Archive for the ‘Retrocomputing’ Category

Years of Radio Shack catalogs, all scanned for our browsing enjoyment. I remember these well, especially the pages full of electronic games, TRS-80’s, and those cute little Pocket Computers.

Radio Shack Catalogs

Requires Flash to view.

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A nifty series of photos from the Chicago Tribune featuring cutting-edge futuristic technology that had to wait a while before it made the impact the inventors hoped.

High-tech once upon a time — chicagotribune.com

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Bionic typewriter

A labor of love to hack an antique Smith-Corona manual typerwriter to function as a computer keyboard.

Man, lookat all them wires.

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This article about The Birth of the Notebook computer has been doing the rounds lately. It’s a pretty good overview of how portable computers have evolved over the decades.

It’s also interesting to see how these computers were seen at the time they were introduced. Were they seen as useful machines or hopeless compromises? Trailblazers or dead ends? To that end, here are a few magazine articles on various machines mentioned in the article:

via Boing Boing and Slashdot and ArsTechnica and lots of other places.

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Japanese is a really complex language, especially when written. Japanese in the Age of Technology explains the ongoing challenges presented by a writing systems that have thousands of characters and multiple scripts to deal with.

As a geek, Part 5, about the development of the first Japanese language typewriters and word processors, is especially interesting. In order to be practical (and usable) the designers had to solve some difficult problems. The first wapro was a dedicated desk-sized computer system that had to incorporate rudiments of what we would consider to be spell checking, grammar checking, and real-time translation. All back in in 1978.

via Boing Boing

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Link: Would you pay $18,853.44 for an Atari Cosmos? – Engadget – www.engadget.com.

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Hey Hey 16k!

A groovy little flash animation celebrating the many joys of 80’s microcomputing, British style:
Hey Hey 16k

(includes closed-captioning for the accent-impaired. MP3’s and lyrics here!)

UPDATE: Having no inclination to go do something useful, I now present the Annotated Edition of this post:

Computers mentioned in this song:

  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum – Color sucessor to the ZX-81 and tremendously popular. Most of the screenshots in the music video are from the Spectrum, complete with the distinctive blocks-o-color effect. Many popular Spectrum games were adapted for the C64. The floating face that pops up near the end of the video is Sir Clive Sinclair, the genius behind these computers.
  • Sinclair ZX 81 – Together with it’s predecessor it was inexpensive enough to make computing affordable for a whole new group of curious Brits. Also sold as the first sub-$100 computer in the US.
  • Dragon – The British cousins of Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Color Computer series.
  • VIC – Color sucessor to the Commodore PET series, and later the little brother to the C64. (The VIC-20 was my own first computer.)
  • Oric 1 – Competitor to the Spectrum. Oric was never a factor in the US.
  • Commodore 64 – One of the most popular computers ever, on either side of the Atlantic.
  • Amstrad – Never a competitor in the US, but very popular in the UK
  • Acorn Electron, cheaper BBC Micro – The BBC Micro and a cheaper mass-market spinoff. The BBC Micro was created as a standard machine to accompany the BBC’s educational TV shows. There was nothing quite like it over here. This site has tons of information.

And the games:

(links found via the awesome World of Spectrum)

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A Gallery of GUIs

Back in the olden days there were lots of GUI and pseudo-GUI interfaces for all sorts of of platforms. Some of them were fairly nice, but most of them sucked. Which is probably why they aren’t around anymore. You can revisit the Ghosts of User Interfaces Past at the Graphical User Interface Gallery.

Let’s see, of the older GUIs he profiles, I’ve used:

  • GEOS (the C64 and the later PC version)
  • Desqview (the text-based version)
  • Amiga Workbench v1 and 2
  • OS/2
  • Windows 3.0

There are probably a few other that I’ve forgotten about.

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Ah, the memories. The VIC was my first computer. Compared to the neighbor’s Atari 800 it’s graphics were rather primitive, but it was much nicer than the creaky TRS-80 Model III’s at school.

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Virtual Apple

Virtual Apple 2 – Online disk archive

Ah, there’s nothing quite like those chunky four-color graphics. This site lets you play a whole slew of Apple II games using an ActiveX based emulator. (I could only get it to work in IE, but I really didn’t try that hard.) Lots of fun, even if the joystick emulation is a bit weird.

I never had an Apple when I was growing up (I was a Commodore kid). A friend of my mom’s had an Apple II with a monochrome monitor set up in his living room when we went to visit one year. I remember playing an RPG and, since I had no clue what I was doing I spend most of my time dying. It was the first game of that type I’d ever seen.

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