VC&G Patreon Launches Today

January 8th, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Today's the big day. I just launched a Patreon Campaign with the aim of supporting my history work.

Click here to become a Patron of Benj Edwards and VC&G.

Also, I am doing a livestream Q&A at 1:30 Eastern today.

Here's some of the info from the Patreon page repeated below for future reference.

[ Continue reading VC&G Patreon Launches Today » ]

Tags: , , , ,

Need Feedback on a Potential Patreon Campaign

January 3rd, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards Patreon Header Draft

[ Update - 01/09/2016: I just launched my Patreon campaign this morning. You can see it here. ]

The Problem

Here I am. It's 2017. I've been writing professionally for over a decade now, and I'm not going to lie: I don't make much money. I support a family of four, health insurance keeps going up every year no matter what I make, and freelance budgets at publications are trending down. Competition is fierce.

What I'm trying to say is that my professional focus, as it stands now, is not sustainable in the long run. I can see the writing on the wall.

So I'm considering various options. One is a career change. But that is a hard trick to pull off. Maybe I could be a professional graphic designer, as I once was many years ago. I don't have a degree, so getting a full-time job is tricky. Maybe I could run off and join the circus. Maybe I could run off and join Burger King.

[ Continue reading Need Feedback on a Potential Patreon Campaign » ]

Tags: , , , ,

[ Tech Songs ] Baked at Atari

June 20th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards Tech Songs Album Cover

Some of you may recall that from 2002-2005, I ran a band/website called Request-A-Song.com. Well, since March of this year, I've been publishing music online again as part of a musical project I call Tech Songs.

Tech Songs, for me, is essentially a writing prompt for music — a concept that inspires me to write songs about a certain topic. In this case, the topic is the past, present, and future of technology. In some ways, I think of Tech Songs as an open-ended album about tech.

Today I am officially announcing the release of "Baked At Atari," a lighthearted, ficticious song (but inspired by true events) about engineers at Atari in the mid-1970s. Atari fans amongst you will likely pick out several familiar names and references in the lyrics.

You can listen to the song on my SoundCloud page, or click on the embedded song below.

When you're done listening, I'd love to hear some suggestions for new tech history song topics — just leave a comment, and I'll see what I can cook up.

I plan to post future VC&G-related Tech Songs on this site, but you can also follow Benj's Tech Songs on Twitter: @techsongs

Tags: , , , , , ,

One Scan Per Week for Ten Years

February 1st, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards Vintage Computing Retro Scan of the Week Turns 10 Years Old - 10th Anniversary

On January 30th, 2006, I posted my first entry in the Retro Scan of the Week column: "When to Use Low Speed Modems." Below that first scanned image, I wrote:

I found this amusing, so I thought I'd share it. More to come.

I was right about that last sentence. Since then, I've shared weekly scans on my blog 522 times — every Monday for 10 years.

Yep, Retro Scan of the Week just turned 10.

While it is not an achievement on-par with, say, building the pyramids, working at the same company for 50 years, or hosting a late-night talk show for decades, I am slightly overwhelmed when I try to consider the scope of this anniversary and what it actually means to me personally.

Get Somma That Tinney ActionWhat I think it means is that I have been dedicated to preserving computer and video game history for an officially long time now (this blog itself turned ten last year). And I have always wanted to share it with others. Retro Scan of the Week has been a regular and effective way to achieve both goals.

For years, I have used the column as an opportunity to provide more than just images. When I could, I have attached personal commentary about the scans I'm showcasing because I hope it will give valuable context to future historians (assuming copies of my blog survive that long). Also, reader comments have been equally important in capturing the firsthand reactions to products and events over time.

Without that extra something that gives RSOTW its unique quality, I probably would have quit posting them years ago. But NOPE. 10 years.

The End of an Era?

On the occasion of this colulmn's fifth anniversary, I wrote a retrospective that is worth reading if you are interested in learning some historical background on my Retro Scan of the Week column. (There's also more about RSOTW in this interview from last year.)

Retro Scan of the Week ScannerThat earlier anniversary — coming in a different era where blogs and scans were slightly more relevant — felt more meaningful somehow. At that point, I had done something for a long time (in blog years). Now I've done it twice as long. And honestly, not much has changed in five years, other than the fact that I finally upgraded to an 11″x17″ large format scanner last year — and that there are twice as many scans on this blog.

But now that I have reached this milestone, I think I might be winding down the column some time soon. While it wouldn't be too hard to keep going for years on end, I think ten years is a nice emotional and philosophical cap to this project.

For now, I'll mull it over. It's a hard considering pulling the plug on something you've spent every Monday for ten years doing. But whatever happens, there will be a legacy left behind. At some point I plan to put all my high-res scans on the Internet Archive, for example. And RSOTW images still haunt Google Image Searches like nobody's business. I keep running in to my own work when I'm trying to research something else.

Whatever happens, it has been a fun 10 years. Thanks for reading along with me as we have rediscovered the past together.

[ Continue reading One Scan Per Week for Ten Years » ]

Tags: , , , , , ,

VC&G Interview: Benj Edwards, Creator of Vintage Computing and Gaming

November 2nd, 2015 by Harry McCracken

Benj Edwards with a Commodore 64[ Earlier this year, I asked readers what they wanted to see on VC&G's tenth anniversary. Most people said "behind the scenes coverage," but I wasn't sure how to approach that. So I asked my longtime editing partner Harry McCracken to interview me in the hopes that I might accidentally say something interesting about the history of the site. Happy Anniversary, VC&G readers. — Benj ]

I first met Benj Edwards back in 2007, when I worked at PC World magazine and he submitted an article — "The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time" — over the transom. (Actually, we didn't meet in person until later, and his submission arrived in my inbox like any other email, but you get the idea.) Even then, I was already a fan of his Vintage Computing and Gaming website, which was then a couple of years old.

We ended up publishing Benj's keyboard slideshow at PCWorld.com, where it became a monster hit with readers. Since then, Benj and I have continued our writer-editor relationship: first at Technologizer, and today at Fast Company, where I'm an editor and he's a frequent contributor, writing deeply-reported pieces about fascinating topics which everyone else has forgotten about. He's also contributed to The Atlantic, Macworld, PCMag, Wired, and other publications.

Benj has never stopped blogging at Vintage Computing and Gaming, which celebrates its tenth anniversary today. To commemorate the occasion, he asked me to interview him about the site, his other writings, and his pursuit of collectible tech products and the stories behind them. I learned a lot from his answers — and so will you.

–Harry McCracken

10 DAYS OF VINTAGE: Day 1

[ Continue reading VC&G Interview: Benj Edwards, Creator of Vintage Computing and Gaming » ]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's 1989 Christmas List

December 16th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards 1989 Christmas List Xmas List scan - 1989An early example of the rustic illustrated Christmas list

While sorting through my childhood papers and effects recently, I came across this amusing Christmas list from 1989. I was eight years old then, and I apparently ripped out pictures of the toys I wanted from weekly newspaper advertisements and pasted them on a sheet of 8.5″x 11″ wide-ruled notebook paper. The result was a rare illustrated Christmas list that I don't remember making before or since.

(I'm not sure why there is a big chunk of the page missing in the upper-right corner, by the way. Perhaps I changed my mind on some item and physically removed it from my list.)

What's notable for our purposes is the healthy contingent of video game related items on the list. There's a wireless remote for the NES, a Game Boy (which had just been released that year), and even a Sega Master System.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's 1989 Christmas List » ]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Fixing My ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 on the Bedroom Floor, 1995

April 22nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards bedroom floor in 1995 Colecovision Atari 5200 Polaroid Scan - 1995The carpet pretty much looked like that even when it was clean.

Here's a retro-flavored Polaroid instant photo I took of my bedroom floor some point in 1995. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and I had just received a stack of Beatles CDs (upper center-left) the previous Christmas — along with my first CD player, integrated in boombox form, which can be seen seen in the upper right portion of the photo.

But I'm not posting this photo because of Beatles CDs. On the floor sit a number of retrogaming consoles and accessories: to the left is an Atari 5200 console, and in the lower right you can see a ColecoVision and the corner of an Intellivision. There are also a few Atari joysticks, a copy of Yars' Revenge for the 2600, and three copies of Intellivision Donkey Kong.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Fixing My ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 on the Bedroom Floor, 1995 » ]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Introduction and History

November 2nd, 2005 by Benj Edwards

Vintage RedWolf ANSI (BBS Days)

Yes, I'm new to blogging. That is, writing and running a blog. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea because I thought blogs were a load of hyper-bunk. Of course, part of me still thinks this, but I have also finally begun to realize the potential of blogs in general. It allows schmucks like me to blather on about our opinions easily on the web. Yay. Power to the loudmouths. I am fully aware, however, that one man's opinion is another man's BS. So don't think I'm ever trying to lay down the final word on anything.

Now, let's see. Why a new blog? Because I wanted to chronicle my meager collecting/playing/restoring exploits in the world of electronic and computing entertainment. 'Electronic and computing entertainment,' to me, means anything that entertains me that uses electronics, or anything that computes. The only non-electronic things I might talk about here are old mechanical calculators and typewriters. Why mechanical calculators? Because they are the forerunners to electronic computers. Why typewriters? Because their interface became the standard upon which computer interfaces for the last 40 years have been based (Teletypes, keyboards, terminals, etc.). So they are related to the computing end of things here. It should be noted that I have a huge bias toward consumer microcomputers — I've never been much for the esoteric elitism that permeates the "big iron" computer collecting community. Then there's the gaming end of things. I'm interested in really any video game systems ever produced, but tend to focus on 'vintage' ones, which are usually at least five years old, or already out of production. This includes restoring, modifying, collecting, and playing games, systems, accessories, and emulators.

Now a little background on me. I have been collecting computers and video game systems for 12 years, since I was 12 years old. I am currently 24. Thus, my interest predates the current "retro" craze by a sizable margin. When I started collecting, it seemed that nobody could understand why I would want to save obsolete and seemingly useless computers and game systems. But I had a historical mindset even as a twelve year old, and figured if everybody was throwing out their old computers thinking they're worthless, that eventually history would hurt for it. I didn't want history to be lost. I believe we are in the middle of the most important and exciting transition in human history, where humans fully embrace and integrate computers into their lives, changing the way we live, work, and play forever. So it will be important in the future to be able to look back and see how we got there. And I, in my own small way, want to contribute to that effort.

As far as video games go, I was always buying last-generation's games at rock-bottom prices, scouring the clearance isle at Toys 'R' Us and Wal-Mart for $5 NES Advantages and controllers, $10 sealed NES games, $1 official cleaning kits, miscellaneous accessories, $20 new Virtual Boys, $30 new Sega 32x's, $10 Tiger Game.coms. The list is endless. The clearance aisle is where it's at, as long as you have the patience to wait, and the tenacity to keep checking until stuff shows up there. I also frequented used game stores, flea markets, ham fests, yard sales, Goodwill and thrift stores, always looking for cheap games (and computers). As a result, I've never really been on the cutting edge of video gaming, but then again, I never really had the money to do so either. Why not wait another year until the system you want is $100 cheaper? Or five years when it's $200 or more cheaper? That brings me to another issue which I will post about in another entry soon, about electronic devices rapidly losing monetary value.

And here's some other relevant history. I have been using electronic communication all my life. First, and most obviously, I used a telephone. Then I used telephone lines to call BBSes for over 7 years (I also ran a successful 24-hour BBS for over five years, 1992-1998). I also dabbled in Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve (my favorite, on there for 8 years). Then, around 1993 or 94 I called up a local university's free dial-up line for the first time and discovered the then-primitive Internet (compared to what we have today, anyway). The World-Wide-Web (does anybody call it that anymore?) to us then was manifested in Lynx, the popular text-only web browser, and seemed pretty worthless. 'Gopher' from U. Minnesota was all the rage instead. My BBSing friend and I then discovered the world of MUSHes and MUDs in 1994, and completely abused the free dial-up lines, tying them up all hours of the day, staying on up to 15 hours at a time coding, talking, playing, and just having a great time. I started running my own MUSH rather late (in 2000) and it still runs to this day. Then came ISPs: Nandonet in late 94 or early 95 — a local ISP run by a newspaper, later bought by Mindspring. But my family and some friends jumped ship to a smaller ISP called Ipass instead. Then the graphical WWW showed up, which was incredible, but incredibly hard to configure with Mosaic 1.0 and Winsock crap on Windows 3.1. Also, on Compuserve I got started with a new graphical multi-user chat environment called WorldsAway in 1995 (Beta tested it for the web in 97, then finally quit in 2001). Then came my first website in 1995, complete with my first paid web hosting experience at Hurricane Electric (I think they're still around). Back then I actually had a site that was popular in the fledgling Yahoo directory just because it had a few pictures and some cool links to other sites. Ah, what heady days. Then came Ultima Online in 1997, which I only recently quit this year. I also was on Active Worlds for over five years, a buildable online multi-user 3D chat world. And so and and so forth. I really am also interested in the history of computer telecommunications and virtual communities, so I might make a page on that too before long.

Anyway, I guess that's enough for now. I hope you'll stick around, Invisible Reader, read some exploits, and post some comments. I can't promise incredibly regular updates, but when I do, they'll probably be good.

Bye for now,
RedWolf

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,