Archive for August, 2010

The real-life Oregon Trail

August 9th, 2010 1:21 PM
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The worlds of the Apple II and Hollywood recently collided when Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia platforming game was adapted to the silver screen. Despite mixed critical reviews, it was a commercial success, earning more money than any other video game adaptation to date. It can't be long before avaricious directors attempt to reproduce this film's profits by following the same formula. Similar success demands a similar source, so where else to look but to other Apple II games for inspiration?

Just because a movie is based on an existing property doesn't mean it need be unoriginal. With so many rich possibilities for interpretation, the potential for creativity is boundless. Instead of an action-packed film based on, say, Choplifter or Lode Runner, why not a character-driven drama that shows a journey both physical and emotional? American audiences have often enjoyed the intersection of personality and peril found in the Old West from Gunsmoke to Dr. Quinn to Deadwood. Given that undying demand, it's a natural fit for the next Apple II movie — Oregon Trail:



This trailer is the work of Half Day Today!, a Los Angeles-based new media production group. Although the trailer says the full movie is "coming soon", I suspect the trailer is the final product, and an excellent one at that.

Another group called Mega64 brings video games to life by acting them out amidst an unsuspecting citizenry. Their efforts are often embarrassing, though their Oregon Trail adaptation would be one of the better ones, were it not for the reliance on toilet humor.

By comparison, Half Day Today!'s work is not only a professional production, but one that has earned the accolades of alumni of MECC, the company responsible for the original educational software. Within two days of the Oregon Trailer's premiere, it became one of their most-watched videos. I hope their library capitalizes on that popularity by growing to include other ingenious Apple II adaptations.

(Hat tips to Bob's House of Video Games and Boing Boing)

The Lost Apple

August 5th, 2010 9:58 AM
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Apple computers used to pop up in Hollywood all the time, from the Apple IIc in Explorers to Nibble code in Terminator to Apple III in TRON. Such occurrences have sadly grown rare outside of temporal anomalies such as Hot Tub Time Machine, and rarer still to own such a piece of cinematic history. Such a chance will present itself later this month.

Lost, JJ Abrams' convoluted television series that came to a close this past spring, is auctioning off its assets. Among the props and set pieces up for bidding is an Apple II Plus, known on the show as Swan Station computer.

The Lost Apple

This Lost Apple could be yours — if the price is right.

I don't understand what Lost was about and don't care enough to fully learn the Apple II's role in the series. Roughly, a character named Desmond was required to input numbers into the machine every 108 minutes or else the island he was on would explode. The main computer is accessorized with an Apple III monitor and a Disk II floppy drive.

The Lost auction, occurring August 2010.It's not too often I see theatrical computers for sale; the last one I recall was Gene Roddenberry's Mac, auctioned a year ago next month. Lost carries significantly less nerd cred but is currently en vogue (or would've been three months ago), so now's your chance to own a piece of ephemeral history.

The Lost auction will be held August 21–22, 2010, at 1:00 PM PDT at the Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA, 90405.

(Hat tips to Cult of Mac and RetroMacCast)

Revising Apple II History

August 2nd, 2010 11:16 AM
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Perform a Google search containing "Apple" and "history", and one of the top results will be the Apple II History online museum. Maintained by Dr. Steve Weyhrich, the site's content originated in 1991 as part of the newsletter of the Metro Apple Computer Hobbyists (MACH) User Group in Omaha, Nebraska. With Steve's permission, an early Web user compiled his articles into an online site in 1994, which Steve adopted and redesigned using Adobe GoLive in 2001. During that time and since, Steve has continued to maintain the site, though a few sections became outdated and no major changes have occurred.

There's more to Steve than the Apple II, though. When Steve felt motivated to build a Web site for one of his other passions, I encouraged him to use the WordPress content management system. Developing his new site was a learning experience for both of us, as he found himself with needs I'd never encountered and questions I didn't anticipate. We shared the discoveries we made in trying new features and plugins.

Enthusiasm for WordPress proves contagious. When I first installed WordPress to launch Showbits, it took me about a year before I realized I needed to bring my older site, Gamebits, into this modern blog publishing platform. Steve experienced a similar acclimation, and after a year of using WordPress, he undertook to convert Apple II History. After several months, his work was ready to be unveiled at KansasFest 2010:



Besides being the first major redesign to the site in nearly a decade and being immensely more attractive and navigable, the site has several new features. The homepage has a blog (with RSS feed!) that chronicles changes and additions to the site, and photo galleries use the latest AJAX interfaces for dynamic pop-ups and the like. Most important, while adapting the site's 111 pages, Steve took the time to update much of the content, changing items that were in the present tense a decade ago to the past, and adding new material made available to him since the site's founding. This wealth of knowledge is offered under Creative Commons, encouraging the use, reference, and distribution of this valuable resource.

Apple II HIstory is one of a growing number of Apple II Web sites that use WordPress. Syndicomm is also a recent convert, joining the ranks of A2Central.com, Juiced.GS, 6502 Lane, Bluer White, The Lost Classics Project, and A2Unplugged. I'm a fan of the software myself and have used it in conjunction with Spectrum scripts I've written, making it one of the most Apple II-compatible CMSs available.

Apple may have abandoned our computer almost twenty years ago, but our community has allowed neither it nor its rich lore to gather dust. Thanks to the dedication of historians like Steve Weyhrich, our history is more detailed and more accessible than ever before. I encourage you to visit his site and lose yourself in the annals of time he has documented and made available for our benefit.