August 5th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, The Halley Project, Mindscape, space games, Atari, Atari 800, Compute, 1985
"Just tell your friends you're going on a very long trip."
As a kid, The Halley Project blew my mind.
I remember flying through the solar system, first person, in what seemed like a real-time simulation of space flight. All the distances between and positions of the planets were accurate, and you could visit each one by traversing the vast gulfs between them. It was one of the most awe-inspiring games on the Atari 800.
I haven't sat down and played The Halley Project in at least a decade, so I'm kinda fuzzy about the point of the game. I believe you're trying to track down Halley's Comet. On the way, I think you have to make stops at each of the planets in our real solar system. And, if I'm not mistaken, there's something special about the comet itself (once you actually find it) that I won't spoil for you guys.
The real Halley's Comet made a famous fly-by of our planet back in 1986. I still have vague memories of being awakened in the middle of the night when I was 5 so our family could drive out to a local school field and catch of glimpse of the comet. I remember seeing a fuzzy dot, perhaps through binoculars or a simple telescope. That real life celestial visit inspired a sort of frenzy in the media and popular consciousness here in the US, and I'm guessing this game played off of that.
I know I could look up the real plot / purpose / gameplay of The Halley Project online, complete with screenshots and analysis, but I don't want to. My warm memories are good enough.
[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.13 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you see Halley's Comet in 1986? Tell us about it.
April 30th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Activision, Hacker, Compute, advertisement, 1985
Crackin da passwordz
[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.11 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Has anyone ever gained unauthorized entry into one of your computers? Tell us about it.
March 25th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Commodore, Apple, Mimic Systems, Commodore 64, Apple II, Spartan, expansion box, system adapter, C64 accessories, advertisement, Compute, 1985
A scene from one of Benj's recent nightmares.
Hey mime! Yeah, you! Stop stealing my $599 Mimic Spartan Apple II+ compatibility box for the Commodore 64. I need it to open up a whole new world of hardware and software.
Just for a second, imagine if I could add these features to my Commodore 64: Apple II+ hardware and software capabilities, 64K RAM expansion, four software selectable Commodore 64 cartridge slots, non-dedicated 8-bit parallel port, and standard audio cassette deck capabilities for my C-64. Yep, all of that!
The suggested retail value of comparable products offering only these capabilities is over $2,200.00*. But the Spartan gives me much, much more, mime! Oh yes. By building on my investment in my Commodore 64 — an excellent introductory computer — I create a whole new system with both C-64 an Apple II+ capabilities.
There is a whole other world out there! And if you'd just give it back, a huge selection of Apple II+ hardware and software would be mine to explore. Call toll free for the Spartan dealer nearest you.
[ From Compute, November 1985, p.29 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Open Discussion: Whoever posts a question first gets to decide what we'll talk about this week.
See Also: MacCharlie's FrankenMac (2013)
March 23rd, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: VCR Games, Clue, Trivial Pursuit, TechHive, freelance work, Captain Power, Rich Little, 1985
Does anybody out there remember VCR games? They were typically board games that integrated a pseudo-interactive VHS video tape into the game play. The first two to be released were the Clue VCR Mystery Game and Rich Little's VCR Charades Game, both by Parker Brothers in 1985.
They weren't video games, per se, but you could call them "video tape games," or VCR games, as I preferred in the recent slideshow of 1980s and '90s VCR game classics I assembled for TechHive. Here's an excerpt from the intro:
The rise of the home VCR in the early 1980s brought about that last innovation, which resulted in dozens of board games (and eventually toys as well) that shipped with VHS tapes designed to be played at certain points in the game. Players had to follow cues in the game in order to call up the right segment to play on the videocassette—all in all, a tedious business.
Personally, I remember playing the Clue VCR game at a friend's house as a kid not long after it came out. It seemed pretty amazing at the time. I also vaguely remember playing some beach-themed game, and maybe one based on Trivial Pursuit.
Oh, and I also had the white Captain Power ship and some tapes. Loved that stuff.
The same sort of pseudo-interactive game format later made its way to DVDs, but the rise of multimedia video games (and ever-better graphics) essentially killed whatever chance they had of becoming a classic game genre.
February 25th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, The Eidolon, Lucasfilm, advertisement, Compute, first-person shooter, Rescue on Fractalus, Koronis Rift, Atari 800, 1985
Disney now owns this game.
In 1985, LucasFilm Games released one of the earliest first-person shooters, although they didn't know it at the time. In The Eidolon, players fluidly navigate corridors from a first-person viewpoint, shooting monsters that they encounter along the way.
The Eidolon utilizes a novel and technically impressive vector graphics engine to dynamically generate tunnel interiors from various angles as players maneuver through them. The engine also served as the basis of other LucasFilm titles like Rescue on Fractalus! (1984) and Koronis Rift (1985).
Although this game appeared on the Atari 8-bit computer platform (which I grew up with), I never got a chance to play it until about ten years ago. If I had seen it in the 1980s, it would have immediately become a favorite.
[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.33 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite pre-1996 first-person shooter?
February 18th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Atari, Atari ST, Atari 520ST, advertisement, rip-off, Compute, 1985
"There's only one word for these prices: rip-off."
[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.9 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which was the better machine: the IBM PC AT, Atari 520ST, Mac 512K, or Amiga 1000?
January 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Apple, MacCharlie, Macintosh, IBM PC, IBM, Dayna Communications, Mac accessories, system adapter, advertisement, Byte, 1985
I'd like to have heard Steve Jobs' reaction when he first saw this.
Long before Boot Camp and Parallels, if you wanted to run IBM PC compatible software on your Mac, you had to strap on this unholy contraption — the Dayna Communications MacCharlie.
If I recall correctly, the MacCharlie was essentially an IBM PC clone in a beige box that hooked to the Mac's serial port. As a result, the Mac merely served as a serial terminal for the MacCharlie via custom terminal software running on the Mac. That's not a particularly efficient setup, but the lack of expansion ports on the original Macintosh meant that there was no other reasonable point of entry.
Since it worked through the serial port, the MacCharlie could only run text-based MS-DOS applications. Conveniently, the MacCharlie shipped with a keyboard extender that added the IBM PC's special function keys and a numeric keypad to the Macintosh keyboard.
[ From Byte Magazine, April 1985, p.71-73 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a hardware system adapter (something that lets you use software from one platform on another through hardware, not software emulation) for any computer system?
December 10th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, piracy, copyright, ADAPSO, ITAA, Compute, advertisement, 1985
Piracy is as easy as hitting the Enter key on your numeric keypad.
27 years ago, the industry group Association of Data Processing Service Organizations (ADAPSO) created this public service ad warning of the evils of software piracy. I've transcribed its text below — just so you don't miss it.
It's easy to make a copy.
It's hard to believe.
People who wouldn't think of shoplifting a software product on their lunch hour don't think twice about going back to the office and making several illegal copies of the same software.
Making unauthorized copies of software is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law. Yet, the problem has reached epidemic proportions because many people are unaware, or simply choose to ignore the law. The software industry is urging decision-makers and software users to take steps to stop software piracy in their organizations. In the meantime, the industry has been forced to prosecute willful copyright violators.
There are legal, moral and economic imperatives forbidding theft of copyrighted software.
There is a free pamphlet on the subject. Call or write for a copy. A copy. A copy. A copy for everyone you know.
Please ask for Priscilla.
1300 North Seventeenth Street
Arlington, Virginia 22209
"A copy. A copy. A copy. A copy."
It really says that. I think it's supposed to be a joke, albeit a very bad one.
ADAPSO changed its name to Information Technology Association Of America (ITAA) in 1991, although its supposedly current website is now owned by the International Trial Attorneys Association, so who knows if it even exists today.
[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.67 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first piece of software you ever copied (or received a copy of) illegally?
See Also: Why History Needs Software Piracy (2012)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week] Software Piracy (2009)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week ] "What's Wrong With Copying Software?" (2008)
See Also: Old-School PC Copy Protection Schemes (2006)
See Also: EGM Advertisement: Sell Famiclones, Go to Prison (2006)
November 19th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Radio Shack, TRS-80, modem, DC-2212, 1200 baud, BYTE, 1985
FINALLY, I mean, COME ON.
You too could be the proud owner of this Radio Shack TRS-80 DC-2212 1200 baud modem for the low, low price of $399.95 (about $859.81 in 2012 dollars).
…If you traveled back in time with the proper currency, that is. But I wouldn't recommend it.
I recently bought a cable modem that is the equivalent of a 150,000,000 baud modem. It cost $70 in 2012 dollars. Not bad for progress.
[ From BYTE, September 1985, rear cover ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What speed was you first modem?
November 5th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Semidisk, SSD, IBM PC, S-100, Byte, 1985
This IS your daddy's SSD.
Back in January, I traced the evolution of the Solid State Drive from its 1978 origins to the present in a PC World slideshow. From that experience, I learned that SSDs, as a product class, were far older than most people realize.
Case in point: Seen here is an advertisement for a 1985-era SSD called the SemiDisk. The company behind this early SSD, SemiDisk Systems, sold a wide range of "disk emulators" (as they were called back then) for platforms like S-100 bus systems, the TRS-80 Model 2, and the IBM PC. All of them used solid-state RAM chips to achieve read and write speeds far beyond those of rotating platter drives at the time.
The 2 megabyte SemiDisk for the IBM PC retailed for $1,795 in 1985. That's about $3,860 today when adjusted for inflation. Amusingly, at that vintage price rate — about $1,930 per megabyte — a 256 GB SemiDisk SSD would cost over $494 million today. Yep, that's a 494 followed by six zeroes.
Of course, you can buy a 256GB flash-based SSD right now for under $180. Not bad.
[ From BYTE, September 1985, p.329 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid state PC drive? How big was it?