Archive for the 'VC&G Announcements' Category

More How-To Geek History Articles from Benj

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Three "Ancient Files" disks

As I mentioned back in April, I joined up with How-To Geek in February, and I’ve been regularly writing tech history-related features in addition to my usual how-to pieces.

Since that first post, I’ve written many more pieces that may be of interest to VC&G readers. Here’s a list:

Some of my favorites include the Turbo Button piece, in which I discovered the first PC to ever use a turbo button, the Noisy Modem piece, in which I identified the man who invented the onboard modem speaker, and my look at Gopher, wherein I talked to the lead creator of the Gopher protocol. My ode to Windows 2000 is fun too. But heck, they’re all fun reads.

Hope you enjoy reading them! Keep an eye on my How-To Geek author page for more in the future.

Benj Writes History at How-To Geek

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Back in February, I landed a full-time job at How-To Geek as a Staff Writer. It’s been a great gig, and I am enjoying helping people with tricky (and sometimes very simple) tech problems.

I’ve written a lot about iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows 10, and the Nintendo Switch so far, but HTG also lets me do a history feature about once a week. That way I can keep flexing my tech nostalgia muscles. Here are the history pieces I’ve done so far:

Expect much more where that came from, so keep an eye on my How-To Geek page, and you’ll see new ones pop up from time to time.

I hope everybody out there is doing well.  This blog isn’t dead yet — I still plan to post some more Retro Scans some day.

Life in the Age of COVID-19

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020


How is everyone doing out there? We’re living through historic times, with most of the world on lockdown due to COVID-19 (AKA novel coronavirus).

My family and I have been staying at home since early March. We stocked up on supplies in February when it seemed things were getting really bad in China, so we’ve been ok regarding food. We’ve also received some supplemental grocery deliveries every few weeks. We typically buy non-perishables and let them sit for a few days before touching them, then wash them off before using. Any perishables get a scrub down immediately then sit quarantined in a bag in the fridge. Checking the mail involves surgical gloves and a multi-day quarantine in a safe spot before opening.

We’re fortunate enough to have a large enough house and a big enough yard that we don’t get cabin fever too badly. The weather has been nice in general, so me and the kids have spent a lot of our free time outside catching toads, gardening, and repeatedly washing the pollen off of everything.

And every night since it came out, I’ve been playing a little bit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch. It’s a fun diversion.

Since February 10th, I’ve worked for How-To Geek as a Staff Writer. It’s a work from home job, so not much has changed there — I work 8 hours a day Monday-Friday. The kids have mostly left me alone, but it can be stressful. Luckily, my wife has kept them busy. They just recently started doing online schoolwork, and that has been a stressful adventure unto itself. But I think they will soon get into the rhythm of it.

I hope everyone out there stays healthy and safe during these strange times. They’re not permanent; We will get through this, and I hope we will all be wiser and kinder for having lived through the experience.

Discussion Topic: How are you and your family coping during these times? Have you played any games or used any old computers to keep yourself busy?

Larry Tesler (1945-2020)

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Larry TeslerIn Memoriam: Lawrence G. “Larry” Tesler (1945-2020),
inventor of Copy/Paste at Xerox PARC, member of Apple Lisa team,
human-computer interaction expert

Tesler was a giant in the field of human-computer interaction, having pioneered modeless interfaces at Xerox PARC and carried those over to Apple as part of the Lisa team. While at PARC, he and Timothy Mott created a text editor called Gypsy that included the first implementation of the now-common Copy and Paste features for moving blocks of information easily within a document. According to Robert Scoble, Tesler was also on the committee at Apple that decided to re-hire Steve Jobs in the mid-1990s. He will be missed.

I’ve Been Building Joysticks

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Benj's Joysticks in Mid-September 2018

Since August 1st of this year, I’ve been building and selling custom joysticks through Twitter. This small venture has been an unexpected success.

People love them, and that makes me very happy. I’ve sold about 140 so far, and I’ve built and shipped about 100 all around the world.

The past few months have been a wild ride, and I’d like to tell you some about it.

The Highest Quality Parts

Benj Edwards BX Foundry JoysticksThe basic concept behind every joystick I’ve made so far is simple: bring the best quality arcade parts to home consoles and computers.

I’ve been using Japanese arcade joysticks and buttons from Sanwa Denshi, a firm that makes some of the best arcade assemblies in the world.

The results have been incredible. Games I thought previously unplayable are suddenly rendered fun, like lifting some kind of fog.

Mushy, worn out control pads have come between me and gaming for too long, and I had no idea. When you push a button or move the lever on one of my sticks, something happens. Every time. There is no blaming the controller for gaming failures.

That extra level of accuracy brings new life to older games. Especially on platforms that didn’t have great controllers to begin with. Figuring this out has made me want to share these joysticks with everybody. But let’s take a step back and see how this all got started.

[ Continue reading I’ve Been Building Joysticks » ]

The VC&G Christmas Collection (2017 Edition)

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Vintage Computing and Gaming Christmas Xmas Megapost

It’s that time of year again: the Yuletide. Over the past few years, I’ve been posting an annual collection of all the Christmas-related tech material I’ve written (both for this site and for others) into one place for easy reading. Below, you’ll find list of off-site Christmas slideshows, other features, and of course, plenty of Retro Scans of the Week.

I have a soft spot for Christmas, having been raised with the tradition, so this list is for me as much as it is for everyone else. After going through these things again, it’s amazing to see how much Christmas stuff I’ve posted over the years. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Continue reading The VC&G Christmas Collection (2017 Edition) » ]

The Culture of Tech Podcast – Episode 1: Steve Wozniak and Television

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Steve Wozniak - The Culture of Tech Interview

Steve Wozniak is known for many things, but did you know that in addition to co-founding Apple, he also invented the universal remote control?* In this podcast interview, I dig into that story and more as we talk about Woz’s personal history with Television.

Since October, I’ve been working on a new podcast called The Culture of Tech. It’s an interview show where I talk about the intersection of culture and technology — and the past, present, and future of tech — while intertwining my own original music into the mix.

My first show is here. The guest is Steve Wozniak talking about Television. I thought it would be fun to pick a unifying topic and discuss it throughout his career.

In this case, Woz’s love and knowledge of television both allowed him to design Apple’s first two signature products (the Apple I and Apple II), but also to later create a company called CL9 that pioneered universal remote controls with the CORE remote.

Coming up on episode 2 will be Richard Garriott (of Ultima fame) talking about the Virtues.

I’m still working on logos, artwork, etc, and the official Culture of Tech website. I also set up an official Culture of Tech Twitter feed.

Hope you enjoy the show. Please let me know what you think — your feedback is essential. And if you like what you hear, please consider supporting my work on Patreon.

*Engineers at GE also invented a universal remote control around the same time, and Woz’s product, which was much more powerful, hit the market two years later.

—–

Subscribe to The Culture of Tech Podcast on iTunes
Subscribe to The Culture of Tech Podcast via RSS

Prodigy Reverse-Engineering Tools Released

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Prodigy Online Service Logo

After promising this for years, it’s time to finally release the Prodigy Preservation Project’s reverse-engineering tools. They’re not much, and they’re written in Python, but this code is the means by which I’ve been extracting fossilized Prodigy pages from STAGE.DAT files for the past few years.

I have been delaying announcing their availability because I was hoping Jim Carpenter, the author of these tools (and my partner on the Prodigy Preservation Project) would have more time to add more functionality and documentation, but he has not made any changes to the code since late 2015.

Yeah, I know that was almost two years ago. I’m sorry — things move slowly in ProdigyLand.

So here it is, everybody. Have at it. I hope you can help us improve them.

https://github.com/jim02762/prodigy-classic-tools

Just let me know what you find, and I’ll add it to my Flickr galleries.

Hear Benj on the Retronauts Podcast

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Retronauts Episode 98 Mac Games

Since February, I’ve been appearing on episodes of Retronauts, a long-running retro gaming podcast traditionally hosted by Jeremy Parish and Bob Mackey. Retronauts traces its origins to the now defunct 1UP.com, but it has moved along with Jeremy wherever he goes.

And that includes a move across the country: About five years ago, Jeremy relocated to sunny Raleigh, NC from San Francisco. After resigning from his editor-in-chief position at USGamer.net late last year, Jeremy decided to rely on Patreon to fund Retronauts as a full-time project.

Retronauts East Apple II Games ArtworkThere’s only one problem: Bob Mackey is still located on the west coast, and Jeremy can’t afford to fly out there every time he wants to record a show. So while Bob still creates episodes on the west coast, Jeremy started up a “Retronauts East” wing of the show featuring a local crew of regulars.

Fortunately, I am a Raleigh native, and I still live here. So the Retronauts East roster includes both myself and Ben Elgin, a Hillsborough, NC software engineer and a veteran of Jeremy’s Gamespite forums.

Since then I’ve been on five episodes (with another micro episode on the way), and it’s been a blast. Jeremy is a gin aficionado, and we typically drink a gin and tonic before or during the show, which is why you may hear high-resolution ice clinking in the background.

Here’s a run-down of the episodes I’ve appeared on so far:

Episode 87: Apple II Games
Episode 91: Early Sega Arcade Games
Episode 95: Early Batman Games
Micro 59: Atari Swordquest
Episode 98: Mac Gaming in the 1980s

There’s more to come. So stay tuned and enjoy.

“Retro Scan” Enshrined at the Computer History Museum

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Retro Scan of the Week at the Computer History MuseumLast week I was in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, and I had a blast. I need to write more about that soon.

On Friday, I took a day trip down to Mountain View to visit the Computer History Museum, which I had not been to since 2006.

Aside from not having visited since they opened their first major exhibit, I am friends with the senior curator, Dag Spicer, and it was great to finally meet him face to face. I also met up with Allan Alcorn (creator of Pong) there, and we wandered around enjoying the exhibits together. That too is a story for another day.

Benj Edwards and Dag Spicer at the Computer History MuseumThe CHM is a wonderful place, and the exhibits are top-notch. Just brilliant. No where else can you see the first mouse, the Pong prototype, the Atari 2600 prototype, the Community Memory machine, and so many more legendary artifacts.

I also love it because there are bits and pieces of my work scattered throughout the place.

[ Continue reading “Retro Scan” Enshrined at the Computer History Museum » ]