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Using Your New Commodore 64 (in 1982)

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YouTube / zek0mac

In past weeks, I've brought you lots of retro videos about computers, but this one is a little different. Here we have a full two-hour video explaining in near-excruciating depth the inner workings of the Commodore 64. If you actually sit through this video, Jim Butterfield shows a variety of programming techniques and even explains what the primary chips on the motherboard do. If you had just purchased a Commodore 64 in 1982 and sat down to watch this video, it would give you a surprisingly thorough grounding in how to use the computer, including plenty of programming principles. On the other hand, I'm really glad we don't have to deal with this stuff today.

I really don't think you'll want to watch the whole thing, unless you're preparing for time travel back to 1982. Here are a few fun places to jump in:

1:00 - Unboxing. Yep, computer users have been doing this for decades.

9:53 - What's Inside Your Commodore 64? Butterfield cracks the case and explains the major components.

49:32 - Storing Data! An explanation of how to store data on a floppy disk or tape.

1:19:30 - How to Use CP/M. CP/M was one of many operating systems you could run on the C64. This was a common way to use a home computer in 1982, y'all.

1:40:16 - Music. How to use the C64's Sound Interface Device (SID) to create basic music.

1:50:12 - Games. Butterfield shows off the gaming capabilities of the C64. (At 1:51:40 we see "Benji Discovery"...a game with "a high educational content.")

2:00:00 - Computer Chronicles segment. An exploration of the Ghostbusters game, beginning with questions about whether computer gaming is a passing fad.

Enjoy this relic of computing history, and keep an eye out for vintage Commodore ads between the segments.

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Kano
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Control the World With a Wave of Your Hand Using This $30 Motion Sensor
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Kano

"Learn to code" is all the rage in kids' toys—even those aimed at preschoolers. As educational toys go, though, Kano's are pretty fun. Earlier this summer, Kano released the Lite Brite-esque Pixel Kit, an LED board that kids (or anyone, really) can program to change and visualize information using the coding tutorials on the Kano desktop app. Now, the company has come out with a stand-alone motion sensor that allows you to see the impact of your code with a wave of the hand.

The $30 sensor kit is only a little bigger than a 50-cent piece, and set-up is as easy as attaching two pieces to a USB port and plugging the cable into a computer. The Kano app will show you what to do next, walking you through a series of "challenges" that hold your hand through the process of coding the sensor to change what you see within the app, whether it's changing the color of an image or playing a virtual game of Pong by waving your hand in front of your computer. The sensor can register three axes of movement, so that you can control different actions by moving your hand left-right, up-down, and forward-backward.

A blue Kano booklet of instructions sits next to a small blue sensor that looks like a periscope.
Kano

The tutorials vary from the very simple (make an arrow rotate according to gestures) to the slightly more involved (build a Pong game). But all of them are made extremely simple with drag-and-drop blocks of JavaScript code, step-by-step instructions, and highlights on the correct choices. If you put your code in the wrong place, the tutorial won't move on. No matter what your real level of understanding of the underlying code, you're going to build that Pong game. Hopefully, you'll pick up a few tricks on the way, though, which will eventually allow you to build your own games.

The motion sensor kit is the most accessible of Kano's products, both in terms of its price (the Pixel Kit is $80 compared to the motion sensor's $30) and the number of things you can do with it. The gesture-based controller can be used to play games, make moving art, or control music. You don't have to have any other Kano equipment, but if you do, you can plug it into other kits to make, say, a motion-activated Pixel Kit light show.

You can buy the Motion Sensor Kit on Kano's website starting today.

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Meet the 17-Year-Old World Champion of Excel Spreadsheets
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iStock

If you spend hours creating spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel for your office job, that work may one day pay off. The Excel World Championship recently awarded its winner a $7000 prize for demonstrating his “skills and creativity” while completing a series of tasks in the program. But the new champion doesn’t come from the professional world—he’s a student at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia.

As the New York Post reports, John Dumoulin has won a total of $10,000 in prize money for his Excel expertise. He first discovered his talent when he took a Microsoft Excel 16 certification exam for an IT class at his high school. His score was the highest in the state and it qualified him to join other spreadsheet aficionados at a national competition in Orlando, Florida.

After snagging the $3000 cash prize at that event, he moved on to compete with pros from around the world at the Microsoft Excel World Championship in Anaheim, California. The competition included 150 participants from 49 countries. Never in its history has an American taken home the grand prize, but this year Dumoulin became the first.

The teenager first became acquainted with Excel in middle school, when he made spreadsheets to track the performance of his favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He told the Associated Press that he’d like to one day make a career out of doing data analytics for baseball teams. For now, his focus is on graduating from high school.

[h/t New York Post]

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