Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

In some ways, 1985 was a really pivotal year for computing. The industry was changing fast, but in 1985, many relics from the past were still present even as we had an eye for the future. Here’s a look back at computers in 1985 and what made that year so interesting.

I think 1985 was interesting in and of itself, but it also made the succeeding years a lot more interesting. A surprising amount of the technology that first appeared in 1985 still has an impact today.

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What is a game cartridge?

What is a game cartridge?

What is a game cartridge? If you’re asking, you must not have grown up in the 1980s. But that’s OK. We’re happy to share our generation’s fun with you.

A game cartridge is a plastic case containing a circuit board, a connector, and a ROM chip. CDs and DVDs ultimately displaced them because they offered higher capacity at a lower cost. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the only lasers our game consoles had were the ones they drew on the screens in games about aliens. We liked our cartridges, even if we called them tapes sometimes.

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The best e-book site I’ve found

The best ebooks site I’ve found, by far, is the archive at the University of Adelaide in Australia. The selection is outstanding, but the presentation is even better.

Steve Thomas, the curator, takes tremendous care to ensure Adelaide’s e-books display their best on any device. Most e-books, even commercial books, pay little to no attention to formatting, and the result all too often is books that are difficult to read.

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Facebook broke. Hopefully this fixed it.

I got this not-helpful error message when posting new content:

Failed posting to your Facebook Timeline. Error: {“message”:”(#100) You haven’t enabled Explicitly Shared for this action type (331247406956072) yet. Please update your Open Graph settings in the App Dashboard”,”type”:”OAuthException”}

I found the solution here:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/18532418/facebook-social-publisher-stopped-publishing-to-timeline-with-message-about-enab

The dwindling writing market

I get the occasional query from people who say I should promote my blog more, so that I can get an audience and write a book about this or that, and then I read stuff like this. Basically, writing is getting more and more commoditized, and writers are making less and less, not that they ever made much in the first place. And then I heard on a podcast that the average technical book sells 5,000 copies.

Fifteen years ago, I was in the home stretch of writing a book–my first, and so far only book. All told, I made around $13,000 off that book, between book royalties and publishing derivative articles in magazines, all before taxes, of course. I wrote about 20 hours a week for six months to do it, so, perhaps if I’d made it my full-time gig, I might have been able to make $52,000 a year. But that was when computer books were hot and big-box book stores were booming. I’m not confident I could make $52,000 as an author today. Read more

The legend of Mt. Fuji

Twenty years ago, I was a promising young–and very unseasoned–columnist for a student newspaper at the University of Missouri–home of the Tigers–called The Maneater. Get it? Tiger? Maneater? Actually, healthy tigers never resort to eating humans, but legend has it by the time the founder learned that, the newspaper was already publishing and it was too late to change the name.

We were a ragtag bunch putting together a newspaper on a shoestring. Our computer network was quirkier than our staff, which took a great deal of doing–trust me, I’m used to being the weirdest guy in the room, and there I didn’t even stand out–but the piece of equipment that probably gives the production crew the most nightmares to this day was an old Apple Laserwriter–don’t ask me the specific model–named Mt. Fuji. Read more

The price of Amazon

Slashdot posted a link to a New York Times piece that asserts that the full extent of Amazon’s existence hasn’t been felt yet, but it asserts that book pricing is becoming whimsical.

My experience disagrees with that. The market will stabilize. I think the cost fluctuations are because the market hasn’t stabilized yet.

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Kansas City and Google Fiber

I get a few questions about Google Fiber, because I have Kansas City connections, and I work in computers. People who’ve known me long enough know that I upgraded to first-generation DSL about 30 minutes after it became available at the apartment complex I lived in at the time. The question then was the same as the question in Kansas City now: What do you do with an Internet connection that fast?

Well, for starters, there’s this novel idea involving the public library… Read more

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