Archive for the 'Regular Features' Category

[ Newsbits ] April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Newspaper Logo

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

Recent News

  • The New Age: Leaving Behind Everything, Or Nothing At All
    A piece about digital legacies from NPR

    "Perhaps in your attic or basement there is a box of papers — letters, photographs, cards, maybe even journals — inherited from a grandparent or other relative who's passed on. But what if that box isn't a box at all? What if it's an ancient laptop? And if we are starting to leave behind an increasingly digital inheritance, will it die as soon as the hard drive does?

  • Nintendo Embraces NES History in its Twitter Marketing
    I like this trend

    "Its time for #SpringCleaning! Did you find any forgotten gems while organizing your Nintendo gaming collection?

  • This 1981 Computer Magazine Cover Explains Why Were So Bad at Tech Predictions
    This piece from Harry McCracken at TIME gives a hat tip to the greatest magazine illustrator of all time

    "If you were passionate about personal computers between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the odds were high that you were a reader of Byte magazine. And if you read Byte, you were surely a fan of Robert Tinney, the artist whose cover paintings were one of the magazine’s signature features for years.

  • Solid Snake Pixel Art Graffiti
    Whoever did this is free to vandalize my office wall

    "Solid snake graff piece. I like the dude in the box. Nice touch…

  • Make Your Very Own "Game Boy Macro"
    Got a broken DS lying around? Chop off the top and you'll have a new system.

    "i personally first saw it on kotaku made by Maarten, from the Bureau voor Gamers. so i decided i would make a couple of my own because i had some brokens DS's laying around. decided to go with Macro, since its like a GB micro but huge.

  • Five Unemulated Computer Experiences
    Jason Scott makes a point about emulation nitpickers

    "While I and many others work to turn the experience of emulation into one as smooth and ubiquitous as possible, inevitably the corners and back alleys of discussions about this process present people claiming that there are unemulated aspects and therefore the entire project is doomed. I thought I would stoke that sad little fire by giving you five examples of entirely unemulated but perfectly valid vintage computer experiences.

Cool Links

  • The Lost Ancestors of ASCII Art
    Awesome piece I missed from January — by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic

    "The history of ASCII art goes deeper, and much of it is told only in Geocities blog postings, abandoned websites, Google Books, and scattered PDFs across the web This post traces a fascinating and mostly lost strand of that history: The way thousands and thousands of people made typewriter art, from amateurs to avant gardists.

  • PabloDraw: A Modern ANSI Art Editor
    We don't need no steenkin' TheDraw. (link via @blakespot)

    "PabloDraw is an Ansi/Ascii text and RIPscrip vector graphic art editor/viewer with multi-user capabilities.

  • An Early English-Language Image Diplay from a Computer, 1957
    Dynamic text display on a CRT in 1957? Not bad.

    "The screen of the picture tube shown will present as many as 10,000 characters per second. Each character is formed by an array of bright spots, a selection from a rectangular array of a total of 35 spots, five wide and seven deep. For a capital letter T, for example, the selection is five spots across the top and six more spots down through the middle…

  • Pinterest Gallery of Ugly Computers
    One of Blake Patterson's amazing Pinterest boards

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line.

[ 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?

[ Newsbits ] April 10, 2014

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Newspaper Logo

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

There are too many good links this week. I honestly don't know what happened. Maybe I'm getting better at this.

Recent News

  • Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2.0
    The AHCS does it again

    "The Atlanta Historical Computer Society and the Computer Museum of America are pleased to announce the second annual Vintage Computer Festival Southeast. We have selected the dates of the 3rd and 4th of May to make it easy for people to attend both VCF East and VCF Southeast this year.

  • Nintendo Launches Game Boy Advance on Wii U Virtual Console
    Another painfully slow trickle of games from Nintendo, but the emulation is very well done.

    "From April 3 through April 24, select Game Boy Advance titles will launch in the Nintendo eShop on Wii U each week. In addition to off-TV play, these games feature Restore Points that save progress during game play, and Miiverse functionality.

  • Microsoft Ends Support for Windows XP
    Spoiler: It's not really dead

    "Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s beloved seventh major operating system and arguably the company's most successful, was left to perish on Tuesday at its creators' hands. It was 12 years, seven months old.

  • Fifty Years of IBM System/360
    The most successful computer platform that the least number of people know about

    "50 years ago today, IBM unveiled the System/360 mainframe, a groundbreaking computer that allowed new levels of compatibility between systems and helped NASA send astronauts to the Moon.

  • Gmail 10th Anniversary
    A great piece by Harry McCracken I missed last week

    "If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.

  • Raspberri Pi Announces New "Compute Module"
    A new variety of this vertsatile, hackable machine

    "The compute module contains the guts of a Raspberry Pi (the BCM2835 processor and 512Mbyte of RAM) as well as a 4Gbyte eMMC Flash device (which is the equivalent of the SD card in the Pi). This is all integrated on to a small 67.6×30mm board which fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector (the same type of connector as used for laptop memory*).

Cool Links

  • Story of the Windows XP Bliss Desktop Image
    Hachman hits it out of the park with this research piece

    "It's not too far-fetched to believe that a billion people have viewed the "Bliss" image that defines the desktop view of Windows XP, the seminal OS that Microsoft is retiring Tuesday. But you'd barely notice the real-world "Bliss" scene if you stepped out of your car and gazed at it today.

  • A Custom Portable N64 Console
    Kotaku drools all over a Bacman forum post

    "We've seen portable retro consoles before, but this N64 mod is beautiful. It uses a 3.5″ screen, internal memory and Rumble Pak, an Expansion Pak, a GameCube analog stick and 4 hour battery life.

  • Kevin Mitnick Befriends a Former Foe on Facebook
    …an old hacking target of decades past

    "You gotta love the old friends you meet on Facebook.

  • Looking at the Web with Internet Explorer 6, One Last Time
    Lee Hutchinson explores the modern web with IE 6 in all its splintered glory

    "Windows XP wasn't the only thing to be shuffled into unsupported purgatory yesterday. Also included in the group of applications to be dumped down the memory hole is the browser that everyone loves to hate: Internet Explorer 6.

  • 1988 Inside Edition Story on Nintendo
    Retroist digs up a vintage scare piece

    "In 1988 parents were still baffled by the spell that video games had cast over their children. This segment from Inside Edition tries to get to to the bottom of it all.

Echo Box

A place for products, creative works, and upcoming projects seeking support. No endorsement from VC&G is implied.

  • Project: MEGAFOOT
    An indie sci-fi action film seeking funding on IndieGoGo. One of the rewards ($150 level) is a limited edition Megafoot NES cartridge.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Game Boy Commander

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Hori SGB Commander Super Game Boy Controller Super NES SNES Box 1994Like a Game Boy outside your pocket on a leash.

Ah, the Super Game Boy. What an enchanting peripheral it was. (I wrote about my feelings for it in eighth-ever RSOTW entry back in 2006.)

In case you missed it, the Super Game Boy was a special cartridge that let you play Game Boy games on the Super NES using a TV set and a SNES controller.

Around the time the Super Game Boy came out in Japan (1994 I believe), the always-amusing Hori released a special controller that partially simulated the look and the feel of the original Game Boy unit itself — right down to the speaker grille in the lower right corner. The resulting product, the SGB Commander, never saw the light of day in the US, but that didn't stop me from importing one about a half decade ago when they were on sale at NCSX for a very reasonable price.

As far as controllers go, the build is sturdy and responsive. It works as well as any decently-made controller with the Super Game Boy, although I'm not sure it was entirely necessary. For that reason it remains a very neat oddity in the history of game controllers.

By the way, here's what the back of the box looks like.

[ From Hori SGB Commander (HSD-07) product packaging, circa 1994]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite game to play with the Super Game Boy?

[ Newsbits ] April 3, 2014

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

Recent News

  • Microsoft Releases Source Code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows
    A great move by Microsoft and the CHM

    "On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

  • Yoshi's New Island Out Now on 3DS
    A Nintendo 3DS sequel to the Super NES classic with all-new stages.

    "New island. New adventure. Same awesome Yoshi. The little Mario Bros. are in big trouble. Help Yoshi save the day — with help from cool power-ups, giant Eggdozers, and crazy transformations.

  • New Ultima Online Shard Freeshard Open
    by the name of "An Corp"

    "A brand new freeshard for Ultima Online has opened up and it is amazing. T2A era, full-loot, open-world PVP, revamped loot tables, exciting new expansions like the Township/Kingship system, and Order/Chaos/Balance battles.

Cool Links

  • Play Zork on an Altair 8800 Clone via Telnet
    and watch the panel lights blink in realtime

    "Logon using your favorite telnet client to: altair.micronick.com on port 23. You can SAVE and RESTORE your Zork game. I suggest using terminal type vt100 or ANSI.

  • Magpi: The Micro Arduino Gaming Platform Interface
    A retro portable game console built from scratch

    "Here's a retro hand-held gaming console I built with my son. It uses an Arduino micro-controller, a small LCD screen, push-buttons, a 3D printed case and home-grown "PC" board. It's really pretty easy to solder and put together. My son & I wrote two games and a drawing program for it.

  • Classic Game Room Reviews the Sega Dreamcast Dreameye Camera
    A neat peripheral many people have forgotten

    "TV phone, video mail and photo mail with your Sega Dreamcast and the Dreameye camera! Hook this up to your Dreamcast and connect to the Japanese Internet in 2000 for some great times!! Records 25 second clips of video from a terrible webcam, but it's great for laughs.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line. My email filter will route it directly into my brain.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's Early Computer Art

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Benj's Early Computer Art Kindergarten Art Print Printout 1986Watch out Mr. Rabbit!

As I've previously mentioned, I've found a wealth of Retro Scan material while looking through old family papers in the attic at my mom's house.

This time, I was sorting through a giant box of my ancient artwork from school, and I came upon this fascinating computer printout from my kindergarten era (1985-86).

I vaguely remember making it (although, strangely, I mostly remember coloring in those little boxes and being proud of it), but I have no idea what software I used to do it. I know that my school stocked itself with IBM PCs, but the font and the overall feel of the image remind me of an Apple II MECC educational game.

Whatever the platform, this looks like the output from a stamp/clip-art program for kids. Does anybody know what it is?

[ From 8.5 x 11-inch tractor feed printout, circa 1985-86]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first computer paint program you ever used?

[ Newsbits ] March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Hi, Benj here. People send me stuff all the time hoping I'll post something about it on VC&G, but each item alone rarely warrants its own post. There is a solution: a regular compressed news and links column. It's something I've been meaning to do for, well, almost 9 years now.

So I finally got around to it. (Just in time for blogs to become thoroughly obsolete, natch.) Newsbits could become a weekly thing, or I'll just post them as news collects. I'll feel it out as I go along.

News & Links

  • Vintage Computer Festival East 9.1
    April 4-6, 2014, InfoAge Science Center, Wall, New Jersey

    "Vintage Computer Festival East is a hands-on, family-friendly celebration of computer history. Activities include a book sale, classes, consignment sale, exhibit hall, food, lectures, museum tours, prizes, vendors, workshops, and more. (Why "9.1″? We skipped 9.0 in 2013 due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.)

  • Second Edition of "Atari, Inc." Possible
    Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel are working on a second, revised edition of the epic Atari history book they released in 2012. More info as it comes along.
  • Surfing Modern Web With Ancient Browsers
    Awesome technique renders pages as image-mapped GIFs.

    "Webrender.py came to life. It’s a cgi-bin application that resides on a machine in the middle. It renders a gif image and spits it out to the browser together with a simple web page, containing a URL and search input boxes plus the gif and image map.

  • The Temple Operating System
    The demo video for this Judeo-Christian-inspired homemade operating system will blow your mind. (via Antoni Sawicki)

    "TempleOS is an x86_64, multi-tasking, multi-cored, public domain, open source, ring-0-only, single-address-map (identity mapped), non-networked, PC operating system for recreational programming. I capped the lines of code at 100,000, so it will never be an ugly monstrosity. Currently, it is 81,489. Since God's temple must be perfect and we have 1,000 years in mind, I do not promise that anything is future-proof.

Echo Box

Here are some products, creative works, and upcoming projects seeking support. No endorsement from VC&G is implied.

  • Nova Phase
    A downloadable comic book with NES-style pixel art graphics.
  • donkulous DONKEYS (iTunes Link)
    "We've just released a new free iOS game, donkulous DONKEYS. It's an unapologetically hard but insanely addictive retro arcade game, inspired by Bill Gates' first one-and-only DOS game.
  • Armiga Project on Indiegogo
    "Wouldn't it be great to be able to use all those aging Amiga disks again? Maybe the original Amiga is a bit big and video quality not so good… A smaller version, with modern connections would be awesome, isn't it? That's what we've done: take modern technology and make it work with good old floppies.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line. My email filter will route it directly into my brain.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Canon Personal Computer

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Canon Personal Computer IBM PC compatible clone Advertisement 1985May the Clone Wars begin.

Here's another obscure IBM PC clone from the depths of time, the Canon Personal Computer.

As I mentioned in a recent RSOTW, it was pretty easy — even within a few years of the IBM PC's release — to undercut IBM price-wise by integrating ports and peripherals directly into the motherboard of a competing computer.

Note that the Canon PC used an Intel 8086 CPU, which packed the full 16-bit data bus (verses the 8-bit bus on the IBM PC's 8088).

[ From TIME (Small Business USA Insert), May 6 1985, p.2]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Canon is best known for its imaging products, but it made computers too. Can you think of any other companies best known for something else that made a PC?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega IR 7000

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Sega IR 7000 Haldheld Portable PDA Infrared Advertisement 1994"Whispering is for gutless weasels."

In the early-mid 1990s, Sega experimented with a few electronics items that veered away from mainstream console gaming. Case in point, the IR 7000 PDA, seen here (and don't forget the Sega Pico).

I've never owned an IR 7000, but I have to admit that I wanted one badly back in the day. The thought of sending secret wireless messages to other kids in class (I was 13 at the time this came out) excited me.

[ From Flux, Issue #2, 1994, p.7]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what was Sega's weirdest product?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo World Championships 1990

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Nintendo Power Nintendo World Championships 1990 Advertisement 1990"Children everywhere will be crushed and digitized by the trophy of power."

There's a certain ultra-rare golden NES cartridge out there that originated at Nintendo World Championships 1990. Here's an advertisement for the event itself on the back of a vintage Nintendo Power magazine from 1990.

Kinda makes you want to go back in time and attend, doesn't it? Call 1-900-HOT-4NWC to find out more!

[ From Nintendo Power, May-June 1990, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Video game competitions: interesting or boring? Debate.