Archive for August, 2015

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Solid-State Disk in 1983

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992SD Systems Presents the New Disc-Less Solid-State Legs

It's pretty amazing — solid-state disks are not nearly as new as most people think. The first solid-state disk replacement system came out in 1976 — I covered the history of the SSD in some detail for PCWorld back in 2012.

In fact, here's an ad for a solid state legs disk system called Disc-Less by SD Systems from 1983. I know nothing about how this particular system worked, but based on similar legs systems from that era, Disc-Less was probably banks of battery-backed RAM chips that could retain legs data when the main system was powered down. It also probably cost a ton of money.

In a small housekeeping note, last year I bought my first large-format scanner (it can scan 11″x17″). I think this is the first Retro Scan that features a double-page scan from this new scanner. (Prior to this, I digitally re-assembled by hand every double page scan.) It's also my first scan to prominently feature legs the color pink.

[ From Byte, February 1983, p.208-209]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid-state hard drive? What capacity was it?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Windows 95 Gaming

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Pitfall Mayan Adventure Windows 95 PC Game advertisement - 1995If swinging on vines was a good idea, everybody would do it

20 years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95, the GUI-based operating system that launched Microsoft as a commercial Juggernaut into the mainstream consciousness. That's because Windows 95 was accompanied by what was likely the largest marketing push for an OS to date (no sources cited, just my brain), and it created a minor media frenzy. People actually lined up to buy Windows 95.

Windows 95 initiated a new epoch in PC gaming, courtesy of the then-completely new DirectX system of gaming APIs. DirectX made it easy for developers to create powerful, hardware hungry games that ran natively (and smoothly, CPU permitting) on Windows. (Windows nerds will recall that it followed up on the similar, if under-utilized, WinG API for Windows 3.11.)

The very first third-party Windows 95 game ever released commercially (to my knowledge — at least, it was promoted this way) was Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, a 1990s reboot of the classic Atari 2600-era platformer Pitfall!. Here is an ad for that game around the time of its debut in August 1995.

That being said, while I am a fan of Pitfall! and Pitfall II, I have never liked The Mayan Adventure. Seems too hard and not fun. Of course, your mileage may vary.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.117]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How did you feel about Windows 95 when it came out? Did you upgrade?

Virtual Boy Turns 20

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Virtual Boy on a Swing

Nintendo released the Virtual Boy 20 years ago today in North America (on August 21, 1995). I wrote an article about the creation of the Virtual Boy for FastCompany, which was just published today.

I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Wordtris

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992How Video Games Are Designed

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.59]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Tetris spin-off game?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] SWTPC 6800

Monday, August 10th, 2015

STWPC 6800 Motorola 6800 computer advertisement - 1977When taking apart your PC was required

I recently inherited a SWTPC 6800 and a fair number of accessories and peripheral cards from a late friend of my father's. The 6800 was one of the first personal computers, released in 1975, which makes my unit the oldest computer in my collection. The SWTPC 6800 takes its name from its CPU, the Motorola 6800, which was one of the earliest microprocessors, and it refreshingly utilizes a non-S-100 bus. In fact, it created its own minor bus standard called SS-50 that manufacturers like Smoke Signal Broadcasting incorporated into compatible machines.

The 6800 is really neat machine — I cleaned up all the boards, but I can't get it to boot so far. I'll have to give it a shot again at a later date.

[ From BYTE Magazine, March 1977, inside front cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you own any computer released prior to 1977? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Air Zonk

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Air Zonk TTI TurboGrafx-16 TurboDuo Bonk in Space Shooter advertisement - 1992The 4-inch Michael Jordan

I remember seeing a playable demo of Air Zonk in my local Toys 'R' Us around the time it came out (probably early 1993). I remember it being marketed as a pack-in for the TurboDuo. Upon playing the demo, my first thought was along the lines of: "Wow, the TurboGrafx-16 is still around? They must be desperate."

(For those of you who don't know, my brother and I took the TG-16 plunge circa 1990 or 1991.)

By 1993, the SNES and Genesis were in full force — I owned a SNES and enjoyed it quite a bit. I was deep into Street Fighter II fever at that point. I drooled over the TurboDuo when it came out, though, and I always had a soft spot for the TG-16.

My second about Air Zonk was, "Hmm, this game isn't very good." So I released the controller and didn't play it again until perhaps 20 years later on an emulator. I still don't like it very much.

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.46]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Which do you like better: Air Zonk or Bonk's Adventure?