Digi-Comp I - Manual and computer

1963’s Digi-Comp I Was The First Home Computer!

Yesterday I had a bit of time off from the Vault. I had intended to go check out Incredibles 2 but the showings were sold out. So instead I settled on visiting my local Barnes and Noble and picked up a new book. Entitled A History of Video Games in 64 Objects it does what it says on the tin. Which is how of course I was introduced to the Digi-Comp I for the first time. While I will indeed write a review of the book at a later date. I was certainly captivated by 1963’s Digi-Comp I to say the very least.
Digi-Comp I - Mechanical Digital Computer

In a nutshell, the Digi-Comp I is functioning digital computer. Albeit one that is completely made out of plastic and is dependent on a human hand to ‘clock’ it’s processing. While back in ’63 E.S.R. Inc. was focusing on the education aspect of it all. The truth is they ended up delivering the first home computer. All thanks to some plastic flip-flops operated by hand.

[Via] Perkiert

While still basically a toy, the addition of teaching a child how to program this mechanical digital computer, is pretty amazing. In addition as the book points out, it did certainly teach kids to think in binary terms. As well as the aspects of Boolean logic. Which is why, right on the box you had:
“Now for the first time see and understand the operations hidden in the circuits of a giant computer and learn the language of the computers.”

Keep in mind of course that the Apollo 11 wouldn’t launch from Earth for another 6 years. So surely the Digi-Comp I was a pretty magical sounding toy. Furthermore it explains why some of the game programs were so NASA themed. You had a program that allowed you to pretend to launch a rocket from Cape Canaveral. There was one to calculate a satellite re-entry. Or as described in this comic book ad. You could also double check your parent’s bank balance!

Digi-Com I - Electronic Computer Brain ad - DOuG pRATt

Image courtesy of DOuG pRATt.

Not too shabby for a device that is controlled by wires and plastic flip-flops. In addition to blocking some of the calculations by way of cylindrical pegs. It was popular enough that it spawned a second version appropriately named the Digi-Comp II. However this 1965 version used rolling marbles to perform it’s calculations.
Digi-Comp II - Box

Now the Digi-Comp I was amazing and something I need to obtain for myself. On the other hand how can it stack up to a GIANT Digi-Comp II?!

[Via] Evil Mad Scientist

Apollo - Book Cover - Self Made Hero

Self Made Hero Releases Apollo Graphic Novel

When it comes to history there are a few time periods I wish I could visit. To see historical moments or if we daydreaming, to be part of them. Well, I certainly refer to the brighter moments in history. Case in point the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969. A moment when the country, the World held it’s breath. As Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin left the Earth behind to travel to the moon. Furthermore Apollo 11 allowed Armstrong and Aldrin to stride across its surface. Sadly I cannot visit such a moment in time myself. So instead I can enjoy the new graphic novel Apollo.

Beginning tomorrow you can pick up Apollo for yourself. Written by Matt Fitch and Chris Baker. Illustrated by Mike Collins of Transformers, Slaine, and Spider-Man to name a few. The graphic novel gives us an emotional look at the three astronauts that made history nearly 49 years ago.
Apollo - Lift Off - Self Made Hero

While I certainly didn’t think the book was going to be filled with a dry retelling of the events. I have to say I wasn’t quite ready for how moving it was. Obviously the point of Apollo is to give us some insight of what it was like for the astronauts. Pressure, the fear, the pride of being part of the first moon landing. At the same time giving us a glimpse at their varied backgrounds. Those moments that helped make them capable of changing the World.
Apollo - Abort

Apollo also shares how Family members, President Nixon, as well as soldiers in Vietnam felt about the event. Although having said that the main gist of the story resides with Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong. These were brave men but still men, doubts and fears were just as important as their professionalism and drive to do the impossible.
Apollo - Armstrong - Aldrin - Collins

I will admit that I might be an easy mark for this type of graphic novel. With my love for space exploration and NASA. I was one of those watching when the Falcon Heavy was launched. Not in person sadly, but online with Earl Green – both of us cheering through our messengers.

[Via] The Telegraph

So if you too are a fan of space exploration and it’s important history. Pick up Apollo when it is released on Tuesday. For more information make sure to visit Self Made Hero. Or to pre-order your copy you can visit ABRAMS official site.

I would add that the graphic novel is intended for mature audiences. The language used throughout might be better suited for older teens and adults.

Now you know about the new Apollo graphic novel. Why not watch the historic moon walk by Neil Armstrong?

[Via] Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Frank Buck - Bring 'Em Back Alive

1982’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive’s Frank Buck Was A Real Guy?!

Friends, you might remember a couple of days ago when I shared those Ben Cooper outfits. One of those costumes was for Frank Buck of 1982’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive. The short lived television series that aired on CBS. Obviously it attempted to capture that feeling of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally I’m talking about the pulp feel to it all. What I didn’t know however is that the 1982 show was based on an 1930 book entitled Bring ‘Em Back Alive. Nor that the Frank Buck that Bruce Boxleitner played was based on a real life adventurer!
Frank Buck - Bring 'Em Back Alive - TV Guide

You could have knocked me over with a single feather when I found that out. Frank Buck was in fact a celebrated animal collector. As well as an author, actor, director, and film producer. Beyond his popular book Bring ‘Em Back Alive he would go on to co-write seven more books from 1932 until 1945. Not to mention starring in eight motion pictures as well as serials. To say nothing of having an RKO old time radio show dramatizing his exploits!

[Via] Dennis Morrison

It appears that Frank Buck did safely capture a variety of animals, to bring them back and sell them to zoos and circuses. Frank was actually invested in the animals well being and briefly,VERY briefly was the Director of the San Diego Zoo. Buck and the head of the board of Directors did not get along. While Frank apparently was very excited about the prospect, he was sacked three months after he took the job in 1923. If you want to get into some disturbing details you can check out this link to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Obviously that was in the 1920’s, his best selling book didn’t even come out until 1930. Not even the Wall Street Crash of 1929 could halt Buck. He was certainly affected by it but thanks to a loan of $6,000 he was off around the world once again. Collecting animals and more importantly bringing them back alive. Heck, he went on lectures and tours and even appeared with Abbott and Costello. Three years after the adventurers passing, Classics Illustrated started publishing comic books based on his 1930 book!
Frank Buck - Bring 'Em Back Alive Book cover

Remember I said that Frank Buck appeared in serials? How would you like to watch one right now?


Of course remember Jungle Menace was originally released in 1937…so prepare for some unfortunate stereotypes.

[Via] Sewla Resa

Ted Dabney - Pong - Nolan Bushnell - Al Alcorn

Rest In Peace: Ted Dabney (1937 – 2018)

Devastated. That is probably the first word that comes to mind on the passing of Ted Dabney. The co-creator of Pong as well as Atari passed away yesterday. On the fan picked Atari Day at that is certainly an even greater blow. With Ted Dabney’s passing we have truly lost a giant in the history of video games.

First of all I want to give thanks to Video Game historian Cat DeSpira for the heads up on this sad news. Yesterday she published the passing on both Facebook as well as on Twitter:

“Ted Dabney, co founder of Syzygy & Atari has died. His vision gave my generation more than people can comprehend unless they lived in the days when Atari was born & remember when the world was changed forever by the electronic dreams that company gave us. #Atari #TedDabney

Samuel F. “Ted” Dabney was born in San Francisco, California. After spending three years in Marine Corps, the young man found his calling in electronics. While his original aim was to attend San Francisco State, he did not have the finances. So instead he ended up working at Bank of America, making sure a prototype traveler’s check scanner remained in operation. A year after that he found himself at Hewlett-Packard. That lasted a mere three weeks before he was hired away by Ampex where he would work on the Ampex Video File.

[Via] IEEE Silicon Valley History Videos

While at Ampex he would also gained a new co-worker, Nolan Bushnell. In the extremely interesting Oral History with Dabney by the Computer History Museum from 2012. The engineer had this to say:

” He always had stuff on his desk. That’s all I know. I don’t know what he did. I never even asked him…I wasn’t worried about anybody else’s work, but I had no idea what he did. I think he studied stuff…But we were close. We wound up being close friends. He was a game player, chess player. He liked chess and so he got me to play chess with him, but he had also started going over to this game “Go” but he needed somebody to play with so he decided I ought to learn the game of “Go” so we could play together, which we did and we played pretty good, that complicated game.”

Around this time Bushnell started sharing his idea for a pizza parlor, a “carnival-type pizza parlor”. That changed though briefly when the duo saw a computer game in action at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. One that would lead to the creation of both Syzgy and Computer Space!

Ted Dabney - Computer Space - Arkadia Retrocade

This is the Computer Space arcade cabinet at the Arkadia Retrocade.

In 1971, Computer Space marked the first video arcade game. It also was built for Nutting Associates. Dabney and Bushnell cut ties with the company, making contact with Bally to produce both a video game and pinball table. Of course they also dropped the Syzgy title and became a little company called Atari. In that oral history, Ted mentions that Nolan was thinking of a game where you were driving. That is how Al Alcorn was hired. Al didn’t create that driving game however…he helped create an video game empire and legacy with Pong.

[Via] Rich Bartlebaugh

Shortly after that hit, Ted Dabney found himself being pushed out of the company he helped co-found. He ended up selling his portion of the shares of Atari to Bushnell for $250,000. Although it appears that the two men were able to remain on a friendly basis. With Dabney helping out with elements of Bushell’s Pizza Time Theater. Before gaining employment at Raytheon, Fujitsu, and Teledyne. Then opening up a successful grocery store with his Wife in the Sierras.

Friends, while I was never fortunate to meet Ted Dabney. He most certainly helped to create something I dearly cherish.


Thanks to his efforts along with Bushnell as well as Alcorn. I am lucky enough to work in an operating arcade today. His place in history and what he helped start… it affected not only my life but his work continues to impress and inspire kids today. I think however this quote from that oral history sums up Dabney the best:

I said, “No, no, no, no; I’d rather be your friend than your partner.”

[Via] Video Game Journalism