I hate that the latest "kids react to old computers" video (this time centered around the Apple II) is making the rounds everywhere. Besides the fact that this same click-bait gimmick has been done multiple times before with other computers, it proves nothing. You can put just about anyone of any age in front of just about any old computer and they likely won't know what to do with it beyond possibly knowing how to insert removable media and then stumbling around for the rest. Every computer back then had its own set of commands and own way of working beyond the basics. Even someone who is highly skilled in one or another brand of vintage computer won't necessarily have a clue how to work with a completely different brand of vintage computer. I've certainly experienced this phenomena myself, especially since I work with dozens of different vintage computers each year (Pro Tip: Keeping command "cheat sheets" handy is a big help!).
And no, today's computers and mobile devices haven't made anyone "stupid" or "lazy." Today's computers and mobile devices - as you would hope from almost 40 years of evolution in the home - are merely more user friendly. Personal computers back then always strived for that as well, but there were obvious limits given the technology. [Read more]
After seeing yet another topic on AtariAge about why the Commodore 64 (C-64), released in 1982, succeeded in both sales and software support, where the Atari 8-bit series, released in 1979, didn't, I thought I'd offer up my usual thoughts on the matter in a more formal manner. To my mind, it's pretty simple. While the Atari 8-bits had a roughly three year headstart, in those three years, Atari wasn't able to make much headway in the market despite having the best audio-visual potential of the time, bar-none. The missteps with the lovely, but initially flawed, Atari 1200XL, didn't do them any favors, and by the time the C-64 started picking up significant momentum in 1983 when its retail price started dropping to the point where no one was able to compete effectively with its value proposition and still turn a profit, Atari was already done, particularly since they lacked Commodore's supply chain advantages.
Certainly price was a factor in the C-64's success in the US, but in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, price was often the primary driver (e.g., long after the US standardized on reliable, but expensive disks and drives, Europeans were still using unreliable, but cheap cassettes and tape decks), making Atari's inability to produce a low cost 8-bit in a timely manner particularly devastating. The influx of talented European programmers to the C-64's software pool can't be underestimated as the Atari 8-bit line struggled to make it into homes there. It also didn't do Atari any favors that they had multiple models out in the wild with 16K - 64K of memory at that time, making it difficult to target the higher spec. We can't underestimate the value of every Commodore 64 having 64K from its first day on the market to its last, making ports to platforms without a significant user base of guaranteed 64K-spec machines less likely. [Read more]
Silpheed is the name of the ship you fly in this 1988 game released on MS-DOS, it was originally developed on the PC8801 & FM-7 computer systems and later ported to MS-DOS, Apple II and the Tandy Coco (!!!). I originally encountered this game first on the SegaCD/MegaCD but that was a remake of the original shown here.
A great sequel called Silpheed: The Lost Planet came out for the PlayStation 2 and I just happen to own that game as well so another video with that will probably pop-up eventually.
There's also a Silpheed game on the xbox 360 which is called ' Project Sylpheed' .
Here's the first part of my interview with Joel Billings, founder of SSI and strategy wargame aficionado. We focus on Joel's background in wargaming and video games and then the earliest days of SSI and their battles with Avalon Hill.
You can download the video here.
To the delight of 8-bit videogame fans everywhere, the legendary Karateka will soon be getting a reboot courtesy of original developer, Jordan Mechner, for the downloadable game services on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. As we know with the long history of Archon remakes, it can take many years and iterations to finally hit on a proper remake formula, but at least Mechner is saying all the right things in interviews, trying to take direct inspiration from the original. After all, although Karateka is a type of playable martial arts film, it kept its gameplay simple and approachable, something fighting games have all but forgotten since the rise of Street Fighter II, and the related over-the-top, combo-heavy, and sometimes button mashing approaches to hand-to-hand combat.
Thanks to A2Central.com for the heads-up that Apple Game Server Online! is now, well, online. For those who still rock original Apple II computer series systems or compatibles, this means you can now use your iPhone 4, iPad 2, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and more to load games onto your classic system via its standard cassette input jack. While there are a variety of flash- and cable-based solutions for doing a similar thing - and of course original software itself - this is a particularly intriguing, convenient, and zero cost option. Over 100 games are presently available.
Today's remarkable auction is Sierra On-Line's (OnLine Systems), Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress, big box version, for the Apple II. Ultima II was Richard Garriott's somewhat divisive sequel to the first Ultima game, and one of the most sought after entries in the series for collectors. There were several different versions of the game, some in large boxes, some in small boxes, and some with Origin as the primary publisher rather than Sierra. Origin also re-released Ultima II in yet another variation, this time in conjunction with Ultima I and III, in a materially scaled back compilation called the Ultima Trilogy. In any case, what makes this particular auction remarkable is not so much the final sale price, which was a relatively fair $257.00 with free shipping, but the fact that the game was sealed, which had the potential to drive the price even higher. As with most of the Ultima games, Ultima II saw release on a wide range of platforms, but the Apple II version was the original, and also was one of the only Western platforms to get a slightly upgraded re-release. I personally own all the games in the Ultima series boxed except for Ultima II, which I only have outside of PC CD-based compilations in the Commodore 64 version of the Ultima Trilogy, though I do have the original disks for the Atari 8-bit version of Ultima II. Though not spectacular, the Japanese-only FM Towns version of Ultima II, is arguably the nicest looking of the official releases.
Check out the video from LordKarnov42 below to see the original Apple II release in action for the RPG game that tasked you with traveling to every planet in the solar system, including Planet X:
Today's remarkable auction is a doozy, Cyborg for the Apple II, Softsmith Software version. Why is it a doozy? Because the Softsmith Software version was the budget-packaged re-release of the Sentient Software original, and it sold for an amazing $157.50, plus shipping and handling. The original Cyborg, from computer game pioneer and sci-fi author Michael Berlyn (also of Infocom fame) and published through the Sentient Software (both of whom also did the more famous, Oo-Topos, which I personally own, which also had a later re-release (and update) through another publisher), was released in 1981 for the Apple II. An Atari 8-bit version followed in 1982, as well as a Commodore 64 version. Cyborg is a science fiction text adventure game in which an artificial intelligence is electronically merged with your body as the result of a scientific experiment. Your mission is to find a source of energy to keep you alive. The game uses a text parser, except for character interaction, during which you choose a question from a predetermined list.
In any case, at some point Softsmith Software got the rights and, apparently without Berlyn's knowledge (and, obviously, consent), created a PC DOS version that, amazingly, had compatibility issues with most true PC's (see the trivia section, here). Though not shown on the Mobygames Website, there was in fact an updated Macintosh version that Berlyn mentioned that was published through Broderbund, shown here. As you can tell and what I find appalling about the final sale price, the Softsmith Software version was packaged in that company's usual generic boxes in as lazy a manner as possible (though of course, even the original version of the game was just a folder with some instructions, but at least a colorful folder with actual artwork). To me, that throws any significant value right out the window, but of course, to us collector's, that's often irrelevant to the end goal of possession.
Sierravision's The Dark Crystal (Hi-Res Adventure #6), just sold on eBay for the remarkable price of $158.63, plus shipping and handling. As you can tell, Roberta Williams' 1983 release, based on the cult classic Jim Henson movie, is among the most sought after of the original Sierra text and graphics adventures. The game received middling reviews when first released and the graphics are fairly average. The Atari 8-bit version looks almost exactly the same, just with different coloring; I am unfamiliar with the Japanese PC-xx versions. Other translations of the game were planned, but probably due to the lack of relative financial success for both the movie and game, those plans were canceled. However, Al Lowe's mostly forgotten Gelfling Adventure was released a year later in 1984 and is essentially the same game, just with a modified interface and child friendly difficulty level.
Here's some gameplay footage of the Apple II version from YouTube, via Yzzyxz:
Thanks to the Apple II news Website, A2Central.com, for the heads-up about Don Lancaster releasing some of his classic computer books as free ebooks, each of which are presently available for download as PDFs. Check it out, particularly if you're into the Apple II!