Retrocomputing at City Tech Site Updated with Software Inventory

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Neuromancer for Commodore 64/128. Item in City Tech’s Retrocomputing Archive.

Recently, I posted about the new OpenLab site that I launched for “Retrocomputing at City Tech.” On the site, I included a photographic inventory of the computing hardware and peripherals that I have on-hand in my office in Namm 520. Now, I’ve added to the site with a second page that inventories a majority of the software that is in the vintage computing archive. The software archive includes games (like Neuromancer pictured above, Star Wars X-Wing and TIE Fighter, and Star Trek 25th Anniversary), productivity software (such as Microsoft Office 2004), encyclopedias (Comptons, Groliers, and Microsoft Encarta), and operating systems (Windows 95, Macintosh System 7.5, Mac OS X 10.0-10.3 and 10.5). Follow the link above to see all of the software on its original media followed by textual descriptions.

Retrocomputing Lab Page Launch

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Over the weekend, I launched a new page under the “Research” menu on DynamicSubspace.net for my Retrocomputing Lab.

I use the Retrocomputing Lab’s hardware and software resources in my continuing research on human-computer interaction, human-computer experiences, and human-computer co-influence. So far, its primary focus is on the shift from the pre-Internet, early-1990s to the post-Internet, late-1990s and early-2000s.

During that time, technological and cultural production seems to accelerate. Imagine all of the stories yet to be recovered from that time. How do we untangling of the long shadow of that time from the innovations and disruptions of the present passing into future?

The computer hardware includes Macs and PCs. There are laptops and desktops. There are different add-on cards and peripherals to enhance and change experiences. There are 3.5″ floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and DVDs. There are many different kinds of software ranging from games to interactive encyclopedias to operating systems to word processors. There are different motherboards that can be swapped out in various computer cases (AT and ATX). The machines can be temperamental, but each configuration reveals its own indelible soul (for lack of a better word, but it is a word that I quite like in this context).

My research focuses on reading on screens, depictions of electronic-facilitated reading, and the cognitive effects of reading on screens (of course, there are a multitude of screens and interfaces–a worthy complication) as opposed to other forms of non-digital media (and their multitude).

The Retrocomputing Lab continues to grow and new research possibilities abound. If you are interested in collaborating on a project with Retrocomputing Lab resources, drop me a line at jason dot ellis at lmc dot gatech dot edu.

Open Source Software

I’m really trying to make a go at using more open source software in my daily practices as a professional academic and as a savvy computer hobbyist.  You may call this a late New Year’s resolution, but it was originally intended as a carefully thought-out reboot of the software that I use on my PC and Mac.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or energy at this moment to transition to only open source for my operating system and applications.  So, for simplicity’s sake, I am keeping my closed source operating systems (Windows Vista 64-bit and Mac OS X 10.5.6) and incorporating as much open source software as I can in my daily practices.  

My efforts thus far are focused on my MacBook, because I haven’t used my PC much at all lately (though, Yufang has enjoyed watching The Office through hulu.com and Netflix on it when she breaks from comps reading).  About a week ago, I reinstalled Mac OS X with Xcode Tools.  I followed that up with installing OpenOffice.org 3 for word processing and spreadsheet work.  Next, I installed MacPorts and Porticus (a GUI frontend for MacPorts).  MacPorts is a wonderful distribution system for open source software that has been ported to work on Macs.  So far, I’ve installed GIMP 2 for image editing.  Unfortunately, I haven’t installed anything else, because it took me all week to get the GIMP installed successfully.  It seems that there was a problem with one updated dependency that would cause the install to fail.  Having gotten that sorted out, I now have a fully armed and operational, er, image manipulation program.  

So far, I’ve used OpenOffice during a collaborative session at Angel Falls Coffee Co. with Professor Masood Raja and my colleague, Swaralipi Nandi while we were writing the abstract for our book proposal (more on this in the near future).  This was interesting, because it was the first time that I had used OpenOffice, and I discovered that OpenOffice was designed to increase the volume on every annoying feature of Microsoft Office and then some.  The auto word complete was distracting, and the autocorrect light bulb icon in the lower right corner was equally irritating.  Tonight, I’ve been working on some assignments for my African American Literature course, and I’ve disabled some of these amazing features.  However, I’m still looking for the tick box to turn off the light bulb from the abyss.

I will post more updates in the future on my use of this software in my professional work.