Archive for November, 2010

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Dungeon Master II

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Dungeon Master II Skullkeep PC and Macintosh Advertisement Ad - 1995“…thus we are very skinny.”

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1985, p.57 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite first-person RPG of all time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] An Apple //c Thanksgiving

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Apple Logo II Reference Manual Cover - Apple IIc Family - 1984“And you say this is some sort of football simulator?”

[ From Apple Logo II Reference Manual, circa 1984, cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Does your family play video or computer games around the holidays as part of a tradition? Please discuss.

Microsoft Windows Turns 25

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Windows 25th Anniversary - Windows Through The Ages

On November 20th, 1985, Microsoft released Windows 1.0. Back then, it was just a fancy graphical shell that ran atop MS-DOS. But over the years, it evolved into a full-fledged OS that dominated (and still dominates) the PC desktop.

To celebrate 25 years of Windows, I recently crafted a slideshow for PC World titled “Windows Through the Ages” and another for Technologizer called “Windows Oddities.” The latter article is the latest in my Oddities series for that site.

If you get a chance, I hope you can take a look. They were fun to make, and I think you guys will enjoy them — even if you’re not a big fan of Windows.

And let’s face it: I’m not sure anyone is a “fan” of Windows. Most of us just use it because it’s there and it works. But if you have more passion for Microsoft’s OS than that, feel free to let us know. Speaking of that, this looks like a good chance for a discussion topic.

Anniversary Discussion Topic: Overall, do you think Windows has been good or bad for computing in general? Explain.

Previous entries in Benj’s “Oddities” series:
Nintendo Entertainment System Oddities
Super Mario Oddities
Game Boy Oddities

Do you Collect Software?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Pile of Floppy DisksHere’s a question for my intrepid readers: Do you collect software? Operating systems, applications, computer games, or even image or sound files? If so, do you have a focus for your collection? How do you store it?

I’ve been collecting software for about 17 years. Much of it was once locked into deteriorating floppy disk formats, but luckily I’ve been able to find working disk images of those particular apps and games (say, for the Atari 800 or Apple II) created by others, so not much is at risk of being lost there.

Everything else — all my personal floppy disks, ZIP disks, CDs, and hard drives for Macs and PCs — I long ago backed up to a central file server that uses a RAID 5 array and offsite backup for extra protection. In that collection are the contents of over 30 different PC hard drives imaged and preserved “in state” for research purposes. I keep all the files in place as they were when those drives were in use, because you really never know what you’ll need in the future when it comes to historical research. Many of those files have come in handy already.

I should note that if you have anything backed up on CD-R, get it off now, because I’ve already found CD-Rs from as recent as 2000 that I can’t read anymore. They really are a terrible archival format. The best hope for long-term software preservation (in my opinion) is to maintain a live RAID array of hard drives that you maintain and update over time.

So how do you do it, and what do you collect? I’m interested to hear from you in the comments below.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Philips CD-RW Drive

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Philips CD-RW Drive Ad - 1997“This product is not intended for the unlawful copying of copywrited material.”

Rewritable CD-RW discs seemed like a good idea when CD-Rs (which could only be written once) still cost $10 a piece. But as the price of CD-Rs fell to pennies per disc over the course of about five years, the CD-RW format’s popularity quickly faded.

[ From PC World, November 1997, p.103 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you burn your first CD-R or CD-RW? How did you feel when you did it? What did you write to the disc?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Early Online Game Service

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Games Computers Play Ad - 1985“System Requirements: 48k Atari, 1 disk drive, modem”

You’re looking at an ad for what may have been the world’s first multiplayer graphical online gaming service, Games Computers Play (1985). It may also have been the world’s first graphical multi-user environment, as it predated the Lucasfilm Habitat beta test for the C64 (1986) by six months or more.

I don’t know else much about this Atari 8-bit-only service beside what can be gleaned from the advertisement above, a 1985 article in Antic magazine, and this thread over at AtariAge.

One of the posters in the forum thread linked above mentioned that he/she found the creators of the service, whom I’d love to talk to myself. I’m trying to get in touch with that poster, but if anyone knows anything about this service (including info about who created it) or has stories to share, please email me here.

[Update – I did get in touch with one of the creators of this service. More info to follow. ]

[ From Computer Gaming World, November-December 1985, p.20 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first game you played with another human (or humans) over a modem?

The Evolution of Computer Displays

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Evolution of Computer Displays - A Brief History of Computer Displays on PC

PC World recently published “A Brief History of Computer Displays,” one of my most recent slideshow works and the latest in my “Evolution” series. The piece traces computer display devices from blinking lights, to paper tape, to terminals, and beyond.

Special thanks to Steve Wozniak and Lee Felsenstein for help with a certain segment of computer display history — the era when computers shifted from serial terminals IO to directly outputting a video signal. Our conversations were exciting stuff that I’ll explore further in future articles.

I hope you enjoy it. When you’re done reading, come back over and tell us what your first computer display/monitor was like.

Previous entries in Benj’s “Evolution of…” series:
The Evolution of Video Game Media
The Evolution of Removable Storage
The Evolution of The Cell Phone

Five Years of VC&G

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Vintage Computing and Gaming LogoFive years ago today, I published my first post on Vintage Computing and Gaming.

The funny thing is that when I started this blog in 2005, I had no idea I would still be doing it five years later — or that it would become the nucleus of a career in writing. No idea.

It’s amazing how life can guide you in new and unexpected directions.

So what this anniversary really means that my career as a professional writer is now five years old. I’ve written for a dozen or so web and print publications over the last five years, and I still enjoy every minute of it.

[ Continue reading Five Years of VC&G » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Now It’s a Tough Choice

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Popular Computing October 1984 Cover - IBM PCjr vs. Apple IIc - Now it's a tough choice.Shades of Tasha Yar

If you were shopping for a home PC in 1984, you were bound to face this decision: should I get an Apple IIc or the flashy new IBM PCjr?

From late 1983 to early 1984, the press hyped the PCjr to absurd proportions, which set IBM’s consumer machine up for a mighty fall not too long after its introduction (IBM withdrew it from the market within a year of its release). The Apple IIc, on the other hand, was one of Apple’s more successful products of the era. Apple won the battle, but IBM won the war with the PC line overall.

(…or did they?)

[ From Personal Computing, October 1984, front cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: It’s 1984, and you can only buy one computer: an IBM PCjr or an Apple IIc. Which one will you choose and why?