Archive for September, 2013

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Mac in Dad's Office

Monday, September 30th, 2013

A Macintosh SE in my dad's home office - 1988A Macintosh SE sits in the home office of Benj's father, March 20th, 1988

My father bought the Macintosh SE you see in this photo pretty soon after it came out in 1987. It proved to be a key tool in launching his business the following year. His company's logo, sales literature, and product manuals were all designed on it. It was an amazing upgrade over a DOS-based PC.

Naturally, my brother and I immediately started to use the SE to play games. We had access to very few titles, though — we played Shadowgate, Dungeon of Doom, Silent Service, and that's about it. I was always disappointed with the Mac's lack of color, but the sharpness and resolution of its display were hard to beat at the time. And the sound was amazing too. The evil laugh in the beginning of Shadowgate still rings clear in my memory.

The SE pictured in this photo remains in my collection to this day, and I boot it up from time to tinker with it. Perhaps I should fire it up again today in honor of my dad.

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use a computer in one of your parents' offices? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Remembering My Dad

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Benj's Birthday FaxBenj's Birthday Fax

In 1993, I was heavily into BBSes and all things telecommunications, so my dad, an electronics engineer, lent me his old fax machine to set up in my bedroom. I hooked it to the second phone line in the house (used for my BBS at the time) so I could send experimental faxes to it from my dad's office.

On my 12th birthday, just over 20 years ago, this particular fax came in as a surprise. It was a happy birthday note written by my dad. Receiving my very own fax (probably my first one) delighted me at the time, and I tucked it away for safe keeping. It was one of the most thoughtful personal notes my dad ever wrote to me.

Earlier this year, just after my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I re-discovered the fax in a box of childhood mementos. Being printed on thermal paper, it's now heavily faded, but the message of love, acceptance, and encouragement it conveys is still strong. It represents some of the best things about my dad.

He is the reason I'm here — both in a literal, existential sense, and also as the enabler of my passion for technology. Growing up, if I wanted to experiment with something, he made it happen. If I was curious, he was curious with me. We shared thousands of tech adventures together, and that made him an awesome dad.

Yesterday morning, my father passed away after a 9 month bout with that terrible disease. There will be no more tech adventures between us, and that breaks my heart. But there's a new generation coming up, and I will do my best to continue his legacy of encouragement and gentle guidance with my own kids, who already possess a passion for technical and mechanical things like their grandpa.

Thanks, dad. For everything.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Slay the Nereis

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Slay the Nereis Manual - 1984A TRS-80 Color Computer Centipede clone; this artwork should be a t-shirt.

See Also: TRS-80 Dino Wars (RSOTW, 2012)

[ From Radio Shack "Slay the Nereis" Manual, rev. April 1984 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the silliest knock-off of a famous video game you can think of? (e.g. Donkey King)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] New World Computing Stationery

Monday, September 9th, 2013

New World Computing notepad stationery page - circa 1992Earth kebab

What you see here is a page from a New World Computing notepad that shipped with either Might and Magic III or Planet's Edge, both of which my brother bought back in the day.

NWC made some great games, and I always thought they had the best logo of any game developer at the time. Of all their titles, Might and Magic II got the most love in our household.

(I've enhanced the contrast of this image a bit so you can see the logo detail, which is quite subtle otherwise. It also brings out vintage stains and a stray pencil mark.)

This notepad served as a nice sorta-"feelie" pack-in, one that my brother actually used quite often for notes.

[ From New World Computing notepad, circa 1991-1992 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite New World Computing game?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Sega Genesis Sega Channel advertisement - 1995"Get hooked in."

Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.

Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.

When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn't get to try it out myself.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.39 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.