Archive for the 'Macintosh' Category

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Performa: The Depressing Macintosh

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Apple Macintosh Performa The Family Macintosh Advertisement - 1993Ugh. The Performa Era.

The Performa line originated as a way for Apple to expand retail availability of its then-waning Mac platform. They did so by re-branding a number of existing Mac models with the Performa name (plus some numbers that didn't make much sense).

The Performa line's commercial availability coincided almost exactly with Apple's darkest era, 1992-1997, when sales dramatically declined, market share dropped, the company was generally mismanaged and unfocused, Macs had 10 different names for the same model, and Classic OS was getting long in the tooth.

I remember seeing a few Performa models for sale at Sears as a teenager and thinking, "Wow, they still make Macs?" Then I tried one out, and the OS was barely different from the Mac SE I'd last used in 1987 — some 6 years earlier — and it liked to crash a lot. It was a depressing time to be Apple. Whatever happened to that company, anyway?

[ From Discover - July 1993, p.5]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first model of Macintosh you ever owned?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM Smart Desk

Monday, April 28th, 2014

IBM 3270 PC Smart Desk 1985Multitasking in the early days.

Ah, the IBM 3270 PC. What a strange beast. It was essentially an IBM PC that could also emulate an IBM 3270 terminal, which allowed it to link up to IBM mainframes. In a sense, this was IBM's version of the AppleLine protocol adapter (featured in a Retro Scan a few weeks ago), albeit one built into an IBM PC.

By the way, look at the keyboard on this machine. Function keys galore. I've always wanted one of those.

[ From TIME, May 6 1985, p.B14-B15]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used an IBM mainframe computer?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Crystal Quest for Game Boy

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Crystal Quest for Nintendo Game Boy Advertisement 1991Game Boy: The Final Frontier

Fans of early Mac games will no doubt remember Crystal Quest, which (I believe) was the first Mac game to use color graphics just after the Mac II came out in 1987.

Crystal Quest on the Mac played like a space-based Robotron: 2084 controlled with the mouse, albeit with a loose trackball feel because your ship kept moving in the direction you nudged the mouse until you corrected its course. So I'm not sure how it played in this obscure Game Boy port from 1991. Perhaps I'll fire up an emulator right now and find out.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, August 1991, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Can you think of any other game that started on the Macintosh then received a port to a Nintendo console?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] AppleLine: One of Apple's Two Rarest Products

Monday, April 14th, 2014

AppleLine Service Sheet (Apple P/N 661-75203), rev. March 1991 (7.2.1) - circa 1991One of the only photos of this device on the Internet at present.

Almost thirty years after its introduction, the AppleLine Protocol Converter (1985) remains one of the rarest pieces of commercial hardware Apple has ever produced. It allowed a single Lisa, Mac, or Apple II to communicate with IBM mainframes using the IBM 3270 terminal protocol.

As far as I can tell, this is only the second photo of the AppleLine ever posted on the Internet (the first was in a slideshow from last year — see below). I bought this particular Apple service sheet just to share a photo of this elusive beast with you.

In 1983, Apple released a similar (and similarly rare) product, the Apple Cluster Controller, which I wrote about in this Macworld slideshow from last year. One model of the Cluster Controller allowed up to seven Apple Lisas to connect to an IBM mainframe (again, via IBM 3270), which required an intelligent protocol conversion process. As such, the Cluster Controller contained its own CPU and was a miniature computer unto itself, but technical specifications of either device are hard to track down.

If you or anyone you know owns an Apple Cluster Controller or AppleLine protocol converter, I'd love to hear from you. They are so rare I'm not sure if they even exist anymore. (Perhaps Apple only leased them out and recalled all the units when they phased them out, keeping them largely out of private hands. But this is pure speculation on my part.)

[ From AppleLine Service Sheet (Apple P/N 661-75203), rev. March 1991 (7.2.1) ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the rarest Apple product you own?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Mac in Dad's Office

Monday, September 30th, 2013

A Macintosh SE in my dad's home office - 1988A Macintosh SE sits in the home office of Benj's father, March 20th, 1988

My father bought the Macintosh SE you see in this photo pretty soon after it came out in 1987. It proved to be a key tool in launching his business the following year. His company's logo, sales literature, and product manuals were all designed on it. It was an amazing upgrade over a DOS-based PC.

Naturally, my brother and I immediately started to use the SE to play games. We had access to very few titles, though — we played Shadowgate, Dungeon of Doom, Silent Service, and that's about it. I was always disappointed with the Mac's lack of color, but the sharpness and resolution of its display were hard to beat at the time. And the sound was amazing too. The evil laugh in the beginning of Shadowgate still rings clear in my memory.

The SE pictured in this photo remains in my collection to this day, and I boot it up from time to tinker with it. Perhaps I should fire it up again today in honor of my dad.

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use a computer in one of your parents' offices? Tell us about it.

Revisiting Hotline, the 1990s Internet BBS Platform

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Hotline Revisited

Back in the mid-late 1990s, an Internet-based BBS platform called Hotline sprung up and quickly spread throughout the Macintosh community. It was basically a client/server BBS software suite that allowed for multi-user chat, file transfers, and message boards.

By the early 2000s, though, Hotline had mostly died out. Today, only a handful of servers remain. But guess what? You can still connect to them — on Windows or a Mac. A new article I wrote for Macworld, "Hotline Revisted," tells you how.

Have fun. Remember to be kind to the Hotline veterans when you visit.

Benj's Macworld and TechHive History Roundup

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Macworld Logo
TechHive Logo

I last updated you on my Macworld work back in January. Since then, I've been busy writing more historically-minded pieces for the site as well as its sister site, TechHive. Below you'll find a list of the ones I haven't mentioned yet on this blog in convenient digest form.

Phew. I've been busy! Of those eight pieces, the Apple Lisa one can't be missed. Plenty of interesting little-known history there. The Mac Color Classic and Abandoned Apples pieces are some of my favorites as well.

I'm not sure, but I get the feeling from the lack of comments on my Apple-related posts that not many Apple or Mac fans visit VC&G. Not quite sure why that is, but if you're out there, let me know.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] African American Apple Fans

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Multiracial Black African American Apple Fans Apple PowerBook Advertisement 1992One big happy family — and a PowerBook (click to see entire ad)

It's Black History Month once again in the US, so I thought it would be timely to share this Apple PowerBook advertisement from 1992.

The ad appeared in the February issue of Smithsonian Magazine; I don't think it is a coincidence that it prominently featured people of African decent. It also prominently featured the PowerBook 100, which had just been introduced a few months prior in October 1991.

The obvious racial focus of this ad brings to my mind a couple of interesting, if racially-charged questions: What percentage of black Americans, historically, have used Apple products versus other computer brands? Do African Americans, like other demographic groups, have their computer or tech brands of choice?

Today, Apple is such a mainstream company that the answer to the first question is most certainly larger than it likely was in the pre-iPod era. It would be interesting from a cultural standpoint to peek back into private demographic customer studies that Apple no doubt commissioned at various points in its history.

As for an answer to the second question, I have no idea. But I would love to hear from African American computer users to find out.

[ From Smithsonian Magazine, February 1992, p.10-11 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite PowerBook model?

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Twin Chinese Dragons

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Apple I Smithsonian 1992 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This week we're taking a look at another image that made the rounds in the BBS days, DRAGON6.GIF. In it, we see two digitally illustrated Chinese dragons who appear to be springing forth from a magical stone. Iridescent waves crash around them, and smoke curls throughout an ethereal void. The color palette is rich and bold, underscoring the image's Eastern art influence.

At the moment, the artist behind this amazing work of digital art remains unknown. Still, we can narrow down when the image was made and how by taking a look at its resolution, color depth, and file date.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Twin Chinese Dragons » ]

More Macworld Mania

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Macworld Logo

Since my last update on the articles I've written for Macworld in November, I've written at least a handful more vintage-related stories for the publication that I haven't mentioned on this blog. To remedy that, I thought I'd share them below in convenient digest form.

The Mac Plus Clock piece is particularly fun, and I think VC&G fans will really enjoy it.