Tag Archives: nostalgia

The WebSE Mac System 7 emulation

While we’re in geek nostalgia mode, try this one for size.

I began my love affair with Apple and the Macintosh computer on little beige boxes with tiny black and white screens built in. This web site offers a Flash-based emulation of such a machine running Macintosh System 7. I used to design and lay out entire magazines in QuarkXPress one-dot-something-or-other on a screen that size.



Expired patent of the day: Lego – Boing Boing


Lego formed part of my childhood. I still hold affection for the multicoloured bricks that used to live in an old Quality Street tin. I can still smell that tin today, and remember the creations in blocky plastic bricks I would create. While the Lego universe has changed, following commercial trends and marketing opportunities, it’s good to see the current Lego TV commercial here in the UK has looked back to the system’s fundamentals.

If I can find a link to the advert, I’ll post it.

I miss the Britain of compassion and public ownership. Can we have it back please? | Ian Martin

One of the great things about getting old is that you’re allowed to be a reactionary. Society expects it of you. It’s a civic duty. Without old people like me moaning on and on about the modern world, droning on and on about how great things used to be, how would young people get their bearings?

You need us, the bumbling blimps in your peripheral vision, to validate your own marvellous navigational skills. You’re in the driving seat now, we’re all off to the future, please fasten your seat belts, no smoking. I needn’t worry because you’ve downloaded a fantastic app to whatever that thing is that looks like an after dinner mint and costs 500 quid. Yeah, you just tap in the postcode for Next Year and follow the directions, dickhead. I’ll be in the back seat with my Thermos and sandwiches, wanting the toilet.

I have to say I became a reactionary old fart at around the age of 25! This article gave me a good chuckle, which is nice for a Monday morning. I recommend you go and read it in full on the Grauniad web site.

Fun and Games

As I noted yesterday, we’re currently enjoying an indian summer here in the UK. While I find myself at something of a loose end, I dug out the box of old plate cameras Best Beloved had acquired some 20 years ago.

The original intention was to use them for model photography. The cameras came with various back plates, mainly intended for quarter plate film, I think, but with adaptor units so you could run a 120 film through them. I do have the results of the tests done years ago, but sadly one of the films was damaged by light leakage during the developing process.

This is proper old skool photography. And I’m going to run the 120 films that have been cluttering up our fridge since the 1990s through the machines today.


First up is a Zeiss Ikon Trona 210/5 from the early 1930s. The rangefinder sight has lost its mirror, so I will be aiming blind. As it’s a sunny day, I am hoping to not worry too much about focus as the aperture will probably be quite tiny. The Zeiss is the only camera actually designed to take the film size, though the final image will be one-and-a-half frames of the normal square 120 format. This may mean there will be overlapped exposures where I haven’t wound the film on far enough. All part of the fun.


Next we have a beast of a camera, which is a Soho reflex. From what I can find out it was made some time between 1910 and 1930. It’s a half-plate box camera, but has been modified to take a 120 film back. Again, winding on the film to avoid double-exposures will be very much hit and miss. Out of a 12-frame 120 film, I will probably get three or four exposures, if I am lucky.


The Soho, at least, I can focus using the mirror to reflect what the lens sees up to the glass screen, but sadly the shutter mechanism does not function properly. This means I will be attempting to make exposures by covering and uncovering the lens, rather in the manner of the Victorian pioneers. Which will, if nothing else, be a hoot. I also have problems because it doesn’t have the original lens, and the one it is fitted with is so worn you can’t quite make out the ƒ-stops. Trial and error—what fun!

The next issue I must face is whether I can find a good local photo lab that can process the exposed film. I don’t really want to post it off anywhere, because I am impatient. Any pointers to labs in Kent I may be able to use will be gratefully received.

(I know I could process the stuff myself. While I’d love to, it’s rather too much faff at the moment.)


Salute to the ’40s

I had an opportunity to spend a day at the Chatham Historic Dockyard a week ago. It was a special event weekend, called Salute to the ’40s, with military vehicles, folk doing re-enactments, live period music and so on. I was in the company of a friend who had won tickets to the event.

For those blessed with iDevices, go here for the set in Flickr

Festival of Britain Showcase | The National Archives


If I had a time machine, this is one of the events and places I’d like to visit. I have a copy of the Festival of Britain guide, price 2/6.

As part of the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Festival, which opened to the public on 3 May 1951, the National Archives have put a small exhibition of some of the materials they hold online. I’d love to see more, but we must be thankful for small mercies. You can also find out more over at Wikipedia.

Of course, there are still legacies of the Festival. On the South Bank, the Royal Festival Hall, and in Poplar, south London, you can find the Lansbury Estate.

Remember when…?

A friend pointed me earlier to a site dedicated to analogue audio tape cassette nostalgia, tapedeck.org. It’s a simple kind of site, just rows and rows of cassette tapes of all ages.

A happy half-hour or so was spent, remembering the various designs of tape cassette I used to buy. I also spent a while remembering when it was the thing to do to make your own mix-tapes by carefully selecting your favourite album tracks from vinyl LPs, arranging and timing them nicely to fit into a complete side of a C90 without leaving a massive gap at the end. 

(If you don’t know what LP, vinyl or C90 means, ask your grandparents!)

My preferred tape supplier was TDK. Indeed, I still have two AR-X90 cassettes in their unopened shrink wrap. Why, then, are the photos I’ve provided of Sony tapes? Well, before computers became fast enough, affordable enough and reliable enough to be audio/video recording devices, I used to mix and edit audio on reel-to-reel tape. Eventually, I moved to a multitrack cassette recorder—the kind of thing innumerable amateur groups used to record their demo tapes on in back bedrooms the country over, before sending them off to John Peel in the hope they would get a brief airing on his late night show on Radio 1. 

I wasn’t into making my own music, though. I preferred mucking about with sound effects and noises of various kinds. The epitome of audio cassette-dom, then, were the Sony Metal Master jobbies. Eschewing the rather common plastic shell, the Metal Masters used a ceramic composite for the shell and tape guide, in order to “provide the best possible sound quality”. The extra weight stopped the shell from vibrating in the recorder mechanism, and theoretically lowered the consequent tape flutter and so on.

We only owned one such tape, probably because the darned things were really expensive compared to the bog standard TDKs I used. We used this one tape for some audio track mixing for some video work, if I remember correctly. I couldn’t tell you whether it was successful or not, because it wasn’t long before we went digital—I bought a portable MiniDisc Walkman recorder shortly after, and we never really looked back.

So, this evening, I dug the old tapes out, dusted them down and took their portraits. I sent them over to tapedeck.org, and perhaps they’ll appear in the archives soon.

Farewell, old friend

A eulogy to a humble laser printer.

This is an updated version of an article first posted at x404.co.uk.


The HP LaserJet 2100M came into my life in 1999. I had invested in a new Mac set-up, and was looking to furnish my potential freelance life with some sensible kit while I was still in gainful employment. This model of laser printer was a reasonable price — I think I paid somewhere over £400 for it — and had a full 1200dpi resolution, suitable connectors to allow me to plug it into my Mac, and importantly supported PostScript, or an HP variant of it.

I won’t bore you with the technicalities of PostScript, save to say it was important to anyone who worked in the graphic arts industry. It’s a page layout description language, and it used to be vital your studio printer could interpret this properly for proofing and so on.

The resolutely beige box has been resident in a corner of my studio since it was unpacked. It has been fed paper and cartridges, survived all manner of tantrums, and still faithfully, albeit slowly, churned out page after page of crisp black toner.

I should mention at this point the sole reason for purchasing this particular model when I did was the small, some would say insignificant, connector nestled next to the frankly enormous parallel port. It is a round socket, with about nine pins, and allowed me to connect the printer directly to the same socket on the back of my Apple PowerMac 6500. It was known as AppleTalk and was a proprietary Apple technology that allowed simple networking between machines. As I didn’t have a network at the time, I could literally plug the printer directly into my Mac, install the driver and away we went.

Time passed. I eventually added an ethernet network card to the 6500, and it was turned into a rudimentary server when I upgraded to a G4 Cube. The 2100 could still be attached to the 6500, and the 6500 could act as a bridge between the 2100 and the wider network, which now encompassed a couple of Windows PCs as well.

The 6500 eventually passed on to another, and I acquired a larger beige box to act as server and scanner station. Again, the 2100 was attached to this new machine and continued to perform its duties quietly, thanks to a little bit of software that allowed Mac OS 9 to feed the ethernet traffic aimed at the printer to the AppleTalk network.

I tried to improve the situation by acquiring a proper network bridge, but it turned out to be an exercise in frustration. I never fully resolved the issue, so there has remained a crusty Mac on my network, running a classic Mac OS, purely to serve the 2100 to the world. This situation has remained for the past three or more years. While I stride ever onward into the broad sunlit uplands of OS X, the 2100 sits patiently in the corner, idly chatting with the first generation PowerBook G3 that connects it to the CAT5.


Until today. Today, I upgrade my work machine to the latest flavour of OS X, and today I must say goodbye to Old Faithful in the corner.

You see, after supporting AppleTalk in every variant of OS X since the public beta in 1999, Apple have seen fit to finally drop their proprietary archaic protocol in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Once I have installed Snow Leopard, I will no longer be able to communicate with the 2100. An old friend will effectively die. I honestly thought it would die with 10.5, because there wasn’t an official driver available for the 2100 — yet I still managed to get a driver to work with Old Faithful.

A last hurrah, then, yet in many ways, it marks the end of an era.

The 2100 has been a faithful and reliable companion through many adventures and many Macs. True, it has become slower and slower over the years, as the complexity of the design layouts I threw at it have bogged down the PostScript processor. However, only yesterday, I printed out a couple of sheets of A4, and they are as crisp as the first ones I ever printed on that machine all those years ago. If I’d had the foresight to get the 2100TN over the M, I suspect the machine would soldier on indefinitely, provided working printer drivers could be sought. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

The 2100M will linger, with its companion PowerBook “server”, for a while longer. There are other machines in my little network which are still able to print to it, and it makes sense to carry on with the printer until the final dregs of toner are used in the last cartridge. It’s funny, though, how attached to an old pile of ABS and electronics you can get. It will be a wrench to finally see it consigned to Silicon Heaven.

I wrote this article originally just before I updated the OS. I still find myself hitting “Print” and expecting to see the 2100M in the list. Funnily enough, after discovering the USB inkjet was also on life support since its manufacturer deems it too old to provide updated drivers — solved by using a different driver — I noticed the DeskJet 2100M still appeared in the driver list. If I can get a parallel to ethernet adaptor, Old Faithful may well live to fight another day. 

Shipping forecast: The poetry of North Utsire | Elisabeth Mahoney | Comment is free | The Guardian

Sandwiched between Sailing By and the national anthem as the station closes down each night – as well as in three other slots across FM and LW – the forecasts are one of the network’s self-defining gems, and one of its best-loved slots for urban listeners like me, who’ve only ever been to sea on a holiday pedalo. Especially at night, these forecasts, with their place names, terms (veering, backing) and weatherly detail you never hear in the rest of life, and their hypnotically formulaic progression (area, wind direction, strength, precipitation, sea conditions, visibility), have a talismanic, haunting power.

This is especially the case if you’re listening on land, warm and safe, with a hot-water bottle tucked under your feet. From here, the segments of each forecast are like haiku poems: intense, compressed, full of something living and changing, but so still in their composure: “Viking, North Utsire, westerly, backing southerly, or south-westerly five to seven, perhaps gale 8 later, wintry showers, good occasionally poor.”

Once upon a time I used to listen to Radio 4 from the moment I awoke to the moment I fell asleep. I remember drifting away to the late night shipping forecast. In fact, I am getting a little nostalgic for it. I may have to stay up late and tune in tonight.