Category Archives: computer

Promotional Photo Theatre: Crazy Lady

Some advice on romance for you from a retro video game historian: Find someone who looks at you the way this lady looks at the guy running the Aquarius Home Computer System, by Mattel Electronics.

On second thought, maybe don’t. She looks like she’s thinking about slitting his throat while he sleeps tonight, and whether she could completely bathe her naked body in the amount of blood that came out of him.

And another thing: this photo seems to prove just how unuseable the crap keyboard on the Aquarius was. Look at the man’s fingers, curled up like an old, arthritic witch in order to press on those tiny, rubbery chiclet-keys. The computer came with a built-in flavour of Microsoft BASIC, but can you imagine trying to program on that thing? 20 minutes and I’d be longing for release, as the pumping blood from my carotid artery splashed on my wife’s writhing body.

Also, the dude has a Mini Expander AND two memory packs, but hasn’t installed them into the computer? That means he’s stuck with the anemic 4K standard RAM in the Aquarius. Yes honey, you can bring the kitchen knife to bed tonight.

For more information on the Mattel Aquarius, as well as the company’s famous home console Intellivision, consult your local Dot Eaters entry, here.

Promotional Photo Theatre: Lonesome Dove Shirt

Promo shot of the Keyboard Component, a computer upgrade for the Intellivision video game console

Here, Mom goggles at the ridiculous language on the screen, while the men go through the motions of learning Conversational French on the Intellivision Keyboard Component. Which appears gigantic in this image. I mean, that is a pretty big table it’s sitting on, but still Mom is shoved over to one edge, and Dad has to hover his elbows OVER the other side while typing on those big, clunky keys.

But I digress. Perhaps the apparent awkwardness between Father and Son has more to do with the kid’s shirt. Look at it. Powder blue with two giant white roses embroidered on it. Dad is probably thinking “I can’t believe a jackass who would submit to a shirt like that came out of my ballsack!” Or Balzac, as it were. C’est l’humour!

There’s also something going on with Jr.’s nose. It’s too red and bulbous. It could be that the “who gives a flying fart?” look on the guys’ faces is due to them nipping at the sherry a bit too hard before rolling over the gargantuan computer on its crash-cart to learn the language of romance. Mon dieu, c’est tellement grand!

For more information on the Intellivision game console and the Keyboard Component, consult your local Dot Eaters entry!

Run, Coward! Sinistar Unleashed, by GameFX and THQ, Windows 1999

This ad features another entry in the turn-of-the-millennium retro game remake sweepstakes. This time it’s Sinistar getting the reboot treatment, the 1982 Williams arcade classic by Sam Dicker, pictured below the ad in 1984.

Sinistar Unleashed, a video game for Windows

Run, Coward!

Sam Dicker, creator of Sinistar, 1984

For full info on Sinistar, Williams Electronics and their seminal shoot-em-up Defender, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Don Mattrick, 18-year old Entrepreneur

You might recognize the name Don Mattrick. He served as President of Worldwide Studios at Electronic Arts, among other roles at the company, before joining Microsoft as Senior Vice President of the Entertainment and Devices Division in 2007. Eventually promoted to Pesident of the Interactive Entertainment Business, he ran such projects as the Xbox line at the company.  After leaving Microsoft, he assumed the role of CEO at the embattled mobile game company Zynga, creators of the FarmVille phenomena, among others.

But he got his start in the game business by co-founding Distinctive Software in 1982, at the tender age of 17.  Mattrick is standing on the right,  pictured with his partner in the company, Jeff Sember.

From left: Jeff Sember and Don Mattrick

From left: Jeff Sember and Don Mattrick

 

In this image they are showing off their game Evolution, on the Apple II. As a kind of primordial Spore (software superstar Will Wright’s treatise on the subject, released in 2008), the game has players guiding an entity as a one-celled protozoan to tadpole to rodent to beaver to gorilla to, ultimately, Man. Another big hit for Distinctive were the Test Drive games, hit driving game for the C64, Apple II and PC DOS. Racing games would become a speciality of the company. 

During the lead-up and launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One console in 2013, Mattrick became a whipping boy for the gaming community due to the draconian DRM scheme that saddled the console. Initially, trading or selling games was severely restricted on Microsoft’s unit. Particularly in memes created using the photo used as a featured image in this post, Mattrick and the Xbox were savaged. A tremendous outcry from players, as well as some brilliant positioning from Sony, eventually caused Microsoft to remove these restrictions.  

From the Apple II to the Xbox consoles. What a long, strange trip it’s been for Don Mattrick.

1983 ad for Evolution, a computer game by Don Mattrick and Jeff Sember

Ad for Evolution, 1983

 

Late to the Party – Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls (1990) Pt. 5

Another serving of Late to the Party, where that sweet, sweet retro gaming cake NEVER gets stale. Today Anthony joins me in continuing the higher-education hi-jinks of one Ernie Eaglebeak, where we visit the Sorcerer U. cafeteria, and the housemaster’s wife Hillary comes on to us:

Late to the Party – Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls (1990) Pt. 4

The Party continues, long after everyone has stumbled drunkenly home and the confetti has been swept up. Today Tim Mack and I continue the game by attending a fascinating lecture on magical ethics, and take a whirl in the Simulation Chair. 

Late to the Party – Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 2

Presenting our second instalment of Late to the Party, game playthroughs where we finally buy into the hype decades after a game’s release. This episode, Tim Mack joins me in continuing Steve Meretzky’s ribald 1990 text/graphic adventure game Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls. Our collegiate hero registers for classes at vaunted Sorcerer U, and gets the lay of the land, so to speak.

Class is in session. Welcome to college, Mr. Eaglebeak!

Other episodes in this series:
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 1 
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 3

Late to the Party – Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 1

Welcome to Late to the Party, where we hop onto a game’s bandwagon waaay too late. This premiere instalment starts Babarnicals and me off in Steve Meretzky’s 1990 risqué adventure game classic about an abused young man who’s only hope of escaping imprisonment by his evil relative is by attending wizard school. Similarities to a certain other young wannabe wizard are purely coincidental, of course.  

Here is part one of our playthrough of Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls:

 

Other episodes in this series:
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 2
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls Pt. 3

Activision Pivots (1983)

The original 3rd-party video game maker for the Atari 2600, Activision apparently saw the writing on the wall in 1983. That was the year they made their move from consoles onto computer platforms, such as porting Kaboom! and River Raid to the Atari 8-bit XL line as seen in this ad. Moving to computer platforms helped the storied company survive the big video game crash of 1983-84, allowing them to become one of the biggest video game companies still around today.

Activision makes their move.

Activision makes their move.

For more information on Activision and the Atari VCS, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

The Visual Cortex: Activision Pivots

The original third-party video game maker for the Atari 2600 was Activision, formed by four disgruntled Atari game designers looking for more respect and a bigger piece of the financial pie. Former music industry exec Jim Levy, as well as venture capitalist Richard Muchmore, rounded out the company’s management.

Activision saw the writing on the wall for video game consoles in 1983. That was the year they pivoted from consoles onto computer platforms, porting popular hits like Kaboom! and River Raid to the Atari 8-bit XL line, as seen in the ad featured today in the Cortex.

Ad for computer games by Activision, a video game company 1983

Activision makes their move to computers.

Moving to computers helped the storied company survive the big video game crash of 1983-84, allowing them to become one of the biggest video game companies operating today.

For more information on the history of Activision and the Atari 2600, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.