Retro in 2013

rewind2013_thumbAnother year over… 2013 draws to a close. As we all gather round with our loved ones and get ready to celebrate the start of the new year, one of the topics at the table will undoubtedly be the year that was. A year in which we said our final goodbye to some truly remarkable people like Nelson Mandela, a year that saw destruction in the Philippines by typhoon Haiyan, a year in which Snowden taught us that our data is not as private as we thought it was, a year that saw the Nobel prize for physics go to the Higgs and Englert for their work on finding that elusive Higgs-particle, a year that saw our vocabulary be enriched with words like ‘twerking’, and much more that the TV stations will be covering in the obligatory ‘end-of-year’ reviews in the coming days.

But 2013 was also an interesting year on the retro scene. In today’s post, I’ll be looking back at the year that was with my retro glasses on and list some of the most striking, interesting and important retro facts of 2013, so sit back, take a glass of port, and let’s take a trip down memory lane for “Retro in 2013”.

This year, we learned that browsers and old technology seem to mix quite well. If not, two interesting achievements of the past year would not have been possible. More specifically I’m talking about the JMESS emulator. The JavaScript MESS project is a porting of the MESS emulator, a program that emulates hundreds of computers and consoles, into the Javascript language. It can emulate a vast number of home computers and continues to be improved frequently.
Another old tech – browser mash-up is the Amiga 500 in Google’s Chrome browser. Google developer Christian Stefansen resurrected a version of the venerable computer system in the form of a Web app that runs in Chrome. Forty-year-olds who want to relive their childhoods or younger people who want to see just how hard their elders had it can visit the Amiga 500 emulator for Chrome online, boot the machine, and play some games.


2013 Was also the year of reunions it seems. On November 11th, the Homebrew Computer Club reunion was held, an extremely rare gathering at the Computer History Museum of dozens of the earliest home computer makers. Thirty-eight years after the first meeting of one of the most famous groups in the world of technology, nearly 100 of its original members got together to celebrate the club, themselves, and perhaps most important, the dawning of the personal computer revolution.


Earlier this year, two other computer legends got together for the recreation of a classic Microsoft shot from the 80s. Paul Allen and Bill Gats Many posed in a new version of their 1981 picture – the year they licensed MS-DOS to IBM in a landmark deal that saw them retain control of the software – surrounded by most of the computers that were in the original image.


On the hardware side, 2013 saw a surge in Commodore – Raspberry Pi related projects, with the little machine reaching the one million production mark as commented by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in October and you can count on some other creative minds to come up with interesting uses of old tech as well, just like James Houston did when in August he connected a SEGA Mega Drive a Commodore 64, disk and hard drives and other old hardware to create an unusual musical ensemble, controlled live via MIDI.
Old Commodore hardware (and its secrets) got revealed by former Commodore employee Bil Herd (yes, the guy that brought us the C128) when he revealed some never before seen material and blueprints of the old Commodore machines. He’s quite active on his website where he posts this awesome material for us geeks to gaze upon.


Old hardware pops up in the mainstream news from time to time as well, especially when it concerns the auction of Apple I hardware. As was the case when at an auction in Germany on November 16th, a working Apple 1 – from the first batch of 50 units made – was sold for EUR 246.000 ($330.000). At that same auction, a prototype Twiggy Mac, sold for EUR 25.000 ($33,725), quite possibly the highest price ever paid for a vintage Macintosh. Earlier in September a group from the original Mac team gathered at the Computer History Museum to witness two ancient Twiggy Macs in action, running alpha versions of the Mac’s inaugural word processor, Macwrite, and its drawing program, MacPaint. The event was put together by Dan Kottke, one of the first Apple employees, and Gabreal Franklin, former president of Mac software company Encore Systems.


Every year is also a year of goodbyes. On the lighter side, we bid farewell to the epic comedy series the IT crowd, which aired its final episode.
We saw the end of an era when Steve Ballmer announced he would step down as CEO of Microsoft.
We saw the end of yet another era when Yahoo! announced it would shut down AltaVista, which was one of the first search engines to index significant amounts of web content and proved hugely popular before Google debuted,

But we also had to let go of some of the most brilliant individuals that have helped shape the tech and computer industry as we know it today.  Amongst them are Hiroshi Yamauchi, who served as the president of Nintendo from 1949 until 2002. He is widely credited with turning the company into the video game empire it remains today.
William Cleland Lowe, the father of the PC, who oversaw the creation of the IBM 5150 and Douglas Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse.
And also Taro “Tony” Tokai, vice-president of Commodore Japan and one of the first VIC advocates.


Share This Post


One Response to Retro in 2013

  1. Great new years post. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *