Nothing worse than an aging I.T. nerd.

WDHDsaleI’m sitting in my cube at work this morning going through my daily routine of checking my work and personal email when I come across an ad from Newegg.com that includes the item over on the right. A 1TB Western Digital HD for a little under $50.

As it is my habit to try and get other people to spend money on stuff they don’t need, I engage in a ritual of reading off this deal to my cubemate who is roughly eleven years older than I am. We both stop to marvel at this price because we’re both old enough to remember life before hard drives.

At this point he pulls out a dry erase marker and starts to write things down on his whiteboard. Back in the day he used to sell computers for a living and he can remember that in 1984 a 10MB hard drive went for about $500. In today’s dollars that comes out to around $1,148.48.  A 10MB drive is equal to about 0.000009536743164063 terabytes. To put it another way, the cost per MB of that 10MB drive in today’s dollars works out to around $114.85. The price per MB of a 1TB drive in today’s dollars is roughly 0.00005.

I can remember a time when us computer nerds spoke of a one terabyte hard drive in hushed, reverent tones as though describing a unicorn. A fantastic, mythical thing that could exist, but probably never would and if it ever did surely it would be so fantastically expensive that we’d never afford one in our lifetime. Oh, but if we did get our hands on one we’d never need another hard drive again cause there’s no way we’d ever fill it up! Just imagine having a hard drive you’d hand down to your children and them to their children and even then it’d probably take another generation of kids to come close to filling it up!

You know you’re getting old when you waste time figuring shit like this out and then shaking your head at how spoiled kids are these days.

Addendum: The first computer I ever bought with my own money was my venerable Amiga 1000. I got a job at McDonalds and took out my first ever loan from a credit union to pay for it. The machine itself cost $1,295 at launch and the CRT monitor was another $300 bringing the total to $1,595 not including sales tax. In today’s dollars that works out to $3,537.43. That boggles my mind.

Today’s Now I Feel Old Moment: Kids React to an Old Camera.

It’s easy sometimes to forget that I’m nearly 50. That there are children alive today who have never known the trials and tribulations involved in taking candid photos of your birthday or vacation that I had to endure in my youth. Things like having to buy a camera and then having to buy film and buying flashcubes and then not being able to see how the pictures turned out until after having paid to have them developed. Kids like these kids:

My first camera that I actually owned myself was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 10 first introduced in 1972. I doubt I got one that year as I was 5 years old, but I somehow ended up with one eventually. Not sure if it was new or a hand-me-down from a relative, but it was my first introduction to taking pictures. Back in 1972 it was “less than $28”, which works out to about $160 today. It was a pretty easy camera to use in part because there wasn’t a lot of options to fiddle with. The biggest choice was whether or not to use a flashbulb and the second biggest was whether or not to use the flashbulb extender thingy to avoid giving your subjects red eye.

Things like loading the film was ridiculously easy as you can see here:

Bonus points for the commercial featuring Dick Van Dyke.

I think the most amazing thing about the 110 format is that the film stock is still being produced and some companies are still making cameras that use it. Apparently the flaws of the format that were an annoyance back in the day are now sought out by artists looking to add character to their photographs.

Anyway, watching the kids trying to use an older 35mm camera had me feeling old and crotchety so I thought I’d share the pain.

I missed the old layout.

SEB is looking a little more like SEB today. Ever since I made the move to WordPress I’ve been at a loss to come up with a site design that I’m happy with. The WP templating system is a nightmare compared to blogging platforms I’ve used in the past and I’ve never really mastered it. Not that I’ve ever been particularly great at HTML coding to begin with, but I am fond of the few layouts I managed to cobble together in the past.

This is just a slightly modified Twenty Eleven theme from the base WP install, but it makes it feel a little more like it did back when I was still coding the layout by hand. I was going to make another attempt at it, but then I remembered that the one image editing package I know how to use — PhotoImpact — and the one HTML editor I know how to use — Homesite — have both been bought out by bigger companies and discontinued. PI by Corel and Homesite by Macromedia which was in turn bought out by Adobe. If this sounds familiar it’s because I bitched about this previously around about this time last year. Showing that I’m becoming predictable and consistent in my habits as I get older.

Of course I can’t just write a short blurb about this cyclical need to redesign SEB that comes around each fall without hitting up the Internet Archive to see what past layouts I’ve used. To get to the earliest stuff I had to use my Jenkins Online domain as we didn’t get the Stupid Evil Bastard domain name until October of 2002. Considering how long I had SEB with a black background it was surprising to realize one of the first layouts I ever did was for a white page:

The very first layout I could find in the Internet Archive. Click to embiggen.

The very first layout I could find in the Internet Archive. Click to embiggen.

Here we can see that I got started with the narcissistic practice of putting my face on the page very early on in SEB’s history. My choice of font size and link color are horrendous as it makes reading the page annoying as fuck. I kept it like this for several months until someone I knew at my job at Ford told me he designed webpages as a side job and offered to do one for me if I put a link back to his own site on the page. A chance to have a pro design a layout? How could I refuse!

The only SEB layout that I didn't design myself until we made the switch to WordPress. It was... interesting. Click to embiggen.

One of the few SEB layouts that I didn’t design myself until we made the switch to WordPress. It was… interesting. Click to embiggen.

The Internet Archive misaligns a couple of the images in their reproduction, but that’s more or less how it looked at the time. I wasn’t overly thrilled with it myself, but I felt an obligation to use it for at least a little while. From about September of 2002 until January 2003 after we moved to our current domain name and I came up with this fabulously retro template:

I wasn't even alive in the 1950's so I have no idea why I thought this was cool. Click to embiggen.

I wasn’t even alive in the 1950’s so I have no idea why I thought this was cool. Click to embiggen.

I loved this template for a couple of reasons. The first being that it contains a couple of simple graphical tricks that I had recently mastered such as the gradient fill in the title bar that gave a pseudo-3D look. The hint of a drop shadow that runs down the left side of the text boxes was something I was very proud of at the time. Also, the move towards blue in my templates. OK, this was more of a turquoise color, but it’s blue-ish. Blue has always been my favorite color (probably because my eyes are blue) and it would end up being a big part of future layouts. That lasted up until sometime between August and October of 2003 when I unleashed the layout that would last for years to come:

Yes, I can see you and you should be ashamed of yourself. Click to embiggen.

Yes, I can see you and you should be ashamed of yourself. Click to embiggen.

This is my favorite layout of all the ones I’ve ever managed to cobble together. My 36 year-old self would stare out at you with that slightly self-satisfied smirk on his face for at least the next 3 years. There were a few tweaks along the way, but no major changes until sometime late in November of 2006. For some reason the Internet Archive had trouble grabbing the stylesheets for scans it did near the end of that year, but by January 2007 the layout added the all important MENU BAR:

The SEB you know and love now with smaller Glowering Face of Doom and a menu bar! Click to embiggen.

The SEB you know and love now with smaller Glowering Face of Doom and a menu bar! Click to embiggen.

It’s still the same basic layout, but my head isn’t as massive (or as bald) and it’s a little easier to get around to some of the extra stuff we had on the site and barely made use of because I’m ADD and there were video games to play. The IA didn’t scan SEB much during 2008 and it lost the stylesheet for a lot of the entries in 2009, but it’s clear this was the basic layout until at least November of 2009 when we made the switch to WordPress and my days as a template designer came to a screeching halt. There were a couple of other minor themes I did that never got picked up by the Internet Archive, but these were the major ones.

There was a brief period in December 2009 when I had a custom template I’d cobbled together that kinda sorta looked like the previous layout prior to the switch to WP, but it never worked 100% and looked crappy in comparison and I swapped it out for an overly complicated to customize WP template I found. Since then we’ve cycled through various templates none of which I’ve been completely happy with. The stuff that looks halfway decent is often missing some features of another theme that looks like crap but does what I want.

This current theme is far from my glory days as a mangler of HTML, but it at least has the right font in the header and, for the most part, the right color scheme. Maybe I’ll get ambitious and start looking through open source HTML editors again and see if I can take another crack at designing my very own WP template.

Yeah, and maybe monkeys will fly outta my butt too.

For the first time in my entire life I’ve finally had a Halo Burger.

itssundayfuckit

I couldn’t find anything related to food or nostalgia so… fuck it.

I’ve lived my entire life in Michigan. When my grandparents moved from Rochester Hills to West Branch our occasional trips to see them went from being around a half hour drive to almost 2 hours. When my Aunts and Uncles moved to Grayling that was another half-hour tacked on. Needless to say, many a Friday night/Saturday morning was spent sitting in the back of the car/van staring at the scenery as it went by and making note of familiar landmarks as a way to judge how much longer we had to go. The most common landmarks were, of course, billboards. Some of which never changed much such as the couple we’d pass advertising Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland and the ones for Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn restaurants in Frankenmuth.

Inevitably one of the billboards we’d pass, usually around Flint, was for a Halo Burger restaurant. I can remember seeing billboards for it on the way up as well as back down again and in my 47 years I’d never been there. Today on the way back from my mother’s house we saw a sign for one just off the highway and I figured it was about time. So we dropped in for lunch and… it wasn’t bad at all. Prices were reasonable and in addition to the usual arrangement of hamburgers you’d expect at a burger joint, they also had a couple of unique options like their olive burger. A burger that — in addition to mayo, ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, and tomatoes — has olives on it, natch. Apparently they’ve been around since 1923, which explains why I’ve seen billboards for them my entire life. Another restaurant that I can remember seeing billboards for on those trips, but have never eaten at, is Fuddruckers. Though they’re a relative newcomer having only been around since 1980 when I was 13. Much like Halo Burger, every time I see a Fuddruckers billboard I wonder what it would be like to try it out.

It’s weird to be aware of something like a restaurant for such a long time without actually ever visiting it. I think that’s why the Sonic commercials bothered me so much when they started showing up in Michigan well before any actual Sonic restaurants. Or at least any I was aware of. Eating at Halo Burger was oddly nostalgic for being the first time I’d ever been there because I’ve known about the place for so long. I can’t say it was such an excellent dining experience that I’d seek one out again, but if I happen to be passing by the one we stopped at and I was hungry then I wouldn’t pass it by.

Does anyone else have things like that? Things that have been around forever in your state that you’ve never been to, but you think about every time you pass a billboard for it? Or this just something weird about me?

Today’s I Feel Old Video: Kids reacting to an Apple II computer.

The Fine Bros. are at it again. Tormenting today’s youth with the technology of yesteryear. This time out they sit a bunch of them down in front of a venerable Apple II computer to see if they can make heads or tails of it:

I can’t blame the kids for not appreciating the Apple II. It was a pain in the ass compared to the Commodore 64, but I admit to having some bias in that regard. I’m pretty sure they’d have had just as hard a time figuring out a C64. Especially if they had to use a tape drive instead of a floppy drive, but at least the games would’ve been a lot better. And in color!

The Commodore 64 is 30 years old.

I still hear the song from the commercial every time I see one.

I owe my career as a tech support wizard to my Dad and his decision to purchase a Commodore 64 way back when I was but a young teenager. He intended it to be used by everyone in the family, but it wasn’t long before I was monopolizing the machine. The love affair started off slowly because in the beginning all we had was the tape drive for loading software and it was an agonizingly slow experience. I’d often start a program loading and then go off and make lunch, watch something on TV, play with some friends, and then come back to find it was only halfway through the process. Things improved dramatically when he brought home a 1541 floppy disk drive and load times went from infinity to mere minutes.

Things opened up even more when someone, I don’t recall if it was my parents or myself, bought the 1660 300 baud modem for the machine and I discovered the world of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). Long before I ever started SEB I used to run a BBS on my trusty Commodore 64 (later Commodore 128 and eventually Amiga) with just two 1541 Disk Drives (170K each!). Later I added a Buscard II IEEE which allowed me to utilize four Commodore SFD 1001 floppy drives that could hold 1.02 megabytes each! Yes, back in the heady days of 1983 my little C64 BBS could store a massive 4.08 megabytes at once!

Introduced in January of 1982 for $595 (roughly $1,110.26 in today’s dollars) I was reminded of this event by the BBC which did an article about it the other day because it officially hit shelves in August of that year. Go check out their article as it contains a video clip where an old-timer shows his vintage C64 to some kids to get their reaction to it. You’ll note that he’s loading games from a tape drive instead of a 1541 floppy drive. I can recall seeing C64 magazines imported from the UK that often had free games on tapes long after everyone I knew in the U.S. had moved up to floppies. Turns out they came up with all manner of ways to compress the hell out of programs on tape which made loading from a tape drive a little more bearable so they kept using them. While the 1541 floppy was faster it had its own problems that kept it from being as fast as it should have been which led to Epyx games putting out the wildly successful FastLoad Cartridge which pretty much everyone in the States who gamed on a C64 ended up buying.


Turn on captions to see game names. Though two of them are incorrect (e.g. M.U.L.E is listed, but wasn’t the game shown).

Speaking of gaming, the Commodore 64 was a large part of the reason I’ve never owned a Nintendo game console of any kind. When the video game market crashed in 1983 it looked like the end of console gaming until Nintendo’s NES game out in 1985 and revitalized the market. By that time I’d been gaming on the Commodore 64 for a couple of years and there wasn’t a whole lot on the NES that appealed to me. In fact, had the market not crashed I don’t know if I’d have gotten as into the C64 as I did. Games on the Atari 2600 pretty much dried up after the collapse and that moved my attention to the Commodore (we picked up an Atari 5200 just before it all went to hell, but I never owned more than 5 games for it).

By the time I moved to an Amiga in late 1985 I had owned at least three Commodore 64s (one for the BBS, one for general use, and a replacement when one of the two died) and a Commodore 128, which was largely a C64 as very little software was ever made for 128 mode. I shut the BBS down in 1986 until I picked up an Amiga 2000 and started it back up for awhile only to turn it off for the final time in 1996 as the Internet started to come into general usage by the masses, but the C64 was where I cut my teeth on computing and first dabbled in programming.

Yes, the nostalgia is strong with this one. Watching the clip above of old games makes me want to fire up an emulator and see if I can’t track a few of them down. I don’t think I ever finished Impossible Mission. Which means the name was probably correct. Happy Birthday Commodore 64! You not only gave me hours of education and entertainment, but a career.

SEB Mailbag: Dear Unintelligent Mean Illegitimate child.

I got a refreshing change in the SEB Mailbag the other day. In place of the usual poorly worded, barely coherent ranting I usually find there was a bit of fan mail that contained a Question of Utmost Importance! This is such an unusual occurrence that I thought I should go ahead and answer it here.

So here it is:

Hi SEB, I’m here to be a pointless distraction.

I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while, as I’ve always enjoyed the well-worded approach of telling people to go fuck themselves. I’m not just sending this to shower you with praise, however.

Being a person of reasonable knowledge of things happening on the internet, you’re probably aware of the sudden and unexpected fanbase of the newest “My Little Pony” show. This being sort of an interesting topic nowadays, and because I’ve got nothing better to do, I thought I’d ask you what your opinion was on the whole thing. I noticed you didn’t mention it on your blog, so you probably don’t feel too strongly about it, but I figured I’d ask anyways. That is all.

– Your pointlessly inquisitive reader,
kripto

Hiya Kripto! I’m always happy to be showered with praise as I was a middle child growing up and was starved of attention. Which probably explains why I’ve been blogging for so long. If someone gives me the slightest bit of attention I can’t help but soak it up as much as I can.

Anyway, yes! I am very aware of the huge fan base the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic show has garnered outside of its target demographic of young girls and tweens. I am also completely baffled by it.

You see, I’m old enough to remember when the original MLP toys were introduced some 30 years ago in 1981 when I was a mere 14-years-old. Like most toy companies back then, the first thing Hasbro did was hire someone to turn it into a 30 minute advertisement cartoon series. Well, that’s not entirely true. They started with prime-time specials in ’84 and ’85, had a feature length film in ’86 (voiced by relatively big name stars like Danny DeVito no less!), and that was followed by the 30 minute ads TV series that same year. As I recall, the toy line was a huge success for Hasbro and the commercials were near impossible to escape if you were watching anything remotely kid-oriented.

Here’s an example from 1986:

I almost went into diabetic shock watching that clip. Also, why the hell are there so many people uploading vintage 1980 toy commercials to YouTube? This was just one of a ridiculous number of 80’s toy ads I was able to find, many of which were for My Little Pony.

Anyway, the original cartoon series wasn’t quite as successful as the toys and was canceled in 1987 after two seasons. There was an attempt to revive the series in 1992 with My Little Pony Tales, but it didn’t catch on and died a mercifully quick death. Sometime in the 2000’s they revived the toy line and did a number of direct-to-video animated shows that I have no idea how successful they were. You can read all about the original series and the toys over at TV Tropes if you really want to know more about it. I’ve managed to remain blissfully unaware of most of MLP’s history since the 80’s faded from view, but apparently someone couldn’t let sleeping dogs stay dead (or however the hell the expression goes) and decided it was time to revive its rotting corpse once more in October of 2010.

According to the folks at TV Tropes, it was Lauren Faust who took on the challenge of bringing it back. In the past she’s worked on other cartoon series such as The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. This probably goes a long way to explaining why the show has attracted fans outside of its target audience as both of those shows tended to do the same. It probably doesn’t hurt that the show’s creators interact with fans on the Internet and often make references to things the fan base has come up with in the show itself.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point after the debut of Cartoon Network there was a trend toward making cartoons that adults could watch with their kids without feeling like they were losing IQ points in the process. Many of which were good enough that some adults watched them regardless of whether their kids were fans. I know a lot of adults who are huge fans of Spongebob Squarepants and the aforementioned The Powerpuff Girls.  I have been quite fond of shows such as Courage the Cowardly Dog and Invader Zim in the past and today I’m a huge fan of Adventure Time and The Amazing Adventures of Gumball. It seems that the folks behind MLP:FiM have taken that same approach with the revival.

Again, from the folks at TV Tropes:

 The first season was helmed by Lauren Faust, a highly accomplished, Emmy Award-nominated animator — for example, she was the writer and director of The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary FriendsFriendship is Magic is her attempt to rescue the genre of girls’ cartoons by presenting a clever show with a strong and diverse cast of female characters who aren’t pre-occupied with fashion and boys. Her goal was to create an intelligent show for girls that boys and grown-ups could also watch without wanting to shoot themselves. By all accounts, she has done an admirable job of reaching that goal. Following the end of the first season, Faust stepped down as the show’s executive producer, but she will continue to work with the show as a consulting producer through production of the second season.

The show proved an overnight sensation on the internet, and even before the first season was over, it had spawned image macros and countless forum threads full of speculation and discussion; it also led to lots of males having existential crises about enjoying a “girl’s cartoon” so much. It also provides one of the best examples of Troper Critical Mass in action: one season of a show ostensibly for little girls contains hundreds upon hundreds of tropes, a Characters page, fanfics, and legitimate fanbases for every character under the sun.

So, after all of that, let’s get to your question of what I think about all of this: Personally, I’m deeply amused by it.

OK, I am a fan of at least this one pony.

I’ve not watched the new show myself for two reasons. First, I’m still deeply scarred by the endless 80’s commercials and the horrible original show. I don’t recall why I ever saw the original show, but somewhere along the way I was exposed to it and it’s probably a huge factor in why I’m so cynical today. It was exactly the kind of mindless pablum put together by a committee that had no other goal than to maximize toy sales without spawning any kind of controversy that might negatively impact the brand that I think is partially responsible for most of the FOX News fans of today. To be fair, shows like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Transformers were pretty much the same except aimed at boys.

The second reason is because I don’t want to risk becoming a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that someone took one of the worst shows aimed at young girls in the 80’s and turned it into something that’s not only intelligent, but has garnered a following well beyond the group it was created for. Nor is it a concern over it being a challenge to my masculinity — I’ve been known to paint my toenails on occasion. I’m just worried my head would explode from trying to reconcile my deep cynicism over the original show with how good the new one is.

However, the fact that it’s blown up into a huge meme is what I’m deeply amused by. There’s a certain amount of incongruity with, say, seeing a MLP image macro applied to a discussion thread on Fark or some other forum that I find funny. The fact that it’s gotten big enough to get a shout out from no less than Stephen Colbert is also highly amusing. Overall I’m supportive of the meme for no reason other than I appreciate the non-conformity of it and the general weirdness it promotes. Plus it has generated a lot of fun sub-memes such as the unofficial character known as “Derpy Hooves”.

If you’d like to read more about the spread of the meme you’ll find the MLP:FiM entry at Know Your Meme right up your alley.

The improvements in video game technology…

… over the past 40* or so years, basically in the time I’ve been alive, are really quite impressive when you stop long enough to think about it:


I sit down some evenings and play a video game with anywhere between 4 and 1,400 strangers — depending on the game — at the same time. Most of whom are literally tens to hundreds of miles from my home and even, occasionally, on the other side of the planet. Not to mention the obvious improvement in graphics as shown above. It’s been a long time since I had to wait for a friend to come over just to play a game on the old Atari 2600 together.

Nabbed from The Meta Picture.

*Technically it’s been 39 years since the first Pong machine was deployed in June of 1972, but what’s a few months between friends?

Sony kills off the Walkman.

Pic of a Sony Walkman

And another fond childhood memory bites the dust.

Sony just announced the other day that they have ceased production of the cassette tape playing Sony Walkman in Japan. The last shipment was sent out this past April and there will be no more. Well, no more from Sony. Apparently some Chinese company has the rights to keep making them under the Sony name for sale outside of Japan.

It’s hard to believe that these devices are over 30 years old — the first was sold in 1979 — and I can clearly remember how it wasn’t long before everyone was producing portable tape players that were quite similar. I don’t think I ever actually owned a Sony Walkman, but I did own several of the imitators and I burned through more than my fair share of AA batteries listening to tapes until they wore out from overuse. In high school the trading of mix-tapes was a big activity for a lot of kids, myself included.

Of course these days the lowly Walkman has been supplanted by the plethora of MP3 players capable of storing months of music in them as opposed to 60 to 80 minutes. Looking back on it now it seems almost paleolithic in comparison, but even though I’ve not owned one for years it still feels like it wasn’t that long ago.

I suppose it’s a sign that I’m getting old that announcements like this make me feel a bit sad. I felt the same way when Sony announced they were dropping production of Floppy Disks earlier this year as well. Now that I think about it I wasn’t even aware that Sony was still making cassette tape Walkmans so I’m not sure why I should be disappointed to hear that they’ve stopped.

And yet I am. I had a lot of quality time with my imitation Walkman back in the day. Good times when there was less to worry about and more time to get things done.

Yeah, I’m a sentimental fool about some things.

“TRON: Evolution” game trailer his the net.

I’m looking forward to the new TRON: Legacy movie. If this trailer is anything to go by then the upcoming video game tie-in looks like it’ll be pretty good too:

What’s really impressive about this to me is how much it looks like the movie.

Compare and contrast that to the original light cycles from TRON:

Pic of light cycles from the movie TRON

Zooma-zoom!

Versus the video game tie-in light cycle sequence:

Pic of TRON light cycle video game.

Putt-putt-putt-putt-putt-putt-putt-putt...

And that was a mere 28 years ago. OK, perhaps the word “mere” is out of place in that sentence, but I’m still amazed that video games can look so much like the movies they are promoting these days.

Granted, video games based on movies have traditionally sucked like a Hoover stuck on over-drive pretty much throughout the history of video games, but at least they more closely resemble the movies they are based on these days.