51 Shades of Geek

Work the room

That first time I went to Classic Gaming Expo was quite something. I had won, in a contest on the Digital Press forum, a pass to attend the alumni dinner held the night before the opening of the show proper. This event was a closed-doors event where the game designers, programmers and executives got to mingle and have a bite to eat and a few drinks without the pressure of the paying guests who’d be asking, the next day, “what was it like when…” questions that they probably get asked every year. Me, I was neither a game designer nor a programmer. I had, in fact, played Atari today, but I hadn’t worked there. I liked to think of myself as a historian and a game journalist at best, but definitely felt out of my depth. To my mind, this meant one thing: sit back, shut up, soak it all up and remember it. Listen, don’t interject. This ain’t your party, but you got in anyway, just relax and enjoy like you belong there. In short, it’s advice I’ve given to my kids as they grow up: it’s not all about you.

Well, that’s what I thought going in anyway. Some of the show’s honored guests graced us with their presence on the forums and we were already acquainted in an internet kind of way. I was almost immediately greeted by ex-Apple-and-Atari programmer Steve Woita, who is a bundle of almost-zen-like friendly in a Hawaiian shirt, and he immediately introduced me to Keith Robinson, president of Intellivision Productions. Keith and his cohorts – the “Blue Sky Rangers” – had been the original programmers for the Intellivision game console in the ’80s, and when Mattel Electronics dropped the video game business like the hot potato fad they thought it was, Keith bought the rights to the software, the hardware, and the name. It has to be pointed out what a unique situation this was: the Atari that releases games now is neither the Atari that Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney started in Ted’s guest room, nor is it the boom-years giant that it became after Warner Bros. bought it from Nolan. Modern Atari is an intellectual property holding company that scooped up the remains of 1980s Atari at fire-sale clearance prices. Same with the current holders of the Colecovision name and IP. These IP portfolios have changed hands many a time. Intellivision Productions, though? That was always the same bunch of people who had made the games in the first place. And at the center of that web, as its organizing force and its public face, was Keith Robinson.

Keith Robinson
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Camera…action

So, for the first time in over 10 years, I’ve gotten myself a video camera.

Camera

Technically speaking, there’s been one built into my phone all along, but here’s the thing: I have to take great pains to make still photos from that same phone come out not looking like crap, and…it’s my phone. Yes, I use it to play music, surf the web, and catch the odd Pokemon or two. But…it’s a phone.

The camera above set me back $18, and weighs nearly nothing. I’m still having a hard time, on a gut level, accepting that the above is qualified to be called a camcorder. It records to SD cards that, depending on where you get them, may cost you more than the camera. Continue reading

The new LogBook, same as the old LogBook

So, about that redesign…you might have noticed just a couple of minor cosmetic changes here and there. Just a couple.

theLogBook.com has had very, very minor variations on the same logo ever since I first rendered the word “LOGBOOK” in Microgramma Bold Extended on a Video Toaster in 1994 or ’95, just for giggles. Ever since then, that’s been the logo, and that’s been the “look”.

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The Raider Record, Vol. 22 #7

Raider Record Vol. 22 #7It’s time once again to dip into the ’80s and revisit another issue of the Raider Record, the junior high school paper of which I was copy editor between 1985 and 1987. As always, you can find every issue from that period scanned in PDF form here, or you can view or download this specific issue here. Going through and scanning these, lots of memories came bubbling up to the surface, so I thought it would be entertaining to record those for posterity here. Continue reading

Contact re-established

Let's go Iron Man!In 2011, Amazon.com cut off all of its affiliation agreements with affiliates in several states, as a response to those states pushing for laws that would force Amazon to collect state sales tax in those states. This action was a calculated effort to get the affiliates to put pressure on their state legislatures to rescind the bills in question, but as many Amazon affiliates are either small businesses or sites run by individuals, Amazon didn’t get the result expected. If collecting the taxes in question made business impossible to do in those states, Amazon would’ve stopped shipping things to Arkansas and the other states in question, but of course they didn’t. That would affect the bottom line. Can’t have that.

theLogBook.com had been an Amazon affiliate since the late 1990s, which was really the point at which it went from “disorganized fan site” to “somewhat more focused site that can make a bit of money”. Then there came a tipping point at which the site was legitimately paying its own bills – the costs of hosting, the domain name, bandwidth, even my internet connectivity at home, were all being paid for by the site. This justified expansion of the site and the time spent on it, and led to a few “boom years” where content seemed to increase nearly exponentially. That had to slow down substantially when my first child arrived, but it was still worth spending time on. When Amazon cut all of its Arkansas affiliates off in 2011, myself included, it was like losing a limb. What point was there in generating more material for the site when it was no longer going to pay its own bills? Indeed, the money to buy the things frequently covered here – DVDs, music, and so on – ran out. The emphasis rapidly changed: it was time for that Doctor Who book I’d been working on at a slow burn for several years to come to the front burner in a hurry. The kind of content I could charge for was the only kind that there was any justification to work on.

Now, thanks to a change in federal law, Amazon is required to collect state sales tax nationwide…and without announcing it to anyone, they’ve re-opened the doors of their affiliate program to sites in those states they once spurned. Here’s what that means at theLogBook. Continue reading