Archive for May, 2008

Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Ellen Feiss - Mac Switcher

I don't know if anybody out there knows this, but some years ago, I created a music site called Request-A-Song.com (RAS). My brother Jeremy and I wrote original songs based on visitor suggestions, recorded them, and put them up on the site in MP3 format. We usually treated serious requests humorously, and humorous requests seriously, which thoroughly confused everybody (Hence RAS's amazing success, and why you've no doubt heard of it many times). Sadly, our heyday was before the Digg, YouTube, MySpace, and ubiquitous blog explosion, which would have undoubtedly helped us promote our music and unique concept.

I'm only mentioning this now because it deals with something at least slightly on-topic for VC&G — computer history. Mike (aka Dr. Macenstein), over at the Macenstein blog, recently put together a video for my tongue-in-cheek song, "Ellen Feiss Makes Me Hot," which I released back in 2003 (yes, almost five years ago). It's about the famous Mac switcher who appeared in an Apple advertisement around the time. Essentially, people thought the commercial was funny because Ms. Feiss looked like she was stoned while filming.

[ Continue reading Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Holy Video Games, Batman!

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Champion Video Game GlovesNo more blisters for Batman.

No serious gamer should be without a pair of batting Video Game Gloves by Champion. Without the extra padding they provide, your hands can get chapped, cramped, and blistered while pushing it to the next level! These gnarly gloves even provide a padded thumb sleeve for enhanced video game play.

If that weren't enough, it's clear that Batman himself uses these gloves while gaming.

"Robin, pass me the Bat Gloves."

[ From Video Games and Computer Entertainment, November 1992 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Have you ever injured your fingers, hands, or wrists playing video games?

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.

Fashion Model Seeks Freelance ROM Hacker

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Cory Holtz - Legendary Wings

Before we go any further, I must clarify that I am not making this up.

I recently received an interesting message on Myspace from one Cory Holtz, a male actor and model. His question dealt with Legendary Wings. Specifically, he's looking for someone to hack the game for him:

Hello Vintage,

I am so happy to see that hacking is at it's best with you guy. I am looking to hire someone for a freelance gig to hack and edit one of my favorite childhood NES games "Legendary Wings". It's a vertical shooting game and should be fairly easy to program. I'm just a pro at the game and would love a more difficult version, more guns, and extra levels. Please let me know if you would be interested with this freelance gig.

Can't wait to hear from you!
Best,
Cory Holtz

[ Continue reading Fashion Model Seeks Freelance ROM Hacker » ]

Win a Free NES DVD Player and More

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Vintage Computing and Gaming Forum Contest

It should come as no surprise to my regular readers that I like to foster a sense of community around Vintage Computing and Gaming; I believe that the main strength of any publication lies in its readership, and VC&G is blessed with an exceptionally intelligent, resourceful, and creative one.

As a historian, I like to help people reconnect with and rediscover the past. But I can't do it alone — we need to stick together. That's why I'm announcing a new contest to promote activity on the VC&G Discussion Forum, an oft-neglected part of the site. Anyone can enter the contest by registering for an account on the forum and posting.

[ Continue reading Win a Free NES DVD Player and More » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Peer Inside the Robot Brain

Monday, May 19th, 2008

ERA Magnetic Drum Storage Systems - Computer Drum Memory Ad - 1953Click above to see the full ad.

In this week's Retro Scan, we're looking way back to 1953. Many computers in the 1950s used monster magnetic drum storage units, like the one you see above, as working memory — ala RAM — until the faster and more adept core memory came along. Using technology similar to a cylindrical hard disk, these beasts were understandably slow compared to their non-mechanical successors.

If anybody out there ever worked with one of these, we'd definitely love to hear from you.

[ From Scientific American, April 1953 ]

Discussion topic of the week: How much RAM did your first computer have?

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.

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 » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Censored by Electronic Games Magazine

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Video Maniac Poster Girl - Censored by Electronic Games MagazineClick above to see the full ad.

Close your eyes! The above picture is too hot for young minds to take. Or so thought Electronic Games in 1983 when they elected to censor the poster-girl's bikini-clad crotch with an inelegant black circle.

Censored by Electronic Games MagazineWhen I first saw this ad for "video game sports accessories," I thought the censorship have been a joke. But since it was published a video game magazine in 1983 — hence, "for kids" — it makes more sense. She's clutching that phallic-looking broken joystick awfully close to the operative parts of her reproductive anatomy, and I guess that made the magazine nervous. God forbid she conceive a child with an arcade machine.

But what exactly has been gained by covering her crotch? It makes one wonder what hideous, kinky, suggestive imagery might be lurking under there to warrant such a circle. And therein lies the problem with arbitrary censorship — it draws undue attention to what otherwise might have been a mundane affair.

[ From Electronic Games, December 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Imagine you're ten years old in 1983. What would you think of the image above?

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.

MS-DOS Saves Columbia Shuttle Data

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Damaged Space Shuttle Columbia Hard Disk Drive

Vintage computing shows up in some of the unlikeliest places. And in this case, it saved the day.

According to a recent Associated Press article, a 340 megabyte 2.5″ Seagate hard drive from the ill-fated space shuttle Columbia survived the craft's fiery break-up and crash to the earth back in February 2003.

A data recovery service called Kroll Ontrack managed to recover most of the data on the drive, which dealt with an advanced xenon experiment. Oddly enough, Jon Edwards of Kroll credits the formatting and data storage methods of the MS-DOS operating system for allowing him to recover the data:

However, at the core of the drive, the spinning metal platters that actually store data were not warped. They had been gouged and pitted, but the 340-megabyte drive was only half full, and the damage happened where data had not yet been written.

Edwards attributes that to a lucky twist: The computer was running an ancient operating system, DOS, which does not scatter data all over drives as other approaches do.

Three cheers for the FAT file system. I guess that NASA (or the experiment's designers) kept their drives pretty well defragged.

It's amazing Kroll recovered any data off of the platters at all, with the drive's external case scorched, its dust-proof seal compromised, its heads driven into the platter surfaces, and its internal components desoldered by the intense heat.

I'll wager that the platters were composed of solid aluminum, like hard drives of old. If the disk had been a more recent model — you know, the kind with platters made of glass — the fragile discs might have been shattered from the stress of the explosion and hard landing.

Damaged Space Shuttle Columbia Hard Disk Drive

Researchers recently published the recovered data from the shuttle's xenon experiment in a science journal, as was originally intended. It's satisfying that some good science came out of Columbia's last mission, proving that the crew's tragic journey wasn't completely in vain. For that, in a strange and lucky way, you can thank Microsoft.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Online Gaming, 1992 Style

Monday, May 5th, 2008

GEnie Online Gaming Service AdAn excellent source of FDA Certified non-GMO 100% organic, free-range people.

Tired of trouncing lifeless, boring computer chips in your games? Then you've come to the right place. Here at GEnie, our entire subscriber base is clinically insane and writes exclusively in crayon. Signing up is easy. Here's how:

1. Set your modem for half duplex (local echo) at 300, 1200, or 2400 baud.

2. Dial toll free — 1-800-638-8369. Upon connection, enter HHH.

3. At the U # = prompt, enter XTX99316, VideoG92 then press RETURN.

4. Have a major credit card or your checking account number ready.

Make sure you get step #3 exactly right, or you might end up one kidney short after accidentally subscribing to Nigerian Cyber Exchange.

[ From Video Games and Computer Entertainment, November 1992 ]

Discussion topic of the week: When was the first time you played a computer game over a modem or computer network? Describe your experience.

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.