Archive for February, 2012

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Lowly Disk Box

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Amaray DiskBank Media Mate Disk Box Ad - 1984The Amaray Corporation DiskBank Media Mate

It’s not every day that I stop and think about floppy diskette storage boxes. I never had a favorite brand of them, but I did find fault with many of the designs I encountered over the years. My least favorite thing about the DiskBank-stye box is if you pick it up by its “handle” (as illustrated here) without locking or properly latching the lid, the lid flops open and you end up with a pile of floppies on the floor.

It would be interesting to catalog and put together a historical timeline of floppy disk box brands…but then again, I don’t see myself doing that any time soon.

[ From BYTE Magazine, April 1984, p.149 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What kind of containers do (or did) you use to store your floppy disks?

[ Fuzzy Memory ] C64 Detective Text Adventure

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Fuzzy MemoryEvery once and a while, I receive emails from people looking for a certain game, electronic toy, or computer from their distant past. I then pass it on to intrepid VC&G readers to crack the case.

The Clues

Jakdin writes:

Hi there,

I have been trying to remember the name of a C64 (possibly C128) text adventure game that I played in 1989 or 1990. I don’t remember the game containing any visuals, but there might have been… Regardless, here’s what I remember, and it’s not much, of the game content:

You are a detective (I believe) and are at a seaside or lakeside resort during it’s off-season time. I remember that I could “see” an abandoned row boat and closed/locked market along the water.

That’s all I vividly remember. Not so clear is the possibility of other shut or closed down stores and buildings in the vicinity of where the game starts the player.

Any help at all in finding the title of this game from my vague memory would be MUCH appreciated!


The Search Begins

It’s up to you to find the object of Jakdin’s fuzzy memory. Post any thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below. Jakdin will be monitoring the comments, so if you need to clarify something with him, ask away. Good luck!

Have a memory of a computer, video game, computer software, or electronic toy you need help identifying? Send me an email describing your memories in detail. Hopefully, the collective genius of the VC&G readership can help solve your mystery.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Six Flavors of Game Boy

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Game Boy Play it Loud Colors Flavors Ad Nintendo Power - 1995Three years before the Game Boy Color, Nintendo released color Game Boys.

[ From Nintendo Power, April 1995, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Name every color of every Nintendo handheld console you’ve ever owned (any kind).

Ancient Computers in Use Today

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Ancient Computers In Use Today - Kevin Huffman's Apple IIeKevin Huffman and his trusty Apple IIe.

The unrelenting pace of computer technology boggles the mind. For some individuals, businesses, and governments, it boggles the wallet as well. That’s one of the reasons a surprising number of organizations refuse to continuously upgrade their computer systems — even though every salesman in the industry tells them it’s the right thing to do.

I have often wondered how many of these vintage machines are still in use around the world. In the course of crafting history pieces for various publications, I encounter some entertaining stories of digital dinosaurs here and there (and I ask for them), but they are mostly light fare about a cousin who uses a Pentium I for word processing or a hacker buddy who won’t let go of his VT100 terminal.

I decided to dig a little deeper and found some individuals and organizations that truly depend on vintage computers, day in and day out, and I compiled the resulting stories into a new piece just published over at PC

You’ll read about one video game programmer’s reliance on a Tandy Color Computer 3, a company that uses a circa-1948 IBM machine for accounting, an Apple IIe that organizes a warehouse, and an entire national military/industrial complex so dependent on 1970s DEC minicomputers that it will still be using them halfway through the 21st century.

Read “Ancient Computers in Use Today” at PC

[ Continue reading Ancient Computers in Use Today » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari Personal Computers

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Atari 400 and Atari 800 Personal Computer Ad - 1979More color. More sound. More overwrought plastic and aluminum enclosures.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I love the Atari 800. It was my first computer platform. And the Atari 400, interestingly enough, was the first computer I ever “owned” — my father let me have a cast off 400 because my brother claimed the 800 as his domain. I couldn’t do much but play Galaxian on it — hooked up to a fuzzy 10″ black and white TV — but I cherished it anyway.

So I’ve written about Atari’s 8-bit computers a lot. I took an 800 apart for PC World a few years ago, and the platform has been the subject of numerous Retro Scans of the Week. But I just realized that I had never posted a scan of an original Atari 400 or Atari 800 advertisement. So here you go. This is an early ad that hails from the launch of the system in November 1979.

I thought an Atari scan would be appropriate since I am celebrating the 40th anniversary of Atari a little early.

[ From BYTE Magazine, November 1979, p.15 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used an Atari 8-bit computer for anything other than games? Tell us about it.

Atari Oddities (40th Anniversary)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Atari Oddities Title Slide

Forty years ago this June, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari, Inc. — what a name, what a company. Even 40 years on, Atari looms like a giant shadow over all corners of video game history, and for good reason: its two founders launched the industry in 1971.

I thought I’d celebrate this 40-year milestone a little early with some Atari Oddities over at Technologizer. You’ll see obscure Atari products like a 1976 arcade digital camera, a light synthesizer, a dog-themed Pong cabinet, and more. Anyone with even a casual interest in Atari should enjoy it.

I’m jumping the gun on the anniversary, month-wise, because this will likely be the last piece I write for Technologizer. Its founder, Harry McCracken, has joined TIME as an editor, and Technologizer will cease to be an independent blog at the end of the month (the archives will live on, however).

[ Continue reading Atari Oddities (40th Anniversary) » ]

10 Classic Video Game Hacks Everyone Should Play

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

10 Classic Video Game Hacks Everyone Should Play

Fans of my old VC&G column Hacksterpiece Theatre will enjoy my new slideshow on that profiles 10 amazing classic video game ROM hacks. Not surprisingly, the piece is titled, 10 Classic Video Game Hacks Everyone Should Play.

I’m sure you can suggest some great hacks too, so I’d like to know — what are your favorite ROM hacks?

Benj Talks Piracy and History on Public Radio

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Why History Needs Software PiracyYesterday I made a live appearance on Word of Mouth, a show on New Hampshire Public Radio, talking about my recent piece, “Why History Needs Software Piracy.” You can listen to the audio of the interview online. The interview appeared at the top of the show and lasted about 9 minutes.

It was my first live radio interview, so I’m not sure if I made any sense. Even if I didn’t, you can check out the dulcet tones of my telephone speaking voice.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] F-15 Strike Eagle

Monday, February 6th, 2012

MicroProse F-15 Strike Eagle for Atari ST Ad - 1987When I grow up, I’d like to be a VMR (Valued MicroProse Retailer).

This week’s Retro Scan is another Sid Meier MicroProse classic (see my scan of Pirates! from last year) and one of history’s most famous combat flight simulator games. I remember trying F-15 Strike Eagle briefly years ago, but I soon gave up on it because I have never been much into flight simulators. What did you guys think about it?

[ From STart Atari ST Buyer’s Guide, Special Issue No. 1, 1987, p.2 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite combat flight simulator game of all time?