Archive for April, 2006

Retro Scan of the Week: "Good Gobbling and Good Luck"

Monday, April 10th, 2006
Pac-Man Strategy School
From the golden era of fancifully-rendered video game character depictions comes this gem, a scan from the instruction manual of the Atari 800 version of Pac-Man. Considering what we actually see in the game, the illustrator ("HIRO") has chosen quite a liberal interpretation of Pac-People, drawing them as anthropomorphic, rubbery stick figures with giant round heads. For more of Hiro's skinny Pac-Men, check out this buck-toothed Pac-Guy running for his life while eating floating discs from the cover of the manual.

The Official Golf Ball of Ultima III: Exodus

Saturday, April 8th, 2006
Official Ultima III Golf Ball
Here it is: the Official Golf Ball of Ultima III: Exodus. Back in 1983, if you found this ultra-rare object included in your Ultima III game box, you won an all-expenses paid trip to Lord British's backyard swimming pool.

Ok, so I made that up. I actually found this golf ball in my back yard recently and thought it mildly amusing. The ball's shape looks warped purely because my flatbed scanner wasn't designed to scan 3D spherical objects. I wonder if Richard Garriott uses this brand when he hits the green.

VC&G Review: GameTap

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Do you want hundreds of different games of diverse genres that span video and computer gaming history available for unlimited play on your PC, 24 hours a day, without the hassle of having to set up eleven different game and computer systems? So do I. But in this case, you're going to have to pay $10 a month to Ted Turner for the privilege. And there's another catch — the "unlimited" games have the darnedest habit of magically disappearing at the blink of an eye once you stop paying your monthly gaming tariff. Hmm. Sounds pretty limited to me.

Thus is the state of the GameTap Broadband Entertainment Network, the world's first large-scale legal attempt to make a rerun channel for video games. It's an admirable goal that is pulled off relatively effectively with their candy-coated software wrapper that wrangles together 400 disparate games from the late 1970s to the present into one virtual gameplay arena. The interface is clear-cut and simple to understand, allowing you to easily browse through and select different games you want to play (one at a time, of course). Upon selecting a game, you're presented with a game overview, some history, the choice of some game-specific bonus information, and instructions on how to play. Then, if you choose to continue, the game is downloaded to your PC and…you play. Download times range from a few minutes or less for the simple games to over 30 minutes for the modern PC Windows titles. Don't expect to make copies of the games you've downloaded, of course, because every downloaded game is chopped into pieces on your hard drive and likely encrypted, rendered useless unless played through the GameTap client itself. But if you just wanted to do that, you would have already (likely illegally) downloaded the game already, right? You're here for the experience and the convenience of having everything accessible and playable in one place.

[ Continue reading VC&G Review: GameTap » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: "Introducing the IBM 5110 Computing System"

Monday, April 3rd, 2006
Introducing the Extraordinary IBM 5110 Computing System
Watch out kids! Here comes the IBM 5110 — the successor of IBM's first "personal computer" (the 5100), and somewhat of a distant precursor to their real PC, the IBM PC (model 5150). Despite its tiny screen, arcane interface, and outrageous price, the IBM 5110 never quite caught on. Of course, it should be noted that this machine obviously wasn't targeted for the home market.

Only $18,000 (1978 dollars) for the system you see here. Whew.. no wonder Apple was laughing at IBM back then. By 1982, however, they wouldn't be laughing quite as hard…

(Trivia Fact: Did you know that the IBM 5110 will be used to save the world in 2036? It's true!)

[Scan from Time Magazine, February 20th, 1978]

Happy 30th Birthday, Apple!

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Today is the the thirtieth birthday of perhaps the world's most iconic personal computer company, Apple Computer, Inc. We almost lost her back in 1996 when she was at her all-time low. Rumors of Apple's impending collapse, or even the embarrassing possibility of a desperate sale to another company, were everywhere. But just in the nick of time, Steve Jobs made his triumphant return and turned the company completely around. In 2006, Apple is actually more profitable than ever before (thanks to the iPod) — even more so than during the height of the Apple II days.

The machine that founded the company, the "Apple I," is pictured on the left in a homemade wooden case, as seen at the Smithsonian Institution. I downloaded the picture from Compuserve back in 1992, and it's always been one of my favorites, despite its grainy GIF quality. I thought about planning some more Apple-related features today, but so many others have done it so well already. Check out these interesting articles that Wired has put together on the whole event.

Never before or since has a company put so much soul into a computing machine, and I'm proud to say that I have loved and used many Apple computers in my short time on this planet. Join with me in toasting Apple, a true pioneer in the PC industry, on their big day. I'm really glad you made it this far, Apple. Here's to another thirty years of incredible success and continued innovation!