Discussion Topic: What's your favorite RPG on the Super NES?
Here's an oldie but goodie — the IMSAI 8080, a 1975 clone of the pioneering Altair 8800. Like the Altair, it used an S-100 bus, an Intel 8080 CPU, and a blue, boxy sheet metal case with front panel lights. Unlike the Altair, the IMSAI 8080 featured prominently in the 1983 movie WarGames. The machine apparently greatly annoyed Ed Roberts, the inventor of the Altair.
Discussion Topic: Have you ever used an IMSAI 8080 or Altair 8800? Tell us about it.
Dune II is to the real-time strategy genre as Wolfenstein 3D is to first-person shooters. Like Wolf-3D, Dune II wasn't the absolute first example of its genre, but it was the first game to bring together all the distinctive elements of its respective genre into one title — in this case, those elements would later be copied and expanded upon over and over again by games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft.
That being said, I've only played Dune II a few times — only many years after its release. I never got into it, but I can see why it is a historically important game. Warcraft was my first modern RTS game.
Discussion Topic: What's your favorite Real-Time Strategy game of all time?
I've previously featured a later-model IBM PS/1 that also happened to be my brother's college computer, circa '94. But here we see an ad for an early — if not the first — model of the PS/1. This is back when PS/1 systems had the OS and a nifty mouse-based GUI program launcher built into ROM. They also shipped with Prodigy on the hard disk. I'm starting to really want one of these for my collection.
Discussion Topic: Has a pet ever done damage to your computer or game system? Tell us about it.
DWANGO, which stood for "Dial-up Wide-Area Network Game Operation," was an online matchmaking service that specialized in FPS games like Doom and Quake. It has a fascinating history that you can read about more in its Wikipedia article.
I believe I signed up for a free trial of DWANGO circa 1994 so I could play Doom with someone when I was bored, but I don't remember ever getting it working for some reason. Instead, I often played co-op Doom (and later Quake) modem-to-modem with friends who called my BBS.
Discussion Topic: When was the first time you played a FPS multiplayer online? How did you set it up? (i.e. modem-to-modem, TCP/IP, services like Dwango)
Since the tenth anniversary of Retro Scan of the Week a couple weeks ago, I've been thinking about the future of the column. I've received a lot of feedback from readers, and here's what I've decided.
Looking through the "scan" folders on my computer, I realize that I still have a bunch of important scans that I'd like to share (there are actually hundreds already scanned but not published yet).
If I never post those scans, it's unlikely that you will see them highlighted on the Internet any time soon. So from now on, I will switch from posting a new scan like clockwork every Monday (which I did for ten years, see above) to posting one whenever the mood strikes me, or perhaps when it ties in to current events.
"Retro Scan of the Week" will become "Retro Scan."
I am also working on an exciting new feature for VC&G that can hopefully pick up where Retro Scan of the Week left off — at least in terms injecting new life into the site. So stay tuned. In the mean time, thanks for reading. I appreciate your support and your feedback.
On January 30th, 2006, I posted my first entry in the Retro Scan of the Week column: "When to Use Low Speed Modems." Below that first scanned image, I wrote:
I found this amusing, so I thought I'd share it. More to come.
I was right about that last sentence. Since then, I've shared weekly scans on my blog 522 times — every Monday for 10 years.
Yep, Retro Scan of the Week just turned 10.
While it is not an achievement on-par with, say, building the pyramids, working at the same company for 50 years, or hosting a late-night talk show for decades, I am slightly overwhelmed when I try to consider the scope of this anniversary and what it actually means to me personally.
What I think it means is that I have been dedicated to preserving computer and video game history for an officially long time now (this blog itself turned ten last year). And I have always wanted to share it with others. Retro Scan of the Week has been a regular and effective way to achieve both goals.
For years, I have used the column as an opportunity to provide more than just images. When I could, I have attached personal commentary about the scans I'm showcasing because I hope it will give valuable context to future historians (assuming copies of my blog survive that long). Also, reader comments have been equally important in capturing the firsthand reactions to products and events over time.
Without that extra something that gives RSOTW its unique quality, I probably would have quit posting them years ago. But NOPE. 10 years.
The End of an Era?
On the occasion of this colulmn's fifth anniversary, I wrote a retrospective that is worth reading if you are interested in learning some historical background on my Retro Scan of the Week column. (There's also more about RSOTW in this interview from last year.)
That earlier anniversary — coming in a different era where blogs and scans were slightly more relevant — felt more meaningful somehow. At that point, I had done something for a long time (in blog years). Now I've done it twice as long. And honestly, not much has changed in five years, other than the fact that I finally upgraded to an 11″x17″ large format scanner last year — and that there are twice as many scans on this blog.
But now that I have reached this milestone, I think I might be winding down the column some time soon. While it wouldn't be too hard to keep going for years on end, I think ten years is a nice emotional and philosophical cap to this project.
For now, I'll mull it over. It's a hard considering pulling the plug on something you've spent every Monday for ten years doing. But whatever happens, there will be a legacy left behind. At some point I plan to put all my high-res scans on the Internet Archive, for example. And RSOTW images still haunt Google Image Searches like nobody's business. I keep running in to my own work when I'm trying to research something else.
Whatever happens, it has been a fun 10 years. Thanks for reading along with me as we have rediscovered the past together.
I'm sure I've told this story somewhere else — probably about five times at this point, but here it goes again. When I was maybe 9 or 10 (in 1990 or 1991), my dad bought me a nice Apple II+ setup from someone at the local hamfest for about $100.
(I recently found the original handwritten price tag for that machine, which you can see here. I said about $100 because haggling was common, and he may have actually paid $70 or $90 for it. It's worth noting that $100 was a lot of money for an old computer back then, and it commanded that price because it was perceived as still being useful at the time. Later, used Apple II prices sunk, then went back up again as they became collectible.)
As I learned to program BASIC on the machine using Apple's fairly well-written AppleSoft programming manuals, I began to make a list of frequently-used programming techniques that I could easily reference.
It was my dad's idea — and he was very big into making notes, dating papers, and documenting things. However, I found that handwriting cramped my hand because I didn't hold a pencil properly, so I absolutely hated it. And yes, that gave me trouble in school. But I can still remember my dad's words now. It was a familiar conversation:
"Write this down: Initialize prepares a new disk."
"WRITE IT DOWN."
Obviously, I did as he instructed, then continued to add to the list over the following days. Not long after creating it, I taped the notes to my desk right beside my Apple II+. There they stayed for at least a few years as I continued to tinker with BASIC.
Eventually, that desk (made out of a hollow, uncut door laying across two shelf pillars) got so nasty with stickers and writing that it went to the dump. Just before it departed, I peeled my BASIC note off and stuck it in my files. There it stayed until I rediscovered it just last year in some old papers.
As dirty and Coke-stained as the note is today, I am glad I still have it. At the risk of stretching a metaphor, it's a little bit like rediscovering an old friend that helped me through a tricky period of my life. At the very least, I will always remember PR#6.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first programming language you ever used? How old were you?
I've always wondered who made these in-house Nintendo promos/ads for Nintendo Power magazine. Most of them were fairly well done over the years. This vivid promo, featuring Nintendo's early website in 1995, is probably one of my favorites. It also mentions AOL (keyword "NOA"), of course, which was still a big online player at the time.
By the way, anyone who can convincingly explain (with in-world fiction, not marketing) the presence of a poison/toxic waste barrel on this kid's desk wins 10 cocoa points. Even Diddy Kong sitting there makes more sense.
[Update: 02/01/2016 - It turns out that the toxic waste barrel is actually a boss character named Dumb Drum from Donkey Kong Country. Special thanks to etranist for pointing that out in the comments. ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the first video game website you ever looked at online?
You are looking at a scan of the actual newspaper ad that got me on the Internet with a commercial ISP for the first time. (Prior to that, I got online through a free dial-up university dataswitch.) It's an ad for NandO.net, a 1990s-era Raleigh, NC-based ISP originally owned and operated by our flagship newspaper, The News and Observer.
As you can see by the handwritten notes on the ad, my dad used this actual piece of paper to sign us up for an account on the service (I modified the credit card number digitally, in case anyone is wondering). I found this rare artifact in my old computer papers recently while researching my early web history for a FastCompany piece I wrote last year. In that article, I explored what it was like to build a website in 1995. Here's what I wrote about NandO:
As the Internet became more than just a way to access MUDs or look up the occasional novelty on text-based Gophers or web browsers, both of us sought a more robust way of accessing it. One of the first ISPs in our city was called NandO.net. Our local newspaper, the News and Observer, ran it as an extension of its efforts to pioneer online newsmaking processes.
On some day in late 1994, my father signed my family up for NandO.net. What we got in exchange for about $20 a month was an account on an Internet-enabled BBS, which had its own local message board and games, but would allow us to use text-only Internet email, web browsing, FTP, and Gopher. My dad paid extra for a "shell account" so I could log in and get a Unix command prompt. From there I could upload and download files from a terminal program, telnet to other servers, and push stuff from my shell account to remote machines via FTP.
What heady days those were. Incredible to think that I was just dipping my toes into what would eventually become a life-changing deluge — not just for me, but for all of humanity itself.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the name of your first ISP? What year did you first use it?