Snapshot from the heroic era of mobile computing

MJ Carlson calls this photo from a 1980s computer science textbook "the most glorious stock photo of all time." She is correct. Read the rest

Remembering the wild days of IRC on its 30th birthday

Jon Cog writes, "On the 30th anniversary of IRC, David Cassel pulls together his favorite memories from the 1990s, 'when there were all kinds of fun things to do.' It was an unexplored world of freedom and fun, where even Monty Python's fish-slapping dance got a shout-out in a popular IRC client -- prompting one reporter to describe IRC as 'the kind of place that slaps you around a bit with a large trout.' But the article describes the humble origins of IRC (as a Swedish college student's summer project), as well as the many weird and wonderful moments that followed -- including an IRC-themed music video from Sweden in 2006. And best of all, IRC is still popular among open source developers today. Read the rest

The fabulous illustrated history of the pocket calculator

In the 1970s, there was a boom in pocket calculators, driven by the plummeting costs of their electronic components, and an industry that had once prided itself on its high-end offerings for serious business users found itself rethinking the nature of the calculator, producing "ladies' calculators," calculators for kids (accompanied by bestselling books of "calculator games") and all manner of weird form-factors. Read the rest

That time Phyllis Diller roasted the Haunted Mansion

Back in 1972-3, Disney ran a short-lived variety show called The Mouse Factory that intercut classic animation with live action, framed by celebrity hosts that kind of threaded it all together into a mashed-up, loose storyline. Read the rest

Kickstarting new Aquabats albums and TV shows!

The wonderful Aquabats, nearly killed when the network they'd signed with went out of business, are back, and they want to produce a new TV special episode of Super Show! with a new album to go with it. Read the rest

Re/Search press releases its first-ever merch, only available for a few more hours

For cyberpunks of a certain vintage, Re/Search press (previously) was absolutely formative -- books like Incredibly Strange Films, Zines!, and, of course, Modern Primitives (RIP, Fakir) were incredibly influential material for the modern happy mutant. Read the rest

The Cyberdeck: a homebrew, 3D printed cyberspace deck

A small but vital genre of homebrew portable computers is the "cyberspace deck," in which hackers create DIY, special-purpose computers inspired by the ICE-breaking console-cowboy decks of William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive). Read the rest

Bloom County's second reboot collection: the election of 2016 and beyond

When Donald Trump entered the election race, it brought Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed out of a much-deserved retirement to lampoon Cheeto Hitler as only Milo, Opus, Bill and the gang could; the first collection chronicled the 2016 campaign, and a second collection, Brand Spanking New Day is a comic snapshot of one of the weirdest, worst years in living American memory.

Weeknotes: personal, public logs in the tradition of early blogging

Matt Webb (previously) is a "weeknoter." That means that once a week, he sits down and sums up all the things he's seen, done, learned and taken note of in the previous week, and makes the result public. Read the rest

Kickstarting a new edition of Steve Jackson's long-lost masterpiece "Melee"

Stefan Jones writes, "While Dungeons & Dragons (1973) had its roots in miniatures wargaming, it really didn't coherently integrate boardgame-style maneuvers into its combat system. Steve Jackson changed that a few years later with Melee, the first segment in what would be a full-fledged fantasy role playing game system, The Fantasy Trip. It was a lot better developed than D&D, and was supported by GMd adventures and solotaire adventures." Read the rest

"Carlton, Your Doorman" - Emmy-winning 1980 animated TV pilot

Zach Smith writes, "Lorenzo Music's Carlton the Doorman was one of TV's great unseen characters...but he finally got a face in this special, intended as a series pilot. And he...kind of looked like a hippie. The intended series would have been one of the first adult-oriented prime-time cartoons, but while it didn't make it past the pilot, it did win an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program...and Lorenzo Music would have better luck in animation a few years later when he started voicing Garfield the Cat. The special, which was never rebroadcast after its initial airing, is also available on the RHODA: SEASON FIVE DVD set from SHOUT! Factory, and the YouTube channel this is on has a treasure trove of unaired series, alternate first episodes, concept presentations and more." Read the rest

Hi rez images from NASA's 1967/8 Lunar Orbiters were withheld to hide US spying capabilities

In 1967, the Lunar Orbiter missions sent back exciting -- but grainy and low-rez -- photos of the moon's surface. Read the rest

The first "portable" computer fit in two trailer vans and weighed 20 tons

The first electromechanical computers occupied whole buildings, making them rather unwieldy; in the 1950s, an effort to create a "portable" computer called the DYSEAC bore fruit in the form of a computer on wheels that could be relocated, provided you had the trucking logistics to move two trailers with a combined weight of 20 tons. Read the rest

To do in San Francisco: an evening celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Whole Earth Catalog

I was practically raised on the Whole Earth Catalog and its successors like the Co-Evolution Quarterly, the Whole Earth Review and the WELL -- pioneering publications whose motto, "access to tools and ideas," turned into the maker movement and helped create the movement for free, fair and open internet infrastructure. Read the rest

Rebooting Tomb of Horrors, Gary Gygax's incredibly hard D&D module for "invincible characters"

In 1975, Gary Gygax revealed the Tomb of Horrors module at the first Origins convention, presenting it as a campaign that would specifically challenge overpowered characters who would have to rely on their wits to outsmart incredibly lethal, subtle traps, rather than using their almighty THACOs to fell trash-mobs of orcs or other low-level monsters. Read the rest

Founder of Diamond Comic Distributors donates 3,000 comics rarities to the Library of Congress

Gary Price writes, "The Library of Congress announced today that collector and entrepreneur Stephen A. Geppi (owner of Diamond Comic Distributors) has donated to the nation’s library more than 3,000 items from his phenomenal and vast personal collection of comic books and popular art, including the original storyboards that document the creation of Mickey Mouse." Read the rest

The paleocomputing miracle of the 76477 Space Invaders sound effects chip

In 1978, the 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip was foundational to creating the sound effects in many popular games, notably Space Invaders; it was also popular with hobbyists who could buy the chip at Radio Shack -- it could do minor miracles, tweaking a white noise generator to produce everything from drums to explosions, using an integrated digital mixer to layer and sequence these sounds. Read the rest

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