Archive for the 'Regular Features' Category

[ Tech Songs ] Baked at Atari

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Benj Edwards Tech Songs Album Cover

Some of you may recall that from 2002-2005, I ran a band/website called Request-A-Song.com. Well, since March of this year, I've been publishing music online again as part of a musical project I call Tech Songs.

Tech Songs, for me, is essentially a writing prompt for music — a concept that inspires me to write songs about a certain topic. In this case, the topic is the past, present, and future of technology. In some ways, I think of Tech Songs as an open-ended album about tech.

Today I am officially announcing the release of "Baked At Atari," a lighthearted, ficticious song (but inspired by true events) about engineers at Atari in the mid-1970s. Atari fans amongst you will likely pick out several familiar names and references in the lyrics.

You can listen to the song on my SoundCloud page, or click on the embedded song below.

When you're done listening, I'd love to hear some suggestions for new tech history song topics — just leave a comment, and I'll see what I can cook up.

I plan to post future VC&G-related Tech Songs on this site, but you can also follow Benj's Tech Songs on Twitter: @techsongs

[ Retro Scan ] Vectorman "Play to Win"

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

BlueSky Software Vectorman Play to Win Sega Genesis Advertisement Scan - 1995IT"SSSS AWEESSSOOOMME

I was a big fan of Vectorman back when it first came out. Around that time, I bought a used Sega Genesis from a friend (my first), and I rented a copy from Vectorman from Blockbuster (or did I rent an entire Genesis itself first — my memory is hazy on that point). I was blown away by Vectorman's fluid animations, great sound effects and music, and tight overall feel of the game. I still think Vectorman is one of the best games on the Genesis.

This ad comes from Wizard (the comic book magazine), and in a two-page spread, it took up one whole page on the left and about a third of the page on the right. I have cropped out the remaining 2/3 of the right page which was unrelated to the ad.

That right portion, by the way, describes Sega's "Play to Win" contest that tied into the game. Apparently, certain randomly distributed Vectorman cartridges contained in-game messages that advised the player to call a phone number and claim a prize. The top prize was $25,000 and some other perks, which you can read about on Wikipedia. The contest was a clever way to entice people to play the game at a time when 16-bit systems were on the way out.

[ From Wizard, December 1995, p.10-11 ]

Discussion Topic: In your opinion, which Sega Genesis game had the best graphics?

[ Retro Scan ] VREAM Virtual Reality Development System

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

VREAM Virtual Reality Development System for PC Advertisement Scan - 1994If it's as easy to use as it is to pronounce, then I want it.

I was so excited about PC-based virtual reality back in the 1990s. I remember reading the early Web (circa 1995-96) about how people would build their own HMD goggles and modify a NES Power Glove to use as input for certain VR software packages. I wanted to do that too, but never did.

I also played some shareware 3D world demos where you could walk around a polygonal-3D town (and prior to that, I had vivid dreams about jumping into a 3D computer-generated world that looked like the Money for Nothing Dire Straits video).

Apparently, VREAM made some of those 1990s VR demos possible. It was a PC-based virtual reality development system created by VREAM, Inc. of Chicago. I have never used it, but it looks neat.

This ad comes from the back cover of an issue of PCVR magazine that I got from a relative. You can read more about that in this Retro Scan from 2014.

[ From PCVR, January-February 1994, back cover ]

Discussion Topic: Did you use any 3D modeling software in the 1990s? Tell us about it.

See Also:

[ Retro Scan ] Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Taito Lufia and the Fortress of Doom Super NES SNES Advertisement Scan - 1993"A VAST RPG WORLD IN STUNNING GRAPHICS!"

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.123 ]

Discussion Topic: What's your favorite RPG on the Super NES?

[ Retro Scan ] IMSAI 8080

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

IMSAI 8080 S-100 Computer Advertisement Scan - 1977The only winning move is not to play

Here's an oldie but goodie — the IMSAI 8080, a 1975 clone of the pioneering Altair 8800. Like the Altair, it used an S-100 bus, an Intel 8080 CPU, and a blue, boxy sheet metal case with front panel lights. Unlike the Altair, the IMSAI 8080 featured prominently in the 1983 movie WarGames. The machine apparently greatly annoyed Ed Roberts, the inventor of the Altair.

[ From BYTE, February 1977, p.48 ]

Discussion Topic: Have you ever used an IMSAI 8080 or Altair 8800? Tell us about it.

Andrew S. Grove (1936-2016)

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Andrew S. Grove, Former CEO of IntelIn Memoriam: Andrew S. Grove (1936-2016),
Former President, CEO, and Chairman of Intel

Few tech executives have had as monumental an impact on the computer industry as Andy Grove, who passed away yesterday at the age of 79. His stewardship of Intel marked a period of astounding success and growth for the company, including establishing the firm's x86 microprocessors as a de facto standard for the PC industry — a legacy that continues today. May he rest in peace.

[ Retro Scan ] Dune II

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Dune II PC Game Advertisement Scan - 1992I just got a craving for The Spice

Dune II is to the real-time strategy genre as Wolfenstein 3D is to first-person shooters. Like Wolf-3D, Dune II wasn't the absolute first example of its genre, but it was the first game to bring together all the distinctive elements of its respective genre into one title — in this case, those elements would later be copied and expanded upon over and over again by games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft.

That being said, I've only played Dune II a few times — only many years after its release. I never got into it, but I can see why it is a historically important game. Warcraft was my first modern RTS game.

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.4 ]

Discussion Topic: What's your favorite Real-Time Strategy game of all time?

[ Retro Scan ] Dogs and Families Love IBM PS/1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

IBM PS/1 IBM PC Dog Family Smithsonian Advertisement Scan - 1991Now you'll have more time to spend with your dog

I've previously featured a later-model IBM PS/1 that also happened to be my brother's college computer, circa '94. But here we see an ad for an early — if not the first — model of the PS/1. This is back when PS/1 systems had the OS and a nifty mouse-based GUI program launcher built into ROM. They also shipped with Prodigy on the hard disk. I'm starting to really want one of these for my collection.

[ From Smithsonian, December 1991, p.20-21 ]

Discussion Topic: Has a pet ever done damage to your computer or game system? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan ] DWANGO Online Service

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

DWANGO Quake Doom Online FPS multiplayer online server Advertisement Scan - 1998Looks real to me

DWANGO, which stood for "Dial-up Wide-Area Network Game Operation," was an online matchmaking service that specialized in FPS games like Doom and Quake. It has a fascinating history that you can read about more in its Wikipedia article.

I believe I signed up for a free trial of DWANGO circa 1994 so I could play Doom with someone when I was bored, but I don't remember ever getting it working for some reason. Instead, I often played co-op Doom (and later Quake) modem-to-modem with friends who called my BBS.

[ From GamePro, May 1998, p.67 ]

Discussion Topic: When was the first time you played a FPS multiplayer online? How did you set it up? (i.e. modem-to-modem, TCP/IP, services like Dwango)

The Future of Retro Scan of the Week

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Retro Scan of the Week ScannerSince the tenth anniversary of Retro Scan of the Week a couple weeks ago, I've been thinking about the future of the column. I've received a lot of feedback from readers, and here's what I've decided.

Looking through the "scan" folders on my computer, I realize that I still have a bunch of important scans that I'd like to share (there are actually hundreds already scanned but not published yet).

If I never post those scans, it's unlikely that you will see them highlighted on the Internet any time soon. So from now on, I will switch from posting a new scan like clockwork every Monday (which I did for ten years, see above) to posting one whenever the mood strikes me, or perhaps when it ties in to current events.

"Retro Scan of the Week" will become "Retro Scan."

I am also working on an exciting new feature for VC&G that can hopefully pick up where Retro Scan of the Week left off — at least in terms injecting new life into the site. So stay tuned. In the mean time, thanks for reading. I appreciate your support and your feedback.