Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Computer Games - An Actual Computer

Not long after we moved back to Kentucky, Dad bought an Apple II+. Most of the time we used it for word processing, but he did some spreadsheets too, and we had Broderbund's Print Shop program as well. I even made my own font with it, recreating Interlac from the Legion of Super-Heroes. Dad even got me an S.A.T. training program for it.

But of course, I played games on it as well.

The way the Apple II worked was kind of similar to cartridge based console games. You put in the 5.25" floppy disk (back when they were still floppy) and turned on the computer. Then if it asked for a second (or more) disk you inserted it.
I played a few BASIC games with graphics that were better than the Odyssey2, but still pretty blocky and static compared to today's standards. But they were engaging.
There was Taipan a game of trading and fighting off pirates in the Orient.
There were Repton, and Aquatron (no info anywhere, but one of my favorites). Both were side scrollers like Defender, but seemed more imaginative to me.
And finally there was the Ultima series. I had been poorly introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by a friend at school, so this series was exactly what I was looking for. I never beat the original Ultima, but got so into the series that I had to have them all. I remember getting Ultima III for Christmas, but not being able to immediately play it because we were helping out serving food for the homeless that day. After this one, I had to have Ultima II, so I saved up and bought it and while it was a step back, it had some great story parts. Soon Origin released an upgraded version of the first game calling it Ultima I, that I was able to beat, and so I had completed what came to be called the Age of Darkness.
Then I got Ultima IV, and it was all about the eight virtues. I took copious notes, and finally in my senior year of high school, I was ready to enter the most evil dungeon, but I made the mistake of saving my game while standing on the entrance. It somehow corrupted the file, and I couldn't restore to that point. I would have had to start all over again. So I never actually finished Ultima IV.
Then I got Ultima V, and I learned about fanaticism, corruption, and lots of in jokes. I did manage to finish this one.
I bought the rest of the series, and played about halfway through Ultima VI, but the game and I had gone different way, and it was no longer the intuitive play that the former games had been.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Computer Games - Magnavox

I don't remember how Dad presented it. it may have been a gift, or perhaps something he brought home one day. But the console game that I had growing up was the Magnavox Odyssey2.

I wasn't sure about it at first because it wasn't the Atari, but as time passed, I was fiercely loyal to it. It never really got the tie-in games that Atari did, but all of the games were fun, and had lots of variations.

I subscribed to the magazine that went with the console for most of its run, and ended up owning almost all of the games as time went by.

The main problem with the game was the fragility of its controller cords. they started to get weak after all the use I put them through, and Dad did his best to fix them as I wore them out.

I played these games as much as I could, and again learned to play some of the two person games by myself. I got pretty good at Baseball! (The exclamation point is Magnavox's not mine. All of the games for the Odyssey2 ended in exclamation points.)

Alas as things progressed with home computers, the console games of the time couldn't keep up, and so they got shelved. At least mine did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Computer Games - The Arcade

It was around this time that upright arcade games grew in popularity, and the video game arcades came into being.

I never really went to them, but had a few games that I loved to play whenever possible.

Battlezone is my all time favorite arcade game. The controllers, two joysticks that moved forward or backward simulating the movement of your tank's tracks were simple. The vector graphics were simple, but the periscope style viewer made the game pretty immersive.

This was the next step from a very simple game called Sea Wolf. in that one yo were a submarine and you looked through a periscope, and you launched torpedoes at boats and ships.

Related to Battlezone was Red Baron, another vector graphic game. In this one you flew over a landscape and shot at turrets and other planes. And while Battlezone had the constant hum of the engine, Red Baron had not only the engine noise, but also a blurred propeller on the screen.

Looking back, these were more immersive for me because they were the original point-of-view (POV) games. I think that is what would give me so much trouble with other games.

I played several of the other big games, except for Pac Man, I can honestly say that I never spent a quarter or token to play Pac Man or any of the family. They soon got to be too difficult for me with the insane amount of buttons (I'm looking at you Defender), and then the combinations. Of course, the number of buttons then is nothing compared to the number of buttons of the present home consoles.

There were a few games that as I write about them, I'll try to find.

There was a vector graphics game that was two knights dueling in a top down environment and you had to avoid two pits that were in the room... Ah, found it; it was called Warrior.

Then there was another top down vector graphics game where you were supposed to be a jeep with a gun, and you took on tanks and occasionally this helicopter that always would kill me... Wow, that one was harder: Armor Attack.

Next to last is Omega Race. it seems to have less of a point now then it did back then, but it had fun enemies, and a cool and sometimes scary soundtrack.

And finally there was Star Wars. It played the Star Wars soundtrack as you played as well as throwing in various sound clips from the dialogue of the movie. And you got to fight TIE fighters and towers on the death star, and then finally make the trench run for the exhaust port.

And yes, there were other games out there, but these were the ones that I remember playing and enjoying.

Computer Games - A Dislcaimer Interlude

I thought about things this morning, and feltI should insert a little comment here.

When each item was new, and usually for quite a while after, I felt that these systems were really cool. They were not as lame seeming as they are now, but were right up there with the technology of the time.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Computer Games - The Beginning

My computer game experience began with something very much like this:

I don't remember the brand, but it was very much like this.

The games consisted of the classic Pong, practice (against a wall), jai alai (two against a wall like racquetball), and there may have also been a game with multiple paddles on each side.

Then there was the shooting game. the console came with a gun that was a pistol. However, you could also screw on a barrel, and and a shoulder stock. You were supposed to shoot the block that was bouncing around the screen.

Looking back, I think the gun worked on a reflection sensor. So that if the light that flashed from the gun reflected off the black background the amount of light reflected would be low compared to the light reflected from the white block. The problem was that the sensor was so weak, that you almost had to play the game in the dark for it to work.

It was fun for its time, and I think the most difficult thing I ever did was play Pong right handed vs. left handed.


BTW, we got this around the end of the 70s. So it was only about 30 years ago.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Free at Last...

Wednesday, I bought SimCity for the iPhone. Electronic Arts was having a sale, so I got it for $0.99. It has the graphics of SC4, but seems to be based on the original SimCity. I played with it off and on, and was having lots of fun.

Then yesterday, I got home, and immediately went to Facebook, and was about to "play" Castle Age.

Castle Age is (or was) the last clicky game I was playing. But it hit me that the game serves no purpose. Okay, even less purpose than other computer games. It doesn't make you think. It doesn't improve hand-eye coordination. You just click and are told a result. You can rarely fail unless your army is too small.

So yesterday, I made the decision to stop playing Castle Age. I went to the invite section of Facebook, and clicked once on "Block Application".

Then I went and read for an hour. I was getting sleepy, so I thought I would go make one last check for FB updates, and then go to bed. While sitting at the computer, I thought about loading SimCity 4 on the laptop, and playing for a bit. I got out the CDs from the big CD book and started the installation.

But then I saw that it required a code from the original CD case. I didn't have that in the office anymore, just the book of all the install CDs I have. So I went to the garage and got down the two file boxes of computer documentation. Digging through, I found that I had put the insert from the CD case in the booklet. So happily, I put the boxes back, and completed the installation.

Then suddenly it was 12:30 AM, and I'd been playing with my first city for an hour and a half.

Now, I'm thinking I'm going to have to do a personal computer game retrospective. Not necessarily on all of the games I used to play, but definitely all the systems. I don't know if I'll start later today or tomorrow. It'll have to depend on how the day goes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Six Months Ago I Was in Vegas

But that's okay. The project at work is going well despite the continued findings of changes from the original template.

Jennifer and I are looking forward to the weekend with a Tiki-Martini party at friends on Saturday.

Beyond that, I can say that I am happy that I have finally given up on the clicky games on Facebook. I worked for the level I was wanting, and now I need to stop. I just am not willing to pay for favor points to make my character better when all that I do is click.

I'd much rather be playing other games that I have a little more input in.

Or painting miniatures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Catching Up

So yes, I have fallen behind again.

Friday was pretty uneventful.

Saturday I spent with Jennifer and the Sorrellians at the American Tattoo Festival in Sacramento. It was much less attended than the Body Art Expo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Steve and Lisa both got a couple small tattoos, and then we stuck around for the show.

Jennifer got to be a part of it.

They did fire eating, and contortions, and snake dancing. But at the beginning they did sword swallowing. And they called Jennifer out of the audience to go up and pull the long sword out of the man's throat. It was pretty impressive.

Sunday, being Father's Day, I spent with my parents. We went to Fenton's in Oakland, and then went home and tasted the Laphroaig Scotch I got Dad for Father's Day.

And then it was back to work. Things are going well for our Phase I project, and I am making corrections to all of the reports. it seems that we have an over zealous geologist with the company who felt that the lawyer-speak in the reports was not grammatically correct, and so she fixed it in the first report that ended up being used as the template by everyone else for all of the other reports.

So I'm spending my days with CTRL-H replacements, and inserting phrases to correct whole sections that got mauled. Plus I'm doing formatting since I'm the most experienced with TOCs in Word.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I watched this and I started laughing.

Jennifer said, "Sometimes, you have a really evil laugh."

Thank you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Team Player

It is much easier to be a team player when you are popular enough that multiple managers what you on their team.

I am not doing the extremely boring work that it was looking like I would be earlier in the week.

Not that what I'm doing right now is really intricate, but it is something that I find a strange pleasure in doing.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I will try to be a team player.

I will try to be a team player.

I will try to be a team player.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Layout

All right!

I have been wanting this three column layout for a while.

I like it.

This is True

I can remember the semester that I started to see sunlight as joule bearing photons striking every surface of the daytime world.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bit by Bit, Byte by Byte

Wednesday morning, my computer at work began to act really screwy. It started with stating that the graphics driver had a problem, and that I would need to re-boot. Then over the next couple of hours it started randomly rebooting.

After lunch, it decided that it didn't like Word anymore, and just began forcing it to shutdown. Our IT guy was able to help me out then. He blew dust out of the insides (4 years worth), and it still rebooted. He said he thought the OS had become corrupted, so I grabbed (almost) all of the files I needed, and made the decision to work from home on Thursday.

The working from home went pretty well. Pom wasn't happy with me being home, and yet ignoring her, but she only bugged me a few times in between her naps. And at the end of the day, IT told me that the computer was all set for me. Apparently one of the RAM chips had gone bad, but that everything else was fine. Of course this was after he had scrubbed the hard drive clean and started fresh.

Today was filled with more work interspersed with getting old favorites re-installed on the computer.

And this coming weekend will be a time of cleaning house.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Sunday, Jennifer and I watched "Pink Floyd's The Wall".

She had never seen it, and I could not remember the last time I had. I think sometime while I was in Lexington for school.

There seems to be less and less animation each time I watch it. Probably because that is what I focused on the first time I saw it.

And I remember that day, I'm pretty sure I was in high school, but it may have still been 8th grade. Two of my best friends at the time, the brothers Scott and David, came over after telling my mom that I needed to see it.

Scott and David were what would seem contradictions. Both were big in the church youth group, and they played Dungeons & Dragons. Scott first introduced me to tarot cards, and David loved Ozzy Osbourne. It's how I knew growing up that there was nothing to fear from those three things sending me into the hands of the Devil. Or at least how I justified it.

But the coolest thing was when Mom asked them if there was anything in the movie that she needed to be worried about, and Scott laid it out for her. there was some sex and nudity, and flashes of a rape scene, but nothing extraordinary. Mom thanked him, said she'd be upstairs, and went and read in the sun room.

And it still took me another five years before I bought a copy of the album for myself.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Gold Car Returns

Friday I had a message from the man in charge of the repairs on my car that it would be ready on Monday, and that if I wanted to go over the work with him, he would be around on Tuesday as he was off on Mondays.

I decided I didn't want to wait an extra day, so as soon as I got the call that the car would be ready at 3:30, I headed out.

There ended up being a lot of great things about Mike Rose's Auto Body. The main thing being that I didn't have to pay for any of the work, and it ended up being around $2,000. they also have a great relationship with Enterprise Rent-a-Car. I was able to go straight to the auto shop and get my car and leave the rental there. Now I didn't ask about this, I wanted to make sure the car was ready to my satisfaction before I left, and while I was there they asked about my rental car.

And it turned out that they guy who did the work on my car just happened to come ion to work for a little bit today.

Finally, another nice thing was that they had done an estimate for me on some additional work on the car. Now I chose not to have the work done because it was very expensive, but... There was a dent on the trunk and a big chip on the strut beside the windshield on the driver's side. He painted those with a brush while I was dealing with the rental car. And he had taken what he could of the dent out by hand without charging me. I don't know if I would go back without insurance, but they sure were friendly and helpful with the work that they did.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What a Weekend

Friday, we celebrated Jennifer's birthday at the Rogue Brew House on Washington Square with a bunch of her friends.

Then yesterday was a nearly 12-hour long game session at John's.

Today was a little more relaxing with a bit of a sleep in, and then Jennifer had a craving for Long John Silver's, so we had that for lunch.

Now we're just enjoying Sunday afternoon together.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Work Work Work

It's been a busy two days at work. We're forecasting for the next year, and having to do a lifecycle for the next 5 years.

Our client project manager is cumin to meet with us tomorrow, and I had until then to finish.

I completed my spreadsheets today at 4:50.

It was good to get home and go tot he gym.

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