Archive for December, 2010

Floppy disk sticky notes

December 9th, 2010 2:05 PM
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Shopping for the Apple II user in your life? For less than $100, you can get a Uthernet network card, a Focus IDE interface card, every issue of Softdisk G-S ever. Each of these is a significant and invaluable gift — but you may want to pick up something smaller and simpler from a mainstream retail outlet to stuff in a stocking.

For that need, I recommend floppy disk sticky notes.

Floppy disk sticky notes

Image courtesy Burak Kaynak

This unique stationery is designed Burak Kanyak with attention to authentic detail. Whereas standard Post-it notes measure 3" square, these pads, like actual floppy disks, measure 3.625" tall and 3.5" wide, replicating the look and feel of when being able to hold 800K of data meant not needing three 5.25" disks. Each of the pack's three pads has fifty sheets, providing ample opportunity to leave 150 floppy notes and labels in your home, work, vehicle, or wherever a gentle reminder is needed, at an average cost of less than ten cents each (plus shipping).

For a retrocomputing enthusiast who still relies on this ancient medium, these notes are the perfect gift — as long as they don't end up accidentally inserted into a floppy drive!

(Hat tip to TheDieline.com and Jason Scott)

A computer history tour with Woz

December 6th, 2010 10:49 AM
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The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, will unveil in January 2011 an exhibit entitled "Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing". The press got a sneak peek last week, with their tour guide being a historical figure himself: no less than Steve Wozniak.

Imagine what an experience that must've been! Seeing the computers that launched an industry and revolutionized a world, described by the man who was there to make it happen. Such narration should be captured and offered as an audio tour to future visitors of the museum.

Fortunately, this rare experience was documented by the many journalists in attendance. Harry McCracken of Technologizer.com took several photos, focusing more on his tour guide than on the exhibit himself. Along the way, Woz commented on several computers that influenced his design of the Apple II, even stopping to pose with some of his own creations that are included in the museum.

As the group walked among machines capable of so little compared to today's computing behemoths, McCracken observed that Woz "again and again … came back to praising engineering minimalism — accomplishing a task with the fewest possible parts and the simplest possible code." It's a design philosophy that I expect is shared among many Apple II developers to this day. For example, in an interview with Juiced.GS in December 2009, Alex Freed of Carte Blanche fame said, "Electronic design is my day job and I work with considerably more advanced devices, but some ideas from the Apple II days are still valid. For example, I always try to find a way to use minimum hardware to do the job."

For the Mercury News, David Cassidy provided more prose than photos and was more reflective than reportorial, wondering if Steve Wozniak isn't more deserving of the fame and adoration that is normally heaped upon Apple's other co-founder, Steve Jobs.

And Robert Scoble has a 360-degree panoramic photograph taken as Woz was presenting before an original Apple-1.

UPDATE: Therese Poletti shares this video from the tour:

UPDATE 2: Mark Milian at CNN also has a video:

UPDATE 3: Peter Watson pointed me to this series of videos from ZDNet:

Woz seems to be everywhere these days, but one has to make onself available to such opportunities. The Computer History Museum is one of many historical sites throughout Silicon Valley that I would be thrilled to see. My employer, Computerworld, has its offices in Framingham, Massachusetts, about an hour west of Boston. But we're affiliated with both PC World and Macworld, which make their home in San Francisco. Computerworld has at least one employee in that location, and I can't help but think that maybe it'd be mutually beneficial for me to be the second.

The music of the ImageWriter

December 2nd, 2010 7:16 PM
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Chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original melodies — is not a new phenomenon … but the creativity of artists seeking to use classic computers to produce these tunes never ceases to amaze me.

An example I recently stumbled across is by Man or Astro-man?, a surf rock group founded in Alabama in 1992 and reunited in 2010. Their 2000 album A Spectrum of Infinite Scale features a track entitled "A Simple Text File". Although Man or Astro-man? is not a chiptune band, their music video for this piece is something any Apple II user can be proud of:

What makes this piece so imaginative is that it's essentially a self-playing piece of hardware; once initiated, it requires no software or human intervention. Granted, the hardware featured above received its print command from a piece of software, but the result is more reliant on the hardware than on user input, making it an entirely different kind of creativity from that of, say, 8 Bit Weapon, who acquired and remastered Michael J. Mahon's Apple II DMS music software to help them get the most out of their instruments. It's two equally dedicated approaches to delighting the retrocomputing enthusiast.

For a less Apple II-centric example of musical hardware, check out this rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", performed by an Adaptec 2940UW SCSI card, a TI-99/4A with tape drive, an HP ScanJet 3C, and an Eico oscilloscope, among other pieces of equipment:

Which of these performances would you buy tickets to see?

(Hat tip to Stavros Karatsoridis and Shark Bait)