Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

One Scan Per Week for Ten Years

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Benj Edwards Vintage Computing Retro Scan of the Week Turns 10 Years Old - 10th Anniversary

On January 30th, 2006, I posted my first entry in the Retro Scan of the Week column: "When to Use Low Speed Modems." Below that first scanned image, I wrote:

I found this amusing, so I thought I'd share it. More to come.

I was right about that last sentence. Since then, I've shared weekly scans on my blog 522 times — every Monday for 10 years.

Yep, Retro Scan of the Week just turned 10.

While it is not an achievement on-par with, say, building the pyramids, working at the same company for 50 years, or hosting a late-night talk show for decades, I am slightly overwhelmed when I try to consider the scope of this anniversary and what it actually means to me personally.

Get Somma That Tinney ActionWhat I think it means is that I have been dedicated to preserving computer and video game history for an officially long time now (this blog itself turned ten last year). And I have always wanted to share it with others. Retro Scan of the Week has been a regular and effective way to achieve both goals.

For years, I have used the column as an opportunity to provide more than just images. When I could, I have attached personal commentary about the scans I'm showcasing because I hope it will give valuable context to future historians (assuming copies of my blog survive that long). Also, reader comments have been equally important in capturing the firsthand reactions to products and events over time.

Without that extra something that gives RSOTW its unique quality, I probably would have quit posting them years ago. But NOPE. 10 years.

The End of an Era?

On the occasion of this colulmn's fifth anniversary, I wrote a retrospective that is worth reading if you are interested in learning some historical background on my Retro Scan of the Week column. (There's also more about RSOTW in this interview from last year.)

Retro Scan of the Week ScannerThat earlier anniversary — coming in a different era where blogs and scans were slightly more relevant — felt more meaningful somehow. At that point, I had done something for a long time (in blog years). Now I've done it twice as long. And honestly, not much has changed in five years, other than the fact that I finally upgraded to an 11″x17″ large format scanner last year — and that there are twice as many scans on this blog.

But now that I have reached this milestone, I think I might be winding down the column some time soon. While it wouldn't be too hard to keep going for years on end, I think ten years is a nice emotional and philosophical cap to this project.

For now, I'll mull it over. It's a hard considering pulling the plug on something you've spent every Monday for ten years doing. But whatever happens, there will be a legacy left behind. At some point I plan to put all my high-res scans on the Internet Archive, for example. And RSOTW images still haunt Google Image Searches like nobody's business. I keep running in to my own work when I'm trying to research something else.

Whatever happens, it has been a fun 10 years. Thanks for reading along with me as we have rediscovered the past together.

[ Continue reading One Scan Per Week for Ten Years » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] NandO.net - My First ISP

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Raleigh News and Observer Nando Nando.net Newspaper Advertisement ISP Internet - 1994The only time I have ever read the term "MUSH" in print.

You are looking at a scan of the actual newspaper ad that got me on the Internet with a commercial ISP for the first time. (Prior to that, I got online through a free dial-up university dataswitch.) It's an ad for NandO.net, a 1990s-era Raleigh, NC-based ISP originally owned and operated by our flagship newspaper, The News and Observer.

As you can see by the handwritten notes on the ad, my dad used this actual piece of paper to sign us up for an account on the service (I modified the credit card number digitally, in case anyone is wondering). I found this rare artifact in my old computer papers recently while researching my early web history for a FastCompany piece I wrote last year. In that article, I explored what it was like to build a website in 1995. Here's what I wrote about NandO:

As the Internet became more than just a way to access MUDs or look up the occasional novelty on text-based Gophers or web browsers, both of us sought a more robust way of accessing it. One of the first ISPs in our city was called NandO.net. Our local newspaper, the News and Observer, ran it as an extension of its efforts to pioneer online newsmaking processes.

On some day in late 1994, my father signed my family up for NandO.net. What we got in exchange for about $20 a month was an account on an Internet-enabled BBS, which had its own local message board and games, but would allow us to use text-only Internet email, web browsing, FTP, and Gopher. My dad paid extra for a "shell account" so I could log in and get a Unix command prompt. From there I could upload and download files from a terminal program, telnet to other servers, and push stuff from my shell account to remote machines via FTP.

What heady days those were. Incredible to think that I was just dipping my toes into what would eventually become a life-changing deluge — not just for me, but for all of humanity itself.

[ From The News and Observer, December 13, 1994, p.9A ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the name of your first ISP? What year did you first use it?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Dad's Christmas Art

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Benj's Dad homemade Christmas Xmas art drawing computer art KoalaPad KoalaPainter Atari 800 Polaroid print - 1985A Christmas Tree in the Window

Back in the day, my dad bought a KoalaPad drawing tablet for our Atari 800. Perhaps that very December — in 1984 or 1985, he drew this scene of the front of our house at Christmas time, complete with a view of our Christmas tree through our living room window. So proud was he of his creation that he snapped a photo of it with a Polaroid camera, and that's the print I am showing to you now.

Merry Christmas from Vintage Computing and Gaming!

[ From Personal Polaroid SX-70 print, ca.1985, front ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you draw any Christmas art on your computer when you were a kid? Tell us about it.

The VC&G Christmas Collection (2015 Edition)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Vintage Computing and Gaming Christmas Xmas Megapost

It's that time of year again: the Yuletide. Over the past few years, I've been posting an annual collection of all the Christmas-related tech material I've written (both for this site and for others) into one place for easy reading. Below, you'll find list of off-site Christmas slideshows, other features, and of course, plenty of Retro Scans of the Week.

I have a soft spot for Christmas, having been raised with the tradition, so this list is for me as much as it is for everyone else. After going through these things again, it's amazing to see how much Christmas stuff I've posted over the years. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Continue reading The VC&G Christmas Collection (2015 Edition) » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Thoughware JingleDisk

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Thoughtware JingleDisk Jingle Disk Animated musical computer christmas card animation artwork Xmas - 1985Jingle disk, jingle disk, jingle all the way

Throughout the ages, fans of Christmas have found new and varied ways to express their love for the holiday. In the 1980s, personal computer users joined in the fun, using their machines to host a new breed of animated Christmas greetings that were distributed through magazines, BBSes, or even sold on disk like Thoughtware's JingleDisk, seen here.

Upon inserting JingleDisk into your Commodore 64 or Apple II computer (It's a double-sided disk with data for the different platforms on each side) and booting it up, the user is presented with a Christmas-themed animation set to various holiday musical standards. It's fun to watch.

There is something about the warmth of the glow from a cathode ray tube screen that lends itself well to computerized Christmas celebrations — perhaps it echoes some primal link to prehistoric man sitting around the fire telling stories.

By the way, this JingleDisk came to me by way of a family friend who just turned 40 years old today. Happy Birthday, Chris!

[ From Thoughtware JingleDisk product packaging, 1985, front/back ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever programmed a Christmas-themed demo or sent a computerized Christmas card? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Laser 128 Family

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Laser 128 Apple II Compatible clone machine computer advertisement - 1987A family on the move

This Apple II-clone machine became popular in the mid-late 1980s as a low-cost alternative to the Apple IIc (almost half the price but twice the RAM — scratch that, Apple IIc had 128K too), especially for home use. I have a Laser 128 in nearly pristine condition in the box, and it feels nice to use. It echoes the integrated form factor of the IIc, which makes it convenient to setup in a pinch if you need to pull out an Apple II in an emergency. Or at least that's how I use it.

Happy Thanksgiving from VC&G

[ From Family and Home Office Computing, November 1987, p.69 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have any Thanksgiving computer or gaming traditions? Tell us about them.

VC&G Interview: Felicia Day — Actress, Author, and Geek Advocate

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Felicia Day Interview Headshot10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 10

One week ago, I had a chance to talk to Felicia Day, an American actress who has gained considerable renown for embracing her geeky side.

In 2007, Day created a pioneering web TV show called The Guild that focused on a group of disparate characters in a World of Warcraft-like MMO who are nonetheless bound together by their devotion to the game — and to each other as teammates.

After launching The Guild, Day went on to co-star in Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, an award-winning musical miniseries crafted especially for the web. She has also acted in shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and Eureka.

Just this year, Day released a memoir called You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), that I read from cover-to-cover in a few days and enjoyed immensely. In it, she talked about growing up in the American South, her gaming habits, embracing her geeky nature, and creating The Guild.

With that book in mind, I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions about her early computing and gaming habits. Along the way, we touch on the philosophy of genius and celebrity, and whether it's safe to do an interview while you're driving a car.

I hope you enjoy it.

This interview took place on November 4, 2015 over the telephone.

[ Continue reading VC&G Interview: Felicia Day — Actress, Author, and Geek Advocate » ]

The Story of AMD64

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

The Story of AMD64 Opteron
(An interpreted narrative told through real AMD stock photos)

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 9

[ Continue reading The Story of AMD64 » ]

VC&G Anthology Interview: Trip Hawkins on 30 Years of Electronic Arts (2012)

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Trip Hawkins Interview on EDGE-online.com
10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 8

[ This interview I conducted was originally published on Edge.com in June 2012 to roughly coincide with Electronic Arts' 30th Anniversary. Since then, the interview has disappeared from the web. A few people have asked me to make it available again, and since I retained the rights to the interview, I am free to publish it on VC&G for everyone to enjoy. ]

Originally Published on Edge.com in June 2012:

VC&G Anthology BadgeElectronic Arts is 30 years old, and there is no denying that the behemoth game publisher casts a long shadow of influence over the entire industry. The company, founded in May 1982, pioneered a business model that treated game designers like rock stars and software publishers like record labels. It pushed the use of big names and big licenses in sports (think Madden, NFL) and soon grew to gobble up many renowned development studios to become a massive entertainment conglomerate.

These days, that conglomerate catches lots of flack from gamers on various issues including employee treatment, content milking, premature server termination, and more. Whether or not those criticisms have any merit, there is no denying that Electronic Arts was once revered as a top corporate impresario for identifying and cultivating the world's best game design talent (although one would have to admit that time was very long ago).

The man behind the early, creatively-rich image of EA is Trip Hawkins, an Apple veteran who founded the company with a simple dream: to bring his sports simulations to life. Hawkins, now 58, left EA in 1991 to start The 3DO Company, which folded in 2003. He then launched mobile game developer Digital Chocolate that same year. Just recently, Hawkins announced he was stepping down as CEO of Digital Chocolate to face an as-yet unrevealed future.

In late May of this year [2012 — Ed.], on the occasion of EA's 30th anniversary, I spoke with Hawkins over the telephone and via email about the creation of Electronic Arts, the design of its early games, and at some length about the negative criticism the company tends to attract today. Along the way, we touched on the personal source of his creative spirit and about heady days as a close friend of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

[ Continue reading VC&G Anthology Interview: Trip Hawkins on 30 Years of Electronic Arts (2012) » ]

VC&G Anthology Interview: Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie, creators of Microsoft Word (2008)

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Charles Simonyi, Left, Richard Brodie, Right, in early 1980sIn October 2008, I created a slideshow to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Microsoft Word for PCWorld.com. It included slides on the history of the software and some oddities as well — remember Clippy?

While researching the slideshow, I contacted Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie — two early Microsoft employees who worked together to create the first versions of Microsoft Word. While working at Xerox PARC in the 1970s, Simonyi and a colleague named Butler Lampson created Bravo, the world's first WYSIWYG word processor. After that, Microsoft hired Simonyi largely based on that experience.

VC&G Anthology BadgeConducting original interviews for a web slideshow was very unusual in 2008 — heck, it's unusual today. But sometimes you need to go to the source to get some facts straight, and that's what I was doing, as you'll see below.

To create this short composite interview, I took two separate email interviews and combined them into one document for easy readability. While it is edited to appear like a conversation, neither man was aware of the other's answers.

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 6

[ Continue reading VC&G Anthology Interview: Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie, creators of Microsoft Word (2008) » ]