Archive for the 'Design' Category

VC&G Interview: Jerry Lawson, Black Video Game Pioneer

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Jerry LawsonIn late 2006, I received a large collection of vintage computer magazines from a friend. For days I sat on my office floor and thumbed through nearly every issue, finding page after page of priceless historical information. One day, while rapidly flipping through a 1983 issue of Popular Computing, I encountered a photo that stopped me dead in my tracks.

There I discovered, among a story on a new computer business, a picture of a black man. It might seem crazy, but after reading through hundreds of issues of dozens of publications spanning four decades, it was the first time I had ever seen a photograph of a black professional in a computer magazine. Frankly, it shocked me — not because a black man was there, but because I had never noticed his absence.

That discovery sent my mind spinning with questions, chiefly among them: Why are there so few African-Americans in the electronics industry? Honestly, I didn’t know any black engineers or scientists to ask. I tried to track down the man in the magazine, but all my leads ended up nowhere. I’d have to put the matter aside and wait for another opportunity to address the issue.

[ Continue reading VC&G Interview: Jerry Lawson, Black Video Game Pioneer » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Kraft Premium Joystick

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Kraft Premium Joystick Ad - 1983Better than sliced cheese.

[ From Popular Computing, November 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the best Apple II or IBM PC compatible joystick you’ve ever used? It was always hard to find a really good one for platforms with analog joystick inputs.

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.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Sega Mating Game

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Sega 32X Ad - EGM 1995(click for full advertisement)

Sega created some pretty edgy advertising in the mid-1990s, so it came as no surprise when they used a risqué visual metaphor to introduce their new 32X add-on for the Genesis. Sadly, the only fruit this unholy union bore was Sega’s eventual failure in the hardware market.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, January 1995 ]

Discussion topic of the week: It’s a tough call: are there any decent games for the 32x?

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.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Flippin’ Enjoystick

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Enjoystick - Compute 1983(click for full advertisement)

[ From COMPUTE!, November 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the worst video game controller you’ve ever used?

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.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Boil Over with Mr. Cool

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Mr. Cool - Electronic Games 1983“The ice cube cometh.”

Yep, Mr. Cool is little more than Q*bert on ice — but this one requires a touch of SuperCool to win. Somehow, Mr. Cool himself looks like he was plucked from an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

I remember playing this for the Atari 800 and not being too impressed. But oh well; clones will be clones. (Psst — remember Donkey King?)

[ From Electronic Games, December 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Share your memories of video game clones. Any favorites? Any ridiculous examples?

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.

Inside the Nintendo Famicom

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Inside the Nintendo Famicom - Benj Edwards

25 years ago, Nintendo entered the home video game system arena with the release of the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan. You may know the console as the Nintendo Entertainment System, which sold 61.9 million units worldwide in its various forms.

In honor of its anniversary, I took apart an original Famicom and its accessories (including an original Famicom Disk System) while documenting the process on my trusty workbench. You can see the result as a slideshow on PC World.

I had this piece ready to go before July 15th (the actual anniversary date), but it got pre-empted by E3 coverage. I hope you enjoy it, even if it is a tad late.

(If you liked this slideshow, you might also like my previous PC World teardowns of the IBM Model M Keyboard, Apple IIc, and the TRS-80 Model 100.)

Simon Turns 30

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Milton Bradley SImon 30th Anniversary

Like an alien mothership come home, a small flying saucer surveyed the pulsing, Technicolor scenery of Manhattan’s trendy Studio 54 dance club. The saucer, a four-foot replica of a mysterious electronic toy, hung overhead in preparation for an unveiling later in the night. Yet the revelers below, entranced by thumping disco and free-flowing decadence, barely noticed the invasion in progress.

Further up, in the pitch black balcony, a 56 year-old engineer from New Hampshire fought off drowsiness and reminded himself why he had attended the deafening event: among the glamorous movie stars, the blasting music, and the swirling mirrored balls, it was his creation they were there to celebrate.

At approximately 3 AM on the morning of May 16th, 1978, the music stopped. The dazed crowd parted like the Red Sea, and a middle-aged man — the Vice President of Milton Bradley — took the stage to introduce the company’s latest toy, a curious wheel of blinking colored lights and musical tones called Simon that would soon become the must-buy gift of Christmas 1978.

In the balcony, the engineer smiled: he had reached the end of a story that had begun, surprisingly, six years earlier.

[ Read more about Simon’s creation at 1UP.com ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Virtual Reality, Real Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Video Game Glove Controller Ad - 1998“…easy after you spend a day on it.” Then your hand snaps off.

Of all the weird contraptions pitched by obscure third-party controller manufacturers, the Video Game Control Glove ranks among the worst. I have but a simple question: in what way was the regular Nintendo 64 controller bad enough to inspire someone to redesign it into an impractical novelty shape that likely promotes wrist injury? Better yet, why does anybody do anything stupid?

Because somebody, somewhere, thought it was a good idea at the time. (And someone else gave them money.)

Image DescUpon closer inspection of this ad, you’ll notice that the company behind this needless exercise in hand strain called itself “Reality Quest.” That explains a lot: exactly 83% of the dumbest video game peripherals ever made were ill-conceived attempts to capitalize on the early 1990s media hype around “virtual reality” (case in point, the StuntMaster headset). At the time, virtual reality was always just around the corner, courtesy of strap-on goggles and gangly game gauntlets that engulfed your hand in gaudy gadgetry.

I’ve never used the Glove; my guess is that it falls somewhat short of turning Mario 64 into an immersive virtual reality experience. But the next time I need a controller whose function requires rapid, repetitive contortions of one of weakest and least durable joints in the human body, I’ll keep it in mind.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1998 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the worst video game peripheral you’ve ever bought?

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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

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[ 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?

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