Archive for the ‘Mainstream coverage’ Category

The Apple II is everywhere, as evidenced by these reports.

Apple II animated GIF

June 18th, 2018 7:19 PM
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There are many efforts being made to capture the design and aesthetic of early modern computers. The Vanamo Online Game Museum produces high-resolution, public-domain photos of vintage hardware; Charles Mangin creates 3D-printed miniature replicas; and Steve Weyhrich adapted the Apple II into a Minecraft structure.

All these facsimiles are, for the most part, static: once produced, they don't move or change. James Ball pursued a more dynamic form of art with his recent online exhibit, "I am a computer". His medium of choice: the GIF.

Like Vanamo, Mangin, and Weyhrich, Ball began with a physical models by photographing sixteen computers at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. He then adapted those photos into his own stylized, animated art.

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Wrote Ball:

'I am a computer' celebrates the visual character of desktop computing machines from a colourless period in industrial design.

From word processors and video terminals, to the very first desktop personal computers, these compact machines heralded a beige age, a period of microcomputing from the the 1970s and early 80s when design standards had conformed to realise a palette of neutral coloured machines throughout offices and later the home.

Any new way to depict an old computer is a welcome one. My thanks to Ball for including the Apple II in his gallery!

(Hat tip to Matthew Gault)

Ready Player One's Richard Garriott inspiration

June 11th, 2018 1:01 PM
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Ready Player One was my favorite novel of 2011, providing a dystopian cyberpunk adventure targeted at geeks who grew up immersed in 1980s pop culture. I've since recognized the book's problematic elements with gatekeeping, transphobia, and fan service without substance … yet I still can't help but be fascinated by all the elements author Ernest Cline wove into his narrative.

With Ready Player One's recent adaptation to film, audiences are discovering anew the Oasis, the fictional virtual world created by James Halliday (played by Sir Mark Rylance), a virtuoso computer programmer who sets himself up as the massively multiplayer online role-playing game's benevolent (but absent) god. Many of Halliday's (and thus Cline's) favorite games make appearances in Ready Player One, and in this new WIRED interview, Cline details each and every game in the movie — with one in particular being of interest to Apple II users.

Turns out one of the Apple II's own played a major role in the story:

Akalabeth is one of the first attempts by a computer programmer to translate the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons into a computer game. It was created by Richard Garriott, who also helped serve as the inspiration for James Halliday. Richard Garriot is a famous video game designer from Austin, Texas, where I live, who has an alter-ego: his Dungeons & Dragons and game avatar called Lord British. He would dress up as Lord British in public at press events and things. He eventually ended up using his video-game money to travel into space and go on the International Space Station. He was really an inspiration to me as like a geek with unlimited funds and what could be accomplished. So he and Howard Hughes helped inspire James Halliday in my book. And his game, Akalabeth, and the games that followed it: Ultima I, II, III, IV, and then Ultima Online, the first MMO, those all helped inspire the Oasis in my novel.

While Garriott was directly referenced in the book, I didn't pick up any mentions in the movie. Little did I know that an entire, integral character was based on Lord British himself!

(Hat tip to Hades Kong via WTF Dragon)

Stephen Hawking, Richard Garriott and the Apple II

March 19th, 2018 9:21 AM
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The average intelligence of the human race dropped last week with the passing of Dr. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who conducted groundbreaking research into black holes, general relativity, and quantum gravity — none of which he may have been able to communicate without the Apple II.

The text-to-speech program that became synonymous with the renowned scientist was founded on the Apple II, as reported Wired in 2014:

Equalizer first ran on an Apple II computer linked to a speech synthesiser made by a company called Speech Plus. This system was then adapted by David Mason, the engineer husband of one of Hawking's nurses [Elaine Mason, whom Hawking would later marry], to a portable system that could be mounted on one of the arms of a wheelchair. With this new system, Hawking was able to communicate at a rate of 15 words per minute.

Hawking [became] very attached to his voice: in 1988, when Speech Plus gave him the new synthesiser, the voice was different so he asked them to replace it with the original. His voice had been created in the early 80s by MIT engineer Dennis Klatt, a pioneer of text-to-speech algorithms. He invented the DECtalk, one of the first devices to translate text into speech.

His trademark voice wasn't Dr. Hawking's only intersection with the Apple II over the years. He became friends with Richard Garriott, the intrepid explorer whose legendary role-playing games, Akalabeth and Ultima, took many an armchair adventurer into realms unknown. Garriott was likewise accompanied by Dr. Hawking on some extraordinary exploits: the two flew together in a "zero-g" flight in 2007.

Dr. Hawking's passing coincided with the annual media festival SXSW, prompting a programming change to accommodate a remembrance to the late physicist, "A SXSW Tribute to Stephen Hawking with Stories from Richard Garriott, Karl Gebhardt and Stephen Wolfram".

The world is poorer for the loss of Dr. Stephen Hawking — but Dr. Hawking and the Apple II community were richer for having known each other.

(Hat tips to Steve Weyhrich, Cult of Mac, India Today, iNews, and Spectrum Local News)

What Remains of Edith Finch

January 15th, 2018 10:29 AM
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After investing hundreds of hours playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I needed something smaller and more narrative-driven to cleanse the palate. A game I'd long had on my to-play list was What Remains of Edith Finch, an indie game that takes only 2–3 hours to complete. My friend Susan had called it one of her favorite games of 2017, so I booted my PlayStation 4 and played it through.

The game is a series of vignettes told from the first-person perspective of various ancestors in the Finch family across the last century. As such, it is set in different eras, and their house is redecorated each time to match the period. Naturally, this put me on the lookout for an Apple II computer, which can be an obvious visual signifier of one's setting. And although I did find a desktop computer, it was an unidentifiable, generic machine.

I finished the game sad for this missed opportunity and watched the credits crawl.

But wait — what was that?!

What Remains of Edith Finch

Each developer is represented in the credits by an actual photo from their childhood… and lead artist Brandon Martynowicz is featured with his Apple II! I thought it might be a IIe, which would've been era-appropriate: looking at Martynowicz's LinkedIn résumé, I'd estimate him to have been born around 1982, and he appears 2–2½ years old in this photo, putting it at 1985, two years after the IIe's debut. But Steve Weyhrich clarified: "The badge should be on the left if it was a IIe. They keyboard is much more Apple II/II Plus-ish, particularly the power light by itself on the left. My guess would be either a II/II Plus with some other sticker to the left of the regular badge, or a clone with a different badge."

Martynowicz left Edith Finch developer Giant Sparrow in February 2017, two months before the game's debut. He now works at Riot Games, developer of the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends, inspired by Warcraft III. It's unlikely we'll see his Apple II in that fantasy setting… but I'm glad he worked it into as fitting a game as Edith Finch!

Christmas lights

December 25th, 2017 4:52 PM
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Merry Christmas! What better time of year to decorate your abode with gratuitous displays of light and sound. It's become tradition for creative homeowners to design increasingly elaborate audio/visual performances, synchronizing music with flashing luminescence.

Such showmanship has been around as long as personal computers have enabled them. A recent story in WIRED interviews the artists behind several such displays, including one who attributes the trend to the Apple II:

The craze began in the 1980s with pioneers like Chuck Smith of Franklin, Tennessee, who linked his Christmas lights to an Apple II in the garage. "I was on the bloody cutting edge of this and I didn’t even know it," he says.

Beyond this article, I can't find any online references to Chuck Smith or his Apple II-powered holiday displays, nor videos of same. I'm curious to know how author Graham Hacia, making his WIRED debut with this byline, tracked down this early adopter. In the meantime, if anyone has examples of other Christmas lights that connected to the Apple II, I'd love to hear about them — please share in the comments below!

Stranger Things teaser on the Apple II

November 6th, 2017 4:26 PM
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The next Star Wars movie is a bit more than a month out, but fans aren't waiting for its release to create art inspired by the film. In July, Wahyu "Pinot" Ichwandardi remade the trailer for The Last Jedi on an Apple II. The monochromatic, cinematic result was a sight to see.

Not content to develop this workflow and then apply it only once, Pinot has returned to his 8-bit medium to create yet another trailer. This time, it's for the small screen as he re-imagines the teaser for the second season of the Netflix series Stranger Things.

For reference, here is the original teaser:

Stranger Things is a horror series set in the 1980s, with generous allusions and actors from that era. Reviews have often described it as a lost show that looks like it was created in the 1980s and is being discovered just now. As such, it's fitting that the Apple II would be the medium of choice to create its teaser.

To do so, Pinot once again returned to his Apple IIc and Dazzle Draw, as detailed on Twitter.

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