Archive for the 'Retro Scan of the Week' Category

[ 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 ] 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?

[ 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?

[ 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.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Visual 1050 PC

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Visual 1050 Personal Computer System Advertisement 1983"The complete professional solution at an unbeatable price."

I've never owned a Visual 1050 Personal Computer System (seen here), but I have an old Visual brand terminal that uses the same (or a very similar) keyboard. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see this, because it's a distinctively wide, flat keyboard.

The 1050 sported a Z80 CPU and ran the CP/M operating system, the grandfather of MS-DOS. Curiously, even though CP/M was a popular platform for business computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I only have a a handful of pure CP/M-based machines in my collection. (My favorite such machine is probably the Kaypro II.)

In regard to the chart in the advertisement above, it's interesting to note that it was pretty easy to undercut IBM, price-wise, not long after the IBM PC came out. Fast advances in IC design allowed computer makers to inexpensively cram more functions (think serial, parallel, game ports, disk controller, graphics card, etc.) directly onto motherboards instead of offloading them onto separate plug-in cards. While the 1050 was not an IBM PC clone, true PC clone makers took advantage of this effect to hollow out the inside of IBM's hold on the PC market from the bottom up.

[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.40-41]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have a favorite machine that runs CP/M?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Protech Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System Catalog Advertisement 1998Plays the 200 variations of Tetris that Pajitnov rejected.

I must admit that I wanted this "Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System" upon seeing it in 1998 — even through I knew it was almost certainly a piece of junk. Not to play it, per se, but to collect it and to admire its gloriously gimmicky nature.

If history is any guide, I'm guessing that the Protech Pro 200 didn't actually ship with 256 (or even 200) built in games. Rather, it likely contained 250 variations on a handful of distinct games — like most "1000-in-1″ cheap off-brand multicarts from back in the day.

16 years since its release, I have still never played the Pro 200, so I can't say if it had any play value. I did find this commercial on YouTube though.

Has anybody out there played one of these?

[ From Spilsbury Puzzle Co., Holiday 1998, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the cheapest, crappiest piece of video game hardware you've ever bought (think peripherals too)?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sharp Wizard 9600

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Kraft Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese flier flyer Advertisement 1994tap tap tap…tap tap…tap

In the early 1990s, a kid in my neighborhood had his own Sharp Wizard (we all thought he was rich or spoiled — probably both), and it was one of the most incredible things I'd ever seen. It was a tiny electronic organizer with a full QWERTY keyboard that one could have mistaken for a pocket-sized PC.

That same kid later offered to sell his Wizard to me, but my dad turned him down because he was asking too much. So I've never had a Wizard of any model in my collection. I did buy a NES advantage from him for $7 though.

[ From Scientific American, February 1993, p.19]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the smallest device (from the pre-smartphone era) you've ever used for word processing?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario Mac & Cheese

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Kraft Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese flier flyer Advertisement 1994The princess has lost her floatation powers…and Yoshi loves bongs.

My mom saves everything. Case in point, I ran across a mountain of mid-1990s coupon flyers — the kind that arrive stacked in an envelope through the mail — at her house this afternoon while I was looking for some old papers. This particular 30-cents-off coupon for Kraft's Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese from 1994 caught my eye. It measures 4.5″ x 7.5″ (for those of you at home keeping notes).

I've never eaten Super Mario Bros. mac and cheese, but I bet it was every bit as delicious as the regular noodle variety. And besides — there was an adventure in every bowl.

[ From a coupon flyer mailing pack, ca. 1994]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever eaten any food products based on licensed video game characters?