Archive for April, 2012

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Visual 102 Terminal

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Visual 102 Terminal Ad - 1984The Visual 102 Graphics Terminal

[ From BYTE Magazine, April 1984, p.56 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a serial terminal with graphics capabilities (and actually used it with graphics)? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Surfin’ The Net!

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

PopSci for Kids September-October 1995 CoverOuch. Get off my hand, you tiny mounted knight.

Few magazine covers represent the playful optimism of the early Internet craze years like this cover of PopSci for Kids from 1995. Before the public understood what the Internet really meant, it was up to journalists (who usually didn’t know either) to tell them. This resulted in lots of visual hyperbole (see children happily trapped inside a computer above) and colorful metaphors like “surfin’ the net” to convey the energy and potential of something that, in reality, looked rather mundane on the screen.

Did these whimsical and exaggerated media tactics succeed? I think so, because that little thing called The Internet became much more popular than even journalists in 1995 could imagine. There is no doubt that the media played a large part in popularizing the global computer network in its early public years.

[ From PopSci for Kids, September/October 1995, cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the first time you surfed the ‘Net? Did you feel like you were actually surfing on a digital surf board made of ones and zeros?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn’t Evil

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Why Electronic Arts is Committed to the Amiga Ad - 19851980s breakthroughs in workplace ergonomics led to this optimal seating position.

Long before the gaming public considered Electronic Arts the worst company in America, EA made its name as a creative haven that valued its talent.

No, really.

EA went out of its way to convey a developer-friendly image in its early years, prominently featuring designers’ names in the company’s box art and marketing materials. Gamers bought into it, in large part, because EA developed and published some of the most advanced and highly regarded early home computer games of their time (think Archon, M.U.L.E., The Seven Cities of Gold, etc.). EA must have been doing something right.

Of course, things changed over the years. From a personal standpoint, I remember when public sentiment seemed to turn against Electronic Arts in the mid-1990s after it acquired legendary development house Origin (most famous for the Ultima series) and proceeded to drive it directly into the ground. Origin would not be the last highly regarded game development firm to suffer this fate at the hands of EA.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] When EA Wasn’t Evil » ]

Jack Tramiel (1928-2012)

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Jack Tramiel RIPIn Memoriam: Jack Tramiel (1928-2012)
Founder of Commodore, ex-CEO of Atari Corp.

Windows 3.1 Turns 20

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Windows 3.1 - Twenty Years Later at PC World

Twenty years ago this month, Microsoft released version 3.1 of its famous Windows operating system. At the time, however, Windows could not stand alone as a true OS by itself. Instead, it served as a sophisticated graphical shell that ran on top of command line MS-DOS.

Windows 3.1 introduced many innovations to the Windows product line, including TrueType fonts, baked-in multimedia support, and even the first appearance of the dreaded Windows Registry (really!).

In celebration of this anniversary, I produced a slideshow outlining some of Windows 3.1’s most important improvements and features for PC World. If nothing else, the custom screenshots should serve as a trip down memory lane for many folks. I hope you enjoy it.

Read “Windows 3.1: Twenty Years Later” at

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Grand Prix Hair

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Accolade Grand Prix Circuit Ad - 1988This makes me want to watch Top Gun for some reason.

This magazine ad for Accolade’s Grand Prix Circuit (1988) reminds us of a time when folks were less kind to their hair — and when sunglasses engulfed half of your face.

It also reminds me of how wonderful it was when racing games switched to polygon-based graphics. If any video game genre benefited most from the shift from sprites to 3D polygons, it was racing. I mourned the loss of 2D pixel art in just about every game style except racing games, where the freedom of movement afforded by 3D environments heralded a new dawn for the genre.

[ From Compute’s Gazette for Commodore Users, December 1988, p.2 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What did your hair look like in the 1980s? Bonus points if you can link to a 1980s photo of yourself!

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] TRS-80 Model 100 Video

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 Disk-Video Interface Ad - 1984You can’t tell from the photo, but this table is actually 200 feet wide.

Since I bought my first Model 100 over a decade ago, I’ve always wanted the TRS-80 Model 100 Disk/Video Interface (a device we see here in this 1984 advertisement) to go with it. The interface not only allows you to hook your Model 100 to a TV set or monitor (80 x 25 text display!) but it also provides two floppy disk drives on which you can store your data.

In other words, that’s quite an expansion for a computer with an 8 x 40 character display and minimal RAM-based user storage that loses its contents with battery failure. It essentially converts the Model 100 — which is a light, portable machine — into a desktop PC.

[ From BYTE Magazine, April 1984, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever set up a desktop computer on your kitchen table? Tell us about it.