Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first electronic spreadsheet program you ever used?
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!"
Discussion Topic of the Week: Jef Raskin vs. Steve Jobs: Who do you identify with the most?
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite static-screen graphical adventure game of all time?
Ah, the good ole days when you had to pay $535 (that's $1,744 in today's dollars) for the privilege of merely being able to hook a printer to your home computer. What can I say — it was a useful feature.
My first computer, an Apple II+, came equipped with a Grappler+ printer card (from the previous owner), although I can't recall ever using it. Instead, I printed school reports by that time from whichever family MS-DOS machines we had at the time, each of which included a built-in parallel port for printer use.
What a great day it was when I switched from a noisy dot matrix printer to the that awesome Canon Bubblejet we had. Silent printing! And the day we got our first full-color photo capable HP inkjet printer around 1996. It was pretty low resolution, but still amazing.
Today, I don't print much. I have a color laser copier in service to reproduce scanned documents (in lieu of a copy machine) in case I need a hard copy of something — usually a form or contract — to mail.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you regularly print anything from your computer these days? What do you print?
Thanksgiving is almost upon us again, so it's time to gather around your home PC for a game of…Quizagon?
Yes, Quizagon. A game I've never played, nor will I for the foreseeable future. It looks like a hexagon-themed family trivia game, which is not my bag, man. But what a great photo.
Instead, I'm going to host a The Seven Cities of Gold marathon on an Atari 800XL with my brother. We plan on exploring a completely new continent while interacting vigorously with the natives. Meanwhile, my brothers- and sisters-in-law will be playing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on my dedicated gaming PC that is hooked to the flat-screen living room TV. It's a great kart game to play on Steam with four Xbox 360 controllers that's easy to set up and jump into. Fun times shall be had by all.
By the way, I first used this amusing scan in a 2009 Thanksgiving-related slideshow I did for Technologizer (hoping I'm not repeating it on VC&G). If you're in the mood, here's some other Thanksgiving-related material from the VC&G archives.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have any family video gaming planned for this Thanksgiving? If so, what are you going to play?
The IBM PC wasn't the only American microcomputer that got cloned in the 1980s. The Apple II also inspired its fair share of software-compatible copycats, such as the Aplus 3000 system seen here.
This appears to be a grey market VTech Laser 3000 computer with the name plate removed — possibly to avoid any trade import bans on Apple II clones that may have existed at the time.
Clones like this were popular in certain underground circles, and for good reason. Take a look at the price list in the ad. The Aplus 3000 retailed for US $499 (about $1,104 today when adjusted for inflation) verses $1745 for a bona fide Apple IIe (about $3,863 today). And on top of that, the Aplus 3000 contained integrated peripheral cards that would cost thousands of extra dollars if purchased separately for use in a real Apple IIe.
As I've mentioned before, peripheral integration was a great way to undercut official products. It happened quite a bit in the IBM PC universe.
Discussion Topic of the Week: If you could buy an unauthorized clone of an iPad or iPhone that ran iOS and had better specs for less price, would you do it?
See Also: Orange+Two Apple II Clone (RSOTW, 2010)
See Also: Apple II Box for C64 (RSOTW, 2013
See Also: How I Got My First Computer, and How I Got My First Computer Back
This ad is actually for an Apple II-themed creative writing contest, but you'd never know it. That's because the gobs of tiny, hard-to-read text are completely overshadowed by the nude man in a jungle holding an Apple II over his crotch.
And that man happens to be Adam from Genesis.
So there you have it, folks. The Apple II was responsible for the fall of man. You know — that time Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, casting all of humanity into sin. Here's a tasty quote from Wikipedia:
For many Christian denominations the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God.
You probably won't see me discussing theology on this blog ever again, but I find this ad quite funny because, despite its tongue-in-cheek cuteness, the biblical interpretations stemming from it are myriad and potentially wildly unexpected, making this a complete failure of marketing. But that failure was likely overlooked. This was 1979 — early in the life of Apple — and it was also before the Great Masses of the Offended had a strong enough voice (i.e. The Internet) with which to share and froth over everything that displeased them.
Discussion Topic of the Week: How do you think people would react if Apple published an ad like this today?
See Also: The Eidolon (RSOTW, 2013)
Discussion Topic of the Week: Can you think of any vintage games that would translate well to the Oculus Rift?
Despite what you may think, Newsbits is not dead. It just needs more fiber.
- The RetroN 5 Launching June 6th (Today!) in the US
Hope it works as advertised.
This thing is a beast, supporting NES, Famicom, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GBA cartridges. All of that, with 720p output via HDMI and original controller support.
- Wii U plugs first DS game into Virtual Console in Japan
Once upon a time, Nintendo frowned strongly upon emulation. Now its business model depends on it. Oh, how times have changed.
Puzzle-poser Brain Age is the first DS game to arrive on Wii U Virtual Console, and it's out now in Japan for free until June 30.
- Unearthed E.T. Atari games will be curated by New Mexico space museum and then sold
A unique situation where one of these games in unopened, mint condition could be worth far less than one crushed and buried in a landfill for 30 years.
Seven hundred of the 1,300 E.T. and other Atari cartridges recovered from a New Mexico landfill will be appraised, certified and put up for sale, the Alamogordo City Commission decided this week.
- The Verge Publishes Rarely-Seen Photos of Apple's 1980s Prototype Case Designs
(Source: The Verge)
Incredible photos of early 1980s Apple products that never were
Some of its earliest and most iconic designs, however, didn't actually come from inside of Apple, but from outside designers at Frog. In particular, credit goes to Frog's founder, Hartmut Esslinger, who was responsible for the 'Snow White' design language.
- Watching kids trying to figure out how to use an old Apple II is totally hilarious
(Source: Cult of Mac)
This video of children from the ages of 6 to 13 trying to figure out how to work a vintage Apple II … shows just how inexplicable computing was to pretty much everyone before Steve Jobs released the original Mac in 1984.
- Modder Stuffs a Raspberry Pi into a Game Boy Pocket
This is one of the most amazing mods I've ever seen
After sanding down the bosses on the inside of the case, gluing the battery door shut, and installing a bit of plastic over the cartridge slot, WarriorRocker was able to fit a Raspi inside. The buttons use the same PCB as the stock Game Boy, connected to a Teensy 2.0 board that simulates a USB keyboard.
- Exhibiting .gifs: An Interview with curator Jason Eppink
(Source: The Signal)
Wonder if they know about Retro GIF of the Week
Jason recently curated 'The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture,' which exhibits a set of GIFs he identified in consultation with redditors.
- Where Have You Gone, Peter Norton?
A look back at the PC utility guru's career by Harry McCracken at the newly-reborn Technologizer
Norton’s empire grew to include multiple software products, articles (including a long-running PC Magazine column), and books. He was everywhere that PCs were. And then, in 1990, he sold Peter Norton Computing to Symantec, which made the Norton line of software even more successful.
- Wolfenstein game graphics, 1992 vs 2014
A million more pixels, but the jaw remains the same
- The Most 90s Thing That Could Ever Exist
(Source: The Atlantic)
The zeitgeist summed perfectly in one technological artifact, which is a VHS tape promoting Windows 95, starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry.
- Total Chaos is the Best-Looking Doom II Mod You've Ever Seen
More like a "GZDoom mod," but still very impressive.
Total Chaos doesn’t run on the Doom 2 engine from 1993 proper, but a modified version of the original source code that brings in OpenGL, mouse looks and other features like 16x motion blur, high resolution textures, 3D models, and bloom effects.
- The Secret History of Hypertext
(Source: The Atlantic)
Historians of technology often cite Bush’s essay as the conceptual forerunner of the Web. And hypertext pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee have all acknowledged their debt to Bush’s vision. But for all his lasting influence, Bush was not the first person to imagine something like the Web.
- The Woman Behind Apple's First Icons
…and Windows 3.0 to XP's Solitaire cards! (I did an interview with her about that once, gotta find it.)
For many, Susan Kare's icons were a first taste of human-computer interaction: they were approachable, friendly, and simple, much like the designer herself. Today, we recognize the little images — system-failure bomb, paintbrush, mini-stopwatch, dogcow — as old, pixelated friends.
If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "Newsbits" in the subject line.
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?
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first computer paint program you ever used?