Archive for November, 2012

Epic Atari History Book Released

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Atari History Book

Just a few days ago, renowned video game historians Marty Goldberg (formerly of ClassicGaming.com) and Curt Vendel (Atari collector extraordinaire) published their epic Atari history book, Atari Inc.: Business is Fun.

And by epic, I mean 800-pages epic. Its launch coincides with the 40th anniversary of the legendary video game company, which happens to be this year. (In fact, the 40th anniversary of Pong's public debut happens to be today.)

I haven't gotten my hands on a copy of this massive work yet, but I thought I'd let you guys know about it because it promises to be an interesting read.

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Meryl Streep Stares at You

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Meryl Streep Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

Long ago, scanners were rare and expensive. Consumer digital cameras were mostly non-existent — and those that did exist were impractical to use or expensive.

At the same time, many users possessed computers with (relatively speaking) high-resolution bitmapped displays that craved content. In time, those machines gained color capability and could display dazzlingly beautiful works of digital art.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Meryl Streep Stares at You » ]

Benj's Recent Macworld Adventures

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Macworld Logo

As long time readers of VC&G know, I usually post short entries about my non-blog writing activities on this blog so you can enjoy them.

Recently, I've been so engrossed in writing Macworld articles that I have neglected to mention them. Consider that remedied with this handy digest of pieces I've written over the past two months for said Mac-related publication. Conveniently, they all have history angles to them (or else I wouldn't list them here):

There's more on the way, so stay tuned to see whether I neglect to mention those here as well. The excitement is palpable!

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Cave BBS Turns 20

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The Cave BBS first log file - RedWolf PC Plus Minihost - 1992A vintage printout of my first BBS log.

Twenty years ago yesterday, I set up a BBS for the first time. The Cave BBS. Admittedly, it was nothing more than a bare-bones system run through Procomm Plus' Minihost module Minihost, but it was a start. Within a few weeks (with a brief detour running VBBS for a few days), I had a full-fledged WWIV BBS setup running on a Tandy 1800 HD laptop with a 2400 BPS modem.

[Brief aside — I can't find a copy of that ProComm Plus MiniHost for MS-DOS software anywhere — does anyone have it? I have the terminal emulator part, but not the MiniHost.] [ Update 11/27/2012 - Thanks to Jim Carpenter (see comments) for helping me find it! ]

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Cave BBS Turns 20 » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Finally…a 1200 Baud Modem

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Radio Shack TRS-80 DC-2212 Modem 1200 Baud - 1985FINALLY, I mean, COME ON.

You too could be the proud owner of this Radio Shack TRS-80 DC-2212 1200 baud modem for the low, low price of $399.95 (about $859.81 in 2012 dollars).

…If you traveled back in time with the proper currency, that is. But I wouldn't recommend it.

I recently bought a cable modem that is the equivalent of a 150,000,000 baud modem. It cost $70 in 2012 dollars. Not bad for progress.

[ From BYTE, September 1985, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What speed was you first modem?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo Power Pad

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Nintendo NES Power Pad Nintendo Power Ad - 1989Nothing says fun like a nice hot bowl of chunky butter cubes.

With the Wii U launching next weekend, it's worth taking a look back the Power Pad, one of Nintendo's first experiments in motion-based game control.

In this case, the controller (which decidedly lacked a second screen) took the form of a large vinyl mat with enormous soft buttons that one would lay upon the floor and beat with one's fists stomp with one's feet to simulate running in an on-screen video game.

It didn't work too well, but I personally had a blast playing World Class Track Meet tournaments with the Power Pad at the neighbor's house up the street. I recall playing in improvised teams of two, where one player from each team would stand and run on two of the forward facing buttons, and another player on each team would sit behind them on the floor and pound the rear buttons simultaneously in an attempt to make their character run faster.

This was apparently possible (I'm working from memory here — I haven't used a Power Pad in a long time) because each column of buttons is linked together electronically in the Power Pad, so that a push on any one button in any one column is like a push on any other button in that column. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. I can't test it because the Power Pad I happen to have doesn't work.

By the way, I apologize for the uncharacteristically poor quality of the source material here. This came from a particular issue of Nintendo Power that I must have read hundreds of times, literally, so the creases are a natural byproduct of my youthful Nintendo-fueled enthusiasm.

[ From Nintendo Power, January-February 1989, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Tell us your Power Pad memories. Have you ever used one?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] A 1985 Solid State Drive

Monday, November 5th, 2012

SemiDisk Solid State Disk SSD Disk Drive Emulator Ad - 1985This IS your daddy's SSD.

Back in January, I traced the evolution of the Solid State Drive from its 1978 origins to the present in a PC World slideshow. From that experience, I learned that SSDs, as a product class, were far older than most people realize.

Case in point: Seen here is an advertisement for a 1985-era SSD called the SemiDisk. The company behind this early SSD, SemiDisk Systems, sold a wide range of "disk emulators" (as they were called back then) for platforms like S-100 bus systems, the TRS-80 Model 2, and the IBM PC. All of them used solid-state RAM chips to achieve read and write speeds far beyond those of rotating platter drives at the time.

The 2 megabyte SemiDisk for the IBM PC retailed for $1,795 in 1985. That's about $3,860 today when adjusted for inflation. Amusingly, at that vintage price rate — about $1,930 per megabyte — a 256 GB SemiDisk SSD would cost over $494 million today. Yep, that's a 494 followed by six zeroes.

Of course, you can buy a 256GB flash-based SSD right now for under $180. Not bad.

[ From BYTE, September 1985, p.329 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid state PC drive? How big was it?