Apple //c Scene From ’80s Bond Film “A View to a Kill” Perfectly Re-Created With Applesoft BASIC

a View to a Kill movie poster image

When I think back to the ’80s (as I do quite often), part of that lovely feeling I am conjuring is formed from various stand-out movies of the time. Among those, one that I recall enjoying best is the James Bond film, A View to a Kill. I saw it in the theater as a 13-year old over the summer of 1985. It’s also one of the movies that we had at home on tape that I remember watching the most on our new-fangled (Betamax) VCR.

While, on reflection it is a pretty cheesy movie, it did have it all: action; adventure; settings across the globe; an evil mastermind (Christopher Walken, no less!); a villainous, destructive plot involving Silicon Valley; Grace Jones; a struggle atop the Golden Gate Bridge, and the memorable cameo appearance of an Apple //c computer carrying out a seismic analysis.

At one point in the film, Bond (Roger Moore) and leading lady State Geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) are in Stacy’s home, and beside her bed is an Apple //c (what a weirdo she must be). Bond and Stacey feel a minor tremor and so she uses her //c to connect to The Earthquake Center and find out about the quake. She types a few keystrokes and a series of waveforms appear on the screen, along with some text indicating the strength of the tremor. A couple more keystrokes and the screen changes to a map of the San Francisco Bay area, with a sort-of bulls-eye animation zeroing in on its source (spoiler: it’s near Zorin’s oil fields…).

Apple 2c scene from A View to a Kill film

When I saw this movie, I had an Apple //c of my own (my second computer), and the scene really stood out to me for that reason. I used my //c constantly, and it was easy for me to tell that the program running on screen was actually being (or had been) output from an Apple II, not canned from some unrelated video effects system (noting that the power LED of the pictured main unit (on the right, just above the keyboard) appears to be dim).

It is for the various reasons I have just laid out that I was so struck with amazement in discovering the recent efforts of Max Piantoni. The Apple //c scene in A View to a Kill clearly stood out to Max, as well. What he has done is nothing short of incredible, in my book. As he explains it,

There’s nothing cooler than a computer in a movie, and A View To A Kill has a particularly cool Apple IIc. Join me as I forge this Faberge bit by bit, byte by byte. In this video I meticulously reverse engineer the application from the movie and recreate it on my Apple IIc using Applesoft BASIC and a variety of development tricks. No one was asking, but I sure delivered.

Indeed, Max has perfectly re-created the seismic analysis program, as we saw it in the movie. In his video, he shows the scene in question and walks the viewer through his approaches, the challenges he faced, and his actual BASIC code listing. Within, we get a nice look at Beagle Bros’ Apple Mechanic toolset, used to assist with the on-screen animation. And, what’s more, Max has released the Applesoft BASIC code listing, as well as a booting disk image, on Github. It’s running on my Apple IIe, right now!

Hats off for the heroic effort, Max. What an incredible tribute to the Apple II and the 1980s, as well! Visit Max Piantoni’s website to have a look at many other great projects he has has worked on.

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The eMate 300 Out In Front for “BBS Week V”

Last weekend marked the end of “BBS Week V” over at r/Retrobattlestations. For my part in this competition, I brought out the eMate 300, which I found new-in-box on eBay back in 2004. Here it can be seen logged into the Level 29 BBS.

The eMate has a proper eight pin micro-DIN RS-422 serial / AppleTalk port, driven by a Zilog SCC serial chip. To this port, I attached a serial cable leading into a Keyspan USB-to-serial adapter, itself plugged into a USB port on the Raspberry Pi 2 I keep in my D.C. office to (usually) connect my desktop Apple //c (via a similar serial link) to the net. The //c was my machine of choice for the last r/Retrobattlestations competition, “Not x86 Week.” The RPi 2 has a USB-based WiFi connector that keeps it linked to the guest WiFi network at the university.

Visit a gallery of all my r/Retrobattlestations entry photos. A complete list, with links, of the fun I've had with challenges in that subreddit over the years can be seen below. Good times!

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Firing Up the Apple //c for “Not x86 Week”

Apple 2c with "Intel Outside" logo shown on the screen

As I write this, it is the last day of “Not x86 Week” over at Reddit’s r/Retrobattlestations. As one might guess, this week’s competition is to display a vintage system based on any CPU other than an Intel 8086 or any of its descendants. For this round, I featured the Apple //c that’s situated on my desk in my D.C. workplace.

I setup the //c, which has lived in a few different spots since I acquired it back in 2005, on the desk in my cubicle over a year ago. Its serial port is connected (with a wire I put together from an old Atari 8-bit video cable) to a USB-to-serial adapter, which is plugged into a Raspberry Pi 2, which itself is connected to the guest WiFi network at the university. This allows me to use a terminal program on the //c, such as ProTerm, Modem MGR, or AGate, to allow it to become a standard serial terminal to the Raspbian Linux OS running on the Pi. (Old-school serial terminal support is still baked-in to modern Linux distributions.) I go into greater detail on the overall approach in my 2007 post detailing my first go at using this //c as a serial terminal — to a Mac mini, in a previous workplace.

Close up of hacked together serial cable in the Apple IIc serial port

It occurred to me this past Friday to use the //c for my entry, and as I mentioned, the competition ends tonight. Rather than just turning on the //c and putting some text on the screen, I thought it would be a nice touch to display an “Intel Outside” logo (quite popular over the years with Mac and Amiga folk) on the screen, but that meant finding the logo online, somehow converting it to an Apple II high-res (HGR) image, and getting it over to the //c. If the notion of using the //c for the competition had occurred to me earlier in the week, I probably would have just used my LAN-connected Apple IIgs at home to write out a 5.25-inch floppy with the image file on it, but this was my last day in the office before the weekend conclusion of the competition. Much was already in place, as described, to get this done, but it was a bit of a process to go the full distance.

I dug around online and found a program called Buckshot, which is an image conversion utility for macOS, Windows, and Linux that can convert modern format images to an image in any of the 8-bit Apple II image modes. It’s a nice little utility with a handy image preview function and is based on a program called bmp2hdr, which I covered / demoed in an earlier post on this blog. With this in hand, I did a few searches, found the amusing logo image, and created a mono, high-res Apple II image (280×192 pixels) from it.

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Announcing “NMSspot” – My New “No Man’s Sky” Blog

Just a quick post here to spread the word regarding a new blog I’ve started in the past month. Called NMSspot, the new site will cover my adventures travelling within the universe of the procedurally infinite space exploration / adventure game, No Man’s Sky.

The new blog will mark the end of my admittedly “off-topic” posts about No Man’s Sky to this website, likely to the joy of my regular, vintage computing-oriented readers. (I have copied the NMS-related blog posts I’ve written here over the past three and a half years to the new website.) It is also my third plate in the air, so to speak, in the blogging arena, the other blog (aside from the one you’re presently reading) being a Virginia history blog, of sorts: Nostalgic Virginian.

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A Quick “Heads Up” for My New BBSing Resource Page

Just a quick post here to point out my new BBSing Resource Page which I’ve posted to serve as a basic resource for readers wanting to give BBSing, a frequent topic here of late, a try. On the page, I list a few of my regular go-to boards, along with several modern devices that make it a pretty easy process to get going, and a couple of other resources as well. I set it up as a page in the sidebar to the left, rather than a blog post in the timeline, in order to keep it findable, hence this little “heads up” post.

Black Flag BBS login screen screenshot

Have a look if you’re interested and I’ll see you on the boards!

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The Amiga 1000 Sings Songs of the Season for Holiday Music Week VII

The new year has begun and the holidays are pretty much behind us, but before undecking the halls I wanted to share my contribution to the “Holiday Music Week VII” competition over at r/Retrobattlestations that ran until the 31st.

For this one, I fired up the Amiga 1000 and loaded a Christmas demo called the “Gallery of Christmas Images and Sounds,” which was created by Ken Costello, produced by the International Professional Association, and released in 1986. I discovered this demo thanks to a YouTube video of the disk running under emulation. The uploader, Jeremy Trim, provided me with the disk image, which I moved over the network to my Amiga 2000 and wrote out to a physical floppy for use on the Amiga 1000, a system for which I have stronger Christmas memories than the 2000. On closer inspection, I found that the demo was made with Electronic Arts’ Deluxe Video (by Mike Posehn), arguably the first consumer desktop video program. In order to avoid a few text glitches I was seeing, I had to boot back to Kickstart 1.1 (from 1986, basically ROM loaded from a floppy) to run the demo properly.

I have placed the ADF disk image of the demo online [download], if anyone is interested. Making this video was a fun little holiday exercise.
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Have a Helping of 8-bit Holiday Cheer! (2019 Edition)

‘Tis the season, and that means it’s time to push out the ninth annual Byte Cellar vintage computer Holiday demo roundup so everyone can feel that warm, fuzzy, pixellated holiday glow. With scanlines. Enjoy!

I’ve been a computer geek for a long time now, but I’ve been enjoying The Holidays even longer…

I got my first computer, a TI-99/4A, on Christmas morning in 1982. I was 10 years old and from that Christmas on, it was nothing but games and computer hardware that I wanted Santa to leave me under the tree. On through my teenage years, part of my ritual for getting into the Holiday spirit was downloading and watching Christmas demos on whatever system I had at the time. And, apparently I wasn’t alone in this, as Benj Edwards explains in his piece, “The Oddball, Nostalgia-Inducing Christmas Tech Art Of The 1980s And 1990s.”

Enjoying these demos is a personal tradition that I had, sadly, long left behind until 2010 (the year before I began writing these posts) when I was inspired to seek out the demo I remember best, Audio Light’s 1985 musical slideshow for the Atari ST. With the help of an emulator, I captured it to share online with readers. A year later, I fired it up again and watched it run through it’s 16-color, pixellated images and 3-voice musical holiday greetings. As I watched, it occurred to me that it might be nice to gather a few of the other demos I remember from the good ole’ days and present them here, in order to try to share some of the holiday cheer that they used to inspire within me.

The following list of demos ranges across a variety of platforms of olde and is sure to bring the warmth of the season to the hearts of any and all retrocomputing enthusiasts who behold it. Happy holidays, and I hope you enjoy the shows!

Be sure to also have a look at the dozens of demos gathered through the years in the 2018 edition, the 2017 edition and the 2011 – 2016 edition of this post.

Amiga – The Merry Christmas Intro by Nuance (1993)

Atari ST – Merry Christmas by Demografica (2015)

Commodore 64 – The Christmas Show by Quantum Designs (1988)

Coleco Adam – Christmas Disk 2010 by A.N.N. (2010)

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How I Got Started in Vintage Computing

Alone...with computers...I was recently listening to the celebratory 200th episode of my favorite vintage computing podcast, the Retro Computing Roundtable, which has been running for nine years. Marking the occasion, the early hosts of the show were in attendance and much reminiscence did ensue. Among the things discussed was the topic of how everyone’s relationship with the retro computing endeavor had changed over the past decade. In the discussion, the hosts touched on how it is that they got started in the hobby, and when. I’ve never really written specifically about that on this blog, as far as my own history, but the RCR folks have inspired me to do so presently.

Looking back, while I had an Atari VCS since 1979 or 80, I received my first proper computer on Christmas day, 1982: a TI-99/4A “home computer.” I expanded the system and enjoyed it well, but the platform wasn’t doing so hot around that time, so after a while, I sold it and moved to an Apple //c. It was great, and I really loved that machine, but I spent more and more time with the Macintosh at the local computer dealer and My first TI994A setup from 1983reading MacWorld magazines, so I eventually sold the //c and got a Macintosh 128K. When I went to a (different) store to buy some floppies for it, I encountered a Commodore Amiga in person for the first time. Blown away, I turned right around, returned the Mac after only a week, and got the Amiga 1000. And, so it would continue, on and on, one machine sold for the next, for quite a few years. It wasn’t until 1999, though, that I began “doubling up” and acquiring what I would call “vintage computers.”

At the time, I had been recalling some of the fun I had with my original Apple IIgs back in 1988 or so. One day I looked around eBay and found a few clean, complete systems. I bid and won one. Setting it up and running old programs on it turned out to be a whole lot of fun. I was quite glad I had gone ahead and acquired one of my favorite machines from days gone by (and so, it began…). It was around that time that I read online that there was a guy working out of a storage unit in nearby Frederick, MD, selling refurbished NeXT machines. I called him up to inquire, it sounded like a good proposition, Amiga 1000 from 1985so I drove up from my Arlington office on my lunch break and picked up a NeXTstation Turbo Color system including a 21-inch NeXT color display and a CD-ROM drive, all for $250. (I well recall that carrying that massive CRT up the tiny spiral staircase to the computer room in our first Northern Virginia home almost did me in.) And that’s when I decided it would be nice to have an Amiga again…

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Posted in Just Rambling, Multi-Platform | 3 Comments

A Progress Update From a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler

Ice moon, lake in foregroundEarly in the year I posted A Few Words from a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler, detailing my decision to put my 1,600-hour No Man’s Sky journey on hold and jump back-in-time to late 2016 and the Foundation (v1.1) release of the game. (My help page provides assistance to those wanting to do the same.) In that post I explained my motivations for so doing and I won’t restate them here other than to say, in brief, I missed the wilder nature of the early games’ (pre-NEXT) worlds and that greater sense of the unexpected, waiting around every corner. That was over half a year ago and it seems a good time for an update. (And to the bulk of my readers who came to read about vintage computing adventures rather than those taking place in a boundless, procedural universe: thank you for your patience with another off-topic post!)

As I wrote the aforementioned blog post, I was 25-hours in on a new Normal-mode game started in the Foundation release (version 1.13 specifically), having archived my mainline progress to resume later. I ended up playing in Foundation for 10 straight weeks before archiving that save and going back to the then-current release (Visions v1.77) in order to get back into the active swing of things in preparation for the impending release of No Man’s Sky Beyond.

Beyond promised to bring VR gameplay, far deeper multiplayer, and a large bag of various quality-of-life improvements to enhance the overall experience. Shortly before it was released, I purchased an Oculus Rift S VR setup in order to immerse myself as fully as possible in the game. No Man’s Sky Beyond (v2.0) arrived on August 14 and it did, indeed, deliver on its promises. No Man’s Sky in VR is pretty amazing; I’ve spent hours in the game just slowly wandering about, examining prairie flowers blooming inches from my eyes, marveling at clusters of desert cacti towering above me, and running my fingers through blades of grass carpeting valleys that stretch off into the distance. And, what’s more, I’m liking the deeper online play mechanics introduced through the Nexus in the updated Space Anomaly (a sort of hub where players can easily find each other, explore together, visit each others’ bases). I didn’t expect to find particular fondness with expanded online play, but it feels like a nice addition.

redrock butte rising from ice world Continue reading

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SGI O2 Promo Video from the Mid-’90s

I recently saw a Reddit post where someone was demonstrating an SGI O2 running the FSN (“Fusion”) File System Navigator, a 3D rendering of the IRIX filesystem that was famously featured in the movie Jurassic Park — “It’s a UNIX system…I know this!” It got me thinking about the O2, which is the one SGI machine that I happen to own. I did some googling, just for fun, and ran across a video that SGI put out in the mid-’90s (on VHS tape) demonstrating the O2, and I thought I would share.

It was quite a machine, for the time. At my last job I had my O2 in the office on the desk and enjoyed messing around with it when time permitted. I find it sad that the once bold innovator that was SGI is no longer among us.

SGI O2 on desk

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