[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Google in a Box

December 1st, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Microforum Internet Connection advertisement - 1996"The Most Comprehensive Directory of Internet Sites Ever Produced"

18 years ago, a fairly complete index of the entire Internet — circa 1995 — could fit on a single CD-ROM — about 20,000 sites, as the box for Microforum's Internet Connection '96 says. [Update: See comments below for a discussion on the number of websites in 1995 and 1996] I ran a website back then, and the Web did indeed feel that small. FTP sites were still a big deal in those days, so that number may include them as well.

Today, some estimates say that the Web alone consists of over one billion websites. Consider storing a simple list of one billion websites URLs. If each URL was about 25 characters long (I'm just making this up as an example), it would take around 25 gigabytes to store the list alone (or about 39 CDs worth). Google stores that list and copies of individual websites for caching. Needless to say, that takes quite a bit more storage room.

So it's amusing to think back to a time when you might actually buy a professionally mastered and duplicated CD-ROM containing web addresses, many of which were potentially obsolete by the time the disc landed in your hands (I just used Yahoo's web directory). Now we have Google. Imagine that: using the Internet to index itself.

[ From Internet World - February 1996, p.117]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What year did you create your first website?


See Also: Internet In a Box (RSOTW, 2014)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The $99 Virtual Boy

July 21st, 2014 by Benj Edwards

The Nintendo Virtual Boy for $99 Nintendo Power Advertisement - 1996…in which Nintendo begs, "Please, PLEASE, buy a Virtual Boy."

[ From Nintendo Power - August 1996, p.107]

Oh how times change. Back in January, I posted a scan of an early, cocky Nintendo Virtual Boy advertisement from 1995 (the year the Virtual Boy launched). Here's an ad for the Virtual Boy just one year later in which Nintendo advertises the console's new low price of $99 (its original MSRP was US $179.99, which is $275.26 today when adjusted for inflation).

As you probably know, things didn't go so well for the Virtual Boy. I bought one new for $30 from Toys 'R' Us in either late 1996 or early 1997.

Discussion Topic of the Week: Imagine a world in which the Virtual Boy had a full color display but cost twice as much (say, $399.99) new. Do you think the Virtual Boy would have fared better in the marketplace?


See Also: Virtual Boy Wasteland (RSOTW, 2014)
See Also: Virtual Boy Vortex (RSOTW, 2012)
See Also: The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming (PC World, 2011)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The New Prodigy

July 14th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

The New Prodigy Provocative Lady Advertisement - 1996You can't see her other hand, but it's holding a gun!

It's a Prodigy-y week around here thanks to my recent article on The Atlantic. So I poked around my scans directory for something Prodigy related, and ka-pow!

I have yet to see an ad for the pre-ISP Prodigy in any of the magazines in my sizable archive (but then again, most of my computer magazines date from before and after Prodigy's heyday, with a gap in the middle), but I did find this "New Prodigy" ad from an old issue of Internet World, which I proudly subscribed to for a few years in the mid-1990s.

Ads like this one represented a new marketing push at time when the company sought to find a new corporate parent and shifted its focus to being an ISP (its legacy NAPLPS-flavored content was soon re-branded "Prodigy Classic").

By the way, the "original" Prodigy had a wholesome, family-safe, squeaky clean image, with an army of moderators eager to censor any bulletin board postings or even emails (yes, they read, or at least filtered, everyone's emails) that contained a hint of sexuality, so I find it humorously ironic that the company ultimately resorted to a sexually-charged ad like this one.

[ From Internet World - February 1996, insert between p.32-33]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you meet a romantic partner online prior to the year 2000? (Including those that didn't involve physical relationships.) Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Internet in a Box

January 20th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

CompuServe SPRY Internet In a Box Advertisement 1996There was a time when you could fit the entire Internet in a box.

[ From Internet World, February 1996, p.1]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What ISP did you use to first connect to the Internet?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Supra 28.8 Kbps Modem

July 29th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Supra Modem Ad - 1996Glowing Modem

In my early BBS days, I started using a 2400 bps external modem hooked to the serial port of a PC clone. A few years later, I switched to an external Intel 14,400 bps modem. Then I believe I got a Creative Labs Modem Blaster kit with an internal 28,800 bps modem on an ISA card. After that I moved up to 33,600 with some generic Winmodem, then 56,000 bps.

In 2000, I signed up for my first cable modem service…and the rest is history.

[ From Internet World, February 1996, p.9 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What speed was your first modem?

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Revisiting Hotline, the 1990s Internet BBS Platform

April 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Hotline Revisited

Back in the mid-late 1990s, an Internet-based BBS platform called Hotline sprung up and quickly spread throughout the Macintosh community. It was basically a client/server BBS software suite that allowed for multi-user chat, file transfers, and message boards.

By the early 2000s, though, Hotline had mostly died out. Today, only a handful of servers remain. But guess what? You can still connect to them — on Windows or a Mac. A new article I wrote for Macworld, "Hotline Revisted," tells you how.

Have fun. Remember to be kind to the Hotline veterans when you visit.

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[ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996

March 18th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Epic MegaGames Shareware Registration Invoice - 1996Epic MegaGames purchase invoice in January 1996.

You're looking at a rare physical artifact from the twilight of shareware's golden age.

Way back in 1996, when Gears of War maker Epic Games still went by "Epic MegaGames," I ordered a few registered copies of its shareware games through CompuServe.

Since it was a special buy-and-download deal (very unusual in 1996), I didn't receive copies of the games themselves on disk. Instead, Epic mailed an invoice, copies of the games' instruction manuals (which have been displaced from this set, or else I would have scanned them too) and a shareware demo disk from Epic partner Safari Software.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan Special ] Buying from Epic Games in 1996 » ]

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[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office

February 6th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Doom II Office Fan Art 1996 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This particular image, titled "Another Day at the Office," is one of the gems of my personal GIF collection. I believe I downloaded it from CompuServe, and I likely downloaded it on the file date, June 16, 1996.

The image itself is a computer-crafted ode to Doom II that merges a real digitized photograph with imagery ripped straight from id Software's famous first-person shooter.

Such a passion for Doom II in the workplace isn't foreign to me. In an office where I worked in the mid-late 1990s, certain engineers were known to play late night four-player Doom deathmatches over the company LAN.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office » ]

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo 64 E3 Debut

June 4th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Magnavox Odyssey Manual Cover Scan - 1972AOL Keyword: Rotating Nintendo Cubes

If you haven't noticed, E3 2012 is taking place this week in Los Angeles, CA. Here's a Nintendo Power teaser announcement for the Nintendo's E3 event that launched the Nintendo 64 in 1996.

When I see this, I can't help but reflect on what a different press environment we live in today. In 1996 there were no blogs and the public's adoption of the web was limited. Today, we get our news by-the-second from dozens, if not hundreds, of media outlets online.

[ From Nintendo Power, June 1996, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite E3 memory?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario World 2

August 31st, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Super Mario World 2 Ad - SNES - 1996"He goes all over the place (and we don't mean Number Two.)"

Here's a classic advertisement for Super Mario World 2 from the "Play it Loud" era. Baby Mario looks quite destructive.

In the mid-1990s, Nintendo tried to downplay its kiddie image and appeal to the "I'm-awesome-because-I-huff-Easy-Cheese" teenage set. The company's American branch formulated a new "Play it Loud" ad campaign to directly counter aggressive advertising from Sega.

Nintendo's new marketing theme focused on the stereotypical angsty "attitude" of youth in transition, which, in print, mostly translated to grungy fonts, eye-gougingly garish design, and scatological humor. Surprisingly to some, the campaign actually worked — Nintendo regained the lead in the 16-bit market right as that era was ending.

On another note, Super Mario World 2 is one of the best Super NES games, and definitely one of the most underrated. If you haven't played it yet, you're missing out on a platforming masterpiece. Drop everything and get yourself a copy. And don't forget to play it loud(ly).

[ From GamePro, April 1996 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What's the most underrated Super NES game?

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