Archive for November, 2008

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] NEC PC-8401A Lap-Top

Monday, November 24th, 2008

NEC PC-8401A Ad - 1986From a more innocent time, when “laptop” was two words separated by a hyphen.

[ From COMB Catalog, circa 1986 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What was the first portable computer you ever used?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Ocarina of Time, Ten Years Later

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Zelda: Ocarina of Time Ad - 1998Get thee to a nunnery

Ten years ago this Friday, Nintendo released what many consider to be the greatest Zelda title of all time, if not one of the greatest video games ever created. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on sale in Japan on November 21, 1998 after a long period of eager anticipation on the part of Zelda fans, who hadn’t seen a home console Zelda title since 1991’s A Link to the Past on the Super NES. Nintendo hyped up the release of their new game by offering a limited edition gold-colored cartridge (seen here) to those who pre-ordered Ocarina in the US.

Sadly, I missed out on the gold carts, but I did manage to snag a copy (a very gray copy) for Christmas 1998. Honestly, since playing through Ocarina of Time almost a decade ago, that personal experience — in terms of its joy, its depth, and its enchanting, enveloping nature — has yet to be surpassed by any other title. Now that’s a good video game.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1998 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us why you think the Ocarina of Time is great. How, if at all, has the game been influential to the video game industry?

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The View From My Workbench, Episode 1

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Benj's Workbench - November 2008

Yep, all this junk is on my workbench at the moment. What a mess. How many VC&G-related items can you name?

While you work on that, I’m going downstairs to clean it up.

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Mainframe Games

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Fuzzy MemoryIt’s not every day that I receive a Fuzzy Memory dating back to the early days of personal computing. Come to think of it, it’s no every day that I receive a Fuzzy Memory. But I digress — in this case, the computer in question isn’t even personal, but a mainframe PDP 11/34. The year? 1979.

Like always, I’m not an oracle of infinite knowledge and resources, so I need you (my adept readers) to help solve the mystery. And besides, I like making you do most of the work.

Advent, Trek, and Tripe

Robert wrote me a few days ago regarding a neolithic computer game from the disco era:

I have a new “fuzzy memory” search for you. When I first became addicted to computers in 1979, it was on a PDP 11/34 at my local college. That computer had 3 text-based games that endeared me to computers forever: Advent, Trek, and Tripe.

I have been able to find both Advent (which was the precursor to Zork) and Trek (a text-based Star Trek battle/strategy game). I have never tracked down a version of Tripe.

Tripe was a text-based parody of Star Trek. Key things that I recall about the game include:

  • Away teams would raid a planet and “kill the women and rape the bad guys!”
  • The ultimate weapon was the “dusn’t matter probe”. When fire, it would start playing one of Kirk’s famous speeches, at which point the enemy would commit suicide.

I don’t know if this game ever left the confines of the PDP, but it sure would be cool to track down a version of it.


The Search Begins

In this case, we’re fortunate: Robert knows the name of the game he’s looking for, and he knows the platform. But one key absence still prevents him from reliving his fondest gaming memories: the game itself. If anyone out there knows more about Tripe or how to obtain a copy of it, please let us know in the comments section. Perhaps there’s a more recent port of the game for another platform, or maybe someone has a disk image of the game that Robert could run on a PDP/11 emulator.

While you’re at it, feel free to leave your own mainframe memories in the comments below. Good luck!

Have a memory of a computer, video game, computer software, or electronic toy you need help identifying? Send me an email describing your memories in detail. Hopefully, the collective genius of the VC&G readership can help solve your mystery.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The TRS-80 Model 12

Monday, November 10th, 2008

TRS-80 Model 12 Ad - 1983(click for full advertisement)

I actually have a TRS-80 Model 12, although I don’t have a hard drive for it. I bought it at a flea market back in 2000-2001 for $20. It had been used for corporate accounting, payroll, spreadsheets, etc. for some years, and it came with a bunch of 8-inch disks and a huge dot-matrix printer. Sadly, the 8-inch drives on my unit both failed some years ago, although not before I got a chance to load up BASIC and tinker around with a spreadsheet. I haven’t gotten around to fixing them yet, but I’ll probably give it a shot some day.

[ From Popular Computing, March 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Here’s a good one: How many of you readers out there have used systems with 8-inch floppy disks? If you have, tell us about the computer and your 8-inch floppy stories.

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VC&G Turns Three

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Vintage Computing and Gaming LogoJust a quick administrative note — I’ve been so busy focusing on other anniversaries that I forgot my own. Three years ago last week, I started the very blog you’re reading now, Vintage Computing and Gaming. I determined very soon after that I would always write Vintage Computing and Gaming in italics because it looks more official, as if this were a distinguished and respectable publication worthy of title formatting treatment. (A few years of Ulaf appearances probably destroyed that illusion.) If nothing else, the fancy italics helped my morale as I toiled away in obscurity, churning out regular, unique content that (I hoped) couldn’t be found anywhere else.

Since then, the site has stayed mostly the same, although the post frequency has gone down quite a bit since I began doing professional freelance writing work a few years ago. Despite that, I’m very grateful that thousands of thoughtful, intelligent readers (i.e. you) regularly check out VC&G for the latest posts. At least I still find time to do Retro Scan of the Week, if nothing else, and I hope you don’t mind me keeping you updated on my latest VC&G-related freelance work. I do have new VC&G-only features on the way that I’ve been working on here and there, so there’s always new content around the corner.

Looking toward the future, I can’t see a reason why this site won’t be around for a long time. I love doing what I do, and I still have an enormous (and overwhelming) computer and video game collection to draw material from. So as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep this place running. Thanks for your support and your wonderful comments over the years. Please stick around; there’s more to come. –Benj

Twenty Years of the Sega Genesis

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Sega Genesis Mega Drive Turns 20Last night, Ars Technica published my latest historical piece, “Genesis of Success: 20 Years of Sega’s Dark Horse Console,” which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Sega Mega Drive’s launch in Japan.

While researching Genesis history, I found that the story behind its success in America was surprisingly unique and interesting. To find out more, check out the the article — and please feel free to leave comments on your Genesis and Mega Drive memories.

(On a technical note, I didn’t write any of the text describing the games in the section at the end. So if you see something weird in there, it’s not my doing. I did select the games, albeit very quickly.)

Inside the Commodore 64

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Inside the Commodore 64

Yesterday, PC World published the latest in my “workbench” series of vintage tech autopsies. For its fifth installment, I dissected the immortal Commodore 64 while documenting the process in vivid color. This slideshow features some of my favorite vintage computer photos yet. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Sega Mating Game

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Sega 32X Ad - EGM 1995(click for full advertisement)

Sega created some pretty edgy advertising in the mid-1990s, so it came as no surprise when they used a risqué visual metaphor to introduce their new 32X add-on for the Genesis. Sadly, the only fruit this unholy union bore was Sega’s eventual failure in the hardware market.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, January 1995 ]

Discussion topic of the week: It’s a tough call: are there any decent games for the 32x?

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