Reveries of Retrocomputing

This weekend I've been passing time by ripping a bunch of my old Apple disks over to .DSK files on my PC, so I can run 'em in the usual suite of Apple emulators and get them saved to CD for long-term storage. I've been meaning to do this for years now, but got the impulse to really tackle it the other day when a box from my parents arrived, containing a bunch of my old computer stuff that I'd dug up on a trip back to New Mexico a few weeks ago. This box contained:
  • BASIC Computer Games, Volume II, TRS-80 Edition. I never had a TRS-80, but learned programming from a TRS-80 Level I BASIC manual back in the late '70s. This was long before I even had a computer; I just wrote programs on paper that were never actually entered or run anywhere. I tried to adapt a few of these of the PDP11/34 in high school (see below) but really, most of the games are ass. Now I only keep it for all the doodles I did in it.

  • HARDCORE Computist, Issues 1-44. The Apple hacker's magazine, focusing mostly on busting copy protection on commercial software. At the time you could buy this on the newsstand (shout out: Page One in Albuquerque, still going strong today). The anti-protection forces won out for a while, there was a good ten years or so where copy protection was really out of favor. Nowadays it's all the rage again and I believe this magazine might actually be illegal, what with the DMCA and the Patriot Act and all. How far we've come.

  • A few stray issues of the original "Computer Gaming World", circa 1983, long before Ziff-Davis. Apparently back then nobody had money to design the packaging for computer games, 'cause every single box looks like it was designed and drawn by the company owner's teenage nephew.

  • Two 5.25" cases full of Apple II disks. One is misc utilities and stuff, the other is all games. This isn't quite the Holy Grail -- there's a third case with a couple hundred disks that I haven't been able to put my hands on yet (probably under all my Mom's stuff) -- but it'll do for now. (I already had two cases of modem programs and text files -- that's what got ripped yesterday and today. If anybody needs any old Apple-Cat transfer programs, wardialers, music synthesizers or answering machines, drop me a line 'cause buster, I've got a ton of 'em. Still keeping the 'Cat though.)

  • A box of printouts from the old IsaacSystem Global Mail program. Back in high school we ran wild on the school's PDP11/34A, which didn't come with anything "fancy" like an email program, so we wrote our own. Very proto-BBS stuff; people came up with handles and made up characters/personas (Fred The Sadist, Sloppy Joe, et al.). The best stuff -- still on 8" disk right now but data recovery prices have gone down enough that I'm going to have them dumped next month -- was the animated messages people came up with: all the CRT terminals on campus were VT100s, and you can make a VT100 do just about anything with the right escape sequences, so folks did stuff with animated character graphics, locked scrolling regions, and wackier things like the escape code that changed the refresh rate on the screen in a way that made it shake like a drunk whose head's caught in a paint mixer. The printouts don't have any of that, obviously, but there's lots of other great stuff. I'm particularly fond of the PS2-vs-Xbox-style console wars we used to have about the ColecoVision and the Atari 5200.
So anyway. As is well known, Jason Scott is the man when it comes to tracking the old textfiles scene (and he's not a bad documentarian either). He and I have a little mutual admiration society going -- he digs all the textfile stuff like the Countlegger series I did back in the day, and I love that he's doing a fantastic job with all the history-of-the-scene stuff I'd feel obligated to be working on if he wasn't doing it already. So it was a kick this evening to see how far back we go, when I found this little gem of Jason's on one of my text archives, right along side a similarly themed missive of my own that I'd written a couple of days prior. Enjoy.

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Previously at Studio Nibble...