Archive for January, 2009

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Hand Cramp Keyboard

Monday, January 26th, 2009

MEI Microtype Space Saver Keyboard Ad - 1990You might accidentally crush it. (click to see full scan)

[ From BYTE, February 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Have you ever had trouble using an electronic device because its buttons are too small or your hands are too big? Tell us about it.

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Unboxing the Atari Touch Tablet

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Atari Touch Tablet Unboxing

So I bought this Atari Touch Tablet last year, right? (always an encouraging way to start a blog entry) It was new in the box, and I documented the process of opening it up via the magic of digital photography. The pictures languished on my computer for some time, anxiously awaiting their day in the sun. Well, their time has come: as of yesterday, they’re part of a slideshow on Harry McCracken’s Technologizer, authored by no one but the one known as myself, me.

If you don’t recall, Harry McCracken has some renown as the excellent former-Editor-in-Chief of PC World, a position he manned for four years. Anyway, this slide show has apparently been a pretty big hit on Slash-something-or-other, especially amongst the personally-grieved-by-everything crowd who are currently neck-deep in complaining that it’s presented on 14 separate pages (instead of all at once, like other slide shows).

Long story short: I thought you might enjoy checking it out.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari Basketball Catalog

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Atari Catalog p 21 - 1982Click above to see the full page scan

Here’s a scan of Basketball’s appearance in a 1982 Atari product catalog for their 8-bit home computer line. Basketball, programmed by Alan Miller, is notable for possibly introducing the first obviously black video game character. And hey, it’s also the first game I remember playing.

[ From Discover the World of Atari Home Computers, 1982 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What is the significance, if any, of the first black video game character appearing in a basketball game, rather than a game based on another subject matter?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

The First Black Video Game Character

Monday, January 19th, 2009

The First Black Video Game Character - Illustration

Tomorrow, the United States will inaugurate its first black president, Barack Obama. In honor of this watershed moment in American history, I thought we should pay tribute to another African-American trailblazer: the first black video game character. After some searching, I believe I’ve found him.

[ Continue reading The First Black Video Game Character » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Double Dragon: The Movie

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Double Dragon Movie Ad - 1994Scott Wolf fans rejoice!

In the early ’90s, I recall being excited when I heard that a Double Dragon movie was in the works. But after that, the film kinda fell off the radar until I ran across it in a video rental store. I never did rent it, but I’m guessing it was pretty terrible. Am I right?

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the best video game movie movie based on a video game of all time?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Electronic Gaming Monthly (1989-2009)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Electronic Gaming Monthly - May 1993In Memoriam: EGM (1989-2009), American video game magazine par excellence.

As far as I can recall, this is the first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly I ever bought. I spotted it on a newsstand in a grocery store and begged my mom to buy it for me. Over the next few months of 1993, I bought each new issue from the same source until I convinced my parents that it would be cheaper just to subscribe. So they signed me up, and I’ve been a subscriber to EGM ever since.

Until now. Troubled publisher Ziff-Davis — owner of the 1UP Network and EGMrecently announced the sale of its 1UP property to UGO Entertainment. Sadly, EGM isn’t going along for the ride, but is instead shutting down. January 2009 will be the last issue of EGM in print.

Prior to discovering EGM, my only exposure to video game magazines had been Nintendo Power, the official Nintendo-sanctioned magazine devoted only to Nintendo products. As a publication, Nintendo Power spoke with a sterile, self-censoring voice that was low on speculation and high on propaganda. In contrast, EGM, with its edgy style, gossip column, international coverage, and devotion to multiple platforms (including arcade! — that blew my young mind), opened up a whole new side of the video game industry to me and ignited a passion for the field that persists to this day.

EGM Covers

As a writing professional, EGM’s closure stings for reasons beyond simple fandom. Since writing for and visiting EGM’s offices in early 2008, I’ve been fortunate enough to befriend a number of EGM’s editors and staff. As news goes around that over 30 employees’ jobs fell victim to the shakeup, I find myself wincing and hoping the best for all of my colleagues in writing and publishing. Those that met the unsparing axe of nickel-and-dime economics will likely find new jobs elsewhere in time — hopefully sooner rather than later. Until then, I wish them the best of luck, and I’d like to thank EGM’s staff (past and present) for twenty years of incredible, inspiring work.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Not Quite Photoshop

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Paint-N-Sketch Level II Ad - 1983Click above to see the full advertisement

This ad for Tech-Sketch’s Paint-N-Sketch Level II brings back memories. My first encounter with computer art came courtesy of KoalaPaint and the KoalaPad tablet on the Atari 800. Later, I fell in love with MousePaint on my family’s Apple IIc. Using the mouse and creating shapes on the screen was a magical experience, and I regularly begged my father to boot it up for me so I could doodle around in four glorious colors. Because of the program’s title, I was convinced it had something to do with Mickey Mouse.

Not too long after, my dad sold the Apple IIc, and I lacked an outlet for computer art until he bought a Macintosh SE in 1987. But that’s another story all together. Now it’s your turn.

[ From Electronic Games, December 1983. ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us about your first computer art experience. What computer and software did you use?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

A Truckload of Vintage Computing

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

A Truckload of Vintage Computing

I should be ashamed of myself. I do so much vintage stuff every week, but I’m usually too lazy to tell you guys about it — and I run a blog called Vintage Computing and Gaming. Well, maybe I can do more quick updates on my activities in the future. Here’s the first.

A few months ago, I visited a family friend’s house. She was cleaning out her attic, and I had long since promised to help her get rid of the numerous dusty computers her late husband had collected.

I came home with seven machines, including an Apple IIc and an old Compaq bearing a Post-It Note warning: “Do not get on this computer.” The note backfired, of course, as it insured that I would be getting on it post-haste.

Once atop the slumbering beast — some five inches off the ground — I booted the machine. Therein, I found a sluggish, hobbled-by-its-own-nature install of Windows ME and no less than 86 virii (this is not an exaggeration) intertwined with every facet of the operating system. As per my promise to the former owner, I formatted the drive with extreme prejudice.

A Truckload of Vintage ComputingChief among the other spoils were a NES Action Set in a near-mint box; the aforementioned Apple IIc’s original box with all documentation; an Apple IIc color monitor and monitor stand, both in box; various boxed Apple II and PC software; a box; six PC clones of various vintage between an AT-class machine and Pentium stuff (no boxes to be seen); and an awesome, non-boxy Model 500 rotary telephone in stylish red and black.

Above all else, the equipment carried with it a priceless nostalgic element: I had watched my brother’s best friend use most of these items when I was a kid, so it was very familiar to me.

What you see in the back of the truck above would have met death-by-dumpster had I not gallantly rushed in to save it. Of course, now it’s cluttering up my house instead of hers. Despite the nostalgia rush, I’m starting to think our family friend got the better end of the deal.