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Days of the Doctors

Staying power: The small screen spans of the eleven Doctor Whos

Doctor Who @ 50 Here we see the total running times of each Doctor’s regular episodes in which they were the lead – so not counting return appearances with a later Doctor; Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee in The Five Doctors, for instance. With seven years in the role under his belt, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor is clearly the longest serving, …
Paul Smith, 4 Nov 2013
Screenshot from Doctor Who serial "The Green Death"

Digital deviants: The many MAD COMPUTERS of Doctor Who

Doctor Who @ 50 The Doctor has always made use of a range of remarkable technologies in his travels, including the Tardis, his Sonic Screwdriver and a whole host of homebrewed devices and contraptions. But there’s one area of technology that he seems to have trouble with, and that’s computers. Specifically, apart from his own “mobile computer …
Alone in the Dark

Ding-dong, Cthulu calling: Infogrames’ 1992 Alone in the Dark

Antique Code Show There was a time when you were considered a bit of a sissy if a computer game scared you. Yet along with the numerous innovations Alone in the Dark brought to the gaming world, it was one of the first titles to genuinely put the shits up anyone brave enough to play it. Creaky floorboards, distant howls, Hitchcock camera angles, …
Giles Hill, 31 Oct 2013
Boy in steampunk fancy dress, with hat, mechanical monocle, waxed moustache, cravat and Bavarian-type jacket

A steampunk VDU: How would it work and what would it look like?

Readers' corner Boy in steampunk fancy dress, with hat, mechanical monocle, waxed moustache, cravat and Bavarian-type jacket A steampunk VDU? Yes, I can do that Many Reg readers are fans of steampunk Sci-Fi, and so we hope you relish this little challenge posed on El Reg Forums by John Smith 19, a gold badge commentard. If you know Charles …
Drew Cullen, 26 Oct 2013

Play Elite, Pitfall right now: Web TIME PORTAL opens to vintage games, apps

The Internet Archive has unveiled a new Historical Software Collection that enables visitors to experiment with vintage software from the era of 8-bit computing right within their browser windows. The collection includes such prototypal productivity software as VisiCalc running on an emulated Apple //c and WordStar 2.26 running …
Neil McAllister, 25 Oct 2013
Enterprise 64

Phantom Flan flinger: The story of the Elan Enterprise 128

Archaeologic Despite its name, Intelligent Software also had a nice little sideline designing hardware. Founded in 1981 by international chess champion David Levy and chess writer Kevin O’Connell, the company was best known for its chess programs, in particular Cyrus and SciSys Chess Champion. But it also developed chess computers for toy …
Tony Smith, 24 Oct 2013
Computer Chess

Computer Chess: Geek, gaming and retro-tech movie of the year

Film Review Surely no normal person would ever want to spend an hour and a half, let alone a whole weekend, in the company of beardy-weirdy 1970s computer nerds as they challenge their chess programs to beat all comers – and maybe, one day, even a human too? Director Andrew Bujalski must be rather keen to do so, because it’s the subject of …
Tony Smith, 11 Oct 2013
Early RCA colour video recorder advertisement

Video thrilled the radio star: Tracking the history of magnetic tape

Feature El Reg's magnetic tape odyssey has covered tape's early beginnings in sound recording in part one and its revolution in computing in part two. In this final part, we look at how film and TV became some of magnetic tape's best customers. The music and computer industries weren’t the only early adopters of magnetic tape. The …
Bob Dormon, 10 Oct 2013
CERN's line mode browser renders El Reg

CERN releases retro 'Line Mode' browser

The history-conscious chaps at CERN have wound back the clock to 1992 by releasing a “line-mode browser” emulator. Reg readers doubtless recall that the first web browsers were text-only affairs, until a young fellow called Marc Andreessen had the bright idea that lots more people could be interested by the World Wide Web if …
IBM 3410 open reel tape subsystem

Tracking the history of magnetic tape: A game of noughts and crosses

Feature America began its love affair with tape following WWII, when Jack Mullin, serving in the US Army Signal Corps, dropped in on German radio broadcaster Bad Nauheim and returned home with two portable Magnetophons and 50 reels of tape. News of his 1947 Hollywood equipment demos reached entertainer Bing Crosby who recognised the …
Bob Dormon, 19 Sep 2013
Shot of Palm Folio

‘Priceless’ unique Palm ‘FAILEO’ laptop goes under the hammer

Pics It was the product that was almost immediately dubbed the ‘Faileo’. It was announced but never released. And it can now be yours - if you pony up enough cash to beat other bidders to a one-of-a-kind auction item. Devised by Palm co-founder and chief engineer Jeff Hawkins, the Foleo - to give the gadget its correct handle - was …
Tony Smith, 18 Sep 2013
Apple Newton MessagePad

Stylus counsel: The rise and fall of the Apple Newton MessagePad

Archaeologic It will forever be remembered as the butt of a-thousand-and-one jokes about its poor handwriting recognition, but Apple’s MessagePad was bold in its conception. Its legacy is ARM’s conquest of the mobile microprocessor world. The company said on 8 August 1993: The Newton MessagePad is the first in a family of communications …
Tony Smith, 17 Sep 2013
Bletchley Park

Google backs gallery of computer-crazed female boffinry at Bletchley Park

Google UK has sponsored a new gallery celebrating the achievements of women in computing at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) in Bletchley Park. Women in Computing Gallery at The National Museum of Computing The new exhibition opened as part of a "Google-inspired Heroines of Computing" event, according to TNMOC*. The …
Team Register, 10 Sep 2013
Fritz Pfleumer with his magnetic tape recorder

Reelin' in the years: Tracking the history of magnetic tape

Anniversary feature Today marks the 80th anniversary of the first patent filing for a magnetic tape recording medium, though the tech I worked with was a bit more recent than that. Still, it has been quite some time since I last went shopping for tape. I recall the last time as being a deal on a load of JVC miniDV cassettes that I still haven't …
Bob Dormon, 9 Sep 2013
Tascam CD-A750 compact cassette deck and CD player combo

Decks and plugs and rock and roll: Tascam CD-A750 cassette and CD combo

Anniversary review The recent El Reg feature on the Compact Cassette's 50th birthday had many a reader commenting on some of the format's former glories. Names mentioned among the dewy-eyed included Aiwa (a favourite in UK studios) and the audiophiles’ choice, Nakamichi, with both producing state-of-the-art recorders with three heads and a lot …
Bob Dormon, 4 Sep 2013
Rebuilt Bombe Bletchley Park, photo copyrighted mubsta.com

Techie Crotty will put £1m in Bletchley museum's kitty ... if you do the same

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park has been promised its largest ever single donation of £1m, which it hopes to use on refurbishments. Donor Matt Crotty, a tech entrepreneur and trustee of the museum, has pledged the million-pound gift. The eggheads who run the joint now need to find matched funding to …
Cassette tape exposed

Compact Cassette supremo Lou Ottens talks to El Reg

Anniversary Q&A As a principal member of the R&D personnel at Philips, Lou Ottens has been behind some of the most enduring audio products in both the analogue and digital domains, from the Compact Cassette to the Compact Disc. In this interview with The Register, Lou Ottens, now in his eighties, recalls the development of the Compact Cassette …
Bob Dormon, 2 Sep 2013
Philips Compact Cassette launch 1963

Happy 50th birthday, Compact Cassette: How it struck a chord for millions

Feature On 30 August, 1963, a new bit of sound recording tech that was to change the lifestyle of millions was revealed at the Berlin Radio Show. The adoption of the standard that followed led to a huge swath of related technological applications that had not been envisaged by its maker; for Philips, the unveiling of its new Compact …
Bob Dormon, 30 Aug 2013
Dave Smith demos MIDI at the NAMM SHow 1983

MIDI daddy Dave Smith: '30 years of version 1.0 shows we got it right'

Q & A The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) specification is 30 years old this month and it's still on version 1.0. More to the point, it still works – with more people using it than ever. In this interview, Dave Smith talks about MIDI past, present and future. It was the combined efforts of Sequential Circuits founder Dave …
Bob Dormon, 28 Aug 2013
The Falkirk Wheel

Meet the world's one-of-a-kind ENORMO barge-bowling bridge of Falkirk

Geek's Guide to Britain Proving it's not just the Victorians who can make huge structures in steel, the Falkirk Wheel can lift six canal boats 25 metres in one go, moving them from one waterway to another. The Forth & Clyde Canal, running across central Scotland, used to be connected to the Union Canal, linking Glasgow to Edinburgh via a stairway of 11 …
Bill Ray, 27 Aug 2013
By Christian H. Ellmaier via SXC and http://www.wabbmedia.com/: Must attribute AND notify author for publication. Obtained via SXC: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=584020

Happy birthday MIDI 1.0: Slave to the rhythm

Feature In part one, the main focus was on MIDI’s myriad data forms and how it began chattering to synths and drum machines, but it was the sequencer that really demonstrated MIDI’s brilliance. In fact, so brilliant it was, that musicians even began to think they were brilliant too by association. Brilliant! It’s early 1988 and it’s …
Bob Dormon, 26 Aug 2013
Acorn's Electron

Acorn’s would-be ZX Spectrum killer, the Electron, is 30

Archaeologic The Sinclair Spectrum made the Acorn Electron inevitable. In June 1982, less than two months after Sinclair had unveiled the Spectrum - which had still not shipped, of course, even though Sinclair had promised the first Spectrums would be in punters’ hands by the end of May - Acorn co-founder Hermann Hauser was heard talking …
Tony Smith, 23 Aug 2013
MIDI clocks up yet another birthday party

Happy birthday MIDI 1.0: Getting pop stars wired for 30 years

Feature Back in the early days of computer music, Reg man Bob Dormon was a professional recording engineer and music programmer. With a little help from some of his old music gear, he documents the rise of MIDI from a creative concept to its practical applications – which have ultimately led to its recognition as a Grammy Award-winning …
Bob Dormon, 19 Aug 2013
Quatermass

Signing out of a broken Britain: The final Quatermass serial

Quatermass at 60 Nigel Kneale was one of the best British writers of the past 50 years, but thanks to enduring British snobbishness about both TV and stories of the imagination, the name is met with blank looks today. Luvvies and critics have never taken to Kneale's Professor Quatermass character - and perhaps more people will recognise the name …
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Jul 2013
Quatermass and the Pit

Mars, bringer of WAR: Quatermass and the Pit

Quatermass at 60 “When I wrote the Quatermass stories, I couldn’t help drawing on the forces and the fears that affected people in the 1950s,” wrote Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale in 1996. His inspiration for Professor Bernard Quatermass’ third appearance on television had been the Notting Hill race riots that struck the London suburb during …
Tony Smith, 24 Jul 2013

Goodbye Blighty: The alternative reality of Quatermass II

Quatermass at 60 The Quatermass Experiment saw Nigel Kneale lay the foundations of what, in the era of trilogies, prequels, sequels and reboots, the entertainment biz would almost certainly call "a franchise". Kneale created Professor Bernard Quatermass, a gifted British rocket scientist whose adventures would be told and re-told eight times …
Gavin Clarke, 22 Jul 2013

1953: How Quatermass switched Britons from TV royalty to TV sci-fi

Quatermass at 60 In June 1953 millions of Brits huddled around their newly bought TVs - all two million of them - and watched their new young Queen take the Coronation Oath before God, her bishops and peers amidst the gothic splendour of Westminster Abbey. Just over two months later a similar number clustered around their sets again, to watch a …
Joe Fay, 18 Jul 2013
Unreal

Unreal: Epic’s would-be Doom... er... Quake killer

Antique Code Show The summer months of 1998 have gone down in history as the period in which Larry Page and Sergey Brin took their PageRank web search engine technology and formally founded a company around it. They called it Google. Microsoft had just launched the internet-centric Windows 98. This writer had started working full-time for a web- …
Tony Smith, 16 Jul 2013
Sir Maurice Wilkes teaser pic

What it was like to grow up around the world's first digital computers

Centenary Ever dreamed of taking Saturday morning trips to the computer lab at Cambridge University, playing with the equipment, cannibalizing old computers, and building new machines from the bits? We're not talking metal Meccano minnows run on AA batteries, either. We’re talking actual, operating electro-mechanical machines powered by …
Gavin Clarke, 8 Jul 2013
Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia: Baggy trousers and curvy swords

Antique Code Show Prince of Persia was surely one of the most ubiquitous Dixons demo titles of the early 1990s. Mesmerised onlookers gazed at the smooth-moving, cartoon-like animation, while bewildered sales drones looked on wondering whether any of these humans would ever manage to get past level one. Hang around long enough randomly pressing …
Giles Hill, 1 Jul 2013
TNMOC

Rise of the machines, south of Milton Keynes

Geek's Guide to Britain It’s the sounds that get you: wheels spinning, processors squeaking, the furious hammering of teleprinters, and some 1980s synth. Yes, computers really were this noisy – something you forget in an era when even the benign tap of the keyboard is giving away to the silent swoosh of finger on glass. I’m at The National Museum of …
Gavin Clarke, 29 Jun 2013
Memotech MTX 500

30 years on: Remembering the Memotech MTX 500

Archaeologic Memotech liked to advertise its MTX 500 and 512 microcomputers with a picture of a speeding black Porsche, but the machines, which made their first public appearance 30 years ago this month, while undoubtedly quick off the mark soon slammed hard into an unforeseen wall thrown up by a sudden, severe change in market conditions. …
Tony Smith, 28 Jun 2013

How Alan Turing wanted to base EDSAC's memory on BOOZE

Centenary If Alan Turing had been in charge of the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) project in the late 1940s, the first computer memory might not have been based on mercury - but on a good gin. In his Turing Award speech in 1967, Sir Maurice Wilkes, the actual EDSAC project chief, recalled Turing's input on …
Phil Manchester, 28 Jun 2013

MSX: The Japanese are coming! The Japanese are coming!

Archaeologic MSX: three initials that struck fear into the heart of Britain’s nascent home computer industry. The Japanese were coming, and the UK’s technology pioneers were anxious about what that might mean. Far Eastern firms like Sony, JVC, Sanyo and Pioneer had put paid to Britain’s mass-market hi-fi makers, and others had killed the …
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2013
LEO I, credit Leo Computing Society

LEO, the British computer that roared

Live Chat Just graduated and looking for a career in computers during tough economic times? Try breaking into tech during the 1950s when most people hadn't even heard of a computer. Yet, that's exactly what brothers Frank and Ralph Land did and within a relatively short time from the closing of their studies at the London School of …
Gavin Clarke, 26 Jun 2013
Sir Maurice Wilkes teaser pic

'Flash Gordon' tech: How Sir Maurice Wilkes made practical computers possible

Centenary Born this day 100 years ago in Cambridge, Sir Maurice Vincent Wilkes was a pivotal figure in the world of digital computing. Few would dispute the critical role played by Wilkes in developing practical computing that would ultimately lead to the accessible machines we rely upon today. Certainly for the British computing scene, …
Dave Wilby, 26 Jun 2013
Mattel Aquarius

The toy of tech: The Mattel Aquarius 30 years on

Archaeologic Once described by Creative Computing journalist David Ahl as “a machine so cheesy, they should have supplied rubber gloves to wear while using it”, the Mattel Aquarius was launched in the UK - and went on sale in the States - 30 years ago this month. Ahl, writing up a list in September 1985 of the worst computers to date, went …
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2013
Space Invader

Thirty-five years ago today: Space Invaders conquer the Earth

Antique Code Show Tomohiro Nishikado already had a string of almost a dozen arcade games under his belt when he started on what was to become the best remembered - certainly the most played - game he was ever to create: Space Invaders, released in Japan 35 years ago this month. Nishikado was an engineer who had joined vending machine company …
Tony Smith, 5 Jun 2013
Strings of a guitar

Hex & plugs & ROM & roll: Computer music stars rock Bletchley

Are programmers the new rock stars? That may be a bit of a stretch, but it hasn't stopped one IT engineer staging a computer music exhibition at Blighty's Bletchley Park. The new hands-on display at The National Museum of Computing, located in the grounds of the wartime code-breaking nerve-centre, focusses on the story of …
Jasper Hamill, 15 May 2013

'Ultimate nerd chick’ prompts C64 clone cancellation

A damning tweet from one Jeri Ellsworth, described by a Register reader as “the ultimate Commodore 64 nerd chick”, has put the mockers on Project Bread Bin, one retro-tech fan’s dream to build a cut-price Commodore 64-compatible computer in a keyboard case. Earlier this week, C64 fan Daniel Biehl called out to the crowd to …
Tony Smith, 10 May 2013
Sinclair ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum cassette player lost? There's an app for that

Those with a working ZX Spectrum in their cupboards but lacking a working cassette deck with which to load programs need fret no more: there's an app for that. The app in question, Speccy Tape for iOS, allows users to access the World of Spectrum database of abandonware. Once loaded into an iOS device, it then plays back the …
Simon Sharwood, 10 May 2013
Commodore 64

Retro-tech fan seeks cash for Commodore 64 clones

A brand new 1982-style Commodore 64 for just $75 (£48)? Yes, it is crazy, but that’s not stopping one enterprising retro-tech fan from trying to make it happen. Daniel Biehl has a Commodore 64 - a real one - but he knows it won’t last forever. So he wants to build a machine that will run all the C64 software out there and work …
Tony Smith, 9 May 2013