Archive for August, 2012

[ Fuzzy Memory ] C64 BBS Simulator Game

Tuesday, August 28th, 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

Richard writes:

My father’s birthday is fast approaching, and I want to find him one of his classic games from the Commodore 64. Unfortunately, the name has been lost in time and his fuzzy memory, though the details of it remain. He often remarks about the amazing depth given to characters in the game.

The plot was a mystery of some sort, set in various Bulletin Board Systems. Some clues would be several messages back in the board, and various NPCs would post messages to the board at key points in the story. When connecting to a board, it would slide in from right to left, and then wobble slightly as it stabilized. Apparently the game itself was very well built, apparently having rather good word recognition, allowing for normal-ish conversations.

Beyond that, I know very little about the game. Hopefully the you can help me out, I’d really like to see this game for myself, and I’m sure it would bring him a great deal of joy. Hopefully what I have will be enough.

Thanks for any help,

The Search Begins

It’s up to you to find the object of Richard’s fuzzy memory. Post any thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below. Richard 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.

The Chessmaster Died in 1997

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The ChessmasterThe Chessmaster (1916-1997)

This iconic wizened head loomed large over my childhood. It is the image of the Chessmaster, a fictional chess opponent who stars in a software series of the same name.

That series began way back in 1986 with The Chessmaster 2000, a comprehensive chess simulator that first appeared on 8-bit computer platforms like the Apple II, Atari 800, and Commodore 64. Published by The Software Toolworks, it spawned a series of at least 16 titles that quickly became the best-selling chess software franchise of all time.

Chessmaster 2000 Box ArtMy older brother always loved chess games, so I saw that aged face — a perennial feature of Chessmaster box art — many times throughout the 1980s and 1990s. I always wondered: who was the Chessmaster, really? Who was the real man behind that wise old face? Was he really that old or was he just wearing a wig?

Fast forward to 2006. Thinking I’d write about it on this blog, I emailed Ubisoft (the current publisher of The Chessmaster series) and asked them if they knew who portrayed the Chessmaster. Of course, they had no idea — institutional memory is sorely lacking in most tech companies, and it’s even worse in the software industry. Today I know better than to even bother asking.

Instead of tracking down everyone who worked on Chessmaster 2000 and interrogating them (although I considered it), I figured I’d bide my time and put the somewhat trivial issue on the back burner. The Internet has a way of consuming information and making it available to everyone online, so I thought the answer would pop up one day.

It did.

[ Continue reading The Chessmaster Died in 1997 » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] TRS-80 Color Computer 2

Monday, August 27th, 2012

TRS-80 Color Computer Operation Manual Cover - 1983Every instance of those 16 TRS-80 logos is trademarked, so hands off!

See also: Hot CoCo (2) for Christmas (2007)

[ From TRS-80 Color Computer 2 Operation Manual, 1983, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you owned a TRS-80 Color Computer (any model)? Tell us about it.

[ Snapshots ] Fixing an Apple IIc

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Behind the Scenes of SNES Plastic Discoloration ArticleExpert Apple IIc repair by Ulaf Silchov (November 2007)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] This Scrape’s For You

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Sega Saturn World Series Baseball 98 1998 Advertisement - 1997World Series Baseball 98 for the Sega Saturn

I’ve written about gratuitous and graphic video game advertising of the 1990s more than a few times over the years, but I never get tired of revisiting this wildly bombastic era in consumer marketing.

Here we see a nice ad for World Series Baseball 98 for the Sega Saturn, complete with front-and-center forearm scrape. I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to play baseball. Injury sells.

See Also: Broken Tetrisphere Teeth (2010)
See Also: Super Mario World 2 (2009)

[ From GamePro, October 1997, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Would a graphic ad like this make you more or less likely to play a certain video game?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Age of Data Entry

Monday, August 13th, 2012

IMS International 5000 IS Desktop Mainframe Advertisement - 1983The IMS 5000IS: Your Key to Office Neck Pain

It’s almost amusing to recall the days when secretarial computer work mostly involved data entry and/or printing. (In this case, data entry inspired the neck-cramping computer setup seen here.) Both of those activities were designed to bridge the world of the computer and the world of paper.

By the mid-1990s, the introduction of low-cost scanners paired with optical character recognition (OCR) software helped relieve the tedium of typing in paper-bound data by hand.

Today, such scanning happens far less frequently, as most text-based data originates in the computer space to begin with. And many times it stays there, too: office workers regularly publish data electronically to the Internet or share it over local networks and email, making routine printing (and routine data entry) far more uncommon tasks in the year 2012 than they were in the 1990s.

See Also: The Too-Personal Computer (2010)

[ From Interface Age, May 1983, p.90 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Was there ever a time when you were forced to do lots of manual data entry? Tell us about it.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] King Kong’s Super Game Boy

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Nintendo Super Game Boy King Kong Gorilla Hand Ad - 1994Gaming fun in the palm of your gigantic hand.

For me personally, the Super Game Boy (1994) was one of the most exciting video game peripherals ever released. It liberated Game Boy games from that unit’s blurry, dark screen, opening up a whole new world of gaming to those who preferred gaming on a TV set.

The fact that it also included a remake / extension of Donkey Kong, one of my favorite games of olde, made it a must-buy. I still remember the day I got it — my family drove to a local shopping mall, and I decided to stay in the car playing Donkey Kong on the Game Boy (even though not in color) instead of going inside. I haven’t been that excited about a new game in a long time.

(By the way, I first talked about the Super Game Boy in an early Retro Scan way back in March 2006.)

[ From Nintendo Power, August 1994, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you first get a Super Game Boy? Did you have any Super Game Boy enhanced games for it?

My Week with the Commodore 64 (30th Anniversary)

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

My Week with the Commodore 64

Thirty years ago, Commodore Business Machines released the Commodore 64, an 8-bit home computer that served up early computer experiences for millions of users around the world. By some estimates, the little brown wonder sold as many as 17 million units during its 12 year lifespan, which means there are a lot of C64 fans out there.

In honor of both the machine and its fans, I recently locked myself in a room with the vintage machine for a week to put it through its paces and see if I could use it as a work machine. In the process, I tested it as a word processor, game console, and even used it to send a few tweets. I did it all with vintage hardware and software, so you’ll find no Ethernet adapters or SD card drives here.

If, while reading, you feel anything is missing, that’s because my article got quite a chopping — I did so much in my week with the C64 that the full report on my activities was way too long for publication. For example, sections on GEOS, my pirated disk collection, and more were dropped. Perhaps those will show up somewhere else in the future.

Still, the result should be quite a fun read for any vintage computing fan. I hope you enjoy it.