Apple Museum of Prague

August 7th, 2017 9:49 AM
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In the past few years, I've had the pleasure of seeing the Apple II in museums across the country: the Computer History Museum, the Strong Museum of Play, the Living Computer Museum, and Charles Babbage Institute, to name a few. And there are still others I've yet to explore, including the National Videogame Museum, as featured in the March 2017 issue of Juiced.GS.

But there are many more museums I've yet to visit, and the latest one to pop up on my radar is in the first foreign country I ever visited: the Czech Republic. My former Computerworld manager Sharon Machlis was recently in Prague on vacation, much as I was in March 1998. What's new in the two decades in between our visits is the creatively named Apple Museum. This institution "includes the most valuable and the most complex collection of computers from 1976 till 2012 and other Apple, Pixar and Next products."

Apple Museum entrance

Photo by Sharon Machlis.

While Sharon didn't pop into this museum, there are plenty of reviews of the venue online. On reddit, where a photo album can be found, reports indicate the museum shows the evolution and contrast from old to new technologies, but without being hands-on. The inventory coming from a private collection instead of donors likely accounts for the 472 exhibits being behind glass.

Also found here is an unusual offering among museums: a raw vegan bistro and smoothie bar.

The range of products is in line with favorite foods and beverages of Steve Jobs. This eccentric but likeable man with an infectious enthusiasm and passion for his cause, favored organic fruits and vegetables and totally rejected meat. As time went on, he progressed from vegetarianism to veganism and the most common foods were just salads, juices and fruit smoothies. Complete your visit with a unique culinary experience!

Hey, why not? Museums have to innovate, and anyway, it's for a good cause — all the proceeds go to charity, to help relieve traumatic brain injuries and muscular dystrophy.

Can't make it to Prague? The museum website, available in both English and Česky, has a Google Street View-like 3D tour, complete with support for Google Cardboard and other VR-like devices.

I'm not likely to get to the museum anytime soon — I'm just 19 years too late. But it's encouraging to know the history of our favorite platform is being preserved and exhibited around the world!

Video Game Hall of Fame overlooks the Apple II in 2017

May 22nd, 2017 8:45 AM
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Every spring, the World Video Game Hall of Fame expands its list of inductees. This virtual recognition, hosted by the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, acknowledges games that "have significantly affected the video game industry, popular culture, and society in general".

Since the games are assessed not for their cutting-edge graphics, replayability, or "fun factor", it makes sense that many inductees would be older titles. Despite being constrained by the technology of the era, these early games were foundational in creating an industry and its franchises. And few machines were as elemental in that process as the Apple II.

However, The Strong rarely recognizes native Apple II games. The first class of inductees, announced in 2015, passed over Oregon Trail in favor of Doom, Pac-Man, Pong, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and World of Warcraft. Oregon Trail finally got its due in 2016, but at the same time that John Madden Football got sacked to make room for The Sims, Sonic The Hedgehog, Space Invaders, The Legend of Zelda, and Grand Theft Auto III.

Now it's 2017. Another class has been accepted into the Hall of Fame, and for the first time, no Apple II game was even nominated. Nominated but not accepted this year were Microsoft Windows Solitaire, Mortal Kombat, Myst, Portal, Tomb Raider, and Wii Sports; the winners were Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokémon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II. While Donkey Kong and Solitaire originated in the 1980s and had Apple II iterations, none of these titles and franchises were made popular by the Apple II, like Oregon Trail and John Madden were.

Rather than feel slighted in 2017, Let's ensure the 2018 ballot doesn't similarly overlook our favorite retrocomputer. What games should we nominate for consideration in next year's class — again, taking into account not how much time we spent playing these games, but their lasting impact on the industry and genre?

So as to not spread ourselves thin and divide our votes among too many choices, I have only two suggestions: Ultima and King's Quest. Both games created fully realized worlds and new ways to interact with them, introducing both franchises and gameplay mechanics that continue to this day. What more could the World Video Game Hall of Fame ask for?

Let's get the Apple II the recognition it deserves. In the meantime, as a platform-agnostic gamer, I offer my congratulations to all the non-Apple II titles that received this honor in 2017 — many of which made lasting impressions on both gaming culture and my own childhood.

The Korea Computer Museum

November 7th, 2016 11:06 AM
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Apple II history is celebrated everywhere, with museums from California to Italy to Russia. The latest country to recognize the historical significance of the Apple II: South Korea.

The Korea Computer Museum, located in a warehouse in Guri, Gyeonggi, is the work of 48-year-old Kim Kwon-tae. His collection of 420 computers was amassed over the last ten years, mostly via eBay. He recently gave a tour of the museum to Korea JoonAng Daily reporter Chun Kwon-Pil, who wrote:

Carefully browsing through the collection, Kim announced that he had something interesting to show a reporter. He took out a floppy disk, one of the early storage devices for computers.

He slipped it into an Apple 2e, the third model of the Apple's II series. After a few seconds of a familiar machine melody, Pac-Man popped up on the screen, an early computer game with flat graphics and rudimentary rules.

"I regularly turn them on and off to make sure they don’t go out of order," Kim said. "It's like feeding them with electricity."

The museum opened in 2012 but has recently been in the news for featuring a Steve Jobs exhibit, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Apple co-founder's passing. The exhibit is running through November 27 and is available by appointment only.

Kim Kwon-Tae, operator of the Korea Computer Museum

Kim Kwon-Tae, operator of the Korea Computer Museum.
Photo by Jang Jin-Young.

There's plenty more to see in South Korea. Writes Luke Dormehl for Cult of Mac:

If, for some reason, you are planning to visit South Korea for an Apple-themed holiday, the Korea Computer Museum isn't the only place that should be on your list. The country's Nexon Computer Museum also owns one of a tiny number of Apple I computers that are still fully operational. It was purchased from Sotheby's on June 15, 2012 for $374,500.

Apple, meanwhile, was recently rumored to be planning a new Apple store — the first in South Korea — directly across the street from Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.

I'm unfamiliar with the popularity of the Apple II in South Korea when it was still commercially available, but I'm glad to see its global significance being recognized throughout the world. Kim hopes that his collection will "provoke the imagination of children", just as it did for so many Westerners thirty years ago. May its legacy of inspiration continue.

RCR at the Living Computer Museum

July 11th, 2016 9:17 AM
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Last summer, en route to KansasFest 2015, I stopped in Minneapolis at the Charles Babbage Institute, one of ten archives with a complete collection of Juiced.GS.

Behind the scenes at the Charles Babbage Institute

This past December, I made my first visit to another such institution, the Computer History Museum of Mountain View, California. And this week, again en route to KansasFest, I'll visit the Living Computer Museum in Seattle, Washington, whose 2012 opening was also covered by Juiced.GS.

As it turns out, Michael Mulhern, frequent co-host of the Retro Computing Roundtable podcast, had the same idea. To make the lengthy trip from his native Australia to the United States worthwhile, he's hitting up all the sights on his way to KansasFest 2016. He asked me to tweet an invitation for RCR listeners to join him on his tour of the LCM on a Thursday night, at a time when the museum was offering free admission. At the last minute, I realized we had an opportunity to extend the invitation to even those who couldn't join him: would Michael be interested in live-tweeting his event? I hurriedly set him up with access to the official RCR Twitter account, resulting in many great tweets that solicited responses from fans, enthusiasts, and even the LCM itself.

The entire Twitter exchange is archived in this Storify:

Now I know what to look for when I'm there myself, just a week later. Thanks, Michael!

Oregon Trail Hall of Fame

May 16th, 2016 8:47 AM
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The International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play recently inducted the 2016 class of the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Back in January, I encouraged readers to submit nominations to correct the oversight made in 2015 when no native Apple II games were inducted into the inaugural class.

We had better luck in 2016, with Oregon Trail now being recognized as one of the most important video games of all time. Granted, the game may not have debuted on the Apple II, but it's inarguable that it's on the Apple II that Oregon Trail found its place in history.

And how fitting that should be, given that it's a game about history! One of the game's original creators, Don Rawitsch, recently hosted a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). He addressed everything about what was cut from the original version, to the iOS remake, to his views on gamification, to his favorite parody of Oregon Trail (that being Organ Trail).

The conversation also unearthed this 2011 gem: a one-hour presentation by Rawitsch on the history of Oregon Trail.

But what about the history not of Oregon Trail, but the Oregon Trail — the grueling, 2,170-mile route on which so many pioneers died? We may think it was an adventure filled with dysentery and bison, but the truth is that many travellers lost their lives making that trek. "The R-rated Oregon Trail" is, despite its name, not a snuff film, but an unfiltered look at the challenges faced by those settlers for whom the Oregon Trail was not a game:

The AMA, two of the three above videos, and the Hall of Fame induction all happened in this calendar year. Oregon Trail has always been a popular source of nostalgia, but especially lately, it seems our sights are set firmly to the west. Wagons, ho!

(Hat tips to Javier A. Rivera and Tony Diaz)

Video Game Hall of Fame 2016

January 11th, 2016 3:21 PM
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The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, is an ardent supporter and ally of video game preservation. Their International Center for the History of Electronic Games has collaborated with countless developers to archive personal notes, hardware, and other artifacts of gaming history.

Some games deserve special recognition, and to that end, the ICHEG has instituted a World Video Game Hall of Fame. In June 2015, they inducted six games from a list of fifteen candidates "that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general". But in a gross oversight, none of those six games had their origins on the Apple II.

We retrocomputing enthusiasts now have the opportunity to correct that error. Nominations for the next annual round of inductees to The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame close February 29, 2016. It's as simple as filling out a form, though two questions will require some thought: "What are your reasons for nominating this game?" and "Tell us a story or experience you had with this game."

So, Apple II fans: what games will you nominate? Lode Runner? Choplifter? King's Quest? All these games and more resonated with us thirty years ago and continue to inspire games and game development today. Getting just one such landmark from the Apple II recognized should be a no-brainer.

But ultimately, all we can do is make these titles available for consideration: "Final selections will be made on the advice of journalists, scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in society."

Let's get the Apple II's place in gaming history the recognition it deserves!