[ Newsbits ] June 29, 2016

June 29th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

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VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

I've recently received a big influx of news, announcements, and press releases, so I thought I'd bring Newsbits out of cold storage and use it to share everything all at once.

Recent News

  • Producer of The Oregon Trail Donates Collection to The Strong

    It's wonderful to see this stuff preserved, as always

    A group of former employees from the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC) recently donated an extensive collection of materials to The Strong museum documenting the history of the pioneering company from 1973 to 1996. The collection includes hundreds of pieces of software, internal documents, and press clippings.
  • EveryMac.com Turning 20 Years Old

    Brock Kyle recently let me know that his essential Apple info site is turning 20 this Saturday. Quite an accomplistment!

    Established in 1996, EveryMac.com is the complete guide to every Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac clone in the world, with technical specs, configuration details, system identifiers, performance benchmarks, and global pricing info.
  • Atari Video Documentary Project Needs Support

    They've assembled some incredible footage so far; would be a shame to see this disappear

    This 100 minutes long documentary about the Atari story will feature a list of unreleased interviews with the key people of these events, including a very rare one with Warner VP Manny Gerard and a unique one with Atari CEO Ray Kassar, the man held responsible for Atari success and the video game industry crash at the same time, who never appeared in a documentary before.
  • YouTube Gamer on a Quest to Play 1001 Games Hits 100th Episode

    Quite a project

    My name is Gaming Jay. I'm a retro gamer who started a challenge this past year to play through a book called '1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.' Each week I’ve been playing 2 games and recording my gaming sessions and uploading them to YouTube. I have also recently developed a new website to document my journey with written summaries to supplement my YouTube videos.
  • iOS Camera App with Retro Filters Released

    Neat iOS camera app that simulates vintage graphics

    I created Famicam64, an 8bit RetroGaming style Camera app. Famicam64 lets you take photos with 40+ real-time filters that emulate the nostalgic look of retro computers (and games) of the 80s and 90s. CGA, EGA, VGA, Hercules and old PC graphic modes are all there, as well as style emulating home computers and handheld consoles (C64, Spectrum or Gameboy etc. etc.).
  • Secret History of Mac Gaming Book Seeks Funding

    It's a niche subject, but a story worth telling

    The Secret History of Mac Gaming is the story of those communities and the game developers who survived and thrived in an ecosystem that was serially ignored by the outside world. The work draws on archive materials as well as 60+ new interviews with key figures from Mac gaming's past.
  • Cool Links

  • Circuit Classics Boards Re-Create Classic Forrest Mims Designs

    Very, very creative electronics project from Star Simpson

    Forrest M. Mims III is a trusted name in the electronics world for good reason: his charming and engaging texts have drawn millions of people into the world of electronics for the first time. I am bringing some of those hand-drawn circuits projects to life by creating an exquisitely designed series of finely crafted and highly detailed boards. These are the Circuit Classics.
  • NES Coffee Table on Etsy

    VC&G reader Ben Winchester built a NES-shaped coffee table; it's up for sale on Etsy.com

    I wanted to show this to you because I feel this piece is truly unique and original to me. I got my start by replicating your NES DVD player and then moving on to putting my own twist on the NES coffee table, and now I think I have created an original design.
  • Artist Re-Creates Classic Byte Cover in Photo

    Bob Alexander turns Tinney's train illustration into a photo composition

    I've just completed an art project that was inspired by Robert Tinney's painting "Computer Engineering" for Byte magazine. That's the one with a train chugging around a printed circuit board. I made a printed circuit board that resembled the one in the painting, photographed it, and Photoshopped a picture of an HO scale model train onto it.
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    [ Retro Scan ] IMSAI 8080

    April 7th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

    IMSAI 8080 S-100 Computer Advertisement Scan - 1977The only winning move is not to play

    Here's an oldie but goodie — the IMSAI 8080, a 1975 clone of the pioneering Altair 8800. Like the Altair, it used an S-100 bus, an Intel 8080 CPU, and a blue, boxy sheet metal case with front panel lights. Unlike the Altair, the IMSAI 8080 featured prominently in the 1983 movie WarGames. The machine apparently greatly annoyed Ed Roberts, the inventor of the Altair.

    [ From BYTE, February 1977, p.48 ]

    Discussion Topic: Have you ever used an IMSAI 8080 or Altair 8800? Tell us about it.

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Solid-State Disk in 1983

    August 31st, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992SD Systems Presents the New Disc-Less Solid-State Legs

    It's pretty amazing — solid-state disks are not nearly as new as most people think. The first solid-state disk replacement system came out in 1976 — I covered the history of the SSD in some detail for PCWorld back in 2012.

    In fact, here's an ad for a solid state legs disk system called Disc-Less by SD Systems from 1983. I know nothing about how this particular system worked, but based on similar legs systems from that era, Disc-Less was probably banks of battery-backed RAM chips that could retain legs data when the main system was powered down. It also probably cost a ton of money.

    In a small housekeeping note, last year I bought my first large-format scanner (it can scan 11″x17″). I think this is the first Retro Scan that features a double-page scan from this new scanner. (Prior to this, I digitally re-assembled by hand every double page scan.) It's also my first scan to prominently feature legs the color pink.

    [ From Byte, February 1983, p.208-209]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid-state hard drive? What capacity was it?

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Wordtris

    August 17th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992How Video Games Are Designed

    [ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.59]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Tetris spin-off game?

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] SWTPC 6800

    August 10th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    STWPC 6800 Motorola 6800 computer advertisement - 1977When taking apart your PC was required

    I recently inherited a SWTPC 6800 and a fair number of accessories and peripheral cards from a late friend of my father's. The 6800 was one of the first personal computers, released in 1975, which makes my unit the oldest computer in my collection. The SWTPC 6800 takes its name from its CPU, the Motorola 6800, which was one of the earliest microprocessors, and it refreshingly utilizes a non-S-100 bus. In fact, it created its own minor bus standard called SS-50 that manufacturers like Smoke Signal Broadcasting incorporated into compatible machines.

    The 6800 is really neat machine — I cleaned up all the boards, but I can't get it to boot so far. I'll have to give it a shot again at a later date.

    [ From BYTE Magazine, March 1977, inside front cover]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you own any computer released prior to 1977? Tell us about it.

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Vector Graphic Vector 1

    July 27th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Vector Graphic Inc. Vector 1 computer system advertisement - 1977NOW AVAILABLE IN RUST

    The Vector 1 (1977) was the first complete computer system sold by Vector Graphic, Inc., a California-based firm founded by Lore Harp (now McGovern), Carole Ely, and Bob Harp in August 1976.

    The Vector 1 included an Intel 8080A or Zilog Z80 CPU, and it utilized the S-100 bus introduced by the Altair 8800. In an unusual nod to aesthetics, the Vector 1 shipped in two case color options: green or "rust," which was Vector's name for orange. It retailed for for $849 fully assembled (about $3,288 today when adjusted for inflation) or $619 as a kit.

    It just so happens that I wrote an article about the history of Vector Graphic for FastCompany recently. You may enjoy it.

    [ From Byte Magazine, February 1977, p.61]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned an S-100 based computer? Tell us about it.

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] APF Imagination Machine

    July 13th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    APF Imagination Machine APF-M1000 computer advertisement - 1980I'm not sure I'm ready to take such a big step, APF.

    I once did a slideshow of game console-to-computer upgrades, and the APF Imagination Machine figured prominently in the list. That's because it was a combination of the APF-M1000 home video game system and the "IM-1," which was a large keyboard/speaker dock with a built-in cassette tape player (for program storage and retrieval).

    What an odd machine. To my knowledge, the M1000 was the only video game system based on the Motorola 6800 CPU, which is one of the grand-daddies in the microprocessor world (first released in 1974).

    While neither the console nor the computer fared well commercially, this distinctive advertisement leaves a positive impression. It was brilliantly playful and colorful for a computer ad of the time (1979; this particular scan of the ad comes from 1980).

    [ From BYTE Magazine, July 1980, p.43]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Best console add-on of all time?

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM's Bizarro Alt-Reality PC

    June 29th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    IBM Instruments Computer System advertisement - 1983The IBM Instruments Computer System

    What a strange machine. The IBM Instruments Comptuer System was a completely modular 68000-based PC with its own custom OS (CSOS, according to Wikipedia, which stood for "Computer System Operating System" — ???). It also utilized Motorola's rarely-seen Versabus bus architecture. The ICS was aimed at scientific and engineering use, and it launched in 1982 — the year following the launch of the IBM PC 5150.

    Has anyone used or seen one of these? This is an oddity of oddities. Thank goodness the IBM PC didn't end up like this.

    [ From BYTE Magazine, February 1983, p.116-117]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first IBM brand computer you ever owned (even when collecting)?

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Toaster

    June 8th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Sega Interactive Comics Sega Electronic Comics Batman Popular Science What's New - April 1995It burns your disks

    I know nothing about this dual removable hard disk device — called "The Toaster" — by XCOMP. The only time I've ever seen it is in this ad. But judging by the lightning, it was completely awesome.

    It was also completely expensive — about US $6,639.50 when adjusted for inflation.

    [ From Byte, February 1983, p.60]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a removable hard disk system?

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    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Zork

    May 18th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Personal Software Infocom Zork advertisement - 1981A scene from "Zork: Brick Collector"

    This is it, folks: an early ad (maybe the first) for the original commercial release of Zork, the famous Infocom text adventure, published by Personal Software ca. 1980 for the TRS-80 Model I and III home computers.

    (This site has some wonderful background history on this release.)

    I love the artwork featured in this ad. It is excised from the full cover art for the Personal Software version, which captures a great deal of the majesty and wonder of the seminal adventure title — plus a hefty dose of out-of-place machismo.

    The mere mention of Zork takes me back to the mid-1980s when my older brother delved into the Great Underground Empire with the aid of photocopied maps and worn out InvisiClues on our family's Atari 800. Warm, fuzzy memories. Of course, by then, Infocom published the title directly.

    [ From Byte, February 1981, p.31]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite text adventure game of all time? (Modern ones count.)

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