[ Retro Scan ] HP 95LX

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Hewlett-Packard HP 95LX HP-95LX Handheld Computer Pocket Computer Palmtop PC User's Guide Cover scan - 1991HP-95LX: Like a computer-shaped cookie that you can’t eat

In case you didn’t know, the HP 95LX is a small, portable IBM PC compatible machine running a full version of MS-DOS that ran off of two AA batteries. It marked the beginning of HP’s palmtop computer line, which I wrote about recently in a slideshow for PCMag.com.

The HP 95LX is special to me in particular because I’ve had one for over 20 years now. My dad bought the machine slightly-used from a friend not long after it came out. After fiddling around with it for a while, he gave it to me, and by 1993, I had it in my collection.

Using an RS-232 serial cable my dad built for me, I managed to transfer some MS-DOS programs to it (a few text-mode games mostly, and a few HP 95LX apps I downloaded from CompuServe), that I remember taking to school and using once or twice just for kicks. I also used that serial cable to hook the 95LX to a modem so I could call BBSes with it.

The worst thing about the 95LX — aside from its 1/4 CGA screen that doesn’t let you run many MS-DOS apps — is that if you don’t have a plug-in memory card, you lose all your saved data on the RAM disk if it runs out of batteries. Sure, it has a backup coin cell battery (or maybe two), but if that runs out, you’re out of luck. The PC Card-like memory cards cost a lot of money back in the 1990s, so I never had one until recently.

Still, it’s an amazing little machine. Very capable — if you have the patience to use it. A few years later, HP got everything right with the 200LX, which is still a popular portable MS-DOS machine among certain diehards today.

[ From HP 95LX Users’s Guide, 1991, cover ]

Discussion Topic: Did you own a palmtop PC in the 1990s? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] WorldsAway

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Fujitsu Cultural Technologies WorldAway Graphical Multiuser Online Chat World on CompuServe First Advertisement - 1996“There’s More to Life On-Line”

Just a few months ago, the 20th anniversary of the launch of WorldsAway, a pioneering graphical online world, came and went without any major notice (it launched in September 1995). But I remembered the milestone, and I wrote a recent This Old Tech column over on PCWorld.com about my memories of the service, which I stuck with in some form or another until 2001.

WorldsAway was simply magical when it launched. It promised to put you, as a user, into a graphical world that you could share with other online users (the term “Avatar” as an online representation of your physical self came from the creators of this lineage of online worlds). It delivered on that goal with a charming atmosphere — where you could change between whimsical heads with ease — and a vibrant community that I still look back on fondly to this day.

Honestly, I miss being part of that WorldsAway community. My involvement there came at a time when I was fairly lonely and isolated with my hobbies — my high school years — during a time when few “average” people used any online service whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong; I did fairly well at school, and I wasn’t a freak with no friends — but the real-life friends I did have did not share my love for the online world. Online, of course, I could find others like me, and on WorldsAway, we all celebrated that commonality together in a vibrant, playful world.

Did anybody else use WorldsAway in the 1990s? I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. I was an avid reader and subscriber of CompuServe Magazine in the 1990s, which is where I found and drooled over this ad back in the day.

[ From CompuServe Magazine, March 1996, p.4 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you use any graphical online chat worlds in the 1990s? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Epic MegaGames Shareware Registration Invoice - 1996Epic MegaGames purchase invoice in January 1996.

You’re looking at a rare physical artifact from the twilight of shareware’s golden age.

Way back in 1996, when Gears of War maker Epic Games still went by “Epic MegaGames,” I ordered a few registered copies of its shareware games through CompuServe.

Since it was a special buy-and-download deal (very unusual in 1996), I didn’t receive copies of the games themselves on disk. Instead, Epic mailed an invoice, copies of the games’ instruction manuals (which have been displaced from this set, or else I would have scanned them too) and a shareware demo disk from Epic partner Safari Software.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996 » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Doom II Office Fan Art 1996 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This particular image, titled “Another Day at the Office,” is one of the gems of my personal GIF collection. I believe I downloaded it from CompuServe, and I likely downloaded it on the file date, June 16, 1996.

The image itself is a computer-crafted ode to Doom II that merges a real digitized photograph with imagery ripped straight from id Software’s famous first-person shooter.

Such a passion for Doom II in the workplace isn’t foreign to me. In an office where I worked in the mid-late 1990s, certain engineers were known to play late night four-player Doom deathmatches over the company LAN.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] CompuServe Borg Cube

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

CompuServe Ad - 1988Resistance is futile. (click for full advertisement)

Long-time readers of VC&G may recall me talking about my adventures on CompuServe from time to time. Needless to say, they never looked like this. But I did have a few nightmares featuring enormous floating hive-mind spaceships hooked up to my computer when I was 12.

On second thought, maybe this thing is the machine God uses to create snow — if snow indeed exists.

[ From Compute’s Gazette for Commodore Users, December 1988 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Star Trek or Star Wars? Better yet: Han Solo vs. William T. Riker in a knife fight — who would win?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] James Bond on CompuServe

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Compuserve T-Shirts - CompuServe Magazine 1995The Man with the Golden Gun

I spent more hours on CompuServe in the early 1990s than I probably should have — considering it cost something like $4.80 (US) an hour. But of all the commercial online services at the time, CompuServe’s combination of history (it had been running since 1969), depth, and variety blew the others out of the water. I scanned this particular ad from CompuServe Magazine, which — believe it or not — was one of my favorite magazines back then. Ah, the good ‘ole days.

I’m guessing that CompuServe actually found a member named “James Bond” and got him to pose for this advertisement. He may look harmless, but that gun is filled with instant death acid; it’s one of Q’s new toys.

[ From CompuServe Magazine, September 1995 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Did you ever use a commercial online service such as CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, Delphi, or Q-Link? Share your memories and your favorites below.

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

An Introduction and History

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Vintage RedWolf ANSI (BBS Days)

Yes, I’m new to blogging. That is, writing and running a blog. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea because I thought blogs were a load of hyper-bunk. Of course, part of me still thinks this, but I have also finally begun to realize the potential of blogs in general. It allows schmucks like me to blather on about our opinions easily on the web. Yay. Power to the loudmouths. I am fully aware, however, that one man’s opinion is another man’s BS. So don’t think I’m ever trying to lay down the final word on anything.

Now, let’s see. Why a new blog? Because I wanted to chronicle my meager collecting/playing/restoring exploits in the world of electronic and computing entertainment. ‘Electronic and computing entertainment,’ to me, means anything that entertains me that uses electronics, or anything that computes. The only non-electronic things I might talk about here are old mechanical calculators and typewriters. Why mechanical calculators? Because they are the forerunners to electronic computers. Why typewriters? Because their interface became the standard upon which computer interfaces for the last 40 years have been based (Teletypes, keyboards, terminals, etc.). So they are related to the computing end of things here. It should be noted that I have a huge bias toward consumer microcomputers — I’ve never been much for the esoteric elitism that permeates the “big iron” computer collecting community. Then there’s the gaming end of things. I’m interested in really any video game systems ever produced, but tend to focus on ‘vintage’ ones, which are usually at least five years old, or already out of production. This includes restoring, modifying, collecting, and playing games, systems, accessories, and emulators.

Now a little background on me. I have been collecting computers and video game systems for 12 years, since I was 12 years old. I am currently 24. Thus, my interest predates the current “retro” craze by a sizable margin. When I started collecting, it seemed that nobody could understand why I would want to save obsolete and seemingly useless computers and game systems. But I had a historical mindset even as a twelve year old, and figured if everybody was throwing out their old computers thinking they’re worthless, that eventually history would hurt for it. I didn’t want history to be lost. I believe we are in the middle of the most important and exciting transition in human history, where humans fully embrace and integrate computers into their lives, changing the way we live, work, and play forever. So it will be important in the future to be able to look back and see how we got there. And I, in my own small way, want to contribute to that effort.

As far as video games go, I was always buying last-generation’s games at rock-bottom prices, scouring the clearance isle at Toys ‘R’ Us and Wal-Mart for $5 NES Advantages and controllers, $10 sealed NES games, $1 official cleaning kits, miscellaneous accessories, $20 new Virtual Boys, $30 new Sega 32x’s, $10 Tiger Game.coms. The list is endless. The clearance aisle is where it’s at, as long as you have the patience to wait, and the tenacity to keep checking until stuff shows up there. I also frequented used game stores, flea markets, ham fests, yard sales, Goodwill and thrift stores, always looking for cheap games (and computers). As a result, I’ve never really been on the cutting edge of video gaming, but then again, I never really had the money to do so either. Why not wait another year until the system you want is $100 cheaper? Or five years when it’s $200 or more cheaper? That brings me to another issue which I will post about in another entry soon, about electronic devices rapidly losing monetary value.

And here’s some other relevant history. I have been using electronic communication all my life. First, and most obviously, I used a telephone. Then I used telephone lines to call BBSes for over 7 years (I also ran a successful 24-hour BBS for over five years, 1992-1998). I also dabbled in Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve (my favorite, on there for 8 years). Then, around 1993 or 94 I called up a local university’s free dial-up line for the first time and discovered the then-primitive Internet (compared to what we have today, anyway). The World-Wide-Web (does anybody call it that anymore?) to us then was manifested in Lynx, the popular text-only web browser, and seemed pretty worthless. ‘Gopher’ from U. Minnesota was all the rage instead. My BBSing friend and I then discovered the world of MUSHes and MUDs in 1994, and completely abused the free dial-up lines, tying them up all hours of the day, staying on up to 15 hours at a time coding, talking, playing, and just having a great time. I started running my own MUSH rather late (in 2000) and it still runs to this day. Then came ISPs: Nandonet in late 94 or early 95 — a local ISP run by a newspaper, later bought by Mindspring. But my family and some friends jumped ship to a smaller ISP called Ipass instead. Then the graphical WWW showed up, which was incredible, but incredibly hard to configure with Mosaic 1.0 and Winsock crap on Windows 3.1. Also, on Compuserve I got started with a new graphical multi-user chat environment called WorldsAway in 1995 (Beta tested it for the web in 97, then finally quit in 2001). Then came my first website in 1995, complete with my first paid web hosting experience at Hurricane Electric (I think they’re still around). Back then I actually had a site that was popular in the fledgling Yahoo directory just because it had a few pictures and some cool links to other sites. Ah, what heady days. Then came Ultima Online in 1997, which I only recently quit this year. I also was on Active Worlds for over five years, a buildable online multi-user 3D chat world. And so and and so forth. I really am also interested in the history of computer telecommunications and virtual communities, so I might make a page on that too before long.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough for now. I hope you’ll stick around, Invisible Reader, read some exploits, and post some comments. I can’t promise incredibly regular updates, but when I do, they’ll probably be good.

Bye for now,
RedWolf