Archive for October, 2015

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Dad's Halloween Card

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Personalized custom homemade Print Shop Halloween greeting card - circa 1984-85Happy Halloween from 1984

My family has this way of saving everything. Not through conscious, organized preservation, but by virtue of never throwing anything away.

In that vein, I was digging through some old papers at my mom's house after my father passed away in 2013, and I came across this homemade Halloween greeting card.

From the looks of it, my dad made the card for me and my brother using Broderbund's Print Shop on the family's Apple IIc. It is printed on a single sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper; one is supposed to fold it in half twice to achieve a gatefold design with a front, inside, and back. Click the image above to see the whole thing unfolded — the other side is blank.

As for who colored it with crayons, I'm guessing I did (perhaps my dad or brother did it neatly, then I gave it a once-over with a brown squiggly line). What a great momento from the home PC era. Happy Halloween!

[ From Personal scan of homemade Halloween card, ca.1984-85]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever made a personalized greeting card using your computer? Tell us about it.

VC&G Anthology Interview: What Makes a Video Game? A Short Conversation with Nolan Bushnell (2011)

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Nolan Bushnell HimselfBack in 2011, I wrote an article about the creation of Nutting Associates' Computer Space on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. If you'll recall, Computer Space was the world’s first mass-produced and commercially sold video game. It started the video arcade game industry.

While researching the piece, I conducted extensive telephone interviews with Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell, the co-creators of the game (who went on to become the co-founders of Atari). During my conversation with Bushnell, we touched upon some other topics too — when you have a guy like Bushnell on the phone, you tend to ask whatever you need when you have the chance.

VC&G Anthology BadgeWhile looking through the transcript of that 2011 interview again recently, I came across a section near the end where Nolan and I talked about what it really means to be a video game. During our conversation, Nolan hit on something that I think is rather profound, yet completely obvious in hindsight. I thought other folks might find our conversation, and its resulting conclusion, interesting.

I've kept this transcript nearly verbatim because I feel it reflects the spontaneous, free-flowing nature of the conversation. We were talking as he was driving home from a business appointment, so he was slightly distracted at the time.

[ Continue reading VC&G Anthology Interview: What Makes a Video Game? A Short Conversation with Nolan Bushnell (2011) » ]

Introducing VC&G Anthology

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Image Desc

It is no secret that Vintage Computing and Gaming is in its 10th year of publication (the site's 10th anniversary is November 2nd of this year).

Ten years is like a century on the Internet. Throughout these long 100 metaphorical years, I've done a lot of side work for features both on VC&G and in my offsite freelance features that have never been published before.

That is going to change. Today I'm announcing a new series on this blog called VC&G Anthology. It's just a fancy way of saying "old stuff from my archives."

To fuel the Anthology, I've dug up old interviews, outtakes, notes, and other writings from my history that have previously never appeared on VC&G or anywhere else.

Additionally, some of the upcoming Anthology material will come from my work on other publications that is no longer accessible. This will be one way to remedy the Web's propensity to forget things when host sites go belly up or get URL-confused or database-addled in their old age.

So stay tuned — this should be fun.

Real Place Names that Sound Like Namco Arcade Games

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

This is amusing. It turns out that a number of real, actual geographical place names in the world happen to sound a lot like 1980s Namco arcade video game titles. (If you try to pronounce them in English, anyway.)

I ran across this phenomenon a few years ago when I accidentally learned about Malaga, Spain (i.e. Galaga). After that, I decided to look for other cities and places that sound like (or at least are spelled like) various Namco games. Here is what I've found so far:

[ Continue reading Real Place Names that Sound Like Namco Arcade Games » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Gray Zapper

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Nintendo NES Zapper Light Gun Scan - Zapper ca.1985Released because Americans like guns

The Nintendo Entertainment System turned 30 years old in the US yesterday — well, according to Nintendo, anyway. That date is still a little fuzzy, in my opinion. Still, it's close enough.

When the NES turned 25 (exactly five years ago today — creepy!), I wrote a few features about this classic system like NES Oddities for Technologizer and a NES workbench teardown for PCWorld.

This year, I have done nothing to celebrate except scan this NES Zapper. It's a beaut.

Just a few days ago, the designer of the NES hardware revealed that the NES shipped with the Zapper because "Americans in general are interested in gun." Indeed they are!

In 1989, Nintendo changed the dark grey parts of the Zapper to "blaze orange" to meet new US Federal regulations about toy guns. That regulation involved required orange plugs or paint at the tips of the barrels of realistic or imitation toy guns.

The regulation passed because people were robbing banks with toy guns, and the orange plug was supposed to let cops know the difference between a deadly weapon and a hunk of plastic. (Turns out the plug requirement doesn't work as planned. But it did ruin the toy gun industry.)

The Zapper isn't exactly a realistic toy gun, but acting with its usual overabundance of caution, Nintendo went way beyond a barrel plug. Either way, I am proud to say that, to this date, no one has ever been shot and killed by a NES Zapper.

P.S. In January, I scanned a line drawing of the Zapper from the NES manual. You may enjoy that as well.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, January 1991, p.50-51]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you think someone could rob a bank with a NES Zapper? What about in the 1980s?


See Also:
NES Zapper Diagram (Retro Scan, 2015)
Model No. NES-001 (Retro Scan, 2010)
NES Oddities
Inside the Nintendo Entertainment System

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Metadata and The Well-Loved Floppy Disk

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Apple IIe Floppy Disk Label front and back elephant computer systems Never forget hand labeled floppy disk 5.25 diskAn elephant never forgets. [Front]

Apple IIe Floppy Disk Label back and back Elephant Computer Systems Never forget hand labeled floppy disk 5.25 diskNot a September 11th floppy slogan. [Back]

There's a lot of information crammed onto this Elephant Computer Systems floppy disk, and I don't mean the digital data. It's overflowing with external, physical clues and markings that show how it has been handled and used over its lifespan. Archivists call this "metadata" — that is, data about the data — and it is often lost when things are digitized.

The most obvious pieces of metadata from the labeling on the disk are about who manufactured it ("Elephant Computer Systems"), its optimal capacity ("single-sided, single-density") and intended usage ("soft sector"). If you familiarized yourself with the technical specs of the floppy drives of computers available in the 5.25″ floppy era, you could rule out a few systems. That could be useful if other platform-betraying clues were absent on the disk.

Another obvious set of metadata comes from the presumed contents of the disk, which we can infer from the printed file directories taped to the disk jacket. Again, if one were familiar with the program names in the listing, one could point to a specific computer platform. (In this case, the printout looks like a DOS 3.3 "CATALOG" listing from the Apple II.)

Let's take a step deeper into the less obvious metadata presented to us by this artifact. From visually inspecting the disk, we can tell (among other things):

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Metadata and The Well-Loved Floppy Disk » ]

THE CONFUSIONING OF YOUR MIND

Monday, October 12th, 2015

[ Our longtime contributor, Ulaf Silchov, recently completed his first self-help book, which will soon be available through Amazon.com. It isn't completely VC&G-related, but it contains sound advice for navigating the challenges of our hectic daily lives. To help him promote his book, I thought I'd let him write about it here. — Benj ]

INTRODUCTIONS

SOURCES OF THE CONFUSIONINGIT HAS BECOME TO THE ATTENTIONS OF ULAF THAT SOMES OF YOUR MIND HAVE BECOMES CONFUSIONED. AND SO ULAF WRITES THE SELFS-HELP BOOKS, WHICH ULAF CALL "THE CONFUSIONING OF YOUR MIND," BY ULAF SILCHOV.

IN THE BOOKS ULAF EXPLORE THE CAUSE OF THE CONFUSIONING AS WELLS AS WHAT RITUALS TO PERFORM UPON IT.

(FOR THE CAUSES, ULAF LOOK HEARTILY UPON THE VIDEO GAMES FIFTY PERCENTAGES OF THE TIMES)

HERE YOUR MIND READS AN EXCEPTION OF THIS BOOKS THAT GIVE A TIPS OF POWER TO THOSE WHO NEEDED IT MOST IN THE TIME OF GREAT STRUGGLE.

[ Continue reading THE CONFUSIONING OF YOUR MIND » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Genesis Does Contractions

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Sega Genesis advertisement Genesis Does What Nintendon't advertisement - 1991Before the Sega Scream, there was the Sega Insult

This is a rather famous early ad for the Sega Genesis that I have never featured until now. It played upon the dramatic graphical differences between the Genesis and the NES, claiming "Genesis Does What Nintendon't."

It's worth emphasizing that Sega is comparing its console to the 8-bit NES here, and not the Super NES — Nintendo's 16-bit machine had not yet been released in the US, allowing Sega to get a jump on the next generation in the American market.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, January 1991, p.50-51]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What year did you first get a Sega Genesis? What were your first games for it?