Computer Show returns, courtesy HP

March 13th, 2017 9:48 AM
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In October 2015, two episodes of the online talk show Computer Show debuted. A send-up of the classic 1980s show Computer Chronicle, this parody featured a socially awkward host with all the technological know-how of someone from thirty years ago interviewing guests from the modern computer industry. The interaction between the host and the guests was so awkward as to be delightfully painful to watch.

After a prolonged intermission, Computer Show is back with a new six-minute episode:

As always, the show is hilarious. Rob Baedeker as Gary Fabert is a brilliant combination of huge ego and low self-esteem, struggling with his bafflement at modern technology. In what I assume are some unscripted bits, the guests seem equally stunned at the treatment they're receiving from the host.

Co-starring in this episode is the HP PageWide printer in an obvious demonstration of product placement. But at least they're honest about the reason why: HP sponsored this episode of the show. That's why the video is hosted on HP's YouTube channel, and not Computer Show's own dedicated channel, as the first two episodes were.

What a brilliant form of marketing — one that gives us Computer Show fans something we want in a way that doesn't compromise the show's format or integrity. Here's hoping more companies take advantage of this opportunity. How about our hosts be introduced to a Raspberry Pi or CFFA3000 next?

(Hat tip to T.L. Stanley via Chris Harshman)

Computer Show

November 2nd, 2015 9:11 AM
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In the late 1970s and early 1980s — and, some would argue, well beyond then — computers were portrayed in the media as a novelty or fad. But one show took them seriously: Computer Chronicles, a PBS talk show created and co-hosted by Stewart Cheifet. Across nearly two decades of the show's run, technologies such as the Internet and guests such as Bill Budge were presented to a mainstream audience for the first time.

Computer Chronicles has been off the air for 13 years — but now, Computer Show picks up where it left off, serving as a parody that mimics the original show's format. Much as the underrated Brady Bunch Movie transposed the original characters, unaffected by the passage of time from their native 1970s, into a contemporary 1990s setting, Computer Show's hosts are firmly rooted in the early 1980s, baffled by their guests from modern-day Silicon Valley. The guests are actual luminaries playing themselves, from the founders of Lumi.com to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

To date, two episodes have been released, the first being about the intersection of art and technology:

and another about communities:

Computer Show is the product of Sandwich Video, a company that makes commercials for tech products. Their casting of Rob Baedeker as socially awkward Gary Fabert is perfect, creating one of those rare opportunities when it feels okay to laugh at someone instead of with them. Though I confess to being a little tired of Adam Lisagor, who shows up in practically every Sandwich commercial ever.

Computer Show is a brilliant amalgam of classic sensibilities and modern tech, with plenty of Apple II cameos. Check it out!

(Hat tip to Dan Frommer and Proma Khosla)

Computer Chronicles looks at the IIc Plus, GS/OS 4.0

November 28th, 2011 11:41 AM
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The Apple II was no stranger to the limelight of Computer Chronicles, a weekly television show that documented the rise of the personal computer industry, starting on PBS in 1981. The entire library of Computer Chronicles episodes is available online from The Internet Archive — no surprise, as when the show ended in 2002, its creator and host, Stewart Cheifet, took a position as director of the Archive.

One 1988 episode of Computer Chronicles coincided with the release of the Apple IIc Plus and GS/OS 4.0. Demonstrating these products on the show were Apple employees Anne Bachtold and Laura Kurihara, who struck me with two aspects of their presentation. First, they don't shy away from technical terminology and details. I suspect this show had a savvy audience that understood these terms, but given that personal computers were still in their infancy thirty years ago, I wonder how many non-techies tried tuning in but found this jargon impenetrable. Second, we all know the names of Apple II employees and alumni like Jef Raskin, Guy Kawasaki, and even Chris Espinosa. I marvel that there were so many more bigwigs like Bachtold and Kurihara whose contributions to the Apple II platform have been omitted from the annals of history. It demonstrates society's tendency to "celebritize" particular personalities to the point that their supporters get lost in their shadows.

Although he couldn't come to the studio for the interview, there's also a brief segment with John Sculley, who says that the Apple II provides users with "a real feel for the chips", likening it to a stick shift next to the Macintosh's automatic transmission. I think that's very true, as evidenced by how the Macintosh has grown increasingly graphics-oriented and closed. With the schematics and open nature of the Apple II, users can work much closer to the metal.

There's also a brief discussion of the possibility of an Apple II laptop, or even a computer that can run both Apple II and Macintosh software. What a world that would be!

Here's the full 28-minute episode. Feel free to skip time index 13:38 – 15:22, which focuses on the Mac IIx.

Hat tip to Steve Weyhrich!