Happy birthday, 1 MHz

May 7th, 2018 9:46 AM
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When Ryan Suenaga launched the A2Unplugged podcast on August 8, 2006, he declared it the world's first Apple II podcast. He quickly discovered that someone who'd never been to KansasFest, subscribed to GEnie, or read Juiced.GS had beaten him to the punch by only three months and a day: on May 7 of that year, Carrington Vanston debuted 1 MHz — originally "the Apple II podcast", soon "an Apple II podcast".

1 MHz podcast

Free as in beer, and free as in freedom.

Over six years and sixteen episodes, Carrington played 8-bit Apple II games both popular and obscure: Wasteland, Bureaucracy, Archon, Apple Panic, and more. Almost a decade before podcasts like New Game Plus and Do You Want to Keep Playing? made "retro game of the week" their schtick, 1 MHz was plumbing the depths of classic adventures, putting them in historical context and gushing over their feelies, exhibiting an enthusiasm normally reserved for someone discovering these games for the first time.

What Carrington had in quality, he made up for in lack of quantity. Sixteen episodes over 75 months is not frequent — it's roughly one every five months. The shortest span between episodes was four weeks; and the longest was two years, eight months. At that rate, it became an event when a new episode debuted, with my friends hurriedly texting me, "Did you hear? A new episode of 1 MHz is out!!"

1 MHz is not the only show to have fluctuated the Apple II airwaves. After four years of broadcasting, A2Unplugged aired its 36th and final episode in July 2010; host Ryan Suenaga passed away nine months later, in April 2011. But he lived to hear the debut of Open Apple, a show Mike Maginnis and I created to do what no other Apple II podcast was doing: interviewing the voices that constitute this amazing community. I departed that show after three years, but despite occasional hiatuses, Open Apple continues to this day, with Juiced.GS associate editor Andy Molloy and I guest-appearing on the latest episode, #76.

Meanwhile, in the last four years, traditional episodes of 1 MHz have been absent — but Carrington has not been silent. His rambunctious style of podcasting can be heard today not only on the Retro Computing Roundtable but on Eaten by a Grue, a game review podcast in the style of 1 MHz that Carrington co-hosts with Kevin Savetz. Last month, episode #17 aired, making it a more prolific podcast than 1 MHz.

But the great thing about retrocomputing podcasts is that they're never outdated: by covering topics that aren't contemporary, the podcasts themselves become timeless. So to celebrate the 12th anniversary of 1 MHz's premiere, I've ensured that Carrington's show will never be lost to the tides of time, and I've uploaded it to the Internet Archive.

Here's to ensuring a long life for the first — and one of the best — Apple II podcasts!

Apple airwaves

November 8th, 2010 1:47 PM
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In May 2006, Apple II coverage gained a new channel: the podcast. This popular form of timeshifted radio finally gained its own broadcast dedicated to our favorite desktop computer when Carrington Vanston, a Canadian previously unknown to our community, debuted 1 MHz!, offering "8-bit Apple news and 2-bit Apple reviews."

Later in 2006, the show was joined by Ryan Suenaga's A2Unplugged, which took a different tact with its regular programming coverage and celebrity interviews.

A2Unplugged continues publication to this day, though sporadically, with its 36th and most recent episode having been published five months ago. 1 MHz, on the other hand, published only a dozen episodes in its first two years before going silent in February 2008.

iTunes podcast iconNot all was lost: the Apple II was still a frequent guest of general retrocomputing shows of the weekly RetroMacCast, as well as Earl Evans once-weekly, now-sporadic Retrobits. Along with A2Unplugged and the archival Echoes of KFest, these were our best and only radio shows.

David Greelish of Classic Computing recently decided to complement those sparse offerings with his own show, and his debut is a knockout. The Retro Computing Roundtable has published its first episode with lively chatter and insightful discussion among a star-studded panel consisting of David, Earl Evans, VintageComputer.net's Bill Degnan … and Carrington Vanston.

I guess I should take it personally that the Canadian never answered my emails, as David somehow got him back onto the retro scene. Not only that, but in the RCR podcast, Carrington off-handedly dropped a bombshell: 1 MHz would be back.

And it is. Last Friday, for the first time in 2.5 years, a new episode of the 1 MHz podcast was published. With little mention of his absence, Carrington launches right into his usual fare of news and reviews:

Krüe releases the TreeHugger GS/OS Printer Port driver, but will you dare to install version 0.0? The daredevilry continues as you risk blowing your mind when you view the Visual 6502 emulator. For less risky but no less enjoyable online ogling, check out Dr. Matt Barton's book excerpt about LucasArts adventure games called The Maniac in the Mansion. And then come with me on a journey to the post apocalyptic world of Wasteland where we'll fight mutants, build robots and learn to repair toasts. Finally, I track down the rare and elusive Wasteland Survival Guide for the Apple II, which just makes me want to play Wasteland one more time.

It's a great episode, filled with Carrington's usual zany humor and mile-a-minute gushing (does he ever breathe?). The episode is apparently made possible (or motivated by) corporate sponsorship, though it remains to be seen whether that will prove enough for future episodes.

We can hope so.

Find all these shows on iTunes:

• 1 MHz
• A2Unplugged
• Echoes of KFest
• Retro Computing Roundtable
• RetroMacCast
• Retrobits

Lode Runner: One of the best games ever

May 20th, 2010 10:47 AM
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When Game Informer magazine published its 100th issue in August 2001, it presented the staff's top 100 games of all times. At number #52 was a piece of software every reader of this blog should recognize:

Appearing first on the Apple ][E, Lode Runner wasn't a platformer, didn't have a proper maze, and was levels above any simple shoot 'em up title. With only two abilities, digging or climbing, you had to make your way through over 100 boards — some with mind-boggling configurations. Featuring set traps and loads of strategy, yet imbued with a fast pace, Lode Runner was a true challenge in the early era of games

Nearly ten years later, Game Informer revisited the topic with their top 200 games in issue #200, published in November 2009. A decade of impressive entertainment software was sure to have an impact on the old standings, but Lode Runner held on, slipping to #173 yet remaining on the chart:

My next door neighbor when I was growing up was the only kid on the block with an Apple IIe, so I bugged this kid mercilessly all the time to go over to his house and play games on it. Poor ***. We spent hours and hours in the summer cooped up in his room playing Lode Runner, Karateka, The Bilestoad, Zork, and a bunch of other stuff. I have a feeling he doesn't look back at this time as fondly as I do.

Lode RunnerI grew up playing Lode Runner, one of the first computer games to be ported to the arcade instead of vice versa. Since then, I've bought versions of the game for the Nintendo and Xbox 360, and Juiced.GS reviewed the iPhone version. The added features of these updates — online play, leaderboards, portability, and more — keep the franchise fresh and fun, but the series progenitor had a certain novelty that hasn't been beat: was it an action game? A puzzler? What were the possibilities of the unprecedented level editor it came bundled with? And once I've beaten the game, can I do it again — with the accelerator card enabled?

Lode Runner is a fantastic concept worth exploring on any platform, but especially the Apple II. To enjoy the game vicariously, check out podcast 1 MHz's review of Lode Runner, and visit Tozai Games' Web site for the full history of Doug E. Smith's franchise.