I’m heading to Atlanta — plus, Jack Tramiel’s phone numbers

I’ve been remiss in sharing some fantastic news. In April, I was awarded a “Geffen and Lewyn Family Southern Jewish Collections Research Fellowship” from the Rose Library at Emory University!

This fellowship will enable me to travel to Atlanta for a week or two and study materials at Emory related to several Jewish educational games for the Apple II made by Gesher and Yaakov Kirschen, which I rescued from floppy disks and published in 2022.

The Breman Museum, also in Atlanta, holds some similar materials that I hope to explore, including this floppy disk:

Image of the front and back of a demo disk with two games sent by David Geffen, of the Gesher organization, to Jane Leavey of the Atlanta Jewish Federation, in 1983.

If you’re interested in my project, here are links to my fellowship application materials:

While I’m there, I’m hoping to connect with some retrocomputing folks and maybe gave a talk (or two!) about Kirschen’s computer curiosities.

On a related note, Kirschen’s wife, Sali Ariel, sent me a box of documents related to his American company, “Just For You, Inc.”

I received it last week. It contained a mix of enlightening and saddening documents. An example of the latter is a handwritten letter to a creditor informing them they wouldn’t be able to pay their debts. Their software hadn’t sold.

I was scanning some of these items a couple nights ago, when two small things fell out of the cardboard box, which I hadn’t noticed before.

An image of a note card with phone numbers for Jack Tramiel, CEO of Atari. The phone numbers have been obscured for privacy.

Note cards with phone numbers for Jack Tramiel, CEO of Atari, and Nick LeFevre, Atari’s legal counsel.

The card for Tramiel has three numbers: his “direct” line at Atari and personal numbers for homes in California and Toronto.

Teenage me would have gone nuts if he somehow could have seen this.

The college basketball bracket … in ANSI

Title screen for “Bracket Browse,” an informational BBS door that lets you explore the NCAA tournament bracket.

Eleven years ago, when I worked as a designer of news and sports pages at a daily newspaper, I created a system to automate the production of our college basketball brackets in print. One year prior, data journalist Aaron Bycoffe pointed out on Twitter that NCAA.com was using a nice, clean JSON feed to power its basketball bracket.

I resolved to write a script that could parse the feed, and output the content we needed for our bracket as InDesign tagged text. It took a lot of work to set up, but I succeeded. I remember that first Selection Sunday, breathing a sigh of relief that my code worked.

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Revisiting my ANSI tile map

A screenshot from my revised ANSI tile map, as it appears on my BBS, Guardian of Forever.

Nearly 10 years ago, my daughter Jadzia wanted me to make a game called “Jewel Mountain.” One of my early ANSI experiments for the game was to make an RPG-style tile map in ANSI.

When I started it years ago, my initial idea was to adapt 16×16 pixel-art tiles to sprites made of ANSI text, and implement the map in 132×60 mode, since it’s higher “resolution” and the characters are square rather than rectangular. I made a working version of this years ago and some of you probably saw it. But eventually I regretted those design choices: The 132×60 terminal mode isn’t commonly used by most folks; and the 16×16 sprite size was just too big.

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Try Kirschen’s games and software on the Internet Archive

Screenshot shows many items in the Kirschen software collection on the Internet Archive.

It’s been a little over a year since I began publishing the Kirschen software collection, and during that time I have also worked to upload Kirschen’s software to the Internet Archive and make it playable in the browser. The entire collection is tagged “kirschen-software” to make it easier to find.

The emulation works well for the Gesher games for the Apple II, and Kirschen’s artificial personalities “Murray” and “Mom” for the Atari ST. But there remain issues with Kirschen’s autonomous music software for the Commodore Amiga, and the IBM PC. The software is uploaded, at least, and I hope to work out the remaining kinks over time.

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Unearthed: Kirschen’s “Magic Harp” for Commodore Amiga

Yaakov Kirschen and Sali Ariel pose with a Commodore Amiga running an early version of their Magic Harp software, probably in late 1986 or early 1987. The staff of LKP Ltd. (in back): Hedva (surname unknown), Dror Heller; Yuval Ronen; Orly Aknin; Marcelo Bilezker; and Orly’s sister, Sigi.
(Photo courtesy of Sali Ariel)

When I published the original four-part “Bringing dry bones back to life” series where I shared 10 pieces of previously-lost computer programs developed by Yaakov Kirschen, I couldn’t include “Magic Harp,” his original Amiga-based “artificial creativity” music composing software.

At the time, Kirschen’s wife, Sali Ariel, believed that it was likely gone forever, because she had thrown out all their 3.5″ disks in the 2010s.

But while preparing to move to a new home in Israel in early 2023, Ariel found an overlooked bundle of 17 Amiga disks, wrapped in paper and labeled “BeatleOdeon JFY backup set,” which had somehow survived the earlier purge.

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Our latest special collection: The ACE-St. Louis “NewsLine”

It’s time to stop waiting.

Years ago, I scanned and OCRed my own collection of eight issues of “NewsLine”, the newsletter of the Atari Computer Enthusiasts of St. Louis, or ACE-St. Louis, club.

Of course there were many more issues of the “NewsLine” beyond these eight. I held off publishing them for a long time, hoping to obtain more issues, or perhaps even the complete collection. I’m still working toward that, but I realize there’s no point delaying publishing what I already have.

So here you go! You can find the issues in the Special Collections section of Break Into Chat. These issues will also be added to the Internet Archive.

Do you enjoy my retrocomputing research on Break Into Chat? Please join my email list so I can share future projects with you. 📬

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