Archive for June, 2011

Kids’ Computers Through The Ages

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Kids' Computers Through The Ages at

Today at, you’ll find my new retrospective of kids’ computers through history. It covers a selection of toy/educational/kid computers from the dawn of computing to the present via the cyber-magic of the web slideshow medium. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Gear Up for Metal Gear

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Metal Gear for NES Ad - 1988Don’t forget to pack your high-jump goggles and night vision boots.

As a young NES fan, I absolutely loved this ad. I remember studying it from top to bottom many times, excited by large amount of fancy equipment lavishly depicted in this ad for Ultra’s Metal Gear on the NES. I was never a huge fan of playing Metal Gear myself (I found it too hard as a kid), but I loved to watch my brother play through this depthy stealth-action title.

Fans and critics considered the first NES Metal Gear a classic in its own time, so perhaps I should dust off my cartridge and give it another shot.

[ From Nintendo Fun Club News, April/May 1988, p.29 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite title in the Metal Gear series?

Sonic The Hedgehog Oddities

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Sonic the Hedgehog Oddities on Technologizer

Twenty years ago today, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis. In honor of this anniversary, I dug through the lesser-known corners of blue hedgehog history and pulled together an amusing collection of Sonic Oddities for you to enjoy. You’ll find the result — which includes Sonic’s brushes with genetics, Michael Jackson, and even ketchup — compiled in a slideshow over at Technologizer. I hope you enjoy it.

Speaking of Sonic the Hedgehog, what did you think of the 1991 Sega Genesis game when you first played it?

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

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] TRS-80 Model III Office

Monday, June 20th, 2011

TRS-80 Model III Office Magazine Ad - 1983As Mary does payroll, Frank gets to know his Model III a little better.

[ From Interface Age, May 1983, p.3 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you work in an office? What kind of computer do you currently use there?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Hint Book No One Wanted

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Ultima Exodus NES Hint Book Cover - 1989Retail price? $7.99. For you? Fifty cents.

In the early-mid 1990s, I regularly made trips to Toys ‘R’ Us to pick through their video game clearance section. It was then that I built up the foundations of my fast-growing vintage game collection.

I had a blast when they started clearing out their NES items — for example, I picked up Kirby’s Adventure for $10 and a whole bunch of unopened NES accessories like controllers and cleaning kits from that time for a mere pittance (I still have about four new-in-box NES Advantages from that time that I bought for $2 a piece). This is the same place where I bought the Virtual Boy and Sega 32X new in their boxes for about $30 a piece. Man, those were the days.

One day while browsing the store’s video game strategy guide rack, I noticed this forlorn and chronically passed-over hint book for Ultima: Exodus, a poorly received port of the PC classic Ultima III for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The copyright date in the back said 1989, and by the look of the discount stickers on the front, it appeared the booklet had been sitting on the shelf since that time. After five years of neglect, its cover had become scuffed, dirty, and mysteriously ink-stained on one corner.

The book’s binding was off-kilter when I bought it for the low low price of 50-cents, which may be why consumers passed it up in favor of non-defective printings of the same book. On the other hand, they may have simply passed it up because the associated game wasn’t too popular.

[ From Ultima Exodus Hint Book, 1989, cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When’s the last time you bought a physical paper hint book for a video game?

Interview: John Linnell of They Might Be Giants on Technology, Video Games, Injuries

Monday, June 13th, 2011

John Linnell of They Might Be Giants Interview on Technologizer

Up now on is my recent interview with John Linnell of the tech-savvy rock band They Might Be Giants. Linnell and I discussed his personal computer and video game history, how he’s integrated computers into his music career, a fierce Tetris addiction, and gruesome encounters with X-Acto knives. I hope you enjoy it.

By they way — Happy Birthday to Mr. Linnell, who turned 52 yesterday.

Do You Use A Vintage Computer for Real Work?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Old Computers Still in Use

Does anybody out there still use an old, obsolete computer for real work?

For example, I’ve heard tales of TRS-80 Model 100 laptops powering road-side traffic signs, and of companies relying on Apple IIs with custom BASIC software from the 1980s. Some firms still keep ancient mainframes with important databases running deep in the basement, and while others have not yet upgraded from Windows 3.1.

I’m not talking about hobbyist vintage computing here. I’m talking about an individual or company who still uses an old, old machine to get things done. Maybe you’ve spotted a case of this while out and about, or perhaps you know someone who won’t let go of their trusty PC. Obviously, the older the computer, the more interesting the story.

If you guys know of any instances of this, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below! I’ll compile the best stories in a future blog post.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] PlayStation 2 at Target

Monday, June 6th, 2011

PlayStation 2 Launch Ad by Target - 2000GET INTO THE GAME. YEEEEAAAAHHH

By golly. Has it really been 11 years since the PlayStation 2 came out? Sony launched the massively successful console in Japan on March 4th, 2000, making the platform one of the longest-lived in history. Games are still being made for it (one of its most recent releases, WWE All Stars, landed in March of this year), and the console hardware is still in production.

During this week of E3, which will include a new console announcement, it’s interesting to look back a decade to the launch of this massively successful machine. The early ad for the PS2 you see above was published not by Sony, but by Target to promote its availability in its stores. It just goes to show how closely hardware vendors and retailers must work together to make every new video game console launch a success.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 2000, p.13 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you first get a PlayStation 2? What was the first game you bought for it?