[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Thoughware JingleDisk

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Thoughtware JingleDisk Jingle Disk Animated musical computer christmas card animation artwork Xmas - 1985Jingle disk, jingle disk, jingle all the way

Throughout the ages, fans of Christmas have found new and varied ways to express their love for the holiday. In the 1980s, personal computer users joined in the fun, using their machines to host a new breed of animated Christmas greetings that were distributed through magazines, BBSes, or even sold on disk like Thoughtware’s JingleDisk, seen here.

Upon inserting JingleDisk into your Commodore 64 or Apple II computer (It’s a double-sided disk with data for the different platforms on each side) and booting it up, the user is presented with a Christmas-themed animation set to various holiday musical standards. It’s fun to watch.

There is something about the warmth of the glow from a cathode ray tube screen that lends itself well to computerized Christmas celebrations — perhaps it echoes some primal link to prehistoric man sitting around the fire telling stories.

By the way, this JingleDisk came to me by way of a family friend who just turned 40 years old today. Happy Birthday, Chris!

[ From Thoughtware JingleDisk product packaging, 1985, front/back ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever programmed a Christmas-themed demo or sent a computerized Christmas card? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM PS/1 Imagination System

Monday, September 14th, 2015

IBM PS/1 Imagination System Box Scan Photo - 1994IBM and Disney go together like peanut butter and petroleum jelly

Just before my brother left for college in the fall of 1994, my whole family went shopping for a new PC to send off to school with him. We made our way to an IBM PC factory outlet near Durham, NC. Upon walking in to the store, I remember being amazed by rows of 20-foot tall warehouse-style shelves, each one stacked with large boxes for IBM PC systems. A salesman met us at the door and apparently steered my father toward this: the IBM PS/1 Imagination system. I guess it was a good deal.

The machine itself came equipped with a 25 MHz 486-SX CPU, 4 MB of RAM, a 2400 BPS modem, and a Disney Sound Source (a sort of primitive SoundBlaster that plugged into the parallel port). Unlike earlier PS/1 models, this one shipped with MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. It also came with a suite of pre-installed Disney software that my brother promptly deleted.

My dad also bought an unusual IBM-brand external ISA CD-ROM drive that required its own peripheral card. There wasn’t enough room in the PS/1 case for a CD-ROM drive and a 5.25″ floppy.

After college, my brother took this machine to work with him as a programmer, and he used it there until it was long outdated — probably until 1999 or so. It now rests safely in my collection, although the hard drive is now shot, and I think the power supply is fried too. Almost a decade ago, its rubber feet chemically decomposed into the most abysmally black and sticky tar that you can imagine. I need to restore the machine.

Just recently, I found the rather large shipping box for this computer sitting in my mom’s attic. Today, it holds miscellaneous housewares. This “scan” is actually a perspective-corrected photo of the side of that box (here is the original photo).

[ From IBM PS/1 Imagination System Box, ca. 1993]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What computer did you take with you to college?

The Glorious, Colorful World of Radio Shack Toy and Game Box Art

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Old Radio Shack LogoAfter 94 years in business, it is likely that Radio Shack will soon be no more. And sadly, it has taken the impending death of Radio Shack for me to realize how absolutely ingrained its products have been in my life.

As the son of an electronics engineer living in the US, our home growing up held at least five Radio Shack products per room (or those of its related brands: Tandy, Realistic, Optimus, Archer, or Micronta).

I am not joking or exaggerating. I could go through my parents’ house today and fill a moving van with that stuff: speakers, tapes, radios, hi-fi receivers, turntables, headphones, microphones, clocks, intercoms, outlet timers, telephones, cables, wires, adapters and more.

It’s almost absurd. My first IBM compatible PC was a Tandy 1800HD laptop. My first cassette recorder, microphone, telephone, cordless telephone all came from Radio Shack. My first kiss…well, a Radio Shack robot, of course.

And who can forget the batteries. The batteries!

Radio Shack LCD Football GameAbove and beyond all that were the games, the toys, the amusements. The Armatrons and Cosmic Fire Away 1000s. Pocket Blackjack, electronic chess, Pocket Repeat, RC cars, tiny kid DJ stations, microphone FM transmitters, electronic coin banks, joysticks, talking alarm clocks (Dare I add the Tandy 1000 series and the TRS-80 Color Computer). The list is endless, I tell you.

In honor of the foundering electronics retailer, I pulled together a slightly massive collection of Radio Shack toy and game box art from the late 1960s up to the early 2000s. For good measure, I threw in a handful of non-toy product boxes as well (such as one for a Zack Morris-sized cell phone and a pocket TV set).

As you look through them below, I have but one question to ask:

How many of these have you owned or played?

[ Continue reading The Glorious, Colorful World of Radio Shack Toy and Game Box Art » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Donkey Kong Puzzle

Monday, October 13th, 2014

MB Puzzle Milton-Bradley 200 piece Donkey Kong Puzzle box cover art - circa 1983That is one dangerous and sexy construction site

When it comes to vintage 1980s puzzles, few can beat the sheer cultural nostalgia value of this 200-piece Milton-Bradley Donkey Kong puzzle, which comes straight from my childhood. This is a scan of the front of the box.

It’s not often that I find a true surprise lurking in our old family toys, but I had completely forgotten about this puzzle until I ran across it in the back corner of my mom’s attic a few months ago. Memories of poring over the lush, vibrant artwork on the box rushed back to me as I pulled it from where it had lay, dusty and neglected, for 25 years.

Look at the the highlights, the curves, the gradients. The richness.

Luckily for me, all the pieces were still in the box, so I have now re-assembled the puzzle and framed it. It will never be lost again.

The artwork for this puzzle no doubt echoes the side cabinet art of the Donkey Kong arcade machine, but with added detail and an airbrushed vividness. I think it would make an awesome poster — does anyone know who the artist was?

By the way — even though I find it insanely difficult at times, the original Donkey Kong is one of my favorite arcade games. It was also one of the first video games I ever played, courtesy of a port to the Atari 800.

P.S. Pauline is way hotter than Princess Peach.

[ From MB Donkey Kong 200 Piece Puzzle Box – circa 1982-1983, front]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, which is better: Donkey Kong Jr. or Donkey Kong 3?

[ 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?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The NES Action Set Family

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988The Euro-American family in its native habitat.

Just in time for Thanksgiving — and the ritual practice of family togetherness — comes this wonderful vintage photo from the back of the NES Action Set box. In it, we see a four-person white American nuclear family utterly consumed by a game of Super Mario Bros.

This scene looks nice at first glance, but imagine having to play through a whole game with mom and dad hanging off of your shoulders.

“Hey son.”

(Father gets in close, whispering into son’s ear.)

“Want to play some Super Mario Brothers?”

“I’m already playing, Dad.”

(Father squeezes son’s shoulder tighter.)

“My uncle’s name is Mario.”

Nintendo Entertainment System NES Action Set Box Family - 1988

Luckily, the scenario I’ve concocted above appears nowhere on the box. Still, a few amusing things about this photo jump out at me:

  • Mario is gleefully flying to his death.
  • The family apparently owns two copies of Super Mario Bros. because one is on the table, and they’re playing one in the NES.
  • The two kids are both playing a one player game at the same time. Or maybe the older brother (player 1) on the right is screwing up the little brother’s game by hitting pause at random intervals.
  • The mother and the son on the right aren’t looking at the TV set. Actually, I don’t think any of them are.

I’ve included an extra-large scan this time (when you click on the image), so you might be able to turn it into a desktop background.

For more vintage family madness, check out my latest slideshow on Technologizer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ From Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set Box (reverse), 1988 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played a video game with your entire immediate family rapturously engaged in the action on screen?

ULAF SCAN OF THIS WEEKS: THE SID MEIERS

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

THE SID MEIERS

WELCOME AGAIN VINTAGE PEOPLES. ULAF FINDS THIS PAPER CONTAINER TODAY BETWEEN CRACKS HIDING IN BACK OF GARAGE. IT BECOMES A BEAUTIFUL PICTURES OF BRAVE THE SID MEIERS, THAT ONLY MOST FAMOUS GAME CONSTRUCTOR OF THE GLOBE.

SOMETIME MY PEOPLES SAY TO ULAF, “ULAF, ARE YOU THE HOBOSEXUAL?” TO WHICH ULAF RESPAWN, “ONLY IF YOUR MIND PAY ULAF 2300 KRELBS.” BUT REALLY, WHAT ONE PERSONS COULD BECAME THE HOBOSEXUAL WHEN MANY IS? AND MANY IS FEEL TINGLE FOR THE SID MEIERS, EVEN THE UNBENT MANS OF WIFE. IT STANDS THE COMPASSION OF PLATO, NOTHING ABOVE.

EITHER WAYS, THIS ULAF DEFINITIVELY GOES AS THE SID MEIERS NEXT HALLOWEENS. HERE BECOMES A PREVIEW.