A Hippie in the House of Mouse (Jim Henson at Disney, 1980)

If there is one silver lining in Henson's foray into video games, it is that he has two major contacts in Nintendo. Something that might come in handy when Big N brings the Famicom stateside.
 
The issue was not the hardware, the games were good for the time, even ET as the nerd showed, is Meh at best with a lot of fake difficulty, the issue Atari waste a fortune for just the license show how 'good' the managment was
The biggest problem with ET was that they rushed it out to met the Christmas deadline. Atari and Warshaw were hubristic enough to believe they could squeeze out a complex multifaceted game in a few weeks. It was a classic case of an "obvious beta" that hadn't yet been properly play-tested and debugged. Seriously, there was this bug where if you fell down certain pits you'd literally fall immediately back in the same pit again and again until you starved to death.


Lol so Alice is being bought by college stoners en masse?
What, you don't think it's being used for educational purposes like Card believes?

Maybe ITTL they'll listen to Aphrodite's Child's 666 while watching Alice
Does that work?
 
The biggest problem with ET was that they rushed it out to met the Christmas deadline. Atari and Warshaw were hubristic enough to believe they could squeeze out a complex multifaceted game in a few weeks. It was a classic case of an "obvious beta" that hadn't yet been properly play-tested and debugged. Seriously, there was this bug where if you fell down certain pits you'd literally fall immediately back in the same pit again and again until you starved to death.
That didn't help either but any economist say they needed to sold more than 3 Million of copies just to recoup the license cost... Seriously the Hubris of Kassar destroyed atari
 
Lol so Alice is being bought by college stoners en masse?
Oh, there are much better, and more surreal adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass than the Disney version. CBS is set to broadcast a four part live-action miniseries based on the duology in a year's time from the time line's current present, if the butterflies haven't flapped it away.
 
Any two things will go together if you look reeeaaalllllly hard for connections that don't exist. Like Pink Floyd and Oz.
Give someone enough acid and they'll find a pattern in anything. "Did you know that my thumbnail isn't just a part of the universe...it IS the universe!?!"

That didn't help either but any economist say they needed to sold more than 3 Million of copies just to recoup the license cost... Seriously the Hubris of Kassar destroyed atari
Given the sales figures from ET that summer that wasn't completely insane. Still, as I said ET was the symptom of a much larger problem.

One of the things I like to point on on modern period pieces of the '70s, the lack of tiny Photo Huts everywhere in parkinglots, Phone booths and driveup Ma Bell Kiosks,along with trash everywhere.
Don't forget the casual drunk driving, constant chain smoking everywhere, constant smell of leaded gas fumes from every tailpipe, and the purple skies above every city. And did you know that macrame is suddenly back in style? o_O

FWIW not far from where my mom lives there's an old Fotohut that's been repurposed into a drive-through coffee shop. They named it Java the Hut.
 
Don't forget the casual drunk driving, constant chain smoking everywhere, constant smell of leaded gas fumes from every tailpipe,
Ethyl smelled great 😵 , not like that rotten egg small like with Catalytic Converters and unleaded gas.
Back when 'New Car Smell' was really a thing

The other thing, 1970s should have a lot of cars by the side of the road, changing tires, or hood up, venting steam from the radiator.
Overheating used to be such a thing.

Other thing, Cars would run like shit from bad carburetor adjustments, but would keep running.
Detroit was great at making cars that wouldn't stop dead, but keep limping along.
so proper view would be Blue Smoke, from bad rings, Black Smoke from a stuck choke, and grey white, from a head gasket failing, so followed by the overheating above.

All roads should had a black stripe of soot and leaked fluids in each lane

You rarely see that anymore, except in very heavily travelled roads

Smoking was weird.
1980, everybody was chainsmoking still, ash trays filled with butts on near every table, grey haze in the the air. 'Non-Smoking' Area would just not have the ashtrays, but haze from the adjacent area

Watch _Ghostbusters_ See everybody smoking.
then _Ghostbusters II_, smoking isn't a thing, anymore
 
You rarely see that anymore, except in very heavily travelled roads
I see the reverse these days, where the slow accumulation of rubber from tire wear causes a pair of dark streaks down each lane.

Smoking was weird.
Having lived through the transition to non-smoking, I can agree the sheer ubiquity of smoking ads and ashtrays everywhere was a thing easily forgotten. I'm a little sad modern period pieces usually downplay smoking (if they show it at all) rather than making it clear just how ugly it usually could be.
 
Ah, the sweet smell of cancer and l
Having lived through the transition to non-smoking, I can agree the sheer ubiquity of smoking ads and ashtrays everywhere was a thing easily forgotten. I'm a little sad modern period pieces usually downplay smoking (if they show it at all) rather than making it clear just how ugly it usually could be.
Mad Men was one of the few that did show the overflowing piles of butts. And yet even they managed to make smoking and binge drinking look so fucking sexy cool even as they tried to make it not so. As the son of a serious smoker who ultimately died of cancer, and to this day I suffer from asthma-like consequences from the constant childhood smoke exposure (I still react even from the smoke smell on another person's clothes), I'm very glad that culture has shifted.
 
I remember the weeks after the smoking ban in UK pubs being odd- suddenly you could smell the stink of the places, and see the tarnished furniture and walls. Most pubs had very quick refurbishments to freshen them up and/or install smoking areas. I, for one, do not miss going home with lungs full of 2nd hand smoke, and clothes stinking of it too.
 
Computers I: The Warriors New
Special note: today's post is brought to you by the generous support of @Kalvan and marks the first of a series of alternate computer posts. The changes are small so far, but big butterflies on the way. Enjoy!

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4-bits, 8-bits, 16-bits: A Home Invasion!
Excerpt from Computer Wars!, by Calvin[1] Threadmaker


As the ‘70s became the ‘80s, dozens of digital gladiators battled for supremacy in the home computer market. Ultimately, four main contenders would emerge: IBM, the venerable veteran; Apple, the young upstart; Texas Instruments, the knight errant; and Commodore, the aggressive insurgent. Who would survive? Who would dominate the industry? Who would place a Computer in Every Home? Just as Atari, Intellivision, and ColecoVision battled for dominance of your television game space, these four warriors battled for your desktop. Their champions are well known: the 5150 PC, the Apple II, the TI-99/4A, the Commodore 64, all counting down to that great Quickening of 1984.

But before this showdown, these four warriors took far different paths.

IBM, or International Business Machines, was the Old Man, the reigning champion, the venerable master. In a reactionary response to the rise of HP, Atari, and Apple, IBM reluctantly entered into the microcomputer fray, like an old warrior-turned-king regretfully picking up his sword to ride once more. For decades, IBM had dominated computing, beginning with business. IBM computers, from the great mainframes of the ‘60s to the “personal computers” (PCs) of the early ‘80s, were the heavyweight champions. They were big, bulky, boxy workhorses that could handle the raw number-crunching needed to build a company spreadsheet or calculate a warhead trajectory. The Model 5150 PC maintained this paradigm.



Powered by a mighty Intel 8008 4.77 MHz CPU with an optional 8087math co-coprocessor, the PC was a beast. At first hobbled by a mere 16 KB of RAM, it was soon upgraded to a fighting 64 KB with expansion potential up to 256 KB, then later 640 KB. Raw power. It had 64 KB of ROM with built-in IBM BASIC (a special Microsoft version of BASIC-80). The keyboard had 83 full-stroke loudly clicking keys with 10 function keys and numeric keypad. It boasted either a no-frills monochrome monitor with 40 or 80 characters over 25 lines or an optional 320 x 200 or 640 x 200 CGA graphic modes. For sound you had a tone generator with built-in speaker. I/O expansion ports were generous, with five internal 8-bit ISA slots, monitor port, Centronics parallel port, and cassette drive port. Built in were 1-2 160 KB 5 & ¼'' disk-drives. Three OS were provided: MS-DOS, CP/M-86, and USCD Pascal[2]. It was tough. It was ugly. It was pricey. It was a white-collar working man’s computer.

However, IBM had one ace up their sleeve that would pay dividends: open architecture. While competitors like Apple and TI tried to control all aspects of their product, which frustrated any third-party vendors, IBM made its system open to all. "We encourage third-party suppliers,” IBM said, “we are delighted to have them.” In the middle run this would be a game changing.

Apple Computer, meanwhile, was the Upstart New Kid, the young warrior who made up for his small size and lack of experience with sheer cunning, aggressiveness, and determination. Starting life in a humble garage, the minds of The Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) combined style with substance to create a bantamweight powerhouse in the Apple II. Relying on MOS 650X processors, the Apple II was a user-friendly microcomputer equally suited to the office or the home. As such, the late ‘70’s saw the meteoric rise of the Apple II, David slaughtering an army of Goliaths in a hail of stones[3]. By the dawn of the ‘80s Apple was the force to beat in the microcomputer world.



Powered by a MOS Technology/SynerTek 6502 1 MHz CPU, the Apple II Plus of 1979 had an 8-bit bus with a speed of 1 MHz, an 8-bit register, and a 16-bit address bus. It came with 12 KB of ROM and 48 KB of RAM onboard with expansion ports for up to 64 KB. It’s 8 expansion ports featured proprietary connections, initiating that particularly obnoxious Apple tradition, and a 280 x 192 six-color, 4-bit color at 40 x 48 video resolution. Serial ports and an optional floppy drive completed the package. A solid microcomputer with plenty of functionality for pros, hackers, and housewives alike, the Apple II Plus wasn’t too hard on the eyes either[4].

Texas Instruments, meanwhile, was a champion warrior of another battlefield: chips and processors. TI made a name for itself in that industry with its ICs and processors, becoming a direct challenger to MOS Technologies, but soon became a household name in another field: calculators. TI mastered the Business Battlefield Tactic of Vertical Integration. Rather than simply sell their chips to others, TI realized that they could use their chips in their own products. Without the mark-up of a third-party buy, TI could undercut the competition, in particular an old typewriter importing company called Commodore. Entering into the home computer market was a natural next step, and thus the TI-99/4 was born[5].


(Image source “oldcomputers.net”)

Powered by TI’s own TMS9900 3 MHz CPU in the form of a 16-bit, 64-pin DIP, it had 256 bytes of scratchpad RAM for the CPU and 16 KB Video Display Processor RAM. The TMS9918 provided 16 fixed colors in 32 color sprites. The TMS9919 provided 3 voices and 1 fixed or periodic noise generator. It featured a built-in cartridge ROM and an optional cassette drive. It was cheap, it was sleek, it was limited, and it was all built on in-house TI technology with little third-party software, a computer for a family with no expectations of moving very far beyond its core capabilities.

Finally, you had the insurgent; the blooded, slighted warrior out for revenge as well as domination: Commodore, a name that even speaks of war. Born in an older era where the typewriter was king, Commodore worked its way up to become the champion of the calculator industry…until TI entered the game and, thanks to their Vertical Integration, left Commodore bloodied, but unbowed. If TI thought that they could rest on their laurels, they were wrong. For behind Commodore there was one man, an aggressive, vengeful, magnificent bastard named Jack Tramiel. A holocaust survivor from Poland with no illusions about the savagery of man, Tramiel was a man who felt that the silver medal went to the first loser. Following TI’s lead, Tramiel acquired MOS Technologies and was soon in the business of Vertical Integration himself. With MOS came some of the best minds in the industry, names like Chuck Peddle. By 1980 they were competing directly with the Big Boys thanks to the Commodore PET 2001-N, a computer reminiscent of an illuminati pyramid with the all-seeing eye of the screen staring right back at you. This was not a company to fuck with.



Powered by Commodore’s own MOS 6502 1 MHz CPU, the PET had 4 to 8 KB of RAM upgradable to 16 or even 32 KB. It had 18 KB of ROM with BASIC 1.0 or 20 KB with BASIC 2.0, and the 2001-N included floppy disk drive peripherals. It had a built-in cassette drive, a cute but impractical 9” monochrome monitor (phosphor or green), a 69-key “chiclet” keyboard, and either no sound or a simple buzzer. It also had several expansion ports[6]. The PET was a simple machine, but a bargain at $795 and capable of meeting the needs of the home office, the pro office, or the gamer and hacker. And yet for all of its simple power, it was only the beginning for Commodore.

The four gladiators chose different tactics going forward. IBM continued to approach things from a workhorse standpoint, moving forward with the 5150 PC. Apple took a divergent path with parallel lines for different audiences: the Apple II remained the workhorse, the Lisa tried to get into the industrial world, and the highly classified Macintosh was designed for revolution rather than evolution. TI turned inwards and tried to control everything within its system, continuing its competitive run with cheap, simple computers that could connect to the home TV. Commodore followed a similar path to TI, but aggressively pursued a strategy of market saturation with a populist battle cry of “computers for the masses, not the classes!”

There were casualties along the way, first and foremost for the aggressive Commodore. Chuck Peddle and many of his best engineers left Commodore in 1980, citing an atmosphere of aggressive micromanagement and employee harassment. Many predicted the end to the Commodore insurgency with this brain drain. They underestimated Jack Tramiel. The House that Chuck Built at MOS was resilient enough to survive his departure, at least for a while. The MOS chips developed by Peddle’s team would go on to power the Commodore VIC-20 and later the true All-Destroying Monster of the home computer world, the unassuming but all-conquering Commodore 64. More on this later.

IBM, meanwhile, stayed the big workhorse with slight upgrades to the 5150 PC. Great for spreadsheets, OK for gaming, and on the high end of the price range, this would cost them in the home market, but kept them in the office. The IBM PC Jr., set for release in fateful 1984, hoped to fix this disparity.



Apple meanwhile essentially split into two. Steve Wozniak stuck with managing the reliable Apple II line, eventually seeing the release of the Apple IIe in 1983, which was both lower cost and more capable than earlier models. It now featured 64 KB of RAM upgradable to 128 KB. It also had the ability to have up to an 80-column card, which became critical in business applications. It allowed graphics modes up to a Double Hi-Resolution of 560×192 pixels, making it a favorite for graphics designers and gamers. The Apple IIe would form the cornerstone of the Apple office and home marketplace. Steve Jobs, meanwhile, pursued the Apple Lisa as a computer intended for high end processing purposes, though this would eventually prove a dead end. Thus, Jobs took over the Macintosh project, which sought to revolutionize the industry when it debuted in 1984. It’s secret? An all-new mouse-driven graphical user interface, making for the first truly intuitive computer[7]. In the meantime, the Apple IIe would hold its own against the competition.

(Image source “wired.com”)

For Commodore, there would also be two new computers, the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64. It was the latter that would nearly corner the home market by the fateful date of 1984. The Commodore 64 was powered by a MOS Technology 6510 1 MHz CPU with a for the time impressive 64 KB of RAM and 20 KB ROM. It had a VIC-II 320×200 graphics chip with 16 colors and 32 sprites, SID 6581/8580 sound with 3 oscillators and 4 waves. It was massively expansive with 2 CIA 6526 ports for joystick, GPIO, RS-232, and keyboard, connectivity for an additional ROM cartridge, audio/video input, a Serial IEEE 488 bus for floppy disk or printer, and an external cassette drive.

This was a system that could be scaled in numerous ways and had numerous third-party software applications. Almost anyone could find a good use for this platform if they worked hard enough at it. The Commodore 64’s modular approach gave it a versatile customer base, from the average home user, to gamers who loved the good graphics and large catalogue of games, to the hacker that appreciated the numerous expansion ports and the customization potential they offered.

If the technology made it a favorite, Jack Tramiel’s aggressive marketing and cut-throat business tactics made it a juggernaut. Among the many promotional vehicles that Commodore pursued, which included the PET ads featuring William “Captain Kirk” Shatner, the one that would stick most in people’s memories would be the EPCOT Attraction. After randomly running into a Disney Imagineer at a computing conference[8], Jack Tramiel was able to meet with Jack Lindquist, Disney’s marketing VP. The “Meeting of the Jacks” would bear fruit of many kinds in the long run, including a fateful meeting with Nintendo executive Gunpei Yokoi. But in the short term it led to the Commodore-64 based “Adventures in Computing” exhibit at CommuniCore in EPCOT, featuring “Bit” and “Byte”. This willingness to think beyond the usual marketing metrics was one of several ways in which Commodore stood out from the competition in the public eye.

TI, meanwhile, stuck with the TI-99/4A. It remained competitive with the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 going into the mid-eighties, but Jack Tramiel’s price war was leaving the TI core system selling on margins and then as a loss-leader for the expansion add-ons, only the add-ons were not selling as well as predicted. Just as TI sought to fully control its own processor chips, so did it want to fully control its own software, refusing to share with third-party companies, leading to a severe lack of software options. However, as Apple would learn in the future, if you hold on too tight then things will just slip through your fingers. In the end, the TI-99/4A was the DeLorean of home computers: sleek, sexy, stainless steel, underpowered, and ultimately doomed. By 1983 and the home computer crash that followed, TI was down for the count, and not even a flux capacitor was capable of saving them.

And then there were three.




[1] Red Hat-Tip to @Kalvan

[2] Source: history-computer.org

[3] Among the early adopters of the Apple II: Henson Associates.

[4] Source: igotoffer.com

[5] Fun Fact: this was the home computer we had when I was a kid. After hours of self-instruction, my dad created a BASIC program that made all kinds of weird noises and flashing colors. Um…success? Such was the extent of home computing in the early ‘80s and the reason why so many home computers ended up in the basement, right next to the treadmill you were so going to use to get into shape, any day now.

[6] TI and Commodore specs from Wikipedia.

[7] Though not the first computer with a mouse-driven windowed GUI (Xerox for one beat them to the punch) the Mac combined an epic advertising campaign and an intuitive GUI to make it the first one most people knew.

[8] Butterfly alert!
 
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@Geekhis Khan Man, you got me right in the nostalgias!

Very interesting run down of the Computer world in the 80’s. We never had a machine at home, but we had BBC Micros at school - now there is a machine that deserved to do much better (please!).

Where did Pebble and co end up after Commodore?
predicted next casualty- IBM during the Microsoft mess...
 
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