[ Newsbits ] June 29, 2016

June 29th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

VC&G Newsbits Newspaper Logo

VC&G Newsbits Logo

Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.

I've recently received a big influx of news, announcements, and press releases, so I thought I'd bring Newsbits out of cold storage and use it to share everything all at once.

Recent News

  • Producer of The Oregon Trail Donates Collection to The Strong

    It's wonderful to see this stuff preserved, as always

    A group of former employees from the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC) recently donated an extensive collection of materials to The Strong museum documenting the history of the pioneering company from 1973 to 1996. The collection includes hundreds of pieces of software, internal documents, and press clippings.
  • EveryMac.com Turning 20 Years Old

    Brock Kyle recently let me know that his essential Apple info site is turning 20 this Saturday. Quite an accomplistment!

    Established in 1996, EveryMac.com is the complete guide to every Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac clone in the world, with technical specs, configuration details, system identifiers, performance benchmarks, and global pricing info.
  • Atari Video Documentary Project Needs Support

    They've assembled some incredible footage so far; would be a shame to see this disappear

    This 100 minutes long documentary about the Atari story will feature a list of unreleased interviews with the key people of these events, including a very rare one with Warner VP Manny Gerard and a unique one with Atari CEO Ray Kassar, the man held responsible for Atari success and the video game industry crash at the same time, who never appeared in a documentary before.
  • YouTube Gamer on a Quest to Play 1001 Games Hits 100th Episode

    Quite a project

    My name is Gaming Jay. I'm a retro gamer who started a challenge this past year to play through a book called '1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.' Each week I’ve been playing 2 games and recording my gaming sessions and uploading them to YouTube. I have also recently developed a new website to document my journey with written summaries to supplement my YouTube videos.
  • iOS Camera App with Retro Filters Released

    Neat iOS camera app that simulates vintage graphics

    I created Famicam64, an 8bit RetroGaming style Camera app. Famicam64 lets you take photos with 40+ real-time filters that emulate the nostalgic look of retro computers (and games) of the 80s and 90s. CGA, EGA, VGA, Hercules and old PC graphic modes are all there, as well as style emulating home computers and handheld consoles (C64, Spectrum or Gameboy etc. etc.).
  • Secret History of Mac Gaming Book Seeks Funding

    It's a niche subject, but a story worth telling

    The Secret History of Mac Gaming is the story of those communities and the game developers who survived and thrived in an ecosystem that was serially ignored by the outside world. The work draws on archive materials as well as 60+ new interviews with key figures from Mac gaming's past.
  • Cool Links

  • Circuit Classics Boards Re-Create Classic Forrest Mims Designs

    Very, very creative electronics project from Star Simpson

    Forrest M. Mims III is a trusted name in the electronics world for good reason: his charming and engaging texts have drawn millions of people into the world of electronics for the first time. I am bringing some of those hand-drawn circuits projects to life by creating an exquisitely designed series of finely crafted and highly detailed boards. These are the Circuit Classics.
  • NES Coffee Table on Etsy

    VC&G reader Ben Winchester built a NES-shaped coffee table; it's up for sale on Etsy.com

    I wanted to show this to you because I feel this piece is truly unique and original to me. I got my start by replicating your NES DVD player and then moving on to putting my own twist on the NES coffee table, and now I think I have created an original design.
  • Artist Re-Creates Classic Byte Cover in Photo

    Bob Alexander turns Tinney's train illustration into a photo composition

    I've just completed an art project that was inspired by Robert Tinney's painting "Computer Engineering" for Byte magazine. That's the one with a train chugging around a printed circuit board. I made a printed circuit board that resembled the one in the painting, photographed it, and Photoshopped a picture of an HO scale model train onto it.
  • Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan ] Vectorman "Play to Win"

    May 23rd, 2016 by Benj Edwards

    BlueSky Software Vectorman Play to Win Sega Genesis Advertisement Scan - 1995IT"SSSS AWEESSSOOOMME

    I was a big fan of Vectorman back when it first came out. Around that time, I bought a used Sega Genesis from a friend (my first), and I rented a copy from Vectorman from Blockbuster (or did I rent an entire Genesis itself first — my memory is hazy on that point). I was blown away by Vectorman's fluid animations, great sound effects and music, and tight overall feel of the game. I still think Vectorman is one of the best games on the Genesis.

    This ad comes from Wizard (the comic book magazine), and in a two-page spread, it took up one whole page on the left and about a third of the page on the right. I have cropped out the remaining 2/3 of the right page which was unrelated to the ad.

    That right portion, by the way, describes Sega's "Play to Win" contest that tied into the game. Apparently, certain randomly distributed Vectorman cartridges contained in-game messages that advised the player to call a phone number and claim a prize. The top prize was $25,000 and some other perks, which you can read about on Wikipedia. The contest was a clever way to entice people to play the game at a time when 16-bit systems were on the way out.

    [ From Wizard, December 1995, p.10-11 ]

    Discussion Topic: In your opinion, which Sega Genesis game had the best graphics?

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan ] Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

    April 27th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

    Taito Lufia and the Fortress of Doom Super NES SNES Advertisement Scan - 1993"A VAST RPG WORLD IN STUNNING GRAPHICS!"

    [ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.123 ]

    Discussion Topic: What's your favorite RPG on the Super NES?

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super High Impact

    January 11th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

    Super High Impact Football Game Sega Genesis Arcade Ad Advertisement Scan - 1992The NFL really needs to do something about these bone-crunching incidents

    People seem to be talking about football a lot these days, and I'm not quite sure why. To appease the raving hordes, I thought I'd throw out a Football retro scan. In this case, it's for Super High Impact on the Sega Genesis.

    I've never been a fan of Football video games in general — my favorite is probably still Tecmo Bowl for the NES. Nostalgia for that game's intro music alone is enough to get me to play it a couple times a year.

    [ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, November 1992, p.15 ]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your all-time favorite American football video game from the pre-32-bit era?

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] WorldsAway

    December 14th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Fujitsu Cultural Technologies WorldAway Graphical Multiuser Online Chat World on CompuServe First Advertisement - 1996"There's More to Life On-Line"

    Just a few months ago, the 20th anniversary of the launch of WorldsAway, a pioneering graphical online world, came and went without any major notice (it launched in September 1995). But I remembered the milestone, and I wrote a recent This Old Tech column over on PCWorld.com about my memories of the service, which I stuck with in some form or another until 2001.

    WorldsAway was simply magical when it launched. It promised to put you, as a user, into a graphical world that you could share with other online users (the term "Avatar" as an online representation of your physical self came from the creators of this lineage of online worlds). It delivered on that goal with a charming atmosphere — where you could change between whimsical heads with ease — and a vibrant community that I still look back on fondly to this day.

    Honestly, I miss being part of that WorldsAway community. My involvement there came at a time when I was fairly lonely and isolated with my hobbies — my high school years — during a time when few "average" people used any online service whatsoever. Don't get me wrong; I did fairly well at school, and I wasn't a freak with no friends — but the real-life friends I did have did not share my love for the online world. Online, of course, I could find others like me, and on WorldsAway, we all celebrated that commonality together in a vibrant, playful world.

    Did anybody else use WorldsAway in the 1990s? I'd love to hear from you.

    P.S. I was an avid reader and subscriber of CompuServe Magazine in the 1990s, which is where I found and drooled over this ad back in the day.

    [ From CompuServe Magazine, March 1996, p.4 ]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you use any graphical online chat worlds in the 1990s? Tell us about it.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Laser 128 Family

    November 23rd, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Laser 128 Apple II Compatible clone machine computer advertisement - 1987A family on the move

    This Apple II-clone machine became popular in the mid-late 1980s as a low-cost alternative to the Apple IIc (almost half the price but twice the RAM — scratch that, Apple IIc had 128K too), especially for home use. I have a Laser 128 in nearly pristine condition in the box, and it feels nice to use. It echoes the integrated form factor of the IIc, which makes it convenient to setup in a pinch if you need to pull out an Apple II in an emergency. Or at least that's how I use it.

    Happy Thanksgiving from VC&G

    [ From Family and Home Office Computing, November 1987, p.69 ]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have any Thanksgiving computer or gaming traditions? Tell us about them.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Ultima VII For SNES

    November 16th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Origin FCI Pony Ultima The Black Gate for SNES Super NES Ultima VII port advertisement - 1994This keychain looks like it would hurt in your pocket

    Here we see an ad for the Super NES version of Ultima VII: The Black Gate. Apparently, when VII received its port to Nintendo's console, its Roman numeral designation got the axe. As a result, the title became merely Ultima: The Black Gate.

    I'm not a big fan of the SNES ports of the Ultima games (VI and VII). In the process of chopping things down to fit in a reasonably-sized ROM cartridge, a lot of content and features were lost (including the Roman numeral in this case). But at the same time, those ports likely gave console fans a taste of the Ultima universe that they would not have had otherwise.

    As for me, I was lucky enough to originally play the Ultima games on the PC (and the Atari ST, in the case of Ultima III), so I guess I am spoiled.

    [ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.100]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what's the best console port of any Ultima game?


    See Also:

    Ultima VII Immortality Contest (RSOTW, 2007)
    Ultima VI (RSOTW, 2009)
    Ultima V (RSOTW, 2009)
    The Savage Empire (RSOTW, 2010)
    Tiny Pocket Ultima (RSOTW, 2013)

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Gray Zapper

    October 19th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Nintendo NES Zapper Light Gun Scan - Zapper ca.1985Released because Americans like guns

    The Nintendo Entertainment System turned 30 years old in the US yesterday — well, according to Nintendo, anyway. That date is still a little fuzzy, in my opinion. Still, it's close enough.

    When the NES turned 25 (exactly five years ago today — creepy!), I wrote a few features about this classic system like NES Oddities for Technologizer and a NES workbench teardown for PCWorld.

    This year, I have done nothing to celebrate except scan this NES Zapper. It's a beaut.

    Just a few days ago, the designer of the NES hardware revealed that the NES shipped with the Zapper because "Americans in general are interested in gun." Indeed they are!

    In 1989, Nintendo changed the dark grey parts of the Zapper to "blaze orange" to meet new US Federal regulations about toy guns. That regulation involved required orange plugs or paint at the tips of the barrels of realistic or imitation toy guns.

    The regulation passed because people were robbing banks with toy guns, and the orange plug was supposed to let cops know the difference between a deadly weapon and a hunk of plastic. (Turns out the plug requirement doesn't work as planned. But it did ruin the toy gun industry.)

    The Zapper isn't exactly a realistic toy gun, but acting with its usual overabundance of caution, Nintendo went way beyond a barrel plug. Either way, I am proud to say that, to this date, no one has ever been shot and killed by a NES Zapper.

    P.S. In January, I scanned a line drawing of the Zapper from the NES manual. You may enjoy that as well.

    [ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, January 1991, p.50-51]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you think someone could rob a bank with a NES Zapper? What about in the 1980s?


    See Also:
    NES Zapper Diagram (Retro Scan, 2015)
    Model No. NES-001 (Retro Scan, 2010)
    NES Oddities
    Inside the Nintendo Entertainment System

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Genesis Does Contractions

    October 6th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Sega Genesis advertisement Genesis Does What Nintendon't advertisement - 1991Before the Sega Scream, there was the Sega Insult

    This is a rather famous early ad for the Sega Genesis that I have never featured until now. It played upon the dramatic graphical differences between the Genesis and the NES, claiming "Genesis Does What Nintendon't."

    It's worth emphasizing that Sega is comparing its console to the 8-bit NES here, and not the Super NES — Nintendo's 16-bit machine had not yet been released in the US, allowing Sega to get a jump on the next generation in the American market.

    [ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, January 1991, p.50-51]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: What year did you first get a Sega Genesis? What were your first games for it?

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Pac-Attack

    September 21st, 2015 by Benj Edwards

    Namco Pac-Attack Puzzle Game Super NES advertisement - 1993High on power pellets, Pac-Man seeks his next victim.

    [ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.207]

    Discussion Topic of the Week: Excluding Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, what is your favorite Pac-Man-themed video game?

    Tags: , , , , , , ,