[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Advent of the Mouse Wheel

September 28th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Early Microsoft Intellimouse Intellimouse Trackball advertisement - 1997"In fact, don't even come in on Monday."

It's amazing to think back to a time when the now-common mouse scroll wheel was billed as a labor saving device.

But that is exactly what's going on in this early ad for Microsoft's Intellimouse and Intellimouse TrackBall. The Intellimouse series, first introduced in 1996, popularized the scroll wheel.

(By the way, the first mouse with a scroll wheel was actually the Mouse Systems ProAgio in 1995 — see this timeline I created in 2008 for more neat mouse history.)

A long time ago, people thought modernization and labor saving devices would lead to shorter workdays and work weeks. As someone once said somewhere (fuzzy attribution, I know), it turns out that productivity enhancements cease to be productivity enhancements as soon as they are ubiquitous. We just acclimate to them and expect more output for the same amount of work time.

Oh well. Keep on scrollin'.

[ From PC World, November 1997, p.199]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you first get a mouse with a scroll wheel on it? How did you feel about it at the time?

See Also:

The First Microsoft Mouse (RSOTW, 2007)
TrackMan Marble FX (RSOTW, 2008)
IBM ScrollPoint Mouse (RSOTW, 2010)

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: , , , , , , ,

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] IBM PS/1 Imagination System

September 14th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

IBM PS/1 Imagination System Box Scan Photo - 1994IBM and Disney go together like peanut butter and petroleum jelly

Just before my brother left for college in the fall of 1994, my whole family went shopping for a new PC to send off to school with him. We made our way to an IBM PC factory outlet near Durham, NC. Upon walking in to the store, I remember being amazed by rows of 20-foot tall warehouse-style shelves, each one stacked with large boxes for IBM PC systems. A salesman met us at the door and apparently steered my father toward this: the IBM PS/1 Imagination system. I guess it was a good deal.

The machine itself came equipped with a 25 MHz 486-SX CPU, 4 MB of RAM, a 2400 BPS modem, and a Disney Sound Source (a sort of primitive SoundBlaster that plugged into the parallel port). Unlike earlier PS/1 models, this one shipped with MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. It also came with a suite of pre-installed Disney software that my brother promptly deleted.

My dad also bought an unusual IBM-brand external ISA CD-ROM drive that required its own peripheral card. There wasn't enough room in the PS/1 case for a CD-ROM drive and a 5.25″ floppy.

After college, my brother took this machine to work with him as a programmer, and he used it there until it was long outdated — probably until 1999 or so. It now rests safely in my collection, although the hard drive is now shot, and I think the power supply is fried too. Almost a decade ago, its rubber feet chemically decomposed into the most abysmally black and sticky tar that you can imagine. I need to restore the machine.

Just recently, I found the rather large shipping box for this computer sitting in my mom's attic. Today, it holds miscellaneous housewares. This "scan" is actually a perspective-corrected photo of the side of that box (here is the original photo).

[ From IBM PS/1 Imagination System Box, ca. 1993]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What computer did you take with you to college?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] PlayStation Sampler CD

September 7th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Sony PlayStation 1 PSX PS1 Interactive CD Sampler Pack Volume Three 3 CD case cover sleeve - 1996That is one intense swirl, man

Twenty years ago this week, Sony released the PlayStation in the United States — on 9/9/95, in fact.

The first time I remember seeing a PlayStation in person was a demo unit at my local Blockbuster video rental store. At first they had a single kiosk playing Battle Arena Toshinden. A few months later, they upgraded to a new kiosk with a trio of PlayStations arranged in an outwardly-facing triangle formation (if that makes any sense), with each running a different playable demo. I think that two of the three games were Battle Arena Toshinden and Twisted Metal. The third escapes me.

I rented a complete PlayStation system from that Blockbuster not long after it came out, along with two games: Loaded and Twisted Metal. I had read in a positive review in EGM that Loaded incorporated Gauntlet-like elements — overall, I was not too impressed with its gritty atmosphere or gameplay. But I did enjoy putting the Loaded CD in my computer's CD-ROM drive finding that it had a compatible file system on it, and that I could take a peek at the game's file structure. (Although that was irrelevant to gameplay, it raised the system's cool factor in my young tinkerer mind.)

Twisted Metal was a blast. I loved that game. I remember playing as Hammerhead (the monster truck) and running over everybody repeatedly. There is fun in digital mayhem.

In 1996, my brother's best friend bought a PlayStation and Twisted Metal 2 (released Oct 1996), and he brought it over to our house to play with us a few times. We loved it. After that, we knew we had to have one. In my mind, Twisted Metal 2 was the system's killer app — until Symphony of the Night came out, of course.

(I also rented a Nintendo 64 from Blockbuster in 1996, but I didn't buy one of those until summer 1997. Speaking of renting systems, I also rented a Virtual Boy from Blockbuster in 1995. I write all this down for my benefit as much as yours, so I can try to keep all this history straight.)

So after asking kindly to our parents, my brother and I got our PlayStation as a joint Christmas present in 1996. I was 15; my brother was 20. Having gone through prior console phases with the Atari 2600 (and 800, which we treated like a console), NES, TG-16, Super NES, and Jaguar, we felt like we were growing up along with the video game industry.

The scan you see above is the front and back of the sleeve of the sampler CD that came packed in with our new PS1 in 1996 (titled "Interactive CD Sampler Pack Volume Three"). I would have scanned the disc as well, but I seem to have separated it from this sleeve — maybe I put it in a jewel case long ago. I know I still have it somewhere.

[ From PlayStation Interactive CD Sampler Pack - Volume 3, ca. 1996]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you get your first PlayStation 1? What were your favorite games for it?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Solid-State Disk in 1983

August 31st, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992SD Systems Presents the New Disc-Less Solid-State Legs

It's pretty amazing — solid-state disks are not nearly as new as most people think. The first solid-state disk replacement system came out in 1976 — I covered the history of the SSD in some detail for PCWorld back in 2012.

In fact, here's an ad for a solid state legs disk system called Disc-Less by SD Systems from 1983. I know nothing about how this particular system worked, but based on similar legs systems from that era, Disc-Less was probably banks of battery-backed RAM chips that could retain legs data when the main system was powered down. It also probably cost a ton of money.

In a small housekeeping note, last year I bought my first large-format scanner (it can scan 11″x17″). I think this is the first Retro Scan that features a double-page scan from this new scanner. (Prior to this, I digitally re-assembled by hand every double page scan.) It's also my first scan to prominently feature legs the color pink.

[ From Byte, February 1983, p.208-209]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid-state hard drive? What capacity was it?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Windows 95 Gaming

August 24th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Pitfall Mayan Adventure Windows 95 PC Game advertisement - 1995If swinging on vines was a good idea, everybody would do it

20 years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95, the GUI-based operating system that launched Microsoft as a commercial Juggernaut into the mainstream consciousness. That's because Windows 95 was accompanied by what was likely the largest marketing push for an OS to date (no sources cited, just my brain), and it created a minor media frenzy. People actually lined up to buy Windows 95.

Windows 95 initiated a new epoch in PC gaming, courtesy of the then-completely new DirectX system of gaming APIs. DirectX made it easy for developers to create powerful, hardware hungry games that ran natively (and smoothly, CPU permitting) on Windows. (Windows nerds will recall that it followed up on the similar, if under-utilized, WinG API for Windows 3.11.)

The very first third-party Windows 95 game ever released commercially (to my knowledge — at least, it was promoted this way) was Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, a 1990s reboot of the classic Atari 2600-era platformer Pitfall!. Here is an ad for that game around the time of its debut in August 1995.

That being said, while I am a fan of Pitfall! and Pitfall II, I have never liked The Mayan Adventure. Seems too hard and not fun. Of course, your mileage may vary.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.117]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How did you feel about Windows 95 when it came out? Did you upgrade?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Wordtris

August 17th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Spectrum HoloByte Wordtris Game Boy Super NES advertisement - 1992How Video Games Are Designed

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.59]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Tetris spin-off game?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] SWTPC 6800

August 10th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

STWPC 6800 Motorola 6800 computer advertisement - 1977When taking apart your PC was required

I recently inherited a SWTPC 6800 and a fair number of accessories and peripheral cards from a late friend of my father's. The 6800 was one of the first personal computers, released in 1975, which makes my unit the oldest computer in my collection. The SWTPC 6800 takes its name from its CPU, the Motorola 6800, which was one of the earliest microprocessors, and it refreshingly utilizes a non-S-100 bus. In fact, it created its own minor bus standard called SS-50 that manufacturers like Smoke Signal Broadcasting incorporated into compatible machines.

The 6800 is really neat machine — I cleaned up all the boards, but I can't get it to boot so far. I'll have to give it a shot again at a later date.

[ From BYTE Magazine, March 1977, inside front cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you own any computer released prior to 1977? Tell us about it.

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Air Zonk

August 3rd, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Air Zonk TTI TurboGrafx-16 TurboDuo Bonk in Space Shooter advertisement - 1992The 4-inch Michael Jordan

I remember seeing a playable demo of Air Zonk in my local Toys 'R' Us around the time it came out (probably early 1993). I remember it being marketed as a pack-in for the TurboDuo. Upon playing the demo, my first thought was along the lines of: "Wow, the TurboGrafx-16 is still around? They must be desperate."

(For those of you who don't know, my brother and I took the TG-16 plunge circa 1990 or 1991.)

By 1993, the SNES and Genesis were in full force — I owned a SNES and enjoyed it quite a bit. I was deep into Street Fighter II fever at that point. I drooled over the TurboDuo when it came out, though, and I always had a soft spot for the TG-16.

My second about Air Zonk was, "Hmm, this game isn't very good." So I released the controller and didn't play it again until perhaps 20 years later on an emulator. I still don't like it very much.

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.46]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Which do you like better: Air Zonk or Bonk's Adventure?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Vector Graphic Vector 1

July 27th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Vector Graphic Inc. Vector 1 computer system advertisement - 1977NOW AVAILABLE IN RUST

The Vector 1 (1977) was the first complete computer system sold by Vector Graphic, Inc., a California-based firm founded by Lore Harp (now McGovern), Carole Ely, and Bob Harp in August 1976.

The Vector 1 included an Intel 8080A or Zilog Z80 CPU, and it utilized the S-100 bus introduced by the Altair 8800. In an unusual nod to aesthetics, the Vector 1 shipped in two case color options: green or "rust," which was Vector's name for orange. It retailed for for $849 fully assembled (about $3,288 today when adjusted for inflation) or $619 as a kit.

It just so happens that I wrote an article about the history of Vector Graphic for FastCompany recently. You may enjoy it.

[ From Byte Magazine, February 1977, p.61]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned an S-100 based computer? Tell us about it.

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