What If…

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I like playing the “What If…?” Game. It can lead to some interesting thoughts. Most of the time it’s just idle speculation because it’s pretty well impossible to know what might have happened in a certain situation.

For a while now I’ve been going through old documents and videos that came from Atari from the 1980s. Atari, if you’re not familiar with the name, was a video game company that spread out into computers. For a short time, Atari was the name in video entertainment.

They were mismanaged by Warner Communications and ended up selling the home division to Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore Business Machines, who also mismanaged and completely gutted the rest of Atari. The other division, the side that did the arcade games, became part of Midway until being sold to Warner Bros. Entertainment (there’s a circle for you).

What a lot of people don’t know is that Atari had bought an engineering company in 1973 and used it as kind of a think tank. Atari had a couple of R&D departments, as well. This is the stuff that I found interesting.

The R&D departments had their hands in telecommunications and were also thinking of different medical devices. Back in 1983 they had a ‘summer computer camp’ going at Club Med that, if I understand it properly, had Atari 8-bit computers networked together. Atari never released any networking product for the 8-bit computers (the 400/800, XL and XE lines).

So I wonder what the personal electronic world would be like today had Atari been properly managed and survived the through the 1990s. Would my iPhone be an aPhone? Would doctors be hooking us up to diagnostic computers wearing the Fuji logo? Would we have had VR earlier?

Who knows? Not me. There’s no tellling what may or may not have happened even with the best of management.

It’s not a total loss. Some people left and went to Apple. Some went off to Intel. It’s probably safe to say that people went all over the technology company landscape and used their knowledge to bring us interesting things. Like USB.

Some places to check out:
Atari Museum
Atari Archives
Internet Archive

 

Tales Of Terror V: Destination Unknown

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“Whoah,” said Ben. “That was really something.”

“Yeah it was,” agreed Stacy, reaching for her shirt.

“I didn’t think the backseat was that roomy, before,” said Ben. He put his t-shirt on inside-out.

“I’m glad to hear you don’t get back here much,” she winked. “I think I worked up an appetite.”

He laughed. “Yeah.”

Suddenly the door locks engaged and the car started moving forward.

“Ben? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Ben. He leaned over the seats and tugged at the wheel and then sat back.

“I can’t control it,” he said.

The car kept moving, following the dark road.

“Hang on,” said Stacy. She leaned forward on the center console.

“What is it?” asked Ben. Even in the throes of panic, he made time to look at her bare behind.

“Ohhhh,” she breathed.

“What? What?” He hadn’t touched her.

She poked at the map displayed on the big OLED screen in front of her.

“It’s taking us to Boogie Burger,” she said, sitting back again.

“Oh. It must have heard you when you mentioned appetite.”

“I’m surprised it’s not taking us to the nearest church then,” she giggled.

“Still, it would have been nice to ask for confirmation,” said Ben, relieved.

“I know. What if I didn’t want Boogie Burger?”

“Um. What do you want?”

“Boogie Burger is fine.”

They finished dressing just as the car neatly parked itself. Then they went inside the brightly lit burger joint and they each had a cheeseburger. Ben had bacon on his, even though it cost seventy-five cents more.

He felt it was worth it.

Tales Of Terror IV: Consternation Condo

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Consternation Condo

Jenny heard the water in the bathroom sink stop and Art walked into the bedroom. Jenny was already in bed and using an app on her tablet to try different decoration ideas. This would be their first night in their condo and her head was buzzing with ideas.

“Hey,” she said, turning the tablet around so Art could so it. “What do you think of this color for the bedroom?”

Art looked at it. “Yeah, blue is nice.”

“It’s ‘Jamaican Bay’,” she told him.

“Is it? It’s still nice,” Art said, getting under the covers.

She looked at the tablet again and tapped on something. “How about this?”

Art took the tablet and looked at the color. Then he handed it back. “I don’t know how I feel about green.”

“It’s ‘Kilkenny’,” she informed him.
“Those bastards!”

“What?”

Art sighed. “Nothing. I liked the blue better.”

“Jamaican Bay,” she said, investigating more colors.

“Sure, that one. How about you turn off the iPad and we get some sleep?”

“Sleep? On your first night in our new place?” she asked, acting sultry. She turned off the tablet and placed it on the nightstand.

“Well,” he grinned, “we shouldn’t skip our first night.”

Art put his arms around her, sliding one hand down her bare back.

Then there was an enormous banging on the wall.

“What was that?” asked Jenny.

“I don’t know,” said Art, looking about.

There was more banging on the wall.

“Stay here, I’ll check it out,” said Art. He got out of bed, pulled on his pants, he walked out of the bedroom.

Jenny stayed in the bed. There were more banging noises and every time she heard it, she flinched. Then there was a huge bang that nearly knocked a picture off the wall.

Jenny sat with the covers up to just under her nose. But it was all quiet.

Art walked back into the bedroom, undoing his jeans.

“Art! What’s going on?”

“Oh,” he said. He pointed at the wall. “That is the wall that separates us from our neighbor. So I went next door and it turns out there’s some big ass bug crawling on the wall. She tried killing it with a shoe, but the bugger was too quick for her. I grabbed a big book and just slammed that bastard.”

Jenny stared at Art.

“What?” he asked.

“Is she pretty?”

That night Jenny had a dream that Art had an affair with a woman whose face she couldn’t see. For the entirety of the next day, she was angry with Art.

And he never knew why.

The End

Tales of Terror III: The Haunting Of Brickhold Manor

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The Haunting Of Brickhold Manor

They laughed and giggled as they pushed through the front door. It was dark outside and it was darker inside even with the moonlight coming in through the large front window.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” laughed Nancy. “What is this place, anyway?”
Ted grabbed Nancy by the waist. “Oh, it’s the old Brickhold Manor,” he said. “Old lady Brickhold died years back and the place has just been sitting here ever since.” 

Nancy looked around the dilapidated living room. “It’s spooky,” she said, shrugging off Ted’s attempt to nuzzle her neck. 

“Yeah it is,” he agreed. “Look, there’s still a couch,” he said, giving her a playful push onto the couch. 

“Ew,” she said. “There’s probably black mold in here.” 

“We’ll worry about that later,” said Ted, sliding his hand up her leg, reaching for her skirt. 

She started to push his hand down. “Did you hear that?” she asked. 

“Hear what?” 

“It sounded like a moan, almost.” 

“Maybe that was you?” he asked. 

“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t,” she said. “Listen!” 

Now Ted heard the noise. It sounded like, “Oooooooh, you will die,” and trailed off.

“Did you hear it?” asked Nancy.
“Yeah. It’s just the house settling.” 

“I’m pretty sure houses don’t threaten when they settle!” 

At that moment the front door slammed shut. 

Nancy jumped off the couch from underneath Ted and lunged at the door, trying to pull it open. 

“I can’t open it,” she gasped. 

“Maybe you’re not tugging hard enough?” 

“Then you try it!” 

Ted grasped the door handle and pulled. It wouldn’t move, but it didn’t look like anything was blocking it. He tried again and pulled with everything you had. The door opened a fraction of an inch. 

“Ha! I think I got it,” he said. 

The door slammed shut again, ripping itself from his grasp. 

“We gotta get out of here!” 

Ted made a dash for the stairs that led to the upper story, but he felt something grab him and pull him back.

“You can’t go upstairs,” cried Nancy, holding onto the back of his shirt. “Think of something else!” 

Ted looked around and saw an old wooden end table with a mildewed doily on it. 

“I got it!” He grabbed the table and hurled it out the front window. “Okay, out you go!” 

Nancy jumped out the window onto the dead bushes below it. She got a little cut on her leg which she wouldn’t have gotten had she been wearing jeans instead of, you know, kind of slutty with that mini skirt. Ted jumped out after her. They got back to their feet and ran down the street. 

Eventually, they made their way to a twenty-four clinic. Nancy got a Band-Aid for her leg. They asked about some kind of inoculation for black mold on account of almost having done it on a potentially moldy couch, but they were told there wasn’t an inoculation for that.And they never returned to the house again.

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Tales of Terror II: The House On Millcreek Lane

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The House On Millcreek Lane

The sporty white convertible wound its way down the dark road. Most of the streetlights were out but occasionally a pool of dim light covered the road and dimly lit objects on the side.

“Wait! Stop the car,” yelled out Penny.

Chad hit the brakes and came to a stop. “What? What’s the matter?” he asked, turning down the stereo.

Penny pointed off the road. “Look at that house!” She was leaning halfway out of the car with her arm outstretched.

The house was dimly lit and shrouded by tall trees. It sat by itself. If the architect had tried to design the front of a house to look like a sad, old, entity he had succeeded. Its siding mottled by moss, mold, and peeling paint. Dark windows stared back at the car.

“Oh, yeah,” said Chad. “My dad said this place has been abandoned forever.

“We should totally spend the night here,” said Penny. “Maybe we’ll see ghosts or something. Think of the crazy young adult sex party we could have!”

Pam spoke up from the back seat. “For reals? You’d rather stay in a musty old house than hit the party at the beach?”

“With the rest of the group waiting for us?” asked Chad.

“And the beer?” added Mitka.

“And the music with the dancin’” added Pam, wriggling her hips.

“And the beer?” piped in Mitka, halfway on the floor.

“And besides, we can have sex on the beach,” said Chad.

“Somebody’s bringing vodka?” asked Mitka, slumped over the transmission hump.

Penny frowned slightly and sat back down. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go to the bonfire beach party!”

The stereo music was turned way up and Chad took off down the street.

And they all had a really nice time.

Except, it must be said, for Mitka who had a little too much drink and started spinning in circles letting his arms fly out and then bringing them back close to his body feeling himself slow down and speed up. Then he threw up. But he threw up in the water so it didn’t bother anyone except for a crab and some small fish.

 

The End

Tales of Terror I: The Night Creature

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The Night Creature

The trees swayed in the night, branches silhouetted against the full moon. Impenetrable darkness permeated the woods past the line of trees separating the open field from the gloom beyond. They stood like guardians.

A figure came stumbling from the darkness. A woman. She caught herself from falling and, spotting her car, ran towards it. She was wearing jeans and sneakers and a light jacket which is the sensible sort of thing to wear when on a hike in the woods. She glanced behind her, looking for signs of pursuit. The crack and snaps of dry brush in the woods spurred her on.

She reached for the closest door, the door handle springing out as she neared and unlocking when it sensed the key fob within range. She yanked the door open, dove onto the back seat, and closed the door behind her. She looked out the rear window and saw the lumbering creature. It was headed right for the car. She didn’t think she could get to the front seat before the hideous monster was upon.

“Start the car!” she cried. Dashboard lights lit up, as did the accent lighting which traveled in light pipes around the doors and center console.

The creature grabbed for a door but the handles had retracted once the car was started.

“Go to the nearest police station!” she commanded.

The car whirred off at speed, electric motors using the full amount of torque available. Brenda looked out the window again and saw the creature running towards her but falling behind. She took out her cell phone and recorded the monster as it fell away into darkness.

“Call 9-1-1,” she said.

After a few seconds, a voice came through the car speakers.

“Emergency services,” it said in a soothing voice. “What is the nature of your emergency?”

“I was hiking in Pikes Park,” said Brenda, still looking out the window. “I was attacked by some kind of animal. Or monster. Or creature.”

“I’ve got your GPS coordinates. Were you alone?”

“No, I was with my boyfriend, Sam. I think the creature killed him!” she cried.

“A SWAT team is en route,” said the voice. “Please stay calm and in your vehicle.”

Brenda nodded, even though no one could see her. Probably. She heard a helicopter pass overhead.
The speakers spoke again. “The SWAT team is on site. I’m being advised that the IR cameras have picked up a heat signature. They don’t know what it is, but they will dispatch it with prejudice.”

Flashing lights in the distance were, Brenda decided, the muzzle flashes of automatic weapons fire. They came in a burst and then fizzled out.

“I’m patching the SWAT commander through to you, ma’am.”

“Hello,” said a new, gruff, voice. “This is Commander Keegan. We have taken care of the threat and we will be looking for your friend. I suggest you go home, or to family or a friend’s house, so you won’t be alone. I’m sure you’ve had quite the ordeal.”

“Oh, I have,” moaned Brenda.

“Rest easy. You are in no danger. We’ll have an officer follow up with you in a couple of days. Keegan out.”

Brenda’s car drove her to her parent’s house, where they fussed over her. But she was busy posting her video, which came out nicely (thanks to modern optics, light sensors, and auto-stabilization) and updated her Twitter feed with her experience.
Hashtag: Terror!

The End

 

If I Were In Charge


Apple had their WWDC keynote yesterday. Unlike most of the Internet, I don’t have much to cry over. Evidently, the world is split into three groups: the people who hate Apple and take dumps over anything they do, people who love Apple who take dumps over everything that they do, and the people who neither hate nor love Apple and think some of their products are pretty neat.

I’m part of the third group. I have a MacBook Pro from 2012 and I like it just fine. I have a Mac Mini and, for a while, it was my favorite purchase because it did exactly what I bought it for and never complained. I really wanted a Mac Pro because I love the design but, unfortunately, it was too much computer for anything that I would need it for and I wasn’t crazy enough to spend the copious amounts of money for something I couldn’t fully utilize.

Yesterday I noted to a friend of mine that there was nothing new on the Mini front. He told me that I should just consider it dead because it’s going nowhere. I can’t disagree, really. I mean, the last ‘refresh’ was the first time I’d seen a company downgrade a product and act proud about it.

The Mini’s main claim to fame is that (hold on for a surprise here) it’s small. A bonus feature is that it isn’t an All-In-One design so it’s cheaper than an iMac and you can buy whatever monitor you like. These days, though, there are plenty of smaller desktop computers running around and just about all of them are far more powerful than the Mini.

So, yeah, there’s not a lot of justification for keeping the Mini around if it can’t compete.

But… We know Apple is working on a new Mac Pro because the current one has a design flaw (that being it can’t, supposedly, be upgraded very much due to thermal constraints). So now they have a really nice design that will be discontinued.

But… Yesterday it was announced that there was official support for adding graphic cards via Thunderbolt.

So, what I would do, were I in charge of Apple, is take the current Mac Pro case, remove the two completely unnecessary workstation grade video cards, put in a proper medium to high-powered CPU with a just capable built-in video solution. If people want a better video card, they can now get one and add it in with a Thunderbolt enclosure.

Sell that as the new Mini. Or, since there’s a Mac Pro, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, and now, an iMac Pro, why not brand it a Mini Pro? I would also keep the memory upgradable and put the CPU in a socket. Since it’s easy to get to the internal of the Mac Pro case, it would be negligible to upgrade the memory and CPU. This would also keep the masses… let’s say ‘less unhappy’ since most people just enjoy pooping their diapers over anything, anyway.

 

Ain’t No Way But The Hard Way


Back in the old days playing games was a lot easier. A game was either ‘sucky’, ‘all right’, or ‘awesome!’. Maybe even ‘rad’. That was pretty much it. With the advent of The Internet, though, complaining about things have reached new levels. Epic levels, even. And once one person uses a particular reason to complain about it, well, then everyone else in the world jumps on that same reason. Sometimes for no reason.

Maybe someone is playing a game and it runs like crap on their machine. Right away the problem is “it’s not optimized!”. No mention is ever made of what it’s not optimized for. Is it not optimized for a particular processor? Video card? Speed? It doesn’t matter; it’s just not optimized. Even if it runs fine for other people.

Or something ‘breaks immersion.’ People play 2D overhead games will complain about ‘breaking immersion.’ I guess they’re so into the game, they somehow think they’re in the game and then something reminds them that they are not, in fact, actually in the game. This is considered bad, but I actually think it’s good; if you’re that easily lost then maybe you need some sort of anchor to bring you back. Maybe it’s just something I don’t understand because I started playing video games when this was a spaceship:

Defender2600ShipIt takes a bit of imagination, sure, but it wasn’t enough to make me believe I was in a different world flying a spaceship. Now, some of the VR stuff I can imagine having an ‘immersion’ factor but for most other things I’m, like, ‘who cares?’

 

Long Roads Never Traveled


Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to go out and do what some people might call “picture takin’.” For some folks it’s probably kind of easy; they go out with a camera and take pictures. For me, it’s a process.

I look at Google Maps for a while. Most of the time the name of a town strikes me as interesting so I do a quick search on the Texas State Historical Association website to find out a little bit about the town. Then I try and do a ‘street view’ to see if there’s anything that I find interesting.

After that, I do some calculating about what’s nearby, how far the trip will take, and other assorted things. When all that is done I say, “All right, next weekend that’s the plan!”

And then I don’t go.

As I said, I’ve been feeling the itch so the chances of me doing something increases, slightly. While I was looking at the latest idea I realized that it would be way too easy to get enormously fat by visiting all the restaurants and road-side BBQ places, but it’s also really tempting.

 

Prologueing The Evitable


Had I managed to finish the 2016 NaNoWriMo thing, this would have been the proglogue to the story. It’s a rough draft. The first draft, in fact. Probably the only draft. But I don’t have anything else to talk about at the moment so… here ya go!

Billy! The Prologue

The old hands framed the wooden bowl full of dark and still water. With a smile and a nod, the old man picked up a quill, dabbed it into the little stone bowl full of ink, and wrote down a final line on a sheet of parchment paper set off to the side of the bowl. He felt pleased, happy even, that the life he had just seen in the bowl would be a happy one. He had no idea when, or where, those events would unfold; those were not part of his gift.

No, his place was to view and document. He rolled up the parchment, tied it with a bit of tendon and then slipped it into a clay jar, which he plugged with a wooden disc. The jar he placed beside other jars in a box. His job for the day was done, then.

With difficulty, the ancient figure hobbled to the entrance of his cave and sat down on a large rock set beside the opening. He looked out in the bright sunlight to the miles of green field and forest out before him.

The old man enjoyed his divining. Certainly, some times, what he saw wasn’t very pleasant. It was hard seeing what man could do to other men. Most of the time, though, they were pleasant little encounters. Moments that show what most people can be like when they put their minds to it. Sometimes it’s just disturbing, such as the time he had experimented with different herbs to see the affects on his visions and he ended looking at the back of a head peering into a bowl, which showed a figure leaning over a bowl, and so on, until the elder thought he could see his own bald spot. He had to go lay down for a while after that one.

Perhaps, in the future, his scrolls would be found and scholars would pore over them looking for wisdom in their own lives through the lives of others. He hoped so. He thought so. He felt his gift, his work, would benefit many people.