[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tandy Memorex VIS

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Tandy Memorex Video Information System VIS - Tiger Electronics Catalog - 1995CD-ROM ON YOUR MOTHER LOVIN’ TV!!

Back in 2009, I made a list of the worst video game systems of all time for PC World, and the Tandy Memorex Video Information System (1992) was #2 on the list.

Six years later, I am not fond of dishing out bad vibes toward any game console. But the VIS was indeed an underwhelming commercial product.

And honestly, calling the VIS a video game console is a stretch. As more of a multimedia appliance than a straight up “video game system,” its lineage lay half-way between game machine and general purpose PC. Its designers intended it to run educational software as frequently as games.

For fans of odd an interesting systems, the VIS definitely stands out. Under the hood, it sported a modified PC architecture based on an Intel 286 CPU and a custom embedded version of Windows called “Modular Windows.” In addition, the VIS allowed storing data on removable memory cards that plugged into the front of the console (a feature that, in game consoles, arrived second only to the Neo Geo, I believe).

Of course, ever since I saw this section of a 1995 Tiger Software catalog (Tiger had apparently bought up a clearance stock of the machines — see also this scan of the Jaguar CD in a Tiger catalog), I wanted a VIS regardless of its faults. While I have used them before — including some in-store demos at Radio Shack — I still do not have one in my collection.

[ From Tiger Software CD-ROM Buyer’s Guide – Vol. V Issue 6, 1995, p.56 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you own any CD-based game consoles from the multimedia console era? (i.e. CD-i, VIS, 3DO, CDTV, Jaguar CD)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Connectix VideoPhone

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Connectix VideoPhone video chat software QuickCam advertisement - 1996Even black and white was amazing once

Once upon a time, companies tried to achieve video phone calls using non-networked, proprietary point-to-point devices such as the AT&T VideoPhone 2500 (RSOTW, 2010) — almost all of which utilized traditional telephone lines or ISDN.

Then the Internet came along and blew the field wide open. Suddenly, video chat could happen over any data transfer medium that supported TCP/IP, and it could be routed around the world to any node on the Internet. Connectix’s VideoPhone software (circa 1995) was one of the first consumer video chat products to take advantage of the Internet. Using the software and the company’s QuickCam digital camera (arguably the world’s first webcam), folks could video conference all over the world — albeit in black and white.

For more on the history of video phones and video chat, check out this piece I created for Technologizer back in 2010.

[ From Internet World – February 1996, inside front cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When was the first time you ever made a video call or did video chat?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Space Bucks

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Sierra Space Bucks advertisement - 1995So now we’ve entered the 3D font era.

I’ve never played Sierra’s Space Bucks, but it looks like a fascinating strategy game. I was a big fan of SunDog: Frozen Legacy on the Atari ST, so I’m a sucker for any game that shows the inside of your spaceship from a top-down view (even if only in a non-functional splash screen). Has anyone out there played it?

(As an aside, when I started this blog in 2005, I could just say “I’ve never played this game, does anyone out there know anything about it?” And get away with it. That’s because very little game info was out there; Wikipedia had very few video and computer game entries — especially obscure ones — and MobyGames was incomplete. Now I have no excuse for not looking it up myself. And what do you know: here’s a Wikipedia entry on Space Bucks, first created in 2012.)

I have this feeling that most Windows games from the 1995 era slipped through the cracks and were mostly forgotten. It’s my impression that not many people played early games created for Windows 95 and late-period games made for Windows 3.11. Maybe it’s because the IBM PC world was in the middle of a big transition from MS-DOS / Win 3.11 to Windows 95. I remember still buying MS-DOS games well into 1997, for example.

[ From Computer Gaming World – September 1995, p.55]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the earliest game you bought that ran exclusively on Windows 95/98?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Saturn Manual Cover

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Sega Saturn Instruction Manual Cover - 1995The Saturn: No Connectors Required

Why am I showing you the cover of the Sega Saturn manual but not the manual itself? Because I can — ha ha ha!

Such power.

That, and I like the photo.

[ From Sega Saturn Instruction Manual, 1995, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s the best Saturn-exclusive title?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Virtual Boy Wasteland

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Nintendo Virtual Boy Wasteland advertisement- 1995Virtual Boy: The #1 video game console on Mars.

When the Virtual Boy first launched in 1995, I rented the console (yep, the whole console) and a few games from my local Blockbuster store. Prior to that time, I don’t remember Blockbuster offering any other systems for rent; I think it was a joint effort with Nintendo to get the novel machine into people’s hands to try it out. (Later, I also rented a Nintendo 64 and a PlayStation from Blockbuster. But I digress.)

In fact, here are some early digital photos of that Virtual Boy rental, courtesy of my Snappy Video Snapshot. The first, dated 8/29/95, shows one of my cats sleeping in the plastic hard case the Virtual Boy arrived in when rented from Blockbuster. The second shows the Virtual Boy sitting alone on a stool in my room, and the third (dated 8/30/1995) shows my friend playing the Virtual Boy.

Virtual Boy Snappy Shots

The Virtual Boy was an interesting experience — not exactly mind-blowing, but neat. Its display was all red, all the time, but with stereoscopic 3D. I remember that it seemed expensive (MSRP of $179.99, which is $275.26 today when adjusted for inflation), and I remember thinking that if it only cost less, it could be successful.

But as we now know, the Virtual Boy failed to take off. Nintendo killed it the same year it launched in Japan, and the company pulled the plug in the US the following year. At that time I bought a Virtual Boy new in the box on clearance at Toys’R’Us for $30. I still have it; in fact it’s sitting next to me as I write this. Wario Land ranks among my favorite games for the system, and I always wished that this odd 3D console had lived long enough to receive a proper Super Mario Bros. title.

Why did the Virtual Boy fail? I wrote about some of the reasons in this 2009 article on Game Console Design Mistakes for Technologizer. I also briefly analyzed the Virtual Boy for my History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming slideshow for PC World in 2011.

In some ways, it’s a shame that the system died so early, but in absolute business terms, its early demise made perfect sense. The Virtual Boy was an odd machine without broad appeal — one of Nintendo’s rare flops — but it makes for a heck of a video game collector’s item today as a result.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.8-9]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played the Virtual Boy? What’s your favorite game for the system?

See Also: Virtual Boy Vortex (RSOTW, 2012)
See Also: The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming (PC World, 2011)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Sega Genesis Sega Channel advertisement - 1995“Get hooked in.”

Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.

Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.

When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn’t get to try it out myself.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.39 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Capcom’s First PC CD-ROM

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Mega Man X CD-ROM advertisement - 1995Digging up video games in a mall ashtray

I was a huge fan of Mega Man X when it first came out on the Super NES in 1993.

…Well, I rented it, anyway, and I played it more than any other side-scrolling Mega Man game before or since. I loved finding the secret Hadoken fireball power up, which I read about in Nintendo Power.

Much to my present-day surprise (even though I owned this magazine when it was new), Capcom produced a version of Mega Man X for the PC, and on a CD-ROM no less. Has anyone out there played it? I’m wondering if the adaptation was any good.

[ P.S. Shortly after writing this entry, I tracked down a warez copy of Mega Man X for the PC, and it’s surprisingly well done. However, its utilization of MIDI music provides for a pretty surreal Mega Man experience — surreal in the sense that the tunes generally sound horrible compared to MM games that are famous for their music. ]

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite Mega Man game of all time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Fixing My ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 on the Bedroom Floor, 1995

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Benj Edwards bedroom floor in 1995 Colecovision Atari 5200 Polaroid Scan - 1995The carpet pretty much looked like that even when it was clean.

Here’s a retro-flavored Polaroid instant photo I took of my bedroom floor some point in 1995. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and I had just received a stack of Beatles CDs (upper center-left) the previous Christmas — along with my first CD player, integrated in boombox form, which can be seen seen in the upper right portion of the photo.

But I’m not posting this photo because of Beatles CDs. On the floor sit a number of retrogaming consoles and accessories: to the left is an Atari 5200 console, and in the lower right you can see a ColecoVision and the corner of an Intellivision. There are also a few Atari joysticks, a copy of Yars’ Revenge for the 2600, and three copies of Intellivision Donkey Kong.

[ Continue reading [ Retro Scan of the Week ] Fixing My ColecoVision Expansion Module #1 on the Bedroom Floor, 1995 » ]

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Virtual Boy Vortex

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Nintendo Virtual Boy Promotional Ad from Nintendo Power - 1995Virtual Boy: Eating Mario’s face since 1995. (Artwork © David Julian)

[Update (03/05/2018): The illustrator of this image contacted me via email and asked me to add a copyright credit. His name is David Julian, and you can see more of his work on his personal website.

[ From Nintendo Power, November 1995, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever felt sick while playing a video game in 3D?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Welcome to eWorld

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Apple eWorld Online Service Advertisement - 1995The time Apple went AOL.

In the lost era between Jobs (1985-1996), Apple produced many strange and ill-fated products. Here we see an ad for eWorld, Apple’s subscription dial-up online service that launched in June 1994.

eWorld offered proprietary features like message forums, email, weather, news, and other information in a fashion similar to CompuServe, Prodigy, or AOL. It also provided an early consumer portal to the Internet.

Due to its high price ($8.95 per month plus $7.90 per hour from 6 AM to 6 PM on weekdays), poor marketing, and the fact that the World Wide Web was breathing down its neck, eWorld never really took off. Apple shut down the service in March 1996.

By the way, Happy New Year!

[ From Discover, May 1995, p.27 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use a subscription online service? Which one(s)?