Archive for February, 2013

Literal abandonware

February 25th, 2013 1:03 PM
Filed under Hacks & mods;

Old hardware doesn’t die, it just … well, yes, it does die. But before our vintage machines break down, we often abandon them. Though the retrocomputing community has demonstrated that, given the proper maintenance, thirty-year-old Apple II computers can run just fine, machines are more often disposed of when circumstances dictate — which can mean not only a move to a new computer, but sometimes a move to a new office or home, leaving behind any physical reminder of now failed ventures.

Freelancer and friend to the retrocomputing community Benj Edwards has compiled a photo gallery of abandoned Apples discovered by urban explorers who, through questionably legal means, found themselves in neglected environs. Taking photos and nothing else, these trespassers show us Macs and iPods, but also Apple II hardware and software, that have barely endured the passage of time.

Apple IIe and Imagewriter II

Outcries of the wanton waste represented by these photos would not fall on deaf ears; I don’t disagree that computers should be cared for or disposed of properly. But I’m more curious as to the stories behind these artifacts, especially the tales their innards can tell. What led to these machines being left behind? What data might their storage devices still hold? Nothing paramount, I’m sure — just common business or educational programs or records. But just as how the salvation of GeoCities holds information of value to someone, past or future, I wonder what meaning these machines may’ve once had to their operators.


Edwards did not take any of the photos himself: of the 12 photos, 10 are originally from Flickr; of those, 5 are available under one Creative Commons license or another.

What did you do with your old computers, Apple II or otherwise? Have you ever left a machine behind?

(Hat tip to Mark Munz)

From the Wii U to KansasFest

February 18th, 2013 12:54 PM
Filed under Musings;
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I am not an artist — at least, not in the sense of having skill at design, drawing, or painting. I can write elegantly, exhibit comic timing in a British farce, even sing a tune or two. But being able to draw something that is immediately recognizable is a skill I have not yet acquired.

I thus have difficulty expressing myself on the Wii U. Nintendo’s latest video game system combines traditional and tablet gaming by using a controller that features a touch screen. Gamers can use the included stylus to draw black-and-white art that is then shared with other denizens of the "Miiverse". Nintendo must approve every drawing, ensuring a family-friendly art exhibit.

I’ve compiled slideshows of hundreds of amazing sketches that baffle me in their complexity; I am astounded at how much these players can do given so little. But until recently, none of the artwork that impressed me was meant just for me.

That was until Wii U inhabitant OverNiven sent me this message:


As stunning as the art is that I’ve seen on the Wii U, none has made me happier than this confident expression: an old friend who hasn’t been in KansasFest in years, if not decades, will finally return.

Wii U response

See you at KansasFest 2013!

Greetings from the PrintShop

February 11th, 2013 9:59 AM
Filed under Musings;
1 comment.

A month ago, I announced on this blog that I had quit my job. Since then, I’ve started two new ones. It’s too soon to assess the full-time job, but I think it will be a decent fit. The part-time job, on the other hand, is unbelievably awesome. I’m teaching an undergraduate course in electronic publishing, which ties into almost everything I’ve ever learned and loved doing. There are times that its workload is overwhelming — on a per-hour basis, I’m almost certainly being underpaid. But the longer I do it, the better I’ll get at it.

Although my experiences in the Apple II community are directly informing my career path, there’s still something missing from my professional life: an actual Apple II. I’ve not been at my new job(s) long enough to feel comfortable inquiring about bringing such a behemoth into the office. But my workplace seems pretty supportive of BYOD, so I don’t think it will be an issue.

In the meantime, I was pleased as punch that the Apple II was the source of my first official congratulation on this transition I’ve undergone. Shortly after my last blog post on the subject, I received an envelope in the mail with a return address from a Juiced.GS subscriber. Forgetting that he’d already renewed his subscription for 2013, I thought I’d find a check inside. But what I found instead was even better!

The card was printed on single side of a single 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper and folded into quarters. A personal message, not seen here, was handwritten on the inside. The production is courtesy Broderbund‘s PrintShop GS. Although I didn’t ask, I suspect no emulators were used in the creation of this card.

I appreciate the goodwill the Apple II community has extended to me and my endeavors through this thoughtful member and his gesture!

For the completionist, a PDF of the card is also available.

Internet Explorer on the Oregon Trail

February 4th, 2013 10:46 AM
Filed under Game trail;
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Although Web browsers are far more standardized in their interpretation of HTML than they were in the first decade of the World Wide Web, the "browser wars" for market share continue. For users who want more than the default browser their operating system comes with, the choices are plenty: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Camino, Lynx, and more are still actively developed.

Of those, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has perhaps the worst reputation — even though, thanks to the support of such a commercial juggernaut, it may outlast its competition. Despite that, it struggles to remain relevant in the eyes of tech-savvy consumers who remember the days of IE6 — or, worse, those employees whose corporate policies have them continuing to use outdated, unsupported versions of IE.

Knowing this, Microsoft began a campaign of gentle self-mockery, running commercials that poked fun at the browser’s history, calling it "The Browser You Loved To Hate". The first video showcased the estranged relationship a long-time user had with his browser; its follow-up focused on retraining a traditional Internet troll. The latest empathizes with its target demographic by saying, "Hey, we’re a product of the same era you are."

I showed this commercial to a class of college juniors and seniors who were born no earlier than 1990. They got almost all the references, even the one that spoke to my generation: Oregon Trail. These students may not have had that experience on the Apple II as I did, but it is nonetheless a franchise that was born on the Apple II that has influenced the education of many.

It’s remarkable that, for literally decades, students have grown up dying of dysentery. Hats off to Microsoft for acknowledging the cultural relevance the Apple II has for the first generations of personal computer users.

(Hat tip to Alex Knapp)