krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
News of the impending “Tumblr apocalypse” hit just a few days after I’d loaded a melancholy image into my queue there. Having hit on the idea, at a moment when coming up with something to post here every week or so seemed to be overcoming me at last, that I could delve into livelier online pastures yet keep from just recycling things other people had already posted by making up a selected chronological record of old computer magazine covers, I started off with the first issue of Creative Computing. Now, I had come to the last issue of the magazine.

I did ponder getting to the end of the covers for December 1985 and letting my site drift off into the ether. Still, I also got to thinking of how, when I’d first turned up the last fourteen issues of Creative Computing in my family’s basement, whatever had happened in computing afterwards between then and the present day seemed more obscure. (It can feel a challenge to imagine just how Creative Computing itself would have presented at least the immediate years following.) I wondered quite idly about somehow posting “monthly summaries” here, but when none of the seemingly innocuous images I’d already posted to Tumblr seemed to have been flagged (even if I have to go through my “archives” to find the covers the “search field” won’t turn up) I have to admit inertia took over. I am a bit conscious that while other magazine will drop out along the way, I have sources for at least a few that’ll run until 2005 or so. In any case, keeping this journal itself going isn’t always overwhelming, even if I haven’t gone very far yet towards seeking out “Tumblr refugees” on Dreamwidth to get a little further away from “my best audience is myself.”
krpalmer: (apple)
Looking through a used book store I've visited before but not lately, I managed to notice a book I'd had a used copy of before but given away a while ago. Since then, though, I had got to wondering if I'd ever happen on the chance to read John Sculley's Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple again. I am quite aware of the conventional wisdom that paints him as the CEO who, after completing (with the help of a co-author) his inspirational "how I moved from soft drinks to computers, found my company in trouble, then steered into safe waters" tale, let Microsoft catch up to Apple as he daydreamed of "the Knowledge Navigator" without considering how to get from then to the future until it was easy enough to proclaim his company had been passed (to say nothing of having been there for the accusations of the Apple II being left to dry up on the branch.) Still, I could consider if I'd be able to read carefully enough to recognise a few new details.

Sculley talked with what seemed fond memories about his rise through the ranks at Pepsi as the company developed from "one of several competitors to the colossus of Coca-Cola" to "one of two firms dominating the soft drink trade." He then worked hard at presenting being enticed into a new line of work as "it wasn't that utterly foreign to me." Following the first months at Apple where everything seemed on its way up, things shifted into crisis, and I did get to wondering if this was presented less as a thread of the conventional wisdom, "we thought in our technological arrogance we'd created a fully adequate product," than as "we were spending too much on advertising chasing a consumer market that didn't actually exist." The Apple Computer Sculley describes shaping (once Steve Jobs was out of the picture) seemed more business-focused (which does have me thinking of how, as I go through the PC Magazine archive queuing up covers on my side-project Tumblr, by 1985 the IBM PC seemed very much presented there as "a serious business machine for people in suits and ties"), with the Apple II acknowledged as "having kept us afloat" but still seemingly retargeted as "an education machine." I suppose this impression may be shaped by recent opinions in "The Digital Antiquarian" about how, as MS-DOS based computers continued their incremental improvements through the beginning of the 1990s, they became more usable "at home" at a moment when all the other options were either aimed away from there or at best targeted ineffectively, but I was at least willing to consider it. I even noticed Sculley include a comment I'd seen in period Macworld magazines that Apple had a two-year head start on the graphical user interface and would of course build on it. That, of course, still raises the question of what happened with the company's software efforts, even if there have been comments since the book The Mythical Man-Month that "software is hard."
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Loading my Tumblr's queue with old computer magazine covers on a regular schedule, I got around to Creative Computing again and headed off to the Internet Archive to save an image. On getting there, though, I found myself looking at a screenful of new files available. "Better scans" did get my attention, but I was aware my reactions were just a little more mixed than they could have been.
A chase and a hobby project )
krpalmer: (apple)
I've known for a while now a clock is ticking until older "32-bit applications" will stop working after a future update of macOS. While I understand this won't happen altogether with this year's macOS 10.14 "Mojave," supposing next year will mark the end has had me looking with a little concern at the older applications I've seemed dependant on. I've already moved from Textwrangler to the "Free Mode" of BBEdit to compose these posts in plain text (just as once upon a time I moved from "BBEdit Lite" to Textwrangler), I bit the bullet and paid the fee for a new version of the picture browser Xee, and I've tried replacing an old version of Vox with VLC to play those music files I haven't made the seemingly demanding commitment of adding to my iTunes library. With those three frequently used categories taken care of, though, I began to dwell on what might seem just an occasional software amusement...
Atkinson dithering within )
krpalmer: (apple)
It's easy enough to say "I'm more likely to play an old computer game than a new one," but in trying to lay out my explanations for that I do seem pushed to the further admission "but I can't find the time for much of even that; instead, I just seem to read about those old games." While reading, though, I did happen to learn about a crowd-funded book about games on the Macintosh, which very much caught my attention. Given the cost of having a printed copy shipped across the Atlantic, I was happy to settle for an electronic version. Once I'd made my pledge, however, it was a wait for the book to be finished and edited, and when I did have my copy I was trying to tie up a loose end by reading another book on a similar subject, if one about a computer I hadn't played games on. The release version of Brian Bagnall's Commodore: The Amiga Years (the middle volume of a promised trilogy) had at least taken out the barbed anecdote in a preliminary draft made available to Kickstarter backers about the disk-swapping that would have set in had someone tried loading an application on a single-drive Macintosh from a disk without a System Folder; while strictly true, I'd been inclined to insist there was supposed to have been space for the system and application on a single disk. Once through that book, though, I could move on at last to Richard Moss's The Secret History of Mac Gaming.
Not so distant after all )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Delving into "old computers" may be no better or worse than any other form of "catching up now on what you missed out on at the time," but I can suppose it doesn't have to be as expensive as something like collecting old toys. The only problem there is that it doesn't have to be as expensive because one way to find documentation and applications is to dig into obscure archives for scans and disk images instead of the more upright method of buying actual products from whatever sources there may be. Still, when one archive being updated right now with new "cracks" of Apple II disks made before their physical media demagnetizes altogether had one of the very first versions of Zork I show up, I saved a copy of the disk image. In the process of realising there'd been one version even before it for the TRS-80, looking through the older archives for that computer, and pondering if the specific "Z-Machine" data files for those versions could be extracted and played outside of hardware emulation (it took looking in a third, interactive fiction-specific archive for patch files and installing a command-line interpreter), I did get to contemplating what else I might have missed in the first archive. When I searched for a particular piece of software, all of a sudden I'd completed another quest that had been going on for a while already.
Choosing adventure )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
In delving into the particulars of computers from the 1980s as if to know now what I'd missed then (which might be no better or worse than grown adults buying up the toys they hadn't had as kids), period sources are useful but works made with the benefit of hindsight would seem to offer important perspectives too. A fair while ago, I managed to hear about a book by Brian Bagnall said to provide the history of Commodore computers; by the time I had, though, it seemed to have sold out. I then heard he'd split off the first part of his book and revised it with promises of a similar revision to the history that followed, but in the process I did start wondering about other things I'd heard. It might be one thing to say that "the survivors, at least, have written the history books," but from what I heard Bagnall was insistent on putting down Apple Computer in particular, even "the hacker-friendly Apple II crafted by that lovable 'Woz.'" It felt somehow a bit less like "the truth since obscured" and more like "grinding a particular ax, one familiar to this day."
Going ahead despite that )
krpalmer: (mst3k)
A few weeks ago, one of the frequent "what the 'Best Brains' are up to" updates on Satellite News mentioned that Mike Nelson and one of his Rifftrax writers, Conor Lastowka, were recording a podcast. Looking back, I can recognize the odds against my looking further into that. I've admitted several times to my leeriness about Rifftrax, formed when some of their first synch-them-yourself audio commentaries seemed intent on putting down familiar targets, and imagining that mean-spirited mood continuing cast a shadow first on their takes on big-budget pictures I might have had less divergent reactions to and then on their more "MST3K-like" B-to-Z movies even with the convenience of pre-synched voiceovers. The only Rifftrax-related content I'd really taken a chance on was an introduction to one of the last Complete Peanuts volumes, which Conor had been a cowriter for. There was also the complication of how infrequently I listen to podcasts; I can imagine even from my own experience that it may be easier to talk to someone about something than to set down your thoughts in writing, but I have to admit that for me listening seems more time-consuming than reading, and may distract me from doing other things in the meantime. However, there really was something that could get through all of that, and that was seeing the podcast "372 Pages We'll Never Get Back" promised a comedically critical take on the novel Ready Player One...
Assorted perspectives )
krpalmer: (Default)
The Digital Antiquarian led off an eight-part series on Tetris with an introduction describing the first computers in the Soviet Union (which helps show how plenty of things could be said about that game) and their initial application to cybernetic economic planning. That did sort of surprise me by itself. Aware of how mainframe computers in the West could be viewed with suspicion ("Big Blue," after all, has the same initials as "Big Brother"), it had been easy enough to suppose that had some bearing on things over in the "Mirror World." (As it turned out, though, a later entry in the series did touch on attempts to apply computers to surveillance...)

The discussion that followed that first part made several references to a book by Francis Spufford called Red Plenty, described as a historical novel footnoted with hard research about the Khruschev thaw and the years when it had seemed the Soviet Union was growing faster than capitalism could manage. Looking up more information on the book, I became interested enough to order a copy through the nearest bookstore.
Thoughts on the book and thoughts inspired by it )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Something about reading news about text adventures and interactive fiction every day but seldom getting around to playing any of those games I read about can get to me just a bit. On one trip to the Interactive Fiction Database, though, a new review on the front page managed to pique my interest and point me onward. For all the games I haven't played, I do still seem to have picked up enough knowledge of "familiar adventure genres" that a game promising to poke fun at "the psychological landscape of an incapacitated protagonist" evoked amused expectations. I downloaded Ryan Veeder's "Nautilisia" into my iPad's interactive fiction interpreter and started into it.
The adventurous push )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
I got an email today reminding me it's been a year since I signed up on Tumblr. At the time, I'd been feeling just a bit fatigued at putting together a new post here every week "just to keep my streak running." After a few "crosspost" posts listing the old computer magazine covers I was putting up in order, though, the ideas for here did seem to start coming with a bit more ease, and I let the two streams flow in parallel (although I usually try to cross-promote posts here over there, just in case). Sometimes it's easier to just look at where my queue of covers is, but in any case I am beginning to round out 1981's computer magazines; I'm a bit conscious of plans to add more titles around 1983 or so, though, a while yet before the ebullient "8-bit boom" went bust.
krpalmer: (kill la d'oh)
A piece on Anime News Network described the president of a Japanese television network speculating about artificial intelligence taking over the production of anime. I have to admit one of my first reactions was that this felt so much one of those "one of these days" cyber-utopian visions that there did seem an edge of "trying to provoke a strong reaction just for the sake of attracting attention" to the posting of the article itself. Anime fandom, at least that part of it I can follow, does seem to have a strong undercurrent of disdain for what computer animation has worked its way into the industry. An AI-produced work might look like it was drawn by human hands (assuming tastes don't change at last by then, even if only by the fandom itself turning over), but I can still imagine other people looking ahead with specific aesthetic concerns for the future, given how ready some seem to make accusations about "stuff produced by formula." Beyond that, there's the whole deal with and issue of "sharing the profits of production out to as few people as possible"; the piece made a point of mentioning the familiar worries about how little money gets to the actual people with the pencils.

I can manage to think beyond even all of that, though, and there seems at least the possibility what might begin as "expert systems in the hands of the existing producers" might yet wind up "available to everyone." There, I could remember an online anime magazine from years ago (even if not which one it was to try and delve into the Internet Archive) that had looked ahead with apparent enthusiasm to the moment when people will just have to tell computers what they want to get entertainment tailored to them. The thought of everyone becoming more-or-less inarticulate moguls with endlessly patient creative staffs at their disposal can seem to hold the solution to some very familiar fan woes; the only cost would seem to be collective experiences dissolving into a certain kind of solipsism.
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
As I was working towards hooking my family's TRS-80 Model 100 portable up to external files for the first time in two decades, I happened on a mailing list dedicated to that computer. After I'd proved to my satisfaction I could accomplish the hookup, I kept tabs on the list. Now, I've run across an interesting link offered to it, an in-browser emulator for the portable.

As with an in-browser emulator for the older TRS-80s I stumbled on not that long ago, there's a certain appeal to seeing just what can be accomplished without fussing with a standalone program (in several cases, I've managed to get esoteric Windows emulators running via WINE, including the standard emulator for the Model 100 itself). As soon as that's been taken in, though, I do come straight back to contemplating how, since you're not using a different keyboard than whatever you have on your regular system or "running for hours and hours on AA cells," things can narrow to how where other old computers have big archives of software to fiddle around with, the Model 100's more limited list of programs can keep it seeming a "portable text editor that linked up with systems with larger screens." If a part of studying old computers is to learn about systems small enough to be easily grasped, sometimes the Model 100 starts to feel smaller than some, and in an ambiguous mixture of ways.
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
While "new" stuff for old computers stands out for not showing up every day, I can at least keep finding things I hadn't known about before as I turn back to fields left fallow. Not that long ago, for some reason I can't quite recall I started looking a bit more into that ur-laptop, the TRS-80 Model 100. My family has one of those computers, and it's certainly a lot easier to get going than any machine that requires a cathode-ray tube monitor to be carted around and plugged in, but the problem was that short of setting up the Color Computer we'd used in the 1980s or the now-antique Macintosh I'd tried out in the 1990s to link up over serial, I didn't seem to have any way to get the programs I did know about onto it save for the meticulous tedium of typing them in, much less any good way of getting anything off it before its batteries died in storage again. I'd known there were people who called it the "Model T" and could still put it to use as a text editor; I'd also known a gadget had been made up for it, as for quite a few other old computers, to simulate its old mass-storage portable disk drive but store that data on a camera card, thus allowing data interchange with modern networked computers with relative ease. The gadget had seemed a bit too expensive for whatever use or brief amusement I could imagine getting out of it myself, though, and after a while it seemed to sell out.
Discovering another option )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
Without much fuss, I managed to drift out of the habit of regularly posting links to Tumblr posts I've made here to "keep up for when I need to do that"; however, that doesn't mean I haven't given up all thoughts of that quick source of content. So far as posting computer magazine covers goes, I've worked well into 1978 by now; the initial announcements of 1977's "preassembled" microcomputers have given way to actual user reports. I also happened to think a particular feature in Creative Computing could stand on its own; by the time I'd thought that, though, I had to put three "Computer Myths Explained" together.
krpalmer: (anime)
During the season of Lent, I decided I'd been spending an awful lot of my lunch breaks playing a particular game on my iPad (the number-matching game Threes), and resolved to give it up for at least a while. I might hewed to the letter of that pledge while still missing its spirit, however. Having just finished watching the anime series Love Live, I thought I could try out the mobile game in the franchise; once I'd done that, I realised just how effectively it could pull someone in.
An illustration of that )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
I spent this weekend working on replacing the tiles on my kitchen floor, which threw off my schedule for keeping up a minimal presence on this journal by mentioning just what computer magazine covers I've been posting elsewhere online. However, in the posts I've piled up I managed to include a good bit of introductory coverage of the TRS-80...

Kilobaud, September 1977
BYTE, September 1977
Creative Computing, September-October 1977
Kilobaud, October 1977
BYTE, October 1977
Personal Computing, November-December 1977
ROM, November 1977
Kilobaud, November 1977
BYTE, November 1977
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
As I work my way into computer magazine covers from the second half of 1977 (and the Commodore PET's moment in the spotlight), I've got around to posting some of the covers I do have for a magazine that isn't online yet. After Creative Computing, Softalk, and Macworld, ROM ("Computer Applications for Living") does seem to have become the old computer magazine I'm most curious about, even if the fact it'll soon be gone from the narrative means its issues haven't been scanned yet.

ROM, July 1977
Kilobaud, July 1977
BYTE, July 1977
Creative Computing, July-August 1977
ROM, August 1977
BYTE, August 1977
Personal Computing, September-October 1977
krpalmer: (apple)
Along with pushing that much further into the computer magazine covers of 1977 (within which initial coverage of the Apple II began to pick up), I happened to repost a possibly relevant (to another topic of personal interest, anyway) sequence of images.

Kilobaud, May 1977
BYTE, May 1977
Creative Computing, May-June 1977 (properly coloured cover)
Kilobaud, June 1977
BYTE, June 1977
Personal Computing, July-August 1977
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
I seem to have worked out a pattern for alternating between monthly and bimonthly computer magazine covers from 1977, although I suppose it'll change as other titles enter the fray. I also happened to repost a thoroughly classical arrangement...

Personal Computing, March-April 1977
Kilobaud, March 1977
BYTE, March 1977
Creative Computing, March-April 1977
Kilobaud, April 1977
BYTE, April 1977
Personal Computing, May-June 1977

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