VC&G Patreon Launches Today

January 8th, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Today's the big day. I just launched a Patreon Campaign with the aim of supporting my history work.

Click here to become a Patron of Benj Edwards and VC&G.

Also, I am doing a livestream Q&A at 1:30 Eastern today.

Here's some of the info from the Patreon page repeated below for future reference.

[ Continue reading VC&G Patreon Launches Today » ]

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Need Feedback on a Potential Patreon Campaign

January 3rd, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Benj Edwards Patreon Header Draft

[ Update - 01/09/2016: I just launched my Patreon campaign this morning. You can see it here. ]

The Problem

Here I am. It's 2017. I've been writing professionally for over a decade now, and I'm not going to lie: I don't make much money. I support a family of four, health insurance keeps going up every year no matter what I make, and freelance budgets at publications are trending down. Competition is fierce.

What I'm trying to say is that my professional focus, as it stands now, is not sustainable in the long run. I can see the writing on the wall.

So I'm considering various options. One is a career change. But that is a hard trick to pull off. Maybe I could be a professional graphic designer, as I once was many years ago. I don't have a degree, so getting a full-time job is tricky. Maybe I could run off and join the circus. Maybe I could run off and join Burger King.

The Solution

In lieu of making burgers for the rest of my life, I am guessing is that you guys would like to see me keep doing what I'm doing: preserving video game and computer history — telling the important, forgotten stories that need to be told. But it's really hard to make a living doing that these days. It's possible, but hard. I could use every bit of help I can get.

If you want to see me stay the course, continuing to build on what I've been doing since 2005, this is your chance to help.

I'm considering launching a Patreon campaign that would supplement my freelance income (or replace it entirely if it comes to that) by funding deep dives into history and never-before-seen interviews that will be published on this site, VC&G.

Right now I mostly do slideshows to make ends meet, but I'd rather spend all of my time writing meaningful history work and interviewing historically important people before their stories are lost forever. Support from Patreon will help me do that.

I Want Your Feedback

What I'd like to know from you guys is what you'd think about this idea, and I have some specific questions for fans of my work.

Would I be compromising my reputation to take money from crowdfunding? Do you think the campaign would be more successful if I promote it as a way to support me personally, or as a way to support Vintage Computing and Gaming as a site?

Also, what kind of work would you like to see from me the most? Any ideas for rewards? (I'm considering an eBook collection of the interviews I've conducted over the years, or maybe some kind of Retro Scan of the Week collection.) Your feedback, in whatever form, will be greatly appreciated.

So before I announce the Patreon campaign to a wider audience, here's your chance to either encourage me or talk me out of it before I make a fool out of myself.

You guys have been supporting my work spiritually for years, so I deeply respect your opinions. Your support is the reason I have kept at this job even in the years when it was very hard to make ends meet. I keep doing this because I love it, and because I feel I am doing a service to history itself.

So take a look at my Patreon promotional video above, and let me know what you think. I appreciate your help, as always.

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The VC&G Christmas Collection (2016 Edition)

December 8th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Vintage Computing and Gaming Christmas Xmas Megapost

It's that time of year again: the Yuletide. Over the past few years, I've been posting an annual collection of all the Christmas-related tech material I've written (both for this site and for others) into one place for easy reading. Below, you'll find list of off-site Christmas slideshows, other features, and of course, plenty of Retro Scans of the Week.

I have a soft spot for Christmas, having been raised with the tradition, so this list is for me as much as it is for everyone else. After going through these things again, it's amazing to see how much Christmas stuff I've posted over the years. I hope you enjoy it.

[ Continue reading The VC&G Christmas Collection (2016 Edition) » ]

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A Jedi Builds His Own Weapon

December 6th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Benj

I've been playing around with making my own custom joysticks recently. Just yesterday, I built this Atari VCS-compatible unit you see above using a Sanwa arcade joystick assembly and two Sanwa arcade buttons, both of which are available on Amazon.

I also used an old Bud project box from my late father's things for the housing, some screw-in rubber feet on the base, a cord from a non-working Atari CX40 joystick, and some scrap steel inside to give the stick more weight and heft.

I built it mostly so I could have a 4-way only joystick for maze games on the Atari 800. (The Sanwa joystick is switchable between 4-way and 8-way upon installation.) The result is absolutely incredible either handheld or set on a table, and my high score in Nibbler has gone through the roof.

On this joystick, both buttons do the same thing, although my next Atari model will probably have three buttons — one for fire, one for up, and one for down so I can play Asteroids on the 800 like a pro.

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[ Retro Scan ] TRS-80 on Christmas Morning

December 5th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 Computer Christmas Family Christmas Morning Christmas Tree advertisement scan - 1978"Santa left us Trash for Christmas, and we like it!"

Radio Shack always knew how to market at Christmas (see links below). In the 1970s and '80s, the firm produced more Christmas-themed computer ads than any other company in the US.

Here's one of the earliest ones from 1978. It features the company's first personal computer, the TRS-80, which first launched in 1977. After other models of TRS-80 computer came out, Radio Shack began referring to it as the "Model I."

But that wasn't the only name this pioneering computer earned. The original TRS-80 was the first personal computer my dad ever bought, not long after it launched. He found it frustrating, sold it, and later bought an Atari 800 for my brother — then hand-built an Apple II clone for himself.

Thereafter, my dad always referred to that first TRS-80 as his "Trash-80," which was a common nickname for the computer. It could double as a derogatory play on words or a beloved pet name, depending on whom you asked. For my dad, I suspect it was more of the former than the latter.

[ From Popular Electronics, November 1978 ]

Discussion Topic: What's the worst present you've ever received for Christmas?


See Also:

A Very TRS-80 Christmas (RSOTW, 2006)
Hot CoCo (2) for Christmas (RSOTW, 2007)
Give The Gift of TRS (RSOTW, 2009)
Santa's TRS-80 CoCo (RSOTW, 2014)

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The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems

November 7th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

The Cave BBS Logoff ANSI by Nukemaster

Last Friday, The Atlantic published an article I wrote in which I explore modern-day dial-up BBSes.

Some of you may remember that I've visited this topic before — on this very blog — way back in 2006. In my recent virtual travels, I found it very interesting to see how things in the dial-up BBS space had changed over ten years, and I allude to that in my Atlantic article.

I've mentioned this many times before, but for those of you who are unfamiliar, I ran a dial-up BBS called "The Cave BBS" between 1992 and 1998. Since 2005, I have also run a telnet version of The Cave.

To read more about my BBS adventures, check out the "BBS History" category on VC&G.

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[ Retro Scan ] Game Boy, All Grown Up

November 2nd, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo Game Boy Political Campaign Speeches GQ 1992 Presidential Election advertisement scan - 1992"Have you had your fun today?"

So we've got this election coming right around the corner in the US. It hasn't been fun. In fact, it's been pretty nasty and stressful for everyone involved. But there's a solution: video games.

In this October 1992 ad from GQ magazine, Nintendo offers its Game Boy handheld console as an antidote to our grownup troubles during a long, grueling campaign season. Among displays of men's fashion, cologne ads, and strutting female models, you can find a rather remarkable sales pitch for this groundbreaking gadget aimed at adults.

In 1992, portable electronic entertainment pretty much meant one thing: Game Boy. There were no smartphones in everyone's pockets to twiddle away the time with. And the alternative handhelds like the Sega Game Gear, NEC TurboExpress, and Atari Lynx had such horrible battery life that very few people actually took them on the go. Of course, one could tote along a Walkman or a portable TV, but they weren't interactive.

The Game Boy was different. It was compact, light, durable, ran over ten hours on four AA batteries, and it had that killer app: Tetris.

I remember reading news reports, not long after the Game Boy's launch, about how adults were playing Tetris ("the jigsaw puzzle that fights back," the ad says) on long commutes. In retrospect, Tetris seems like the first video game for adults — especially since it had no cartoon protagonist, and its single-screen drama unfolded in four serious shades of gray (or green, technically). It was a thinking man's game, and it was addictive.

Or thinking woman's game, I should say, since we have this amazing 1993 photo of Hillary Clinton playing the Game Boy. While commuting, no less. So maybe the ad worked. Or maybe Tetris was just an essential, can't-miss game that finally legitimized video games for an older audience.

[ From GQ, October 1992, p.150 ]

Discussion Topic: Did your parents ever play console video games when you were younger? What games did they like the most?

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[ Retro Scan ] A TurboGrafx Halloween

October 31st, 2016 by Benj Edwards

TTI TurboGrafx-16 Turbografx TurboExpress TurboDuo Dead Moon Ghost Manor advertisement scan - 1992Ghost Manor and Dead Moon on a Zombie Console

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.47 ]

Discussion Topic: What's the scariest 16-bit era game you've ever played?

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David H. Bunnell (1947-2016)

October 19th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

David H. BunnellIn Memoriam: David H. Bunnell (1947-2016),
tech media pioneer, founder of PC World, PC Magazine, and Macworld

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[ Retro Scan ] Voice It VT-40 Digital Recorder

October 19th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Voice It VT-40 Flash Memory Digital Voice Recorder Discover Magazine advertisement scan - 1995A 40-second safe deposit box, mind you

In 1994 and 1995, several manufacturers released the first batch of solid state digital voice recorders. All of them used newly available flash memory chips to record audio notes digitally without the need for magnetic tape.

This VT-40 recorder from Voice It was among the first, launching around May 1995 in the US. It could record 40 seconds of audio in 10 audio clips — all that for a mere $69.99 MSRP. Unlike some competing units, the audio clips recorded by the VT-40 were stuck on the recording device and could not be digitally transferred to another medium or a computer. Around the same time, Voice It also launched a higher-capacity unit, the VT-75, which could record 75 seconds of audio.

Despite the convenience of having a small, thin audio recorder with no moving parts, the low capacity of these first generation flash recorders made them more of a novelty than anything else. I remember around 1996 when my dad brought home a keychain digital audio recorder that could record about 30 seconds of audio. It was fun to play with — and a marvel of technology at the time — but it didn't have enough capacity for useful note taking.

Of course, today we have endless solid state audio recording capacity through removable flash cards, etc., and digital note recorders are the mainstream (and have been for at least a decade). But it's neat to look back on how it all started.

[ From Discover Magazine, May 1995, p.91 ]

Discussion Topic: When was the first time you used a solid-state or digital audio recorder? Tell us about it.

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