Tuesday, December 20, 2005

25 years of darling tech companies

this is a list that my friends and I compiled of 'darling' technology companies over the past 25 years. these aren't necessarily the most successful companies of the year; they are the companies that generated the most hype. this list is based mainly on opinion and memory - not to mention that it's probably skewed in favour of gaming. I won't be offended if anyone wants to make suggestions or point out errors and omissions.

note that the links in this article are intended to shed more light on the history of the companies. therefore, many aren't links to the company's site.

1980 - Nintendo. 1980 saw the birth of Donkey Kong. it sold over 65,000 copies and was the most popular game of the year. the hype was well deserved as Nintendo continues to be an important player in the video game market.

1981 - International Business Machines. the release of the IBM Personal Computer turned out to be one of the most important moves in the technology industry. IBM abandoned their traditional proprietary hardware model and shipped the PC using mainly off-the-shelf parts. however, in an effort to hinder competition, IBM did use some proprietary hardware. IBM didn't dominate the personal computer market in the way that they wanted, but the company's stock is still a blue chip.

note: in 1981, Apple ran a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal welcoming IBM to the home computer business.

1982 - Commodore International. the Commodore 64 home computer was released in 1982. the C64 sold roughly 20 million units and is one of the best selling computers of all time. commodore was never able to match the success of the C64.

Coleco. Coleco released the Colecovision video game console in 1982. the console sold over 500,000 units in the five months of 1982 that it was available. Coleco has not been heard from since the Colecovision, but recent rumblings suggest that the brand name may surface again (see http://www.coleco.com/).

1983 - Compaq. after Compaq reverse engineered the IBM PC, they brought in over $111 million USD in their first year of shipping 'clone' PCs. in 1983, the Compaq IPO raised $67 million USD. Compaq continued to release new machines until they were merged with HP in 2002.

Motorola. the first commercial hand-held mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, was released.
Novell. Novell Netware was introduced and dominated the network OS market for most of the 1980's. Novell's shine started to fade in the 1990s and the company was plagued with some high-profile failed acquisitions (e.g. WordPerfect and Quattro Pro).

1984 - Apple Computer. the Apple IIe was the gaming machine of choice (read: ya gotta love Rescue Raiders) and the Macintosh had just had its 'super' coming out party.

1985 - Nintendo. thanks to the Nintendo Entertainment System, the home video game market was revived after crashing in 1983.

1986 - Sun Microsystems Inc. the creator of the SunOS and Solaris UNIX-based operating systems went public in 1986. Sun has struggled over the years, but it continues to be an important player in the UNIX OS market.

Oracle Corporation. Oracle went public raising $55 million USD.

1987 - Microsoft. Microsoft and IBM released OS/2. Microsoft shares climb to $100 USD.

NeXT. this Steve Jobs project managed to raise some hype but in 1996, the company was purchased by Apple. however, as the Wikipedia points out, the innovations at NeXT were used heavily by Apple. therefore, some people referred "to the acquisition as 'NeXT getting paid to buy Apple'."

1988 - Creative Labs, Inc. the US subsidiary of Creative Technology Limited released the first SoundBlaster PC sound cards in 1998.

NASA (ok... it's not a private company). a space shuttle flies for the first time since the Challenger disaster.

1989 - Nintendo. in 1989 the original Game Boy was released. even today, the portable video game console is an important player in the market. in fact, the Game Boy is the most successful video game machine of all time - to date, Nintendo has sold over 100,000,000 units.

1990 - Microsoft. Windows 3.0 is released and sells 10 million copies in two years.

Sega. based on the success of Sonic the Hedgehog and the genesis, Sega was on its way to capturing 65% of the video game console market.

1991 - Industrial Light and Magic. in 1991 ILM created the first CGI main character when they brought the T-1000 to life for Terminator 2: judgment Day.

1992 - Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. in 1992, AMD had put a legal dispute with Intel behind them and the AMD Am386 chip had sold over one million units. AMD has continued to be a strong force in the microprocessor market.

1993 - Intel Corporation. in 1993 Intel released the Pentium microprocessor. the Intel chips have been so successful that Apple Computer announced in 2005 that they would switch from PowerPC chips to Intel.

Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. during its glory days, Acclaim was developing and publishing games for many different platforms. for example, Acclaim was responsible for bringing the Mortal Kombat series to home consoles.

according to the Wikipedia, Mortal Combat was released on these platforms in 1993:
Sega Genesis/Sega Mega Drive (1993) - the Genesis/Mega Drive versions were censored, but entering a secret code (a-b-a-c-a-b-b) restored the full gore and fatalities from the arcade version. In 1993 a Sega CD/Mega CD version of the game was released with arcade quality sound, a grainy version of the famous Mortal Monday commercial and loading times. This version did not require a code to be entered and thus was given an MA-17 rating by the Videogames Rating Council.
Amiga (1993)
Game Boy (1993)
IBM PC (1993)
Sega Master System (1993)
Sega Game Gear (1993)
SNES/Super Famicom (1993) - Because Nintendo of America had a problem with the depiction of blood, the SNES replaces blood with "sweat" and all fatalities that involve decapitation or mutilation are modified or replaced (only Liu Kang's, Sonya's and Scorpion's are intact). A Game Genie code existed which could recolor [sic] the sweat pixels to be red, giving the slight appearance of blood, although this could not realter [sic] the fatalities to their original form.

1994 - id Software. with the release of the landmark shooter, Doom, there was good reason for gamers to be talking about id. id would go on to produce some of the most popular FPS games ever created (e.g. Doom II, Quake, Quake II and Quake III).

Sony Corporation. the PlayStation video game console was released in Japan. the hype was well placed as the PlayStation line still holds the most market share of all video game consoles.

1995 - Microsoft. the release of Windows 95 was a major milestone for Microsoft. investors poured money into Microsoft stock and made Bill Gates the richest man in the world.

Pixar Animation Studios. toy story was the first fully computer animated feature length film. Pixar's IPO brings in $140 million USD.
Nintendo. the Nintendo 64 was released.

1996 - Netscape Communications. the Netscape Communicator browser was great and it had huge market share. it would take many years for anyone to compete with Netscape. however, the company eventually saw its share of the market eaten away by Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. AOL acquired Netscape in 1998.

Excite. raised $34 million USD with their IPO in 1996. Excite did not do well after the .com crash and filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

1997 - International Business Machines. IBM's Deep Blue computer becomes the first machine to beat a world chess champion when it won the last game of a rematch with Garry Kasparov.

Lucent Technologies. this AT&T spin-off saw its stock price rise from $7.56 to $84 USD. the company operates today with over 30,000 employees but once employed over 160,000.

1998 - Apple Computer. in 1998, Apple released the iMac computer. the sexy machine was seen frequently on TV (e.g. in a J-Lo video) and it was rated the “best desktop PC ever” by PC Magazine.

America Online. in 1998 AOL was bringing in millions of subscribers and the company acquireded Netscape Communications.
boo.com. the online UK fashion store managed to burn through $160 million USD before being liquidated.

1999 - VA Linux Systems. apparently, it's tough to live up to the biggest IPO gain in history. VA Linux never really did enough to justify their $7 billion USD dollar market capitalization. Red Hat also went public in 1999 (earning a $4.billionon USD market cap). most people would argue that Red Hat has proven to be the more influential company.

note: great quote from a 1999 CNN interview... "CNN: What do you consider the most overhyped aspect of the Internet? Charles Cohen: Definitely its cultural impact. Most of the things which people see as being culturally significant at the time don't turn out to be that big a deal in the long run. The Internet probably falls into this category."

Webvan. this online grocer reached a top value of $1.2 billion USD. webvan has been widely touted as the greatest .com failure.

2000 - Amazon.com. riding the .com bubble, Amazon was all the rage. how many covers could Jeff Bezos be on? over the years Amazon has survived and proven that the hype was in the right place.

Sony Corporation. the PlayStation 2 (PS2) was released in Japan. the PS2 holds the largest market share of any video game console and boasts some of the top grossing games of all time (e.g. Grand Theft Auto).
pets.com. in 2000, the pets.com IPO raised over $82 million USD. the hype was obviously not deserved as the company went belly-up in the same year.

2001 - Apple Computer. with the release of the first iPod, Apple was back in the news. while I didn't personally agree with those who seemed to believe that the original iPod was perfect, no one can argue that Apple wasn't back in the hearts and minds of tech consumers. since the release of the original iPod, a number of improvements have been made.

note: when the iPod was first reviewed, News.com ran a story called Apple's iPod stirs mixed reactions.

Microsoft. the first Xbox is released.

2002 - all outsourcing companies (yes, this isn't a company but it's well deserved). after the .com crash, there was a rush to find cheap labour anywhere on the planet. after realizing that the savings weren't black and white, a backlash against outsourcing started to surface.

2003 - Google. in 2003 Brandchannel named Google the "Brand of the Year." they also launched Blogger in 2003. although Google is clearly a successful company, only time will tell how many of their ventures will be profitable.

eBay. TV commercials for eBay start to appear and the entire world knows that eBay has gone mainstream.
Apple Computer. the iTunes music store opens in the United States.

2004 - Google. with a stock valuation that was through the roof and less profit than Yahoo, a 2004 Wired magazine article suggested that Google didn't deserve quite so much praise. however, in 2004 Google also topped the magazine's 'Wired 40' list and the company launched the popular Gmail web-based e-mail service.

2005 - Skype. many have argued (e.g. the BBC) that eBay's purchase of Skype for $2.6 billion USD was overpriced. only time will tell...

Blogger and other blogging sites </irony>. if there was only one blogging company, than it would have beat out Skype in this list. blogging is clearly a ridiculously popular activity. only time will tell if it will continue to be so popular and how many people can actually make money with a blog.
Microsoft. the Xbox 360 is the most sought after toy during the 2005 holiday season.
Apple Computer. Apple releases the iPod Nano and collaborates with Motorola to produce the first cell phone that works with the iTunes music player - the Motorola ROKR E1. the phone is widely criticized, but still makes a splash.

related articles:
CNET's Top 10 dot-com Flops

Monday, December 19, 2005

prometheus - the future of modding

the Prometheus (prom) application is being developed by the HaloDev team and it is shaping up to be the future of Halo modding. prom is a highly ambitious software project. according to HaloDev team member MonoxideC, “prom will take over and change modding forever. it will support all versions of Halo 1 and 2, and future games based on the same engine/file format. it’s a massive project and has been in development for over a year.”

will prom live up to the hype? it’s a relatively safe bet since the application is being developed by the creators of nearly all of the famous Halo modding applications. the team is led by Nick and currently includes big names such as Grenadiac, MonoxideC, CLuis, JamesD, Kornman, Talin64, rec0 and ViperNeo.

when I first received an alpha of prom, I was impressed with the functionality that the team had already coded. in typical modder fashion, the alpha build was time-bombed and my name was hard coded into the application title bar – a guarantee that I wouldn’t leak the application to anyone.

the tight security is not just to protect prom – a large part of the secrecy is meant to protect Halo. in addition to keeping HaloMods clean of cheater resources, the modding community has gone to great lengths to protect the integrity of the Halo series. for example, the prom team is spending many development hours ensuring that they protect Bungie's IP. a prom user will be able to use Halo content in their Halo mods, but they will not be able to export Halo content and use it for any other purpose. in other words, the HaloDev team wants to allow users to create mods, but they will not allow someone to use prom as a tool for misusing Bungie’s assets.

for more information about Prometheus refer to the HaloDev site.

Friday, December 16, 2005

game testers need cheaper TVs

thank goodness someone is starting to pay attention to an annoying trend. as the BBC reports, the new King Kong video game is terrible when viewed on a standard TV (note: I found this story through an entry on the news.com gaming blog). apparently, Ubisoft didn't test the game with an Xbox 360 and a standard TV.

the reason I'm happy to see this story getting some press is that I've found that some recent games have had similar issues even with HDTVs. I have an HDTV and when I bought Star Wars Battlefront 2, I was annoyed with how difficult it is to read the player stats - even the maps are terrible when compared with the first version of the game. I tried playing the game without the Xbox HD adaptor and the text became completely illegible.

I'm all in favour of games taking advantage of better displays, but if text is difficult to read on an HDTV then there's obviously a problem. the difference between Battlefront 1 and Battlefront 2 shows that game companies need to pay more attention to what they're doing. get those testers some cheap TVs!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

quick update dec 2005

well I made it back from a month of visiting Saint John, New Brunswick. I didn't have a reliable connection there so you may see a bunch of stale postings pop up. :P

other than my apartment getting flooded, the news is that The Black Art of Halo Mods is wrapping up and I'm talking to publishers about my next project.

well back to the sweet sound of the industrial dehumidifiers in my living room. anyway, I have my new house to cheer me up - although it was recently attacked by giant gummy worms...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

video game awards for actors 2005

I was watching Spike's video game awards yesterday and I couldn't help but notice that when people started trotting up to accept the awards, I wasn't able to spot anyone who actually developed a video game. I'm a fan of Spike tv, but I think that they need to reavaluate some aspects of the VGAs.

maybe they need to hand out some awards to celebrities just to boost their ratings, but this was over the top. if you compare the Oscars (probably the most prestigious award show) to the VGAs you'll see what I mean. instead of giving the award for the best movie to an actor, they give the award to the producers. when Spike gave out the award for best individual sports game, tony hawk accepted the award. I seriously doubt that tony managed the project or coded the engine in his spare time.

when a game developer did actually accept an award for God of War, I wondered if I was being too critical. but then it occurred to me that the reason this happened is that GoW might not feature any celebrity voices. it seems that spike painted itself into a corner where they actually had to give out hardware to someone who works in game development.

I gave up on the show at this point, so I didn't see some of the awards that seem like they should belong in a show about video games. I hope that whomever accepted the awards for things like best graphics was actually involved in the development process.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Northy's Grim Hearse mod

one of the modders who helped with Halo 2 Hacks (Northy from Team DeFiance) mailed me to let me know that he has released his latest Halo 2 mod. it's called Grim Hearse and it's a mod of Midship. I especially like the 'falling texture' (from the installation in Arbiter level) that gives the illusion that the level is plummeting through space. take a look at this video:


his previous mods are located here:

and some of his vids:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

amazon spells my name correctly

after months of misspelling my name in the credits for The Black Art of Halo Mods, the amazon page has been updated.

BTW - this was probably not their fault, I've seen this sort of thing happen before. for example, when I started at Microsoft, no one asked me my real name - in their DB I was 'steve' the whole time that I was there. if anyone looked up my real name in the Outlook GAL, they wouldn't find me. sure, my friends call me steve and that's cool, but it's nice to be asked. for more formal things, I like to use my real name.