Dinner with Woz

March 7th, 2016 12:22 PM
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Steve Wozniak is a helluva nice guy. He'll share the same anecdotes in a stream of consciousness, but he'll rarely say a bad word about anyone or anything. He is also, as you know, a complete and utter genius, without whom there'd be no Apple Inc., Apple-1, Apple II, KansasFest, or Juiced.GS.

How much would you pay to spend an hour in the company of such a person — not just to hear him speak on stage at a conference, but to have his ear and his wisdom for an hour?

The current bid is $5,100 in this eBay auction for dinner with Woz. If you can get yourself and three friends to Silicon Valley, you can have the opportunity to dine with the co-founder of Apple.

It's not unusual for celebrities to donate their time and talent to charities. In this case, Woz is doing it as a favor for his friend, Matt Spergel: "The proceeds of this auction will benefit East Bay Live Music, a new type of live music promotional service which aspires to provide musicians with an easier way to make a living doing what they love. Once funds are raised, it will be taken to market."

But wait — there's more!

ChampagneWinning bidder will also receive a one-of-a-kind unopened bottle of wine from the Apple IPO party which can be signed at dinner by Woz. This bottle was originally given to Marty Spergel by Steve Jobs, a business partner of Apple Computer in its early history. Winner must be at least 21 years of age to receive this bottle.

This auction is a bit rich for my blood — it's already more than twice than what the Castle Wolfenstein painting, which I bid on, went for. But I hope whoever wins makes it an evening to remember!

(Hat tip to David Pierini)

The 10 most expensive Apple II games

October 21st, 2013 5:22 PM
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Filed under Game trail;
1 comment.

Brian Picchi: I'm your biggest fan. You were a great guest on Open Apple; your Apple II videos on YouTube are informative and entertaining; your Deadly Orbs game is killer; and your website runs WordPress.

But where have you been all my life — or at least, the last month? I haven't heard so much as a peep out of you, so I went digging through your YouTube channel to find the latest. Uploaded on September 14, your rundown of the most expensive Apple II games on eBay was a fun watch:

For your fans in a rush, here is a summary of your findings:

GameValue
Wings Out of Shadow$0709
Labyrinth of Crete$1000
Cranston Manor$1525
Mystery House$1691.66
Ultima I+II$1775
Time Zone$1825
Softporn Adventure$1999
Zork$2495
Starcross$2495
Akalabeth$4900

I'm not much of an eBay user, having taken 14.5 years to earn my 100-star rating this month. The only Apple II software I've bought on eBay is Microzines; I've never paid more than $20 or so for anything Apple II-related on the auction site. That anyone has so much money to spend on these games is a little baffling to me. I understand the appeal of collecting items of historical significance — no one is buying Akalabeth to play it — but that's a lot of dough to drop on something of esoteric interest. A framed Akalabeth over your mantle won't engage many house guests.

But hey, I know you're not just trolling eBay to pick up some games, Brian Picchi; you're one of those hawkers of rare goods, with a copy of Akalabeth all your own. I'm sure your wife will be happy when you cash in those chips.

So keep up the good work, Brian Picchi — just don't go a whole month between videos, if you can help it.

FS: One Mac Mini inside a Disk II floppy case

September 24th, 2012 1:45 PM
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You may not know Charles Mangin's name, but you know his work. Almost six years ago, he put a Mac G4 inside a Mac Plus. Two years later, he put a 2006-era Mac mini inside a Disk II floppy drive case. He's like a cat who just loves being inside things.

cat cpu DarkOne of Mangin's early failed hybrids.

Having recently completed his Kickstarter-funded PressurePen project, which brought a pressure-sensitive stylus to the iPad and other tablets, Mangin is now returning his attention to his retrocomputing hobby. He's privately shown me some ideas he's working on, and they have the potential to be killer. But instead of using Kickstarter to fund the development, Mangin is turning to eBay. Specifically, he is selling the aforementioned Mac mini.

Mac Mini II

But does it still make that grinding noise at boot-up?

The auction, which ends on Monday, October 1, 2012, does not yet have a taker on an opening bid of $500 or a Buy It Now price of a cool $1,000. Either one is a significant investment, and one I'll unfortunately have to pass on — but only because I'm waiting for Mangin's G4 IIc to go on sale.

G4 IIc system, completeMac OS X has never looked better.

Want to save a buck and try to create your own thing-inside-a-thing? Get more details on how to perform the Disk II hack from the RetroMacCast forum, the RetroMacCast podcast, or on Flickr — or follow John Bumstead's video tutorial.

Letting go is hard

January 16th, 2012 12:00 PM
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3 comments.

In the Vintage Computer Forums, a thread was started last week entitled "Letting go of a collection is hard". The author, who joined the site for the purpose of sharing his plight, wrote:

I've finally decided to sell my large collection of Apple II clones. It's a big step for me but it needs to happen. So today, I began testing and photographing the systems and writing the formal listings for eBay. Ugh. This is depressing! I knew it would be hard but geez. I didn't expect to feel so sad about it. The odd part is that I haven't even seen these computers (out of the box) in at least 10 years so why should I feel so sentimental about them? I don't know but I'm not enjoying letting go.

As a collector and historian, I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. I also enjoyed taking each system apart, cleaning the grunge off, and restoring them to working order. I would try to discover whatever I could about the companies who made these computers and whenever possible, I made contact with the actual people who helped design them. I cultivated friendships with fellow vintage computer collectors and spent hundreds of hours building a website about what I had found. So in many ways, it's not just a bunch of old computer junk that selling, it's more like I'm letting go of a part of my life that I thoroughly enjoyed at one time. Letting go of these systems IS the right thing for me to do, but it's not a pleasant experience at all.

Ernest didn't detail why he's getting rid of the machines: is it a financial matter? Is he downsizing his house? Has a significant other dictated, "That old junk has to go"? All these reasons are more or less valid, and as someone who recently moved for the first time in ten years, I can appreciate the desire to have less "stuff" to truck around. But it's also hard to know what the future will hold. After I decommissioned my dial-up BBS in 1997, my Apple IIGS sat unused for more than a decade. It was only three years ago that I dusted it off and booted it back up, adding a physical component to the emulation I'd relied on in the meantime. Having that machine back up and running serves many purposes: it's a point of pride, a necessary aspect to a file transfer setup, and a workplace conversation piece.

And, as with Ernest, the Apple II is a touchstone. It represents and parallels the course of my life, reminding me where I come from, what I do, and why I do it. To lose the Apple II would not rip those qualities from my heart, but it would make me infinitely sadder to not have a physical reality that mirrors what I know and feel inside. I'm glad to know I won't need to experience that disconnect anytime soon.

Have you ever had to get rid of once precious inventory? What made you do it, and how did you feel? Have you ever regretted it?

Selling to Pawn Stars

March 3rd, 2011 11:10 AM
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Finding an Apple II for sale is not hard; one need only look on eBay, Craiglist, or any number of other online classifieds. Less common are in-person sales, and though they do occur at places like KansasFest, they rarely receive the publicity that an Apple IIGS did on a recent episode of Pawn Stars.

This show, a product of the History Channel, is a reality television series in which Las Vegas pawn brokers assess personal property and broker various transactions for people hoping to strike it rich in the city of Lost Wages. It's sort of an edgier take on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. I've never seen either show but was alerted to the Pawn Stars's Feb. 14 episode, "Wise Guys", described as follows:

The Pawn Stars take a mission briefing when presented with a fully functional 1941 M3 Armored Scout Truck from World War II. Will the gang head to battle for this bulletproof piece of military history or will an auto ambush force them to retreat? Then, Rick and Corey meet a man hoping to sell a check signed by notorious mobster Carlo Gambino. Will Rick make him an offer he can't refuse or will this deal sleep with the fishes? And later, Rick and Chumlee check out a 1987 Apple II GS Computer. Will they boot up some cash for this classic piece of technology or is the deal bound to crash?

I watched as a woman in her thirties tried to sell an Apple IIGS with boxes, manuals, and duplicated floppies. I was annoyed by the broker who said that he'd "sell it to someone who would turn it into an aquarium." His disregard and contempt for our favorite retrocomputer was palpable. I mentioned this to Emily Kahm, the vocal talent of the Open Apple podcast and the person who first pointed me to this episode. A regular viewer of the show, Kahm provided some context:

Rick is a shrewd businessman, and his whole business is buy low, sell high. Even when he thinks things are very, very cool, he always points out the flaws and the trouble to the seller so that he has more room to talk down the price. (and seriously, as a regular watcher, I've seen him go from the "interview" portion raving about the utter rare-ness of the coin/document/autograph/toy and saying there's nothing else like it in the world to telling the seller that it's just not worth that much because he would need to get it graded/refurbished/verified/whatever and that he doesn't have a great market for it…all true statements, but he selectively shares them with the seller). If you have any doubts about whether or not he was really interested in the Apple II, you need to watch the last minute of the episode :-)

Indeed, the background to the closing credits almost redeemed the show's star. The lot's television debut was briefly available for free streaming from the History Channel's Web site. The episode has since migrated to a $1.99 purchase from the iTunes Store.

But that's not the end of the story! As seen in this episode, the Apple's seller didn't get her original asking price. The show's hosts graciously allowed her to renege on her handshake in favor of a better deal on eBay:

This is the Apple IIGS (2 GS, ][GS) from the Pawn Stars episode “Wise Guys” (Season 4, Episode 10) – not just one LIKE the IIGS on Pawn Stars, but this is the ACTUAL COMPUTER FEATURED ON THE SHOW!!

So, you may ask, "Didn't you sell that computer to the pawn shop?" Well, I had agreed to sell it during the taping, but immediately afterwards regretted letting it go for only $100. So they said it was no big deal – I could keep my computer, and they could keep their money.

So why sell it now? Well, I've been out of work for quite a while. I've also recently moved into a smaller home, so I don't have the room to keep it set up anymore, and it's taking up a lot of room in storage.

And finally, "How do I know it's the same one from the show?" Well, in the listing I'm including a picture of myself with the computer – check it against the episode, it's me! Also, the F1 Racer disk (the one shown being played in the episode), is autographed by Chum Lee! In addition, the game Rick was playing at the end of the show (Thexder) is in the stash also.

The auction closed on Feb. 27 for $315, plus $175 shipping for the many disks and peripherals listed in the auction description. What do you think — a fair deal? Worth the trouble of selling online vs. a quick trip to the local pawn shop? How much did the televised publicity contribute to the ultimate price tag?

(Hat tip to EddieDX4)

Castle Wolfenstein painting for auction

February 14th, 2011 10:38 AM
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Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
1 comment.

Growing up with the Apple II, I enjoyed the computer more as a games machine than anything else. Sure, punching numbers into Visicalc or writing short stories in Apple Writer can be fun, but not so captivating to a five-year-old's imagination as Choplifter or Lode Runner.

One game that made an impression like no other was Castle Wolfenstein. Eleven years before its 3D successor, this Apple II game was spouting synthesized German at players as they made their way through a Nazi stronghold. I would wake up Saturday mornings before the rest of my family to play this game, and to have the pre-dawn silence suddenly broken by a stormtrooper bursting into the room and screaming at me was nerve-wracking. Castle Wolfenstein and Silent Hill are the only games that have made me so scared, I wanted to turn off the system. It's a powerful legacy for its late creator, Silas Warner, to have left.

Now, a piece of that history is up for auction. The box art for Castle Wolfenstein was based on an original painting which is currently listed on eBay. Here are the details:

Castle Wolfenstein paintingThis is the original painting by John D. Benson used as the cover for Muse Software’s 1981 game “Castle Wolfenstein” – the game that inspired id Software’s “Castle Wolfenstein 3D”! Castle Wolfenstein is the first in the genre of stealth-based computer games. Created by Muse software, it was available on the Apple II, DOS, Atari 8-bit family and the Commodore 64.

[The piece is for sale by Walter Costinak, who] was an incredibly successful video-game web designer, having created sites for id Software, Activision, Ritual Entertainment and many more. About nine years ago he bought this painting on eBay for his personal collection from someone who had acquired all the art from Muse's assets.

The original artist has contact me to let me know the painting is done with Alkyd Oils, not watercolor.

The dimensions of the piece (including matte and frame) are 27 1/4 inches by 23 1/4 inches. Also included are the original C64 manual and game disk (NOTE: disk slipcover is *not* original, and I don’t know if the disk still works).

Proudly show off the retro gaming geek that you are and hang this is your home, office, boardroom, or subterranean lair! Good luck on your bidding, schweinhund!

Although the artwork itself may not be a masterpiece, its historical value is at least that of its current bid, which at the time of this writing hasn't increased from $305 in the last 48 hours. I'll be watching this auction with more than a passing interest. Best of luck to all bidders!

(Hat tip to Andy Chalk)