Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ataris Ain't Cheap!

We all know that the cost of technology generally drops as it becomes cheaper and easier to produce, but the effect on the real world isn't always that visible to us lowly consumers. Luckily this infographic by artist Delano Taylor illustrates just how dramatic that effect can be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Chris!

The whole geek-community is going on and on about today being the birthday of one of science-fiction/fantasy's most celebrated actors, Mark Hamill, better known of course as Luke Skywalker. And that's great, we love Jedi Masters here at RetroGecko, but let's not forget the other science-fiction/fantasy actor who was also born on September 25th, 60 years ago today. His name is Christopher Reeve and he is perhaps best remembered for his iconic portrayal of the kind-hearted alien from Krypton who liked to hang out in phone booths, Superman (aka Kal-El). Up until 1978, ol' Supes had only appeared in comics, radio and TV, aside from a one-off feature flick titled, Superman and the Molemen (1951), starring the previous hero-in-blue, George Reeves (no relation). So when the then-unknown Christopher Reeve was cast as the lead in the first big-budget, summer blockbuster-style telling of the strange kid from Smallville, there was some doubt as to whether or not this relative nobody could successfully uphold the legacy of such an important fictional character. Well, the movie turned out to be an enormous hit and three sequels later there was no question that in the minds of the American public, Christopher Reeve was Superman. In 1995, long after hanging up his red cape, Chris was tragically injured in a freak equestrian mishap. Thrown from his horse during a jump, Reeve suffered spinal damage that left him paralyzed from the neck down for the remainder of his life, until his death in 2004 of cardiac arrest, thought to have been caused by an adverse reaction to an antibiotic. But before his passing, Chris put up one hell of a fight, becoming an international political activist and helping bring awareness to the benefits of stem-cell research, which he believed to hold the key to his eventual recovery. So if you have a few minutes to spare today, check out this interview from 1987 featuring a young Christopher Reeve discussing the Superman movies, film critics, his role in Hollywood as an action hero, and much more - it's worth checking out.  So happy 60th birthday, Chris. As far as I'm concerned, you're still the 'man.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mr. Wizard's a D*ck

Before there was Bill Nye, the world of educational television programming had Mr. Wizard, a grumpity old codger named Don Herbert who taught us wee lads and lasses how to amaze our friends with nifty science experiments that we could, mostly, even do at home, mostly. Kids everywhere loved Mr. Wizard, especially the nerdy ones like me, but ol' Don always seemed to come off as someone who didn't really like children but was forced to work with them anyway (sort of like the IT guys at your office). Have a look at this video by YouTuber, Mike Schuster, and you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Diving demons can easily be dodged by moving away from their center of gravity and they will pass harmlessly off screen

...however, it's bad form to let this happen...

Got 1 hour?
That's all you need
to get up to speed
on the hottest new games!

(of 1982.)

Hold onto your joystick; we've got a lot to tell you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Geek Screen Gems: Wet Hot American Summer

More of a satire on 1980s summer-camp movies than a parody, Wet Hot American Summer was released in 2001 to hardly anyone, and for good reason. The producers of this hilarious take on Meatballs, and other similar teen films, are all alumni of the love-them-or-loathe-them comedy troupe, The State, who enjoyed a shaky three-year run on MTV, making their mark during the brief revival of sketch comedy in the 1990s, which included acts like the Upright Citizens Brigade, Mr. Show and Canadian comedy prodigies, The Kids in the Hall. Although widely panned by critics and audiences alike and grossing less than $300,000, Wet Hot American Summer's absurdist take on the whole National Lampoon genre is worth a second look for its twisted and bizzare gags, ridiculous premises and over-the-top characters all of which have helped this movie reach a comfortable cult-status on the home video market. Of course it didn't hurt to have a host of fantastic cast members on hand, many of which were relatively unknown at the time the film premiered such as Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poheler, Bradley Cooper and Judah Friedlander. Add a few established talents of the period, in this case Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon and David Hyde Pierce, and throw in a cameo performance by H. Jon Benjamin as a can of vegetables and you basically have a guaranteed hit. Except it wasn't.  So if you loved those cheesy 80s summer movies or just have fond memories of your own camp experiences, head on down to the video rental store and pick up a copy of Wet Hot American Summer (available on VHS and Beta) tonight!

My favorite scene.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hitler dead

Saturday, November 15, 2104

At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl’s cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice! ~~Wikihistory, pg. 263

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's Floppy and Sticky

Why does the save button in MS Word still look like a floppy disk? Because floppies are cool, that's why! Just like these floppy-disk-styled sticky notes (not Post-it® Notes) from ThinkGeek. Fool your friends! Break the ice at parties! Be the center of attention at all costs! Order now, operators are freaking out!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Oh No! Not More Lemmings!

Nope it's not Lemmings, just an incredible simulation. It's called Caveman and if you ever got sucked into a three-hour game of Lemmings then this app is for you. Released all the way back in 1991 by British developer Psygnosis for the Commodore Amiga, Lemmings was a puzzle game in which you guided a herd of lemmings (although they looked more like Fraggles to me) across a treacherous path littered with traps and pitfalls with the ultimate goal of reaching an exit portal, which would invariably lead to another, more difficult level. The catch was, however, that the lemmings never stopped moving and would simply fall off of a cliff or walk into a spinning fan if someone didn't tell them otherwise, which is where the player comes in, assigning specific tasks to individual lemmings to help them overcome any obstacles or dangers that might otherwise get in their way. You could pause the game and plan your strategy, but assigning tasks was all done on the fly and since there was a time limit of just a few minutes, the game could get pretty intense as your cursor flew all over the screen trying to block one group of lemmings from strolling into a fire-pit while simultaneously keeping a builder-lemming busy constructing bridges over a chasm. The game itself was hugely popular and spawned several sequels and conversions for other systems up until about 2000 when the party stopped. Since then gamers have either had to make do with limited-release ports such as the one made for the PSP in 2006 or indie clones such as the excellent Pingus, which runs on Mac, Linux and Windows.

So in early 2010, when a little-known group called mobile1up took it upon themselves to bring Lemmings to the contemporary world of mobile gaming, I about pissed my pants with excitement. Working from a port of the original game that was made for the PalmOS (remember PalmPilots?) the folks at mobile1up managed to strip away the hacks and additions that had been bolted on to make the game work with Palm's unique idiosyncrasies resulting in a pixel-perfect rendition of the game while retaining most of the original source code. Development of the game was tracked on mobile1up's development blog with regular updates until June of 2010 when Sony, who somehow managed to pick up the property after the dissolution of Psygnosis, sent them a cease and desist effectively throwing all of their hard work into the trash. So in a big FU to the man, mobile1up released it anyway, but with all new graphics, sounds and a caveman theme, and it became an underground hit. Sorry, Sony, you had your chance. Caveman plays and feels almost exactly like Lemmings and features all of the same levels and even the same animations as its counterpart and is available for a multitude of platforms:

  • iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad 
  • Palm Pre / Pre 2 running WebOS 1.4.5 or later 
  • TouchPad running WebOS 3.0.0 or later 
  • BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0.1 or later 
  • Mac OSX 10.4 or later (PowerPC and Intel)
Windows and Linux versions are currently in the works. I don't think there's an Android version yet, but you Android folks are used to not having any apps anyway, right? (just kidding, gawd!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beam Me Up, Portland!

Leave it to Portland, Oregon to keep feeding us white, geeky, hipster news. The land espoused by SNL alum, Fred Armisen, to be the place where "the 90s never died" and "the tattoo ink never runs dry," has dipped a little further back into pop-culture's history to bring us a new summer pastime: Trek in the Park. Check out the video below - my apologies for the ad - for a glimpse of the Oregonian brother-sister duo, Adam and Amy Rosko, staging dramatic recreations of some of the original Star Trek's most-loved episodes to an audience of folks who are too hip to have cable.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blood Covered Wagon

Computers in the 21st century are ubiquitous. They're in absolutely everything. It's not even worth trying to list all the microchips floating around your home, work or vehicle at any given time because they are literally everywhere so let's not even go there, OK? However when that first round of 8-bit personal computers invaded elementary schools in the early 1980s, the vast majority of American households didn't even have a digital watch, let alone a personal computer, so getting to spend even a few minutes of quality time with a Commodore PET or an Apple II at your school was like taking a ride into the future. Hell, for me it was like being frickin' Captain Kirk! Of course, most kids of the time, including myself, were already quite familiar with the 8-bit video games that had long lined the walls of arcades, supermarkets and drug stores, so who could blame us when all we wanted to do with those thousand dollar educational computers is play Pac-Man on them, or maybe blow up some asteroids in outer space or dare to protect the Earth from rapidly advancing waves of bloodthirsty alien invaders?! That's what we hoped for. What we got instead was Oregon Trail (sad trombone). One of the first successful educational games for early personal computers, the Oregon Trail was originally developed in 1974 by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium to run on timeshared mainframes and was used to teach kids about 19th century pioneer life. In the game, the player was given a fixed amount of funds with which to buy food, supplies, bullets, oxen and the like, and was sent on his or her way in a crappety covered wagon to travel the treacherous trail that tied together Missouri and Oregon. Ho hum. Actually I say ho hum because in addition to the fair amount of luck required to traverse the dodgy path to the West, the other key component to ensuring a winning game was good forethought and strategy, which I suck at. Plus my character nearly always died from dysentery. So blessed be I when a local Retrogeeker reader suggested that I use this forum to introduce to you possibly one of the coolest retro 8-bit-style video games ever to grace your iThing or Android device (you can also play it on Facebook, but really, who wants to do that?) The game is called Organ Trail and comes to us from a small indy developer called The Men Who Wear Many Hats. I like that. Descriptive and a mouthful, just how I like my coffee. Organ Trail plays roughly similar to the game that it's based upon, except that instead of trying to lead a happy pioneer family across our great nation to a land of untold bounty, you're trying to get your party of ne'er do wells to the Pacific Northwest in a station wagon while fending off a full-on zombie apocalypse. Funny, great retro graphics and sound, and even a decent plot. Check out the trailer below and then you should totally go and buy it! I did!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Like Ike and Tyler Too!

Before the proliferation of media sound-bites and political viral-videos, our would-be leaders used to lie to us using a much simpler and spunky technology called the "campaign button," first shown off by George Washington at his inauguration in 1789. Oh sure, you still see campaign buttons from time to time, pinned to both militant nationalists and radical revolutionaries, but in this world of internet fireside chats and Twitter-based campaign fund-raising, the quaint art of button-sloganeering has really fallen to the wayside, allowing only the most mundane and politically vague war-cries such as "BELIEVE IN AMERICA" or "HOPE" to occasionally surface. Ugh. Where's the whimsy? The boisterous pride? The lightly-barbed attacks? Whatever happened to slogans like "A used FORD is better than a new CARter" and the anti-McCarthy favorite "Joe Must Go!"  Well we've lost our cojones, I suppose. Mass culture-sanitation, thanks to Facebook. You know everything bad on the internet is Facebook's fault, right? OK, just making sure. So in the spirit of the 2012 election year, I suggest you visit the APIC website, home of the American Political Items Collectors (just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) for a peek at the information super-highway's most robust collection of resources and information regarding, um, collectible American political items (cue the crickets for about three seconds). Or if you just want to take a look at some awesome old campaign buttons for sale you can visit the site, Older Campaign Buttons (again, an inspiring name). Vote early! Vote often!