[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Internet in a Box

January 20th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

CompuServe SPRY Internet In a Box Advertisement 1996There was a time when you could fit the entire Internet in a box.

[ From Internet World, February 1996, p.1]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What ISP did you use to first connect to the Internet?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Internet Archive's Historical Software Collection is the Best Thing That Has Ever Happened to Software Preservation

November 26th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Internet Archive Historical Software Collection

Three cheers for Jason Scott and his push to create a JavaScript-based port of the MESS emulator platform. The result, the Internet Archive's Historical Software Collection, is nothing short of brilliant.

The collection puts dozens of vintage computer games and applications at your fingertips by allowing you to run them, emulated, from a browser window. It's a huge step forward for preserving the heritage of our software culture. Here, ease-of-access is key.

I've been horribly remiss by not mentioning this earlier — but better late than never for something this important.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Supra 28.8 Kbps Modem

July 29th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Supra Modem Ad - 1996Glowing Modem

In my early BBS days, I started using a 2400 bps external modem hooked to the serial port of a PC clone. A few years later, I switched to an external Intel 14,400 bps modem. Then I believe I got a Creative Labs Modem Blaster kit with an internal 28,800 bps modem on an ISA card. After that I moved up to 33,600 with some generic Winmodem, then 56,000 bps.

In 2000, I signed up for my first cable modem service…and the rest is history.

[ From Internet World, February 1996, p.9 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What speed was your first modem?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Revisiting Hotline, the 1990s Internet BBS Platform

April 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Hotline Revisited

Back in the mid-late 1990s, an Internet-based BBS platform called Hotline sprung up and quickly spread throughout the Macintosh community. It was basically a client/server BBS software suite that allowed for multi-user chat, file transfers, and message boards.

By the early 2000s, though, Hotline had mostly died out. Today, only a handful of servers remain. But guess what? You can still connect to them — on Windows or a Mac. A new article I wrote for Macworld, "Hotline Revisted," tells you how.

Have fun. Remember to be kind to the Hotline veterans when you visit.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

MadMaze-II Now Hosted on Vintagecomputing.com

February 19th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

MadMaze-II Title Image

In 2006, I wrote about a version of the classic Prodigy game MadMaze that had been adapted for the web by Russell D. Brown, an electronics engineer based in Rome, New York.

Just today, a commenter on that original post (thanks Joshua) let me know that Russell Brown passed away last year on July 1st. That means his implementation of MadMaze-II is now offline.

(Please note that the original author of MadMaze, Greg Costikyan, is still alive and kicking as far as I know.)

Luckily for all of us, I asked Russel Brown back in 2011 to share his MadMaze-II code with me in case his version of the game ever went down. He complied, and I have just now set up a fresh copy of his adaptation on this web server at the following address: http://www.vintagecomputing.com/madmaze/.

The game still requires Internet Explorer 5 or up, and it seems to work in IE 9 for me. Brown programmed the game in such a way that obfuscated its function to prevent cheating (he even incorporated a copy protection scheme), so at the moment I have no idea how to successfully modify it if players find any bugs. But if you encounter any problems, please feel free to let me know, and I'll have a look.

Have fun in the maze. And may Russell Brown rest in peace.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)

January 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Aaron Swartz RIPIn Memoriam: Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)
Software developer, Internet activist
(Photo: Daniel J. Sieradski)

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. (source)

Tags: , , , , ,

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Meryl Streep Stares at You

November 26th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Meryl Streep Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

Long ago, scanners were rare and expensive. Consumer digital cameras were mostly non-existent — and those that did exist were impractical to use or expensive.

At the same time, many users possessed computers with (relatively speaking) high-resolution bitmapped displays that craved content. In time, those machines gained color capability and could display dazzlingly beautiful works of digital art.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Meryl Streep Stares at You » ]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10

October 1st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Request-A-Song.com Clef Attack Picture

Ten years ago today, I opened an experimental music website called Request-A-Song.com. On the site, my brother Jeremy and I solicited song titles (just titles, not lyrics), which site visitors would submit via a web form. We'd pick the ones we found most inspiring and write songs based on them, then publish them on the site in MP3 format. The project lasted until December 2005.

As you might expect, a lot of very interesting and unusual songs came out of the process. You can tell just by reading the titles of our most popular songs — names like "Butter Ghost," "Violent House Panda," "Poke 'Em In The Neck," and "I Flipped My Biscuit" — that we preferred ideas on the bizarre end of the spectrum.

Jeremy and Benj Edwards Request-A-Song.com Publicity Shot from 2004In honor of our 10th anniversary, I've uploaded all 134 of our songs to The Internet Archive with the hope that it will preserve our effort for posterity.

You can still download those songs from the original Request-A-Song.com website (which also provides information on who requested what and when, lyrics, and dates of release), but it's actually easier to explore our catalog with the IA's handy online streaming MP3 app.

(If you want to know which songs to listen to first, here is a list of our 25 most popular songs.)

Over the next month, I plan on uploading more RAS information to the Internet Archive, including news archives, press clippings, song metadata, images, and more.

[ Continue reading Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10 » ]

Tags: , , , , ,

The Roots of Social Networking

June 25th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

The Roots of Social Networking Slideshow on PCWorld.com

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Friendster, and the 15th anniversary of the launch of SixDegrees.com, the first social networking website.

Up now on PCWorld.com is a slideshow (created by yours truly) to celebrate these anniversaries by examining the world of computerized social networking in the pre-Web era. It covers the usual suspects like Usenet, CompuServe, and BBSes, plus some surprising early services of which you may not have heard. I hope you enjoy it.

As a side note, I'd like to add that this will be my last slideshow edited by Ed Albro, my long-time PC World editor whom I have worked with since 2008. It's been a pleasure working with Ed, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher

May 31st, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Ellen Feiss - Mac Switcher

I don't know if anybody out there knows this, but some years ago, I created a music site called Request-A-Song.com (RAS). My brother Jeremy and I wrote original songs based on visitor suggestions, recorded them, and put them up on the site in MP3 format. We usually treated serious requests humorously, and humorous requests seriously, which thoroughly confused everybody (Hence RAS's amazing success, and why you've no doubt heard of it many times). Sadly, our heyday was before the Digg, YouTube, MySpace, and ubiquitous blog explosion, which would have undoubtedly helped us promote our music and unique concept.

I'm only mentioning this now because it deals with something at least slightly on-topic for VC&G — computer history. Mike (aka Dr. Macenstein), over at the Macenstein blog, recently put together a video for my tongue-in-cheek song, "Ellen Feiss Makes Me Hot," which I released back in 2003 (yes, almost five years ago). It's about the famous Mac switcher who appeared in an Apple advertisement around the time. Essentially, people thought the commercial was funny because Ms. Feiss looked like she was stoned while filming.

[ Continue reading Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher » ]

Tags: , , , , , , , ,