Archive for July, 2011

Apple's 50 greatest moments

July 28th, 2011 11:14 AM
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In the latest episode of Open Apple, I pointed listeners to an article outlining Apple's ten worst products ever. Such lists aren't original — Computerworld blogger Jonny Evans had his own take last year — but it can be entertaining to see what other people interpret to be Apple's successes and failures.

Back in January, a pair of sites produced more upbeat lists of Apple successes: Computerworld and Complex. The latter's list of the fifty greatest moments in Apple history is comprehensive — how many of us can name any fifty moments in one company's history? To list so many points, Complex couldn't exclude our favorite computer. Many items in Complex's gallery, which is not in chronological order, revolve around our favorite computer and its creator:

Technically, the Apple-1 was not a product of Apple Computer Inc., though it certainly laid the groundwork for the company's eventual founding and success. The machine that launched the corporation was the Apple II, the release of which is noticeably absent from the list. And some of the moments aren't exactly what I'd call the "greatest" — such as Microsoft invests 150 million into Apple, or Pirates of Silicon Valley hits theaters.

What would you consider key moments in the life of Apple Inc.?

Apple II users on Computerworld.com

July 25th, 2011 1:40 PM
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KansasFest 2011 is over — and thus begins my annual coverage of the event for Computerworld.com. Each year, I find a way to bring the Apple II to this enterprise IT site, giving both our retrocomputer a wider audience and Computerworld some diverse and fun content.

But the Apple II has been represented in many other articles during my four-plus years at Computerworld. Members of our community are IT professionals with staggering amounts of institutional knowledge, and as helpful as they are in-person at KansasFest, they have always been willing to be a resource during my research into related topics. I thought it'd be fun to index who has appeared as a source, or who has provided content, to Computerworld.com:

I look forward to other opportunities to put Apple II users' names in lights!

The kindness of friends

July 21st, 2011 2:22 AM
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I've been at KansasFest only a few days, and already I'm reminded of how generous Apple II users are. Sean Fahey and James Littlejohn, at the expense of their time and money, have brought a literal busload of wares to freely distribute. Carrington Vanston and Dean Nichols, responding to a passing comment I made on the discussion list, brought some software I've long longed for, donating it to me with no favor expected in return. Martin Haye, knowing I was playing the role of the welcoming committee, made me a sandwich so I could have lunch without abandoning my post. Scott Miller lent me his USB-to-AC adapter, to replace the one I forgot to pack for my Kodak Zi8 digital video camera. Peter Neubauer and Andy Molloy went to Walgreens to get soda for the Juiced.GS pizza reception so that I could be here to receive the delivery from Waldo. And yet others have provided their traditional services, such as Kirk Mitchell slaving over a hot grill for the annual cookout, and Carl Knoblock coordinating and participating in the Peikop Endropov.

KFest cookies

Have an Apple cookie, courtesy Chan Miller.

KansasFest is what reminds me that the machine is what attracts the community, but it's not what makes us a community. It's the support we give each other that keeps us together, and I'm heartened to know we are as close as ever.

The 555 footstool

July 18th, 2011 11:11 AM
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The Apple II popularized many processors and chips, most notably the 6502. But as a games machine, the Apple II relied heavily on an unsung hero: the 555, a timer IC that allowed two joysticks to be connected for head-to-head play.

Now you can give the 555 a new lease in your daily life courtesy Mad Scientist, which has adapted the chip into a footstool.

555Footstool20

According to their blog, all it took was "datasheets, cnc routing, laser engraving, plywood, glue, chips, all-thread, angle grinders, mountains of sawdust, dowel rods, [and] spray paint." Sadly, none of those ingredients allow the footstool to interface with your Apple II. Nonetheless, this retrofurniture can be yours for the exacting price of $555.

(Hat tip to Matthew Humphries)

Historically rebrewed

July 14th, 2011 12:59 PM
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Many computing publications have risen and fell with the computers they covered, their shining moments squelched and historical literature lost. But every now and then, one gets a second chance at live. This week, it's Historically Brewed, published 1993–1997 by David Greelish, host of the Retro Computing Roundtable podcast.

David's goal is ambitious: he wants to take the nine roughly annual issues that were published in HB's lifetime and reproduce them not in their original format, but as a paperback book. The final product, including David's computer-related autobiography, will be 195 pages, with "a detailed listing of contents [coming] soon.&quot.

It's an uncommon approach to revisiting a defunct hardcopy publication. The more popular alternative has been to scan or otherwise recreate the original issues digitally, as Mike Maginnis has done with Computist, Mike Harvey with his Nibble CD-ROMs, and, more recently, Dale Goodfellow and Simon Williams with 300 Baud. But I can empathize with David's love for print, seeing as how it's the same motivation that has kept Juiced.GS from going all-digital.

To accomplish his goal, David is using Kickstarter, a crowdsourcing alternative to fundraising that has been successfully used by other retrocomputing enthusiasts, such as Jason Scott and 8 Bit Weapon. David's fundraising page features a video that showcases some of the issues, where you can see some familiar bylines, such as Steve Weyhrich.

The self-published book will have an ISBN, meaning it will be obtainable (if not necessarily stocked) by major retailers such as Barnes & Noble. However, some distribution issues remain to be resolved, so the best way to guarantee your copy is by buying it directly from the publisher, done by pledging $25 or more. For $100, you'll even get a page dedicated to you in the book!

After just a few days, David has already reached more than half of his modest goal of $1,200. Pledges will continue to be accepted until August 15, meaning you can preorder the book even after the minimum fundraising goal is met.

Competing for a gamer's heart

July 11th, 2011 3:54 PM
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Filed under Game trail, History, Software showcase;
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Popular culture abounds with tales of lovers lost to gaming addictions. Guys and gals who can't tear themselves away from World of Warcraft often emerge from their fantasy to find themselves without the partner they'd attracted offline.

Peter Molyneux. Photo by Daniel Alexander Smith.I never understood the competition some romancers feel toward electronic entertainment. Computer and video games can be great bonding experiences, whether you're playing cooperatively or competitively, or simply offering a passive experience for your partner to observe and enjoy.

Nonetheless, resentment has been a popular emotion engendered by gaming for longer than there have been MMORPGs — though role-playing games do tend to be a trend, as evidenced by Peter Molyneux's own tale. The creator of popular PC and Xbox games Populous, Black & White, and Fable was recently prompted to recall his first encounter with computer games:

The first proper game was probably Wizardry on the old Apple II. I totally became obsessed with that game, to the point where I lost my girlfriend by playing it – I left her down the pub three times! Because it was on floppy disk… Once, my floppy disk was written off and that night I immediately got in the car and I drove 150 miles to find another Wizardry player so I could get a copy of the disc. It was the first game really that I ever played with levelling-up. It was set in a dungeon, and there was a mad god, and it had spells. It was wireframe, but in my imagination I was down there in that dungeon.

Given the career and status this famed developer has attained since being inspired by that Apple II game in 1981, it's certainly the girlfriend's loss to have not seen the potential in that marriage.

Have you ever had to curb your gaming enthusiasm to placate your partner? What have you done to try to turn a paramour into a player?

(Hat tip to Neon Kelly)