Archive for May, 2012

Memories of floppy sleeves

May 28th, 2012 2:56 PM
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Filed under History;
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Jason Scott says it's too late to start saving floppy disks. But we can sure as heck remember them — and especially the sleeves they came in.

Just as a flash drive can be modeled after an Apple II, giving it a cool aesthetic without changing its functionality, so too were floppy disk brands identified by the colorful sleeves in which they arrived.

Kevin D. Clark assembled a small tribute to Elephant Memory Systems, a brand of floppy disk out of Westboro, Massachusetts, just a few miles from where Juiced.GS is now published. Its colorful packaging contributed it to it being one of the leading storage media in an otherwise staid, professional field. The site has not been updated in six years but still offers a dozen or so scans of sleeves, advertisements, and other unforgettable Elephant memories.

Elephant Memory Systems

Elephants never forget.

Up until recently, you could also get a floppy fix via the Twitter account FloppySleeve. Starting last November and lasting one month, the account tweeted 46 links to individual floppy sleeves. There was no Web site associated with the account, so following the links on Twitter was the only way to find the media.

More specific to the Apple II, who could forget Beagle Bros? Their warnings against all kinds of unlikely behavior ensured that their disks were never inserted into toasters or alligators. The Beagle Bros Software Repository, part of Call-A.P.P.L.E.'s archives, has a small collection of these sleeves' images.

Most comprehensive is The Original Disc Sleeve Archive. The site and its blog feature 619 sleeves collected since 1997. There appears to be neither a search mechanism nor a structure other than alphabetical or chronological by submission, so finding a particular sleeve from your past may be challenging. But chances are, if it's anywhere, it's here.

What unique brands of floppy leap out of your collection or memories — or has the CFFA3000 banished any recollection of such limited media?

The origin of the logo

May 21st, 2012 10:09 PM
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Filed under History, Steve Jobs;
1 comment.

Apple rainbow logoApple Inc.'s logo has been through three major revisions: from the early, cerebral scene of Sir Isaac Newton, to the rainbow logo we Apple II users identify with, to the modern, sleek, silver fruit. The shape of the logo has not significantly changed in more than three decades, its simplicity proving enduring. Such a legacy inspires questions to its origins, which designer Rob Janoff answered in a 2009 interview. Were the rainbow theme and the bite from the apple a joint reference to the fate of Alan Turing, the supposed "father of computer science" who committed suicide by biting a cyanide-laced apple, to avoid prosecution for homosexuality? It's a clever tale, but not one that holds up to Janoff's take on history — though supposedly, Steve Jobs himself refused to debunk the myth.

A recent article in Scientific American, "Hunters of Myths: Why Our Brains Love Origins", explains Jobs's reticence:

Jobs, it seems, understood intuitively an important facet of our minds: we like to know where things come from. We like stories. We like nice tales. We need our myths, our origins, our creations. It would be disappointing to know that the apple was nothing more than an apple—and the bite, a last-minute addition to clarify scale, so that it was clear that we were seeing an apple and not a cherry. And that rainbow? A representation of a screen’s color bars, since the Apple II was the first home computer that could reproduce color images on its monitor.

How boring. How much of a letdown. Far better to have a story " and the better the story, the better for us.

The article elaborates on this anecdote, using it as an example of why clever or secret origin stories are often preferable to the truth:

Psychologist Tania Lombrozo argues that such impromptu causal explanations are critical to our everyday cognition. They contribute to improvements in learning. They can foster further exploration and idea generation. They can help us form coherent beliefs and generalize about phenomena—and then use those beliefs to understand, predict, and control future occurrences and, in turn, form new beliefs.

It's a short but interesting article that demonstrates yet another aspect of Jobs's genius. His contribution to design may've been questionable, and his first tour of duty at Apple may've marked him as an irascible manager who failed to respect the humanity of his employees — but given the success of his products, Jobs did seem to have a keen understanding, if not of human nature, then of human desire. Even when it comes to logos:

Steve Jobs’s silence was truly perceptive. Sometimes, it's just better to let natural human tendencies take over and start weaving tales, true or not, that will help people understand and relate to you better than anything you say ever could.

Battle Chess & Space Quest return

May 14th, 2012 5:27 PM
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Filed under Game trail, Mainstream coverage, Software showcase;
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Tim Schafer, what hath you wrought? The extravagant funding his unidentified adventure game received via crowdfunding site Kickstarter has opened the floodgates to a resurgence of vintage franchises: Wasteland, Leisure Suit Larry, Shadowrun, and more.

The latest Apple II licenses to seek resurrection via Kickstarter are Space Quest and Battle Chess. The former, dubbed "SpaceVenture" (they apparently couldn't get the rights to the original name), will be produced by Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, aka "The Two Guys from Andromeda", the two designers who created the series for Sierra On-Line in the first place. The development seems to be pretty well outlined, with several notable voice actors having signed on, though I've seen no assets from the game as of yet. The final game will be installable on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, or playable in Google's Chrome Web browser. A preorder will cost you $15 and get them that much closer to the usual half-a-million goal before the June 12, 2012, deadline.

By contrast, the Battle Chess project couldn't be more different. Subdued Software, developers of no games I've ever heard of, have licensed the Battle Chess name and have essentially completed production of an update to the classic strategy game. All that remains before its October 2012 release is to add Internet support, for which they are asking for a paltry $100,000:

… implementing a full featured online experience, like the one we have planned, will take several months. A list of features include; Skilled Based Matchmaking, Statistics, Leaderboards, Achievements and in-game chat. We also needed to factor in the cost of fulfilling rewards and running this campaign. We have carefully planned out the costs of staffing the programmers, artists and testers necessary to complete online multiplayer feature and arrived at this amount.

This modest ambition extends to the scale of the release: $100K will secure a PC-only release, with additional funding promising ports to Mac, iOS, Android, and Xbox 360. If you're counting on support for one of those platforms, one course of action is to pledge your dollars to the project — and, if they don't collect enough funding for additional systems before the June 1 deadline, withdraw your pledge. (Selfish, no?)

The lack of accessibility to Battle Chess brought to mind a potential alternative. Longtime readers of this blog may remember my discussion of a similar game, Battle vs. Chess, originally scheduled for release on Sep 28, 2010, then pushed back to Spring 2011. To date, Battle vs. Chess has still not been released in the United States, according to Wikipedia, "due to an injunction by Interplay Entertainment for trademark infringement due to its similarity to Interplay title Battle Chess." In February 2012, I received this update from Robin Kunimune, Community Manager of publisher TopWare Interactive:

… Battle Vs. Chess has not been released in the USA, yet. If it were in our power, we would do so in a heartbeat, but sadly the publishing rights remain with a company with which we no longer associate. We are currently waiting for said company to fold and declare bankruptcy (at which point we would regain the publishing rights and release the game) or to go ahead and release the game themselves.

In the meantime, the "true" Battle Chess is looking pretty polished, with plenty of neat death sequences — although the outcome is determined in accordance with the rules of chess, it's still fun to watch the characters duke it out, with each potential matchup of pieces and winners resulting in a unique encounter. Check out these three gameplay videos:

Whether you support an ambitious game that's still in the planning stage and not coming out until 2013 but for a variety of platforms, or a game that's all but finished with a meager fundraising goal and target platform — or both — is between you and your wallet. Happy funding!

Apple II: It's back!

May 7th, 2012 10:30 PM
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Filed under Hacks & mods, Mainstream coverage;
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An April Fool's joke on April Fool's would be too obvious — which means that Scoopertino's April 23 news report must be a stroke of absolute genius.

Quoting a fake Apple press release, this "imaginary news organization devoted to ferreting out the most relevant stories in the world of Apple, whether or not they actually occurred" proudly reports Apple Inc.'s decision to reintroduce the Apple II to their active product lineup:

Remaining true to its original concept, the new Apple II isn't exactly a speed demon. Hypothetically, its 1MHz processor would take about an hour to download an average web page. But that assumes you could actually connect the new Apple II to the Internet — which you can't.

In fact, the new Apple II is unabashedly unconnected. With no Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB ports, there will be nothing to distract you from enjoying the best of Apple II's two dozen apps, which include a recipe manager and an electronic checkbook.

Of course, those specs describe the functionality of only an out-of-the-box Apple II; Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB can all be added (to various degrees) with the right peripherals and expansion cards.

Scoopertino

The report does indicate one change to the stock Apple II in the last 30 years: "Despite the retro theme, Apple has added one very handy port that allows the user to connect a turntable or cassette deck. You can’t store music in the computer, but you can use the Apple II box to store up to 150 vinyl albums or 300 cassettes." Sounds like the 8-bit iTunes that one enterprising hacker cobbled together some months ago.

It's a mildly amusing piece of news, even if it won't fool anyone. It makes me wonder if April Fool's has been an overlooked holiday among the Apple II community. I published a fake Juiced.GS press release in 2011, the same day Tim Kellers advertised the Apple II-phone — and if we don't limit ourselves to the spring, there are a number of fantastic KansasFest skits — but no other recent Apple II jokes spring to mind.

What pranks, tricks, or shenanigans shall we deviously, mischievously plot next?

(Hat tip to Steve Weyhrich)