Archive for July, 2008

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Hemingway's Computer?

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Ernest Hemingway's New Computer - Microstuf Crosstalk AdvertisementPapa's got a brand new modem. (click above for full ad)

[ From Personal Computing, 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What's your favorite computer- or video game-related book?

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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 ] Robots + Golf = Brilliant!

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Mecarobot Golf Ad - SNES - 1993Something is crooked in the state of Denmark.

Leave it to the Japanese to create a fantasy golf game with androids, robotic caddies, and floating islands in the sky. As usual, they were quite forward-looking in 1993: they knew that some day, androids would be better at golf than humans.

I've actually tried my hand at this game a few times, and it's weird. While the 3D engine is cool, it's painfully slow; you can easily doze off while waiting for the screen to redraw.

[ Correction - 07/21/2008 ] I just played Mecarobot Golf again, and it seems that my memory was flawed. The whacked-out SNES Golf game I recalled above was actually Devil's Course. Now that is a crazy golf game. Mecarobot Golf still contains robots, but it features a smooth Mode 7 engine.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1993 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What's your favorite video or computer golf game?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Floppy Girl Doesn't Remember

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Floppy Girl - Opus Floppy Disk Ad - 1985Click above for full ad.

"No Bad Memories."

That sounds more like a slogan from a denial-centric pop psychology movement or a dystopian memory-wiping company than from a maker of computer diskettes. It would be easy to dismiss this marketing tagline as absurd, were it not for the enthusiastic bearer of the message: a buoyant, bubbly woman cheerfully peddling OPUS-brand floppy disks. Indeed, she looks like her brain was totally wiped clean by OPUS's technical staff some time in the early 1980s — a testament that their memory technology really works.

By the way, here’s a high-resolution scan of Floppy Girl in PNG format for those of you out there who might want to turn it into a desktop background. Or print it out and impress your nerd friends with vintage floppy pin-up art.

[ From Popular Computing, February 1985 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Have you ever lost important computer data to a hard drive or disk failure? Share your disaster stories below.

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Inside the World's Greatest Keyboard

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Inside the World\'s Greatest Keyboard - PC World

Today, PC World published the latest in my line of workbench tech autopsies. This time I dissected the venerable IBM Model M Keyboard, which some call the greatest keyboard of all time (obviously, I agree with them). While I took all the pictures as usual, the caption bubbles on a couple of the slides are courtesy of PC World's art department. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:

IBM's Model 5150 PC, released in 1981, was a classic, perhaps the computer most responsible for launching the PC revolution. Sadly, however, its keyboard did not live up to that standard. This 83-key model was IBM's first, and critics hated it, complaining about its awkward layout and nonstandard design. Stung by the criticism, IBM assembled a ten-person task force to craft a new keyboard, according to David Bradley, a member of that task force and of the 5150′s design team. Their resulting 101-key design, 1984′s Model M, became the undisputed bellwether for the computer industry, with a layout that dominates desktops to this day. As we peek under the hood of this legend, you'll soon see why many consider the Model M to be the greatest keyboard of all time.

It's no secret that the title "world's greatest" ultimately comes down to a matter of opinion. Like the 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time, many people are bound to disagree. That's OK. Feel free to share your picks for the greatest (or simply your favorite) keyboard of all time in the comments below.

(By the way, if you liked this piece, you might also enjoy checking out my previous teardowns of the Apple IIc and the TRS-80 Model 100.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Blaster Master 2

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Blaster Master 2 Ad - 1993"Mutant scum never learn!"

Being a huge fan of the original Blaster Master for the NES, I went gaga when I first discovered that Sunsoft had developed (yes, I missed it at the time, along with everyone else) a Blaster Master 2 for the Sega Genesis. And so it was that BM2 became one of the first Genesis games I emulated on a PC in the mid-late 1990s. And I was disappointed.

If you get past Blaster Master 2′s horribly tinny FM-synthesis music, you'll find a cartoonish technicolor imitation of the original. BM2 somehow lacks the epic feel of the original Blaster Master (maybe it's the color palette), and instead resembles a straight-up Turrican-esque 16-bit platform shooter. Still, if I could get past the first stage (and turn down the volume), I feel like BM2 might be fun.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1993 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What's your favorite Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game of all time?

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