The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Monthly Archives: August 2012

The end of 8-bit

Here’s a little list of some popular 8-bit systems, and when they were discontinued:

  • Amstrad CPC: 1990
  • Atari 8-bit: January 1992
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum: 1992
  • Apple II: November 1993
  • Commodore 64: April 1994
  • BBC Micro: 1994
  • MSX: 1995

The demise of these platforms, which had dominated much of the 80s, happened within a relatively short time. It’s interesting that the demise of the classic 16-bit platforms (Amiga, Atari ST, Apple IIGS, Acorn Archimedes) happened mostly in the same time span, not later. The Amiga is the only exception, since Escom continued it to 1997.

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Forget Steampunk, here comes Electropunk!

It is astonishing how close to a functioning computer our ancestors were in the 1830s. It is known by now that Charles Babbage‘s concept was sound, that his computer would have worked if he had had the necessary funds. His “Difference Engine” would have been mechanical, but electricity, too, was known far better than we are aware of. The electriy relay was invented in 1835, it was essential for the development of a world-wide telegraph network (morse code was developed soon after, the first transatlantic cable was laid 1858). In 1832, Hippolyte Pixii built the first dynamo based on the concept most electrical generators and motors still use. And in 1833, Michael Faraday first discovered the semiconductor effect.

There was a long time between this discovery and the first semiconductor diode, more than 70 years. But on the other hand, working vacuum tubes took something like 50 years too. If you’re into alternate history, it is not so entirely unthinkable that semiconductors might have been developed earlier and vacuum tubes skipped completely.

Another alternate history potential: Railroads. By the time Hippolyte Pixii built his dynamo, railroads were few and far between. They usually covered very short distances and were often mixed traction, both horses and steam engines. A bit less enthusiasm for building railroads, a bit more research into electricity, and steam engines might have been a footnote in engineering history, with electricity ruling the rails a century earlier. (An interesting side note: In 1903, an electric railcar set a speed record of 210.3 km/h. It was never broken by a steam engine.)

Forget steampunk, here comes electropunk!

µTris: Tetris in µTorrent

µTorrent has a built-in Tetris. Click Help, About and press T on your keyboard. The background is animated (plasma effect).

The Beginning of Another Era

Screenshot of 4chan, 2003. Whoever took it, obviously didn’t have Japanese fonts installed.

Katharsis

Katharsis was an ambitious project, one of the last commercial DOS games when they were already a dying breed. Developer Metropolis announced it as

A next-generation arcade shoot’em-up with spectacular hi-resolution SVGA graphics, 3D texture-mapped Phong-shaded ships, rendered and animated backgrounds, eye-popping fluid scrolling and freedom of movement, multiple real-time light sources, original game plot and intelligent enemies, including giantic megabosses.

Yes, it sported high resolution (640×480) graphics when shooters like Nebula Fighter or Stargunner still ran in 320×240. Gameplay was uncommon too, instead of just staying alive and reaching the next level the goal was to keep a defenseless “Superbomb” alive. An interesting game, but it isn’t widely known. You can download the “shareware demo” and try it out.

Posters, Color Schemes, and Web Design

Studies conducted by various advertising companies in the mid-20th century established the following hierarchy of color schemes for posters:

  1. Black on yellow
  2. Green on white
  3. Red on white
  4. Blue on white
  5. White on blue
  6. Black on white
  7. Yellow on black
  8. White on red
  9. White on green
  10. White on black
  11. Red on yellow
  12. Green on red
  13. Red on green

This is probably interesting for web design as well, though I don’t think that it can be applied 1:1. It’s interesting that black and white, either way round, isn’t really such a good color scheme. I’m gonna experiment a bit with these data.

Drag-n-Drop to the Command Prompt

In Windows XP, you can drag and drop a file or folder to the Command Prompt. The complete path will then appear in the command line. I suppose it will work in newer versions of Windows as well.

I’ve been using XP for seven years, and only noticed just now.

A WinRAR is You

This was originally a PCX, time stamp June 1992, found on an old CD-ROM. The first version of WinRAR that used the book icon was 2.0, released in 1996, so theoretically the icon might have been inspired by this graphic, not that it’s actually likely.

The oldest extant version of the program, RAR 1.54 beta (1995), still has a completely different icon.