Apple rocks Fraggle Rock

May 19th, 2014 10:36 AM
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Last month, I had the pleasure of patronizing my local independent theater for a double feature of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal one day, and a Muppet triple feature the next. I grew up with the work of Jim Henson and, having recently seen Muppets Most Wanted, I was happy to revisit my childhood with Kermit and company's earlier incarnations.

Another significant influence on my youth was, of course, the Apple II. I was only four or five years old when my father brought one home. Just as Sesame Street and the Children's Television Workshop opened my imagination, the Apple II gave me a workbench on which to express that creativity.

I didn't realize the intersection of the two arts — puppetry and computers — extended beyond my own experience (and various Apple marketing materials). Although Henson didn't use much CGI to perform his magic, according to Starring the Computer, an Apple II did feature in an episode of Fraggle Rock. The show, which bore similarities to the Mary Norton novel The Borrowers, split time between the workshop of Doc and his dog Sprocket, and the underground world of the Fraggles. In the first season's 14th episode, Doc and Sprocket challenge each other to a game on an Apple IIe. The game is unidentified, but wrote Starring the Computer commenter rjluna2, "I recognized the BASIC program that alternates the color line and black line to the randomized point that is rendered. A small delay to see the beautiful pattern before refreshing by executing 'HGR2'. I wrote a program like that more than 30 years ago."

Fraggle Rock

Challenging the Fraggle Rock Doc.
Image courtesy Starring the Computer.

Perhaps it aired at the wrong time in my market, but I never caught much of Fraggle Rock's five seasons. But the work of Henson and his collaborators nonetheless left an impression, to the point that I am still shy around Carroll Spinney like I am with no other celebrity.

Today is May 19. On May 17, 1990, I walked to the corner store and to pick up the local newspaper. On the front page were juxtaposed two stars: Jim Henson and Sammy Davis Jr. Both had passed away the previous day. Henson was 53.

Too young.

(Hat tip to Kelly Guimont)

In memory of Christian Oberth

August 6th, 2012 9:34 AM
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The Apple II community has suffered some prominent losses in the past year, such as Stan Marks and Steve Jobs. One that recently flew under the radar was that of programmer Christian Oberth, who passed away in mid-July at the age of 59.

By the time Oberth turned 30, he'd developed an extensive résumé, creating computer and arcade games for companies such as Milton Bradley, Stern Electronics, and Datamost. His published titles for the Apple II included 3-D Docking Mission (1978), Depth Charge (1978), and Phasor Zap (1978). He also programmed coin-op arcade games such as Armored Car (1981) and, perhaps most notably, Anteater (1982), adapted in 1983 to the Apple II as Ardy the Aardvark.

Sadly, the extent of Oberth's portfolio was not fully recognized in his obituary, which offered only the summary: "He was an original Apple programmer, made an anteater game and was passionate about making and playing games."

Donations in Oberth's name can be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, a four-star charity on Charity Navigator.

(Hat tip to Craig Grannell)

Jack Tramiel dies at 83

April 9th, 2012 9:58 PM
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Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore and Atari Corporation, the latter a gaming company he salvaged from Atari Inc., passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

The Commodore 64 was a better-selling computer than the Apple II. Due to an original larger user base than our community's, their retrocomputing scene is in many ways still more active, allowing an ancient rivalry to some places persists to this day.

Yet the competition wasn't personal between the computers' founders. Tramiel never met his contemporary and competitor, Steve Wozniak, until the 25th anniversary of Commodore at the Computer History Museum in 2007, an event which shed some details on their history:

With no money to build thousands of the Apple machines, Wozniak and Jobs approached Commodore about distributing the Apple II. "Chuck Peddle from Commodore came to the garage, and he was one of about three people we showed the Apple II prototype," Wozniak said.

As struggling 20-year-olds with zero savings and no business experience, the idea of a stable job at Commodore comforted them, Wozniak said. "Steve [Jobs] started saying all we want to do was offer [Apple II] for a few hundred thousand dollars, and we will get jobs at Commodore, we'll get some stock, and we'll be in charge of running the program," Wozniak said.

Commodore rejected the idea, preferring instead to develop its own simpler … machine without the pizazz of the Apple II, Wozniak said. Commodore could do it more quickly and thought at the time that would be a better course for the company, he said.

I've never used a C64 but, so close to having lost Steve Jobs, I can appreciate what Jack Tramiel's passing means to his fans. I offer my thanks to the man who played such a significant role in the founding of an era, and my sympathy and condolences to his many admirers, both then and now.

(Hat tip to Mike Maginnis, as retweeted by Eric Shepherd)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reactions to Steve Jobs

October 6th, 2011 4:13 PM
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I update this blog every Thursday. There's no rule against me updating it more than once.

Steve Jobs has passed away. My co-workers and I got together this morning to reflect on what this means for us and our world.

Great work by Keith Shaw in producing and editing this video. I know of at least one more video and one podcast that will feature Apple II users. I'll post them here on Monday.

Steve Jobs dies at 56

October 6th, 2011 12:00 AM
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Steve Jobs passed away yesterday at the age of 56.

Steve Jobs

Image courtesy Apple.

Here's a video from Computerworld with more details.

An excellent profile of the man and his insights and wisdom is available in this 2005 commencement speech from Stanford.

I'm not really sure what more to say. Apple II users Dan Bricklin, Bill Budge, Chris Espinosa, John Romero, and Wil Wheaton do.