Steve Jobs: Genius by Design

December 7th, 2015 12:00 PM
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In the past two years, I've reviewed three Steve Jobs films for Computerworld. While that market may be saturated, there are still other media left in which to explore the history and personality of Apple's most infamous co-founder. So, while waiting for the 2017 debut of the opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, I hit up the local library for the graphic novel Steve Jobs: Genius By Design, by Jason Quinn and Amit Tayal.

It was a fun book, and one that presented Jobs in a much more human light than many interpretations. The comic book medium affords the opportunity to visualize its characters' internal monologues through thought balloons, giving us some insight into Jobs' drive even as he's denigrating his own employees. The art and language are fairly simple, by which I mean accessible — the 104-page book is rated for ages ten and up, cementing the book as being for young adults.

Still, I sometimes question the art and word choices. The opening page shows the entire cast of characters from throughout Jobs' life all chatting together. Here, Woz makes his debut, looking rather apish with dialogue that sounds forced.

But the book is a short read and a welcome reprieve from the cinematic interpretations of Steve Jobs.

Avengers Assemble: Steve Woz & Stan Lee

May 4th, 2015 8:43 AM
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Summer blockbuster season is here, as heralded by last week's release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Comic-book superheroes will be smashing across the screen all summer, with the likes of Ant-Man and The Fantastic Four soon to follow.

Many of these characters are the creation of Stan Lee, who has played as much a role in the development of the comic book medium as Steve Wozniak has in the creation of the personal computer. If Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk can team up, why can't these legends?

Geeks need wait only a year for that union to occur when Woz and Lee combine forces to bring us Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016.

Says Woz:

I want to give Silicon Valley it's very own kind of Comic Con where everyone can have fun enjoying what they love. Today we're lucky to have so many kinds of entertainment, from movies, TV shows, web series, music, video games, social media and more, and the lines between entertainment and the technology we love so much in Silicon Valley are getting blurrier every day. We're going to create a place where all these different kinds of interests can come together, and we can come together too.

The event will be held March 19–20, 2016, in San Jose, California — home to the Children's Discovery Museum that Woz founded. Although tickets are not yet on sale, you can register to receive information for attendees, exhibitors, or media.

The creators of Spider-Man and the Apple II will make an awesome team. Who knows what fun their fans will have at the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con!

(Hat tip to Conviron Altatis)

Wizard of Id

February 3rd, 2014 1:32 PM
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Although I am not and have never been a reader of newspapers, I grew up in a household that purchased five every day. I would abscond with the only section that mattered to me: the comic strips.

Although online publishing has granted us an abundance of exclusive content in the form of webcomics, I still enjoy the old standbys originally found in print. I read my daily funnies via GoComics.com — some of which are new to me (Heavenly Nostrils), others because they remind me of old favorites (The Argyle Sweater), and others because, despite often not being funny, they are old, familiar friends.

In that last category is Wizard of Id, launched in 1964, which follows the king, wizard, and soldiers of the medieval Kingdom of Id and its Idiots. The strip frequently makes anachronistic jokes and references — a recent one, as Bill Loguidice documented, is a reference to the strip's appearance on the Apple II.

In 1984, Sierra On-Line, publisher of landmark point-and-click adventure games such as King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, also put out two games based on the Wizard of Id. With the Apple II being popular in education, it made sense to shoehorn this license into a pair of edutainment titles. One was Wizard of Id's WizType:

The game is broken into two sections: The first section pits players as the Wiz, matching wits against the Evil Spirit, an apparition that lives in the Wizard's vat. The Wizard must quickly type out the words that the Evil Spirit gives him in order to diminish the Spirit and win the round. Failure to spell words properly, or taking too long to spell results in the Evil Spirit morphing into a dragon, and singing the Wizard to a crisp.

The second part of the game has the player trying to keep up with Bung the Jester. In this segment, players must type out a pre-written paragraph in order to keep pace with Bung, who is hopping along the words on a pogo stick.

The other was Wizard of Id's Wizmath:

Spook needs to escape from the King of Id's dungeons. He slips out but Turnkey is in pursuit. He needs to solve math problems to open the way to his escape.

Wizard of Id's WizMath is an educational game to teach mathematics. Using your joystick, you must move blocks into place so they complete a correct math problem and answer. If you push against a block, you will send it flying until it hits a wall or another block. You can also face a block and hold down the button. While keeping the button down, you can then slide the block as needed. There is a sixty second time limit and you are being pursued by Turnkey. Early levels require only one math problem to exit but later levels require two or more.

Early in the game, you can select a floor on an elevator. The higher the floor, the more difficult the math problems. The game also asks your age. The older you say you are, the higher a floor it tries to start you on, although you can select a lower floor.

Whereas WizType was published for the Apple II, Commdore 64, Atari, and DOS, MobyGames indicates Wizmath was released for only C64 and the video game console ColecoVision.

Edutainment titles don't have much appeal beyond their young demographic, but a point-and-click adventure might've aged well. That's the parody that Loguidice recently shared. Why this strip just recently posted a reflection on life in 1984, I'm unsure — unless they were tying into the 30-year anniversary of the release of the Apple Macintosh, even though that platform didn't have a corner on the adventure game market. Still, it's a fun opportunity to reflect on not just the early history of licensed games, but the adventure genre that is making a comeback, courtesy multiple Kickstarter revivals.

UPDATE (Mar 5, 2014): There was also at least one B.C. game for the Apple II — Quest for Tires!

Batman: Year One, Apple Two

November 24th, 2011 10:20 AM
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In its lifetime, the Apple II computer has a variety of unusual uses, from making piano player music to demonstrating motion-activated inputs. How about an ultrasound monitor?

That is the application to which the Apple II was put in last month's direct-to-DVD release of Batman: Year One. The tale is set at the dawn of Bruce Wayne's superhero career, reflect in the movie's slightly antiquated look. In one scene, Jim Gordon's wife visits the hospital for an ultrasound; in another, a trauma victim's vitals are monitored. Both times, an Apple II can be seen in the background.

Batman: Year One

According to the 1985 journal article "Mixing Apple microcomputer graphics for ultrasound scan measurement" in Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, the official journal of the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, Batman: Year One is not playing fast and loose with its historical fiction but is instead accurately portraying the technology of the era and its capabilities:

A modern microcomputer with high-resolution graphics can provide an inexpensive method for measurement on video images from a real-time ultrasound scanner. The problem which has to be overcome to allow the computer graphics to be superimposed on the ultrasound video image and permit subsequent analysis is that of synchronization. The video signals must be synchronized before they can be mixed, but neither microcomputers nor ultrasound scanners provide facilities for external synchronization of their video output. A mixer has been designed which uses a buffer memory and allows the graphics of an Apple II microcomputer to be synchronized and mixed with an external video image; we used a Hitachi EUB22 real-time ultrasound scanner. The resulting combination is a versatile instrument which permits a wide range of measurements on ultrasonic images.

Facebook user Herbert Fung first spotted these artifacts, reporting the sighting on October 22 and following up a day later with the above screen captures. Dave Miller provided the historical context.

Tributes to Steve Jobs

October 10th, 2011 10:10 AM
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Between last week's video and a special episode of the Open Apple podcast, I've said all I can about Steve Jobs' passing. But many others have shared more eloquent thoughts than mine, and I'd like to share some of my favorites here.

The Open Apple shownotes link to several celebrities' social media tributes. Among those not mentioned are Richard Garriott, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.

On the visual front, there have been many artistic interpretations, including from the New Yorker and XKCD.


No replacements found


There's always the hope that if you sit and watch for long enough, the beachball will vanish and the thing it interrupted will return.


New Yorker


Pailheads


BoingBoing.net temporarily reskinned their site with a familiar look.

Boing Boing

Several celebrities have offered video tributes, including liberal show hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

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