Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

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Death of A Micro Center

September 20th, 2012 by Multimedia Mike

The Micro Center computer store located in Santa Clara, CA, USA closed recently:



I liked Micro Center. I have liked Micro Center ever since I first visited their Denver, CO location 10 years ago. I would sometimes drive an hour in each direction just to visit that shop. I was excited to see that they had a location in the Bay Area when I moved here a few years ago (despite the preponderance of Fry’s stores).

Now this location is gone. I wonder how much of the “we couldn’t come to favorable terms on a lease” was true (vs. an excuse to close a retail store at a time when more business is moving online, particularly in the heart of Silicon Valley). But that’s not what I wanted to discuss. I came here to discuss…

The Micro Center Window Logos

The craziest part about shopping the Santa Clara Micro Center location was the logos they displayed on the window outside. Every time I saw it, it made me sentimental for a time when some of these logos were current, or when some of these companies were still in business. Some of the logos on their front window were for companies I’ve never heard of. It reminds me of the nearby 7-11 convenience stores when I was growing up– their walls were decorated with people sporting embarrassingly 1970s styles long after the 1970s had transpired.

I thought I would record what those front window logos were and try to pinpoint when the store launched exactly (assuming the logos have been their since the initial opening and never changed).



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Here we have Lotus, Hewlett Packard/HP, Corel, Fuji, Power Macintosh, NEC, and Fujitsu. Lotus was purchased by IBM in 1995 and still seems to be maintained as a separate brand. The Power Macintosh was introduced as a brand in 1994. Corel’s logo has seen a few mutations over the years but I don’t know when this one fell out of favor.

Fuji (vs. Fujitsu) appears to refer to Fujifilm, though this logo is also obsolete.



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Hayes– I specifically remember reading the Slashdot post accouncing that Hayes is dead (followed by many comments reminiscing about the Hayes command set). Here is the post, from early 1999.

From Googling, it doesn’t appear IBM still has a presence in the consumer computing space (though they do have something pertaining to software for consumer products). Then there’s the good old rainbow Apple logo, something that went away in 1997. I suspect 1997 was also the last hurrah of the name ‘Macintosh’ (though I remember mistakenly referring to Apple computer products as Macintoshes well into the mid-2000s and inadvertently angering some Apple enthusiasts).



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As for the next segment, obviously, both Sony and Toshiba are still very much alive. Iomega was acquired by EMC in 2008 but is still maintained as a separate brand. USRobotics is still around and making — what else? — 56K modems (and their current logo is slightly different than the one seen here).

Targus seems to be a case maker (“Leading Provider of Cases, Bags and Accessories for Laptops and Tablets”). I wonder if that’s just their current business or if they had more areas long ago? It seems strange that they would get brand billing like this.

Finally, searching for information about Practical Peripherals only produces sites about how they’re long dead (like this history lesson). It’s unclear when they died.

The interior of this store was also decorated with more technology company logos near the ceiling (I didn’t really register that fact until I had visited many times). Regrettably, I now won’t be able to see how up to date those logos were.

Based on the data points above, it’s safe to conclude that the store opened between 1995 or 1996 (again, assuming the logos were placed at opening and never changed).

Epilogue

Here’s one more curious item still visible from the outside:



“See the world’s fastest PC!” Featuring an Intel Core 2 Extreme? That CPU dates back to 2007 and was succeeded by Nehalem in late 2008. So even that sign, which is presumably easier and cleaner to replace than the window logos, was absurdly out of date.

Posted in History | 2 Comments »

Chiptune Database and API

September 13th, 2012 by Multimedia Mike

So I set out to create a website that allows people to easily listen to video game music directly through their web browser. I succeeded in that goal. However, I must admit that the project has limited appeal since the web player is delivered via Chrome’s Native Client technology, somewhat limiting its audience. I’m not certain if anyone really expects NaCl to take off in any serious way, but I still have a few other projects in mind.

I recently realized that, as a side effect of this project, I accidentally created something of significant value to fans of old video games and associated music– a searchable database of chiptune music and metadata. To my knowledge, no one else has endeavored to create such a thing. I figured that I might as well make the database easily accessible with an API and see where it leads.

To that end, I created 2 API entry points. First, there is the search API located at http://gamemusic.multimedia.cx/api/search/. This can be exercised by ending the URL with a URL-encoded search string, e.g.: http://gamemusic.multimedia.cx/api/search/super+mario. This returns JSON data containing an array of results in decreasing order of relevance. Each result has a game title, database ID, media URL, system type, and an SHA-1 hash. This is the same API that the site’s own search page uses.

The database ID can be plugged into http://gamemusic.multimedia.cx/api/metadata/ to retrieve the song’s metadata in JSON format. E.g., the ID for Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES is 161: http://gamemusic.multimedia.cx/api/metadata/161.

I recently read an article about sins against true RESTful API principles which led me to believe I’m almost certainly doing this web API stuff wrong. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, though, since I don’t think anyone actually listens to chiptunes any more. But if there are offline chiptune music players that are still in service and actively maintained, perhaps the authors would like to implement this API. It would require some type of HTTP networking library, a JSON parser, the embedded XZ decoder, and some new code to parse through my .gamemusic and .psfarchive formats.

This database could be a significant value-add to chiptune playback software, and could help people experience classic game music much more easily.

Posted in General | 6 Comments »