Archive for February, 2011

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Percom Atari Drives

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Percom Atari 800 Disk Drives RFD Mini Disk Storage System Ad - 1982“Introducing the Percom Alternative to Atari Disk Storage.”

I have a set of these Percom drives for the Atari 800, and I have to say they work very well. The only drawback? Don’t drop them on your toe, as the sharp metal case edges tend to have a guillotine effect at high speeds…

[ From Personal Computing, June 1982, p.23 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever been physically injured by a computer or video game system? Tell us about it.

The Legend of Zelda Oddities

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The Legend of Zelda Oddities on Technologizer

In honor of The Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary, I dug through the historical record and came out with a dozen Zelda oddities for you to enjoy. The result is over at Technologizer with an intro slide designed by Harry McCracken.

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

Windows Oddities

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Legend of Zelda at 25

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

You are the Hero Link - The Legend of Zelda Instruction Manual - Tips and Tactics - 1987Click above for double page scan.

The Legend of Zelda turns 25 today, having been released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan way back on February 21st, 1986.

Here’s a page (two if you click above) from the lengthy “Tips & Tactics” instruction manual that shipped with every copy of Nintendo’s famous adventure game (at least in the early days). This booklet contained maps and hints to help players navigate through a wholly new gaming experience in the video game console realm at the time.

It is hard to relate today — to those who did not experience it first hand — the feeling when we first encountered The Legend of Zelda upon its release in 1987 (over here in the ‘States). It was epic. Magical. Awe-inspiring. Zelda continued a trend of groundbreaking NES gameplay that started for many with Super Mario Bros. a year or two before.

Those first gaming experiences on the NES — rounded out by titles like Metroid and Kid Icarus — are what won Nintendo’s first console a place in the hearts of an entire generation of kids around the world.

For more on the anniversary, check out my The Legend of Zelda Oddities slideshow over at Technologizer.

[ From The Legend of Zelda Instruction Booklet, 1987, p.6-7 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Tell us about the first time you played The Legend of Zelda. What was the experience like? How old were you at the time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] 1980s Lovers…or Strangers?

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Alpine Software Lovers or Strangers Relationship compatibility software for the Apple II - 1982Lovers or Strangers: A relationship compatibility program for the Apple II.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

[ From Personal Computing, November 1982, p.216 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played a romantic or risque computer game? Tell us about it (anonymously if you have to).

Ken Olsen (1926-2011)

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Ken Olsen co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)In Memoriam: Ken Olsen (1926-2011), co-founder and ex-CEO of DEC.

The Secret World of Embedded Computers

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The Secret World of Embedded Computers on

You can now buy a $5 pregnancy test that casually wields more CPU power than an Apple II. The Xbox S controller — by itself — packs more raw processing muscle than a SNES.

Those are merely two of the fascinating things you’ll learn if you check out my latest feature for, “The Secret World of Embedded Computers.” It’s a dee-luxe slideshow that reveals computers at the heart of surprising consumer gadgets.

There are also a couple shout-outs for vintage technology in there (not quite as surprising), so the slideshow is at least somewhat VC&G-relevant. Hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Cybiko Sexy Chat

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Cybiko Ad - 2000A Cybiko ad spoofing stereotypical Japanese zaniness.

The Cybiko was a bizarre handheld device of mixed lineage: I’d call it 1/3 game console and 2/3 handheld PC. It sought to be a PDA for kids, so it incorporated both gaming and organizer software. It also included a very novel feature at the time: wireless connectivity. Cybiko units could send each other text-based messages, share software, and play games via a built-in radio transmitter.

Owners could hook up the Cybiko to their PC to download new software from the Internet. Cybiko, Inc. encouraged homebrew development for the machine in either C or CyBasic (a BASIC variant), which helped maintain popular interest in Cybiko for a few years longer than it would have otherwise.

Despite those efforts, Cybiko was never particularly successful. The company tried again with the Cybiko Xtreme in 2001. No such luck there either.

A Handful of Drawbacks

I picked up one of the original “Classic” models on clearance back in the day. Its biggest drawbacks were the dreadfully sluggish speed of the software interface, the heavily-ghosting greyscale LCD screen, and the bizarre layout of the buttons and directional pad on the unit. Oddly, the Cybiko included a pull-out stylus to help you press its tiny QWERTY keyboard buttons. Also, I remember it being very tricky to hook the Cybiko to your PC to get new software.

I later picked up a revision 2 Cybiko Classic with the MP3 Player add-on at a Hamfest. I never did much with the gadgets, though. Cybikos included a rechargable battery — I remember seeing one leaking already a few years ago. So if you have one, take out the battery before it ruins your unit.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 2000, p.87 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned or used a Cybiko? What did you think about it?

Modems Through the Years

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Modems: 60 Years of Hooking Up on

Last night, PC World posted my latest history-flavored slideshow on their site. It’s a visual survey of dial-up modem history that they titled “Modems: 60 Years of Hooking Up.”

I wanted to go into more detail, but it was hard to find good quality pictures of old modems. That’s unsurprising because modems not devices that folks celebrate as often as, say, computers themselves. My personal book collection on modems came in handy, but the muddy black and white photos printed there are as clear as molasses.

(By the way, if anyone out there has photos of a Racal-Vadic VA3400 or a Bell 212A data set, please let me know. Those would come in handy for a more complete history of modems in the future.)

I didn’t go into more detail about non-dial-up modems (i.e. ISDN, DSL, Cable, wireless, or satellite) because you could fill a whole slideshow on the history of each of those separately, and I was already running a bit behind from trying to find photos of dial-up modems. But hey, the result should still be entertaining and informative.

I hope you enjoy it.