Categories
General Tech

10 tech things I’m nostalgic about

A lot has changed in 12 years. This year is 2014. I started My first website in 2002, 12 years ago. A lot of things have changed since then, technology wise and culture wise. But for me, I miss some things that we had back then but less common now. Here’s 10:

1) Phones with long battery life

Motorola RAZR
Motorola RAZR

Remember the candy bar phones? Remember flip phones and slider phones? The Motorola Razr? All those phones couldn’t play apps or games, and had a crappy web browser, camera, and texting interface sure, but – their batteries lasted a long time! I remember the old candy bar phones lasting weeks on end without having to charge. These days we all have to charge our smartphones at least once a day.
Also, remember cellphone charms?? That used to be the way to customize your phone. Now its turned to smartphone cases.

2) Payphones

very rare these days
very rare these days

Yeah, do you see any payphones anymore? No, because everyone has a smartphone now. But what if I lost my phone or ran out of battery? Well tough luck, because payphones are all gone now. They are ‘legacy’ artifacts.

3) Internet Chat rooms

The old Yahoo Chat rooms
The old Yahoo Chat rooms

Remember when people met random strangers in chat rooms powered by Java applets? Bots? People getting kicked? Meeting ~hottiebabe13~ or ~darksoul_12~ online? Well thats not common anymore, these days I don’t see any internet chat rooms anymore, its all just been replaced by social networks, which isn’t exactly the same. I did find some sites like sharedtalk and habbo hotel which brings me back, but most chat rooms have disappeared.

4) ICQ/MSN/AIM/IM clients

MSN messenger
MSN messenger back in the day

Who uses IM clients anymore? Now everyone just uses apps on their phone like Wechat, Whatsapp, Kakaotalk, SMS, etc or Skype/Facebook/Twitter. So when people ask me ‘hey what did you use to connect with people before Facebook?’ I’ll just say, yeah there was this “app” called MSN and I would just ask people for their MSN id… thats how we kept in contact back then. Ditto for ICQ and AIM.

5) PDAs / Pocket PCs / Palm / Blackberry

This was a PDA
This was a PDA

These are all grouped together, but anyways these are all ‘legacy’ technology. For you young people, PDAs were basically personal organizers that served as calendars/calculators/reminders/contacts and they kept track of all those things. They are basically the core functions of a smartphone. PDAs and Pocket PCs disappeared when smart phones came along, but I still remember using my Palm / Pocket PC to keep track of notes, and some even had some basic games on them! And yes Blackberry is dead, so it goes here too.

6) MP3 players (especially HDD based ones)

An HDD-based MP3 Player
An HDD-based MP3 Player

Yes Mp3 players! Remember back in the day when people carried two devices, an Mp3 player and a cellphone? Well they’re gone now! Yes some companies still sell basic Mp3 players, but most people just use their phone to listen to music now! I used to carry around a Creative Zen Vision M, and that thing stored 30 GBs, which was a lot. Now, umm my phone has 32GB but it needs that space for apps too. Some iRivers, Zunes, iPod classics and Creative Zens used to store up to 120GBs of music!

7) Physical Media (CDs, DVDs, Floppies)

Floppy disks
Floppy disks

Yes, everything from the 5.25″ floppy disks, 3.5″ floppies, zip drives, to 2x/4x/8x/24x/50x/100x CD-ROMs/CD-RWs/DVD-ROM/DVD-RWs drives, what happened to physical media? Yes I know it still exists, but less and less computers have optical drives now, and no tablets ever have them. More and more software and “apps” as its now being called, are being downloaded from the cloud now!! While thats not a bad thing, I still like being able to share my physical media with other people and knowing I have a backup somewhere. In fact PC makers don’t even ship OS backups unless you pay extra now. And no, no one I know owns a blu ray writer. Whatever happened to burning CD/DVDs and giving it to your friends? Remember MP3 CDs? Same thing happened to cassette mixtapes too… speaking of which…

8) VHS, Cassettes, Film Cameras

A VHS tape rewinder, a piece of 'legacy' tech
A VHS tape rewinder, a piece of ‘legacy’ tech

Do you know the biggest advantage of VCRs and Cassettes? The fact that you can record over them! I spent alot of my childhood recording my favorite shows and movies on my VHS and music onto cassette tapes, and now its obsolete technology. But you can’t do that these days! You can record to digital media sure, but you can’t record directly to a physical media anymore. Also, Film cameras… analog photography instead of digital photography. We tend to think of everything in megapixels, but back in the day we had to develop film in dark rooms, and the quality of that film is still much better than your average facebook photo.

Speaking of which, 2 trends I don’t like right now: having high megapixel cameras like 13MP+ where people take pictures that take up alot of space on their phone and then upload it to facebook where its compressed to a 100kb~ image. There’s no point. And having super high resolution displays (>240ppi) on your phone/tablet/laptop when most of the internet is not optimized for it, your retina cannot distinguish it, and will look horribly pixellated on the small screen. Thanks a lot to Steve Jobs and the iPhone 4 for starting that trend.

9) Old school LAN gaming and FPS gaming and 2D side scrollers

Blake Stone was one of my favorite DOS games
Blake Stone was one of my favorite DOS games

Remember those old DOS games? Some of them were quality games, like Commander Keen and Unreal Tournament and Duke Nukem, but these days you don’t find those types of games anymore. You find big budget 3D games like Call of Duty or Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto. I lament the simple days where a game would take hours and hours to beat like Prince of Persia or Dark Sun, or old school FPS deathmatch games like Quake III or UT, and the days where you could set up a LAN network and play Starcraft / Diablo II with your friends without an internet connection. There’s no LAN games anymore! What a pity. Now everything is online, and you have to make an account and have a good internet connection.

10) Graphic settings/cards, Sound cards & PC peripherals

A typical DOS game setup screen
A typical DOS game setup screen

These days people just use phones and tablets for gaming – but back in the 80s and 90s, gaming was all about the PC! When we ran a game, we had to first setup and configure the game. We would specify the graphic settings (often EGA, CGA or VGA), the sound card (usually Adlib or Sound blaster), number of channels and voices, and the peripherals (Keyboard, Joystick, Mouse and Gravis Gamepad). We don’t see much setup these days with games, just boot up and play, but no in those dark days we had to execute some bash scripts to run a game. But it was fun though, because who doesn’t enjoy playing Bio Menace or Jill of the Jungle on a Gravis Gamepad??

On that note, I also miss dedicated graphics on laptops! Whats up with that? My first notebook had a dedicated graphics card. Only Alienware and some high end notebooks have it now. 90% of consumer laptops come with integrated GPUs now. And how about PCMCIA/Express cards expansion ports for laptops? They made those laptops really expandable!

I also miss…

This was the most popular search engine before Google
Kids, This was the most popular search engine before Google

Old shrine sites. Pre-Google old messy search engine domains like Altavista, Dogpile, Hotbot and non-Google search sites. Yahoo! Geocities. Angelfire. Lycos. All those website builders. Guestbooks. Netscape Navigator. Windows XP. Xanga. Livejournal. Myspace. The golden age of Flash/Shockwave games (mid 2000s). It was a part of my youth 🙁 now its just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter…

I don’t miss…

But overall we really accomplished alot in the past decade technology wise, and things I won’t miss include:

CRT TVs and Monitors
VCDs
Pagers
Answering machines
HD-DVDs
Dial-up internet
Modem jacks
Serial/Parallel ports
S-video ports
Firewire ports
notebooks with < 4 hrs of battery life (this used to be the norm until intel haswell came out) VGA ports (some notebooks still have them) 3.5mm audio jack (we still have them and I wish we can switch to TOSLINK ASAP) WAP browsers Composite connections Netbooks Compact Flash and MMC cards 4200rpm hard drives (and HDDs in general) slow a/b/g wireless wifi single core processors (before Intel Core Duo came out) resistive TFT touch screens (this was the norm for tablets and touch screens until the iPhone came out) 2G phones non built-in wireless wifi answering machines Poorly designed websites with flashing banners and animated gifs marquee, bgsound, blink and other obnoxious HTML tags Windows Vista Printers (and I still hate them) Forums (and I still hate them) Fax Machines Overhead projectors (I blame these with my loss of eyesight) Pay-per-view

Categories
General Tech

PC / DOS games, then vs now, and how it’s affected my life

DOS games
DOS games

My interest in computers and programming have been directly tied to video games, here’s a little backstory on that.

My father was a Pascal / Delphi programmer, so our first computer was an IBM PC with a Pentium 386 and only 500MBs of hard disk space. Maybe 1 or 2MBs of RAM. He used to bring home these 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disks from his school, Queen’s University at that time, and I remember one of my first games being Prince of Persia, which was and still is a great game.

I have many fond memories playing on that old PC, which was running MS-DOS and then Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 eventually. My dad use to buy these CDs full of DOS games back then. As you may remember, CDs can fit about 700MBs and that was alot compared to floppy disks. In any case, these DOS games ranged from amazing little jewels to just plain awful (some crashed when you try to run it). To play games back then, you had to run them from the command line, so people who played games back then had to have had a little bit of interest in computers.

These days, you just download a game from Steam or put in the DVD and run it, but back then, you had to setup and configure the game first, like what peripherals you were using, joystick, keyboard, mouse settings, Soundblaster settings, Adlib settings, 4 voices, 8 channels, etc. There was some work required before actually running the game. Which was done in the command line, using ___.exe or ___.bat. I have many fond memories of these DOS games back then, and comparing them to now is like night and day.

Here’s some of the things that DOS games had back then that we don’t have or don’t see much now:
1) Games were usually configured and run from the command line
2) Games were usually developed by independent developers and published as shareware or in episodes by companies like Apogee.
3) Groundbreaking games such as Another World were developed by one or two developers, in contrast to the multi million dollar studios and teams that are making games these days.
4) Mostly nerds and geeks played games back then, compared to now, where everyone including your grandma and dog know how to play a Wii.
5) First person shooters evolved from Wolfenstein 3D / Doom, shoot to kill without any sense of plot or story, to Halo and Call of Duty, focusing less on the number of guns you had, and more on the story and multiplayer. I lament that because I miss old school shooters, with tons of crazy weapons and health packs.
6) Multiplayer was mostly over LAN or split screen those days. These days, it’s all about the online experience. I also have fond memories of me and my brother using the same keyboard, over a split screen game, good times that I don’t see anymore.
7) Online experience was very limited, due to 56k modems and dial up; now its blazing fast 4G/Wifi.
8) These games were played on CRT monitors with resolutions lower than that of your mobile phone
9) Speaking of graphics, you can even configure those! VGA / EGA / CGA graphics were the norm back then.
10) No FAQs or troubleshooting or help guides back then. Also games tended to be a lot more difficult. This, combined with little or no internet, leads to long playability, mostly due to getting stuck at some part of the game and not knowing how to solve it.
11) Games often made use of joysticks, sound cards like Adblib and soundblaster, and had to be setup/configured from the command line
12) Games often lasted longer than the 8-12 hour affair you have these days. Since they came in episodes, each episode probably took 8-12 hours! Good example is Duke3D and Starcraft, which had much longer playtimes than their successors Duke Nukem Forever and Starcraft 2 (which has multiple episodes simulating the campaigns of the original game)

Alas, sometimes I do miss the 1990s and those were the golden age of DOS games, some standout games being:
Traffic Department 2192 (great story), Rise of the Triad, Catacomb 3D, Commander Keen series, Raptor (awesome music), Duke 3D, Dark Sun (played this game for months), Blake Stone (the sound fx are classic), Shadow Warrior, Pharoah’s tomb, Monster Bash, Jazz Jackrabbit, Hunter Hunted, Liero (modded this one many times), and many more.

These games influenced by childhood and in high school I would become interested in Korean multiplayer games such as Ragnarok Online, Gunbound, Maple Story, and try to hack and mod those games (packet sniffers, sprite/texture swapping, etc), directly influencing my decision to become a programmer and go into computer science.

So yes, sometimes these days I look back with nostalgia and remember how games were made back then, and how its affected me today… good times. Long live DOS games; you may be neglected compared to your console counterparts, but you will not be forgotten.

DOS games
DOS games