September 1st, 2015

Open Apple #50 (August 2015) : Rebecca Heineman, Plamen’s Clones, GS/OS Updates

This month on Open Apple, we sit down with Rebecca “Burger Becky” Heineman. Becky is a legendary Apple II developer (not to mention many other platforms), and was the keynote speaker at KansasFest 2015. We discuss Becky’s KansasFest experiences then and now, how the community has changed, and what she’s up to now. She has a lot of Apple II gold archived away, and we’re starting to see more and more of it as a result of the continued warmth and friendliness of the Apple II community.

Tune in after that interview, when Quinn and Mike go on to talk about amazing Bulgarian hardware products, new ways to acquire Byteworks software, the mysteries of Double Hires graphics, and of course Halt & Catch Fire. KansasFest stories abound, Mike plugs the Apple III, and Quinn acts oblivious to Mike on the subject of Prince of Persia. Listen in awe as she tells the exact same story about Mechner’s source code, immediately after Mike says the same thing. We swear your co-hosts do listen to each other most of the time, folks.

Place your orders now for the hottest new fragrance, R3TR0: By Gagne.

August 5th, 2015

My First KansasFest – Ian Marks

During KansasFest, we asked 11 year old Ian Marks to write about his KansasFest experience. This was Ian’s first time attending the conference with his mother, Giselle Marks. The adults weren’t the only ones having a good time with their Apple II computers.

This was my first year at K-Fest. I think that it has been the most interesting thing I have ever done. What I liked the most about K-Fest was how kind and generous everyone was to me. Everyone was so helpful, and I think that made the difference. It was the most fun that I have ever had.

Ian Marks

The first thing I went to was the keynote speech by Burger Becky. It was a very interesting story of how she got away from her parents to become a famous programmer. Having abusive parents is difficult, but she still managed to make it. My favorite part of the story was when she won the Atari game tournament by a long shot. I hope I get to see her again at K-Fest next year.

The next thing I did was make a string bracelet with Loren Damewood. This is where everybody started being so generous, because he let me do it for free. Later, Loren helped me download Sweet16. Someone else let me use one of the ROM files he had, and Loren gave me a disk image. It was cool being able to use an Apple //’s software on a modern computer. I was also able to try out real Apple // computers, and Jeremy Moskowitz gave me my first very own Apple //e!

Late that evening, I played Bite the Bag. Everyone thought I was going to win, but I didn’t make it far! I will have to practice to get more experience. All the same, they were kind enough to award me a prize for playing for the first time, and I chose a Juiced GS subscription from Ken Gagne.

Assembling a radio kit

The next day, I did soldering. I was making a radio. I didn’t finish my project on the first day, but when I did finish it, I didn’t have any batteries. Greg Nelson kindly donated a 9 Volt battery from his camera flash for me to use. It worked! I also participated in the game tournament. I played Little Red Bug and FlApple Bird. I didn’t do very well in Little Red Bug, but I placed third in FlApple Bird.

Playing Dagen Brock’s FlApple Bird in the game tournament

The next day, I went to the session where they had eight Apple //s playing music in harmony. I can imagine that it was very difficult to put that together! After that, there was the group photo. One of the photographers had us point at him with expressions of horror on our faces! He said he would edit something into the photo later! Then, I went downstairs to eat pizza. Mark LaPlante had some cool posters that he had brought specially for us kids from NASA, where he works – he donated them to me and Christian Schmenk. I went to see the winners of the door sign contest. In the door sign contest, people customize their doors. One of the winners was Carrington Vanston. His door sign was my favorite, because it was a game! You chose a card, which led to another card, and so on, until you reached an end card.

Ian and Mark LaPlante showing NASA mission posters
Playing Carrington Vanston’s adventure game

After that, I hung out in the lobby of the dorm where we were staying for a while. I enjoyed talking to Sean Fahey, who was also very helpful. Ms. Sarah gave me an extra Apple // computer ornament kit she had. I would have had to pay for it, but she kindly gave it to me for free. I haven’t finished it, and I probably won’t finish it for a while, but I will get it done eventually! After starting on the ornament, I went to the vendor fair they had in the basement. Dagen Brock, the maker of FlApple bird was selling copies of the game. I was interested in buying a copy, so I went up to the table and asked how much it would cost. He had decided that since I placed third in the tournament, I could have a copy for free!

On the last day, we went to see the movie Ant-Man. K-Fest was so fun! Before we left, I tried to say thank you to everyone who had helped me. I hope to go again, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next year!

August 2nd, 2015

Open Apple #49 (July 2015) : Laine Nooney, Technowarp, 4am

This month on Open Apple, we sit down with Laine Nooney, researcher of early computer and software companies. She has been digging into the history of such greats as Brøderbund and Sierra On-Line. In particular, she has done some awesome research on the infamous Soft Porn Adventure, including behind-the-scenes details on the infamous advertising photo. We talk about broken microfilm projectors, we talk about printer stands, and we talk about revisionist small town historians. Trust us, it will all make sense in the end. Laine is going deep into the role of the microcomputer revolution in transforming domestic life (and the very layout of the houses we live in).

Listen and wonder why Quinn thinks it’s 2010, wonder how loud an ASR-33 really is, and why Mike reads local newspapers of small towns in Utah. Explore the lost art of naming computer user groups, witness the first pure hack of Rastan, and see what Woz thinks about… well, everything and everyone.

August 1st, 2015

KansasFest featured on VICE Radio Motherboard

Click Here for article

July 20th, 2015

Retro Computing Roundtable episode 105 – KansasFest 2015 coverage

This episode features a special huge circle of podcasters around a single microphone at KansasFest 2015, where we reflect on KansasFest, relative merits of the Apple II, the CoCo, Atari 8-bits, and Commodores, and on the phenomenon that is KansasFest. We also make a couple of attempts at Carrington’s choose-your-own-adventure door decoration, and talk about the history and brainstorm about the prospects of future KansasFests. While listening to this episode is nothing like being at KansasFest, it’s a little bit less like not being at KansasFest.

Panelists: Carrington Vanston (hosting), Quinn Dunki, Ken Gagne, Paul Hagstrom, John Leake, John Linville, Rob McMullen, Michael Mulhern, Wade Ripkowski, Kevin Savetz, Steven Weyhrich, and Mike Whalen.

July 18th, 2015

KansasFest 2015 Friday Report

Friday’s report is brought to you by third year attendee Mike Whalen.

Friday (Day 3)

Friday is nearly always bittersweet for me, at least in the few years that I’ve attended the show. Why? Well, thoughts of returning to the Real World(tm) begin to intrude. Oh no! It’s almost over. What will I do? I stare at the ceiling from my bed.

Well. Hmmm.. Okay. Okay. Focus. Focus. Jump up out of bed and… okay, I’m really tired. There are many, many caffeine-hazed hours ahead. And today is ACTION PACKED.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Mark Frischknecht Black Blood of The Earth Foundation, the caffeine flowed and I could walk to breakfast. But this breakfast had to be quick! Because CoCos await.

WHAAA–? Cocos? Surely I mean Hot Cocoa right? Like, the drink? Er… uhm, no. Special Guest John Linville of The CoCo Crew podcast ran a succinct and informative session on the history of Tandy’s Color Computer series. Now, why would we dare have such a session? Simple. We love all things retro and John pointed out several instances where the CoCo and Apple II have shared heritage, whether it was technology or ideas or people. Of course, everyone’s interest was piqued and John found himself peppered with all manner of technical questions. John’s technical chops allowed him to answer all questions. The session was a welcome twist to the day! And it’s just beginning!

The second session was piled right atop the previous and whereas the previous session was a teensy bit outside the ][, the new one was HARDCORE APPLE. Quinn Dunki, who has really come on strong in the community in the last couple of years, unveiled her brand new artistic sandbox called WeeGUI. WeeGUI is straightforward. Quinn offers you a way to easily create MouseText screens. As a relative programming dummy, even I was able to create screens. And not only that, WeeGUI creates screens you can use a mouse to interact with. Yes, this means a mouse driver is included.

First-timer Javier Rivera gave a highly anticipated session. Javier has been Retrobriting browned and discolored Apple II shells from sun-drenched Miami for quite awhile. Today he dropped his Bomb of Knowledge on all the attendees. Javier showed examples of recent work — including work done in the two days Javier was on-site! Javier explained the mixture he had settled on and, when he was done showing off the examples, brought a number of the attendees outside to Retrobrite their treasures. It was a rare opportunity to get hands on with a RetroBrite master.

After a hearty lunch (urp), Michael Mahon and Charles Mangin blew everyone’s mind (mindblow.gif) when they demonstrated a sequence-controlled music synthesis for the Apple II. No, seriously. No, this was _not_ a beep and/or boop. Not only did Michael and Charles demonstrate the code and how it was developed, they totally had seven Apple IIs playing songs with each one taking up an instrument. Strings sounded like strings coming from one Apple II. Drums sounded like drums and they came from a different Apple II. And we even heard a new composition from Seth Sternberger of 8 Bit Weapon. I dare say I heard jaws hit the floor a few times. But, honestly? Those could have been deep bass drums.

Jan Saggiori recounted a fascinating story about the various actions (ethical and not) in the pay-tv industry around Europe, the UK, and elsewhere. Lawsuits, secret emails, industry titans in skivvies. This was quite a session.

Ken Gagne began his first of three sessions of the day. In this first one, he recounted his history on YouTube with his Let’s Play and Unboxing videos. Ken went into a bit of the trials and tribulations and demonstrated the technology that enables him to record an Apple II game for YouTube. Ken even did an impromptu Let’s Play of Dagen Brock’s Flapple Bird!

After that, it was time for the annual Juiced.GS Pizza Party. Thousands of Pizzas showed up. Hungry from all the thinking, we devoured while Ken Gagne (in his second of three sessions) gave the latest update on Juiced.GS showing the phenomenal growth that has happened over the last few years. That makes for some good news. Juiced.GS will continue! And subscriptions will be available for 2016! Afterwards, several awards and thanks were handed out. David Schmenk, Ivan Drucker, James Littlejohn, Henry Courbis, and Anthony Martino all won Apple ][ Forever awards for their work in the community. Charles Mangin won the best wacky tie. Finally, three people (!) won best door prize. Carrington Vanston won for his door-spanning Choose Your Own Adventure series in which several envelopes with index cards inside, ushered you along the game. Sarah won for her low-res screen pixel art tools which encouraged passers-by to create their own low-res screen right on her door. And last, but not least, Chris Torrence, who edited and released a new edition of Assembly Lines, put together a veritable Karateka game _on_his_door_. How, you ask? With paper cutouts. And they filmed a video showing the entire game in puppet show mode. So, yes, he won too.

After the party and the annual KFest group photo, David Schmenk gave an update on his PLASMA programming language which is now blessed with a new moniker: PLASMA 1 ][ ///. David brought everyone through the most recent changes and demonstrated a number of examples that he encouraged the attendees to download from his Github. Again… programming dummy and I understood it. You will too.

Charles Mangin came back for his annual RetroConnector update. Charles showed off all his latest designs and detailed what was going to be available at Saturday’s show. Of course, all of these items are worth my dollars.

Ken was back AGAIN for the third and last session of the night, but this one was a show-stopper. Last year, Ken ran a live interactive “text” adventure. This year, he ran a new text adventure, Space Station! Over a dozen people worked together to get out of predicament the player found herself, stuck on a space station, dizzy, with a warship knocking on the doors with deadly torpedoes. Multiple tries were tried and forays forged but the good ending was never found sadly.

Brian Wiser wrapped up the night by highlighting the Firefly fan movies and even new games. Brian’s session has become a yearly tradition and there’s always newcomers for Brian to help usher into the Firefly universe. Brian is a great presenter and can make Firefly exciting for everyone.

And with that it was off to bed. Boo! The second to last day is over! :-( Why? Why??? Ok. Ok. There’s one more day. Breathe. Breathe.

February 4th, 2015

Retro Computing Roundtable #93 released

Michael Mulhern posted via Facebook:

In a host packed Episode 93, Earl, Carrington, Paul, Michael, Jack, and Ken discuss the controversial topic of “Are We Cheating Cheaters?” Flash storage devices, Internet modems, multi-cartridges with entire software libraries, super RAM add-ons, LCD flat panels – what’s so retro about all that?

Also discussed is the saving of Bob Bishop’s computer gear and doco, Apple ][ Statisfaction, as well as a plug for OzKfest.

Go ahead, click on the link and join us. I dare you :)

January 2nd, 2015

Open Apple #42: 2014 Year-End Roundtable, Eric Shepherd, Sarah W., Carrington Vanston

This month on Open Apple, we close out the year with our traditional Year-End Roundtable discussion. We’re joined by Eric ‘Sheppy’ Shepherd, Sarah W., and Carrington Vanston. We talk about alternate universes, our collective love of the IIgs, and Quinn takes cheap shots at Carrington. It’s the holidays, so Commodore users are given a respite. Well, a bit of a respite, anyway. Meanwhile, Sheppy solicits hatemail, Carrington calls shenanigans, and Sarah keeps everyone honest. Count the euphemisms! So many euphemisms!

As usual, we have lots of news to talk about as well. It’s been an amazing year for the Apple II, and we have new games, new hardware, and new video histories to share. I/O Silver is here, John Romero is there, and JSMESS is everywhere.

October 27th, 2014

Drop /// Inches interviews Colette Askeland

You probably know that Dr. Wendell Sander is the “father” of the Apple ///, and that Daniel Kottke was the lead tech for the Sara project.  But did you know that before Colette Askeland was doing board layout design for the original Macintosh prototypes, she was the PCB layout artist for the ///?

For some reason, her involvement with Apple’s first business computer has been largely ignored by history, but  Drop /// Inches was fortunate to be able to chat with her about the long hours and difficult work she did before moving on to greater recognition as an original member of the Mac team.  Give it a listen.

October 19th, 2014

Open Apple #40 (October 2014) : Chris Torrence, Printers, Celebrating Lode Runner

This month on Open Apple, we talk to Chris Torrence, the new Roger Wagner Volunteer Archivist on behalf of Softalk magazine. Chris is a lifelong Apple II fan, and has recently undertaken the valuable effort of producing a book containing all of Roger Wagner’s Assembly Lines columns. This will include all of the articles included in Roger’s original book (Assembly Lines: The Book) as well as columns never before available in book form. He’s not just republishing the articles, he’s annotating, footnoting, and expanding on them as needed. It’s a terrific service for the community. We’ll dig into that, as well as Chris’ start in computing, and how he got to where he is today. We manage to get through an entire show without taking a cheap shot at Commodore, so you won’t want to miss this. Wait- no we don’t.


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