Archive for September, 2006

Retro Scan of the Week: The Most Complicated Video Game Controller Ever Devised

Monday, September 4th, 2006

Coleco Super Action Controllers

And you thought video game controllers were over-complicated these days; this one requires five (slightly-pudgy child) hands just to use it properly.

Take a look at this bad boy: four trigger buttons on the pistol-like grip (one per finger), twelve buttons in the overlay-friendly numeric keypad matrix on top, a one-dimensional “speed roller” wheel near the back, and an extremely flaccid red-knobbed joystick crowning it all. Combine this with the futuristic look of a gaudy black space gauntlet that literally engulfs your hand, and you’ve got the ColecoVision Super Action Controller. This marvel of controlling technology came in sets of two with a “Super Action Game” included — in my case, “Super Action Baseball.” I’m lucky enough to have a pair essentially “new in box,” so I grabbed these scans off the box itself.

Coleco Super Action ControllersIt’s no secret that the ColecoVision’s original controllers were absolutely horrible. In fact, they could only be surpassed by those of the earlier Intellivision in terms of “least ergonomic controller design ever.” Obviously someone within Coleco noticed this fact and set out to design a super-ergonomic controller with a vengeance. But it seems they went a little overboard in the process: on the box it claims that the Super Action Controller is “the first video game [controller] that [gives] you individual control of 4 or more onscreen players.” Sounds really simple and easy to use, doesn’t it? With this amazing controller, you can control an entire baseball team with only one hand! Coleco was obviously way ahead of its time in this respect, as it seems the rest of the video game industry has still not caught up with their incredible insight into control of on-screen characters. Had Coleco gotten their way, we’d probably be playing five-on-five video basketball against ourselves (using one finger for each player) on a controller with twenty-five buttons. The extra fifteen are for the refs and the cheerleaders, of course.

BBS Stories Archive Looking For Submissions

Friday, September 1st, 2006

BBS Stories ArchiveI’ve long wanted to archive personal stories related to computers. Aside from being wonderful nostalgic reads, such a collection will likely be an important source of first-hand accounts for future historians. That’s why I’m creating the BBS Stories Archive. I’ll eventually have a site or section on VC&G dedicated to this (and other, non-BBS stories), but for now, I obviously need material for the archive first.

I’m looking for any personal, true written account about Bulletin Board Systems, whatsoever. The account can be about any topic (as long as it’s BBS-related and non-fiction) you’d like to recount for us, and can cover any age, any time (even up to the present), any software, or any experience. The longer and more detailed the story, the better. You might have only called a BBS once in your life, but if you’d like to write down the experience, that’s completely fine with me. The stories don’t have to be incredible or especially unique; any account of even the most seemingly boring activities will provide immense value to people of the future looking back on how BBS technology was used. On the other hand, unique stories are, of course, welcome as well. Did you meet your wife on a BBS? Lose your job over a BBS? Save the world through a BBS? I want to know about it.

So if you’d like to participate in this grand historical project, either email me your accounts here, or if you prefer, you can even post them as comments on this entry. If they’re relevant, they will be added to the archive. You will retain all rights and credit (unless you wish to remain anonymous) for your story and writing, by the way.

And yes, I know that no discussion of BBS historical efforts online can transpire without mentioning Jason Scott’s incredible work with both his BBS Documentary and I’m sure he has a wonderful collection of BBS stories himself, but there’s no harm in having two BBS historians out there.