Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category
When it comes to vintage 1980s puzzles, few can beat the sheer cultural nostalgia value of this 200-piece Milton-Bradley Donkey Kong puzzle, which comes straight from my childhood. This is a scan of the front of the box.
It's not often that I find a true surprise lurking in our old family toys, but I had completely forgotten about this puzzle until I ran across it in the back corner of my mom's attic a few months ago. Memories of poring over the lush, vibrant artwork on the box rushed back to me as I pulled it from where it had lay, dusty and neglected, for 25 years.
Look at the the highlights, the curves, the gradients. The richness.
Luckily for me, all the pieces were still in the box, so I have now re-assembled the puzzle and framed it. It will never be lost again.
The artwork for this puzzle no doubt echoes the side cabinet art of the Donkey Kong arcade machine, but with added detail and an airbrushed vividness. I think it would make an awesome poster — does anyone know who the artist was?
By the way — even though I find it insanely difficult at times, the original Donkey Kong is one of my favorite arcade games. It was also one of the first video games I ever played, courtesy of a port to the Atari 800.
P.S. Pauline is way hotter than Princess Peach.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, which is better: Donkey Kong Jr. or Donkey Kong 3?
During the 1980s, a debilitating disease broke out among white middle-class nuclear families across the United States. Fathers everywhere were seen awkwardly encouraging their children during regular activities — often while playing video games or using personal computers.
Thirty years later, doctors have finally identified this malady as Computer Dad Syndrome (or "CDS" for short), which manifests itself in spontaneous episodes of uncomfortably becoming someone's dad for the duration of a photography shoot.
Diagnosis of this condition is contingent upon the appearance of three or more of the following symptoms.
Clutching of the upper arm
Last month, my mother and I searched through boxes and boxes of my grandmother's old dishes to see what might be of use to me now. The dishes had been sitting in my parents' attic untouched for two decades. Many of them were padded with old newspaper from eastern Tennessee, which is where my grandmother lived until she died in 1992.
Among the usual black-ink-on-yellowing-paper fare, I found a handful of gloriously full-color advertisement circulars. A December 1989 mini-catalog for Service Merchandise caught my attention immediately because it featured a pair of Nelsonic Game Watches licensed by Nintendo. (That segment of the circular is what you see scanned above.)
Each of these two watches, which sold for ($19.97 a piece — or $38.37 today when adjusted for inflation) played a simplified prefab-LCD interpretation of its console namesake. If you remember Tiger's LCD handheld games, you're on the right track. In the Zelda watch game, you were forever trapped in a dungeon, and in Super Mario Bros. you forever hopped between platforms.
While these watch games were limited at the time, it was amazing to think you could fit a portable, battery-powered "video game" on your wrist and play it wherever you liked. I personally recall seeing more than one of these watches getting confiscated by teachers during my elementary school days.
That desire to carry functional video games with us has never abated. Heck, I bet that within days of the Apple Watch's release next year, someone will hack it to play emulated versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — allowing us to finally have the full NES experience on our wrists. It may be 25 years too late, but it will be amusing to see how things have come full circle.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a watch that played a game? Tell us about it.
Today I found out that Macworld will cease to be a print magazine and that many of my friends and colleagues have been laid off. Macworld.com will continue to exist, albeit with a relative skeleton crew.
It's very sad to see a day like this come (especially when I still look forward to a new issue of Macworld coming in the mail every month — one of the last print publications I read), but all things must come to an end. It is amazing, in retrospect, that Macworld magazine remained a constant, intelligent voice amid the chaos of a rapidly churning computer industry for thirty years.
Thirty years. Think of all the change that has happened in that time — the tech uphevals, the revolutions, the fall and rise of Apple, the Jobs-as-Phoenix, and rapid spread of the Internet — and through it all, Macworld has been there.
So thank you, Macworld, for serving the Mac community so well. And thanks to its staff in particular. I'd especially like to express my gratitude to Roman Loyola, Jason Snell, Dan Moren, Dan Frakes, Dan Miller, and Philip Michaels (among many others) for their wonderful work on the publication, and their genuine humanity, decency, patience, and fairness (sometimes rare qualities in an editor) through the years.
Roman Loyola, in particular, has been my go-to guy to get my — nay, our — particular brand of Apple history work pushed out to the world, and I am immensely grateful to have worked with him.
The talent pool of editorial labor laid off from Macworld today is immense, and other publications would be fools not to snatch them up as quickly as they can.
As for me, I've been contributing to the publication since 2008. As long as Macworld.com is still around, I might still write things for it. (Completely gutting a publication of its beloved veteran staff doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the future, however.) Time will tell. Until then, it's been a great ride.
The Kaypro II (1982), sold by Andrew Kay's company, was one of the earliest vintage computers I added to my collection (and my first CP/M machine) way back in the early 1990s. Its high-quality components, including its sturdy metal case, its integrated serial and parallel ports, its full-sized keyboard, and its sharp 9-inch green-screen monitor made it a joy to use. And man, it had an 80-column display, which made it a competent word processing machine even in 1994.
With everything integrated, the Kaypro II was a truly plug-and-play machine at a time when other systems required hooking up chains of various peripherals to get things done. With the KayPro II, you folded down the keyboard, plugged it into an outlet, inserted a disk, and flipped it on. It was an island oasis in a sea of endless computer cords.
Andrew Kay's achievements were great (among his other works, he invented the digital voltmeter in 1952). He will be missed.
I don't normally take scans out of context, but I made an exception for this amazing illustration. It comes from the instruction manual for Joust for the Atari 2600. I isolated the image years ago for possible use in one of my Halloween costume ideas posts, and I've been staring at it in my scans folder ever since.
Joust is one of my favorite arcade titles, and I'm particularly fond of the Atari 7800 home version.
I'd like to find out who created this glorious piece of video game art. I'll do some digging in a bit, but if you know already, please leave a comment and I'll update this post. (The illustrator may be referenced in the manual itself, but it's packed where I can't get to it.)
By the way, I think this illustration would look awesome on a t-shirt. Anybody want to make one?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which is better: Joust or Balloon Fight?
Since last year, I have been working with Jim Carpenter, a freelance programmer by trade, on hunting down old Prodigy data so that we may preserve it, display it again, and perhaps even one day use it to recreate Prodigy itself.
We're calling it the Prodigy Restoration Project.
By now you may have seen my latest piece for The Atlantic entitled Where Online Services Go When They Die: Rebuilding Prodigy, One Page at a Time. That article describes the genesis of the project while also diving into the technical back story of the Prodigy service.
The reason we have any hope of doing something like this is because Carpenter discovered that Prodigy screen data can still be found in the STAGE.DAT and CACHE.DAT files located in used Prodigy client directories.
Those two files were used as cache files to speed up load times when using the service. When connecting to Prodigy, the client would download page data into the files. Whenever the client last connected to Prodigy, that data got frozen in time. If a vintage Prodigy client install still exists, we can get at the "frozen" data today.
Here are some screens that Carpenter pulled from a STAGE.DAT I had in my personal archives (these are from a STAGE.DAT file dated October 6, 1996):
We can extract these screens using a series of Python programs written by Carpenter. They read through a previously used STAGE.DAT file, generate a list of pointers to the pages or object data contained within, then direct the Prodigy Reception System client to display them one at a time so we can take screenshots.
Jim's code is not ready for release yet, but he hopes to polish it up enough to put up on GitHub soon. It has a long way to go before becoming a turnkey solution to extracting and displaying the data found in STAGE.DAT files. We're working on it.
With that in mind, I've written the rest of this post in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions.
According to this ad, one of the unique features of the Quasar HHC was that you could hook it up to a large color monitor if you had the right expansion accessory. That reminds me of the TRS-80 Model 100 Disk/Video Interface. Pretty cool. I bet the software that utilized that feature was extremely rare, though. I'd love to see it in action.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the smallest pre-year 2000 computer you've ever owned?
The only problem? Everyone thought he was a computer.
Here is an excerpt of one of his conversations with a judge:
Judge: Hi, I'm Cathy.
Entity: CATHY! THE NAME OF A WOMANS.
Judge: Yes, I'm a woman.
Entity: WHAT IS A WOMANS, REALLY? BUT A MANS WITH THE UNSTOPPABLE THIRST FOR KRELBS.
Judge: Right. What is your name?
Entity: WHAT IS YOUR NAMES?
Judge: I'm Cathy, remember?
Entity: THAT IS NOT A REAL NAMES.
Judge: Yes, it is. At least where I come from. What is your name?
Entity: ULAF HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE NAMES ULAF IN UKRAINE, BUT FRIENDS CALL ULAF "ULAF" FOR SHORTS IN SVADLOST.
Judge: Nice name. Are you from either area?
Entity: THE AREA OF A TRIANGLES BECOMES THE HYPOTENUSE…ULAF FORGET.
Judge: Uh huh. How could you forget something so important?
Entity: NO, ULAF NOT IMPORTENT. ULAF HAVE AT LEAST 3.5 CHILDRENS (ONE HALF SIZED).
Judge: That's a very personal issue. What's your specialty?
Entity: ULAF FORGET TO ASK WHERE EITHER OF YOUR MINDS ARE FROM.
Judge: The universe and you?
Entity: ULAF, ALSO, BECOMES FROM THE STUFF OF STARS, AS THE MIND OF CARLOS SAGAN ONCE TOLD.
Judge: Do you have any hobbies?
Entity: NO TIMES TO TALK NOW, RUSSIANS KARUMPING ON THE DOOR OF ULAF. REMEMBER, THIS IS ULAF SAYING, "BE THE MASTER." *END TRANSMISSION*
Judge: I'm still here.