June 29th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, IBM, Instruments Computer System, System 9000, modular, scientific, Byte, advertisement, 1983
The IBM Instruments Computer System
What a strange machine. The IBM Instruments Comptuer System was a completely modular 68000-based PC with its own custom OS (CSOS, according to Wikipedia, which stood for "Computer System Operating System" — ???). It also utilized Motorola's rarely-seen Versabus bus architecture. The ICS was aimed at scientific and engineering use, and it launched in 1982 — the year following the launch of the IBM PC 5150.
Has anyone used or seen one of these? This is an oddity of oddities. Thank goodness the IBM PC didn't end up like this.
[ From BYTE Magazine, February 1983, p.116-117]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first IBM brand computer you ever owned (even when collecting)?
June 22nd, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Boxing, sports, George Foreman, NES, SNES, Genesis, Game Gear, Game Boy, VGCE, advertisement, 1992
It's not a grill, but it'll do.
[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.29]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite boxing video game of all time?
June 15th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sierra, Epyx, Battle Bugs, insects, PC games, IBM PC, advertisement, 1994
"This is it, boys. Over the anthill."
[ From Wired, November 1994, p.33]
Discussion Topic of the Week: How many insect-themed computer or video games can you name off the top of your head?
June 8th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, XCOMP, The Toaster, removable hard disk, removable media, lightning, advertisement, Byte, 1983
It burns your disks
I know nothing about this dual removable hard disk device — called "The Toaster" — by XCOMP. The only time I've ever seen it is in this ad. But judging by the lightning, it was completely awesome.
It was also completely expensive — about US $6,639.50 when adjusted for inflation.
[ From Byte, February 1983, p.60]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a removable hard disk system?
June 1st, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Sega, comic books, interactive comics, Batman, prototype, electronic toys, Tom Hanks, Big, iPad, Whats New, Popular Science, 1995
WHAM! POW! ZAP!
I've been intrigued by this Sega Electronic Comics System prototype since I first saw it in Popular Science's What's New section back in April 1995. Here is an excerpt from that very magazine.
As far as I know, this device never made it into production — in fact, the only mention I can find of it on the Internet as of this writing is this post on the Collectors Society forums.
Apparently, the Sega Electronic Comics device worked in conjunction with a tailor-made paper comic book that one would place onto the device. A series of pressure-sensitive buttons beneath the comic book could be pressed to somehow direct the narrative of the book. (Perhaps like Choose Your Own Adventure — i.e. if you do this, turn to page 3.)
This reminds me of the comic book device Tom Hanks' character outlines in the film Big (1988), albeit without any type of electronic screen. The crazy thing is that 15 years after this Sega Prototype, you could buy an iPad that could store and display thousands of entirely digital comics in a much thinner form factor.
[ From Popular Science, April 1995, p.11]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you use an electronic device to read comic books? Tell us about it.
May 25th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Things You Never Knew Existed, Star Trek, keyboard, mouse, silly, novelty, catalog, 1995
Make it no, Number One.
I once lampooned a Klingon keyboard for a PC World slideshow back in 2009 (looks like the images on that slideshow are broken now — bummer), so I found it especially fun when I ran across this entry for a Star Trek-themed keyboard and mouse in a 1995 Things You Never Knew Existed catalog.
The year 1995 seemed like the height of TV Star Trek, with TNG ending not long before, Voyager starting, and DS9 still on a roll. So it was as an appropriate time as ever to market a keyboard and mouse like this. Sadly, neither one looks very comfortable to use. But if ergonomics were the point of novelty products, then Things You Never Knew Exsited would have never existed.
By the way, I love the extremely 1995 hairstyle. I think my hair looked like back then too.
[ From Things You Never Knew Existed (J9506), 1995, p.3]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What is the weirdest keyboard or mouse you have ever used?
May 18th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Personal Software, Infocom, Zork, Apple II, TRS-80, Atari 800, brother, Monty Plays Monopoly, Arcade Classics, interactive fiction, Byte, 1981
A scene from "Zork: Brick Collector"
This is it, folks: an early ad (maybe the first) for the original commercial release of Zork, the famous Infocom text adventure, published by Personal Software ca. 1980 for the TRS-80 Model I and III home computers.
(This site has some wonderful background history on this release.)
I love the artwork featured in this ad. It is excised from the full cover art for the Personal Software version, which captures a great deal of the majesty and wonder of the seminal adventure title — plus a hefty dose of out-of-place machismo.
The mere mention of Zork takes me back to the mid-1980s when my older brother delved into the Great Underground Empire with the aid of photocopied maps and worn out InvisiClues on our family's Atari 800. Warm, fuzzy memories. Of course, by then, Infocom published the title directly.
[ From Byte, February 1981, p.31]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite text adventure game of all time? (Modern ones count.)
May 11th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Radio Shack, TRS-80, MC-10, low-cost computer
SMALL ENOUGH TO FIT IN A DINOSAUR SHOE
I've owned a TRS-80 MC-10 since at least 1996 (according to this photo), so it holds a nostalgic place in my collection. It's a really neat little machine despite its limitations (chief among those problems? Tiny chiclet keyboard). But Radio Shack designed this machine as a low-cost entry-level PC for the home, so most of of those issues can easily be overlooked.
The MC-10′s price at the time of this catalog printing had slipped to just $79 (about $178 today when adjusted for inflation). For comparison, the Apple IIc (a far more sophisticated machine, but typical for a home PC at the time) retailed for $1295 upon its introduction that same year (that's a whopping $3,688 today). Price wise, that's similar to the difference between buying a low-end Windows 8 tablet and a Mac Pro. The technological difference was not nearly that dramatic, however.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the MC-10 is that you can now download software for it over the Internet in the form of audio files and load them into the MC-10 via its cassette port. Check out this site for an awesome array of homebrew MC-10 games.
[ From 1984 Radio Shack TRS-80 Catalog (RSC-11), p.59]
Discussion Topic of the Week: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could only use a TRS-80 MC-10 or a Sinclair ZX81, which would you pick?
May 4th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Lemmings, Psygnosis, Ocean, Nintendo, Game Boy, portable, computer port, EGM, 1993
Biggest Lemming I Ever Seen
My brother received the IBM PC port of Lemmings as a gift (probably for Christmas) in the early 1990s. It made a distinct impression in my young mind, with its vivid VGA graphics, a playful MIDI soundtrack, and charismatic little creatures that you could bid to do your every whim.
I have never played the Game Boy version, but this ad caught my eye.
When I wrote a feature about the most ported games of all time for 1UP.com back in 2007, Lemmings featured prominently with ports to 28 systems up to that point in time. What can I say — Lemmings is a classic.
[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.48]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best Lemmings-like or Lemmings clone game? (Other than Lemmings, of course — The Humans and Baldies come to mind.)
April 27th, 2015 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Datachem, Sexu-cation, educational software, sex, IBM, IBM PC, advertisement, Family and Home Office Computing, 1987
Outsource your sex educations needs to Datachem
"Mommy, where do babies come from?"
"Well, after a wild night of CTRL-ALT-DELETE, your father hit my CTRL-C then pressed CTRL-V, and nine months later, you came out from LPT1."
[ From Family and Home Office Computing, November 1987, p.92]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played any sex-related computer games? (Or heck, even educational software.)