Archive for April, 2012

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)

Leisure Suit Larry returns

April 5th, 2012 1:28 PM
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Filed under Game trail, Mainstream coverage, Software showcase;
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Hot on the heels of Juiced.GS's March cover story on Kickstarter, Apple II franchises are crawling out of the woodwork to seek crowdfunded revivals. Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert will be delivering a Maniac Mansion-style adventure game in October 2012, while exactly a year later, Brian Fargo will publish a sequel to the role-playing game Wasteland. What's next?

It's a return to the land of the lounge lizards with Leisure Suit Larry, the sexy, seedy adventure games featuring pickup artist Larry Laffer and his quest to become better acquainted with the opposite gender. The series was a contemporary of adventure games Space Quest, King's Quest, and Police Quest and featured the point-and-click interface endemic of Sierra Online titles.

Franchise creator Al Lowe is asking for a cool half-mil to apply a graphical overhaul to the original 1987 game, add voice acting, and port it to "XBLA, PSN, Android, iPads, iPhones, Windows Phones, Kindle, Linux and of course, Mac!"

The best part of Lowe's pitch is the video that prominently features an Apple II, both in the opening shot and around three minutes in:

In addition to the aforementioned features, I'm hopeful that, like the recent special edition of The Secret of Monkey Island, we'll be able to switch between the original and updated graphics on the fly. We'll find out upon the remake's release this October.

(Retrogamers may also be interested in backing an original Shadowrun game)

(Hat tip to Kevin Savetz; consultation by Steve Weyhrich)

Interview with Chris Espinosa

April 2nd, 2012 1:38 PM
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Chris Espinosa is Apple Inc.'s longest-running employee; his career as Apple employee #8 hit the 35-year mark on March 17th. He's conducted a number of interviews over the years, such as this one in 2011, but he was being noted as an Apple underdog as far back as 2000, when he spoke with Alex Pang. The interview runs just over 8,000 words, including one section dedicated solely to the Apple II manual:

I was working for Jef Raskin, who with Brian Howard wrote the original Integer BASIC manual, when I went off to Berkeley in 1978. When I left, Jef gave me a task. He wanted to keep me on staff, but knew that I wasn't going to be able to work the hours that I had been previously. So he gave me a long-term task: he gave me what Mike Scott had assembled as the mini-manual for the Apple II, which was basically the product of a series of nightly forays into people's desk drawers for anything typed — or handwritten, in a few cases — that smacked of technical material, that he periodically sent with Sherry Livingston down to the Quick Print place to print, collate and assemble, and put into binder covers with clear plastic and wraparound spine and three-hole punch.

That was what was dropped in with every Apple II. That was the mini-manual. That was Apple's documentation. None of it was written consciously for an audience, and Jef said, "We need a technical manual for the Apple II." Actually, there was the mini-manual, and there was the "red book," which was essentially the same material in a red binding. Jef gave me a copy of the red book and said, "I want you to write a real manual out of this."

You can download a copy of the Red Book (not to be confused with the even rarer Blue Book) from the Apple II History site.

(Hat tip to Steve Weyhrich)