[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Remembering My Dad

September 23rd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Benj's Birthday FaxBenj's Birthday Fax

In 1993, I was heavily into BBSes and all things telecommunications, so my dad, an electronics engineer, lent me his old fax machine to set up in my bedroom. I hooked it to the second phone line in the house (used for my BBS at the time) so I could send experimental faxes to it from my dad's office.

On my 12th birthday, just over 20 years ago, this particular fax came in as a surprise. It was a happy birthday note written by my dad. Receiving my very own fax (probably my first one) delighted me at the time, and I tucked it away for safe keeping. It was one of the most thoughtful personal notes my dad ever wrote to me.

Earlier this year, just after my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I re-discovered the fax in a box of childhood mementos. Being printed on thermal paper, it's now heavily faded, but the message of love, acceptance, and encouragement it conveys is still strong. It represents some of the best things about my dad.

He is the reason I'm here — both in a literal, existential sense, and also as the enabler of my passion for technology. Growing up, if I wanted to experiment with something, he made it happen. If I was curious, he was curious with me. We shared thousands of tech adventures together, and that made him an awesome dad.

Yesterday morning, my father passed away after a 9 month bout with that terrible disease. There will be no more tech adventures between us, and that breaks my heart. But there's a new generation coming up, and I will do my best to continue his legacy of encouragement and gentle guidance with my own kids, who already possess a passion for technical and mechanical things like their grandpa.

Thanks, dad. For everything.

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Douglas C. Engelbart (1925-2013)

July 3rd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Doug Engelbart RIPIn Memoriam: Douglas C. Engelbart (1925-2013)
Inventor of the Computer Mouse, Computer Pioneer

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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.

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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)

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Jerry Lawson (1940-2011)

April 11th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Jerry Lawson creator of Fairchild Channel F and Black Video Game PioneerIn Memoriam: Gerald A. Lawson (1940-2011), black video game pioneer.

I am very saddened to announce the passing of a truly important figure in the history of video games. Jerry Lawson died Saturday morning, April 9th, 2011, at the age of 70.

Lawson was notable not only for being a rare African American electronic engineer in Silicon Valley, but also for leading the team that created the world's first ROM cartridge-based video game console. I speak, of course, of the Fairchild Channel F, which hit the market in August 1976.

Lawson did an interview for this site in 2009, and I am proud to say that the feature brought this amazing man some long overdue recognition. The IGDA honored Lawson's contributions to the industry during an informal session at this year's Game Developer's Conference on March 4th, 2011.

I heard the news of Lawson's death only this afternoon from David Erhart, a personal friend of Lawson. Erhart tells me that he and Lawson were planning to go to a ham radio swap meet Saturday morning, but he received a call from Jerry's wife on Friday night telling him that Lawson was in the ICU. The next morning, his wife phoned Erhart again to say that Lawson had died.

The cause of death is unknown to me at the moment, but I do know that Lawson struggled with severe diabetes for years. An obituary for Jerry is in the works, and I will post an update whenever I receive it (or a link to it).

Rest in peace, Jerry. Thank you for all you've done for us. History will not forget your name.

[Update (04/14/2011) - David Erhart was told by Lawson's family that Lawson died of a heart attack. "He was feeling bad Wednesday afternoon/night as was taken to the hospital," Erhart wrote in an email. "He then died at 6:15am Saturday morning." This New York Times obituary quotes Lawson's wife as saying that Lawson died from "complications of diabetes."]

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