Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for April, 2021

My IBM PCjr Print Media Archival Project

Posted by Trixter on April 25, 2021

(Note: The file and directory links provided in this post are FTP URLs. The files are located on an anonymous FTP site. Recent web browsers have started to remove support for FTP, so if the links don’t do anything when you select them, or you’re stuck, you can copy’n’paste these links into an FTP client of your choice, such as WinDCP or FileZilla. There is a cool way to use FileZilla as your FTP URI handler if you’re running Windows. Or, you can always use old-school command-line FTP clients, which have worked for 3+ decades.)

While I’m not the #1 PCjr fan in the world — that honor goes to Mike Brutman — I consider myself in the top five. I’ve owned, used, and programmed for the PCjr for decades. A flawed problem child, the PCjr was an underdog that never fully met IBM’s expectations, but it succeeded at something much greater: With its 16-color graphics, 3-voice sound, and early support from Sierra, it showed the world that PCs could be treated seriously as viable gaming machines. Because of this, I’ve evangelized the PCjr, given extended PCjr history presentations, and even set up comprehensive PCjr exhibits. So you could say I’m a PCjr superfan.

Along these lines, I’m happy to announce the results of a years-long scanning project: A gigantic cache of IBM PCjr resources: Books, magazines, newsletters, catalogs, adverts, and technical and repair information. So what does that mean?

Books

Let’s start with over 20 PCjr-specific books, covering topics from introductions to personal computing, all the way down into technical details about how the PCjr’s enhanced features work. You can pick these up here: ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Books/

Newsletters

There’s also a complete run of the Eugene PCjr Club newsletter (over 135 issues), as well as a complete run of jr Newsletter out of Connecticut (75% of which are new 600 DPI scans). There were at least 32 (!) different PCjr clubs during PCjr’s lifetime, but only a few had long and comprehensive newsletters as these two. The Eugene PCjr Club was the longest-run active PCjr club in the world, starting in 1984 until disbanding in 2002, and from 1985 onward they had their own newsletter.

Reading these is not only a nostalgic trip back in time, but also chock full of surprisingly relevant information to vintage computer hobbyists today. They continued coverage where the magazines left off, reporting on which new hardware add-ons and modifications you could perform on a jr, iincluding a potential 286 upgrade, VGA upgrade, hard drives, and more; they also had many tips on getting software to run on the not-quite-compatible PCjr. You can pick up the entire Eugene PCjr Club and jr Newsletter runs, as well as other PCjr newsletters (check out The Orphan Peanut, prepared completely on a 768K PCjr!), here: ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Newsletters/

Heck, there’s even 21 issues of The Junior Report, a newsletter from “The PCjr Club” which I never knew about during their heyday, which surprised me since they were held in Schaumburg, Illinois — practically in my back yard at that time.

Magazines

I’ve also managed to archive complete runs of most magazines that were dedicated only to the IBM PCjr, such as Peanut, PCjr Magazine, and even PCjr World, a special insert included in PC World magazine for a few issues. (These jr-specific magazines are rare, and I acquired them at considerable expense, so please give a moment of silence to thank them for their sacrifice.)

Additionally, I’ve managed to scan very many magazine excerpts from other magazines that covered PCjr. Some of these excerpts were quite good and comprehensive, from using PCjr as a cheap scientific data acquisition platform, to detailed accounts of what was happening with PCjr during its original time period. You can grab the magazines and excerpts completed thus far here: ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Magazines/
(I’m still working on the complete run of “COMPUTE! For the PC and PCjr” as well as “jr”; if you can lend or donate issues for scanning, please let me know.)

Catalogs

Finally, I’ve archived some catalogs, which can serve as a collector’s checklist of all the PCjr-specific hardware and software it was possible to use with your PCjr. The PC Enterprises catalogs list some esoteric stuff that is nearly impossible to find, and IBM’s The Guide has some gorgeous product shots of PCjr and other hardware. There are also catalogs from Computer Reset, Paul Rau Consulting, and others. Pick up all the catalogs here: ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Catalogs%20and%20Price%20Lists/

What’s in it for me?

All of these are high quality scans and fully text-searchable. Advanced techniques were used to ensure the highest quality possible at reasonable sizes. You will not find any JPEG “mosquito noise” compression artifacts, screened printing moire patterns, or unreadable text in these scans.

While I originally did this for new PCjr owners so that they could get up to speed quickly, there is a lot of nostalgic waxing and trivia for grizzled old collectors too. For example, there’s references to third-party hardware and modifications that I never knew existed until I started this project (a reset button, an SVGA sidecar, 286 upgrade, quad-cartridge-port adapter, EMS sidecar modification, etc.), esoteric program patches to get equally esoteric software working on PCjr, and even trivia like what the “L” port was originally meant to be used for.

Thanks

I’d like to thank Louie Levy for donating most of the Eugene PCjr Club newsletters to me for this project, and L. Teague for many jr Newsletters, PCE catalogs, and other materials.

FAQs:

Q: Can I ______ these files?
A: I don’t care what you do with these files, as long as you’re sharing and enjoying them and don’t utterly destroy my bandwidth. Please leech responsibly, preferably at 512KB/s or less.

If you want to upload these to The Internet Archive, go for it; just let me know what the collection links are so that I can edit this post and link to them. Someone has already done some of these files piecemeal, without acknowledging my efforts, but that goes with the territory; we (archivists) are used to it. If you want fame and fortune, being an archivist is a pretty terrible way to go about it.

Q: What is your scanning process?
A: Funny you should ask.

Q: The PDFs are great, but–
A: Don’t worry, OCD friends: The original physical pages are being stored off-site, and I also made a copy of the raw unprocessed 600 DPI scans if newer and better technology becomes available.

Posted in Technology, Vintage Computing | 2 Comments »