Steve Bristow (1949-2015)

February 24th, 2015 by Marty Goldberg

Steve Bristow in Memoirum[The following news comes to us via video game historian Mary Goldberg, who has allowed VC&G to republish his Facebook announcement here so more people can see it. –Benj]

It is with a sad heart that we announce the passing of Atari legend and friend Stephen D. ("Steve") Bristow, who died this past Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the age of 65 following a short illness.

Bristow was one of the originals, helping Nolan Bushnell out during the development of the world's first commercial arcade game, Computer Space, while an intern at Ampex.

He then moved to Nutting Associates, the publisher of Computer Space, as an intern. At Nutting, he soon took over for Nolan Bushnell when Bushnell and business partner Ted Dabney left to form Atari.

In the early 1970s, Bristow joined up once again with Bushnell at Atari for a short while before being tapped to form secret Atari subsidiary Kee Games with Joe and Patricia Keenan. There, he lead the creation of several groundbreaking arcade games such as the full-color multiplayer Indy 800 and the seminal game Tank.

Bristow occupied many positions at Atari throughout the 1970s an 80s. Upon the merger between Kee Games and Atari, he oversaw Atari's Coin Engineering as well as later projects like the Electronic Board Game Division. He later became Plant Manager of Pinball Production at Atari before moving to VP Engineering, Consumer and Home Computer Division, then VP Engineering of Atari's Consumer Game Division in the early 1980s.

From there, Bristow moved to VP Advanced Technology, then VP Engineering, AtariTel Division (which produced telephone products). Then finally, he joined Atari's Engineering Computer Division as VP and became an Atari Fellow before leaving Atari all together in February 1984.

Bristow continued with an impressive electrical engineering career afterword, but it's his time and accomplishments at Atari (and all the fun he brought us) that are the reason we're all here. He will be sorely missed.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] HP's First Handheld Computer

January 19th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Hewlett-Packard HP-75C calculator pocket computer handheld computer advertisement - Interface Age May 1983It's a lot like an HP-11C, but freakin' huge

Plenty of companies experimented with pocket and handheld computers in the early 1980s. Among them we must count HP, which introduced its HP-75C in 1982.

I peronally own an HP-75D (the successor model of this machine) that allows use of a bar code wand. I bought it on eBay around 2000, messed around with it a few times, and I think it's been sitting in a box or a closet since. I couldn't get into it, for some reason, like I could my TRS-80 Pocket Computer. Perhaps it's time to revisit the 75D and try again — if it still works.

Still, I have a soft spot for the HP-75 series because it features similar industrial design as my beloved HP-11C calculator, which I've been using since middle school. RPN for the win!

[ From Interface Age - May 1983, p.143]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Are you a fan of HP calculators? Which model is your favorite?


See Also: BASIC in your Pocket (RSOTW, 2009)
See Also: Asimov's Pocket Computer (RSOTW, 2011)
See Also: Sharp Pocket Computer (RSOTW, 2013)
See Also: Quasar Pocket Computer RSOTW, 2014)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] A PreComputer Christmas

December 22nd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

VTech PreComputer Power Pad JCPenney Christmas catalog xmas back cover - 1994Christmas morning wouldn't be the same without a PreComputer Power Pad

I'm a big fan of educational, semi-toy computers like the VTech PreComputer Power Pad (seen here in his scan from the 1994 JCPenney Christmas Catalog) because historians and collectors alike often completely overlook them in study of computer history.

I've previously written about the much more famous VTech Pre Computer 1000 and even did a slideshow on kids' computers for PCWorld back in 2011.

I don't have a Power Pad at the moment, but I do have a few other educational computers, including some featured in that slideshow. My favorite is probably the VTech I.Q. Unlimited or the Tiger Learning Computer. But we'll save those for another day.

Merry Christmas from Vintage Computing and Gaming

[ From JCPenney Christmas Catalog - 1994, back cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever own any educational or kids' computers? Tell us about them.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Santa's TRS-80 CoCo

December 15th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

TRS-80 Color Computer Santa Claus Christmas Xmas vintage computer TRS-80 Microcomputer News magazine cover - 1982Santa Claus enjoys some hot CoCo on Christmas Eve

[ From TRS-80 Microcomputer News, December 1982, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: If you could go back in time and give yourself one Christmas present, any year, what would it be?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Family Quizagon Night

November 24th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Quizagon family Apple II IBM PC Commodore 64 VIC-20 computer game advertisement - 1983“Whoa…what’s in these brownies, Grandma?”

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.

[ From Compute! - November 1983, p.15]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have any family video gaming planned for this Thanksgiving? If so, what are you going to play?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Memotech ZX81 Modules

November 3rd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Memotech Sinclair ZX81 Timex-Sinclair 1000 expansion modules advertisement - 1983Extend your ZX81 a full ten inches

The Sinclair ZX81 (marketed in non-kit form as the Timex-Sinclair 1000 in the US) was a tiny computer with a tiny price and tiny capabilities.

It was possible, however, to make up for some of those shortcomings with a wide array of plug-in peripheral modules from Memotech, seen here in this ad from 1983. Furthermore, by piggybacking one module onto the next, it was possible to create an even more capable — and far longer — ZX81.

I wish I had some of these Memotech modules to mess around with. All I have is the bulbous Timex-Sinclair 16K RAM Module. Time to check eBay.

[ From Personal Computing - November 1983, p.18]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the smallest non-portable computer you've ever used? (e.g. Timex-Sinclair 1000)

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The Warning Signs of Computer Dad Syndrome

September 23rd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Computer Dad SyndromeDuring the 1980s, a debilitating disease broke out among white middle-class nuclear families across the United States. Fathers everywhere were seen awkwardly encouraging their children during regular activities — often while playing video games or using personal computers.

Thirty years later, doctors have finally identified this malady as Computer Dad Syndrome (or "CDS" for short), which manifests itself in spontaneous episodes of uncomfortably becoming someone's dad for the duration of a photography shoot.

Diagnosis of this condition is contingent upon the appearance of three or more of the following symptoms.

Clutching of the upper arm

Clutching of the upper arm

[ Continue reading The Warning Signs of Computer Dad Syndrome » ]

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Computer Shopper Debut

September 22nd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Computer Shopper Magazine debut advertisement - 1979"The most divisive magazine in the USA."

Veterans of the computer scene will no doubt recall Computer Shopper, a massively large (11″ x 14″, later 10″ x 13″) and thick (usually around 1.25″) monthly publication that mostly ran classifieds and paid advertisements for PC vendors. The magazine ended its print run in 2009, 30 years after it launched.

I only know when it launched because of this advertisement for the launch of Computer Shopper that appeared in the November 1979 issue of Byte. It's interesting to see a legend at its birth.

I was never a huge fan of Computer Shopper, since it was essentially a month's worth of computer junk mail stuffed into an awkward and almost unreadibly-large magazine format. But I did respect it as a mainstay of the computer industry — as familiar as a phone book and as timely as a newspaper. May she rest in peace.

[ From Byte Magazine - November 1979, p.189]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever read (or more accurately, peruse) Computer Shopper? What are your memories of the publication?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Space Bucks

September 1st, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Sierra Space Bucks advertisement - 1995So now we've entered the 3D font era.

I've never played Sierra's Space Bucks, but it looks like a fascinating strategy game. I was a big fan of SunDog: Frozen Legacy on the Atari ST, so I'm a sucker for any game that shows the inside of your spaceship from a top-down view (even if only in a non-functional splash screen). Has anyone out there played it?

(As an aside, when I started this blog in 2005, I could just say "I've never played this game, does anyone out there know anything about it?" And get away with it. That's because very little game info was out there; Wikipedia had very few video and computer game entries — especially obscure ones — and MobyGames was incomplete. Now I have no excuse for not looking it up myself. And what do you know: here's a Wikipedia entry on Space Bucks, first created in 2012.)

I have this feeling that most Windows games from the 1995 era slipped through the cracks and were mostly forgotten. It's my impression that not many people played early games created for Windows 95 and late-period games made for Windows 3.11. Maybe it's because the IBM PC world was in the middle of a big transition from MS-DOS / Win 3.11 to Windows 95. I remember still buying MS-DOS games well into 1997, for example.

[ From Computer Gaming World - September 1995, p.55]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the earliest game you bought that ran exclusively on Windows 95/98?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Aplus 3000 Apple II Clone

August 25th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Aplus 3000 Apple II clone advertisement - 1985Everything looks cheaper in black and white print.

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.

[ From Compute! - November 1985, p.85]

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

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