Archive for May, 2015

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Star Trek KB and Mouse

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Star Trek Keyboard and Star Trek Mouse Catalog Scan Things You Never Knew Existed - 1995Make it no, Number One.

I once lampooned a Klingon keyboard for a PC World slideshow back in 2009 (looks like the images on that slideshow are broken now — bummer), so I found it especially fun when I ran across this entry for a Star Trek-themed keyboard and mouse in a 1995 Things You Never Knew Existed catalog.

The year 1995 seemed like the height of TV Star Trek, with TNG ending not long before, Voyager starting, and DS9 still on a roll. So it was as an appropriate time as ever to market a keyboard and mouse like this. Sadly, neither one looks very comfortable to use. But if ergonomics were the point of novelty products, then Things You Never Knew Exsited would have never existed.

By the way, I love the extremely 1995 hairstyle. I think my hair looked like back then too.

[ From Things You Never Knew Existed (J9506), 1995, p.3]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What is the weirdest keyboard or mouse you have ever used?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Zork

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Personal Software Infocom Zork advertisement - 1981A scene from "Zork: Brick Collector"

This is it, folks: an early ad (maybe the first) for the original commercial release of Zork, the famous Infocom text adventure, published by Personal Software ca. 1980 for the TRS-80 Model I and III home computers.

(This site has some wonderful background history on this release.)

I love the artwork featured in this ad. It is excised from the full cover art for the Personal Software version, which captures a great deal of the majesty and wonder of the seminal adventure title — plus a hefty dose of out-of-place machismo.

The mere mention of Zork takes me back to the mid-1980s when my older brother delved into the Great Underground Empire with the aid of photocopied maps and worn out InvisiClues on our family's Atari 800. Warm, fuzzy memories. Of course, by then, Infocom published the title directly.

[ From Byte, February 1981, p.31]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite text adventure game of all time? (Modern ones count.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Get Your Start in Color Computing with the TRS-80 MC-10

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Radio Shack TRS-80 MC-10 micro color computer catalog page - 1984SMALL ENOUGH TO FIT IN A DINOSAUR SHOE

I've owned a TRS-80 MC-10 since at least 1996 (according to this photo), so it holds a nostalgic place in my collection. It's a really neat little machine despite its limitations (chief among those problems? Tiny chiclet keyboard). But Radio Shack designed this machine as a low-cost entry-level PC for the home, so most of of those issues can easily be overlooked.

The MC-10′s price at the time of this catalog printing had slipped to just $79 (about $178 today when adjusted for inflation). For comparison, the Apple IIc (a far more sophisticated machine, but typical for a home PC at the time) retailed for $1295 upon its introduction that same year (that's a whopping $3,688 today). Price wise, that's similar to the difference between buying a low-end Windows 8 tablet and a Mac Pro. The technological difference was not nearly that dramatic, however.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the MC-10 is that you can now download software for it over the Internet in the form of audio files and load them into the MC-10 via its cassette port. Check out this site for an awesome array of homebrew MC-10 games.

[ From 1984 Radio Shack TRS-80 Catalog (RSC-11), p.59]

Discussion Topic of the Week: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could only use a TRS-80 MC-10 or a Sinclair ZX81, which would you pick?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy Lemmings

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Psygnosis Ocean Lemmings for Game Boy advertisement - 1993Biggest Lemming I Ever Seen

My brother received the IBM PC port of Lemmings as a gift (probably for Christmas) in the early 1990s. It made a distinct impression in my young mind, with its vivid VGA graphics, a playful MIDI soundtrack, and charismatic little creatures that you could bid to do your every whim.

I have never played the Game Boy version, but this ad caught my eye.

When I wrote a feature about the most ported games of all time for 1UP.com back in 2007, Lemmings featured prominently with ports to 28 systems up to that point in time. What can I say — Lemmings is a classic.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.48]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best Lemmings-like or Lemmings clone game? (Other than Lemmings, of course — The Humans and Baldies come to mind.)