Archive for November, 2009

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Terminal Innuendo

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Soroc Terminal IQ 120 IQ 140 Ad - 1979Computer shopping in the Fortress of Solitude.

In this ad for the SOROC IQ 120 and IQ 140 terminals, we see a woman who clearly wants to interface with something — but what? Very few peripherals understand the cryptic FAJI/NA protocol (Female Anatomical Jiggy Interface / Network Access). Even with the proper connector and hardware handshaking, those few who succeed in uploading might end up with a virus.

Oh, I get it…they're talking about the terminals. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

[ From Byte Magazine, November 1979 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever regularly used a text-based terminal to get serious work done? Tell us about it.

A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration on Technologizer

If you liked the NES Action Set Family, then you'll probably enjoy my latest Technologizer slideshow. It examines ten early-1980s computer magazine advertisements, all of which focus on a happy family gathered around the 'ole family PC.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The NES Action Set Family

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988The Euro-American family in its native habitat.

Just in time for Thanksgiving — and the ritual practice of family togetherness — comes this wonderful vintage photo from the back of the NES Action Set box. In it, we see a four-person white American nuclear family utterly consumed by a game of Super Mario Bros.

This scene looks nice at first glance, but imagine having to play through a whole game with mom and dad hanging off of your shoulders.

"Hey son."

(Father gets in close, whispering into son's ear.)

"Want to play some Super Mario Brothers?"

"I'm already playing, Dad."

(Father squeezes son's shoulder tighter.)

"My uncle's name is Mario."

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988

Luckily, the scenario I've concocted above appears nowhere on the box. Still, a few amusing things about this photo jump out at me:

  • Mario is gleefully flying to his death.
  • The family apparently owns two copies of Super Mario Bros. because one is on the table, and they're playing one in the NES.
  • The two kids are both playing a one player game at the same time. Or maybe the older brother (player 1) on the right is screwing up the little brother's game by hitting pause at random intervals.
  • The mother and the son on the right aren't looking at the TV set. Actually, I don't think any of them are.

I've included an extra-large scan this time (when you click on the image), so you might be able to turn it into a desktop background.

For more vintage family madness, check out my latest slideshow on Technologizer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ From Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set Box (reverse), 1988 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played a video game with your entire immediate family rapturously engaged in the action on screen?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Corvus Apple II Hard Drive

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Corvus Hard Drive IMI-7710 for Apple II Ad - 1979The snail was not amused.

Wow. $5,350 for a 10 megabyte hard drive system that's almost as big as your computer. What a bargain! It's like a tiny coffin for your data.

In case you're taking notes, this Corvus hard disk system sold for $15,915.07 in 2009 US dollars. Its retail price constituted a whopping 53% of the average American's yearly income in 1979 (about $10,121). Yes, in 1979, you could spend half of your annual salary on a single 10MB hard drive setup.

Just out of curiosity, how many of you owned a hard disk for your PC before 1985? Raise your hand.

Not many, and now you see why. Even as prices dropped, most hard disks were well out of the realm of affordability for most home PC users in the 1970s and 80s. Even at 1/5th the cost, this hard drive would have still been beyond the reach of most US households.

[ From BYTE Magazine, November 1979 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the size (data capacity) of your first computer hard drive?

SNES PowerPak Materializes

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

RetroZone SNES PowerPak

Remember the PowerPak — that wondrous device from RetroZone that allowed you to cram every NES game ever made into one cartridge? Well, two years later, RetroZone has released its follow-up, the SNES PowerPak for the Super NES.

Well, they've kinda released it. Sales appear to temporarily be on hold in order to "investigate system compatibility," according to the RetroZone website.

RetroZone Temporarily UnavailableFor those unfamiliar with the original PowerPak concept, the SNES PowerPak allows one to copy SNES ROM files onto a compact flash card, place the card into the SNES PowerPak cartridge, and then play those games on a real Super NES unit. It supports multiple games through on-screen menu selection.

More Info to Come

When I stumbled across the new SNES PowerPak today, I initially felt like jealously hoarding the knowledge so I'll have less competitors when I try to get my hands on one of these magical devices.

But then I realized that I have a responsibility to let you guys know about this, since so few sites out there cover the world of Nintendo hacking and modding — and especially since the proprietor of RetroZone doesn't make much effort to get the word out.

Whenever I get one, I'll write a review for VC&G. Until then, you can drool over it like me at the RetroZone site.

Jason Scott Needs Your Help

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Jason Scott Sabbatical

Jason Scott is a singular fellow. He's the man behind the BBS Documentary, the upcoming Get Lamp documentary (on text adventure games), and creator of textfiles.com. He also spearheaded a recent attempt to archive all of Geocities before Yahoo took it down recently.

This fellow historian, friend of VC&G, and archivist extraordinaire recently lost his long-time job as a system administrator. Like many who have found themselves unemployed recently, the situation inspired a little soul-searching from Scott, who realized his stressful years as a system administrator had worn down his health.

Something important dawned on him: he already spent so much of his spare time and money on his main passion — preserving and documenting computer history — why not try to do that full time?

That's where the Jason Scott Sabbatical fund at Kickstarter.com comes in. Scott is seeking donations from people around to globe to fund a 3-4 month sabbatical wherein he can focus on his history and archiving work full time. So far, hundreds of people have chipped in (including myself), but he still needs more donations to push him over top of the hill.

I can honestly say there's no one else out there like Jason Scott, and we will likely never see another single individual so fiercely (and I mean fiercely) dedicated to preserving the overlooked backwaters and forgotten alleys of our digital history. Scott's goal is a worthy one, and he does monumentally important work that future historians will thank him for.

Jason Scott -- The Showman

This sabbatical concept via Kickstarter is a somewhat radical idea, I know. Some of you will have doubts about it — for example, if he will spend the money properly. But I don't fear that outcome: that's for Jason Scott to sort out, and for his own conscience to live with.

If you contribute a modest amount, you have little to lose. If he blows the cash, so what? But if you contribute and Scott does what he promises to do, I predict that history will have a lot to gain — not only in terms of added, productive years on Jason Scott's life, but in countless terabytes of priceless historical data that will serve as the foundation of our ancestors' understanding of the past.

As a historian, I need Jason Scott to continue his work. As a human with a responsibility to the legacy of your species, you need Jason Scott to do his work. Please consider helping him out.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Wall Street Kid (NES)

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Sofel NES Wall Street Kid Ad - 1990Coming Soon: Ben Bernanke's Bail-Out!!

[ From Video Games and Computer Entertainment, November 1990 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How has the current U.S. economic recession affected you?

Inside the Atari 800 (30th Anniversary)

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Inside the Atari 800 - PC World

Thirty years ago this fall, Atari shipped its first entries in the personal computer market, the Atari 800 and 400 computers. I'm particularly fond of the Atari 8-bit series because I grew up with an 800 as my first computer and video game machine — it was especially potent and impressive in the pre-NES days.

Sadly, no publication I queried was interested in a full in-depth history of the computer (although I was poised to do one), so you'll have to settle for my latest slideshow on PCWorld.com.

In "Inside the Atari 800," I dissect my family's beloved Atari 800 unit and explore what makes it tick. This article is the eighth entry in my "workbench series" of tech teardowns, and it might be my best. If nothing else, it sports my favorite self-designed introduction slide yet (seen above) — I should turn that into a poster.

By the way, PC World drastically improved its slide show system, so if you weren't a fan of it in the past, check this one out. I think they've retrofitted all my old slide shows to the new system as well. (Even so, I'm not too happy they made my sharp photos look terrible with extreme JPG compression.)

So give it a look-over; I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to share your Atari 8-bit memories and well-wishes here. I'd love to know how many Atari 8-bit fans we have out there.

Here are my previous teardowns, if you're interested: Commodore 64, Nintendo Game Boy, Nintendo Famicom, Apple IIc, IBM Model M Keyboard, TRS-80 Model 100, and Macintosh Portable.

Vintage vs. Modern PC Prices

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Classic PCs vs. New PCs Technologizer

Amongst all the heady VC&G anniversary festivities (I've been to five parties this week alone*), I almost forgot to tell you about a new VC&G-related article that popped up last week on Technologizer. It's by a guy named Benj Edwards, which probably explains why I'm writing about it here.

For my latest Technologizer article, Classic PCs vs. New PCs, I selected six vintage personal computers from yesteryear and figured out what you could buy today for the same price. And we’re not talking original retail price here; I took inflation into account.

For example, the Commodore 64 — once considered a low-cost home computer — originally sold for the equivalent of $1,331.62 in 2009 dollars. Today you can get quite a bit for that much money. How much? That's what we're going to find out.

* Five all-nude FORTRAN coding jamborees, invitational

VC&G: Still Here After Four Years

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Vintage Computing and Gaming LogoFour years ago today, I posted my first (somewhat awkward) entry on this blog. I was new to blogging then. Heck, blogging was new to blogging then. Or at least it feels that way to me now.

I was by no means an early adopter of blogging in general, but quite a bit has changed in the "blogosphere" (I die a little every time I say that term) over the last four years — years that have seen a choice few video game and gadget blogs consolidate power with very influential voices in their respective communities. They've gone from sloppy wannabe video game/gadget press to actually absorbing, replacing, and becoming the video game/gadget press in some respects as traditional print magazines continue to fall by the wayside.

Where's VC&G in all this? Heh, I don't know. We're no powerhouse, but we (I say "we" in the most singular sense of the word) have an impressive Google footprint in the video game and computer history realm. It's a bizarre feeling when I'm researching my freelance articles and I come across multiple links to VC&G posts or images from Retro Scan of the Week on every Google results page. I have to avoid quoting myself.

Vintage Computing and Gaming SiteAt the end of the day, Vintage Computing and Gaming is still an enthusiast blog that's not updated very frequently (since 2007 or so). But at least we're still here after four years. That's a long time to consistently maintain any blog, and I'm proud of that much.

I like the stability and consistency that VC&G provides in my writing life, and my regular readers (that's you) feel like old buddies to me now. Thanks for continuing to humor me in moments both odd and insightful.

On another note, I honestly never thought I'd keep the same theme and site design for this long. Back in 2005, I used to plan site redesigns for my websites every few years, but this layout served the blog so well that I just said, "What the heck. If it works, keep it."

And now, some statistics. There are currently 491 posts and 5,165 comments on VC&G. That's an average of 3.5 comments a day since November 2nd, 2005, and a whopping 10.5 per post. Not too shabby. Keep it up!

Discussion Topic of the Year: Share your favorite VC&G moments. If you had no nominate a post or two for a hypothetical "Best of VC&G," what would they be?