Discussion Topic of the Week: When you were a kid, did your parents let you have a computer in your bedroom?
Ah, the good ole days when you had to pay $535 (that's $1,744 in today's dollars) for the privilege of merely being able to hook a printer to your home computer. What can I say — it was a useful feature.
My first computer, an Apple II+, came equipped with a Grappler+ printer card (from the previous owner), although I can't recall ever using it. Instead, I printed school reports by that time from whichever family MS-DOS machines we had at the time, each of which included a built-in parallel port for printer use.
What a great day it was when I switched from a noisy dot matrix printer to the that awesome Canon Bubblejet we had. Silent printing! And the day we got our first full-color photo capable HP inkjet printer around 1996. It was pretty low resolution, but still amazing.
Today, I don't print much. I have a color laser copier in service to reproduce scanned documents (in lieu of a copy machine) in case I need a hard copy of something — usually a form or contract — to mail.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you regularly print anything from your computer these days? What do you print?
Mega Man 8 remains notable in my mind for its resistance to polygonal 3D graphics at a time when the media perceived that as a requirement for sales success (in the PlayStation-dominated console era). I remember renting it and being impressed by its fluidity and gameplay, although it was too difficult and frustrating for me to play for more than ten minutes in a sitting.
But then again, all the side-scrolling Mega Man games have been that way for me. I'm still partial to Mega Man 2, 3, and X, though.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite entry in the main-line Mega Man (1-10) series?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you use a TRS-80 or Tandy computer of any kind back in the day? Tell us about it.
In September 1990, Kodak announced a brand new system for storing and viewing photographs: Photo CD. At a time when Compact Discs represented the vanguard of consumer electronics technology, Kodak capitalized on the excitement by blending digitized photos with a custom CD format.
Kodak designed that format for viewing through special a Kodak CD Player device (think DVD player for still photos) that hooked to a standard TV set. Using such a player, one could view the digitized photos via a virtual slideshow.
With a base image resolution of 512 x 768, Photo CD was far from an archival medium. It tried to offer convenience, but instead ended up adding needless cost and encumbrance to the photo viewing process. In an era before most people were equipped to view, edit, or print digital photos from a PC, the fact that the photos came in an electronic format did not add anything notable to the experience. Predictably, adoption of the Photo CD system never gained much steam. (Wikipedia's article on Photo CD has some pretty good additional analysis of why Photo CD never took off.)
I personally remember encountering a Kodak Photo CD player in either a photography store or a Radio Shack as a kid. I thought it was amazing — your own photos on a TV set! But my dad, an experienced photographer, never bought into the system.
P.S. For more CD history, check out my Compact Disc 30th Anniversary article that I wrote back in 2012.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use the Kodak Photo CD service or own a Photo CD player?
The Super NES / Genesis era coincided with a second golden age of third-party video game controllers and peripherals (the first golden age being the Atari 2600 era). If you browse through the Retro Scan archives, I'm sure you'll see quite a few.
One of the stand-out gimmicks of this era arrived courtesy of Triax Technologies: the Turbo Touch 360. Representing a series of controllers for various platforms (SNES, Genesis, and NES with IBM planned, but I'm uncertain if it launched), the Turbo Touch line relied on a touch-sensitive pad in lieu of a traditional D-pad.
Using the touch pad, you didn't have to physically push down on the D-pad to register movements; instead, you lightly slid your finger over the cross-shaped touch pad, sort of like a laptop touch pad. Ideally, this should result in quicker movements, but it could also result in more errors.
There was another supposed benefit to the touch pad technology as well. This 1993 Chicago Tribune article positions the Turbo Touch as a cure for game-induced thumb blisters (at the suggestion of Triax's marketing staff, as the article suggests).
I've heard a lot about people getting thumb blisters over the years while playing video games, but I've never actually seen it happen. That's because I've only heard about it through game peripheral advertisements. Such blisters are plausible, of course, but you'd have to push down on the D-pad very hard and rub it around over a long period of time. Maybe my thumb skin is just tough or something, but it's never been a problem for me.
(Full disclosure: I did get a blister in the middle palm of my hand by rapidly rotating a Suncom Slik Stick over and over for about an hour while playing Decathlon for the Atari 2600 in the early 1990s)
I'm not saying that no one ever got a thumb blister from playing a video game, of course (do a Google search) — just that it wasn't the epidemic that companies like Triax have led us to believe.
Call me skeptical, but I wouldn't be surprised if the the video game thumb blister meme originated as a marketing angle in an era that aimed to be loud, raw, and edgy (think "Play it Loud", Sega scream, etc.). What could be edgier than actually getting physically injured while playing video games? That's intense!
I actually own a Turbo Touch 360 pad for the Genesis that I never got around to trying for some reason (I bought it at a thrift store when my Genesis was packed away). Right now I have no idea where it is. Perhaps I should dig it out and put the promise of touch-fueled gameplay to the test.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever gotten a blister from playing video games? Tell us how it happened.
Plenty of companies experimented with pocket and handheld computers in the early 1980s. Among them we must count HP, which introduced its HP-75C in 1982.
I peronally own an HP-75D (the successor model of this machine) that allows use of a bar code wand. I bought it on eBay around 2000, messed around with it a few times, and I think it's been sitting in a box or a closet since. I couldn't get into it, for some reason, like I could my TRS-80 Pocket Computer. Perhaps it's time to revisit the 75D and try again — if it still works.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Are you a fan of HP calculators? Which model is your favorite?
Here we have an ad for the Super NES port of Obitus (1994), a Psygnosis RPG for the Amiga, Atari ST, and MS-DOS originally released in 1991.
I'd like to say I've played this one, but I can't for the life of me remember if I actually liked it. I know I tried it, especially after first scanning this ad some years ago. Is anyone out there a fan of either the PC or SNES versions of Obitus? It sure looks cool.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what's the best PC to video game console RPG port of the 1980s or 90s?
I love retro line art diagrams; this one has to be one of the best.
These two pages from the US Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt instruction manual (you can see both pages if you click on the image above — the small two dots in the middle are holes for a staple) illustrate the proper way to plug the Zapper light gun into your "Nintendo Entertainment System Control Deck."
Much fun can be had from doing that, of course — although I spent many hours in my youth cursing the laughing dog. My dad was first in our family to try to shoot him as he giggled at our Duck Hunting failure. Sadly, you can't.
NES Action Set Release Date
By the way, I've seen some sources say that the NES Action set, which first debuted the combo SMB/Duck Hunt cartridge, saw its first US release in November 1988. That is definitely not true, because my brother first got an Action Set for his birthday in June 1988.
Seeking to clarify this, I just did a newspaper archive search and found mention of the "Just Arrived" NES Action set in the April 14, 1988 edition of the Ukiah Daily Journal (from Ukiah, CA, of all places). That means the Action Set was available as early as April 1988.
So take dates you see on the Internet with a grain of salt unless they are coupled with a strong source (or better yet, collection of sources) behind them.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what's the best Zapper game for the NES?
Once upon a time, companies tried to achieve video phone calls using non-networked, proprietary point-to-point devices such as the AT&T VideoPhone 2500 (RSOTW, 2010) — almost all of which utilized traditional telephone lines or ISDN.
Then the Internet came along and blew the field wide open. Suddenly, video chat could happen over any data transfer medium that supported TCP/IP, and it could be routed around the world to any node on the Internet. Connectix's VideoPhone software (circa 1995) was one of the first consumer video chat products to take advantage of the Internet. Using the software and the company's QuickCam digital camera (arguably the world's first webcam), folks could video conference all over the world — albeit in black and white.
For more on the history of video phones and video chat, check out this piece I created for Technologizer back in 2010.
Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the first time you ever made a video call or did video chat?