Building an Apple II games database

August 18th, 2014 6:48 PM
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Whenever I've blogged about Brian Picchi, it's been in the context of the games he's made, such as Retro Fever or Deadly Orbs. But his latest undertaking is more meta and Sisyphean: a database of every 8-bit Apple II game.

The list, most recently updated on August 12, 2014, currently indexes the title, publisher, developer(s), year of publication, and media for 2,160 titles. The data are culled from such sources as MobyGames, GameFAQs, YouTube, and wikis

"It started both as a project Alex Lee and I were talking about, and because I was just curious as to how many Apple II games there are," said Picchi in an email to Apple II Bits. "Every site I had seen had under 1,000 games listed, despite claims of several thousand by other sources, including Apple."

But the database's value is in more than just verifying or setting records. "I also thought it might be helpful because I hear lots of people asking questions like 'What was that game from my childhood I can't remember, I know it was in an issue of Microzine?' or 'How many games supported Mockingboard?' or 'How many games did Sierra release for the Apple II?'" continued Picchi. "The list is available to anyone who wants to use it for any purpose." Anyone who wants to contribute to the database may do so via Google Docs.

As a metadata junkie, I'm excited to see so much information being compiling and to consider how much more can be added. Data such as game genre, additional assets such as box art, and links to related resources, such as Virtual Apple II or the Internet Archive's Console Living Room implementation of JSMESS. Picchi agrees: "I'd love to see it built into something like http://www.c64.com/ where you search for the game, can view screenshots, download it directly, etc."
Games databaseCollecting so much information is only half of this vast undertaking, with organizing and presenting it being another. The database is currently implemented using TablePress, one of my all-time favorite WordPress plugins. It's a powerful tool, but one that is ultimately limited in how much data it can associate and present with a single software title. The database may be better served by creating a Content Post Type, which would allow the definition of fields and attachments unique to this database.

The end result would be exactly why I was briefly enrolled in a Master's of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program: I love collecting and organizing information but lack the programming skills necessary to structure and host such vast quantities of data in a useful, meaningful way. But one thing I've learned about Picchi from reading his Juiced.GS article is that he's constantly expanding his boundaries, mastering new languages and platforms. Could WordPress be next? If so, it will be to the benefit of Apple II gamers the world over!

A new wave of Apple II books

November 11th, 2013 11:21 AM
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Self-publishing has paved the way for scores of books about computer history and retrocomputing to be published. Niche markets can now economically demand a small printing of a book, giving authors with stories to tell a means to reach their audience. Juiced.GS has been reviewing many of these books as part of its "Cover ][ Cover" series, but new books are hitting the shelves faster than we can read them, as evidenced by the pending release of Dr. Steve Weyhrich's Sophistication & Simplicity.

It therefore seemed a good time to compile a list of all the books that have been released in the past decade or so that would appeal to the Apple II user. Andy Molloy already has an exhaustive list of vintage Apple II books, so with his permission and with contributions from Bill Loguidice and Mike Maginnis, I've compiled this spreadsheet of recent books:

Anyone can edit or copy the information in this Google Drive spreadsheet, should they choose to adapt it its scope. For example, this revision doesn't focus on books about the history of Apple Computer Inc. or its most famous founder, Steve Jobs. It tries to list all books whether they be print, digital, or audio; you may wish to narrow the list to just one medium.

Regardless, I hope this compilation is a useful starting point for anyone looking to expand their Apple II library or provide such a resource to our fellow retrocomputing enthusiasts.

Cultivating and cataloging online resources

September 23rd, 2010 12:18 PM
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If you have access to the Internet — and if you don't, I'm curious how you're reading this — then Apple II support is just a click away. From software vendors to hardware manufacturers, message boards to chat rooms, program repositories to magazine archives, there's a Web site for everything.

Or is there? Doubtless there's room for growth in any community, and we should encourage new online enterprises. They needn't be commercial in nature. For example, this blog is a mere five months old, but I think it is doing something that no one else is: producing original content on a regular basis about what it means to be an Apple II user. What other online resources could serve the Apple II and its fans?

However, a problem with a growing community is awareness of its new members. When a site launches, how does one make its presence known, and how does it become able to be found? This isn't the old days of GEnie, when we could move to page 645 and find everything meticulously organized (or, in today's lingo, "curated") into searchable topics, categories, and libraries. Instead, the Internet offers so many destinations that any one site can easily be overlooked.

There are a couple attempts to address this issue. David Kerwood maintains the A2-Web!, intended as a comprehensive index of Apple II resources, from user homepages to emulator download sites and online stores. The site contains many vendors I've never seen referenced elsewhere, leading to some wonderful discoveries. However, A2-Web! is often dependent on user contributions for reports of new or broken links, resulting in some occasionally outdated data. A chronological record of changes lacks an RSS list, making it hard to discover these updates.

David also coordinates the 32-member Apple II webring, a pre-search-engine networking concept devised by GeoCities.

More recently, Bill Martens has been maintaining the Apple Archives, which links to Apple II content but also hosts quite a bit itself, including scans of well-known publications. Instead of textual descriptions of the site, the indices offer image thumbnails of the Web sites; clicking on these will sometimes offer a more verbose description with a link to the actual site, though some listings, like KansasFest and Juiced.GS, lack a detailed description. Like A2-Web!, the Apple Archives is broken down into several categories, but their entries aren't in alphabetical order, and a few could use more obvious categorization: for example, Syndicomm is listed under "Programming", "Support/Projects", and "Vendors", but not "Software" or "Docs". There also doesn't appear to be a category for blogs and other hobbyist pursuits.

Although the Internet offers unprecedented opportunity for peer-to-peer support, and the above efforts make creating and finding these sites vastly easier, it's apparent that the Apple II community still has work to do. Just as programmers sometimes solicit ideas for new software, I'm eager to hear your ideas for new Web sites and online tools. What changes or additions would you suggest the wealth of Apple II online resources adopt? And how can we disseminate news of those changes in a way that makes them able to be found not just by today's members, but by tomorrow's newcomers as well?