August 11th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, NES, Nintendo, Hi Tech Expressions, Funhouse, Barbie, Chessmaster, The Muppets, Tom and Jerry, The Hunt for Red October, Days of Thunder, Sesame Street, kids games, Big Bird Hide and Speak, flier, 1991
High Times with Hi Tech Expressions
This fold-out flier celebrating NES games published by Hi Tech Expressions came packed with a NES game, likely Sesame Street A-B-C and 1-2-3. (Although the "DMG" in the flier name gives me pause, because that was Nintendo's in-house abbreviation for the Game Boy.)
The games shown here aren't particularly well noted for being classics, but I am very fond of Big Bird's Hide & Speak, a fun game for small children which features impressive sampled voice work by Caroll Spinney. I was older than the target audience when it first came out, but I have played it with my youngest daughter a number of times over the years, and she loved it.
[ From Hi-Tech Expressions Flier HIT-DMG-US-1, circa 1991 ]
Discussion Topic: Have you ever played any educational games on the NES?
June 30th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, IBM, IBM PC, 5150, Intel, 8088, advertisement, Byte, 1981
Is somebody gonna clean this mess up?
Here we have a biggole two-page IBM PC 5150 advertisement spread from 1982 — published not long after the launch of IBM's first PC in August 1981.
It looks like IBM is trying to play up the bare-metal technical angle for Byte readers, who likely were building their own PCs from kit parts just a few years prior (and some still were doing it then).
The result, quite frankly, is a huge mess (looks like my workbench). And the advertisement didn't come out too well in the magazine print run, which makes the image dark and muddy. It's not my fault, I swear!
I particularly like the phrase "the RS232C interface that gives you the world" in the advertising copy. It implies using the serial port for networking — that is, in connecting to remote computers. It's funny because back then, that statement was a hyperbolic boast that was not meant literally. Online services were limited to a teeny-tiny fraction of the world population and their capabilities were limited. Today, networking does really give you the world.
[ From Byte Magazine, February 1982, p.24-25 ]
Discussion Topic: Have you ever broken a computer while you were taking it apart? Tell us about it.
June 29th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Newsbits, Atari, iOS, iPhone, Apple, Mac, NES, Mac games, Robert Tinney, Byte, Star Simpson, Forrest M. Mims III, electronics, furniture, kickstarter, crowdfunding, books, documentaries
Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.
I've recently received a big influx of news, announcements, and press releases, so I thought I'd bring Newsbits out of cold storage and use it to share everything all at once.
Producer of The Oregon Trail Donates Collection to The Strong
It's wonderful to see this stuff preserved, as always
A group of former employees from the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC) recently donated an extensive collection of materials to The Strong museum documenting the history of the pioneering company from 1973 to 1996. The collection includes hundreds of pieces of software, internal documents, and press clippings.
EveryMac.com Turning 20 Years Old
Brock Kyle recently let me know that his essential Apple info site is turning 20 this Saturday. Quite an accomplistment!
Established in 1996, EveryMac.com is the complete guide to every Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac clone in the world, with technical specs, configuration details, system identifiers, performance benchmarks, and global pricing info.
Atari Video Documentary Project Needs Support
They've assembled some incredible footage so far; would be a shame to see this disappear
This 100 minutes long documentary about the Atari story will feature a list of unreleased interviews with the key people of these events, including a very rare one with Warner VP Manny Gerard and a unique one with Atari CEO Ray Kassar, the man held responsible for Atari success and the video game industry crash at the same time, who never appeared in a documentary before.
YouTube Gamer on a Quest to Play 1001 Games Hits 100th Episode
Quite a project
My name is Gaming Jay. I'm a retro gamer who started a challenge this past year to play through a book called '1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.' Each week I’ve been playing 2 games and recording my gaming sessions and uploading them to YouTube. I have also recently developed a new website to document my journey with written summaries to supplement my YouTube videos.
iOS Camera App with Retro Filters Released
Neat iOS camera app that simulates vintage graphics
I created Famicam64, an 8bit RetroGaming style Camera app. Famicam64 lets you take photos with 40+ real-time filters that emulate the nostalgic look of retro computers (and games) of the 80s and 90s. CGA, EGA, VGA, Hercules and old PC graphic modes are all there, as well as style emulating home computers and handheld consoles (C64, Spectrum or Gameboy etc. etc.).
Secret History of Mac Gaming Book Seeks Funding
It's a niche subject, but a story worth telling
The Secret History of Mac Gaming is the story of those communities and the game developers who survived and thrived in an ecosystem that was serially ignored by the outside world. The work draws on archive materials as well as 60+ new interviews with key figures from Mac gaming's past.
Circuit Classics Boards Re-Create Classic Forrest Mims Designs
Very, very creative electronics project from Star Simpson
Forrest M. Mims III is a trusted name in the electronics world for good reason: his charming and engaging texts have drawn millions of people into the world of electronics for the first time. I am bringing some of those hand-drawn circuits projects to life by creating an exquisitely designed series of finely crafted and highly detailed boards. These are the Circuit Classics.
NES Coffee Table on Etsy
VC&G reader Ben Winchester built a NES-shaped coffee table; it's up for sale on Etsy.com
I wanted to show this to you because I feel this piece is truly unique and original to me. I got my start by replicating your NES DVD player and then moving on to putting my own twist on the NES coffee table, and now I think I have created an original design.
Artist Re-Creates Classic Byte Cover in Photo
Bob Alexander turns Tinney's train illustration into a photo composition
I've just completed an art project that was inspired by Robert Tinney's painting "Computer Engineering" for Byte magazine. That's the one with a train chugging around a printed circuit board. I made a printed circuit board that resembled the one in the painting, photographed it, and Photoshopped a picture of an HO scale model train onto it.
June 20th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Tech Songs, music, songs, tech history, Atari, Baked At Atari, Benj Edwards
Some of you may recall that from 2002-2005, I ran a band/website called Request-A-Song.com. Well, since March of this year, I've been publishing music online again as part of a musical project I call Tech Songs.
Tech Songs, for me, is essentially a writing prompt for music — a concept that inspires me to write songs about a certain topic. In this case, the topic is the past, present, and future of technology. In some ways, I think of Tech Songs as an open-ended album about tech.
Today I am officially announcing the release of "Baked At Atari," a lighthearted, ficticious song (but inspired by true events) about engineers at Atari in the mid-1970s. Atari fans amongst you will likely pick out several familiar names and references in the lyrics.
You can listen to the song on my SoundCloud page, or click on the embedded song below.
When you're done listening, I'd love to hear some suggestions for new tech history song topics — just leave a comment, and I'll see what I can cook up.
I plan to post future VC&G-related Tech Songs on this site, but you can also follow Benj's Tech Songs on Twitter: @techsongs
May 23rd, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sega, Genesis, BlueSky Software, Vectorman, 16-bit, contest, Wizard, advertisement, 1995
I was a big fan of Vectorman back when it first came out. Around that time, I bought a used Sega Genesis from a friend (my first), and I rented a copy from Vectorman from Blockbuster (or did I rent an entire Genesis itself first — my memory is hazy on that point). I was blown away by Vectorman's fluid animations, great sound effects and music, and tight overall feel of the game. I still think Vectorman is one of the best games on the Genesis.
This ad comes from Wizard (the comic book magazine), and in a two-page spread, it took up one whole page on the left and about a third of the page on the right. I have cropped out the remaining 2/3 of the right page which was unrelated to the ad.
That right portion, by the way, describes Sega's "Play to Win" contest that tied into the game. Apparently, certain randomly distributed Vectorman cartridges contained in-game messages that advised the player to call a phone number and claim a prize. The top prize was $25,000 and some other perks, which you can read about on Wikipedia. The contest was a clever way to entice people to play the game at a time when 16-bit systems were on the way out.
[ From Wizard, December 1995, p.10-11 ]
Discussion Topic: In your opinion, which Sega Genesis game had the best graphics?
May 10th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, VREAM, Virtual Reality, PCVR, PC software, 3D modeling, 3D, advertisement, 1994
If it's as easy to use as it is to pronounce, then I want it.
I was so excited about PC-based virtual reality back in the 1990s. I remember reading the early Web (circa 1995-96) about how people would build their own HMD goggles and modify a NES Power Glove to use as input for certain VR software packages. I wanted to do that too, but never did.
I also played some shareware 3D world demos where you could walk around a polygonal-3D town (and prior to that, I had vivid dreams about jumping into a 3D computer-generated world that looked like the Money for Nothing Dire Straits video).
Apparently, VREAM made some of those 1990s VR demos possible. It was a PC-based virtual reality development system created by VREAM, Inc. of Chicago. I have never used it, but it looks neat.
This ad comes from the back cover of an issue of PCVR magazine that I got from a relative. You can read more about that in this Retro Scan from 2014.
[ From PCVR, January-February 1994, back cover ]
Discussion Topic: Did you use any 3D modeling software in the 1990s? Tell us about it.
April 27th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Nintendo, Taito, Super NES, Lufia, RPGs, EGM, advertisement, 1993
"A VAST RPG WORLD IN STUNNING GRAPHICS!"
[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.123 ]
Discussion Topic: What's your favorite RPG on the Super NES?
April 7th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, IMSAI, IMS Associates, IMSAI 8080, Altair 8800, 8080, S-100, Byte, advertisement, 1977
The 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.
March 22nd, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Memorials, Intel, CPUs, microprocessors, Andy Grove, PC History, x86
In Memoriam: Andrew S. Grove (1936-2016),
Former President, CEO, and Chairman of Intel
Few tech executives have had as monumental an impact on the computer industry as Andy Grove, who passed away yesterday at the age of 79. His stewardship of Intel marked a period of astounding success and growth for the company, including establishing the firm's x86 microprocessors as a de facto standard for the PC industry — a legacy that continues today. May he rest in peace.
March 14th, 2016 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Dune II, RTS, Westwood Studios, Virgin Interactive, PC Games, strategy, Wolfenstein 3D, 1992, VGCE, advertisement
I just got a craving for The Spice
Dune II is to the real-time strategy genre as Wolfenstein 3D is to first-person shooters. Like Wolf-3D, Dune II wasn't the absolute first example of its genre, but it was the first game to bring together all the distinctive elements of its respective genre into one title — in this case, those elements would later be copied and expanded upon over and over again by games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft.
That being said, I've only played Dune II a few times — only many years after its release. I never got into it, but I can see why it is a historically important game. Warcraft was my first modern RTS game.
[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.4 ]
Discussion Topic: What's your favorite Real-Time Strategy game of all time?