[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Benj's Early Computer Art

March 31st, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Benj's Early Computer Art Kindergarten Art Print Printout 1986Watch out Mr. Rabbit!

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?

[ From 8.5 x 11-inch tractor feed printout, circa 1985-86]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first computer paint program you ever used?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Canon Personal Computer

March 24th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Canon Personal Computer IBM PC compatible clone Advertisement 1985May the Clone Wars begin.

Here's another obscure IBM PC clone from the depths of time, the Canon Personal Computer.

As I mentioned in a recent RSOTW, it was pretty easy — even within a few years of the IBM PC's release — to undercut IBM price-wise by integrating ports and peripherals directly into the motherboard of a competing computer.

Note that the Canon PC used an Intel 8086 CPU, which packed the full 16-bit data bus (verses the 8-bit bus on the IBM PC's 8088).

[ From TIME (Small Business USA Insert), May 6 1985, p.2]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Canon is best known for its imaging products, but it made computers too. Can you think of any other companies best known for something else that made a PC?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sharp Wizard 9600

February 17th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Kraft Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese flier flyer Advertisement 1994tap tap tap…tap tap…tap

In the early 1990s, a kid in my neighborhood had his own Sharp Wizard (we all thought he was rich or spoiled — probably both), and it was one of the most incredible things I'd ever seen. It was a tiny electronic organizer with a full QWERTY keyboard that one could have mistaken for a pocket-sized PC.

That same kid later offered to sell his Wizard to me, but my dad turned him down because he was asking too much. So I've never had a Wizard of any model in my collection. I did buy a NES advantage from him for $7 though.

[ From Scientific American, February 1993, p.19]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the smallest device (from the pre-smartphone era) you've ever used for word processing?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Epyx Winter Games

February 4th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Epyx Winter Games Summer Games Summer Games II Advertisement 1985Just in time for Sochi. Sorry for the page fold.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.37]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite winter sport(s) video game? This is mine.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Virtual Boy Wasteland

January 13th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo Virtual Boy Wasteland advertisement- 1995Virtual Boy: The #1 video game console on Mars.

When the Virtual Boy first launched in 1995, I rented the console (yep, the whole console) and a few games from my local Blockbuster store. Prior to that time, I don't remember Blockbuster offering any other systems for rent; I think it was a joint effort with Nintendo to get the novel machine into people's hands to try it out. (Later, I also rented a Nintendo 64 and a PlayStation from Blockbuster. But I digress.)

In fact, here are some early digital photos of that Virtual Boy rental, courtesy of my Snappy Video Snapshot. The first, dated 8/29/95, shows one of my cats sleeping in the plastic hard case the Virtual Boy arrived in when rented from Blockbuster. The second shows the Virtual Boy sitting alone on a stool in my room, and the third (dated 8/30/1995) shows my friend playing the Virtual Boy.

Virtual Boy Snappy Shots

The Virtual Boy was an interesting experience — not exactly mind-blowing, but neat. Its display was all red, all the time, but with stereoscopic 3D. I remember that it seemed expensive (MSRP of $179.99, which is $275.26 today when adjusted for inflation), and I remember thinking that if it only cost less, it could be successful.

But as we now know, the Virtual Boy failed to take off. Nintendo killed it the same year it launched in Japan, and the company pulled the plug in the US the following year. At that time I bought a Virtual Boy new in the box on clearance at Toys'R'Us for $30. I still have it; in fact it's sitting next to me as I write this. Wario Land ranks among my favorite games for the system, and I always wished that this odd 3D console had lived long enough to receive a proper Super Mario Bros. title.

Why did the Virtual Boy fail? I wrote about some of the reasons in this 2009 article on Game Console Design Mistakes for Technologizer. I also briefly analyzed the Virtual Boy for my History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming slideshow for PC World in 2011.

In some ways, it's a shame that the system died so early, but in absolute business terms, its early demise made perfect sense. The Virtual Boy was an odd machine without broad appeal — one of Nintendo's rare flops — but it makes for a heck of a video game collector's item today as a result.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.8-9]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played the Virtual Boy? What's your favorite game for the system?

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 ] Printer Paper Christmas

December 23rd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Bowater Computer Forms Inc. Bowater Paper and Files Computer Printer Paper Christmas Ad Advertisement- 1985"Shhh! Don't tell dad, but I got him a box of blank paper for Christmas."

Merry Christmas from VC&G.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.21]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the last time you printed something, and what was it?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Heretic

October 28th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Raven Software Id Software Heretic Advertisement Ad - 1995Killing the DEAD has never been so much FUN!

The Gothic fantasy atmosphere of Heretic excited me when id Software first published it as shareware episode in 1994. Either someone uploaded the game to my BBS or I downloaded it from another, but either way, I quickly found myself enveloped in a modem-to-modem online co-op Heretic session with a friend.

Fast forward 18 years later, and I played Heretic again — this time, the entire game (and again, co-op). The first episode is OK, but the level design for the others is incredibly tedious and disappointing. I can see now that it is a very mediocre game. But when first released, following hot on the heels of Doom, people loved it.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.61 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Doom engine game?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Lure of Game Graphics

October 21st, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Microdeal Leatherneck Tanglewood Atari ST 1040ST computer games - 1988Microdeal's Leatherneck and Tanglewood for the Atari ST

I've never played either of these Atari ST games by Microdeal, but they look like fun. "Look" being the operative word. That's because, as we all know, a screenshot alone is a poor judge of a game.

In fact, I recall being burned by screenshots many times back in the day. While browsing at Babbage's or Software Etc. (former software retail chains), my brother and I would flip over various game boxes and ogle amazing, colorful in-game shots that would make us want to buy everything on the shelf.

If we did buy a game, we'd rush home and load it up. Nine times out of ten, those glorious box screenshots turned out to be the only pretty graphical scenes (often static) in the game. Or — even worse — the screenshots were from the uber-colorful Amiga / VGA / etc. version when in fact we were buying the Apple II version of the game (or we only had an EGA graphics card). Doh.

[ From STart, Summer 1988, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever buy a game based on graphics alone — then come to regret it later?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sharp Pocket Computer

October 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Sharp PC-1500A Pocket Computer - 1983"From Sharp Minds Come Sharp Products"

It's no secret that Radio Shack licensed Sharp's pocket computer designs for its own TRS-80 Pocket Computer line of products. But here's one of the originals, circa 1983: the PC-1500A.

[ From Interface Age, November 1983, p.110 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever lost a pocket-sized gadget and regretted it badly? Tell us about it.


See Also: BASIC in your Pocket (RSOTW, 2009)
See Also: Asimov's Pocket Computer (RSOTW, 2011)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Slay the Nereis

September 16th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Slay the Nereis Manual - 1984A TRS-80 Color Computer Centipede clone; this artwork should be a t-shirt.

See Also: TRS-80 Dino Wars (RSOTW, 2012)

[ From Radio Shack "Slay the Nereis" Manual, rev. April 1984 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the silliest knock-off of a famous video game you can think of? (e.g. Donkey King)

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