Discussion Topic: What's your favorite RPG on the Super NES?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Excluding Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, what is your favorite Pac-Man-themed video game?
Just before my brother left for college in the fall of 1994, my whole family went shopping for a new PC to send off to school with him. We made our way to an IBM PC factory outlet near Durham, NC. Upon walking in to the store, I remember being amazed by rows of 20-foot tall warehouse-style shelves, each one stacked with large boxes for IBM PC systems. A salesman met us at the door and apparently steered my father toward this: the IBM PS/1 Imagination system. I guess it was a good deal.
The machine itself came equipped with a 25 MHz 486-SX CPU, 4 MB of RAM, a 2400 BPS modem, and a Disney Sound Source (a sort of primitive SoundBlaster that plugged into the parallel port). Unlike earlier PS/1 models, this one shipped with MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. It also came with a suite of pre-installed Disney software that my brother promptly deleted.
My dad also bought an unusual IBM-brand external ISA CD-ROM drive that required its own peripheral card. There wasn't enough room in the PS/1 case for a CD-ROM drive and a 5.25″ floppy.
After college, my brother took this machine to work with him as a programmer, and he used it there until it was long outdated — probably until 1999 or so. It now rests safely in my collection, although the hard drive is now shot, and I think the power supply is fried too. Almost a decade ago, its rubber feet chemically decomposed into the most abysmally black and sticky tar that you can imagine. I need to restore the machine.
Just recently, I found the rather large shipping box for this computer sitting in my mom's attic. Today, it holds miscellaneous housewares. This "scan" is actually a perspective-corrected photo of the side of that box (here is the original photo).
Discussion Topic of the Week: What computer did you take with you to college?
My brother received the IBM PC port of Lemmings as a gift (probably for Christmas) in the early 1990s. It made a distinct impression in my young mind, with its vivid VGA graphics, a playful MIDI soundtrack, and charismatic little creatures that you could bid to do your every whim.
I have never played the Game Boy version, but this ad caught my eye.
When I wrote a feature about the most ported games of all time for 1UP.com back in 2007, Lemmings featured prominently with ports to 28 systems up to that point in time. What can I say — Lemmings is a classic.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best Lemmings-like or Lemmings clone game? (Other than Lemmings, of course — The Humans and Baldies come to mind.)
In September 1990, Kodak announced a brand new system for storing and viewing photographs: Photo CD. At a time when Compact Discs represented the vanguard of consumer electronics technology, Kodak capitalized on the excitement by blending digitized photos with a custom CD format.
Kodak designed that format for viewing through special a Kodak CD Player device (think DVD player for still photos) that hooked to a standard TV set. Using such a player, one could view the digitized photos via a virtual slideshow.
With a base image resolution of 512 x 768, Photo CD was far from an archival medium. It tried to offer convenience, but instead ended up adding needless cost and encumbrance to the photo viewing process. In an era before most people were equipped to view, edit, or print digital photos from a PC, the fact that the photos came in an electronic format did not add anything notable to the experience. Predictably, adoption of the Photo CD system never gained much steam. (Wikipedia's article on Photo CD has some pretty good additional analysis of why Photo CD never took off.)
I personally remember encountering a Kodak Photo CD player in either a photography store or a Radio Shack as a kid. I thought it was amazing — your own photos on a TV set! But my dad, an experienced photographer, never bought into the system.
P.S. For more CD history, check out my Compact Disc 30th Anniversary article that I wrote back in 2012.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use the Kodak Photo CD service or own a Photo CD player?
The Super NES / Genesis era coincided with a second golden age of third-party video game controllers and peripherals (the first golden age being the Atari 2600 era). If you browse through the Retro Scan archives, I'm sure you'll see quite a few.
One of the stand-out gimmicks of this era arrived courtesy of Triax Technologies: the Turbo Touch 360. Representing a series of controllers for various platforms (SNES, Genesis, and NES with IBM planned, but I'm uncertain if it launched), the Turbo Touch line relied on a touch-sensitive pad in lieu of a traditional D-pad.
Using the touch pad, you didn't have to physically push down on the D-pad to register movements; instead, you lightly slid your finger over the cross-shaped touch pad, sort of like a laptop touch pad. Ideally, this should result in quicker movements, but it could also result in more errors.
There was another supposed benefit to the touch pad technology as well. This 1993 Chicago Tribune article positions the Turbo Touch as a cure for game-induced thumb blisters (at the suggestion of Triax's marketing staff, as the article suggests).
I've heard a lot about people getting thumb blisters over the years while playing video games, but I've never actually seen it happen. That's because I've only heard about it through game peripheral advertisements. Such blisters are plausible, of course, but you'd have to push down on the D-pad very hard and rub it around over a long period of time. Maybe my thumb skin is just tough or something, but it's never been a problem for me.
(Full disclosure: I did get a blister in the middle palm of my hand by rapidly rotating a Suncom Slik Stick over and over for about an hour while playing Decathlon for the Atari 2600 in the early 1990s)
I'm not saying that no one ever got a thumb blister from playing a video game, of course (do a Google search) — just that it wasn't the epidemic that companies like Triax have led us to believe.
Call me skeptical, but I wouldn't be surprised if the the video game thumb blister meme originated as a marketing angle in an era that aimed to be loud, raw, and edgy (think "Play it Loud", Sega scream, etc.). What could be edgier than actually getting physically injured while playing video games? That's intense!
I actually own a Turbo Touch 360 pad for the Genesis that I never got around to trying for some reason (I bought it at a thrift store when my Genesis was packed away). Right now I have no idea where it is. Perhaps I should dig it out and put the promise of touch-fueled gameplay to the test.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever gotten a blister from playing video games? Tell us how it happened.
I thought I had some Halloween-themed scans saved up for this year, but it looks like I don't. My magazines are in cold storage at the moment (buried somewhere under the Arctic tundra), so I can't get to them to scan a new one.
Time to fall back on some old scans. This looks pretty scary, right? I wouldn't like to run into that zombie warrior in person.
Thinking back, I recall that I scanned this particular ad for Seika's Legend in 2006 while working on my Game Ads A-Go-Go column (Simon Carless thought of that name, by the way) for the now defunct GameSetWatch. Back then, I didn't keep track of which issue each scan came from, so I'll have to come back later and update the post when I run across the ad in a magazine again.
[Update: 09/07/2015 - I found the source for this scan and updated the info below.]
As for the game this page advertises, I know very little about it. I just now played Legend in a Super NES emulator to refresh my memory. It is a fantasy-themed arcade beat-em-up similar to Golden Axe. It controls like sludge (your guy moves with the speed and agility of a slug) but has two-player co-op (always a winning feature) and is fairly fun if you have the patience to stick with it.
Me? I don't like walking at 0.3 miles per hour in a game, so I only played it for two minutes.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite beat-em-up game?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever bought a desk specifically to hold a computer?
Here it is, folks: My CompuServe Information Service password that I used from 1993 until the late 1990s: "Needy-Sacred".
Feel free to log in as me the next time you get a chance. (I kid.)
"Needy-Sacred" is an almost magical combination of words for me — probably because it bounced around my mind so often in the 1990s. It has a tension to it; a phrase at odds with itself.
I didn't make it up, though. CompuServe assigned random combinations of two words (with a dash in the middle) as user passwords, and this is the hand I was dealt.
Well, "we were dealt" would be more accurate. This is the original note paper my dad used on February 21st, 1993 to write down the password to our new CompuServe account, which he set up for use with his business.
Heavily into BBSes at the time, I became the primary user of the account (surprise surprise). Soon his company often asked me — even as a young teenager — to relay international emails to and from Germany for them since I knew how to use it. Ah, those were the days.
The Encounters Forum was my favorite place to hang out. That, and the Atari Forum. GO ATARI.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Tell us your best CompuServe stories.
The Performa line originated as a way for Apple to expand retail availability of its then-waning Mac platform. They did so by re-branding a number of existing Mac models with the Performa name (plus some numbers that didn't make much sense).
The Performa line's commercial availability coincided almost exactly with Apple's darkest era, 1992-1997, when sales dramatically declined, market share dropped, the company was generally mismanaged and unfocused, Macs had 10 different names for the same model, and Classic OS was getting long in the tooth.
I remember seeing a few Performa models for sale at Sears as a teenager and thinking, "Wow, they still make Macs?" Then I tried one out, and the OS was barely different from the Mac SE I'd last used in 1987 — some 6 years earlier — and it liked to crash a lot. It was a depressing time to be Apple. Whatever happened to that company, anyway?
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first model of Macintosh you ever owned?