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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Jan 17, 2022 11:30 am

This holiday weekend we went to our cabin over near the Port Ludlow area of Washington state. Whenever we come out here I'm always in a bit of a mental crisis: how will I possibly survive away from my beloved Amigas, C64/128s and classic Mac?

At the cabin I actually have 2 of my main bases covered. I've got my Ultimate64 machine ready to go, as well as a beefed up Amiga 2000. The only catch is I have to set everything up then pack it all back up again before we leave - mainly for security concerns. We don't want any tech sitting around when we aren't at the place for weeks at a time - even old retro tech most would-be burglars would scoff at. Now that I think about it, the A2000 is so heavy it might actually hurt a burglar's back! Maybe I should leave it out. ;)

Anyway, what I've been doing more regularly lately is bringing along my gorgeous Y2K Apple Powerbook "Pismo" laptop. The Pismo was the very last of the G3 Apple laptops, and some consider it one of the greatest Apple ever made. I often use it as a bridge between my Quadra 700 and my modern Mac (currently a 2021 M1 Max Macbook Pro, which I'm typing on right now - holy smoke what a great machine! But I digress...).

This amazing computer has dual swappable bays. I've collected the following for the right bay:
  • DVD ROM drive
  • VST CD-RW drive
  • VST Zip Drive
  • VST SuperDrive (allows for regular 3.5" floppy disks as well as high capacity, yet slow, "super disks")
I use the DVD and CD-RW bays the most, but having the other options gives me all of the flexibility I could ever ask for.

Back in the day you could also pop in a 2nd battery if you wanted a "ridiculous" amount of mobile power on the run. These days my single battery in the left bay might grant me 90 minutes of time cordless. To be honest it's kind of amazing it works at all. But I do keep my AC power plugged in most of the time.

I've upgraded this machine from 400 Mhz to a crazy 500 Mhz processor. I've also managed to shoehorn 1GB of RAM in there, too. Keep in mind this machine is now well over 20 years old. 1GB of RAM is utterly bonkers and this machine flies. I also upgraded the old hard drive to a knee-buckling 128 GB SSD. I actually took a 400 Mhz Pismo and exchanged all the best parts from it with a 500 Mhz model - you can read about that blend over here.

This machine is running OS 9.2, which hits my nostalgia buttons really hard.

The first Macintosh I ever bought was a Ruby iMac; that was when I finally had a real job where I could afford one. I still have that Mac, but I don't currently have the desk space and it's internal (unfixable) DVD-ROM is kaput.

My Pismo has the exact same OS as my Ruby. I'd used Macs for years in school, but they were all at school in the computer labs. When I brought my work home I'd have to continue forward on knuckle-scraping Windows PCs where every 6 months I either had to wipe a hard drive clean or replace some card that had exploded. Back then, I couldn't dump the PC fast enough. I just wanted something stable that worked and looked beautiful at the same time. I've never looked back.

Speaking of 9.2, I just love the look and feel (and sounds) of this fantastic operation system. And the programs that were designed for it back in the day are just sensational. It's as if the old mac OS was designed for LCD screens before LCDs were even a thing. It's all just so crisp and clean.

Recently I've been hooking up the Pismo to an NEC 19" 4:3 LCD monitor for a better gaming experience as the laptop has VGA video-out, and can essentially sport dual displays. I turn the monitor off on the laptop, though, but use it's exquisite keyboard with a USB mouse. I really need to get some black speakers, but while on the go use ATH-M50x Audio Technica over-the-ear headphones.

At 500 Mhz, the Pismo can totally rock the late 90s games I consider some of my favorites from the era: Diablo 1 & 2, Warcraft, Starcraft, Dark Forces, Quake, Doom 2, etc. And, there are a lot of games from back then that I always wanted to play but never found the time to experience. Now I can. Those include Star Trek 25th Anniversary (with voice, on CD-ROM), Annihilation, Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 and their expansions , Hexen 1 & 2, Heretic, Day of the Tentacle, and others...

Over the Xmas holiday break I decided to sit down and really give Diablo 1 a go from start to finish. I hadn't played it since the late 90s on a Frankenstein PC, and later Diablo 2 on my ruby iMac. It was well past time.

I decided to be a Rogue character and got on my way. Man - even just the music is so damned good. And the voice acting! "Stay awhile and listen!" <3
This game is just so good and a massive blast from the past. I really love the rendered 3D sprite look - thanks for the brilliant idea and execution, Donkey Kong Country! ;)

Whenever you go down a level in the labyrinth or back up to town you oftentimes might reach for a "Town Portal Spell" which sends you through a bit of a Doctor Who tunnel of sorts. It seems the entire game is often loaded and played off the CD-ROM.

One of the only hit factors around all of this is my original Apple DVD-ROM sometimes kind of seems to sputter during the loading sequences. I've cleaned the laser's protective glass and that seemed to really help. But it's still not 100% perfect every time. But it does work.

I was using the VST CD-RW drive originally, which seemed to work better from a reading perspective. But every so often it would make the game crash (maybe the drive is too fast?). Ever since I swapped in the original DVD drive those crashes disappeared. So I just deal. Unfortunately, there really isn't an off-the-shelf replacement for these drives as far as I can tell. However, I can hook up external drives via the Firewire ports (or USB ports) and they work just fine. But if I'm traveling with this machine I don't want all that extra baggage and weight, you know what I mean?

Anyway... now for the embarrassing part.

Diablo consist of 16 levels. I'd made it all the way down to the 15th. My Rogue character was fully decked out to the brim with magical armor, weapons and stat-inflating jewelry. She was AMAZING and practically a goddess walking amongst the lowest of the low.

On the 15th level you gain access to a special portal that sends you to a completely unique realm of Diablo's top lieutenant: a powerful magic user named Lazarus. He has his own little dungeon filled with magic blasting succubi and hellspawn. A succubus is a nearly naked female woman with bat wings, and whenever you encounter them they seem to be in hordes.

In any case, I get to this special dimension and immediately get thrown into battle. It's really late at night and I'm totally worn out. After a massive battle - and fearing what is around the next dark corner - I quickly save my progress as I can see I'm running low on health potions. I see movement in the shadows and I can hear something moving about.

After surviving another wave of succubi, I go to my spells to cast Town Portal so I can go back up and regroup. Maybe I should finish this tomorrow, I tell myself. Immediately after trying to cast the spell, however, my character says in her beautiful voice, "Not enough mana." OK, fine. My inventory is almost 1/2 filled with scrolls at this point. So I go grab a Town Portal scroll.

But... wait. Every single scroll is either for offense, healing or something totally unhelpful. Oh. My. GOD!

At this stage, every single enemy I've killed has only dropped gold. Not a single one has dropped any kind of scrolls or potions. None of them! It soon dawns on me that the entire level is actually quite small. The dungeon doesn't seem to hold any kind of helpful potions or spells of any kind, and I'm essentially trapped.

On the 2nd to last level!

I was so utterly gutted by my mistake I took a couple of weeks off from the game. This MLK holiday weekend, though, I brought it out to the cabin and decided to start completely from scratch using a warrior this time (in my opinion, the easiest character to play this game - at least in the beginning). I'm 1/3 of the way back down the labyrinth.

If nothing else, I do find the differences in weapons, enemies, quests and storylines (albeit there's not much story to begin with in this dungeon crawler) interesting to note as I continue down. Talk about a brutal no-mercy old-school mistake. Ah well, I've no one to blame but myself. And the ride down with this setup is honestly half the fun.

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