Archive for April, 2009

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Zenith Laptops of Olde

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Zenith Supersport 286e and Zenith Supersport SX Ad - 1990"Zenith Data Systems Innovates Again"

I've used my fair share of hefty laptops like the Zenith Supersport SX and 286e seen above. Their relatively large size by modern standards made them no less miraculous for their time.

Even in 1990, we'd come a long way from foot-breaking luggables like the Osborne 1, the Kaypro II, and the Compaq Portable. Gone were the bulky CRT displays; in their place sat thin LCD panels that would vastly expand in capability over the next 19 years. The LCDs in most early laptops started off monochrome with no backlighting, low contrast, poor viewing angles, and slow refresh rates, but that was worth suffering through if it meant you could have a full-powered PC on the go.

Interestingly enough, computers like those seen above — even with their display limitations — are not completely obsolete: I still use old monochrome laptops for writing outside because you can easily see the displays in full sunlight. If you try that with most modern laptops, you'll see nothing but a dark blur.

[ From BYTE Magazine, October 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What's the largest portable computer you've ever used?

Six Reasons Why Game Boy Ruled The World

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Original Game Boy

Yep, here's one more Game Boy 20th Anniversary article from yours truly, this time on Ars Technica. It covers six strong reasons why the Game Boy was so successful during its long run. Judging by your RSOTW discussion answers yesterday, many of you already agree with me, so odds are that you might enjoy reading the piece.

But don't worry, folks. The torrent of Game Boy coverage will soon be over.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy is Twenty

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Game Boy Newspaper Ad - 1989"Just pop it in your pocket and pull it out any time."

[ From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 23rd, 1989 ]

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the Game Boy went on sale for the first time in Japan. It retailed for ¥12,500 (about $94 US at 1989 rates), and Nintendo offered four games at Game Boy's initial launch: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a Mahjong game). Four months later, Game Boy reached American shores with a retail price of $89.99 and a powerful pack-in game — Tetris.

Nintendo's inclusion of Tetris as the US pack-in was a stroke of absolute genius. The handheld version of Alexey Pajitnov's addictive puzzler made such waves in US that its release will long be remembered not just as a defining moment in video game history, but as a major cultural event for an entire generation.

As we now know, Game Boy's long and successful run created an immense legacy, far beyond just Tetris. Overall, publishers released 1246 licensed games for the Game Boy in Japan and 952 in the US. To date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (including Game Boy Color) worldwide.

Above, we see an original Toys 'R' Us newspaper advertisement announcing the arrival of the Game Boy and its launch games in the United States. (Gotta love that line art.) It really brings back memories of my excitement regarding Nintendo's first handheld system.

Discussion Topic of the Week:

In your opinion, what factors made the Game Boy so successful?

On the other hand, what mistakes, if any, did Nintendo make with the Game Boy over its twenty year run?

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More Game Boy Scans & Coverage:

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Game Boy Oddities

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Game Boy Oddities on Technologizer

Just up is a new slide show I put together for Technologzier that showcases Game Boy oddities. It's like a freak show for Nintendo's venerable handheld, which turns twenty next week. Ever seen a Game Boy peripheral that dispenses laughing gas? How about one that demands tributes of child blood? If not, then mosey on over to Technologizer and take a look.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Apple II Newspaper Ad

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Apple II Newspaper Ad - 1982Computers? What is the world coming to?

Here's another item from my grandmother's cedar chest — I love these old newspaper line-art illustrations. ECS was Oak Ridge, Tennessee's first retail computer store, if I recall correctly from an old article I read. They advertised quite a lot in the local newspaper, including the ad for the Apple II you see above.

The Apple II's configuration with two Disk II drives and a small monitor on top is interesting. I believe I've seen Apple promotional photos from the early Apple II days with the same setup. The relatively tiny display seems somewhat silly from a modern perspective, but computer monitors were very expensive back then. A large one that would have covered the entire top of the Apple II would have cost $400 or more in 1980-ish dollars.

In fact, just perusing some ads in the back of a 1981 BYTE magazine, I don't see any monitors offered larger than a 13″ color Zenith for $399.95 ($933 in 2009 dollars). 9-inch to 12-inch monochrome monitors cost anywhere from $150 to $260, which is equivalent to $350 to $606 in 2009 dollars. You get the point — even entry-level displays back then cost an arm and a leg. Even if you paid two arms and two legs, the monitors were still relatively small.

[ From The Oak Ridger (World's Fair Issue), March 25th, 1982 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us about your first Apple II experience. Where and when was it, and why were you using it?

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 Game Boy

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Inside the Nintendo Game Boy

In honor of the Game Boy's 20th anniversary this month, I recently dissected an original 1989 model of Nintendo's famous handheld for PC World. Of course, I took pictures of the process.

This is the sixth entry in my "workbench series" of technology tear-downs for PC World. Here are the others: Nintendo Famicom, Apple IIc, Commodore 64, IBM Model M Keyboard, and TRS-80 Model 100.

I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Alien Brigade (Atari 7800)

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Alien Brigade Atari 7800 Ad - 1990A classic case of fist-cheek syndrome.

Now here's something you don't see every day: a print ad for an Atari 7800 game. Moreover, a print ad for an Atari 7800 game in 1990. Moreover, a print ad for an original Atari 7800 game in 1990.

An advertisement like this seems odd because Atari's marketing budget for the underwhelming 7800 was very modest. My guess is that the release of the Atari Lynx in the year prior injected renewed vigor into Atari's marketing efforts. The same vigor likely prompted Atari to publish a handful of new 7800 titles around 1990-91, of which Alien Brigade was one. From what I've read, modern Atari fans enjoy this rare light gun game, but I've never played it.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, November 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Do you think that the Atari 7800 could have better taken on Nintendo if Atari had marketed it better? Also, feel free to share your favorite Atari 7800 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.

ULAF'S GARDENING TIPS

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

[Editor's Note: This was part of an April Fools gag. Ulaf is still not amused.]

ULAF WHILE GARDENSINGHELLO AGAIN VINTAGE SUPERFANS. RECENTLY, THE BENJ DECIDES TO HAND ULAF THE RAINS OF THESE BLOG POST. SO ULAF CONVERT SITE TO THE FAVORITES OF ALL THE WORLD'S KRELZ, GARDENSING. AND HENCE: VINTAGE COMPUTING AND GARDENSING.

TO STARTS US OFF, MY MIND WILL SHARE WITH YOU EASY THREE TIPS TO THE BETTER GARDENSING.

NUMBERS 1:
DO NOT EAT THE VEGTABLES BEFORE THE GROWING.

NUMBERS 2:
THE DIRT IS NOT FOR THE EATING, BUT FOR THE GROWING.

NUMBERS 3:
THE WORMS ARE FOR THE GROWING, AND THE EATING IF YOUR MIND LACK EXCELLENT NUTRIMENT.

THAT IS ALL FOR NOW. STAY TUNES FOR MORE GARDENSING TIPS AND TRICKSTERS FROM THE WHIRL OF ULAF.

FOR COMPUING AND GAMINGS TIPS, CONSULT HOW TO BEAT THE VIDEO GAMES, THE ULAF CLASSIC. SOON ULAF WRITES "HOW TO BEAT THE VEGETABLES" FOR YOUR MIND TO CONSUME. UNTIL NEXT TIME THIS IS ULAF SAYING BE THE MASTER.

ULAF FANS UNITE! READS ULAF ON THE TWEETER: @ulafsilchov

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