The Macintosh was born 35 years ago, so let's travel back in


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Mmm, a Commodore 1200

Past is prologue. Time is a flat circle. Whether you prefer Shakespeare or Rust Cohle, the adage seems apt: tastes and trends tend to get cyclical when you look at decades rather than days. And to kick-off 2019, it seems like we might as well be kicking off 1989.

Maybe today's kids don't know how to operate an original Gameboy, but the NES and SNES Classic sell better than any cartridge (and the Switch is kinda, sorta a spiritual successor, right?). Perhaps you scoff at Stranger Things as a Stephens (King, Spielberg) knock-off, but this summer's S3 will inevitably be the year's biggest TV season outside of Westeros (and the show has inspired plenty of other nods to the past, like Netflix's own GLOW).

So for this week's Orbital Transmission newsletter, we're setting the DeLorean back three decades and looking at the latest batch of '80s-inspired ideas showing up on the Ars radar. Maybe we can all leave acid washed jeans behind, but who among us wouldn't dump a few hours into a Star Trek BBS right now?

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Orbital Transmission 01.29.2019
Fireball Island, the 2019 remake

Who said board games must be flat? Not the 80s

Fireball Island is certainly an artifact of its time, boasting an over-the-top Indiana Jones-like goal of nabbing an idol while avoiding molten balls of fury (marbles in practice). In 1986, this was something special. It did little to inspire as a game, as it was largely a roll-and-move exercise in repetition, but its physicality and toy-like nature created a true experience. It was something to behold, if not to play. And thanks to a new restoration, you can rush to the heart of Vul-Kar, a plastic gem sitting at the base of the foul demon skull that spits lava, all over again. 

Choose-your-own-80s-adventure in Bandersnatch

If you maintain a soft spot for the Thompson Twins or a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, you owe it to yourself to navigate the much hyped Black Mirror-original Bandersnatch before new TV season really kicks into high-gear this spring. Beyond its clever meta-narratives and mechanisms proving the choose-your-own concept, this series embraces a certain 80s counterculture with loving detail. (Can we get the new season of Tech on TV going? This is an obvious candidate, right? Don't be shy about sharing opinions.)

Dr. Aniru Conteh in a 1989 CDC documentary on Lassa

“The elder statesman” of Lassa fever—Dr. Aniru Conteh

Ever hear of Dr. Aniru Conteh? What about Lassa fever? If you caught a very niche 1989 CDC documentary, maybe you have. Otherwise, reporter Troy Farah has spent more than a year talking to medical colleagues and family members of this forgotten medical hero, who stuck out a civil war breaking out around him to help Sierra Leone fend off one of the world's toughest infectious diseases. 

Classic Mac OS Solitaire

Original Mac OS gaming, now on Android or whatever

Just last week—January 24—the Macintosh turned 35. To celebrate, want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you'd rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There's an emulation project that's trying to achieve just that: Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS).

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