Archive for November, 2007

Keep or Toss? Radius 21″ Greyscale Mac Monitor

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

I need to clean out my garage. That’s where I keep most of my computer collection. In order to have space for new and exciting things, some of the older, less exciting, and bulkier items must go.

Radius TPD/21E 21\" Greyscale Macintosh Monitor

Up on the block today is this nifty Radius TDP/21E 21″ greyscale monitor. It’s a unique piece of Macintosh history, but it’s huge. It has the peculiar resolution of 1152 x 870, doesn’t support color, and requires a unique NuBus controller card to work (which, incidentally, I have). Honestly, if I had a warehouse to store these things in, I’d definitely keep it. But I recently received it as a donation, and I don’t really have the room for it.

So I thought I’d let you guys decide for me. Is it worth saving, even if it takes up tons of space and I’ll never really use it? On the other hand, I could always toss out something else to make room for it. I’m having trouble deciding, so help me out.

Why I Love Japan

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Because they make game covers like this:

Why I Love Japan

Ah — nothing like a Japanese Famicom Disk System classic. Is anybody out there willing to attempt an interpretation of this game’s synopsis from this picture alone? You’re up for a serious challenge.

Heck, I’ve played it and I still don’t know what it’s about.

How Not to Dismantle a Hard Drive

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Did you know the platters in most hard disk drives these days are made of glass? Neither did I, until last week…

Shattered Glass Hard Disk Platter

What ever happened to good ‘ole fashioned aluminum discs? Thanks to a particularly rash and forceful extrication technique, I managed to spray bits of shattered, data-covered glass over half of my garage. Luckily, the pieces weren’t very sharp, as manufacturers apparently mix in some ceramic for good measure.

In case you were wondering about the whole scene to begin with, here’s the scoop: The drive was bad. I was after the wonderful, super-powerful neodymium magnets that reside within every modern hard drive (they’re part of the drive’s voice coil actuator assembly). I had previously given my entire hard disk magnet collection to my dad for use in his seismograph dampening system (doh!), so, naturally, I wanted some more. In the end, I got them — along with a room full of glass, a pretty picture, and a story to tell the grandkids.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Voice — Odyssey 2 Speech Synthesizer

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Odyssey 2 Voice Flier

I acquired this slick brochure promoting “The Voice” some years ago when I bought a nice collection of Odyssey 2 stuff. The Voice add-on unit apparently added speech synthesizer capabilities (and enhanced sound effects, according to the flier) to Magnavox’s Odyssey 2 console. I don’t own a “The Voice,” but I’ve always wanted one. They’re very rare, so if anybody has one they don’t want anymore, let me know.

Did anyone out there have one of these units?

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The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All TimeMy first feature on is now live — The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time. The article started as a pet project of mine over a year ago, although it took far longer to complete than I expected. Between other projects, I anguished and wrestled with myself over the final ten entries after considering (and using) twenty-plus keyboards in detail. Perhaps I put too much work into it, but I wanted to create the most definitive list I could. The end result will never be truly definitive, of course, since any list like this — by its very nature — is based on subjective criteria defined by the author.

The final work turned out to be much longer than the version published, but the pictures turned out so well (taken by both myself and Steven Stengel of, that PC World decided to turn it into a slide show. The result, I think, speaks for itself. Still, an unabridged version might make it to the Net some day, with more info on my ranking and inclusion criteria. Just so you know, I considered only non-laptop QWERTY keyboards that shipped with a computer in the United States for the list.

I’d like to thank Steven Stengel for help with the pictures, and especially Harry McCracken of PC World for doing an excellent job of condensing my lengthy epic for a mainstream audience. Last, but not least, thanks to the PC World staff, who did a great job of putting it all together.

Now that the love-fest is over, you can check out the article here. Let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, feel free to tell us which keyboards you’d nominate for the worst (or the best) of all time.

[ VC&G Review ] PowerPak NES Flash Cartridge

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

NES PowerPak Flash CartridgeIt’s 1987. Your ravenous love for Nintendo’s new console leads you to rent every new game released for the system, craving the joy of each new experience. One day, a stranger walks up to you on the street and offers you a device that lets you play nearly all the NES games ever released (or ever will be released) around the world on a single magic cartridge. What do you say?

Twenty years ago, such a contraption would have seemed laughably impossible. But that same mind-blowing scenario (minus the mysterious stranger) has become a reality in 2007 with RetroZone‘s PowerPak NES flash cartridge. Brian Parker, the man behind RetroZone and the PowerPak, put forth a monumental effort to bring this technically challenging dream product to market.

Nintendo Entertainment SystemThe PowerPak retains the familiar form factor of classic licensed NES cartridges, albeit rendered in a translucent orange plastic. Cut from top edge of each PowerPak is a notch through which a standard compact flash (CF) card may be conveniently inserted or removed. Turn on a NES with the PowerPak cart inside, and you’ll see an on-screen menu that lists all the games on the CF card. Pick one from the list, you’ll be playing the game as if you had the game’s original cartridge in the console.

With a flash “multicart” like the PowerPak, NES users no longer need to switch cartridges between games, except for the few games that the PowerPak doesn’t support (see below). Legal vagaries be damned: as an owner of over 250 NES cartridges, I find the convenience of this feature worth the price of the PowerPak alone.

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