[ 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.

Benj’s ‘This Old Tech’ Column Debuts on PCWorld.com

Friday, November 6th, 2015

This Old Tech Column on Toshiba T1000

Today, PCWorld published the inaugural entry of my new column, This Old Tech. In the column, I will be writing about vintage gadgets, games, and computers — pretty much the same stuff I talk about on Vintage Computing and Gaming. So far, the plan is to publish a new piece every Friday.

For the first column, I talk about the first MS-DOS computer I ever learned to use, the Toshiba T1000 laptop. I still have the same machine from all those years ago, so aside from just waxing nostalgic, I also attempt to get it working again.

So spread the word — I am looking forward to exploring my personal tech history in this new column. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Retro Re-Releases

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Bubble Bobble Also Featuring Rainbow Islands PlayStation PS1 PSX MS-DOS advertisement - 1996“100% Rendered Black Void” — I like the humor in this ad

In the mid-1990s, much to my delight, game publishers began remaking and re-releasing classic games of the 1970s and 1980s in collections on Mac, PC, and consoles. You remember — I’m talking about titles such as Microsoft Arcade (1993), Atari 2600 Action Pack (1995), the Namco Museum series (1995-1998), Arcade Classic No. 1: Asteroids / Missile Command (1995), Williams Arcade’s Greatest Hits (1996). Even Super Mario All-Stars (1993) counts to some extent.

That happened to be around the same time I started collecting old video game and computer systems, roughly in 1993, so I was happy that the industry seemed to be rediscovering these “forgotten” classics.

The awkwardly titled Bubble Bubble Also Featuring Rainbow Islands falls into the same category, being a re-release of the arcade version of Bubble Bobble and its sequel Rainbow Islands on PlayStation 1 and MS-DOS.

[ From GamePro, October 1996, p.5]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what are some of the best executed game retro remakes and re-releases?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Fujitsu Micro 16s

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Fujitsu Micro 16s computer advertisement - 1997The shotgun approach: z80 and 8086 in one box

[ From Personal Computing – November 1983, p.14]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a computer with two different primary CPUs in it?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Space Bucks

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Sierra Space Bucks advertisement - 1995So now we’ve entered the 3D font era.

I’ve never played Sierra’s Space Bucks, but it looks like a fascinating strategy game. I was a big fan of SunDog: Frozen Legacy on the Atari ST, so I’m a sucker for any game that shows the inside of your spaceship from a top-down view (even if only in a non-functional splash screen). Has anyone out there played it?

(As an aside, when I started this blog in 2005, I could just say “I’ve never played this game, does anyone out there know anything about it?” And get away with it. That’s because very little game info was out there; Wikipedia had very few video and computer game entries — especially obscure ones — and MobyGames was incomplete. Now I have no excuse for not looking it up myself. And what do you know: here’s a Wikipedia entry on Space Bucks, first created in 2012.)

I have this feeling that most Windows games from the 1995 era slipped through the cracks and were mostly forgotten. It’s my impression that not many people played early games created for Windows 95 and late-period games made for Windows 3.11. Maybe it’s because the IBM PC world was in the middle of a big transition from MS-DOS / Win 3.11 to Windows 95. I remember still buying MS-DOS games well into 1997, for example.

[ From Computer Gaming World – September 1995, p.55]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the earliest game you bought that ran exclusively on Windows 95/98?

[ Newsbits ] May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

VC&G Newsbits Newspaper Logo

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

Since I missed last week’s column, I decided to fold some of those links into this week’s edition. So there may be a few older newsbits, but at least they’re still interesting.

Recent News

  • 2300 Console Games Now Playable on Internet Archive

    ‘Ole pal Jason Scott writes about the sudden influx of games playable on the Internet Archive website

    For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working with a range of volunteers on a massive expansion of what we call the Console Living Room at the Internet Archive. Previously weighing in at about 800 game cartridges from seven console systems, the new collection is roughly 2300 cartridges and a total of 21 different consoles.

  • George R. R. Martin Writes Using WordStar 4.0 in MS-DOS

    I’m not surprised. To avoid distractions, I sometimes write using Word 6.0 for DOS on a Compaq Aero 4/25 laptop.

    The ‘Game of Thrones’ author confessed to late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien that he prefers to write his popular books on a DOS word processor instead of the latest laptop.

    ‘I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don’t want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key.’

  • Nintendo Forces Takedown of GBA Emulator for iOS

    From the not-very-surprising department

    In order to play titles like Super Mario and Zelda on your iPhone, then, you have to look at unofficial alternatives. GBA4iOS was one of the most popular — but after its creators received a DMCA notice from Nintendo this week, it is no more.

  • Analogue Interactive’s $499 NES Clone Up for Pre-Order

    TinyCartridge reports on this fancy console with a healthy grain of salt mixed in. (Memories of Generation NEX still make me shudder.)

    Analogue has opened pre-orders for its Nt, the Famicom/NES device with RGB output, four controller ports, and purported ‘unparallelled'” compatibility with American and Japanese games and accessories.

  • New Book About How Sega Nearly Won the Console Wars

    Chris Kohler provides an overview of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined a Generation.

    If a few small things had changed, might we be gaming on a Sega PlayStation right now? That’s the picture Blake Harris paints in his new book Console Wars. It is a narrative history of the brief time period in the lifespan of the videogame publisher Sega when it was on top of the world.

  • Midway Planned HD Remakes of Mortal Kombat Games

    I would have really loved to see this

    With the [ Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection], Midway’s initial plan was to release HD remakes of the original games with new actors, and even though that’s not what happened in the end, these images with Liu Kang, Sonya, Shao Kahn and the others show that the remakes would have been quite faithful to the original

Cool Links

  • The Last Survivors of Meridian 59

    A rare examination of obscure Internet game culture from a mainstream publication (The New Yorker)

    Today, almost eighteen years after Meridian 59’s launch, Barloque’s streets are quiet and vacant, its cobblestones buffed and rounded by little more than a digital breeze. They are rarely visited by more than twenty people in the world at any one time.

  • The Great Works of Software

    Paul Ford muses about a software canon

    Is it possible to propose a software canon? To enumerate great works of software that are deeply influential—that changed the nature of the code that followed?

  • How Steve Wozniak Wrote BASIC for the Original Apple From Scratch

    Woz himself writes for Gizmodo, re: BASIC 50th anniversary

    The problem was that I had no knowledge of BASIC, just a bare memory that it had line numbers from that 3-day high-school experience. So I picked up a BASIC manual late one night at HP and started reading it and making notes about the commands of this language. Mind that I had never taken a course in compiler (or interpreter) writing in my life.

  • How Sega is Rejuvinating its Classic Games in 3D

    I’m not sure if “rejuvenating” is the right word here, but I welcome Sega dipping into the past

    Few games have had as much attention lavished upon them as the Sega 3D Classics series. The first wave of titles was released between November and December of last year, in pairs over four successive weeks.

  • Super Mario Bros. Level Belt (Etsy)

    Incredible artistry — an entire Super Mario Bros. level crafted into a leather belt

    The images are of a belt that I crafted for my brother, who is a big Super Mario fan, and depicts the last level of Super Mario brothers where Mario finally rescues the princess.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with “[Newsbits]” in the subject line.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Simple IBM Instructions

Monday, November 4th, 2013

IBM PS/1 Monitor Instructions - 1994Step 1: Plug the monitor into the computer.

This roughly 7″ x 10″ sheet came packed with my brother’s 486SX 25MHz IBM PS/1 computer, which my dad bought him right before he started college. (Ah, the days when 486 was king.)

We were still installing programs off 5.25″ floppies then, and boy was that an adventure when the PS/1 insisted that its 3.5″ floppy drive was drive A:. Most programs assumed that drive A: in MS-DOS was always a 5.25″ drive (with the 3.5″ drive, if present, being drive B:), which screwed up many install scripts when you had to install off a set of 5.25″ disks.

What the sheet shows is almost mind-numbingly self-explanatory — how to hook the monitor up to the computer. It reminds me of these ridiculous USB plug-in instructions.

By the way, I left the authentic mold stains on the scan because I think they add character. The back of the sheet is blank.

[ From IBM PS/1 pack-in notes, circa 1994 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned an IBM brand computer when it was new?