Archive for the 'Collecting' Category

Secret Cartridge Messages

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Benj's Secret Cartridge Messages

In the early 1990s, I rented quite a few video games from my local Blockbuster store. I felt compelled to try any and all new games that showed up for rental — up to the point my parents would allow, anyway.

Around the same time, I figured out how to disassemble video game cartridges. I thought myself very clever and began disassembling NES and SNES games I'd rented to see what was inside. Blockbuster wouldn't have liked this, of course — to prevent such a practice, the chain sealed its game cartridges with tamper-resistant security stickers designed to show if someone had opened them up.

Luckily for me, the stickers didn't always cover the screw holes, allowing me to work around them. With a careful bend at the sticker joint between two sides of the plastic cartridge case, I could examine the cartridge interior with impunity.

Initials in Concrete by ww_whilstIt was then that I struck upon a weird idea. Similar to how kids would scratch their initials on a tree or a school desk, or perhaps draw their initials in wet concrete, I realized I could leave my own mark hidden within the cartridges themselves, gaining a small form of immortality in the process.

The key idea being that I would stick a note on the inside of the cartridge case, so people (most notably, Blockbuster employees) could not normally see it; one would have to open the cartridge again to reveal the secret message.

My youthful imagination fantasized about exchanging covert correspondence between video game renters this way. Even better, I could imagine someone, some day, far in the future randomly opening up an old SNES cartridge and finding a note from me inside. They'd be completely perplexed and amazed, and my goal would have been achieved. But even if no one ever found my message, it still would feel good to have it out there.

Placing The Golden Ticket

The next time I rented a game, I disassembled it and set to work with my plan. I found some small self-adhesive labels and wrote a short note on one, along with a date. After sticking the label to the inside of the cartridge, I closed it up and later returned the game to Blockbuster as usual.

Super Mario Kart Title Screen (SNES)I probably only wrote my initials on the first label (simulated above), but on the subsequent labels — maybe two at most — I might have written a short phrase such as, "Greetings from the past!" I don't recall exactly. I believe I left the first such note inside Super Mario Kart in the Raleigh, NC area around 1993.

If you find it, let me know. It will be even better than finding the Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. As a reward, I'll give you a personal tour of the VC&G Museum — and I promise you won't drown in a river of chocolate.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] From My Pocket to You

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Wizard of Wor and Gorf Ad - 1980sFrom my pocket to you.

My mother was born in Texas, and my immediate family usually visited her parents every summer when I was a kid. During one of these visits as a teenager, my grandmother invited me to look through her Time Magazine collection. She led me to the back of the family's wash house, a detached building on their rural Texas property where she did the laundry. Through a side door, we entered my grandfather's generally dark and cluttered workshop. In the far corner — beyond the tools, beekeeping equipment, and motorcycle parts — I spotted three or four large cardboard barrels overflowing with old magazines. The mouse-chewn issues spilled over the edges of the containers where they had been piled haphazardly for decades.

Benj's Grandparents' Wash HouseI spent the rest of the day thumbing through musty old magazine issues from the 1970s and 80s. While reading a copy of Science Digest from 1983, I ran across the ad for Wizard of Wor and Gorf you see above. I was amazed. In my youthful zest to discover and collect all things vintage, I felt like I had uncovered a lost Egyptian tomb. I'd never before seen a vintage video game print ad — and prior to that, I didn't know that CBS had published a version of Wizard of Wor (a game I love) for the Atari 2600.

I eagerly tore out the ad page, folded it up, and stuck it in my pocket. Why I didn't take the whole magazine is unknown to me; I guess I just didn't want the rest.

Until now, the page you see above has been sitting, still folded, in my collection of vintage print materials. It's been waiting for a day like this when it can finally end its long journey from my mid-1990s pocket in Texas to you, on the Internet, today.

Afterword

A year or two later, I revisited the Texas magazine pile and found even more material, especially in Time Magazine. There were issues with cover stories on personal computers, video games, and computer viruses. That time, I took the whole issues themselves. Among them, I found a few ads for IBM systems (like this and this). I probably still have more from that collection that I can scan in the future.

[ From Science Digest, January 1983. ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us about your ancient computing or video game discoveries. When have you felt most thrilled at uncovering old video game or computer history?

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A Truckload of Vintage Computing

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

A Truckload of Vintage Computing

I should be ashamed of myself. I do so much vintage stuff every week, but I'm usually too lazy to tell you guys about it — and I run a blog called Vintage Computing and Gaming. Well, maybe I can do more quick updates on my activities in the future. Here's the first.

A few months ago, I visited a family friend's house. She was cleaning out her attic, and I had long since promised to help her get rid of the numerous dusty computers her late husband had collected.

I came home with seven machines, including an Apple IIc and an old Compaq bearing a Post-It Note warning: "Do not get on this computer." The note backfired, of course, as it insured that I would be getting on it post-haste.

Once atop the slumbering beast — some five inches off the ground — I booted the machine. Therein, I found a sluggish, hobbled-by-its-own-nature install of Windows ME and no less than 86 virii (this is not an exaggeration) intertwined with every facet of the operating system. As per my promise to the former owner, I formatted the drive with extreme prejudice.

A Truckload of Vintage ComputingChief among the other spoils were a NES Action Set in a near-mint box; the aforementioned Apple IIc's original box with all documentation; an Apple IIc color monitor and monitor stand, both in box; various boxed Apple II and PC software; a box; six PC clones of various vintage between an AT-class machine and Pentium stuff (no boxes to be seen); and an awesome, non-boxy Model 500 rotary telephone in stylish red and black.

Above all else, the equipment carried with it a priceless nostalgic element: I had watched my brother's best friend use most of these items when I was a kid, so it was very familiar to me.

What you see in the back of the truck above would have met death-by-dumpster had I not gallantly rushed in to save it. Of course, now it's cluttering up my house instead of hers. Despite the nostalgia rush, I'm starting to think our family friend got the better end of the deal.

Polaroid Instant Video Games

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Polaroid 15-in-1 Game Controller

What you're seeing is not a hallucination. It is neither the result of partial head trauma, nor an accidental intrusion from an alternate dimension.

It's a plug-and-play video game system marketed by Polaroid.

Polaroid 15-in-1 Video Game ControllerWalking through an absurdly enormous Target Supercenter last year, I spotted this strange beast hanging on an isle in the electronics section. I knew Polaroid was in bad shape (having declared bankruptcy years ago), but this? It's so bizarre that I had to pick it up.

What I got was a battery powered NES clone with 15 mostly terrible games. No big surprise there. After some searching on the web, I found pictures of this same unit colored translucent blue instead of Polaroid grey — clearly Polaroid licensed this from another manufacturer. But why?

Word on the street (aka "the Internet") says that Polaroid had originally built these games into their Portable DVD players. With that move, Polaroid quietly tiptoed into video game business. Still not satisfied, Polaroid soon launched this re-branded Chinese bargain-bin controller…almost directly into the clearance isles of retail electronics stores across the nation. Little did they know that it would some day make its most famous press appearance ever on Vintage Computing and Gaming.

Polaroid 15-in-1 Title ScreenPolaroid 15-in-1 Video Game System Title Screen

[ Continue reading Polaroid Instant Video Games » ]

Own a Glowing NES Cartridge: Glider Special Edition

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

RetroZone Glider NES Special Edition Glowing

Brian Parker of RetroZone is at it again, reinventing the NES homebrew scene with innovative new products. This time he's selling a special edition Glider NES game cartridge on eBay that, aside from being a previously unreleased title, will glow while it's being played.

[ Continue reading Own a Glowing NES Cartridge: Glider Special Edition » ]

How China Warrior Ruined My Childhood

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

China Warrior kicks MarioI've read a lot of bad press about China Warrior recently due to its re-release on Nintendo's Virtual Console service. Many make fun of the simple beat-'em-up as being a completely horrible game, which is not far off the mark: playing China Warrior is about as fun as eating a brick. But they don't know exactly how horrible it can be. In the early nineties, I had a personal run-in with this TurboGrafx-16 non-classic that still haunts me to this day.

[ Continue reading How China Warrior Ruined My Childhood » ]

Collectors Take Note: Microsoft HD-DVD Player Hits Clearance

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Microsoft Xbox 360 HD-DVD Drive

If you're a regular reader of VC&G, you know the important role that clearance isles have played in my adventures as a video game collector. Silly as it may seem, collecting vintage computers and classic game systems starts now, in the present. Wise choices can be made as to what will become rare and collectible in the future, and collectors should seize the opportunity to purchase such items while they're still available through regular retail channels.

Case in point: Thanks to Blu-Ray's conquest over HD-DVD in the hi-def format wars, Microsoft's HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360 is now $50 (US) new at Best Buy and Circuit City. Best Buy even has a free HD-DVD movie rebate program that makes the deal much sweeter [expired] If you're feeling lucky, wait a few months and they may dump them for even less. Otherwise, go for it now. If you've got the cash, buy a second and keep it mint in the box.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Super Gorilla Advantage

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

SNES Super Advantage - Asciiware - Gorilla Magazine Ad

It's true: most controllers can't stand up to the intense punishment delivered by the average Donkey Kong Country player. That's why Asciiware created the Super Advantage joystick for the SNES. It's built "gorilla tough" for "gorilla games."

Woah there — don't try using this sophisticated piece of technology on a non-gorilla game, or that tiny gorilla (pictured) will jump out of the controller and smack you. Just a warning: he goes straight for the eyes.

Discussion topic of the week: What if standard joysticks looked like this in the Atari 2600 era? How would games have been different?

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Benj's Epic GDC 2008 Adventure Slideshow

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Benj's GDC 2008 AdventureAnd I mean epic. Last week, I crossed the country to attend Game Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco, California. Below, you'll find a detailed report on my travels, replete with in-depth photos, each accompanied by both honest and sometimes facetious commentary. But be warned: it's going to be a long trip. If there be any lilly-livered scallywags amongst ye who fear the voyage, turn back now, or forever will ye be scarred by me words.

[ Continue reading Benj's Epic GDC 2008 Adventure Slideshow » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Father Pac-Time Gobbles up the New Year

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Pac-Man Watch Ad - 1983With floating disc technology, "Pac-Man watches gobble all day long for you."

Happy 2008!

[ Scanned from Electronic Games, December 1983 ]

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.