Archive for March, 2014

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's Early Computer Art

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Benj's Early Computer Art Kindergarten Art Print Printout 1986Watch out, Mr. Rabbit!

As I've previously mentioned, I've found a wealth of Retro Scan material while looking through old family papers in the attic at my mom's house.

This time, I was sorting through a giant box of my ancient artwork from school, and I came upon this fascinating computer printout from my kindergarten era (1985-86).

I vaguely remember making it (although, strangely, I mostly remember coloring in those little boxes and being proud of it), but I have no idea what software I used to do it. I know that my school stocked itself with IBM PCs, but the font and the overall feel of the image remind me of an Apple II MECC educational game.

Whatever the platform, this looks like the output from a stamp/clip-art program for kids. Does anybody know what it is?

[ Update: 09/25/2015 - I figured out what game this is. After going through a pile of MECC disks for the Apple II, I ran across one game called Paint With Words (published by M.E.C.C. in 1986). I booted it up on my Apple IIc, and sure enough, it is the program used to create the image in this scan. It is a really neat game that allows you to place words onto a pre-defined background image using a mouse or a keyboard. After you set them in place, the words turn into pictures of what the words represent. My family owned an Apple IIc circa 1984-1987, so I believe this printout was created at home. ]

[ From 8.5 x 11-inch tractor feed printout, circa 1985-86]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first computer paint program you ever used?

[ Newsbits ] March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Hi, Benj here. People send me stuff all the time hoping I'll post something about it on VC&G, but each item alone rarely warrants its own post. There is a solution: a regular compressed news and links column. It's something I've been meaning to do for, well, almost 9 years now.

So I finally got around to it. (Just in time for blogs to become thoroughly obsolete, natch.) Newsbits could become a weekly thing, or I'll just post them as news collects. I'll feel it out as I go along.

News & Links

  • Vintage Computer Festival East 9.1
    April 4-6, 2014, InfoAge Science Center, Wall, New Jersey

    "Vintage Computer Festival East is a hands-on, family-friendly celebration of computer history. Activities include a book sale, classes, consignment sale, exhibit hall, food, lectures, museum tours, prizes, vendors, workshops, and more. (Why "9.1″? We skipped 9.0 in 2013 due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.)

  • Second Edition of "Atari, Inc." Possible
    Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel are working on a second, revised edition of the epic Atari history book they released in 2012. More info as it comes along.
  • Surfing Modern Web With Ancient Browsers
    Awesome technique renders pages as image-mapped GIFs.

    "Webrender.py came to life. It’s a cgi-bin application that resides on a machine in the middle. It renders a gif image and spits it out to the browser together with a simple web page, containing a URL and search input boxes plus the gif and image map.

  • The Temple Operating System
    The demo video for this Judeo-Christian-inspired homemade operating system will blow your mind. (via Antoni Sawicki)

    "TempleOS is an x86_64, multi-tasking, multi-cored, public domain, open source, ring-0-only, single-address-map (identity mapped), non-networked, PC operating system for recreational programming. I capped the lines of code at 100,000, so it will never be an ugly monstrosity. Currently, it is 81,489. Since God's temple must be perfect and we have 1,000 years in mind, I do not promise that anything is future-proof.

Echo Box

Here are some products, creative works, and upcoming projects seeking support. No endorsement from VC&G is implied.

  • Nova Phase
    A downloadable comic book with NES-style pixel art graphics.
  • donkulous DONKEYS (iTunes Link)
    "We've just released a new free iOS game, donkulous DONKEYS. It's an unapologetically hard but insanely addictive retro arcade game, inspired by Bill Gates' first one-and-only DOS game.
  • Armiga Project on Indiegogo
    "Wouldn't it be great to be able to use all those aging Amiga disks again? Maybe the original Amiga is a bit big and video quality not so good… A smaller version, with modern connections would be awesome, isn't it? That's what we've done: take modern technology and make it work with good old floppies.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line. My email filter will route it directly into my brain.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Canon Personal Computer

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Canon Personal Computer IBM PC compatible clone Advertisement 1985May the Clone Wars begin.

Here's another obscure IBM PC clone from the depths of time, the Canon Personal Computer.

As I mentioned in a recent RSOTW, it was pretty easy — even within a few years of the IBM PC's release — to undercut IBM price-wise by integrating ports and peripherals directly into the motherboard of a competing computer.

Note that the Canon PC used an Intel 8086 CPU, which packed the full 16-bit data bus (verses the 8-bit bus on the IBM PC's 8088).

[ From TIME (Small Business USA Insert), May 6 1985, p.2]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Canon is best known for its imaging products, but it made computers too. Can you think of any other companies best known for something else that made a PC?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega IR 7000

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Sega IR 7000 Haldheld Portable PDA Infrared Advertisement 1994"Whispering is for gutless weasels."

In the early-mid 1990s, Sega experimented with a few electronics items that veered away from mainstream console gaming. Case in point, the IR 7000 PDA, seen here (and don't forget the Sega Pico).

I've never owned an IR 7000, but I have to admit that I wanted one badly back in the day. The thought of sending secret wireless messages to other kids in class (I was 13 at the time this came out) excited me.

[ From Flux, Issue #2, 1994, p.7]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what was Sega's weirdest product?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo World Championships 1990

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Nintendo Power Nintendo World Championships 1990 Advertisement 1990"Children everywhere will be crushed and digitized by the trophy of power."

There's a certain ultra-rare golden NES cartridge out there that originated at Nintendo World Championships 1990. Here's an advertisement for the event itself on the back of a vintage Nintendo Power magazine from 1990.

Kinda makes you want to go back in time and attend, doesn't it? Call 1-900-HOT-4NWC to find out more!

[ From Nintendo Power, May-June 1990, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Video game competitions: interesting or boring? Debate.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Visual 1050 PC

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Visual 1050 Personal Computer System Advertisement 1983"The complete professional solution at an unbeatable price."

I've never owned a Visual 1050 Personal Computer System (seen here), but I have an old Visual brand terminal that uses the same (or a very similar) keyboard. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see this, because it's a distinctively wide, flat keyboard.

The 1050 sported a Z80 CPU and ran the CP/M operating system, the grandfather of MS-DOS. Curiously, even though CP/M was a popular platform for business computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I only have a a handful of pure CP/M-based machines in my collection. (My favorite such machine is probably the Kaypro II.)

In regard to the chart in the advertisement above, it's interesting to note that it was pretty easy to undercut IBM, price-wise, not long after the IBM PC came out. Fast advances in IC design allowed computer makers to inexpensively cram more functions (think serial, parallel, game ports, disk controller, graphics card, etc.) directly onto motherboards instead of offloading them onto separate plug-in cards. While the 1050 was not an IBM PC clone, true PC clone makers took advantage of this effect to hollow out the inside of IBM's hold on the PC market from the bottom up.

[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.40-41]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have a favorite machine that runs CP/M?