Archive for the ‘Mainstream coverage’ Category

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

Say goodbye to Tekserve

May 23rd, 2016 8:56 AM
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When my father brought home our first Apple II, it came from Computer Systems & Software, an authorized Apple dealer. Back then, this was one of the only ways to get an Apple product: there was no online ordering, few mail-order opportunities, and definitely no Apple Stores, which didn't debut until 2001.

When Apple opened its first retail stores, doing so cut out the middleman — small businessmen such as the proprietor of Computer Systems & Software. That competition, combined with the advent of Internet sales, made it difficult for mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar shops to stay in business. It was unpleasant but unexpected when CS&S closed up shop some time ago.

The next victim appears to be one of CS&S's contemporaries. Tekserve has served New York City since 1987, providing sales and service to consumers and businesses alike. And while Tekserve will continue to exist, its quaint retail outlet — featuring not only classic computers, but "ancient radios, an antique Coke machine… massive old RCA microphones… and a stereoscope with hundreds of photographs" may soon be closing shop.

As reported by Jeremiah Moss, Tekserve will be reducing or eliminating its consumer retail presence this fall. They will continue to sell and service products for small- and medium-sized business clients, so the company as a whole is not going away. But a lot of employees, services, and artifacts are likely to disappear as a result of this transition.

I visited Tekserve in 2012 and received a behind-the-scenes tour, resulting in the below photo gallery. It's a damn fine place with a heritage of and respect for Apple products — including the Apple II — that you don't often find. If you can visit the store before their September transition, please do.

(Hat tip to Jason Scott)

Volkswagen's EPA source code

February 22nd, 2016 9:21 AM
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A year ago, Jalopnik published the story "Autonomous Cars Will Rob Us Of Our Freedom To Be Unproductive", showing a motorist using an Apple II behind the wheel. The unlikely choice of computer could be attributed to the article's author, Jason Torchinsky, a well-known Apple II enthusiast. If you can work any computer into your writing, why not choose your favorite?

This past October, Jason upped his game. "The EPA May Have Found A Second Secret Defeat Device In Diesel VWs" revealed that Volkswagen may have rigged their vehicles to past certain environmental quality tests. Here's the picture Jason used, Apple III and all:

Volkswagen EPA hack

But Jason took it one step further by revealing the source code Volkswagen used to cheat the Environmental Protection Agency:


10 REM SECRET CHEAT CODE #2 STARTS HERE
20 PR#2: REM SET OUTPUT TO INTERNAL CENTER STACK SCREEN
30 PRINT "ARE YOU CURRENTLY TESTING EMISSIONS FOR THE EPA? HIT HORN FOR 'YES', TAP BRAKE FOR 'NO'" : INPUT A$
40 IF A$="HORN" THEN EM$="YES"
50 IF A$="BRAKE" THEN EM$="NO"
60 IF EM$="YES" THEN POKE 232, 64: REM TURNS CLEAN EMISSIONS ON
70 IF EM$="NO" THEN POKE 232, 0: REM GO AHEAD AND RUN IT DIRTY
80 END

Not only are the cars dirty, but so's the code: a more elegant hack could be written in half as many lines. But given that it's likely been decades since any Jalopnik reader saw Applesoft BASIC, it's impressive that Jason got away with including any code at all!

(Hat tip to Jayson Elliot)

Erasing the Apple II

December 14th, 2015 11:31 AM
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Filed under Mainstream coverage, Steve Wozniak;
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We all know the history of Apple Computer Inc. (now Apple Inc.), and how its first products were the Apple-1 and Apple II, designed primarily by Steve Wozniak. The Apple II was the company's cash cow up to and well after the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, as has been documented in interviews with John Sculley and represented in films such as Steve Jobs.

While Woz laid the foundation for Apple, it was Steve Jobs who built upon it; now, so many generations of products removed from the Apple II, it's easier to think of Apple as Jobs' company more than Woz's. And apparently, that perception is not only just fine by Apple — the company is actively encouraging it. Starting with the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 8, 2015, all Apple press releases close with this tagline:

"Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984."

That's a true statement, and from a marketing perspective, it's sensible to reference a product that's still on the market. But it also starts in the middle of the story, ignoring the genius of "the other Steve" and the products that launched an enterprise.

It's not news that Apple abandoned the Apple II — in fact, the last Apple press release to mention the Apple II at all was June 22, 2010. But for this new tagline to eliminate seven years of its history from press releases seems deceptive. Should Apple take a step back and publicly acknowledge its heritage?

(Hat tips to Sam Varghese and Darrick Deel)

Computer Show

November 2nd, 2015 9:11 AM
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In the late 1970s and early 1980s — and, some would argue, well beyond then — computers were portrayed in the media as a novelty or fad. But one show took them seriously: Computer Chronicles, a PBS talk show created and co-hosted by Stewart Cheifet. Across nearly two decades of the show's run, technologies such as the Internet and guests such as Bill Budge were presented to a mainstream audience for the first time.

Computer Chronicles has been off the air for 13 years — but now, Computer Show picks up where it left off, serving as a parody that mimics the original show's format. Much as the underrated Brady Bunch Movie transposed the original characters, unaffected by the passage of time from their native 1970s, into a contemporary 1990s setting, Computer Show's hosts are firmly rooted in the early 1980s, baffled by their guests from modern-day Silicon Valley. The guests are actual luminaries playing themselves, from the founders of Lumi.com to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

To date, two episodes have been released, the first being about the intersection of art and technology:

and another about communities:

Computer Show is the product of Sandwich Video, a company that makes commercials for tech products. Their casting of Rob Baedeker as socially awkward Gary Fabert is perfect, creating one of those rare opportunities when it feels okay to laugh at someone instead of with them. Though I confess to being a little tired of Adam Lisagor, who shows up in practically every Sandwich commercial ever.

Computer Show is a brilliant amalgam of classic sensibilities and modern tech, with plenty of Apple II cameos. Check it out!

(Hat tip to Dan Frommer and Proma Khosla)

Strong Museum's Hall of Fame

August 17th, 2015 10:36 AM
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Filed under Game trail, Mainstream coverage;
1 comment.

We could debate endlessly over the best Apple II games — such a list remains one of my most popular blog posts to date. From Adventure to Prince of Persia, Choplifter to Lode Runner, the candidates are endless.

So I don't envy The Strong Museum of Rochester, New York, home of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. ICHEG recently announced the World Video Game Hall of Fame, into which would be inducted games with an "undeniable impact on popular culture and society in general" and "games [that] have helped shape the way that people across the globe play and relate to one another," wrote ICHEG director Jon-Paul Dyson.

Journalists, scholars, and other industry professionals chose the original list of 15 candidate games. I have bolded the six that were ultimately inducted:

  • • Angry Birds (2009)
  • Doom (1993)
  • • FIFA (1993)
  • • The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  • • Minecraft (2009)
  • • The Oregon Trail (1971)
  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • • Pokemon (1996)
  • Pong (1972)
  • • The Sims (2000)
  • • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
  • • Space Invaders (1978)
  • Super Mario Bros. (1990)
  • Tetris (1984)
  • World of Warcraft (2004)

It's regrettable that no native Apple II games made the cut — but we are not entirely without representation: Tetris exists for every platform, including the Apple II; and Doom is the infamous brainchild of John Romero, who got his start on the Apple II and regularly revisits his roots, as he did when he delivered KansasFest 2012's keynote speech.

You may disagree with the ICHEG's choices, but it's important those disagreements be founded not in what were the "best" or most fun games of all time, but which were the most important. In that context, which Apple II games would you have nominated for inclusion n the World Video Game Hall of Fame's first class?

A reason to reference the Apple II

March 23rd, 2015 9:20 PM
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Jalopnik recently published an article entitled "Autonomous Cars Will Rob Us Of Our Freedom To Be Unproductive", which discusses one of the unconsidered tragedies of self-driving cars. It's not the worst-case scenario, wherein computers take over from humans, as Woz predicts. No, Jalopnik is more concerned about being able to take your eyes off the road and do work — the same reason I lament the advent of in-flight Wi-Fi.

It's an interesting point, and one that has nothing to do with the Apple II. So why the plug on this blog? Because of this image the author chose to represent this productive future:

Self-driving cars

I… what?

It seems an incongruent choice of visual — until you consider the source. The author of this blog is Jalopnik associate editor Jason Torchinsky, who previously appeared on Apple II Bits back in June 2011, when he organized a concert of Apple II musicians. That a writer would work a reference to his favorite computer into an unrelated article is not without precedent: I snuck the Apple II onto the homepage of Computerworld.com last summer when they published my review of WordPress 4.0.

So kudos to Jason for being true to his roots! I look forward to your next Apple II adventure.

(Hat tip to Paul Hagstrom)