Technologizer posts about Nostalgia

The Offbeat World of Atari

By  |  Posted at 12:18 am on Monday, February 13, 2012

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For a forty-year-old company that remains synonymous with video games, Atari has experimented with an awful lot of other businesses. In its early years, it made pinball machines, jukeboxes, video phones, digital photo booths, music-visualization boxes for your hi-fi, and more. Benj Edwards, who knows more about this stuff than anyone, has compiled a look at Atari Oddities–including the aforementioned and others, and some strange games, too. (If you remember Puppy Pong, I’m impressed.)

 

Visit Atari Oddities slideshow.

 



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Why History Needs Software Piracy

How copy protection and app stores could deny future generations their cultural legacy.

By  |  Posted at 1:12 am on Monday, January 23, 2012

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Amid the debate surrounding controversial anti-piracy legislation such as SOPA and PIPA, our public discourse on piracy tends to focus on the present or the near future. When jobs and revenues are potentially at stake, we become understandably concerned about who is (or isn’t) harmed by piracy today.

I’m here to offer a different perspective, at least when it comes to software piracy. While the unauthorized duplication of software no doubt causes some financial losses in the short term, the picture looks a bit different if you take a step back. When viewed in a historical context, the benefits of software piracy far outweigh its short-term costs. If you care about the history of technology, in fact, you should be thankful that people copy software without permission.

It may seem counterintuitive, but piracy has actually saved more software than it has destroyed. Already, pirates have spared tens of thousands of programs from extinction, proving themselves the unintentional stewards of our digital culture.

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The Timeless Genius of Kodak’s George Eastman

By  |  Posted at 3:32 pm on Saturday, January 7, 2012

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Over at the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal has an exceptionally good post with an exceptionally good title: “The Triumph of Kodakery.” Inspired by the sad news that Eastman Kodak may be on the verge of bankruptcy, he points out that the dream the company was built on–making photography so effortless that it’s everywhere, and enjoyed by everybody–is hardly in trouble. It’s just that its purest expression today is the camera phone, not a Kodak camera that takes Kodak film that’s processed by a Kodak lab.
 
The dream originated in the brain of the gentleman in the above photo, George Eastman (1854-1932). He was the founder of Eastman Kodak, and he didn’t just start one of the most important companies in the history of consumer technology products. He played as important a role as anyone in inventing the idea of consumer technology products. 
 
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Before PCs, There Were Digital Watches

How a short-lived fad of the 1970s foreshadowed the computing revolution to come.

By  |  Posted at 3:34 am on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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This is my new watch. If you ever owned a Commodore 64 or an Amiga, you recognize that insignia below the display: It belongs to Commodore, the company that sold vast quantities of personal computers in the 1980s before petering out in the early 1990s.

My new watch is also an old watch: It’s a Commodore Time Master, manufactured in 1976 or thereabouts. I bought it from a specialist called LED Watch Stop, which has a supply of new-old-stock Time Masters that never got sold back in the 1970s. (It’s selling them for $229 apiece at the moment, although the price was $129 just a few days ago–I guess I lucked into a sale when I impulsively ordered one.)

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The More CES Stays the Same, the More It Changes

By  |  Posted at 8:51 pm on Monday, January 2, 2012

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While rummaging through the official CES photo bank for an image of Steve Ballmer giving a CES keynote, I came across this picture of the show floor, jam-packed with booths, attendees, and stuff. (Click on it for a larger version.)

Consumer Electronics Show 1980

At first blush, this could be any year’s show–you can see Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, and other companies that will be at next week’s edition. I might believe you for a moment if you told me this was last year’s show, which I attended.

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Computer Space and the Dawn of the Arcade Video Game

How a little-known 1971 machine launched an industry.

By  |  Posted at 10:14 pm on Sunday, December 11, 2011

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Forty years ago, Nutting Associates released the world’s first mass-produced and commercially sold video game, Computer Space. It was the brainchild of Nolan Bushnell, a charismatic engineer with a creative vision matched only by his skill at self-promotion. With the help of his business partner Ted Dabney and the staff of Nutting Associates, Bushnell pushed the game from nothing into reality only two short years after conceiving the idea.

Computer Space pitted a player-controlled rocket ship against two machine-controlled flying saucers in a space simulation set before a two-dimensional star field. The player controlled the rocket with four buttons: one for fire, which shoots a missile from the front of the rocket ship; two directional rotation buttons (to rotate the ship orientation clockwise or counterclockwise); and one for thrust, which propelled the ship in whichever direction it happened to be pointing. Think of Asteroids without the asteroids, and you should get the picture.

During play, two saucers would appear on the screen and shoot at the player while flying in a zig-zag formation. The player’s goal was to dodge the saucer fire and shoot the saucers.

Considering a game of this complexity playing out on a TV set, you might think that it was created as a sophisticated piece of software running on a computer. You’d think it, but you’d be wrong–and Bushnell wouldn’t blame you for the mistake. How he and Dabney managed to pull it off is a story of audacity, tenacity, and sheer force-of-will worthy of tech legend. This is how it happened.

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J.J. Sedelmaier provides a neat visual retrospective of a device that’s still out there, but which feels like a relic: the non-cordless phone. (I still have one at home, but only because I occasionally do guest spots on radio shows from my house–and the producers always ask if I can do them from a wired landline.)
 
[Via Mark Evanier]

Posted by Harry at 12:08 pm

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Walt Mossberg has been writing his Wall Street Journal column for two decades (!). He’s celebrating the landmark with a look back, including links to some historic columns–such as the first one.

Posted by Harry at 1:22 am

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The Pros and Cons of the Internet, As Taught to Students in 1996

By  |  Posted at 7:00 am on Friday, October 28, 2011

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Last weekend, I was at my parents’ house in Connecticut for a family matter. As my sister went through some of the things in her childhood bedroom, she discovered a document from 1996, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet. This was apparently part of some high school handout packet; also included among the papers were tips on using Altavista and print outs of the Yahoo home page as viewed in Netscape.

Since we’re fans of tech nostalgia here at Technologizer, I thought I’d share the document with you. Surprisngly, many of the Internet’s perks and problems remain the same 15 years later, but some of them just seem silly in retrospect.

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iPoddities!

By  |  Posted at 1:48 am on Sunday, October 23, 2011

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Ten years ago today, on October 23rd 2001, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod at a press event on Apple’s Cupertino campus. (Here he is doing it.) It made the news, but didn’t feel like an epoch-shifting event at the time. It was. And to celebrate the iPod’s first decade, our tech historian and oddity collector Benj Edwards has found a dozen iPod-related curiosities–ones involving dentistry, weaponry, and a whole lot more.

View iPod Oddities slideshow.



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Still the silliest Steve Jobs photo ever.

Posted by Harry at 10:11 am

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Steve Jobs Steps Down the First Time: The 1985 Press Coverage

By  |  Posted at 10:08 am on Thursday, August 25, 2011

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In 1985, John Sculley–Apple’s president and Steve Jobs’ partner and confidante–became frustrated with Jobs’ management style. He forced Jobs into a role as Apple’s chairman that was designed to prevent him from making any decisions. A few months later, Jobs resigned and founded NeXT. And that, it seemed, was that.

The saga got a lot of coverage in the press–not as much as this week’s Jobs news, but a lot. It’s fascinating to look back at it. And I don’t blame anyone who failed to understand the implicates of Jobs leaving back then or even cheered his exodus. I mean, who would have believed you if you’d outlined the story to come?

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Gone in Sixty Seconds: The Shortest-Lived Tech Products Ever

Ten gadgets and services whose existences were nasty, brutish, and short.

By  |  Posted at 8:18 am on Friday, August 19, 2011

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Companies in Silicon Valley are fond of saying that they like to “fail fast.” They mean that it’s virtuous to try lots of new things, but to give up quickly when something’s not working. But sometimes they fail fast in a manner that’s nothing to brag about. They invest millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars in a new product and hype it to the Heavens–and then kill it after only a few months, if they ever release it at all.

From this day henceforth, HP’s TouchPad may be the poster child for bizarrely short-lived tech products. But it has lots of company–famously infamous flops such as Audrey, the G4 Cube, and Foleo. Let’s honor them, shall we?

For this list, I considered only products that were on the market for less than a year, or which never quite made it to consumers, period. Every item that made it was from a large company that should have known better. And while they all share the indignity of a short, embarrassing life, they represent multiple types of failure. (Some of them should never have left the drawing boards in the first place; others could have been great if they’d been given more time to succeed.)

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