VC&G Anthology Interview: F. Randall Farmer, Co-Creator of Lucasfilm's Habitat (2008)

November 4th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

F. Randall Farmer HeadshotIn September 2008, I began working on an in-depth history of the early online virtual world called Lucasfilm's Habitat for 1UP.com. After delays in hearing back from Chip Morningstar (one of the game's co-creators) and an unexpected death in my wife's family, the article got the kibosh. It's probably for the best, because I barely knew what I was doing back then.

Along the way, I did manage to interview Habitat's other main creator, F. Randall ("Randy") Farmer via email. Farmer didn't answer half of my most probing development questions (he kept pointing to an earlier piece over on Gamasutra), but what he did answer is pretty interesting.

VC&G Anthology BadgeSome of this information be recounted elsewhere by now — I think more articles have been written about Habitat since 2008 — but I'm publishing my complete interview here in the hopes that it may help someone else with research about Habitat in the future.

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 3

[ Continue reading VC&G Anthology Interview: F. Randall Farmer, Co-Creator of Lucasfilm's Habitat (2008) » ]

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Apple II SwyftCard

March 30th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Jef Raskin Steve Wozniak Information Appliance Swyft Card SwyftCard Apple II advertisement  - Personal Computing - March 1986Paid for by SwyftCard Veterans for Truth

From the land of exotic Apple II accessories comes the Information Appliance SwyftCard, a plug-in peripheral card that gave the Apple IIe a built-in suite of ROM-based productivity tools, all unified around a novel scroll-based [PDF] user environment called SWYFT.

SWYFT was the brainchild of former Apple employee Jef Raskin, who originally spearheaded the Macintosh project. After disagreements with Steve Jobs over the direction of that project, Raskin left Apple and founded Information Appliance, Inc. (consequently, Jobs took the Mac project in a completely new direction).

The SwyftCard originated as an Apple IIe-based prototype for a dedicated machine centered around Raskin's SWYFT environment, but it proved so effective and compelling that it became its own product. The dedicated concept would later emerge as the Canon Cat in 1987.

SwyftCards are very rare (I've never seen one in person over 20 years of collecting Apple II hardware), so Apple enthusiast Mike Willegal has provided instructions for building your own. Pretty neat!

P.S. I emailed this ad to Steve Wozniak (who is featured in the ad) and he said, "Cool reminder!"

[ From Personal Computing, March 1986, p.163 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Jef Raskin vs. Steve Jobs: Who do you identify with the most?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's Early Computer Art

March 31st, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Benj's Early Computer Art Kindergarten Art Print Printout 1986Watch out, Mr. Rabbit!

As I've previously mentioned, I've found a wealth of Retro Scan material while looking through old family papers in the attic at my mom's house.

This time, I was sorting through a giant box of my ancient artwork from school, and I came upon this fascinating computer printout from my kindergarten era (1985-86).

I vaguely remember making it (although, strangely, I mostly remember coloring in those little boxes and being proud of it), but I have no idea what software I used to do it. I know that my school stocked itself with IBM PCs, but the font and the overall feel of the image remind me of an Apple II MECC educational game.

Whatever the platform, this looks like the output from a stamp/clip-art program for kids. Does anybody know what it is?

[ Update: 09/25/2015 - I figured out what game this is. After going through a pile of MECC disks for the Apple II, I ran across one game called Paint With Words (published by M.E.C.C. in 1986). I booted it up on my Apple IIc, and sure enough, it is the program used to create the image in this scan. It is a really neat game that allows you to place words onto a pre-defined background image using a mouse or a keyboard. After you set them in place, the words turn into pictures of what the words represent. My family owned an Apple IIc circa 1984-1987, so I believe this printout was created at home. ]

[ From 8.5 x 11-inch tractor feed printout, circa 1985-86]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first computer paint program you ever used?

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[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Delicious Strawberry

March 1st, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Amiga Strawberry Art 1986 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

It's hard to believe that an artist created this delectable representation of a strawberry using only tiny digital squares in a mere 16 different shades. Whomever made it did so in 1986 on a Commodore Amiga: the signature date, image dimensions, color depth, and color resolution all point to those facts.

Obviously, due to its age, this image did not originate as a GIF. CompuServe introduced the first GIF standard in 1987.

I know of three other works by this same artist (all signed with the same signature), and they're all amazing. I'll probably post them in the future, but for reference, those other works depict a stylized lion head, a pair of feminine human lips, and a "Liquid Light" logo.

But I can't quite read the signature. It looks like it starts with a "K." Can anybody out there help me find this artists' name?

[ Update: 03/06/2013 - Gino in the comments identified this image as the work of Kara Blohm, a well-known Amiga font and graphics artist who is now sadly deceased. Thanks, Gino! ]

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: STRAWBRY.GIF
Oldest Known File Date: January 21, 1993 - 2:43:32 AM Eastern
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 400 pixels
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color)
Color Resolution
(palette size):
12-bit (4096 colors)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: 1986
Artist: Kara Blohm
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

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Mac Plus Turns 25

January 14th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Mac Plus 25th Anniversary Article on Macworld.com

25 years ago this month, Apple introduced the Macintosh Plus — a computer many consider to be the first truly usable Macintosh model. In honor of the anniversary, I asked myself to write a short article about it for Macworld. To my surprise, I complied with the request and the result is now up at Macworld.com. I hope I enjoy it.*

* Inside joke.

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