Play a Collection of Classic Handheld Video Games at the Internet Archive: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tron and MC Hammer

Equipped with smartphones that grow more powerful by the year, gamers on the go now have a seemingly unlimited variety of playing options. A decade ago they relied on handheld game consoles with their thousands of available game cartridges and later discs, whose reign began with Nintendo's introduction of the original Game Boy (a device whose unwrapping on Christmas 1990 remains one of my most vivid childhood memories). But even before the Game Boy and its successors, there were standalone handheld proto-video-games, "LCD, VFD and LED-based machines that sold, often cheaply, at toy stores and booths over the decades."

Those words come from Jason Scott at the Internet Archive, where you can now play a range of those handheld games again, emulated right here in your browser. "They range from notably simplistic efforts to truly complicated, many-buttoned affairs that are truly difficult to learn, much less master," Scott writes.




"They are, of course, entertaining in themselves – these are attempts to put together inexpensive versions of video games of the time, or bringing new properties wholecloth into existence." They also "represent the difficulty ahead for many aspects of digital entertainment, and as such are worth experiencing and understanding for that reason alone."

What kind of games came in this form? The Internet Archive's current offerings include vague approximations of 70s and 80s arcade hits like Pac-ManDonkey Kong, and Q*Bert;  even vaguer approximations of such major motion pictures of the day as TronRobocop 2 (as well as Robocop 3), and Apollo 13; and sports titles like World Championship BaseballNFL Football, and Blades of Steel. You'll even find popular oddities like Bandai's Tamagotchi, the original virtual pet, along with less popular oddities like MC Hammer, a dual-directional-padded simulation of a dance battle with the auteur of "U Can't Touch This."

So as you play, spare a thought for the developers of these handheld games, not just because of the dire intellectual property they often had to work with, but the severe technological restrictions they invariably had to work under. "This sort of Herculean effort to squeeze a major arcade machine into a handful of circuits and a beeping, booping shell of what it once was is an ongoing situation," writes Scott. "Where once it was trying to make arcade machines work both on home consoles like the 2600 and Colecovision, so it was also the case of these plastic toy games. Work of this sort continues, as mobile games take charge and developers often work to bring huge immersive experiences to where a phone hits all the same notes." And the day will certainly come when even the most impressive games we play now, handheld or otherwise, will seem just as hilariously simplistic.

Enter the handheld video collection here. And find more classic video games in the Relateds below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Download 10,000 of the First Recordings of Music Ever Made, Thanks to the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

Three minutes with the minstrels / Arthur Collins, S. H. Dudley & Ancient City. Edison Record. 1899.

Long before vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and MP3s came along, people first experienced audio recordings through another medium -- through cylinders made of tin foil, wax and plastic. In recent years, we've featured cylinder recordings from the 19th century that allow you to hear the voices of Leo Tolstoy, TchaikovskyOtto von Bismarck and other towering figures. Those recordings were originally recorded and played on a cylinder phonograph invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. But those were obviously just a handful of the cylinder recordings produced at the beginning of the recorded sound era.

Thanks to the University of California-Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive, you can now download or stream a digital collection of more than 10,000 cylinder recordings. "This searchable database," says UCSB, "features all types of recordings made from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including popular songs, vaudeville acts, classical and operatic music, comedic monologues, ethnic and foreign recordings, speeches and readings." You can also find in the archive a number of "personal recordings," or "home wax recordings," made by everyday people at home (as opposed to by record companies).




If you go to this page, the recordings are neatly categorized by genre, instrument, subject/theme and ethnicity/nation of origin. You can listen, for example, to recordings of Jazz, RagtimeOperas, and Vaudeville acts. Or hear recordings featuring the MandolinGuitar, Dulcimer and Banjo, among other instruments. Plus there are thematically-arranged playlists here.

Hosted by UCSB (UC Santa Barbara), the archive is supported by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Grammy Foundation, and other donors.

Above, hear a recording called "Three minutes with the minstrels," by Arthur Collins, released in 1899. Below that is "Alexander's ragtime band medley," featuring the banjo playing of Fred Van Eps, released in 1913.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in November, 2015.

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A Turing Machine Handmade Out of Wood

It took Richard Ridel six months of tinkering in his workshop to create this contraption--a mechanical Turing machine made out of wood. The silent video above shows how the machine works. But if you're left hanging, wanting to know more, I'd recommend reading Ridel's fifteen page paper where he carefully documents why he built the wooden Turing machine, and what pieces and steps went into the construction.

If this video prompts you to ask, what exactly is a Turing Machine?, also consider adding this short primer by philosopher Mark Jago to your media diet.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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via BoingBoing

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Google Launches Three New Artificial Intelligence Experiments That Could Be Godsends for Artists, Museums & Designers

You'll recall, a few months ago, when Google made it possible for all of your Facebook friends to find their doppelgängers in art history. As so often with that particular company, the fun distraction came as the tip of a research-and-development-intensive iceberg, and they've revealed the next layer in the form of three artificial intelligence-driven experiments that allow us to navigate and find connections among huge swaths of visual culture with unprecedented ease.

Google's new Art Palette, as explained in the video at the top of the post, allows you to search for works of art held in "collections from over 1500 cultural institutions," not just by artist or movement or theme but by color palette.




You can specify a color set, take a picture with your phone's camera to use the colors around you, or even go with a random set of five colors to take you to new artistic realms entirely.

Admittedly, scrolling through the hundreds of chromatically similar works of art from all throughout history and across the world can at first feel a little uncanny, like walking into one of those houses whose occupant has shelved their books by color. But a variety of promising uses will immediately come to mind, especially for those professionally involved in the aesthetic fields. Famously color-loving, art-inspired fashion designer Paul Smith, for instance, appears in another promotional video describing how he'd use Art Palette: he'd "start off with the colors that I've selected for that season, and then through the app look at those colors and see what gets thrown up."

In collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, Google's Art Recognizer, the second of these experiments, uses machine learning to find particular works of art as they've variously appeared over decades and decades of exhibition. "We had recently launched 30,000 installation images online, all the way back to 1929," says MoMA Digital Media Director Shannon Darrough in the video above. But since "those images didn't contain any information about the actual works in them," it presented the opportunity to use machine learning to train a system to recognize the works on display in the images, which, in the words of Google Arts and Culture Lab's Freya Murray, "turned a repository of images into a searchable archive."

The formidable photographic holdings of Life magazine, which documented human affairs with characteristically vivid photojournalism for a big chunk of the twentieth century, made for a similarly enticing trove of machine-learnable material. "Life magazine is one of the most iconic publications in history," says Murray in the video above. "Life Tags is an experiment that organizes Life magazine's archives into an interactive encyclopedia," letting you browse by every tag from "Austin-Healey" to "Electronics" to "Livestock" to "Wrestling" and many more besides. Google's investment in artificial intelligence has made the history of Life searchable. How much longer, one wonders, before it makes the history of life searchable?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Lynch Teaches Typing: A New Interactive Comedy Game

Typing programs demand some patience on the part of the student, and David Lynch Teaches Typing is no exception.

You’ve got 90 seconds to get acclimated to the cruddy floppy disc-era graphics and the cacophonous voice of your instructor, a dead ringer for FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, the hard-of-hearing character director David Lynch played on his seminal early 90s series, Twin Peaks.

Things perk up about a minute and a half in, when students are instructed to place their left ring fingers in an undulating bug to the left of their keyboards.

That second "in"? Not a typo (though you'll notice plenty of no doubt intentional boo-boos in the teacher's pre-programmed responses...)




The bug in question may well put you in mind of the mysterious baby in Lynch’s first feature length film, 1977’s Eraserhead.

On the other hand, it might not.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is actually a short interactive comedy game, and many of the millennial reviewers covering that beat have had to play catch-up in order to catch the many nods to the director’s work contained therein.

One of our favorites is the Apple-esque name of the program’s retro computer, and we'll wager that frequent Lynch collaborator, actor Kyle MacLachlan, would agree.

Another reference that has thus far eluded online gaming enthusiasts in their 20s is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Take a peek below at what the virtual typing tutor’s graphics looked like around the time the original Twin Peaks aired to discover the creators of David Lynch Teaches Typing’s other inspiration.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free download here. If you’re anxious that doing so might open you up to a technical bug of nightmarish proportions, stick with watching the play through at the top of the page.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her March 20 in New York City for the second edition of Necromancers of the Public Domain, a low budget variety show born of a 1920 manual for Girl Scout Camp Directors. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Tattoos Can Now Start Monitoring Your Medical Conditions: Harvard and MIT Researchers Innovate at the Intersection of Art & Medicine

Once reserved for rebels and outliers, tattoos have gone mainstream in the United States. According to recent surveys, 21% of all Americans now have at least one tattoo. And, among the 18-29 demographic, the number rises to 40%. If that number sounds high, just wait until tattoos go from being aesthetic statements to biomedical devices.

At Harvard and MIT, researchers have developed "smart tattoo ink" that can monitor changes in biological and health conditions, measuring, for example, when the blood sugar of a diabetic rises too high, or the hydration of an athlete falls too low. Pairing biosensitive inks with traditional tattoo designs, these smart tattoos could conceivably provide real-time feedback on a range of medical conditions. And also raise a number of ethical questions: what happens when your health information gets essentially worn on your sleeve, available for all to see?

To learn more about smart tattoos, watch the Harvard video above, and read the corresponding article in the Harvard Gazette.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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The 25 Principles for Adult Behavior: John Perry Barlow (R.I.P.) Creates a List of Wise Rules to Live By

Image by the European Graduate School, via Wikimedia Commons

The most successful outlaws live by a code, and in many ways John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Wyoming rancher, and erstwhile songwriter for the Grateful Dead—who died on Wednesday at the age of 70—was an archetypal American outlaw all of his life. He might have worn a white hat, so to speak, but he had no use for the government telling him what to do. And his charismatic defense of unfettered internet liberty inspired a new generation of hackers and activists, including a 12-year-old Aaron Swartz, who saw Barlow speak at his middle school and left the classroom changed.

Few people get to leave as lasting a legacy as Barlow, even had he not pioneered early cyberculture, penning the “Declaration of Independence of the Internet,” a techo-utopian document that continues to influence proponents of open access and free information. He introduced the Grateful Dead to Dr. Timothy Leary, under whose guidance Barlow began experimenting with LSD in college. His creative and personal relationship with the Dead’s Bob Weir stretches back to their high school days in Colorado, and he became an unofficial member of the band and its "junior lyricist," as he put it (after Robert Hunter).




“John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures,” wrote Weir in a succinctly poignant Twitter eulogy for his friend. We might think of Barlow's code, which he laid out in a list he called the “25 Principles of Adult Behavior,” as a series of instructions for turning life’s difficulties into challenges, an adventurous reframing of what it means to grow up. For Barlow, that meant defying authority when it imposed arbitrary barriers and proprietary rules on the once-wild-open spaces of the internet.

But being a grown-up also meant accepting full responsibility for one’s behavior, life’s purpose, and the ethical treatment of oneself and others. See his list below, notable not so much for its originality but for its plainspoken reminder of the simple, shared wisdom that gets drowned in the assaultive noise of modern life. Such uncomplicated idealism was at the center of Perry’s life and work.

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Barlow the “cowboy, poet, romantic, family man, philosopher, and ultimately, the bard of the digital revolution”—as Stephen Levy describes him at Wired—“became a great explainer” of the possibilities inherent in new media. He watched the internet become a far darker place than it had ever been in the 90s, a place where governments conduct cyberwars and impose censorship and barriers to access; where bad actors of all kinds manipulate, threaten, and intimidate.

But Barlow stood by his vision, of “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth… a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

This may sound naïve, yet as Cindy Cohn writes in EFF’s obituary for its founder, Barlow “knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to move toward the latter.” His 25-point code urges us to do the same.

via Kottke/Hacker News

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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