VC&G Interview: Benj Edwards, Creator of Vintage Computing and Gaming

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Benj Edwards with a Commodore 64[ Earlier this year, I asked readers what they wanted to see on VC&G’s tenth anniversary. Most people said “behind the scenes coverage,” but I wasn’t sure how to approach that. So I asked my longtime editing partner Harry McCracken to interview me in the hopes that I might accidentally say something interesting about the history of the site. Happy Anniversary, VC&G readers. — Benj ]

I first met Benj Edwards back in 2007, when I worked at PC World magazine and he submitted an article — “The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time” — over the transom. (Actually, we didn’t meet in person until later, and his submission arrived in my inbox like any other email, but you get the idea.) Even then, I was already a fan of his Vintage Computing and Gaming website, which was then a couple of years old.

We ended up publishing Benj’s keyboard slideshow at PCWorld.com, where it became a monster hit with readers. Since then, Benj and I have continued our writer-editor relationship: first at Technologizer, and today at Fast Company, where I’m an editor and he’s a frequent contributor, writing deeply-reported pieces about fascinating topics which everyone else has forgotten about. He’s also contributed to The Atlantic, Macworld, PCMag, Wired, and other publications.

Benj has never stopped blogging at Vintage Computing and Gaming, which celebrates its tenth anniversary today. To commemorate the occasion, he asked me to interview him about the site, his other writings, and his pursuit of collectible tech products and the stories behind them. I learned a lot from his answers — and so will you.

–Harry McCracken

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 1

[ Continue reading VC&G Interview: Benj Edwards, Creator of Vintage Computing and Gaming » ]

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) » ]

Benj’s Oddities Series Returns with “PlayStation Oddities”

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

PlayStation Oddities

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the Sony PlayStation’s release in Japan. To celebrate, my old friend Harry McCracken (who now works at FastCompany) asked me if I wanted to bring my long-running Oddities series out of retirement. In short, I said “heck yes,” and the result can be seen over on the FastCompany website.

This latest entry marks a change in format for the series: it is the first that is not a page-by-page slideshow. I made a bajillion slideshows between 2007 and 2012, and while they were fun to make, I am thankful that I have moved on.

So if you’re a fan of the PlayStation, click through and check out some weird variations, accessories, and tributes to one of the most successful game consoles of all time.

All Entries in Benj’s Oddities Series:

Atari Oddities (40th Anniversary)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Atari Oddities Title Slide

Forty years ago this June, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari, Inc. — what a name, what a company. Even 40 years on, Atari looms like a giant shadow over all corners of video game history, and for good reason: its two founders launched the industry in 1971.

I thought I’d celebrate this 40-year milestone a little early with some Atari Oddities over at Technologizer. You’ll see obscure Atari products like a 1976 arcade digital camera, a light synthesizer, a dog-themed Pong cabinet, and more. Anyone with even a casual interest in Atari should enjoy it.

I’m jumping the gun on the anniversary, month-wise, because this will likely be the last piece I write for Technologizer. Its founder, Harry McCracken, has joined TIME as an editor, and Technologizer will cease to be an independent blog at the end of the month (the archives will live on, however).

[ Continue reading Atari Oddities (40th Anniversary) » ]

Why History Needs Software Piracy

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Why History Needs Software PiracyOver at Technologizer, I’ve written an opinion piece that argues why history needs software piracy.

I had the idea for this piece a few years ago, so it’s nice to finally put my thoughts into written form — especially at a time when public debate over digital piracy’s role has reached a new high.

I don’t claim to be laying down the final word on the subject; instead, I view my piece as the beginning of a broader discussion about piracy’s role in the study of history. I hope you enjoy it.

IBM PC 30th Anniversary Extravaganza

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Can You Do Real Work With The 30-Year-Old IBM PC 5150? at PCWorld.com

If you haven’t heard by now, the IBM PC platforms turned 30 years old today. On August 12th, 1981, IBM announced its new PC, the 5150, at a press conference in New York. It was a big deal then, and it’s an even bigger deal now. For the last 30 years, most of us have been using computers descended from a standard set in motion 30 years ago.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary, I’ve put together a few articles for PC World and Technologizer. The first is titled, “Can You Do Real Work With the 30-Year-Old IBM 5150?” A few weeks ago, I locked myself in a room with a vintage IBM PC 5150 to see if I could use it for real, modern computing work. That article spells out the results.

The second is something more predictable: IBM PC Oddities over at Technologizer. It’s the latest in my Oddities series of interesting and bizarre trivia slideshows for that site. If you’ve ever used a PC, you should enjoy it.

Then there’s the stuff at VC&G. I just posted a few thoughts on the IBM PC’s anniversary and an essay on history’s treatment of the IBM PC, and on Monday I posted a new Retro Scan of the Week that features a 1982 IBM PC ad. In turn, that Retro Scan post lists previous Retro Scan entries that deal with the PC.

Happy Birthday, IBM PC!

A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration on Technologizer

If you liked the NES Action Set Family, then you’ll probably enjoy my latest Technologizer slideshow. It examines ten early-1980s computer magazine advertisements, all of which focus on a happy family gathered around the ‘ole family PC.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy is Twenty

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Game Boy Newspaper Ad - 1989“Just pop it in your pocket and pull it out any time.”

[ From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 23rd, 1989 ]

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the Game Boy went on sale for the first time in Japan. It retailed for Â¥12,500 (about $94 US at 1989 rates), and Nintendo offered four games at Game Boy’s initial launch: Super Mario Land, Baseball, Alleyway, and Yakuman (a Mahjong game). Four months later, Game Boy reached American shores with a retail price of $89.99 and a powerful pack-in game — Tetris.

Nintendo’s inclusion of Tetris as the US pack-in was a stroke of absolute genius. The handheld version of Alexey Pajitnov’s addictive puzzler made such waves in US that its release will long be remembered not just as a defining moment in video game history, but as a major cultural event for an entire generation.

As we now know, Game Boy’s long and successful run created an immense legacy, far beyond just Tetris. Overall, publishers released 1246 licensed games for the Game Boy in Japan and 952 in the US. To date, Nintendo has sold 118.69 million units of the original Game Boy line (including Game Boy Color) worldwide.

Above, we see an original Toys ‘R’ Us newspaper advertisement announcing the arrival of the Game Boy and its launch games in the United States. (Gotta love that line art.) It really brings back memories of my excitement regarding Nintendo’s first handheld system.

Discussion Topic of the Week:

In your opinion, what factors made the Game Boy so successful?

On the other hand, what mistakes, if any, did Nintendo make with the Game Boy over its twenty year run?

============================

More Game Boy Scans & Coverage:

============================

If you use this week’s image, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan. Thanks.

Game Boy Oddities

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Game Boy Oddities on Technologizer

Just up is a new slide show I put together for Technologzier that showcases Game Boy oddities. It’s like a freak show for Nintendo’s venerable handheld, which turns twenty next week. Ever seen a Game Boy peripheral that dispenses laughing gas? How about one that demands tributes of child blood? If not, then mosey on over to Technologizer and take a look.