[ Newsbits ] April 10, 2014

April 10th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

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VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

There are too many good links this week. I honestly don't know what happened. Maybe I'm getting better at this.

Recent News

  • Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 2.0
    The AHCS does it again

    "The Atlanta Historical Computer Society and the Computer Museum of America are pleased to announce the second annual Vintage Computer Festival Southeast. We have selected the dates of the 3rd and 4th of May to make it easy for people to attend both VCF East and VCF Southeast this year.

  • Nintendo Launches Game Boy Advance on Wii U Virtual Console
    Another painfully slow trickle of games from Nintendo, but the emulation is very well done.

    "From April 3 through April 24, select Game Boy Advance titles will launch in the Nintendo eShop on Wii U each week. In addition to off-TV play, these games feature Restore Points that save progress during game play, and Miiverse functionality.

  • Microsoft Ends Support for Windows XP
    Spoiler: It's not really dead

    "Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s beloved seventh major operating system and arguably the company's most successful, was left to perish on Tuesday at its creators' hands. It was 12 years, seven months old.

  • Fifty Years of IBM System/360
    The most successful computer platform that the least number of people know about

    "50 years ago today, IBM unveiled the System/360 mainframe, a groundbreaking computer that allowed new levels of compatibility between systems and helped NASA send astronauts to the Moon.

  • Gmail 10th Anniversary
    A great piece by Harry McCracken I missed last week

    "If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.

  • Raspberri Pi Announces New "Compute Module"
    A new variety of this vertsatile, hackable machine

    "The compute module contains the guts of a Raspberry Pi (the BCM2835 processor and 512Mbyte of RAM) as well as a 4Gbyte eMMC Flash device (which is the equivalent of the SD card in the Pi). This is all integrated on to a small 67.6×30mm board which fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector (the same type of connector as used for laptop memory*).

Cool Links

  • Story of the Windows XP Bliss Desktop Image
    Hachman hits it out of the park with this research piece

    "It's not too far-fetched to believe that a billion people have viewed the "Bliss" image that defines the desktop view of Windows XP, the seminal OS that Microsoft is retiring Tuesday. But you'd barely notice the real-world "Bliss" scene if you stepped out of your car and gazed at it today.

  • A Custom Portable N64 Console
    Kotaku drools all over a Bacman forum post

    "We've seen portable retro consoles before, but this N64 mod is beautiful. It uses a 3.5″ screen, internal memory and Rumble Pak, an Expansion Pak, a GameCube analog stick and 4 hour battery life.

  • Kevin Mitnick Befriends a Former Foe on Facebook
    …an old hacking target of decades past

    "You gotta love the old friends you meet on Facebook.

  • Looking at the Web with Internet Explorer 6, One Last Time
    Lee Hutchinson explores the modern web with IE 6 in all its splintered glory

    "Windows XP wasn't the only thing to be shuffled into unsupported purgatory yesterday. Also included in the group of applications to be dumped down the memory hole is the browser that everyone loves to hate: Internet Explorer 6.

  • 1988 Inside Edition Story on Nintendo
    Retroist digs up a vintage scare piece

    "In 1988 parents were still baffled by the spell that video games had cast over their children. This segment from Inside Edition tries to get to to the bottom of it all.

Echo Box

A place for products, creative works, and upcoming projects seeking support. No endorsement from VC&G is implied.

  • Project: MEGAFOOT
    An indie sci-fi action film seeking funding on IndieGoGo. One of the rewards ($150 level) is a limited edition Megafoot NES cartridge.

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[ Newsbits ] April 3, 2014

April 3rd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

Recent News

  • Microsoft Releases Source Code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows
    A great move by Microsoft and the CHM

    "On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

  • Yoshi's New Island Out Now on 3DS
    A Nintendo 3DS sequel to the Super NES classic with all-new stages.

    "New island. New adventure. Same awesome Yoshi. The little Mario Bros. are in big trouble. Help Yoshi save the day — with help from cool power-ups, giant Eggdozers, and crazy transformations.

  • New Ultima Online Shard Freeshard Open
    by the name of "An Corp"

    "A brand new freeshard for Ultima Online has opened up and it is amazing. T2A era, full-loot, open-world PVP, revamped loot tables, exciting new expansions like the Township/Kingship system, and Order/Chaos/Balance battles.

Cool Links

  • Play Zork on an Altair 8800 Clone via Telnet
    and watch the panel lights blink in realtime

    "Logon using your favorite telnet client to: altair.micronick.com on port 23. You can SAVE and RESTORE your Zork game. I suggest using terminal type vt100 or ANSI.

  • Magpi: The Micro Arduino Gaming Platform Interface
    A retro portable game console built from scratch

    "Here's a retro hand-held gaming console I built with my son. It uses an Arduino micro-controller, a small LCD screen, push-buttons, a 3D printed case and home-grown "PC" board. It's really pretty easy to solder and put together. My son & I wrote two games and a drawing program for it.

  • Classic Game Room Reviews the Sega Dreamcast Dreameye Camera
    A neat peripheral many people have forgotten

    "TV phone, video mail and photo mail with your Sega Dreamcast and the Dreameye camera! Hook this up to your Dreamcast and connect to the Japanese Internet in 2000 for some great times!! Records 25 second clips of video from a terrible webcam, but it's great for laughs.

Submit News

If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line. My email filter will route it directly into my brain.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega IR 7000

March 18th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Sega IR 7000 Haldheld Portable PDA Infrared Advertisement 1994"Whispering is for gutless weasels."

In the early-mid 1990s, Sega experimented with a few electronics items that veered away from mainstream console gaming. Case in point, the IR 7000 PDA, seen here (and don't forget the Sega Pico).

I've never owned an IR 7000, but I have to admit that I wanted one badly back in the day. The thought of sending secret wireless messages to other kids in class (I was 13 at the time this came out) excited me.

[ From Flux, Issue #2, 1994, p.7]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what was Sega's weirdest product?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Low-End Virtual Reality

January 7th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

PCVR Magazine Cover Jan-Feb 1994Every new idea is an old idea with more transistors.

A few years ago, a relative gave me a couple issues of PCVR Magazine, a low-circulation 1990s periodical dedicated to virtual reality. Here's the cover of the Jan/Feb 1994 issue, which features an illustration of the magazine's build-it-yourself head tracker project.

In the early 1990s, the "virtual reality" concept hit a peak in the popular media that coincided with dozens of companies pursuing motion-tracking head-mounted displays — both with honest attempts and blatant gimmicks.

If I had to guess why VR exploded in the popular tech consciousness at that particular time, I would trace it it to the emergence of small, relatively low-cost color LCDs — the kind that made portable consoles like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear possible. Compared to bulky, power-hungry CRT displays, the (relatively) thin, low-power LCDs could be worn on the head with mobility and without too much discomfort. That prompted a minor Cambrian explosion of VR headset hardware.

But the display technology just wasn't there yet. Affordable LCDs were very low resolution (think 320×200 or less), and higher-resolution LCDs cost thousands of dollars a piece.

In addition, the hardware and software required to generate convincing virtual reality experiences were neither affordable nor generally available. So genuinely immersive VR found itself stuck in corporate and university research labs; meanwhile, the public got trickle-down fad headsets like the Stuntmaster.

Today, we find ourselves in the middle of a VR renaissance thanks to Oculus Rift. But this time, we may actually be at the edge of mainstream virtual reality headsets because the technology has come quite a long way since 1994. I look forward to meeting your 3D virtual avatar in cyberspace soon.

[ From PCVR Magazine, Jan/Feb 1994, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a virtual reality headset of any kind? Tell us about it.

See Also: Retro Scan of the Week Special Edition: "At Last! Reality For the Masses!" (VC&G, 2007)
See Also: The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming (PC World, 2011)

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[ 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 » ]

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The VC&G Thanksgiving Collection (2013 Edition)

November 26th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Things That Nerds Should Be Thankful ForHello, and welcome to VC&G's 2013 Thanksgiving Spectacular. I'm your host for this evening, Burt Edwards.

Thanksgiving is a great excuse to spend time with family around a four-player game of Gauntlet IV for the Sega Genesis. Or perhaps a Super Bomberman tournament. Or eight-player networked Atari Jaguar Battlesphere? Did I mention a 16-player Mario Kart Double Dash LAN battle?

One of each, please.

But before you stuff yourself with turkey and get lost in multiplayer fragfests, feel free to enjoy the following Thanksgiving-themed posts I have culled from the annals of VC&G history.

That is all for now. Let the thankfulness begin!

Happy Thanksgiving from Vintage Computing and Gaming

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel

September 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Sega Genesis Sega Channel advertisement - 1995"Get hooked in."

Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.

Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.

When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn't get to try it out myself.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.39 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Capcom's First PC CD-ROM

August 19th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Mega Man X CD-ROM advertisement - 1995Digging up video games in a mall ashtray

I was a huge fan of Mega Man X when it first came out on the Super NES in 1993.

…Well, I rented it, anyway, and I played it more than any other side-scrolling Mega Man game before or since. I loved finding the secret Hadoken fireball power up, which I read about in Nintendo Power.

Much to my present-day surprise (even though I owned this magazine when it was new), Capcom produced a version of Mega Man X for the PC, and on a CD-ROM no less. Has anyone out there played it? I'm wondering if the adaptation was any good.

[ P.S. Shortly after writing this entry, I tracked down a warez copy of Mega Man X for the PC, and it's surprisingly well done. However, its utilization of MIDI music provides for a pretty surreal Mega Man experience — surreal in the sense that the tunes generally sound horrible compared to MM games that are famous for their music. ]

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Mega Man game of all time?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tengen Game Gear Games

July 22nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Tengen Sega Game Gear Games Group Ad - 1993The Klax guy has too many arms.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1993, p.87 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Of the games listed in the ad above, which is your favorite? (Feel free to consider versions of the games for any platform, not just Game Gear.)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Rayman and Frustration

June 10th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Ubisoft Rayman Advertisement - Original first Rayman Game - 1995Rayman: Missing limbs since 1995

I bought Rayman for the Atari Jaguar shortly after it came out in 1995, hopeful it would bring some Mario-style platforming magic to Atari's "64-bit" machine. While lushly illustrated with a deep color palette, I found the gameplay and the controls a little kludgy, and I had trouble advancing past one of the first few stages. I gave up and moved on to other games.

Shorty thereafter, I lent Rayman and my Jaguar to my brother and his roommate to play at college, and they beat it within a few days. Determination was just as important as skill when it came to completing video games in those days, and I had no motivation to torture myself with a frustrating game.

Which brings me to a tangential point: When I was a kid, if I couldn't beat a video game, I thought it meant that I was a bad video game player. I thought it was my fault. But years later I realized that the games that frustrated me most were just poorly designed.

Not to say that all difficult games are bad games — in fact, I'd say there's a big difference between "difficult" and "frustrating." Merely difficult games are still fun even if you fail; they make you want to try again to complete a challenge. Frustrating ones feel unfair and make you want to smash your game console with a hammer.

One of my friends did that to his NES once. He also threw it off his second story apartment balcony. Ah; those were the days.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.129]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever visited physical violence against a video game console or controller?

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