A fantastic post / trip down memory lane on the insanity that was developing for the web (the post touches on HTML and JS, not just the CSS of the title) from the late 90s through today.
Notes about 1990s
From JWZ, co-creator of Mosaic and Netscape, the history of an iconic early logo design on the WWW, which was way more directly connected with Shepard Fairey than I had thought.
So that was the time that I somehow convinced a multi-billion dollar corporation to give away the source code to their flagship product and re-brand it using propaganda art by the world’s most notorious graffiti artist.
Side note: it’s a good time to rewatch They Live.
Create and edit ANSI and ASCII art in your browser!
If ansi.drastic.net isn’t doing it for you, here’s another in-browser ANSI art generator, with source available on Github. Go make some BBS graffiti!
Last week I discovered that the batteries in my late 90’s TI-85 had leaked and corroded, and cleaning it up and turning it on first the time in years I lamented the awesome lost ZShell ASM games that I’d loaded the thing up with back in high school (that was one of the best versions of Tetris ever, right?).
And now, news that Portal has an awesome-looking unofficial TI graphing calculator port. I hope somewhere this is bringing some pleasure and enjoyment to some poor kid sitting in a boring class or study hall.
(Via Ars Technica)
Game designer Brian Moriarty delivered quite a talk at the 1997 Game Developers Conference, touching on everything from interaction design, emergent play, community-created art, creativity, self expression, and even an unexpected but interesting tangent about 101 Dalmatians. In hindsight, many of subjects he talks about would become evident over the next decade, from the Sims to Etsy to Minecraft to social networking. From Listen! The Potential of Shared Hallucinations:
Before we can learn, before we can grow, we have to be prepared to listen.
What does it mean, to listen?
The word is commonly understood to mean “attentive hearing.”
It has its etymological origin in the archaic verb, list.
“List!” they used to say. “Ssh! List! The wild boar is outside!”
But the verb “list” also means to tilt something to one side.
When a sea vessel leans to starboard or port, it is said to be listing.
So how did the word “list” turn into the verb “listen?”
Because when we try to hear something, we sometimes cock our heads in the direction of the sound.
So to listen means more than to hear attentively.
The word also implies a change of inclination.
A new slant.
To listen is to put ourselves into a receptive attitude.
A position to be re-aligned.
Also worth reading (the talk is also available for watching as a video in the GDC Vault) if you fondly remember the days of Hypercard, MUDs, and when text adventures reigned supreme on AOL, or if you like crazy 1990s Photoshop anaglyphs…
A fan-made port of the pixel font built into the adventure game classics The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. As a bonus, a separate version is available that is properly kerned and hinted. (double bonus: opening the .ttf file in Font Book reveals that the demonstration string for the font reads “You fight like a dairy farmer!”)
A post combining Lucasfilm Games and typography? Immediate reblog!
Nice write-up by Ars Technica on the ScummVM project’s history and developers. Hard to believe it’s been around for over 10 years already! (also, I hadn’t heard that they had a brief-lived controversial build that supported Eric Chahi’s Another World, one of the best games of all time…)
Ars Technica has up a history article on the early web browsers, a rare glimpse into the largely-forgotten software that beat NCSA Mosaic to the punch but didn’t quite make it into pop culture consciousness (seen above is ViolaWWW, notable for early stabs at browsing history, bookmarks, styles, and even embedded scripting — probably also the first web browser I remember using on my Slackware copy of X Windows circa 1994! </old>).
For all of the developments in web technology since 1991, it’s remarkable to see how many UI features and browsing concepts emerged almost immediately and are still with us today.
[Video no longer available]
RIP Charles Napier, who I’ll always remember as the great voice actor behind The Critic’s Southern TV magnate Duke Phillips. If you have access to the Critic DVD set, be sure to listen to the commentary tracks where Maurice LaMarche and Nick Jameson share the recording booth with a seemingly uncomfortable Napier… (the above clip also features the remarkable Doris Grau, who passed on around the time the show was still in production)
“ALL HAIL DUKE, DUKE IS LIFE.”
(h/t to SuperHappy)
I remember when Wired ran their May, 1997 issue, focusing on the downfall and imminent demise of Apple with this striking (and to some, controversial) cover. Most of their “101 Ways to Save Apple” suggestions are in hindsight nonsensical (merge with Sega to make games!), a few were prescient (build a ~$250 PDA phone that can do email!), but one definitely stands out as the prize winner:
50. Give Steve Jobs as much authority as he wants in new product development. … Even if Jobs fails, he’ll do it with guns a-blazin’.
He definitely didn’t fail, by anybody’s standards. It’s hard to think of many individuals out there who have had a bigger impact on popular computing and technology, not to mention who have led the charge for design and innovation as still-relevant business ideals in the 21st Century. RIP Steve Jobs.
The Deleted City, an installation that lets visitors explore the virtual ‘homesteads’ of Geocities.com, the most popular gathering place on the 1990’s WWW. For those not familiar, the site made it easy for the average person to set up a basic website (tacky graphics and all), and then group it into a ‘neighborhood’ based on the site’s presumed subject matter.
The installation is an interactive visualisation of the 650 gigabyte Geocities backup made by the Archive Team on October 27, 2009. It depicts the file system as a city map, spatially arranging the different neighbourhoods and individual lots based on the number of files they contain.
In full view, the map is a datavisualisation showing the relative sizes of the different neighbourhoods. While zooming in, more and more detail becomes visible, eventually showing invididual html pages and the images they contain. While browsing, nearby MIDI files are played.
I love the choice of music for this demo video.
OMG OMG, some kind soul is posting good-quality, full-page scans of all of the old LucasFilm Games / LucasArts Adventurer magazines! Created at the company’s artistic height, these gems were half retail catalog, half inside scoop trivia treasure trove, decked out with never-to-be-seen-again Steve Purcell art (including single-page Sam & Max comics parodying the major Lucas game release featured that issue). They now sell for an arm and a leg on eBay.
I used to have every one of these, but they all vanished to whatever corner of the landfill my triangular Day of the Tentacle box and Dial-A-Pirate wheels ended up in…
If you’re a fan of the old Lucasfilm Games (and the kind of video game nerd that likes this sort of weird find…), don’t let your week go by without watching this internal Lucasfilm Games parody video unearthed by Mix n’ Mojo. Shots of Skywalker Ranch, Ron Gilbert, Larry Holland, jokes riffing off of the “Bo Knows” and “Spielvergnügen” (erm, Fahrvergnügen) ads, and even a song sung on the Ranch’s porch about their adventure games. It doesn’t get much more 1990 then this, folks!
(Bonus: watch for the boxed copy of King’s Quest V on the desk at around 8 minutes in — how’d that get in there??)
RIP Macho Man. Few people exemplified the XTREME!!!! 1990s marketing aesthetic quite so well.
Awesome full sets of sprites and backgrounds ripped from Konami’s 1991 Simpsons arcade game are available over at The Spriters Resource. I could have bought one of those machines with all of the quarters I lost playing it at the bowling alley or pizza parlor or wherever else grubby kids hung out in 1990s suburbia.
I’ve trimmed down Marge’s action sprites here because I’m fascinated by one detail that I’m pretty sure is otherwise depicted nowhere else in the rest of Simpsons canon: Marge’s Life in Hell rabbit ears hidden inside her hair!
(Via The Spriters Resource: Simpsons. I owe someone source attribution, but I can’t remember where I saw this link recently…help!)
Know who assembled the retail boxes and whatnots for the original Secret of Monkey Island launch (including putting together the Dial-A-Pirate™ codewheels, as seen above)? The actual developers! I believe that’s Hal Barwood in the red glasses, and maybe that’s Dave Grossman on the left? If you have positive ID’s on anyone in the photo, let me know! The GameCola blog scored these photos of launch assembly from Tim Schafer’s Facebook page, including this good bit of trivia:
In one of these boxes, the developers slipped a five-dollar bill, signed by the whole team. It hasn’t been seen since.
The game industry’s definitely a bit different these days.
Whatever Happened to N.W.A.’s Posse? LA Weekly tracks down all of the guys featured on the cover of N.W.A.’s lesser known first album, perhaps the first photo of gangsta rap. A handful of them were only there to give rides to their friends. For the others, though, this album launched careers that would redefine the 1990’s music landscape (see if you can spot Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren…). Here’s one incredible bit of trivia:
When N.W.A signed with Priority, the group was only the label’s second signed act. The other was the California Raisins. That’s right: The first noncompilation album released by Priority was The California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs. The second was Straight Outta Compton.
It’s interesting to look back at the hype and spectacle of the early CD-ROM games (with novelties like Myst flying off the shelf the medium was hailed as the savior of declining video game sales) as a parallel to the hype and spectacle of the real 18th Century phantasmagoria and magic lantern parlor theater. From classic gaming site GOG.com’s short editorial piece commemorating their recent addition of Roberta William’s popular 1995 FMV horror game Phantasmagoria:
In the mid-1700s, long before horror pioneers like Alfred Hitchcock, films such as Dracula and Frankenstein, and even cinema itself, the predecessor to horror cinema was born in a tiny coffee shop in Leipzig, Germany. The proprietor of the shop, Johann Schropfer, welcomed patrons with a warm beverage and an invitation to shoot the breeze and some stick in his adjoining billiards room. But the extra attraction of running a table after a long workday didn’t do much to boost Schropfer’s steadily declining patronage. In an effort to drum up business, Schropfer cast out pool tables and converted the billiards parlor into a séance chamber. […]
By the late 1760s, Schropfer’s once-deserted shop had evolved into a hotspot where patrons gasped in awe at ghostly images projected onto smoke, chilling music, ambient sounds, and burning incenses whose aromas were evocative of malevolent forces. The masterful performance put on by Schropfer proved so lucrative that the coffee-shop-owner-turned-showman took his show on the road throughout Europe until 1774, at which time Schropfer, perhaps haunted by the specters he alleged to call forth from the afterlife, took his own life.
A private school principal once told me that in the history of literature, the greatest translation of all time was the English translation of Waiting for Godot, because Samuel Beckett had personally translated it from French, in which he’d originally written it, into English, his mother tongue. Well, Steve Purcell just might be the Samuel Beckett of comic book video games.
One of the best games of all time, now running experimentally in your browser, demonstrating that the future could be very bright for non-proprietary interactive content on the web. It’s only the first part of the 2nd level (or whatever you want to call the cage-swinging, alien-buddy-meeting scene) and it’s glitchy, but still looks beautiful and smoothly animated (maybe a bit too smooth, due to the <canvas> polygons being all anti-aliased and filtered out of the box). If you’ve never played the original game, an amazing high-res WinXP-compatible remake came out a couple of years back in honor of the 15th anniversary of its original release.
From Endless loop: A brief history of chiptunes:
Pressure Cooker was an ambitious exception among its contemporaries. In 1980, most home computer music remained limited to single-voice melodies and lacked dynamic range. Robert “Bob” Yannes, a self-described “electronic music hobbyist,” saw the sound hardware in first-generation microcomputers as “primitive” and suggested that they had been “designed by people who knew nothing about music” (Yannes 1996). In 1981, he began to design a new audio chip for MOS Technology called the SID (Sound Interface Device). In contrast to the kludgy Atari TIA, Yannes intended the SID to be as useful in professional synthesizers as it would be in microcomputers. Later that year, Commodore decided to include MOS Technology’s new SID alongside a dedicated graphics chip in its next microcomputer, the Commodore 64. Unlike the Atari architecture, in which a single piece of hardware controlled both audio and video output, the Commodore machine afforded programmers greater flexibility in their implementation of graphics and sound […]
When I saw this headline linked by Waxy I took it to be an overview of the recent (late 90’s to now) chiptune music craze, but it’s actually a nice little overview of the nearly 30 years old history of writing music on game hardware. Even includes sections on cracktros, the demoscene, and the early advent of trackers, along with some good videos of the relevant technology.
(Photo of the SID chip via Chris Hand)
“[…] gopher [was] an Edenic protocol of innocence (in comparison to HTML, the protocol of commerce and experience)”
Ars Technica checks in on Gopher, the largely-forgotten pre-www protocol for getting information from servers in a simple, hypertext format. It’s out there still, just like the old BBSes, telnet MUDs / MOOs / MUSHes, Usenet, etc., and still useful in some contexts. Very few contexts, maybe – I can’t imagine there’s much in the way of Gopher pr0n or warez trading to give continued backwater life to the old medium, but hey, 4chan’s /b/ is available through Gopher…
What would things would be like if Gopherspace’s concision won out over HTTP’s ability to cram graphics and ads onto every resource? Sounds like our current mobile web app landscape.
“At Home with English”, a fabulous early 1990’s low-budget ESL public access TV course filmed here in Austin, TX, dredged up by the Found Footage Festival. A truly exemplary bit of late-night public access weirdness. I’ve been mentioning this guy to friends for years, always hoping to catch it on so I could tape it. Glad someone’s found a copy, and they’ve even tracked down the star for an interview! This highlight reel’s pretty good, but it’s edited down considerably: each segment was made all the more absurd because they would go over each of the verb tenses repeatedly using the same odd inflection, interspersed with a super-macro-closeup shot of a woman’s lips reciting the vocabulary.
It’s weird to see how generic the times were in 1990: way more acid wash denim and pastel colors, but otherwise the clothing wouldn’t look too out of place at the mall today. The storefronts and water displays still have their decidedly 1980s look, though. ‘90 and ’91 were the formative years when I spent a lot of time at the mall during the summer, bothering the folks at Babbages (they had an Amiga set up to play Lemmings and LucasFilm Games demos!) and whatever comics / gaming stores were around back then, or wasting quarters at Tilt. PS: Terminator 2’s mall sequence was probably filmed not too far from one of these scenes, around the same time.