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Re: Short Video of System Source Computer Museum

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  • Herb Johnson
    I followed the Web link to the museum s Web site. It s a visually impressive set of Web pages on a variety of devices related to computing and digital
    Message 1 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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      I followed the Web link to the museum's Web site. It's a visually
      impressive set of Web pages on a variety of devices related to
      computing and digital technology or information processing. Broadly
      defined, even a lineotype machine fits in those categories. That's
      fine by me.

      But I was *not* impressed with the text associated with the Web pages.
      I saw this description on the "almost computers" section, which
      stopped me cold:

      > Almost Computers were computers were just that, computers
      > who almost offered the complete package to end users, but
      > somehow how missed the mark. Computers that didn't have
      > decent input or output like Pong.
      >
      > Pong hooked up a TV to a microprocessor for text and
      > graphical output because it didn't have a monitor packaged
      > with it. Or like the AIM. The AIM was a real computer, but
      > it didn't have a practical display, it was more like a
      > calculator than monitors of today.
      >
      > The RCA almost got it right. The RCA lacked a decent OS
      > forcing users to enter data in HEX.

      My first read of this was confusion. Did he say Pong was an "almost
      computer"? Or that the RCA video game or the AIM (6502-based computer)
      were "almost computers?" I fired off a complaint to the developer of
      the Web site, with details to make my point: this is not an
      historically accurate or technologically accurate consideration of
      these devices.

      I don't want to argue the details here, in case the discussion would
      seem mean-spirited. This person and their company should be commended
      for developing and preserving a collection of "vintage" computers and
      related technology, creating a Web site, and allowing people to see a
      private collection.

      But I take issue with something I see very often, and I'll mention it
      here in general. It's the tendency to review PAST computers in PRESENT
      terms, and then to say that "computers" of the past were "off the
      mark" or "deficient", or as in this case, "almost" computers.

      For example, it's unfair and even inaccurate to call many early video
      games "almost" computers, because many of them could NEVER HAVE BEEN
      "computers". "Pong" in particular was a collection of small digital
      logic chips. No microprocessor, no memory, no software, no firmware,
      no programming language, no way to add ANY of these items.

      And yet, it was "digital", it *was* successful, and it led Atari to
      build some early computers which, without doubt, *were* computers. So
      it's signifigant, but it's not an "almost computer". It is what it
      WAS, an early digital video gaming machine.

      (I have a lot more to say about this, but I know Evan has stopped
      reading this already as it's too long. So I'll just wrap this up.)

      In summary, looking at old computing and saying "they failed because
      they weren't modern enough", simply blames them for being old - using
      the technology and tools of the time. If that is an acceptable thing
      to do, then why bother with "old" computers (or old video games) at
      all? Why collect them, why write about them? And, why would a museum
      have them around, just to say "here's some failures, too bad"?

      One point I'll have to explain. ONe can learn FROM THE PAST. Even if
      it's about old stuff, about old people, and dead technology. You can
      learn about people, about companies, about design, even about
      technology. Why make the same "old" mistakes, over and over? Even if
      you don't like history, maybe you want to avoid old mistakes.

      Herb Johnson
      retrotechnology.com
    • Bob Schwier
      When I chose a computer for my daughter in 1980, I wanted a general machine that would hook up to the television because being a student living on GI Bill, I
      Message 2 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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        When I chose a computer for my daughter in 1980, I wanted a general machine
        that would hook up to the television because being a student living on GI Bill,
        I was not exactly rolling in the type of wealth that could handle both the
        computer and the monitor.
        bs






        Quoting Herb Johnson <herbjohnson@...>:

        > I followed the Web link to the museum's Web site. It's a visually
        > impressive set of Web pages on a variety of devices related to
        > computing and digital technology or information processing. Broadly
        > defined, even a lineotype machine fits in those categories. That's
        > fine by me.
        >
        > But I was *not* impressed with the text associated with the Web pages.
        > I saw this description on the "almost computers" section, which
        > stopped me cold:
        >
        > > Almost Computers were computers were just that, computers
        > > who almost offered the complete package to end users, but
        > > somehow how missed the mark. Computers that didn't have
        > > decent input or output like Pong.
        > >
        > > Pong hooked up a TV to a microprocessor for text and
        > > graphical output because it didn't have a monitor packaged
        > > with it. Or like the AIM. The AIM was a real computer, but
        > > it didn't have a practical display, it was more like a
        > > calculator than monitors of today.
        > >
        > > The RCA almost got it right. The RCA lacked a decent OS
        > > forcing users to enter data in HEX.
        >
        > My first read of this was confusion. Did he say Pong was an "almost
        > computer"? Or that the RCA video game or the AIM (6502-based computer)
        > were "almost computers?" I fired off a complaint to the developer of
        > the Web site, with details to make my point: this is not an
        > historically accurate or technologically accurate consideration of
        > these devices.
        >
        > I don't want to argue the details here, in case the discussion would
        > seem mean-spirited. This person and their company should be commended
        > for developing and preserving a collection of "vintage" computers and
        > related technology, creating a Web site, and allowing people to see a
        > private collection.
        >
        > But I take issue with something I see very often, and I'll mention it
        > here in general. It's the tendency to review PAST computers in PRESENT
        > terms, and then to say that "computers" of the past were "off the
        > mark" or "deficient", or as in this case, "almost" computers.
        >
        > For example, it's unfair and even inaccurate to call many early video
        > games "almost" computers, because many of them could NEVER HAVE BEEN
        > "computers". "Pong" in particular was a collection of small digital
        > logic chips. No microprocessor, no memory, no software, no firmware,
        > no programming language, no way to add ANY of these items.
        >
        > And yet, it was "digital", it *was* successful, and it led Atari to
        > build some early computers which, without doubt, *were* computers. So
        > it's signifigant, but it's not an "almost computer". It is what it
        > WAS, an early digital video gaming machine.
        >
        > (I have a lot more to say about this, but I know Evan has stopped
        > reading this already as it's too long. So I'll just wrap this up.)
        >
        > In summary, looking at old computing and saying "they failed because
        > they weren't modern enough", simply blames them for being old - using
        > the technology and tools of the time. If that is an acceptable thing
        > to do, then why bother with "old" computers (or old video games) at
        > all? Why collect them, why write about them? And, why would a museum
        > have them around, just to say "here's some failures, too bad"?
        >
        > One point I'll have to explain. ONe can learn FROM THE PAST. Even if
        > it's about old stuff, about old people, and dead technology. You can
        > learn about people, about companies, about design, even about
        > technology. Why make the same "old" mistakes, over and over? Even if
        > you don't like history, maybe you want to avoid old mistakes.
        >
        > Herb Johnson
        > retrotechnology.com
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • trailingedge.geo
        ... Evan probably stopped at I followed... ... video ... I clearly remember one that was: I recall getting way excited in 1978 when Bally introduced the
        Message 3 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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          --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Herb Johnson"
          <herbjohnson@...> wrote:

          > (I have a lot more to say about this, but I know Evan has stopped
          > reading this already as it's too long.

          Evan probably stopped at "I followed..."

          > For example, it's unfair and even inaccurate to call many early
          video
          > games "almost" computers, because many of them could NEVER HAVE BEEN
          > "computers".

          I clearly remember one that was:

          I recall getting way excited in 1978 when Bally introduced the "Bally
          Professional Arcade." I was managing an amusement arcade at the time,
          it was still mostly pinball machines back then, and was pretty into
          video games (the Atari 2800 was still king!) I was also very excited
          about the possibilities of "personal" computers such as the recently
          introduced Apple II but being fresh out of school, I had NO money to
          spare for either a video game system OR a computer. And then along
          comes this machine that could play *multiple* video games AND with a
          few "optional accessories" also be a REAL COMPUTER! Imagine the
          possibilities of that! Well, I never did manage to scrape together
          enough to get it but I stayed in love with the idea enough that I did
          finally pick one up on eBay a few years ago.

          --Dave Sica
          dave@...


          --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, "Herb Johnson"
          <herbjohnson@...> wrote:
          >
          > I followed the Web link to the museum's Web site. It's a visually
          > impressive set of Web pages on a variety of devices related to
          > computing and digital technology or information processing. Broadly
          > defined, even a lineotype machine fits in those categories. That's
          > fine by me.
          >
        • B Degnan
          ... The Bally Astrovision you mean? It ran BASIC and Z-GRASS languages. Here is a good article on the subject (Winter CES 1981) that includes some stuff about
          Message 4 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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            games "almost" computers, because many of them could NEVER HAVE BEEN
            "computers". 
                
            I clearly remember one that was:
            
            I recall getting way excited in 1978 when Bally introduced the "Bally 
            Professional Arcade." I was managing an amusement arcade at the time, 
            it was still mostly pinball machines back then, and was pretty into 
            video games (the Atari 2800 was still king!) I was also very excited 
            about the possibilities of "personal" computers such as the recently 
            introduced Apple II but being fresh out of school, I had NO money to 
            spare for either a video game system OR a computer. And then along 
            comes this machine that could play *multiple* video games AND with a 
            few "optional accessories" also be a REAL COMPUTER! Imagine the 
            possibilities of that! Well, I never did manage to scrape together 
            enough to get it but I stayed in love with the idea enough that I did 
            finally pick one up on eBay a few years ago. 
            
              
            The Bally Astrovision you mean?  It ran BASIC and Z-GRASS languages.

            Here is a good article on the subject (Winter CES 1981) that includes some stuff about the Bally Computer.  I have never seen one before, do you have pictures?

            http://vintagecomputer.net/CISC367/Creative%20Computing%20March%201981%20International%20Winter%20Consumer%20Electronics%20Show.pdf

            Bill
          • trailingedge.geo
            ... do ... The first incarnation that hit the market was called the Bally Arcade. Then (call it version 2.0) it was renamed the Astrocade. This was after Bally
            Message 5 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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              --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, B Degnan <billdeg@...> wrote:
              > The Bally Astrovision you mean? It ran BASIC and Z-GRASS languages.
              >
              > Here is a good article on the subject (Winter CES 1981) that includes
              > some stuff about the Bally Computer. I have never seen one before,
              do
              > you have pictures?

              The first incarnation that hit the market was called the Bally Arcade.
              Then (call it version 2.0) it was renamed the Astrocade. This was after
              Bally was no longer involved. IIRC, I was careful to get the first gen
              version. I'll have to dig it out and see. I'll take some pictures. I
              could even display it at InfoAge if that was appropriate.
            • Evan Koblentz
              ... to make my point: this is not an historically accurate or technologically accurate consideration of these devices. Just to clarify, although Bob cited
              Message 6 of 13 , Nov 12, 2008
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                A few thoughts:

                >>> I fired off a complaint to the developer of the Web site, with details
                to make my point: this is not an historically accurate or technologically
                accurate consideration of these devices.

                Just to clarify, although Bob cited myself and Bill Degnan, we both had very
                little to do with the result. Bill and I got involved a year or two ago,
                and our involvement was short-lived. I can't speak for Bill, but I
                personally am not endorsing anything here.

                >>> But I take issue with something I see very often, and I'll mention it
                here in general. It's the tendency to review PAST computers in PRESENT
                terms, and then to say that "computers" of the past were "off the mark" or
                "deficient", or as in this case, "almost" computers.

                I agree 100% with what Herb said.

                >>> but I know Evan has stopped reading this already as it's too long

                :-)

                >>> One can learn FROM THE PAST. Even if it's about old stuff, about old
                people, and dead technology. You can learn about people, about companies,
                about design, even about technology. Why make the same "old" mistakes, over
                and over? Even if you don't like history, maybe you want to avoid old
                mistakes.

                Again, I agree 100%. That's something I learned from Sellam a few years
                ago. Anyone can say, "Here's the past" -- and for some people that is
                sufficient -- but I think it gets interesting when we say, "Here's what we
                can LEARN from the past."
              • Jim Scheef
                The video was cool but some transitions were either not smooth or were incomplete as a few images were never shown clearly - even if I let the entire file
                Message 7 of 13 , Nov 25, 2008
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                  The video was cool but some transitions were either not smooth or were
                  incomplete as a few images were never shown clearly - even if I let the
                  entire file download before playing it.

                  The content was quite interesting. I like the fact that they included a
                  One Laptop Per Child XO-1 (the instant collectible from last Christmas)
                  as they flashed thru a bunch of portables.

                  Jim

                  Evan Koblentz wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > A few thoughts:
                  >
                  > >>> I fired off a complaint to the developer of the Web site, with details
                  > to make my point: this is not an historically accurate or technologically
                  > accurate consideration of these devices.
                  >
                  > Just to clarify, although Bob cited myself and Bill Degnan, we both had very
                  > little to do with the result. Bill and I got involved a year or two ago,
                  > and our involvement was short-lived. I can't speak for Bill, but I
                  > personally am not endorsing anything here.
                  >
                  > >>> But I take issue with something I see very often, and I'll mention it
                  > here in general. It's the tendency to review PAST computers in PRESENT
                  > terms, and then to say that "computers" of the past were "off the mark" or
                  > "deficient", or as in this case, "almost" computers.
                  >
                  > I agree 100% with what Herb said.
                  >
                  > >>> but I know Evan has stopped reading this already as it's too long
                  >
                  > :-)
                  >
                  > >>> One can learn FROM THE PAST. Even if it's about old stuff, about old
                  > people, and dead technology. You can learn about people, about companies,
                  > about design, even about technology. Why make the same "old" mistakes, over
                  > and over? Even if you don't like history, maybe you want to avoid old
                  > mistakes.
                  >
                  > Again, I agree 100%. That's something I learned from Sellam a few years
                  > ago. Anyone can say, "Here's the past" -- and for some people that is
                  > sufficient -- but I think it gets interesting when we say, "Here's what we
                  > can LEARN from the past."
                  >
                  >
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