April 17th, 2014 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Newsbits, news, preservation, NPR, Blake Patterson, Harry McCracken, Alexis Madrigal, Jason Scott, ANSI, ASCII, Nintendo, NES, Game Boy
Vintage computing and retrogaming news small enough to eat.
- The New Age: Leaving Behind Everything, Or Nothing At All
A piece about digital legacies from NPR
"Perhaps in your attic or basement there is a box of papers — letters, photographs, cards, maybe even journals — inherited from a grandparent or other relative who's passed on. But what if that box isn't a box at all? What if it's an ancient laptop? And if we are starting to leave behind an increasingly digital inheritance, will it die as soon as the hard drive does?
- Nintendo Embraces NES History in its Twitter Marketing
I like this trend
"Its time for #SpringCleaning! Did you find any forgotten gems while organizing your Nintendo gaming collection?
- This 1981 Computer Magazine Cover Explains Why Were So Bad at Tech Predictions
This piece from Harry McCracken at TIME gives a hat tip to the greatest magazine illustrator of all time
"If you were passionate about personal computers between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the odds were high that you were a reader of Byte magazine. And if you read Byte, you were surely a fan of Robert Tinney, the artist whose cover paintings were one of the magazine’s signature features for years.
- Solid Snake Pixel Art Graffiti
Whoever did this is free to vandalize my office wall
"Solid snake graff piece. I like the dude in the box. Nice touch…
- Make Your Very Own "Game Boy Macro"
Got a broken DS lying around? Chop off the top and you'll have a new system.
"i personally first saw it on kotaku made by Maarten, from the Bureau voor Gamers. so i decided i would make a couple of my own because i had some brokens DS's laying around. decided to go with Macro, since its like a GB micro but huge.
- Five Unemulated Computer Experiences
Jason Scott makes a point about emulation nitpickers
"While I and many others work to turn the experience of emulation into one as smooth and ubiquitous as possible, inevitably the corners and back alleys of discussions about this process present people claiming that there are unemulated aspects and therefore the entire project is doomed. I thought I would stoke that sad little fire by giving you five examples of entirely unemulated but perfectly valid vintage computer experiences.
- The Lost Ancestors of ASCII Art
Awesome piece I missed from January — by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic
"The history of ASCII art goes deeper, and much of it is told only in Geocities blog postings, abandoned websites, Google Books, and scattered PDFs across the web This post traces a fascinating and mostly lost strand of that history: The way thousands and thousands of people made typewriter art, from amateurs to avant gardists.
- PabloDraw: A Modern ANSI Art Editor
We don't need no steenkin' TheDraw. (link via @blakespot)
"PabloDraw is an Ansi/Ascii text and RIPscrip vector graphic art editor/viewer with multi-user capabilities.
- An Early English-Language Image Diplay from a Computer, 1957
Dynamic text display on a CRT in 1957? Not bad.
"The screen of the picture tube shown will present as many as 10,000 characters per second. Each character is formed by an array of bright spots, a selection from a rectangular array of a total of 35 spots, five wide and seven deep. For a capital letter T, for example, the selection is five spots across the top and six more spots down through the middle…
- Pinterest Gallery of Ugly Computers
One of Blake Patterson's amazing Pinterest boards
If you want me to include something on a future Newsbits column, send me an email with "[Newsbits]" in the subject line.
March 24th, 2014 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Canon, Canon Personal Computer, PC Clones, IBM PC, TIME, advertisement, 1985
May the Clone Wars begin.
Here's another obscure IBM PC clone from the depths of time, the Canon Personal Computer.
As I mentioned in a recent RSOTW, it was pretty easy — even within a few years of the IBM PC's release — to undercut IBM price-wise by integrating ports and peripherals directly into the motherboard of a competing computer.
Note that the Canon PC used an Intel 8086 CPU, which packed the full 16-bit data bus (verses the 8-bit bus on the IBM PC's 8088).
[ From TIME (Small Business USA Insert), May 6 1985, p.2]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Canon is best known for its imaging products, but it made computers too. Can you think of any other companies best known for something else that made a PC?
March 11th, 2014 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Nintendo, NES, World Championships 1990, advertisement, Nintendo Power, 1990
"Children everywhere will be crushed and digitized by the trophy of power."
There's a certain ultra-rare golden NES cartridge out there that originated at Nintendo World Championships 1990. Here's an advertisement for the event itself on the back of a vintage Nintendo Power magazine from 1990.
Kinda makes you want to go back in time and attend, doesn't it? Call 1-900-HOT-4NWC to find out more!
[ From Nintendo Power, May-June 1990, rear cover]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Video game competitions: interesting or boring? Debate.
March 3rd, 2014 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Visual, Visual 1050, terminal, IBM PC, MS-DOS, CP/M, Kaypro II, PC clones, Z80, advertisement, Personal Computing, 1983
"The complete professional solution at an unbeatable price."
I've never owned a Visual 1050 Personal Computer System (seen here), but I have an old Visual brand terminal that uses the same (or a very similar) keyboard. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see this, because it's a distinctively wide, flat keyboard.
The 1050 sported a Z80 CPU and ran the CP/M operating system, the grandfather of MS-DOS. Curiously, even though CP/M was a popular platform for business computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I only have a a handful of pure CP/M-based machines in my collection. (My favorite such machine is probably the Kaypro II.)
In regard to the chart in the advertisement above, it's interesting to note that it was pretty easy to undercut IBM, price-wise, not long after the IBM PC came out. Fast advances in IC design allowed computer makers to inexpensively cram more functions (think serial, parallel, game ports, disk controller, graphics card, etc.) directly onto motherboards instead of offloading them onto separate plug-in cards. While the 1050 was not an IBM PC clone, true PC clone makers took advantage of this effect to hollow out the inside of IBM's hold on the PC market from the bottom up.
[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.40-41]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you have a favorite machine that runs CP/M?
December 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, ClayFighter, Interplay, claymation, Blockbuster, rental, Nintendo, Super NES, Mortal Kombat, advertisement, Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1993
"Hey, watch the hair, man."
My, oh my. What a blast I had with ClayFighter for the Super NES when it launched around this time 20 years ago — in December 1993.
I rented the game several times from Blockbuster and delighted my brother by forcing its Elvis-like character to jump repeatedly, eliciting a humorous"Uh-huh" sound every time. The graphics were great and the spirit of humor was plentiful in this claymation-based title.
The advertisement itself is a parody of an iconic coming-soon ad for Mortal Kombat on home consoles from 1993. Interestingly, I've never featured that Mortal Kombat ad in a RSOTW — that may have to be remedied soon.
[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1993]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best fighting game for the Super NES?
September 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sega, Genesis, Sega Channel, cable modem, EGM, 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.
August 26th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Durango, Poppy, Personal Business System, Personal Computing, advertisement, 1983
Rose vs. Poppy: Which would you choose?
I'll admit that I've never encountered a Durango Poppy in person, nor do I know much about them aside from ads like this in old magazines.
So I did some digging, and I found that the Poppy model seen here was an 80186-based system that ran either MS-DOS for a single-user setup or Xenix for a multi-user configuration. It retailed for between $4,395 and $11,475 in early 1984 ($9,881 to $25,798 when adjusted for inflation), which was quite a bit of money — but actually far cheaper than IBM's comparable offerings at the time.
A March 5, 1984 issue of InfoWorld available through Google Books has a neat article that mentions the Poppy.
I didn't realize it at first, but the rose in the ad above is meant to symbolize IBM. IBM's PC ads at the time featured Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character, which always carried a rose.
[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.213 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever purposely pass up IBM hardware for a cheaper alternative? Tell us about it.
July 22nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sega, Game Gear, portable games, Prince of Persia, Klax, Paperboy, Super Space Invaders, Marble Madness, EGM, 1993
The 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.)
July 8th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, NES, SNES, Game Boy, Nintendo, Nintendo Power, 1992
Oh my god, it's full of stars
[ From Nintendo Power, February 1992, rear cover ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which system has the best game library: NES or SNES?
May 20th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sega, Genesis, 32X, EGM, 1994, advertisement, Virtua Racing, Star Wars Arcade, Star Wars
Surely you have newer locks in your house.
I bought a Sega 32X for $30 new in 1995 or '96 at Toys"R"Us. They were on clearance because nobody wanted them. (I also bought a Virtual Boy for $30 this way around the same time.) There were good reasons why no one wanted them: chiefly, because better machines like the PlayStation and Saturn were out there, and most games for the 32X weren't very good.
Still, I have a soft spot for this system. It touches some fundamental nerdy part of me that likes convoluted electronic expansion modules — it means more to collect, and more to mess with. I have a bunch of 32X games, perhaps even half of the entire library for that system, but I rarely play any of them. I seem to recall the Star Wars Arcade title being pretty good for it. Virtua Racing wasn't half bad either.
By the way, the only explanation I can muster for the inclusion of the keyhole in the ad above is that it's some sort of sexual metaphor, much like those found in Sega's other 32X ads at the time (See "The Sega Mating Game," Retro Scan of the Week, 2008). In other words, I guess we're spying on a Genesis and a 32X having electronic intercourse.
[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.180 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: In an alternate universe where there was no Sega Saturn, do you think the 32X could have held its own against the competition for a few years?