My Computing Journey – Part 2 – Franklin PC-8000

Welcome to part 2 of my history with computers.

Let’s start getting to a much more robust part of my computer using history. The Commodore 64 certainly was the seed, but this machine was what really catapulted my interest. It’s the first “Real PC” I used growing up. Technically, like the Commodore and the next chapter, this computer belonged to my parents, but my friends and I used it a lot for quite a few things, beyond just gaming.

Though we did use it for gaming.

Gaming

Visually, it was actually kind of a downgrade from the Commodore. The C64 connected to a small color TV (which would eventually be my bedroom TV, with a big chunky couple of knobs on the front.) The Franklin has a monitor, with two colors, black and green. It had two whole 5.25″ drives in it, no 3.5″ disk drives and certainly not a hard drive. It did have a cool dot matrix printer though, which I’ll touch on a bit more in a bit.

It’s worth sidetracking a bit during this time period, and worth mentioning my out of state but fairly frequently visited grandpa had a Tandy 1000 machine, with a color monitor, and that was totally amazing. It pretty much overlaps with this same era of my home PC use and my grandpa was the source of essentially all programs and games I had at home. I have no idea where he got them, but I made copies of most everything he had and his disks were all copied from somewhere. Mostly I remember playing two titles on my grandpa’s PC, along with my brother and cousins. King’s Quest 1, which we never could figure out, but it was fun. And Leisure Suit Larry 1.

Now, Leisure Suit Larry, for the uninformed, is an old, “adult” game series. We did not know this, and we never did reach any of the old content, because like King’s Quest, we make some progress, and the game was funny, but we never did get past a certain point. Specifically, we never did figure out the door password (it’s Ken Sent Me), so we never could progress the plot beyond drinking at the bar, gambling at the casino and buying booze and “lubbers” at the convenience store. The age gate on this game was that it would ask a series of questions that “only adults would know”. So my cousin and I would load the game, then go to the kitchen where out parents were hanging out, and ask them the questions, to get the answers.

Anyway, I don’t believe either of these games worked on the Franklin PC we had at home, because it wasn’t EVGA.

There were others, but the two most notable games we played at home were The Ancient Art of War and Simcity. One was an early sort of RTS game, the other was well, Simcity. Both are notable here because they had user created content. Simcity is all about user created cities. Even with the limits of the game, I remember building out mirrored cities sometimes, then using the disasters to pretend they were at war. Simcity also had some DRM, because you had to enter the population of a city from a sheet of paper based on some hieroglyphs. My friend actually owned the game, so I would just, call him up and get the numbers, I also had a selection of them written down in a notebook, and would just close and reload the game until the random city was one I had marked down.

I also would use that sweet printer to print maps, because it was a feature of the first Simcity. You could print out your city, and it would spit out I think 16 sheets of paper that you could tape together in a 4×4 block of paper sheets and have a huge cool map poster. I may have one buried somewhere too. I would then color in all the zones with the correct colors with marker to make it look cool. You might wonder how I knew what the colors were, well, my grandpa had that TANDY 1000 and my friend had a color PC, so I was aware the game had colors, I just, didn’t get them.

Ancient Art of War let you make custom maps and missions. Which was so awesome and I spent a lot of time making maps. Assuming the data hasn’t been corrupter, I have copies of those maps somewhere, maybe I’ll post them. There were several other games I played a lot that also had user generated content. There was a golf game where you could make courses with dinosaurs and play as Jack Nicklaus. And me back then, had no idea what the Joker Guy (Jack Nicholson) had to do with golf but ok whatever. There was a baseball game called Earl Weaver Baseball where you could do custom teams, and I would make teams themed around video games, like a River City Ransom team, and a Mega Man team where every player had maxed out stats (because robots are perfect).

I think my point is, that this was part of the birth of my interest in digital creation. But not just for games.

Programming

During this time period, my dad was going to college through his job, and getting a degree in Computer Science. I have no idea what a Computer Science degree in the 80s involved, but I remember going to the graduation (vaguely). Or at least him graduating. At some point though, presumably because he was learning it as part of the curriculum, he taught me a bit of BASIC computer programming.

I would have been like, 8 or 9 at this point. I showed my friends how to do it as well, and we would make silly little useless programs that would print out funny patterns scrolling on the screen. Or “super secure password” systems, along the lines of:

10 IF password="SECRETPASSWORD" THEN
30   PRINT "SECRET DATA"
50 ELSE
70   PRINT "NO WAY LOSER"
90 END IF

I have no idea if that’s actually valid BASIC code, I pulled up a guide to IF/Else in BASIC and cobbled it together.

The point is, it was fun. And it was my first experience with actual programming.

Newsletters

Then there are the newsletters my friends and I would produce using a program called Newsmaster. I have this vague idea that this was the “start” of my writing desire and the newsletters we made, were the precursor to The Chaos Xone, my first website which evolved into Lameazoid.com. These were simple 1 page video game themed “newsletters”. You can actually read these here (Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4, if you want, translated into HTML. They are, as basic as you would expect for something produced by 10-12 year old kids.

But that was yet another growing seed of interest. So much started with this machine, a real actual PC with actual useful programs. This doesn’t even touch on the part where it was an 80s IBM PC, which meant booting to DOS, on a floppy, because there isn’t any hard drive in it at all. There was no Windows, it was all a CLI interface. Yet another skill and seed learned from this machine.

Weekly Wrap-Up (08.06.2023 to 08.12.2023)

Weekly Wrap-Up (07.30.2023 to 08.05.2023)

Another week, another weekly wrap-up. This is technically the trickiest post I’m doing right now, since it’s the only thing I can’t really pre-write up. If I were not trying to do 31 days of posts for Blaugust it wouldn’t matter, I’d just, skip it sometimes probably.

Not a lot new or exciting anyway. I had some craziness at work but I don’t blog about work.

Probably the most exciting thing this week was Guardians of the Galaxy 3 coming to Disney+, so I finally got to watch that. It’s not exactly glowing praise, but at the very least, I didn’t come off it thinking it was very “meh” like all of the newer MCU projects. Like Secret Invasion, which I think I finished last week. Secret Invasion was, ok, but not super impressive. A few things on GotG3, I kind of wish they had toned down some of the end a bit. Mild spoilers, as generic as possible but it felt like they needed to save that “large group of people”, entirely because for some reason every Marvel climax has to have huge stakes where the heroes have to save large groups of people. Like, maybe they could have just, gone there, and faced off with the bad guys and had a little fight, without all the extra.

The Activity Log

This part is partially just for my future reference, and it maybe deserves its own name. So we’ll call it the Activity Log.

No new toy stuff this week, not directly toys, I did buy another set of acrylic riser shelves from a daily deal off Amazon. I kind of needed one more set and now I’m pretty good for little shelves for a while. Being able to lift some of the stuff in the back side of a deeper shelf really helps with the aesthetics of a display.

I did pick up a bundle of games on Humble Bundle Because Baldur’s Gate III is the recently released hotness, Humble Bundle has a bundle (affiliate link) of older titles, including Baldur’s Gate I and II, Planescape Torment, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights. I think I may have a couple fo these on CDs somewhere but I don’t seem to have them on any modern platforms, and the bundle was cheap (a lot of HBs have become overpriced) so I figured why not.

Another one that is probably worth tracking a bit, if only for my own sanity, is books. Because I often will impulse buy books that seem interesting from Kindle Daily Deals (and elsewhere). This week’s books:

  • The Elderon Chronicles (Books 1-3): A Space Colonization Science Fiction Collection by Tarah Benner – I usually steer clear of these “bundles of Sci-Fi Books” but this one seemed appealing so I figured why not.
  • Bilbo’s Last Song by J.R.R. Tolkien – I have most of Tokien’s works already, and I didn’t have this one.
  • This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture by Whitney Phillips – I have a bad habit of picking up randomly are these sorts of, “cultural exploration with witty titles” books.
  • Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark (Tales of Book 5) – I have a variety of these folktale books from different cultures because one of my many interests, in general, is various world cultures and history.

Lastly, there’s Music. I didn’t listen to anything new really, just a lot of stuff I already listen to. A little Nirvana, a little Orla Garland, a little Alanis Morrisette, a little Sigrid. Not trying anything out of the ordinary this week. It’s just been kind of a boring week overall I suppose.

Next Door is Something Else

Social Networking is so bizarre on all the little niches that get built up. I’ve been involved in so many social networks over the years in some way, It’s interesting to watch them rise and fall and evolve, sometimes incredibly frustrating. sometimes too. I could definitely do without the TikTokification of LITERALLY EVERY social website. From LiveJournal to Myspace to Facebook. We all hop along chasing easy connections.

What bugs me is just how much they all try to be the same. The real obvious one I already mentioned, is that little row of circles at the top of the screen that leads to an endless path of random 15-second video clips. There is also the incredibly annoying “algorithmic feed” that everyone has. People have given up complaining about it these days, but I heard lots of “normal people” complaining about that one. Everything used to just be “everyone you actually follow, in revere chronological order”. You could scroll down to the last thing you saw, and know you were done.

Anyway, it seems weird to have all these social networks, but when they all stay more in their lane, they all serve good, different purposes. Part of it is about mindset. If I want to see photos, I used to go to Flickr, then I started going to Instagram. Now there isn’t really anywhere because Instagram is all TikTok videos. Threads is kind of more photos, but frankly, I am already tired of and done with Threads. I don’t need another Twitter replacement, I have Mastodon. Mastodon serves its purpose well, follow interesting nerdy types and make slightly shiposty posts.

I still keep up with Facebook, sort of. I’ve mostly used Facebook to follow family members, but in the last few years I’ve started branching out a bit into groups. I don’t really post much there at all though. I had ideas of posting more on Facebook via pages, but nobody ever gets shown pages unless the admin pays for placement as far as I can tell.

I used to be a pretty regular Reddit user but the API change killed access from 3rd party apps and the default interface is shit so I just, stopped visiting and posting completely. I’m actually surprised how easy it was. I use a lot of Discord, but that has a whole host of issues of its own, like how homogenous every server is and how notifications are impossible to use ever.

There are also more niche sort of social websites, and forums on specific topics, like the old days before Facebook. I don’t use them much but there are also tracking websites like Letterboxd, Last.fm, Goodreads, etc that all have their own little communities.

One that feels like it doesn’t come up in conversation much is Next Door. I didn’t even know this was a thing until I moved and got a random postcard. It’s essentially Facebook, but geographically focused. You are, by default, part of a “neighborhood”, but almost every post goes to “nearby neighbors” which as far as I can tell, encompasses my entire city. I actually do find it pretty useful, to point, but I also never every just browse it, I just, occasionally check notifications that come to my email.

Mostly because the actual interface is absolutely terrible. It’s like, an ad, every other post, maybe even more frequently. Also, the email notifications, tend to be useful posts, like, information from the City Offices, The posts you “miss”, are very low quality. At least in my area. They fall into a weird mix of categories.

  • I found someone’s dog/cat, with a photo.
  • Someone broke into my/a car.
  • Someone “suspicious” was walking through the neighborhood.
  • Someone posting a reply to another post as a main post, for some reason, how do you even fucking do that????
  • People advertising local services, usually handyman services or main services or transport services.

The really interesting ones are the “suspicious person” posts. They almost always have some night vision camera footage attached. I am convinced these are in fact, stealth advertisements. I became even more convinced because I looked up the address for one on Google Maps street view, and roamed up and down the street, for like an hour, and could not find any of the houses in the background of the video. It was a short street too, like two blocks long. \

The “broke into my car” is more often “I left my car unlocked.” Which is tragic but sorry, lock your car. The service advertisement ones always feel a bit shady because you know these people probably only take cash and aren’t running things as any sort of business.

Then there is that “Replies as posts.” A lot of Next Door really feels like “Old People Facebook” on steroids. Maybe it’s more just “Localized Facebook.” I will admit, I tried to follow a bunch of local news and pages once, and the comment sections were a complete cesspool of idiocy and arguments. Next Door is almost as bad, but not quite, because it’s used less, and the app seems to algorithmically dump posts that start to turn into shitty comment blackholes. I imagine people “follow up” less on Next Door as well.

There are still plenty of crazy nutballs, like this guy here, screeching about people being “woke”. I should add for context, this reply, was mad at the OP of a post concerned about traffic safety in an area where they are doing construction. It was a post that could have been made by anyone, regardless of political alignment, expressing actual, legitimate concerns.

Apparently, traffic safety is “woke” now? Hell if I know.

The real thing that this all confirms to me is, I don’t really care to know these random local neighbor folks at least 50% of the time. It’s much easier to make friends on other Social Media where there is a lot more ability to filter for interests and personality.

Blaugust 2023 – Introduction Week

There isn’t a hard schedule or any real requirements for Blaugust, it’s literally just an excuse that people can use to write blog posts. The timing feels really great though considering social media seems to be starting to collapse on itself and maybe people are more primed for “personal blogging”. Week two is “introduction week”. Since the month started last week on Tuesday and my post then pretty much met the “Welcome to Blaugust” theme, I figure today I could go ahead and keep up with that with an introduction post.

I’ve written plenty of introductions in the past, and a lot of this all may already be covered on my About Page, if it’s up to date. I tend to get a bit rambling on these sorts of things so I’ll do my best to keep it down, it just feels like there is a lot to cover and a lot of it could easily be it’s own blog post or blog post series.

I am, Josh Miller, aka Ramen Junkie. I like to push the “fun fact” that I have been “Ramen Junkie” for more of my life than I have not been Ramen Junkie. People often shorten it to simply “Ramen”. I’ve been called “Ramen” in real life by real people in person. I originally started using the name online back in the late 90s on Usenet, most often in alt.games.final-fantasy or alt.toys.transformers, but elsewhere on Usenet as well, I was really big on Usenet back in the day. I am also the duly elected “Supreme Dictator for Life” of alt.games.final-fantasy.

I have run into a few other Ramen Junkies, though the only two notable ones are on Something Awful’s forums, that isn’t me. And more notable, is Ivan Orkin, who runs several actual Ramen shops and is RamenJunkie on Instagram, and I think X-box. I say X-box because when I tried to reset the password, the domain attached was clearly “ramenjunkie.com” and dude has that domain. If I ever get out to New York, i hope to go to his place there and maybe meet him. Just for fun.

I was going to move on, but I wanted to also add that the name has several sorts of origins, like a Marvel hero. One, Ramen is “cheap hacker food”, so being a ramen junkie seemed cool at the time. I also do like Ramen, and regularly make ramen for meals, both instant (of a wide variety, I like trying new ones) and more homemade with custom broth and noodles and ingredients. The other (true) origin was that I wanted to make a slightly more “trollish” name on Usenet, at the time I had been posting as Lord Chaos, and part of why I picked “Ramen” was because many people who were not Japanese would post using Japanese names from anime. Ramen was an intentionally shitty take on people with usernames like “Shinji” and “Tenchi” and “Usagi”.

Anyway, it’s just sort of stuck.

So now, moving on, the blog itself. I’ve always enjoyed just, writing. My first real website was on Geocities, and though it didn’t have a proper “blog engine”, it has a “blog format” made with manually coded and edited HTML pages. For a while I was using SHTML, which had a mechanism to embed a header and footer page so things could be universal across the site. That first site was The Chaos Xone (The X is for Xtreem!), because in the 90s, Xs were cool. Unlike some folks, I eventually moved on from the cool X. For while I had a second, fairly popular website called “The Geocities Pokemon Center” with all you needed to know about Pokemon Red and Blue.

From Geocities I went to Livejournal, and the name “Lameazoid“, a name chosen because it sounded a bit like “Freakazoid” but also had a sort of retro and self-depreciating undertone to it. For a while I also had a site hosted on my college’s computer hosting, because they provided web space to students, this was sort of the start of a split between having a personal blog and a fun blog. Eventually I landed on WordPress.com, and later with self hosting WordPress on a server of my own with its own domain name, at Lameazoid.com.

Lameazoid kind of stalled out for me, partially because I kept trying to make it more structured. I wanted someplace to put “personal blogs” that didn’t quite fit the “theme” of Lameazoid. At one point I had all my blogging there, but basically, I wanted a personal blog again, where nothing mattered and I could just, post what I wanted. That ended up becoming this blog, [Blogging Intensifies], which has stuck pretty well. It’s a play on the meme [XXXXX Intensifies], which is why it gets stylized with the brackets. I sometimes abbreviate it as [BI]

I’ve always had side blogs, and I have a bad habit of starting up new blogs and then just, folding the content elsewhere and deleting the blog. Sometimes I used WordPress, and sometimes I would try Blogger. Here is a list, of what I can remember, with the name, general content, and where the posts ended up, if anywhere.

  • Livejournal – General posting, Games, Reviews, etc – Ended up all over, though mostly archived due to low quality
  • Snapshot of the Mind – Personal blog on WordPress – Archived or maybe on [BI]
  • Pen to Paper – A writing-focused blog on WordPress – Archived mostly.
  • My BLARG – Shitposting blog on WordPress – Archived
  • OSAF (Opinion Stated as Fact) – A political commentary blog – Most of this has been archived because those opinions were shitty

I know there are more. I probably have a list somewhere.

I suppose more important for an introduction post, is interests. It would almost be easier to list what I am NOT interested in (sportsball) than what I am interested in. Lameazoid has always primarily been about my interest in video games and toys, with a side of comics and movies sprinkled in. My main hobbies are playing video games, of all sorts, and collecting toys, of all sorts. I also like to just create, in general, which is where a lot of the other content comes from, and these days, gets thrown here, on [BI]. Mostly these days I create code, but I also used to write a few stories and draw some, and I actually kind of want to get back to that at some point. I imagine I’m a bit rusty these days, it’s been probably 20 years since I did any of that seriously. I like taking photos and like to think I am ok-ish at it.

I also have always enjoyed music, though more recently, I’ve actually been more openly EXPLORING music, which is why currently this blog gets a fair amount of music-related content. Because it’s one of my current passion interests.

I also enjoy learning and trying new things. I learn to code (constantly). I learn languages (Spanish and Norwegian currently). I am trying to learn the Piano (and absolutely 1000% failing at actually trying). I want to get back into drawing and learn to get better at it. This is all content that sometimes I will talk about here, mostly, as i mentioned, it’s a place where there are no stakes and I can just write about whatever.

It occurs to me that I have written an awful lot about myself, but not a lot about ME. I actually don’t often but for the sake of completionism. I’m (as of this post) 43 years old. I live in a small city in the middle of Illinois. I’m married, going on 16 years now, and I have 3 stepkids who are all adults now, though they still live with us. They all have some sort of (varying) health issues, and my wife used to blog about it herself on her own site. I work in technology for a large company, and have worked on the back-end technical part of Television for around 18 years now. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, though I had considered Journalism.

I am generally a bit of a “jack of all trades” type, pretty good at a lot, master of little, that sort of thing.

My Computing Journey – Part 1 – Commodore 64

I often offhand mention the idea of “I’ve used computers my whole life” but I am not sure I’ve ever really gone into a lot of detail on what exactly that means. (I probably have but my memory is pretty shit these days). I’ve decided it might be fun to do a sort of, reminiscing series on the various “key computer points” in my life. Maybe that’s not quite the right way to put it, but basically, the eras’ surrounding specific computers in my life and what I remember about my time using them.

I’m considering doing something similar for consoles and gaming, but if I do, it’ll be over on Lameazoid,.com.

The start of this series though would have to be the Commodore 64. I actually am not real sure if the Commodore classifies as a computer or a console, I certainly used it more for games, but it has a keyboard so I’m going with Computer. My memory on exact time frames is a little shady, but I remember using the Commodore both at the 3rd house I lived in and at my aunt and uncles, so I would have been somewhere around the age of 4-5 at the start of using it. There was some overlap as well with the second computer I’ll cover next week, the Franklin PC-8000. At some point my parents got rid of the Commodore after it was stored away in an attic for a while, and I kind of wish I had kept it.

Like I mentioned, I used this computer for playing games more than anything. I don’t really remember playing a lot of Atari, a friend had one and my out of state grandparents had one, but our first console was the NES, so my first gaming exposure was one of the -ish.

Looking for some images to go along with this post, it seems like several of these games were on cassette tapes. I actually have no memory of using Cassette games at all, though it’s possible I did. I believe most of what I had played was on 5.25″ diskettes, or in a few cases, cartridges. Loading the system would bring up this blue screen. I remember you had to do this set of commands to run games, something like “Load *.* ,8,1” then I think it was just “run” or maybe “run *”. I imagine there was more that could be done at that blue and light blue colored command prompt screen but I never really ventured much beyond that.

A few games I remember from the Commodore, though a couple I am not sure I actually enjoyed, and I am sure there are others I DON’T remember.

Park Patrol

I remember this game, most of all, and I would consider it to be my favorite game on the Commodore. I can still hum the music today, 40 some years later. You play as a park ranger, rescuing people who are drowning in the river. The top half of the screen is the shore, the bottom half of the screen is the river.

The map loops, maybe it’s actually a lake.

Whatever the case, you had to avoid snakes and turtles and you had a little raft you had to use to rescue people in the water. This was also my first experience stomping turtles, not Mario, at least I think you would defeat the turtles by jumping on them. I do remember when you died, you would shrivel up into your hat, which kind of resembled the turtles, so we’d joke that you got turned into a turtle.

Ghostbusters

I have a love hate for this game. Ghostbusters at the time was super cool. So hey, cool, a Ghostbusters game! But my friends and I could never figure out what to do in this game. You would select a car, and some supplies and drive around collecting ghosts and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man would crush buildings and then you’d lose the game. Later (like, much later), i think I looked into it and you were supposed to collect the key and lock and take them to the center building to defeat Gozer.

It had some fun elements, but it also was frustrating and tedious.

Kids on Keys, Wizard of ID

I think I still have Kids on Keys in a tote somewhere. I don’t actually remember much about that game other than it was typing practice. Which is why I’m looping it in with Wizard of ID, which was also a typing game. I suspect this was the true reason we HAD the Commodore in the first place, because my mom would play these typing games, to get proficient for work.

I was bad at Wizard of ID, though I didn’t have a need to type a lot back then, and I didn’t quite get the point I think. I do know the big smoke monster was kind of creepy and it would slowly become more and more enraged unless you fed it letters (by typing), until it flamed you and you died.

BC’s Quest for Tires

One last sort of, honorable mention. This was one my uncle had so I only played it occasionally, but I do remember it. I almost looped it in with the typing games because I could swear it was a typing game and the faster you typed, the faster the little dude would go. It seems that was not the case, or maybe it had a typing mode that wasn’t the main game.

It’s essentially just an Endless Runner game. You have to jump and duck to avoid obstacles as you speed along the map. I don’t remember if the map was actually “endless”.

The other main thing I remember about this game is that it is based on a newspaper comic strip. Which seemed really weird, even then. I mean, I knew games could be “based on things”, there was a Ghostbusters game. But the newspaper comic strip part seemed odd.