Archive for March, 2011

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Rexall Typewriter Paper

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Rexall Typewriter Paper Pad Cover - circa 1950s - 1960sRexall Fine Quality Typewriter Paper

I found this pad of 8.5″ x 11″ Rexall typewriter paper in a pile of my parents’ old documents. It immediately struck me as interesting because typewriter paper is not something you’d typically find on sale in a drug store these days.

Why? Well, computers, my boy. They obliterated the typewriter market decisively in the early 1990s. People found the ease of word processing on an electronic screen (especially in the post-Macintosh GUI era) much more flexible, powerful, and convenient than the comparatively cumbersome practice of using a typewriter.

Some years ago I recall reading that certain old-school writers still swear by typewriters for clarity of thought and purity of purpose. There’s something to that philosophy, as the modern multi-tasking operating systems we have today are extremely distracting for serious work. Maybe computer single-tasking should come back in vogue.

[ Rexall Fine Quality Typewriter Paper pad (S-789) cover, circa 1960s ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When’s the last time you used a typewriter? Tell us about the occasion.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Spawn: The Video Game

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Spawn for Super NES SNES Ad - 1995“Unleash the fury of the full force blast!”

Ah yes, Spawn: the game that launched a thousand thugs…directly off the roof of a building.

I’ll pause while you watch the video.

Aside from that slight programming snafu, Spawn is a passable, if graphically rich, platform beat-em-up for the Super NES. Does anybody out there own this game? How do you feel about it?

[ From Wizard, December 1995, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite comic book-based video game?

The Eerie World of Abandoned Computers

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Eerie World of Abandoned Computers Slideshow on

Up now on PCMag is a slideshow I created about derelict computers and urban exploration. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

In the heart of civilization lie places abandoned. For whatever reason, people retreat from these spaces entirely, leaving behind unintentional time capsules filled with objects and equipment from another era, including computers.

You’ll find a number of abandoned vintage computers included in the piece, so I thought VC&G readers might enjoy it.

I’d like to give special thanks to all the photographers who let me use their amazing photos in the slideshow. It’s a shame the images don’t show up bigger in the layout like those in my older PCMag slideshows (not my choice). Even with smaller images, the emotional impact of seeing decaying and abandoned technology is still there.

Have you ever encountered a totally abandoned computer left somewhere to rot for all time? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Datasafe Tape Drive

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Aftek DATASAFE Tapedrive Ad - 1985“…standard 1/4″ tape on a self-threading 2.2″ spool.”

[ From Byte Magazine, April 1985, p.35 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever installed a backup tape drive on your PC? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Scott Adams’ Adventure International

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Scott Adams Adventure International Interactive Fiction Adventure Games Ad - 1981Have you played all 45 games seen here?

Scott Adams adventure games are nigh-but-legendary in the history of computer gaming. Mr. Adams’ company, Adventure International, published dozens of interactive fiction titles (some with graphics) between 1978 and 1985. They were available on just about every computer platform of the 1980s, so it’s likely you’ve encountered at least one of them if you owned a computer at that time.

Early Adventure International games sported a relatively simple input parser (usually two words, a verb and a keyword) compared to Infocom fare, but that didn’t stop Adams’ captivating games from spreading far and wide — both legally and via piracy — across the personal computing universe.

Regarding the two men pictured in the ad above: I’m guessing they’re Scott and Alexis Adams, the two men behind Adventure International. Turns out Alexis is a woman (see comments), so it’s unlikely one of them is her unless she was fond of wearing drag.

…Oh, and I know Jason Scott will say something if I don’t mention Get Lamp, his new documentary on text adventure games. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear it’s great.

[ From Personal Computing, March 1981, p.5 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite interactive fiction (aka “text adventure”) game of all time?

The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming on PC

If you’ve ever had half a heap’a wunderin’ about the history of stereoscopic displays in the computer and console gaming realm, mosey on over to PC World to check out my latest slideshow. There you will find 21 lovingly-crafted slides that tell the long and varied story of 3D stereoscopy in video and computer games.

Writing about video game history for a computer-centric publication has its ups and downs. While the publication is top-notch, sometimes I think video game fans miss out on the best of my work. So if you think you know someone who might like this piece, please spread the word.

After this yet-another lengthy visual article, I’m thinking about wrapping it up in regards to epic slideshows. Sure, I’ll still do slideshows, just not ones so very, very long and involved.

After you’re done checking it out, I’d love to hear about your personal history with stereoscopy in video and computer games.

And don’t forget: the Nintendo 3DS comes out in the US on March 27th.