Blog, Books, Computers — July 21, 2014 9:42 am

Book Learnin’: Classic Computing by David Greelish

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We here at Pop Rewind are always interested in learning more about the history of video games and computers (among other nostalgia-rific topics), so recently we were excited to flip through David Greelish’s Classic Computing book.

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The newly updated and expanded third edition of Classic Computing was released in April and includes all nine issues of Greelish’s zine, Historically Brewed, as well as the never before published Classic Computing zine.

I enjoyed having all of the issues bound in one collection and it makes me long for other zine and magazine publishers to do the same thing. How neat would it be to flip through a collection of Game Pro or Nintendo Power? Or smaller fan zine collections (I remember having some Robotech/Macross ones back in the day). Many of these earlier publications may be lost to time (like Cracked Magazine’s archive) but it would be amazing to have in one’s collection.

Greelish launched Historically Brewed in 1993 and published it until 1997. The zine focused on the history of and stories surrounding computers and the topic of computer collecting. It’s refreshing to see someone with as much passion for a topic as Greelish who, over 30 years later, is still adamant about getting this information out into the world.

Historically Brewed started out as the newsletter for Greelish’s Historical Computer Society (now Atlanta Historical Computing Society), and was slated to be released bi-monthly. In 1997, Historically Brewed was changed to Classic Computing, new covers were printed, but that first and final issue was never released—until now.

Greelish does more than his share in preserving the history of early home computing. The issues inside this collection take a look at the Lisa, VIC-20, Coleco Adam, and the Apple II, among many others. The first issue delves into Star Trek and “today’s big three” programming languages (BASIC, PASCAL, C). I was also delighted to see that in the later issues topics of the home arcade started cropping up.

nervine-advertisementSomething non-computer related that caught my eye was on page 28 and appeared in the first issue—an advertisement for Dr. Miles’ Effervescent Nervine Tablets.

Issues also included classifieds, a concept which is a great throwback in itself. Remember browsing classifieds for garage sales, jobs, and general merchandise? Oh the days before Craig’s List/Kijiji!

A letters section where Greelish would answer questions and interact with his readers was also a big feature in the zine. It brings you back to a time where we were excited to get magazines in the mail because that was our source of information, not the Internet. Think how awesome it was seeing your subscription of choice showing up monthly.

Moreover, it’s interesting to see the issues become more and more substantial—not to say the first few issues aren’t substantial—far from it. As the zine grew, so too did its audience, resulting in more interaction in the Letters & Classifieds section.

Issues eight and nine of Historically Brewed feature articles on consoles—Home Arcade Enthusiast. It was really fascinating to read the feedback from the authors of these articles. In issue nine, the column’s author, Larry Anderson muses over why he collects video games (fond childhood memories, history, preservation—all ring true to most collectors, at least in the Pop Rewind offices). He also writes his thoughts on then-current generation of games: “When asked why I enjoy playing games on classic systems so much, I often answer that the games of today don’t approach the level of playability that yesterday’s simplistic games do. Personally, I can’t stand to play Sonic the Hedgehog for more than an hour with getting a headache; yet I can play a game of Tron Deadly Disks for the Intellivision for twice as long without boredom… Even with all of today’s ‘blast processing’, ‘850 million pixels per second rendering’, the basic factor, the game, hasn’t improved any; in this writer’s opinion, it’s gone downhill” (pg. 195).

I’m sure that paragraph gave you a good chuckle—I mean, Sonic isn’t that complicated or headache-inducing. And Tron Deadly Disks? Good god. But then I’m reminded of when the N64 was released and how I thought that even though the graphics and machine itself were more advanced than the 16-bit systems I owned, it still looked terrible. While it was a step in the right direction, the N64 really needed some work. And now there’s a generation of people looking at that statement and thinking the bitch writing about this Classic Computing book is crazy. That may be, but I can see where Larry is coming from.

Also in the ninth issue, Duncan Brown writes of collectable machines of computer history. Duncan offers up some tidbits about himself—he had dropped out of college after two years to open his own arcade. He and three pals ran the arcade/sandwich shop for three and a half years.

Duncan goes on to talk about the then current generation systems, specifically the Atari Jaguar. While I have a love/hate relationship with the system, I still very much appreciate it. He writes of the Jaguar: “I was so impressed by what the hardware could do, I decided I wanted to write games for it” (pg. 196).

In addition to the back issues of Historically Brewed and Classic Computing, the book goes through Greelish’s personal history with computers in his self-penned introduction.

Overall, Classic Computing was a great trek back in time and worth picking up. It’s rich in history and excels in its mission to preserve those classic computing stories as best as it can.

For more information about Greelish, visit his website Classic Computing.

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