed during the final phase and completed the documentation.
Jim Straus (who banished the company picnic and substituted an annual gourmet lobster feast - not at company expense) and Mino Taoyama* contributed much to design and debugging; Mino’s main contributions were the hardware design of the SwyftCard itself, and the design and implementation of the internal disk routines and ProDOS converter.

Ralph Voorhees*, while mainly working on other projects, kept reminding us that our customers will not put up with the usual computer nonsense; Sharmon Scipio* kept the paychecks coming and the books in order; John Burmgarner* did some coding of the early versions and was a constant source of inspiration, as was he ever-effervescent Scott Kim.

Collaborators who are not currently employees included Dr. Ren Curry, Brian Howard*; and Michael Raskin, who helped early on with the design and human factors testing. Ren’s contribution to the cursor design was especially noteworthy. Deb Clifford worked on the early versions of the on-line tutorial; Charlie Springer contributed his technical know-how, and Cerafin Castillo was our electronics tech; Ron Genise* did testing and teacher training. For a time Mike Scott, Sonya Hoag, Claire Llewelyn, Bana Witt, Camillo Santomero, and Tina Bracewell ably assisted us. Bruce Cooper extensively tested an early prototype in a publication environment and provided helpful
suggestions about formatting.

Mike Ivanitsky and Kevin Thurber tested printers, and Suzanne West of West and Moravec did the graphics.

A company is fueled by the money of its investors: we thank them all. The company would not have been possible without the legal advice of James E. Lewis* and the work of corporate secretary Linda Blum*. We also thank Gayla Newsome of Orange Micro in Santa Clara for allowing us to test the printer set-ups.

A special note of gratitude is extended to the many people who tested our systems, and to the San Jose and Fremont School Districts for letting us test SwyftCard in an educational environment.

The company grew from discussions between Dr. James Winter* who invented the DISK command and contributed greatly to the design and the implementation of the software, and Jef Raskin*, who created the concepts that underly SwyftCard and its implementation, founded information Appliance, and who is now Chairman and C.E.O. of the company.

*An asterisk marks a founder of Information Appliance Inc.

The Reproduction SwyftCard

If you want to build a SwyftCard using an Apple II prototyping card check out

reproduction Swyft card

System Requirements

Parts List

Assembly Instructions

Make sure you can tell the difference between the component side and the back of the PCB. All components are mounted on the component side of the PCB.  Using Ohm-meter check power and ground planes to make sure that there is no short circuit.

  1. Bend leads of 100K resistor to match hole spacing on board
  2. Insert into board and bend protruding leads outward a bit to hold in place
  3. Solder 100K resistor onto board and cut off protruding leads
  4. Repeat this procedure with the three 3.3k resistors
  5. Find the end of 1n4148 diode with the black stripe - this end must go to right side of board
  6. Orienting correctly, using same procedure as resistors, soldering into place
  7. Find pin 1 end of 28 pin socket - this end normally has a cutout that doesn’t exist on other end.  Pin 1 end sometimes may be marked “1”
  8. Insert into position with pin 1 toward top end of board and solder only the 2 corner pins
  9. Check that socket is seated fully into board
  10. Solder remaining pins
  11. Repeat procedure for 20 pin socket
  12. Repeat procedure for 8 pin socket
  13. Insert .1uF caps into holes and bend leads slightly outward to hold in place
  14. Solder into position and cut off leads
  15. Find positive end of 10uF electrolytic capacitors.   This end usually has a grove in package.  The positive end of the electrolytic capacitors supplied with kits is indicated by the arrows/plus sign.   The positive end must be oriented toward top of board.  Orienting correctly, using the same procedure as with resistors, solder into position and cut off leads
  16. Repeat the check for shorts between power and ground
  17. Check for solder shorts or bad solder joints
  18. Using isopropyl alcohol, clean resin from back side of board - rinse off with water and let dry
  19. Finding the cutout at the end of the LM311 package that indicates the pin1 end
  20. Orient correctly and insert into 8 pin socket. If pins don’t fit well, you can bend them in a bit to make insertion into socket easier.
  21. Repeat for 20 pin PAL/GAL IC
  22. Repeat for 28 pin EPROM IC
  23. Check to make sure that there are no bent under leads on the ICs
  24. Power off your computer and carefully plug the SwyftCard into slot 3
  25. Turn on your computer and you will be running the SwftCard system

SwyftCard Mini User Guide

Keys Description
ESCEnds page - starts new page – Sends an ESC after a CONTROL-Z
TABLEAP again when used in conjunction with an APPLE key. Tabs if pressed by itself. Tab stops in columns 5.10.15…75
RETURNEnds line - starts new line
CONTROLIs used with certain keys to give SwyftCard commands
DELETEDeletes whatever is highlighted. DELETE operates to the left after typing - to the right after leaping or creeping
OPEN-APPLEIs held down while you type a pattern to which you wish to have the cursor LEAP. Will “creep” backward if typed
SOLID-APPLEIs like “LEAP BACKWARD” but the search goes forward through the text. Will “creep” forward if typed
RESETIf the system is not responding - hold down CONTROL and tap the RESET key to resume normal operations

Selecting Text
CursorThe blinking “cursor” shows where the next letter will appear when you type
HighlightThe unblinking “highlight” is usually alongside the cursor and shows what will be deleted if you press the DELETE key
To HighlightMove the cursor from one end of the chunk to the other and press both APPLE keys down at the same time
Extend HighlightYou can move the cursor after highlighting by “creeping” with either APPLE key
Re-HighlightHold down both APPLE keys together

    The following keys perform the indicated SwyftCard command when typed while you hold down the CONTROL key.

Control-Key Function
CNTL-AINSERT - inserts the last chunk of text that was DELETED
CNTL-DSEND - transmits the highlighted text via the super serial card
CNTL-GCALCulate - evaluates or executes the highlighted text as a BASIC program
CNTL-NPRINT - delivers the highlighted text to the printer interface
CNTL-LDISK - directs the disk to do the appropriate disk operation
CNTL-ZSends next key press as a control character to super serial card


 To create underlines in text that will be printed, place an underline character instead of a space in front of the word or words you want to underline.  Then place a second underline character after the word or words you want to underline to indicate the end of underlining.  Enter three underline characters in a row to indicate a single isolated underline.  Two return characters in a row will turn off underlining.

Disk Operations

Whenever you place a disk in the drive, use the DISK command (CONTROL-L).  Before you take it out, use the DISK command.  To force a disk to load, DELETE the entire text and enter the DISK command.  When you change from one disk to another, anything highlighted on the first disk will be automatically inserted onto the second disk: To clear a disk irreversibly, type and highlight CALL 3600 and use the CALC command. This is dangerous, and should be used with due care.


The CALC command sends the highlighted text to the Applesoft BASIC.  Programs over 20 or so lines long may not work.

Documentation Note

In original SwyftCard documentation, the following keys are given unique Swyft software names.


A pdf of the original documentation can be found here:

PDF file of Instructions

Download the PDF version of reproduction SwyftCard instructions.

Cheat Sheet

Download this PDF of an SwyftCard cheat sheet that I created.


Kits are $55 including shipping.  To get detailed information regarding obtaining your own SwyftCard Kit, please send an

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