The Origins of Chuck E. Cheese

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Nolan Bushnell and Chuck E. Cheese

I mentioned this in my most recent Retro Scan, but I figured this was worth repeating in its own post.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre launched 40 years ago last month — on May 16, 1977. To celebrate the anniversary, I wrote a long feature about the origins of the pizza chain for FastCompany that they published last week.

In the piece, you can learn about how Chuck E. Cheese was originally supposed to be a coyote, read about rat-related intrigue, and glean some of the visionary genius of Nolan Bushnell, who saw the chain as a way to bring arcade video games to the mainstream — as well as scratching a fundamental itch of human nature. It worked.

Hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan ] IMSAI 8080

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

IMSAI 8080 S-100 Computer Advertisement Scan - 1977The only winning move is not to play

Here’s an oldie but goodie — the IMSAI 8080, a 1975 clone of the pioneering Altair 8800. Like the Altair, it used an S-100 bus, an Intel 8080 CPU, and a blue, boxy sheet metal case with front panel lights. Unlike the Altair, the IMSAI 8080 featured prominently in the 1983 movie WarGames. The machine apparently greatly annoyed Ed Roberts, the inventor of the Altair.

[ From BYTE, February 1977, p.48 ]

Discussion Topic: Have you ever used an IMSAI 8080 or Altair 8800? Tell us about it.

[ 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 ] Vector Graphic Vector 1

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Vector Graphic Inc. Vector 1 computer system advertisement - 1977NOW AVAILABLE IN RUST

The Vector 1 (1977) was the first complete computer system sold by Vector Graphic, Inc., a California-based firm founded by Lore Harp (now McGovern), Carole Ely, and Bob Harp in August 1976.

The Vector 1 included an Intel 8080A or Zilog Z80 CPU, and it utilized the S-100 bus introduced by the Altair 8800. In an unusual nod to aesthetics, the Vector 1 shipped in two case color options: green or “rust,” which was Vector’s name for orange. It retailed for for $849 fully assembled (about $3,288 today when adjusted for inflation) or $619 as a kit.

It just so happens that I wrote an article about the history of Vector Graphic for FastCompany recently. You may enjoy it.

[ From Byte Magazine, February 1977, p.61]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned an S-100 based computer? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] RCA Studio II Tennis/Squash

Monday, September 17th, 2012

RCA Studio II TV Arcade III Tennis-Squash Box Cover - 1988A stunningly realistic RCA Studio II gameplay session.

Here’s the box cover of TV Arcade III: Tennis/Squash for the for the RCA Studio II (1977), the world’s second ROM cartridge-based video game console.

The early console, which featured only two numeric keypads for control, was such a dog that I named it the “worst video game console of all time” in a 2009 PC World slideshow. Three years later, I stand by that assessment.

You may be asking yourself why RCA prefaced the game title with “TV Arcade III.” Well, silly, that’s because it was part of a sequence of “TV Arcade” games for the RCA Studio II that started with “I” and ended with “IV.” That’s exactly, I might add, how the ancient Romans would have labeled their video games.

[ From RCA Tennis/Squash Box, circa 1977, cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played an RCA Studio II? What did you think?