Archive | Slideshows

Game Boy Oddities

Game Boy Oddities

When Nintendo released the original Game Boy twenty years ago next week, wheels of capitalism and creativity immediately started turning in noggins across the globe.  From artists mesmerized with the gaming gadget’s iconic status to inventors who saw it as a way to make the world a better place to folks who just wanted to cash in, the Game Boy has inspired weird accessories, variations, and tributes.  After seeing the items I rounded up for this extravaganza, you’ll probably agree that the public’s infatuation with this classic handheld has grown far beyond Nintendo’s wildest dreams.


Smallball! Handheld Sports Games of the 1970s and 1980s


When it comes to sports simulations, there’s an inverse relationship between realism and charm. The handheld sports games that toy companies cranked out in the early days used a single LED to represent each player, not thousands of polygons, but they had more personality than today’s console titles–and they were plenty addictive, too. This slideshow skews towards baseball (hey, it’s only a week until opening day) and football (unquestionably the most popular handheld-sports sport), and focuses mostly on games from Mattel and Coleco (the major leagues of handheld sports). It celebrates them through patent drawings, packaging photos, and original commercials. If you’d like more–a lot more–of this stuff, check out Rik Morgan’s wonderful, where some of the images in this show originated.


Ten of Microsoft’s Ten Thousand Patents

10 of Microsoft's 10000 Patents

Microsoft is making hay today over the news that it’s received its ten thousandth patent (which you can see here). I’m kind of addicted to rummaging through Google Patents and finding old filings with drawings that are fun for one reason or another–either because they’re of things we’re all familiar with, or because they depict stuff that never went anywhere. Microsoft is, of course, a software company first and foremost–and most software patent drawings are mundane diagrams, even when they depict something new and significant. So the ten images that follow skew towards Microsoft’s sideline business of hardware. I like ’em anyway–and I didn’t repeat any pictures from our gallery of patents relating to anthropomorphic “assistants.” You can view the original patents by clicking the filing dates.


Atari’s 1984 Touch Tablet: A Retro-Unboxing

Atari Touch Tablet

The next time you use your shiny new Wacom tablet and Adobe Photoshop CS4, think back to a time before time–a time before blends, morphs, heal brushes, and 10-megapixel images.  A time like 1984, which, for computer graphics, was darker than the Dark Ages. It was a time when you could buy an $89.95 Atari CX77 Touch Tablet for your Atari 8-bit home computer.  Luckily, I bought mine for considerably less last year, although it was still in new, unopened condition.  Safely sequestered in the official Vintage Computing and Gaming computer lab, I recently began the task of unpacking the antique peripheral and documenting the process.  Here’s an account of the experience.


Tweetstars: A Guide to Celebrities on Twitter


It’s rude to buttonhole a famous person in public and demand chit-chat from him or her. It’s also arguably gauche to friend one on Facebook unless he or she is, in fact, your friend. But famous people on Twitter? They’re there to be followed, and if you send an @reply their way, they just might respond. Here’s a decidedly incomplete look at noted personages from outside the tech world who tweet; feel free to follow any or all of ’em–some have tens of thousands of Twitterpals already, but a few could probably use the companionship. (Hey, I know I could: I’m @harrymccracken.)

Disclaimer: I think these are all the real accounts of the folks in common, but I’ve never laid eyes on any of them at the keyboard…


The Secret Origins of Clippy: Microsoft’s Bizarre Animated Character Patents

The Secret Origins of Clippy

Of all the peculiar ideas that Microsoft has pursued over its almost 34 years in business, I can’t think of many that are more inexplicable than its long-standing interest in using animated characters to provide help to users of its software products–an aberration best known in the form of Clippy, the “Office Assistant” paperclip who was introduced in Office 97 and only departed the scene completely when the company released Office 2008 for the Mac a year ago. It’s hard to take Clippy, Microsoft Bob, and Windows XP’s Search Assistant doggie seriously. But a dozen years’ worth of patents relating to the basic idea shows that Microsoft takes it very seriously indeed–and I’m convinced that someone, somewhere within the company is still working away at it. Herewith, some images from those patents (click on the filing dates to see the filings in their entirety at Google Patents).


Patentmania: The Golden Age of Electronic Games

The Golden Age of Electronic Games

The first three decades of digital gaming saw a flurry of concepts, technologies, and products that were groundbreaking in their era and still matter today. And the drawings their inventors used to document them in patent filings are a nostalgic, charming blast. Here are thirty-two of those sketches–including ones for some the most successful games ever and a few which I’m not sure ever made it to market at all.

As with my earlier patent galleries, I couldn’t have done this one without the wondrous research tool known as Google Patents. The filing dates that follow link to the full patent documents there.


Whaddaya Want? The Technologizer Wish List

Technologizer's Whaddaya Want

Earlier this month, we asked for nominations for a Technologizer community wish list for 2008. We got scads of them–and this slideshow consists of some of the highlights, with comments by readers who submitted each item. There’s a lot of stuff here, from brand-new gizmos to products which have been obsolete–in theory–for years. Thanks to everyone who contributed–and congratulations to Josh Rose, who won our OLPC XO laptop giveaway.


The Santaland Patents


Once you start digging through Google Patents, as I did for our recent slideshow of thirty-one years of Apple patents, it can be hard to stop. And if you’re doing your digging in December, you might find yourself choosing to luxuriate in the wealth of Christmas-themed patents that have been issued over the past 125 years or so. I just did, anyhow. Jolly Old St. Nick pops up again and again in the patent files, and while I don’t know if any inventor has ever found his fortune with a Claus-related innovation, I found them interesting enough that I wanted to share some of the ones I found with you. (The title of this slideshow is, of course, a David Sedaris tribute.) May your days be merry and bright…


iFrauds: The Fakest iPods Ever!


Last week, I went to a “liquidation sale” in San Francisco. Along with the alarming 64-ounce bottles of perfume, leather jackets made from the skins of unspecified animals, and Shamwows, the show’s dealers offered music players. Ones that shamelessly rip off the iPod. Scads of them. I took crummy pictures with my iPhone–and, I’m ashamed to admit, bought an iFraud of my own.