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Benj has never stopped blogging at Vintage Computing and Gaming, which celebrates its tenth anniversary today. He got an Atari 800 in 1981, which is the year I was born, but he bought it for my brother who is five years older than me. As time went on, as far as video games are concerned, we got a Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, I think. On the computer side of things, when I turned nine or so, my dad wanted me to start learning BASIC, like my brother had done, as an introduction to computers.
My father and I made it a yearly tradition to attend an event called RARSfest (we called it "the hamfest") which was local amateur radio gathering every year in Raleigh. Of course, if you're programming BASIC on an Apple II Plus in 1990, you start to wonder why everyone else is not still using an Apple II.
I thought I'd start saving and purposely collecting old computers during the PC-everywhere era. In addition, as a kid, my dad collected old cameras, so I wanted to start a collection that was uniquely mine. HM: You're part of the first generation of people born during the PC era, so it was already history when your interest in old machines started. BE: In retrospect, it's funny, because when I first started collecting computers in the early-mid 1990s, anything IBM compatible was really boring and repulsive to me in collectible terms. BE: It was that sort of homogeneity in the "beige box" era that inspired me to look to the past and try to preserve its diversity.
Another important early source came from donations of computers and game systems from family friends and relatives. I also found a lot of stuff at local flea markets in the early 1990s, and around 1999-2000, I regularly visited every thrift store in my city and bought every old computer I could find. For video games, I kept an eye on the clearance aisles of local K-Marts, Wal-Marts, Targets, and Toys 'R' Us, where I bought a lot of games and accessories for very cheap in completely new condition. Thrift stores also mostly dried up around here in 2001 when they stopped accepting computers as donations, since obsolete machines are mostly worthless for resale.
HM: How about software, games, accessories, magazines, manuals, and other items like that? I have many thousands of disks, maybe a one or two thousand game cartridges — I have never counted.
As far as magazines go, I first started collecting them when I was a kid because I never threw any of the ones away that I got in the mail.
In 2006, when I started doing Retro Scan of the Week, I made an effort to start buying up big collections of old computer magazines — like Byte Magazine, PC Mag, Compute, Macworld, and Popular Computing. HM: One of the cool things about being interested in this stuff today is you can get emulators and old software on the web. These days, most game console emulators for systems released prior to, say, the Nintendo 64 are fairly accurate. Emulators have slowed my collecting somewhat, but the authentic experience is still important. HM: Speaking of articles, let's talk a little bit about how you went from being a collector to writing about this stuff. BE: When I started my first website in 1995, I was already a vintage computer and video game enthusiast.
At the time, I had only a couple of old computer buyer's guides from the 1980s that had listings in them, so the web started to fill in a lot of those gaps that went beyond my personal experience. As far as writing goes, a long period of time elapsed between my personal website in the '90s, which I didn't update much, and when I started Vintage Computing and Gaming in 2005. In mid-2000, I had an idea to make a website where visitors to the site would send n suggestions for song titles, and I would write a song based on those titles, then record it and put it online. Things got off to a fun start, but by 2005, I realized that Request-A-Song wasn't becoming any more popular, and it definitely wasn't going to make any money.
BE: In that retrogaming section on Joystiq, I read about a new NES clone called the Generation NEX from a company called Messiah that was going to come out in late 2005. Meanwhile, the NEX was getting a lot of pre-emptive glowing press, with writers on IGN, Kotaku, and Joystiq talking about how awesome it was, and they had obviously never actually used it. I submitted a link to my review as a tip to Kotaku, Joystiq, and several other blogs, and they all ran it.


I thought everyone's me-too behavior was absolutely crazy at the time, because I had just written that thing and put it up there.
My blog got lots of traffic, of course — more traffic in one day than I received in a whole month at Request-A-Song. After that, I wrote as many posts as I could manage, and gathered a following with a lot of people commenting. HM: I noticed that your early posts were written under the name "RedWolf." Can you talk a little bit about what that means? Around that time I got a bunch of old comic books from my uncle, and some of them were "Red Wolf" comics by Marvel. I went by Red Wolf online on my BBS and then on MUSHes (where I dropped the space in the name) and other online worlds throughout the '90s. HM: Would you have been surprised back then to learn that you'd still be doing this ten years later?
I didn't know how long that would last, what I would be doing in life, or if I'd get tired of it. Earlier, I had just barely studied political science in college, and I didn't complete my degree.
Once the blog started taking off, I thought, "Maybe I could do this for a living," and I began to look into freelance writing. In 2006, when I was looking for old magazines and source material, I found a guy named Tom Halfhill who used to work as a senior editor at Byte Magazine, and I emailed him. The Vintage Computer Festival was coming up that year in October at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
If you'll remember, my keyboard piece originally wasn't a slideshow, but you turned it into one, and that became one of my specialties. After you gave me that assignment on PC World, I got an assignment on Macworld, then I got an assignment on Wired, and so on. HM: Regarding that keyboard article, I remember sitting around the office with a colleague who told me confidently that there was no way anybody would care about crummy old PC keyboards, and I thought there was a chance that people might care.
Ever since then, I continue to be impressed by your ability to come up with ideas which nobody has ever done in history of journalism, which turned out to be insanely popular.
I found a niche in video game and computer history, and it was an easy niche to fill because there wasn't any competition when I started. HM: With your stories, a lot of time they turn out to be regarded as news, even if you're writing about something that's thirty or forty years old. Can you talk a little bit about how you find these people and your experiences in talking to them about their work? I think I realized I could do that when I was doing my Lunar Lander piece for Technologizer. I had done interviews before with people like Ralph Baer and Steve Moore that were just set up to be stand-alone interviews, not necessarily for a certain story. I find that these people who aren't quite as famous are often very eager to talk to somebody about what they've done, because they put a big chunk of their life into their work and they thought nobody was ever going to appreciate it again.
HM: Speaking of Ralph Baer, the great thing about doing what you're doing is that an awful lot of these people are still alive, but some of them are no longer with us.
HM: You mentioned Lunar Lander, which is one of the stories which goes back quite a few years before you were born. I just have to find some kind of hook that makes people interested in it, as far as older is concerned. I bought an iMac G4 in 2002 when it came out, and it was just the newest, coolest, most cutting-edge thing. Also, the Atari 800 is probably my favorite subject, because it's still my favorite platform.
HM: Getting back to your blog, I would be remiss if I did not ask you about your longtime correspondent Ulaf Silchov.
I thought I'd tie those three "the video games" books together into a humor piece with a fictional author that didn't speak English very well, but he treated the titles seriously as if that was how you always referred to them — also, he talks as if you put "the" in front of just about everything, including video games. I have a couple of hardcore readers that love everything Ulaf, so I still bring him out every once and a while as an inside joke.
I don't want to make fun of anybody or say that eastern European people are stupid — in fact, Ulaf is really a genius, he just doesn't speak English very well. BE: It's a 1998 photo of a longtime, close family friend named Otto that I digitally disfigured on the computer, and I placed it on a different background.


At times I have been afraid that, as scanning became more prevalent online, there wouldn't be a need or a place for my column anymore. For the past five to eight years, there's been a big effort to digitize and scan every page of every magazine and upload them.
I find that Retro Scan has remained relevant because it has served as an excuse to talk about my personal experiences with these particular things that I've scanned. Also the comments are priceless, because other people comment on them and share their stories. When I read blogs for years, I just went directly to the URL in a browser and looked at it, and I don't think people do that any more. HM: Are all the Retro Scans really your scans rather than things you found on the Internet? I don't know how authentic that is from an archivist standpoint, but it has made the scans more accessible and attractive to modern audiences, and I have always saved my unretouched original scans.
Retro Scan of the Week is going to be ten years old in March 2016, so I will have been putting up a new scan every Monday for ten years. HM: Not to end on a morbid note, but do you ever think about the fact you have this important collection and that people might care about it even if you're not around anymore? BE: Yeah, I've thought about it over the past five to ten years or so, because my collection got really big. I had a very deep one car garage at my old house that was filled pretty much floor to ceiling with stuff, and you could walk maybe in the middle. I'm pretty sure the Computer History Museum has everything I have in better quality, for example.
If I keep my collection for another twenty years, I think at some point a local organization is going to look back and say, "Hey, this is important heritage.
HM: I'm quite confident they're going to care in a hundred years from now, two hundred years from now and beyond. BE: I think my best contribution to history will not be my collection of physical items, but my interviews and stories. When I began writing those history stories years ago, and talking to people that absolutely nobody knew about, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking, "Oh my God, if I hadn't talked to these people no one would ever know these things. Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company and the creator of Technologizer. So by your site's guiding 10-year definition of vintage, you can start reporting on your own blog posts as vintage internet memorabilia now, right? VC&G is a blog about computer, video game, and technology history founded in 2005 and run by Benj Edwards. All Written Content and Original Photos Copyright © 2005-2016 Hollow Earth Productions. Since then, Benj and I have continued our writer-editor relationship: first at Technologizer, and today at Fast Company, where I'm an editor and he's a frequent contributor, writing deeply-reported pieces about fascinating topics which everyone else has forgotten about. The depth of the content here is amazing, it's easy to see that this is a labor of love for you. Should I still keep doing this?" I received around fifty comments on that post in a few days, so I thought, "Wow, I guess people do still read it." That was an eye-opening experience.
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