6 Early iPhone Mockups That Were Dead Wrong

It’s Apple rumor season—really, when is it not?—and that means it’s also the season of mockups. But the next time you see an appealing iWatch mockup, keep in mind how deeply, deeply wrong most of us have been at guessing what the future of Apple might look like.

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It’s been almost two weeks since the WWDC 2014 keynote and a week exactly since the event itself wrapped up and not only is the feeling of excitement still very much alive, but smart analysis of what happened and why is still being shared. Not surprisingly, some of the best is focusing on and around Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook. Also not surprisingly, John Gruber sums it up perfectly for Daring Fireball:

Apple has never been more successful, powerful, and influential than it is today. They’ve thus never been in a better position to succumb to their worst instincts and act imperiously and capriciously.

Instead, they’ve begun to act more magnanimously. They’ve given third-party developers more of what we have been asking for than ever before, including things we never thought they’d do.

It’s downright thrilling that this is coming from Apple in a position of strength, not weakness. I’m impressed not just by what Apple can do, but by what it wants to do.

Gruber also addresses Tim Cook’s role in shaping the Apple of today. The loss of Steve Jobs as CEO has gotten incredible attention and prompted commentary both profound and pathetic, but the gain of Tim Cook as CEO hasn’t received nearly as much consideration. Cook reshaped Apple’s organization the way Jobs did it’s product line.

As Matt Drance puts it so well on Apple Outsider:

The “Continuity” suite of features says more to me than anything else announced last week, naturally blurring the line between Mac and iPhone and iPad while still accepting each product for what it is. Recent updates to OS X seemed intent on forcing iOS down the Mac’s throat. Last week, for what felt like the first time ever, the two were on equal footing: an Apple device is an Apple device is an Apple device. This shot of creativity, connectivity, integration, and inclusion points to drastic change from within. When I wrote “Regime Change” in 2012, nearly everyone assumed the title referred to the fall of Scott Forstall. It in fact referred to the rise of Tim Cook.

How successful Apple will be over the course of the next few years remains to be seen, but there’s every indication Cook has given them the structural opportunity to be wildly so, and not just in terms of money but in terms of technology and humanity.

Almost three years in, what do you think about what Tim Cook’s Apple is doing?

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The FBI, UK’s National Crime Agency and Europol hope to squash the insidious Gameover Zeus botnet to bits under a joint project called Operation Tovar. According to US Deputy Attorney General Cole, the three agencies (with help from various security…

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Japan’s Secret WWII Weapon: Exploding Balloons

WWII saw the development of some zany designs for weapons, such as when the U.S. developed pigeon guided missiles and (literal) bat bombs (the latter of which were a little too effective, accidentally destroying the testing base when they escaped), or when the Soviets trained exploding anti-tank dogs. Not to be left out of the fun, the Japanese developed their own oddball weapon. Starting in November of 1944, Japan launched over 9,000 devices they called "Fu-Gos" aimed at the United States and Canada. Fu-Gos were hydrogen balloons equipped with incendiary devices that, in theory, would be transported over the Pacific Ocean via the jet stream to devastate the landscape, perhaps starting massive fires in farm fields and forests across North America.

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The enormously popular Walking Dead video game series can trace its lineage directly back to the dawn of video games

One of the best Mac and iOS game series of the past couple of years is based on The Walking Dead, the popular graphic novel and TV series. Developed by Telltale Games, it’s a point and click adventure game. It’s thoroughly modern, featuring top-notch voice acting, a 3D engine and great production quality. It can also trace its roots back to some of the earliest popular computer games, a genre called Interactive Fiction, or IF for short.

The beginning of text adventures

Though it certainly wasn’t the first text game, the grandaddy of all these games is Colossal Cave Adventure (sometimes called simply Adventure or ADVENT in some of its incarnations), featuring an axe-throwing dwarf and a magic bridge and all manner of creative fantasy, all based on a real-world cave.

“You are standing at the edge of a road before a small brick building,” the game begins. Using simple text commands you navigate your way through the world and interact.

Colossal Cave would be recreated and revamped a number of times over the years, and gave rise to a new genre of games that we know today as interactive fiction. Some gaming empires would eventually rise and fall based on the popularity of such work.

You can still play Colossal Cave — there are versions available for iOS and OS X too. (The screenshot I included is from Lobotomo Software’s OS X game Adventure.)

The Infocom years

For gamers of a certain age like me, the word “Infocom” evokes memories of hours of fun. The company exploded on the burgeoning personal computer gaming scene in the early 1980s based on the success of a game called Zork, a text adventure game inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure — but vastly superior thanks to the quality of its writing and the expansion of its text parsing system, making it easier for laypeople to have fun exploring instead of struggling to understand how to enter commands.

“It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue,” was one particularly memorable (and frequent) Zork moment. And if you moved around in the dark too much without activating a light source, you indeed would be eaten by a grue.

Originally developed for use on a mainframe computer at MIT, Zork would eventually be ported to almost every home computer platform available, and would spawn a number of sequels. What’s more, Infocom developed an entire line of interactive text adventure games — most of them completely original works, spanning fantasy, science fiction, and more. They even collaborated with Douglas Adams to produce a text adventure game based on Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

Infocom further sweetened the pot by producing elegant packaging for their games that often included props, which the company called “Feelies.” My copy of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy included a “Don’t Panic” button, “Peril Sensitive Sunglasses” (made of black cardboard) and other props, for example.

In the mid-80s Infocom was acquired by Activision. The company folded entirely in 1989, though its games live on today in the form of “Z-Machine” emulators like Andrew Hunter’s Zoom for OS X.

Graphical adventure games take root

By then gamers’ tastes changed to more graphical fare. Sierra Online would herald the next great revolution in text adventure games with titles like King’s Quest, which employed color graphics and pseudo-3D scenes you could move your character to walk through and interact with. Text descriptions, written dialogue and narration and a text parser to enter commands still figured prominently in the game, of course. The graphics were great, but at its heart, King’s Quest was still ultimately a text adventure game. (In recent years King’s Quest has been resurrected by AGD Interactive, which remade the first three games in the series for Mac and Windows.)

Graphic adventure games continued to refine the way players interacted with their environment, eventually eschewing a text parser all together. LucasArts saw a lot of success in the 1990s with their graphic adventure games like Day of the Tentacle, and series like Sam & Max and Monkey Island. Westwood Studios, legendary makers of the Command & Conquer real time strategy game series, had their own success with Legend of Kyrandia.

Nowhere was the emphasis on graphics-only adventures more evident than with Myst, the groundbreaking graphic adventure game from Cyan. Originally developed on the Macintosh using Apple’s HyperCard — an early graphically oriented programming tool — Myst emphasized elaborate visual puzzles and some embedded videos that were cleverly integrated into the game’s graphics to move the story along. (Myst continues to live on; you can download the reworked version with a real 3D engine, RealMyst, from the iOS App Store and Mac App Store.

Myst would inspire a new generation of game developers to dabble with the graphic adventure game format — series like Presto Studios’ The Journeyman Project leveraged burgeoning multimedia technology to incorporate pre-rendered 3D graphics, video and audio together into an immersive adventure game.

Graphic adventure games waxed and waned in popularity as gamers’ tastes continued to evolve. Text-driven adventures, however, seemed like a dead end. They’ve carried on in some niche markets — Japan has, for years, had a market in “visual novels” that emphasize a text-based narrative — but it seemed like the western market was moribund.

The return of the graphic adventure game

Then Telltale Games came along.

It may not come as a surprise, but Telltale Games was founded by former LucasArts employees. They picked up where LucasArts left off. LucasArts shuttered a Sam & Max sequel that graphic adventure game fans were clamoring for, the employees left and founded Telltale. That game didn’t come to fruition but Telltale would secure the rights to the Sam & Max franchise. They’d go on to acquire the rights to other licenses including Back To the Future and Jurassic Park. Telltale exploded with the release of The Walking Dead, which has proven to be enormously popular on both Mac/PC and iOS platforms.

Telltale Games’ graphic adventures are the next logical step for this style of gameplay — fully 3D-rendered environments featuring scripted scenes. Taking control of the player character you can walk around and interact, setting off trigger events that require action, puzzle-solving or quick thinking to avoid death. There are also key elements of text adventure games of yore, such as branching storylines that change depending on how you handle a situation, or different choices in dialogue that affect how characters react.

Telltale’s not stopping with The Walking Dead, either. They’ve had broad critical acclaim for The Wolf Among Us, a new episodic series based on a graphic novel series called Fables, and they just recently announced Tales from the Borderlands, based on the popular first person shooter from Gearbox Software.

Telltale isn’t the only modern company producing graphic adventure games, either — Double Fine Productions, founded by another LucasArts alumnus, Tim Schafer (creator of Grim Fandango, a LucasArts graphic adventure hit), recently released Broken Age, a game whose development was paid for via a campaign on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. There are other examples too — last year’s Gone Home employs a graphic adventure narrative to tell a really unusual story for a video game — it’s a coming of age story recounted as clues found by a young woman wondering where her family has gone. Device 6 for iOS deconstructs the genre even further, a combination of text, still images, videos and puzzles that immerse you into a surreal thriller.

We’ve come a long way from the days of pure text-based adventures, and we’ll never see that level of success again. Despite the success of niche publishers like Telltale and Double Fine, the phrase “adventure game” is largely ignored in the boardrooms of video game publishers as a commercially unviable genre, compared to the vast money made by first person shooters, massively multiplayer online games and other more current fare.

IF’s legacy lives on

Purely text-based interactive fiction, for its part, may no longer be a commercially viable game genre, but it’s far from dead. The Interactive Fiction Database is a game catalog that offers visitors links to IF past and present. There’s even a modern day equivalent to the Choose Your Own Adventure books I mentioned — Inklewriter. This site enables you to write branching, interactive stories without having to worry about programming. The developers of Inklewriter even offer a Kindle conversion service, bringing the Choose Your Own Adventure concept back to its roots as the modern equivalent of a book.

Whether you prefer full-blown graphical adventures, text-based adventure games or Choose Your Own Adventure stories, there is still a thriving community of IF writers and players and plenty of new content to explore. Just don’t expect any more Feelies any time soon.

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Weekend Deals: Star Wars and More

Your weekend deals come from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

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Apple is continuing their investment in indoor location tracking with a new hire. Philip Stanger, founded Wifarer, though the company itself isn’t coming to Apple with him. Stanger’s hire falls in line with Apple’s acquisition of WifiSLAM last year, which, like Wifarer, uses Wi-Fi hotspots throughout large facilities like museums to figure out where you are on a map when proper GPS isn’t available. Stanger’s new position at Apple hasn’t been made specific, but he’s apparently in a “leadership role”

iBeacon is of course Apple’s take on indoor positioning, and it’s seeing some healthy uptake lately. Just look at Apple’s recent partnership with Virgin at Heathrow airport. It will be interesting to see what Stanger brings to Apple to supplement iBeacon, and whether or not this move will eventually result in an acquisition of Wifarer.

Via: TechCrunch

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