Tag Archives: Macintosh

Reviving the 190cs and Some History

I’ve written some about my early days of gaming, days dominated first by the Atari 2600 and then the Apple II.  I have also written extensively about the era from EverQuest forward, when I was playing on a Windows machine of one sort or another.

But there is a whole middle-era that I have mostly left out, or only alluded to in passing, that involves me working and playing games on the Apple Macintosh platform.  And it was quite a big part of my evolution as a gamer.  Flashes of that have come through when I wrote about Air Warrior or when I mention things like Marathon or Bolo.  But it isn’t a topic I’ve delved into much, for reasons I will get to.  But first, some history.

Being in Silicon Valley and an Apple II enthusiast meant it was easy to keep an eye on all things Apple, including the coming of the original Macintosh.  But even though 1984 wasn’t like 1984, or so that ad told me, I wasn’t buying a Mac. (This is also why I have no Nintendo nostalgia.  Who needed a NES when you had an Apple II?)

I was still invested in the Apple II though, which had more software, did more things, and was all I needed at the time.  I played Wizardry and Ultima III and Bard’s Tale and Karatka and was happy.   Meanwhile, the original Macintosh was neat and all, but other that drawing pictures in MacPaint, there wasn’t much to it.

Time moved on, and new Mac models came out.  I used my student discount to buy my friend Kip a Mac 512Ke, but stuck with my Apple II.  Then two things happened.  First, somebody swiped a box of mine while I was moving out of the dorm at the end of the semester.  That box contained mostly Apple II disks, which cut the legs out from under my investment in the hardware.  I didn’t lose everything, but a lot of software was gone and I wasn’t going to go buy it all again.  I wasn’t even sure I could buy all of it again.

Second, as part of a group project we did a bunch of work at one person’s office.  They did all their stuff on the Mac and so I did a bunch of the writing for the project on a Mac SE with an Apple Extended Keyboard on Microsoft Word.

The Mac SE was the first model to lose the already dowdy looks of the original Mac, a look that was still present in the Mac Plus.  The new Apple Desktop Bus keyboard and mouse that came with it were a lot better than the original Mac versions.  And Microsoft Word was really good on the Mac.  I really like the WYSIWYG aspect of it.  It was light and ran well.  Add in the ability to print your documents out on one of those new laser printers and I was sold.

In early 1987 I bought a Mac SE through a contact that was able to buy at the Apple developer support prices, which probably saved me $1,500.  Computers were expensive back then.

It was a dual floppy unit, because I came from the Apple II world and having two floppy drives was freaking critical… especially if you wanted to copy disks for friends.  (I remember sitting there with the cover off of both Apple II floppy drives, adjusting the speeds of both to get them sync’d up in order to get past some particularly gnarly copy protection scheme or another.)

But I still needed a hard drive.  You couldn’t get by without that even back then, the sizes of which seem comically small by today’s standards.  A 20MB drive was a pretty common option, but I went out and spent all that money I saved on the Mac SE on a 70MB drive from Jasmine Technologies, a company I would later end up working for.

Anyway, I was committed.  My Mac era had begun, and would continue on for almost exactly a decade.  I ended up working at companies that did Mac products, even working directly with Apple on a few things.  I ran a Mac oriented BBS from 1990 to 1995, which gave me a knowledge of modems at the dawn of the dial up internet which also got me a few jobs.

But Apple was a ship without a rudder in the 90s, wandering thither and yon, unfocused and living on its past reputation.  By 1997 the place looked doomed.  Michael Dell was telling people that the company should shut down and give the stockholders the proceeds.  The startup I was working at folded up shop and I had to take what little Windows knowledge I had gained to try and find a job elsewhere.  Having Macintosh on your resume at the time was only slightly better than having McDonald’s listed.  A lot of people I knew made the transition.

A year later I had a job in enterprise software, secured largely on my rather superficial knowledge of ISDN (I was hired to work on that, then never did, moving immediately into speech technologies), and a Windows NT Desktop machine in front of me.

Since it had always been my habit to have a machine similar to my work machine at home, I swapped over to Windows there was well.  I soon had a Dell Pentium II machine set to dual boot into either Win95 or WinNT.  It wasn’t my first Windows box.  I had a 66MHz 486 a few years back just to tinker with Win95, but it was the first Windows box set to be my main machine.  Somewhere along the line I got a 3Dfx Voodoo I card… I forget now why I bought it… some game needed it I am sure… so when EverQuest came out I was ready to go.

And almost all of that Mac stuff went away.  I kept that Apple Extended Keyboard for a long time.  It just sat on a shelf, gathering dust, but it was such a good keyboard that I hated to just toss it.  I got rid of the PowerMac 8500, the last desktop Mac I owned, and the Windows compatibility cared I had borrowed from a friend at Apple so I could run ZMud when playing TorilMUD.  After using it on that other Windows machine, I had to find a way to keep using it.

Other bits and pieces disappeared over time.  The TI MicroLaser Plus laser printer stayed a bit, but it was a decade old and supplies were getting scarce.  Boxes, diskettes, CDs, and manuals of various historical value got tossed as time went on as my wife and I moved, then moved again.

Now, more than a decade on from our last move there are very few things around the house to suggest I ever had anything other than a Windows box during my career.  There are some Mac World Expo badges hanging off a peg, a couple of really old CD jewel cases with titles like Spaceship Warlock or Pathways into Darkness (early Bungie title!), or my affection for the big ball Kensington Trackball that might give it away, but not much else.  I am in a constant battle between keeping old stuff and not having my office turn into a trash heap of old crap.  So I do my own Marie Kondo thing and sift through stuff and ask myself if it brings me joy or not, which gets me to throw things out now and again.

And I have forgotten much.  I am able to go write about TorilMUD as often as I do not because I played it so much during the 90s, but because it is still there and I can get ZMud to still launch, so I can revisit and refresh old memories.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was once again going through my office and throwing things away (like a Jambalaya MRE a friend brought back from the Gulf War) and in a drawer in a dresser that is stuffed in the closet in my office I found my old Macintosh PowerBook 190cs along with the power supply… and the receipt.  I paid $1,499 for it at ComputerWare back in early 1996.

I remember having this laptop… the only laptop I have ever purchased for myself, since work has always seen fit to issue me one if they think I need one… but I didn’t know I still had it until I dug it up.

It was a curious model, straddling the 500 series and 5300 series of Apple PowerBooks.  It had the then new simpler design aesthetic (the 500 series looked like Batman’s laptop) but was powered by the 68040 processor rather than the PowerPC processors then entering the Macintosh model line.

It was the last 68K series laptop Apple produced, and the last 68K Mac I ever owned, putting it at the end of a long line that included the SE, Plus (to run my BBS at one point), SE/30, IIci, IIsi, Quadra 700, and Quadra 800.

I pulled this antique out of the drawer and set it up on my desk, uncertain if it even still worked more than 20 years after I purchased it.  I had to figure out how to turn it on.  It was part of the ADB era, when Apple put a power button on the keyboard with a symbol I had long since forgotten.  But when I figured it out, the speaker chimed and the unit spun up into life.

MacOS 7.5.2 – And Look at all that RAM!

The motherboard battery had faded years ago, so the time and date came up as midnight on January 1, 1904, the default day zero of the MacOS at that time.  I was a little concerned as to whether or not it would recognize 21st century dates, but it seemed to handle that.

Digging through the drive, I found some old apps.  There was a copy of Eudora, my favorite email app of old, probably full of notes to my girlfriend at the time, now my wife.  I used to write her emails while builds ran.  Now I just text her.

There was a copy of Claris Emailer, which I used to monitor the support account.  At a startup you have to do all the things.

There were all sorts of little utilities.  A copy of Microsoft Word 5.1a, the last good version of Word.  At that point it had achieved a fullness of features yet still fit on a 1.4MB floppy.

And in a folder titled “Games ƒ” I found… some games.  Old games.  Games from 20 years back.

Not a lot of games.  This was my work laptop after all.  But a few goodies in there that I didn’t think I still had around.  So I have something from that era to write about, old games played on era authentic hardware.

But first I want to get the PowerBook on the network so I can get some screen shots moved over.  The 190cs didn’t come with built-in Ethernet, but I had a Global Village PC Card that had both modem and Ethernet support.  However, that needed an external dongle (referred to as Clyde by the team that worked on it for reasons I do not recall) and I could not find the dongle.

But a packrat friend and former co-worker of mine had one and sent it to me. Now I just need to get it configured.  As it turns out, MacTCP from 1995 was pretty primitive.  There is, for example, no support for DHCP.  So far I’ve gotten to the point where the router sees the 190cs and has allocated it the IP address it asked for, but it cannot ping anything and cannot resolve any domain names.  Launching Netscape Navigator 4.04, the only browser installed on the unit, yields no web yet.

At least I have a bunch of network utilities in another folder.  20+ year old network utilities, but maybe they will tell me something.  We shall see.

Also found in the same drawer as the 190cs:

Recorded off the air, circa 1980

Maybe I’ll get to that later.  I do still own a car with a cassette deck.

Remembering Spaceship Warlock

Back, more than 20 years ago, there was an interlude in the succession of jobs that somehow became my career, where I had to take some time out and work retail.  Again.

It was the early 90s and the Cold War was over.  My classes in the Soviet studies program were turned into a few semesters of obscure trivia.  (Details of the organization of GOSPLAN anybody?) And one of the first results of the so-called “peace dividend” was a recession in Valley.  Before there was Fairchild Semiconductor to rebel against or the high tech boom that renamed the Santa Clara Valley from “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” to “Silicon Valley,” it was aerospace defense contractors who provided the economic power to build the houses and strip malls over the orchards of my grandparents.  It was the influx of companies like Lockheed that took the cheap farm land of the valley and turned a pack of sleepy little farm towns into a carpet of tract houses.  A hundred suburbs in search of a city as they say.

Anyway, I was out of work not because of the recession but because my previous company lost a lawsuit that caused to boss to call us all into the production area to tell us to clear out our desks and go home.  We were all laid off.

The recession came into play in finding a new job.  With the idea that any job was better than no job, I applied, and got a position, at a local computer retailer called ComputerWare, which specialized in Macintosh computers.

Okay, I swear I will actually get to the game itself, but there is a stage to be set for this.  There will be pictures and links to videos, all after some more background text.

Now where was I?

Ah, yes, ComputerWare.   As far as career interludes go, it was a pretty good deal.

Okay, the pay was bad.  The hours were… well… retail, which meant being there evenings and weekends.  And it was retail.  The general public was allowed to wander in the door, and if you have ever had to work with the general public, then you know what I mean.

But on the flip side, it was a time of Macintosh enthusiasm.  I was a fan of the Mac, and ran a Macintosh BBS out of my home (which is what got me the job pretty quickly, I was somebody who knew about modems when modems were suddenly becoming a big thing), and ComputerWare was a focus of this enthusiasm.  It was a time more akin to the hobbiest days of the 80s than the Apple Store chic of today.  Famous people would show up.

I didn’t work at the Palo Alto store where Apple luminaries like Guy Kawasaki, or musicians like Todd Rundgren would drop by regularly.  But we got our fair share of notables down in the Sunnyvale store.  I met some members of the Grateful Dead (Mac heads!), while Steve Wozniak used to show up with his kids during the generally very quiet Sunday shift and drop a thousand dollars or more on software he would pull off the shelf with abandon.  He was especially interested in the CD-ROM software and would buy out the one copy (or the demo copy) of anything he did not already have.

Not that famous people were there all the time.  And frankly, the enthusiasts were more important and often more fun.  We had a pile of regulars who would show up all the time to see and talk about what was new.  On Saturday morning the local Mac user group, A32 (for “Apple 32-bit users”), would adjourn from their weekly meeting and show up at our store to just be Mac geeks among the flock.

And there was so much new stuff showing up that we all take for granted these days.  Apple was about to launch the PowerBook laptop computers which would basically define what a laptop computer looks like through to today.  QuickTime was about to bring easy video capture and playback to the masses (killing off another company I used to work for).  Video cards and displays were unlike anything you could get elsewhere, and Adobe was already selling Photoshop 2.0 for the Mac.

And then there were CD-ROMs, which interested Steve Wozniak so much.

This was back in the infancy of CD-ROM drives.

At that point in time, computers did not come with an optical drive.  That was a standard feature a good four years down the road.  Your computer came with a 1.44MB floppy drive, which was how you loaded software onto the machine (unless you were a real odd ball and called BBSes and downloaded software!) and a hard drive of a capacity somewhere between 20MB and 120MB.

CD-ROM drives were external peripherals, and they were expensive.

At ComputerWare we carried two in stock.  The first was the Apple model, A SCSI device that ran close to $500 in price.  The other was an off-brand that I can no longer recall… Plexor? Plextor? Something like that.  That one came in just under $400.

This was 1991.  Those were expensive devices.  They were 1x speed, so reading data was slower that you can possibly imagine.  And writing data? Forget about it!

I think I need to emphasize the speed.  In the age of broadband, the speed of a 1x CD-ROM drive seems ludicrously slow, at 150K/sec.  That was the standard created for music CDs.  At that rate, copying a 44 minute album to your hard drive would take… 44 minutes.  And, of course, you couldn’t copy it to your hard drive because it was probably too small in any case.  CDs could be 650MB in size, and your hard drive, as I mentioned above, likely only had a capacity in the 20-120MB range.

And that 150K/sec number was an “everything goes right” throughput number.  A music CD is generally optimized so that the data can read with a minimum of seek time.  Random data, like an image of somebody’s hard drive or an Apple developers CD could take what seems like ages just to display, much less load.  At the time the Mac world was still using SCSI-1 for hard drives, which is very slow compared to today’s interfaces, like SATA.  And 1x CD-ROM drives seemed positively glacial compared to SCSI-1.

“Freaking slow” does not begin to cover the topic.

And there was not a lot you could do with CD-ROM drives.  There were a few titles out there, and they were all very expensive.  They were expensive because volume was low.  Somebody dumped an encyclopedia onto a CD, because the one thing CD-ROMs did well was hold a lot of data, coming it at 650MB.  This was at a time when a raw 1GB hard drive was between a brick and a cinder block in size, about as quiet as an electric razor, and was priced over the $2,000 mark.  But the encyclopedia wasn’t very good by all accounts.  There were the Apple developer CDs.  Those were fun, if slow.  And you could play your music CDs on your drive, if you so desired.

It was a classic situation of young technology having neither matured enough nor having found its niche.

And yet, in this environment… insane cost, low utility, miserable performance… I could guarantee we would sell at least one, often two, of our CD-ROM drives every weekend.  All I had to do was get a hold of the one Mac on the sales floor that had a drive and insert the store copy of Spaceship Warlock, and it would sing its sirens tune. (An annoying tune that my boss would tell me to turn the hell down.)  It would sell the hardware for me.

Spaaaace-ship Warlock!

Looking at this game today, you might wonder how this was possible.

The graphics weren’t bad, but low quality by today’s standards.  There wasn’t much of a game to the whole thing.  The dialog was just bad.  And worst of all it cost, in 1991, $95 and required a $400 piece of hardware just to play it.

Wait, $95 for this?

But at the time, in the context of 1991, it was something amazing.  The game promised a lot.

All this and more!

And it delivered on all of the promises.  Granted, some of them, like the pogo space shuttle, were pretty much just cut scenes.  Then again, cut scenes of this quality were a new thing.

“Cut Scenes” actually describes a lot of Spaceship Warlock.

The cover even described it as an “Interactive Movie,” though we didn’t have an “Interactive Movie” section, so it got stuck with the games.

It was almost all atmosphere with very little game.

But the atmosphere was just right.  You started in a dark city that you could explore.  You could not range that far and wide, but there were establishments to enter and little things to do outside of the story line.  This theme was kept up for most of the environments, which is part of what made it engaging.

And then there was the style, which gave a serious Blade Runner vibe in the city (thanks in part to the hover vehicles that took off just like those in the movie) that sucked people into the game.

So it was almost any given Saturday at ComputerWare, Sunnyvale, some well paid male tech worker in his 30s to 50s would be ensnared.  For the married ones, I could practically hear the thought process going on in their head, which went something like this:

Must have this game!

Game plus drive is $500.  Wife will kill me!  Cannot rationalize this purchase.

Wait, CD-ROM encyclopedia.  Encyclopedia plus drive is $500, but it is an advanced educational tool for the child / children.  This I can justify!

Game is then just a small indulgence for me.  I win!

Single men were less complex.

Must have this game!  I am single and well paid!  I win!

So once they had to give up their seat at the game, they would sidle up to me, inquire about the encyclopedia and other educational software (the Living Book CD-ROM version of Just Grandma and Me became a required add-on for anybody with small kids when it came out), and then have me pull a copy of the CD and a drive to purchase.

And then, in that tone of voice men sometimes use when asking for condoms or alcohol at stores where they are kept behind the counter, they would say, “Oh, and do you have a copy of Spaceship Warlock?”

Of course I did.  I wouldn’t bother loading up the store copy on one of the demo machines if we didn’t, as NOT having a copy would pooch any sale.

I was at this job for less than a year, November to July as I recall, and I must have personally handled 20 such sales  on Saturdays at the store.   That doesn’t seem like a lot, but this was a very expensive luxury item, essentially a $500 game.

And what did people get for their $500?

I still have the CD-ROM.   The pictures in this post are scans of my beat up copy of the game… (I was single and not well paid, but I got it anyway.  The employee discount brought the price down, but it was still expensive.  I think I literally paid more into ComputerWare than I earned while working there.)

But I have no way of actually playing it.  Somebody else figured it out though, and while it wasn’t perfect (The animations do not always render correctly.  This is especially noticeable when flying cars take off in the city.) it does give a sense of the game.  There is, of course, the intro:

If the CD was left running in the drive, it would play the intro music score over and over, which would drive my boss crazy.  I had to keep the speakers low until the key demographic was in the store.

And then there is game play itself.

The play through it fairly direct, going straight for the key points of interest without much exploration.  Still, it gives a sense of what the game was like.

And if you really want to see the rest, there are videos covering the game through to the end.

Spaceship Warlock Playlist

That was what passed for cutting edge in 1991.

Color!  Stereo sound!  Engaging environments!

The creators of the game later got into a lawsuit over who deserved royalties after the game became a success.

The authors

Mike Saenz also did the Virtual Valerie series… I am sure porn would have sold even more CD-ROM players, but this was a family environment… along with a graphic novel made up of rendered 3D images called Donna Matrix… which was also porn.  He certainly had the internet figured out in advance.

And then… and then the march of technology carried on.  I have seen Blu-Ray discs with menu systems more complex than Spaceship Warlock, and games… well… the level of depth and detail available has long since surpassed this game.  Today it is a dinosaur, an oddity, a throw back to what is now ancient history in video games.

But it isn’t very often that I have felt as captured and immersed in a game as I was back in 1991.

EverQuest for Mac Saved?

More tweets from Chairman Smed:

Back on January 30th, as part of the EverQuest Free to Play announcement, the closing of EverQuest for Macintosh was part of the collateral damage.

Now, however, it looks like it may live on still, and as a truly free to play experience to boot.

This is truly amazing… and I would say almost unprecedented… news.

I will be interested to see the details when they emerge.  I do hope this will mean EQMac.com will continue to be available.  It is a source of much arcane lore from the bygone days of the game.

(Hat tip to Omali who was watching Twitter more closely than I!)

The End of EverQuest for Macintosh – Old School has been Dismissed

Hidden away in the EverQuest free to play FAQ is a mention of the EverQuest Al’Kabor server. (Question 16, since I cannot link to it directly.)

Al’Kabor is the server that supports the Macintosh version of EverQuest, and may be the only true old shool version of the game available. (Today’s theme is SOE and “old school”)  The server is currently still on the Planes of Power expansion and has seen only technical updates since then.

The FAQ points to a forum post about the impeding demise of the Al’Kabor server.

The amazing journey that has been EverQuest: Macintosh Edition has created an untold number of adventures, and bonds between its players that will last far beyond the years of the game. As the saying goes, however, all good things must come to an end, and so the time has come for the Al’Kabor server.

On Thursday, March 29, 2012, the Al’Kabor server and the EverQuest: Macintosh Edition will be closing. EverQuest: Macintosh Edition has had a wonderful run, seeing an incredible tightly-knit community band together to accomplish feats of heroism that remain unsurpassed in the annals of MMORPGs. Overcoming the challenges of the Planes of Power in their near original form is not a task for those who are not dedicated to victory, and we here at SOE are in awe of your dedication and commitment.

We know you will have many questions about what this means, and we have prepared this FAQ in an effort to answer some of these questions. During the remaining weeks we will also be enjoying some time in game with you, the players of Al’Kabor, both to see if the final raids in the Planes can be completed before the final days of EverQuest: Macintosh Edition and to celebrate the community that has kept this game strong throughout the years. Please keep an eye out on the Official EverQuest: Macintosh Edition sub-forum so that we can communicate with you the days and times when we will be joining you in game.

Thank you all again, and we hope that we can join you in fond remembrance of the unique and wonderful experience that has been EverQuest: Macintosh Edition.

And thus the last hold outs in the SOE old school will be disbanded.  This and the entry about the Time Locked Progression servers in the FAQ (Question 15) seems to indicate that old school and free to play do not mix.

There is also a FAQ in the forums, which I will include after the cut.

Continue reading

Farewell Steve Jobs

He grew up just a couple miles from where I did in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, the valley that became Silicon Valley in his youth, and in mine.

He was one of the founders of a company that influenced me greatly.

There was a small Apple II lab at my junior high school, which backed up to Apple’s Mariani Avenue campus, back in 1978.  It had been donated by Apple.

I was 13 at the time.  He was only 23.

Being able to use that lab, loading programs with cassette players, was a seminal experience for me.

I finally wrangled my own Apple II a few years later.  It was the gateway into my future.

But even as I acquired that precious machine, the next wave at Apple was emerging, the machine shaped by him, the Macintosh.

My goal was to some day work at Apple.

My own career followed the Macintosh, and I worked closely with Apple at different companies, but never for Apple.

At times that was a disappointment.

At other times that was a relief.

It was especially a relief in the dark days of the mid 90s, when Apple was faltering.  The companies I worked for started slowly developing Windows products.  At low ebb, in early 1996, having a resume with all Apple focused experience was a serious liability.

And then he came back to Apple.

Micheal Dell at the time said of Apple, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

But Apple flourished.  Michael Dell has since had to eat those words.

Legends were born, stories oft repeated in the valley, rumors and the like, about him.  There was Fake Steve Jobs, which gave voice to what we thought was going through his head, and the legendary reality distortion field that seemed the only explanation at times as to the fierce loyalty people had for Apple products for people who failed to grasp the “less is more” design philosophy.

And while I moved away from Apple products professionally, I do not have to look far around our home to see things that he influence, my wife’s iPhone, the iMac in the family room, a selection of Pixar films on the shelf.

And, of course, the memory of half a lifetime’s worth of influence.

So when my wife called me at the office to tell me that Steve Jobs had died, it was a blow.

It was like somebody in the family had gone.

Steve Jobs Announcement from Apple

It is hard now to imagine a world without Steve Jobs.

It is hard to think of someone who has had as much influence on my life.

Warhammer on the Mac

Electronic Arts/Mythic has actually come up with something that could make me come back and try out Warhammer Online.

The have announced that there is a Macintosh OS X (10.5.3 or later) version of the Warhammer Online client in the works.

WarMac

Mythic Entertainment is pleased to announce that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is coming to Mac. The Mac version of WAR is schedule for release in the fall of 2009 – and players from both platforms will be able to battle and quest together on the same servers.

The beta version of the Mac client is now available to both existing WAR account holders as well as new players who would like to play the Mac trial version.

I have a habit of trying out any MMO I play on the Mac if a client is available, to see how they compare.

The shining example of a Macintosh MMO client for me is World of Warcraft.  It works like the Windows client, right down to allowing you to use the same addons, and has a few additional features, such as built-in video capture.

I have also played the EVE Online Mac client which is good, but not great.

And then there was EverQuest on the Mac.  Worst client support ever.  But I hear people still play on the Mac despite being exiled to their own server (Al’Kabor) and not having had an expansion available to them since the gods know when. (Was Legacy the last one or was it Planes of Power?)  You want Classic EverQuest?  Go play on a Mac.

So I will be interested to see how the Warhammer client plays out.  I actually wonder why they decided to support the Mac OS.  EA does not go out of its way for the Mac very often and Mythic has no history at all on the Mac that I can recall.  So color me surprised to find that there will be a Mac client at all.

I won’t be jumping on the Mac client right away.  It is in beta currently and I am not so interested in paying to help them work out their client issues.  But when it is live I will probably give it a try.