Discussion Topic of the Week: Has anyone ever gained unauthorized entry into one of your computers? Tell us about it.
Back in January, I wrote an article about the world's earliest known figurative computer art for The Atlantic. It it is also likely the world's first digital computer artwork as well.
(Check out this timeline of computer art history to get an idea where this piece fits in.)
The only known physical record of this circa 1956-58 pin-up diagnostic, which ran on SAGE computer systems, comes from a Polaroid photograph snapped by U.S. airman Lawrence A. Tipton in early 1959. Tipton retains the original print, although it will likely go to a museum soon (more on that when it happens).
The digital image of the photo used in my Atlantic article was provided by Tipton to a SAGE historian over a decade ago. It was previously the highest-quality version of the photo I had access to, and that posed a few problems. Someone (likely Tipton himself) had hastily retouched the image, removing various scratches, and it was not presented in a high enough resolution to examine in detail.
To remedy that, Tipton was kind enough to make a high resolution scan of the original print and mail it to me on CD-ROM back in February. With his permission, I am providing the high-resolution scan of the pin-up console photo unretouched and unmodified below so that (a) others may learn from it and (b) to ensure that our only record of this important achievement in art is not lost.
While researching my slideshow on smartwatch history for TechHive last month, I came across an interesting 1989 letter to Computerworld magazine. It was a response to an earlier article in the publication about the inevitability of a wearable watch-sized microcomputer.
I find the letter prescient because its author imagines the consequences of walking around with a full-blown networked computer on your wrist. And he was right about his predictions in every regard except one: instead of computers on our wrists, we're walking around with computers in our pockets. In other words, smartphones.
But that's the nature of predicting the future. You can often get the general trends correct without knowing the details. Nobody in 1989 had any idea that the cell phone, instead of the watch, would first become the vehicle through which we'd wear tiny networked computers on our persons almost every hour of the day.
Hey mime! Yeah, you! Stop stealing my $599 Mimic Spartan Apple II+ compatibility box for the Commodore 64. I need it to open up a whole new world of hardware and software.
Just for a second, imagine if I could add these features to my Commodore 64: Apple II+ hardware and software capabilities, 64K RAM expansion, four software selectable Commodore 64 cartridge slots, non-dedicated 8-bit parallel port, and standard audio cassette deck capabilities for my C-64. Yep, all of that!
The suggested retail value of comparable products offering only these capabilities is over $2,200.00*. But the Spartan gives me much, much more, mime! Oh yes. By building on my investment in my Commodore 64 — an excellent introductory computer — I create a whole new system with both C-64 an Apple II+ capabilities.
There is a whole other world out there! And if you'd just give it back, a huge selection of Apple II+ hardware and software would be mine to explore. Call toll free for the Spartan dealer nearest you.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Open Discussion: Whoever posts a question first gets to decide what we'll talk about this week.
See Also: MacCharlie's FrankenMac (2013)
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best Lord of the Rings- or Hobbit-themed video/computer game ever made?
In 1985, LucasFilm Games released one of the earliest first-person shooters, although they didn't know it at the time. In The Eidolon, players fluidly navigate corridors from a first-person viewpoint, shooting monsters that they encounter along the way.
The Eidolon utilizes a novel and technically impressive vector graphics engine to dynamically generate tunnel interiors from various angles as players maneuver through them. The engine also served as the basis of other LucasFilm titles like Rescue on Fractalus! (1984) and Koronis Rift (1985).
Although this game appeared on the Atari 8-bit computer platform (which I grew up with), I never got a chance to play it until about ten years ago. If I had seen it in the 1980s, it would have immediately become a favorite.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite pre-1996 first-person shooter?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which was the better machine: the IBM PC AT, Atari 520ST, Mac 512K, or Amiga 1000?
Thirty-five thousand years ago, when massive beasts still roamed the earth, an early modern human carved the figure of a sexually robust woman into a piece of woolly mammoth tusk, creating the earliest known figurative artwork. During a time of almost certain hardship and scarcity, when acquiring that tusk involved slaying an animal 100 times one's weight, the artist devoted countless hours to create a sculpture that idolized nothing less than sex itself.
35 millennia later, during a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government defense budget to finance it, a late modern human utilized a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a sexually robust woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and its creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now.
You can read the full story I wrote about this landmark piece of digital art over at The Atlantic. I'd like to personally thank Lawrence Tipton, Robert Martina, and all of the SAGE veterans who helped me research this piece.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Quick! Name your favorite computer, calculator, or console with a Z80 CPU.
27 years ago, the industry group Association of Data Processing Service Organizations (ADAPSO) created this public service ad warning of the evils of software piracy. I've transcribed its text below — just so you don't miss it.
It's easy to make a copy.
It's hard to believe.
People who wouldn't think of shoplifting a software product on their lunch hour don't think twice about going back to the office and making several illegal copies of the same software.
Making unauthorized copies of software is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law. Yet, the problem has reached epidemic proportions because many people are unaware, or simply choose to ignore the law. The software industry is urging decision-makers and software users to take steps to stop software piracy in their organizations. In the meantime, the industry has been forced to prosecute willful copyright violators.
There are legal, moral and economic imperatives forbidding theft of copyrighted software.
There is a free pamphlet on the subject. Call or write for a copy. A copy. A copy. A copy for everyone you know.
Please ask for Priscilla.
1300 North Seventeenth Street
Arlington, Virginia 22209
"A copy. A copy. A copy. A copy."
It really says that. I think it's supposed to be a joke, albeit a very bad one.
ADAPSO changed its name to Information Technology Association Of America (ITAA) in 1991, although its supposedly current website is now owned by the International Trial Attorneys Association, so who knows if it even exists today.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first piece of software you ever copied (or received a copy of) illegally?
See Also: Why History Needs Software Piracy (2012)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week] Software Piracy (2009)
See Also: [ Retro Scan of the Week ] "What's Wrong With Copying Software?" (2008)
See Also: Old-School PC Copy Protection Schemes (2006)
See Also: EGM Advertisement: Sell Famiclones, Go to Prison (2006)