This Fortnight In The Dork Web

Tales From The Dork Web #15

Thanks for all the kind words about the Amiga and ST piece in the last issue. As promised, I wanted to use this issue to provide further resources, links, corrections and additional credits. I also wanted to write about some things I’ve found interesting.

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There are a lot of links in Tales From The Dork Web. If it gets a bit too much, put it down and come back later. I wrote a guide to help you get the most from it.

This week’s art comes from last week’s post (with missing credits, sorry) and from Spaaaace! Last week the ISS crew broadcasted Slow Scan Television over Russia to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Moscow Aviation Institute. Marizel and I were fortunate enough to capture some images. We also passed our RSGB Foundation exams last week, and the ISS was the first thing I received after passing the exam.

This issue’s music is from glaciære’s Water Slide album. Hit play and read on.

Commodore and Atari

There was a lot more to the Commodore and Atari story than I was able to type, but other great writers, speakers and archivists have done a better job than I could ever hope to achieve.

First and foremost, I used several images in the Amiga piece without source references. The piece was very heavily edited down to fit in with Substack’s size limits and whole paragraphs were ripped out, including attribution. The original photo above is by Kaiiv (de.wikipedia), with editing by Wikipedia user Pixel8, while The Amiga 500 image below is by Bill Bertram.

I’d like to apologise for missing credits to image owners above in the piece, along with original owners of pictures of Jay Miner, Jack Tramiel, Irving Gould and Shiraz Shivji. I did try to find the owners in those cases but images were either unreferenced or had multiple conflicting ownership claims.

I’d also like to thank User Calimero from the AtariAge forums for pointing out some inaccuracies in the piece, which I intend to update this weekend. It’s hard to confirm things because a lot of people and companies are dead and records are long gone. It doesn’t help that some people have embellished their role in the story and haven’t been entirely honest when interviewed.

The reference to Micro-Soft selling PET Basic per unit was rejected by Tramiel himself in this interview. He claimed it was $25,000 dollars. I can’t find the source of the original assertion, but it turns out that Commodore re-used the PET BASIC in thousands of machines without paying Micro-Soft another cent. There are other points that are probably wrong in the piece but I’d prefer to make all corrections to the original piece in one hit.

The best publicly available writing on the Amiga story is Ars Technica’s 12-part History of the Amiga. The Amiga History guide is also a great resource filled with treasures, such the story of Joe Pillow that I didn’t have space to include. Michael D. Current has a timeline of events from an Atari perspective which pairs well with the Amiga History guide’s.

That launch event in the Lincoln center wasn’t the only time Andy Warhol made art with an Amiga. The invisible photograph charts the recovery of the lost Amiga art of Andy Warhol, above.

Warhol also used an Amiga to make an animated tribute to Marilyn Monroe, called You Are The One (shown above) that was also lost for years but later recovered.

Commodore.ca has a page dedicated to Jack Tramiel which also features some video interviews. Jay Miner sadly passed away in 1994, but talks a lot about the Amiga in this interview.

Atari HQ has a copy of the $500,000 check that Amiga Corporation returned to Atari before Jack Tramiel owned it. The Amiga-Atari confidentiality agreement is here. The New York Times covered the Commodore/Atari battle in 1984, while Jack and The Machine is an interactive Jack Tramiel documentary.

DadHacker has an excellent series on his time working on the Atari ST from the inside. Parts 1 and 2, and a bonus piece on how the ST almost got Unix are available.

There are some good books on the Amiga story. Brian Bagnall’s The Amiga Years was my favourite, but I have concerns about inaccuracies and couldn’t find other sources for a lot of the things inside. We Love Atari has a section on the Atari ST and the Amiga too. Faster than Light covers more of the Atari ST’s technology and uses rather than the story behind it’s production but is still an interesting read.

Things You May Have Missed

Fed up with his devices phoning home Luke Hoersten set up his own privacy-oriented homelab. Shawn Webb went further and torified his home network. Nullsweep has a good Defcon talk writeup. Yuan Chan created some cool generative CSS art.

Modern Vintage Gamer has a cool video about how Fairlight cracked the Robocop 3 Amiga copyright protection dongle, above. Also in Amiga gaming, Coding Secrets made a video on the pixel-perfect collision detection in his first commercial game, Leander. Jonathan Holmes is live-streaming Palm OS game dev.

Janus cycle dug out an old NEC P3 phone which also had features to make it a handy radio phone scanner. I never had one of these but I once saw one with a special ROM that allowed you to spoof other phones and make free calls.

Felix Rieseberg built Macintosh.js, an Apple Quadra 900 Mac emulator with MacOS 8.1 and a bunch of tools built-in. If you want to get into old-school Mac emulation Basilisk II, Mini vMac (for really old Mac emulation), and either PearPC or Qemu for PPC are probably your best bets. Don’t forget Macintosh Garden, the Macintosh Repository and the Mac section of OldApps. You’ll probably want some light reading to refresh your memory. archive.org’s massive collection (rabbit hole warning) of Mac magazines has you covered.

Neil Panchal documented a teardown of a Casio FX-880P Personal Computer. Also in hardware hackery, PTX2 unbricked their $2,000 exercise bike with a Raspberry Pi. Even more also in hardware hackery, Terence Eden tore down the cheapest record player he could find.

Nyan-Sat is a crash course in Satellite hacking. I’m not sure how realistic it is. It looks like a lot of work to do very little compared to pulling down APT or Inmarsat traffic. I recently got a GPS antenna modified for Inmarsat. I’ll have a play and write up how I get on so you can start dumping satcom traffic without having to buy any gear.

The Atlantic argues that Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon is already here in China. Nathan J. Robinson opines on how the truth is paywalled but the lies are free. Meanwhile scientists are renaming human genes because it’s easier than compensating for Microsoft Excel thinking they’re calendar dates.

Kris documented a gamepad-based touch typing idea. I love the effort that went into it but it triggered PTSD-fuelled memories of playing Street Fighter II on a single-button joystick. It did remind me of AFKIM, an incredible PSP IM client using a 3x3 input grid. Of course, T9 is the best space constrained input method.

Hannah Braime reminds us to detach self-worth from Productivity. This is just as well for Rohan Shah, who appears to be living a real-life version of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

I read about how SHRDLU got it’s name, which didn’t go into quite enough detail for me. I then read a story by F. Brown about a sentient Linotype machine that tries to take over the world.

Lately I’ve been getting into Bardcore. Hildegard Von Blingin has a great voice, and the translation of lyrics into late-medieval English is sometimes genuinely hysterical. I thought I’d end with a quote from Julia Child:

You'll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.

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