Observations of a bewildered uncle.

Recently I was spending some quality time with my 9-year old niece and my 7-year old nephew. There we sat on the couch in the living room with my niece to my left and my nephew to my right. I watched as my niece played games on her phone before she pulled up Pandora and began playing music from contemporary artists responsible for entries on today’s music charts. While I have never heard of these artists, I began to realize that this is the music she’s growing up with.

That got me thinking of the time when I myself was 9 years old. It was close to the end of the 1970’s, a time when cellphones and Internet access didn’t exist. I would get my musical entertainment from vinyl records, cassettes and 8-tracks. Video games were still in their infancy and the coolest home video game systems you could get were the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, to name a few. The graphics they had were as good as graphics got at the time.

I didn’t have my own radio until I was in junior high school during the early 1980’s, and it was then I truly became immersed in the music scene of the day. Van Halen, Madonna, Prince, Huey Lewis and the News and Michael Jackson were some of the artists who dominated the music charts. I still prefer music from that era today and am glad there are still radio stations that play the songs I myself grew up with.

Meanwhile, sitting to my right was my nephew who was playing with my phone. He found my Firefox app and used it to visit ABCya to play some educational games. This is the same kid who knows his way around YouTube where he likes to watch videos for children. Back in my day the only YouTube we had was The Tube, but that’s another story.

Memories of my uncle.

Lately I’ve been thinking of the good times I had with my dearly departed relatives during their visits to Florida. I especially have fond memories of my late uncle who lived in Washington state and had only been to Florida twice. During one of those two visits, he spent an entire day alone with me for some serious quality time.

That day we decided to go visit Butterfly World, which required a drive on the Florida Turnpike. As we drove through one of the toll booths to pay the toll, he got curious about a sign that read “Wipers Off Please”. I had seen the sign before during my previous trips on the Turnpike but never thought much about it, but my uncle was so curious that he asked the toll booth attendant about the sign. She told us it’s so they don’t get wet from the wipers splashing water on them during rainy weather.

We arrived at Butterfly World and had a great time, but since then each time I think about that day with my uncle, I always think about him asking about that sign at the toll booth. It was a brief moment of illumination that created a very strong memory that lingers to this day.

The inner tube that exploded.

IMG_8371

This is a piece of inner tube I saved from a very traumatic childhood moment that will bring back some very painful memories from retelling the story. I was riding my bike around the neighborhood one day when I noticed my front tire going flat. Fortunately I was near a gas station with an air pump so I went there to replenish my tire’s air supply. I affixed the hose from the pump to the tire and let the pump run. And run. And run.

I didn’t have a tire gauge with me to measure the air pressure so far but judging from the bulge forming on the tire, I should have concluded I was putting in too much air. While I did notice the bulge swelling to the point to prevent the wheel from turning, it never even dawned on me to let out some air first before attempting to ride the bike. Instead, I attempted to ride the bike home the way it was, swollen tire and all.

Then it happened. The inner tube burst with a very loud bang that sounded like a bomb going off. I quickly looked around for any startled reactions from customers at the gas station but there were none. Needless to say I ended up walking my disabled bike home.

After I got home I cut out the obliterated section of the formerly puncture-proof inner tube and saved it to preserve this moment of childhood infamy. I also wrote down the date of the incident in pencil on the wall behind my bedroom door, where I’m sure it remains decades later underneath whatever paint and wallpaper may be there now.

This is yet another painful chapter from my history of troubled relations with inner tubes. There was another incident in which I believed I could actually inflate a bicycle inner tube to the size of a 4×4. Needless to say, that belief was immediately suppressed following the deafening blowup in the garage.

I cannot continue this post.

Merry Christmas.

XMAS

This is an actual ANSI screen I created in 1993 using a Leading Edge brand computer that had a 80286 processor, 640KB RAM, 16-color EGA graphics card and a 30MB hard drive running MS-DOS 3.20. I created my ANSI screens using a program called TheDraw and would upload them via 2400bps modem to some of the various bulletin board systems I frequented during those days.

I saved this and other ANSI screen files to some 5 1/4″ 360KB diskettes, where over time they were copied to 3.5″ diskettes, then to CD-ROM and finally to DVD-ROM where I still have access to the very files I created 20 years ago.

To render the ANSI screen to the PNG format presented in this post, I used PabloView, a free viewer that converts ANSI and RIP screens to more modern file formats.

All this just to wish you a Merry Christmas.

Intellivision lives.

I have very fond memories of playing video games on the early video game consoles during the early 1980’s. It seemed everyone I knew had either an Atari 2600 or an Intellivision game system. Now, through the magic of emulation, you can relive those good old days all over again.
Nostalgia is without question the best Intellivision emulator I have used. It sports a very slick graphical interface with easy access to your favorite game ROMS. It does come with some games that can be legally distributed, but none of the classics I grew up with.
In order for Nostalgia to work to its fullest potential, it needs some files that cannot be legally distributed, specifically EXEC.BIN, and GROM.BIN, downloadable from this site. Be sure to grab the IVOICE.BIN file to emulate the synthesized speech present in some of the games.
Now for some ROMS. There are plenty of web sites out there that have Intellivision ROMS but I found this one page that has 176 Intellivision ROMs zipped up into one archive. I’m not sure if that’s every Intellivision game ever made, but it does include the classics such as Snafu along with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.
Have fun!

Eulogy for the Palm Beach Mall.

The Palm Beach Mall is closing its doors for good on Sunday. Afterwards it will turn into yet another abandoned building sure to turn into yet another eyesore here in West Palm Beach.
Today I wanted to pay the empty mall one last visit, strolling around inside with my camera to take pictures of its vacant interior. When I got there, all the doors were already locked. A security officer on duty informed me that all the stores inside the mall were closed. There was no entering the mall now.
I have all kinds of memories of the Palm Beach Mall. I remember going there when I was a kid when my family went there to go shopping. It was once a busy, busy place with a wide assortment of stores, such as Jordan Marsh, Spec’s, Spencer Gifts, The Barefoot Mailman, even a pet store. It also had Waldenbooks, Babbage’s, Waldensoft, Woolworth’s and a movie theater.
Later when I became old enough to work, I was employed at the Sears store there, working as a package pickup clerk where I took merchandise out to customers’ cars. During my lunch breaks, I would stroll around the mall, visiting the arcade to play video games and go browsing at the many stores that were open. There was enough browsing to fill a whole day.
In its later years, the Palm Beach Mall began its decline. Many of my favorite stores went out of business, turning the mall into a ghost town. And now, nothing is open except for just two stores, JCPenney and George’s Music. I can’t imagine what it’s like to work at those stores, knowing they’re attached to an empty mall that will never again be the lively place it once was. I don’t know how much longer those two stores are going to remain open but for now they are still in business. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to the empty mall. Hopefully it will be better than what’s there now.
Goodbye, Palm Beach Mall. You will be missed.
If you haven’t seen it already, check out my earlier post about the Palm Beach Mall, in which I include some photos I took inside the dying mall.