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A few of my video game friends and a lot of my non-gaming friends have sent me links to this news story about Michael Thommason who just auctioned off “the largest video game collection” (per the Guiness Book of World Records) for $750,250.

News sites get excited when they hear the words “biggest” or “best” or “fastest”. Nobody wants to read about the thirteenth largest video game collection being sold. Of course thanks to the internet, our boundaries have grown larger. When I was in high school it was enough to have the fastest car in town. Today you have to have the fastest car on Facebook. Or at least say it’s the fastest.

I’m no expert when it comes to buying or selling bunches of things in a single lot, but I do know two things about it. The first is, when it comes to price, aim low. With a little rounding, 11,000 games selling for $750k comes to $68 per game (not including shipping and/or renting a box truck to go pick up your new collection).

According to the auction itself, the seller has several complete collections. The first one that caught my eye was the Atari 7800, mostly because I know it’s a fairly small collection (just over 80 games). I went to and checked their list of Atari 7800 games. Looking at the loose cartridge prices, there are only three games that sell for more than $68. Most5 of them sell for much less than that. In fact, over a dozen of the games can be picked up for less than $5. I’m not just picking on picking on the Atari 7800. Most disc-based systems have dozens if not hundreds of games that sell for a penny each on eBay. For every 9 games in that collection that are worth a penny each, there had better be a 10th one that sells for $671 to get that average price per game back up.

That brings me to my second point. Nobody yet has paid that price. Yes there was an auction, yes there were bidders and yes the auction ended with a bid of $750,250… but until somebody shows up with a dump truck full of money it hasn’t technically sold. I have dealt with “buyer’s remorse” from people on eBay who have bought things from me for a dollar. I’m not saying someone who would bid three-quarters of a million dollars for a bunch of video games might back out on the deal, but it’s likely possible.

Although nobody has identified the buyer yet, I hope he does end up paying for the auction and enjoys his new game collection. We’ll see if that happens.

Last night for Father’s Day, Susan, Mason and I were invited to attend dinner at “Morgan’s Restaurant,” which looked suspiciously like our dining room. Susan helped cook some of the food, but once that was done Morgan was the only person allowed in the kitchen.

The meal began by Morgan (owner, cook, and only waitress of this restaurant) brought out some chips, queso and salsa for us to snack on.

After taking our drink orders, Morgan handed us a menu…

…and returned a few minutes later to take our order.

I should point out that the menu had multiple pages: one for drinks, one for appetizers, one for the main courses, and one for desserts. While we waited for our food to arrive I found a contemporary Spanish music station on Pandora that sounded amazingly like the background music played in many of the Mexican restaurants we visit.

I ordered the nachos and a chicken soft taco, and before long this appeared in front of me!

Everyone else got their orders shortly after. I then noticed Morgan sitting at the table which I thought was pretty rude for a waitress to do but she then explained that now she was Morgan “our daughter” and not Morgan “the restaurant owner” so that made it okay.

After we were done eating it was time to order the dessert. Morgan (the waitress) brought the menu back out and I ordered the ice cream with a sugar cookie stuck in it. Surprisingly the dish arrived exactly as described.

Finally, Morgan brought us our check. She also conveniently brought Susan a credit card.

While Morgan ran our credit card, Mason donned his dinner jacket and informed us that he was, in reality, a well-dressed busboy. He began clearing the table.

My only real complaint about the restaurant was that at some point during dinner our busboy got shot.

Just kidding — that’s Kool-aid.

Thank you guys for the best Father’s Day dinner ever. The food and service were excellent. I will remember this meal for many years.

While I don’t want to spend too much time on the topic, here’s a quick little post explaining why I would never ever buy a car from the MINI of Peabody dealership.

I’ve had a gmail address for a long time — I got it back when gmail was invite-only, in fact. Shortly after signing up for gmail I began getting spam e-mails from a Mini Cooper car dealership located in Peabody, Massachusetts named Mini of Peabody. Just to be clear: I have no interest in Mini Coopers, have never owned one, never plan to, and never signed up for Mini of Peabody’s e-mail newsletter.

The monthly e-mails from Mini of Peabody are big and colorful and hard to miss. I deleted the first one and the second one and the third one. The e-mails suggested that I add to my address book to ensure that I received their e-mails, but instead I did the opposite and added to my spam list. I also clicked on the “report this e-mail as spam” button in gmail. Still, somehow, the e-mails get through.

Back then I was naive enough to believe that clicking “unsubscribe from this newsletter” worked. It doesn’t, or at least didn’t in this case. I clicked their “unsubscribe” button, followed the weblink, entered my e-mail address to remove it from their mailing list… and still, the newsletters came. I have tried this multiple times.

Now, one thing I would find entirely embarrassing if I were Mini of Peabody is that their newsletters contain multiple spelling errors. The one I have here in front of me contains an offer for their “Aligment Special” (it’s “alignment”), notes that their General Sales Manager’s first sale was a “Camero” (it’s Camaro), and mentions the car’s heated “seates” (seats).

After attempting to contact Mini of Peabody directly through e-mail on multiple occasions, I decided to try a different approach. In the fall of 2013 (yes, seriously) I began posting on Mini of Peabody’s Facebook page and publicly shamed them on Twitter. In October of 2013 I received a direct message from the dealership’s Twitter account (@MiniPeabody) letting me know that s/he would personally see to it that I was removed from the mailing list. I provided them my e-mail address. The very next month, in November of 2013, I got another newsletter from them. I still get them. I got one last month too, and I’m sure I’ll get one next month as well.

Based on that, here is why Why I would never buy a Mini Cooper (or any other car) from MINI of Peabody:

01. They send unsolicited e-mail (spam). Of the tens of thousands of car dealerships across the globe, this is the only one that continually e-mails me. This seems like a desperate way to sell cars to me.

02. They will not stop sending me unsolicited spam. Despite multiple attempts to get Mini of Peabody to stop e-mailing me, they continue. I can only presume this means one of two things: either they have chosen to intentionally continue to e-mail me, or technically they are incapable of no longer e-mailing me. If they have intentionally chosen to continue to e-mail me after I have requested multiple times that they stop, that would make me, as a potential customer, concerned about what other choices or decisions they would make against my wishes in the future. And if they are technically incapable of not e-mailing me, well, that’s pretty scary too. Everything from credit checks to loan applications are processed electronically at car dealerships. If Mini of Peabody can’t manage a simple mailing list, it makes me wonder if they can safely manage my social security number or bank account information!

03. Their newsletters contain multiple typos. When I pre-write one of my blog posts in Google Docs before sending it to WordPress, it gets spell checked three times: once by Google Chrome, once by Google Docs, and once by WordPress — and I’m not even running a business! When a company sends me e-mails with multiple typos in it, to me that seems like a company that doesn’t pay much attention to detail. It also makes me wonder what other parts of their business are they not paying attention to. Running spell check on an e-mail is trivial and free task. If you’re not willing to spend the few seconds it takes to spell check the newsletter that represents your company, it makes me think maybe you are not willing to spend a few extra seconds while working on my car, either. Is it laziness, sloppiness, or a simple lack of caring? I don’t know, but I do know I’m not looking for a car dealership with any of those traits!

04. They do not honor their word. In October of 2013, a representative of Mini of Peabody contacted me personally and said they would remove my e-mail from their mailing list. They didn’t. Again, I can only come up with two possible scenarios: either they cannot stop e-mailing me, or they can. If they cannot (a bizarre possibility), why would they promise me that they would do something they couldn’t do? If I did happen to buy a car from them, what else would they promise me that they could not deliver? And if they can stop e-mailing me, why won’t they? Knowing that a dealership “could” have done something for me but chooses not to would make me steer clear of them for sure.

For these reasons, I would never consider doing business with MINI of Peabody.

MINI of Peabody URL:
MINI of Peabody Facebook:
MINI of Peabody Twitter:

Doctor P took one look at me, looked at his computer screen, and then looked back up at me.

“You are amazingly fat,” he said.

Susan says those weren’t his exact words, and that sometimes I remember what I think people meant instead of what they said. So maybe that’s not exactly what he said, but in my head, that’s what I heard.

It continued. For an eternity, it continued.

“So, what do you think about my knee?” I asked.

“I think it hurts because you’re fat,” he continued. “Have you ever tried to lose weight?”

Asking an overweight person if they have ever tried losing weight is like asking them if they’ve ever added chocolate to anything, pilfered items from their kid’s trick or treat bag, or eaten their dessert first.

“What do you have for breakfast each morning?” he continued.

“A large sugar-free vanilla iced coffee and a breakfast burrito from McDonald’s,” I replied. Sometimes I have two, but I told him one.

Doctor P smirked. “Come on,” he said. “You think one breakfast burrito and one coffee is keeping you that size? How much do you exercise each week?”

“A little,” I exaggerated.

Doctor P took another look at his computer screen and then returned his focus to my fatness.

“Do you know how much you weigh?” he asked.

I know how much I weigh. Not only do I weigh every morning, but I just did it in the hallway, outside this room. The nurse was polite enough to not act as if I was the biggest person she had weighed all morning.

“Yes, I know how much I weigh,” I responded. “But my knee…” I started.

“Your knee is not the problem. Your weight is your problem,” he said.

For the next 20 minutes — or perhaps it was eternity — I listened to diet suggestions and exercise suggestions.

“I like walking,” I offered.

Technically Dr. P didn’t roll his eyes at me, but in my version of events, he did. For the next five minutes, he explained to me how short bursts of high intensity training is actually better than 30 minutes of walking. I’m sure it is.

“How many times a week do you walk?”

I thought. There was that time back in April…

“At least three times a week,” I responded.

This time, he really did roll his eyes.

As Dr. P explained the benefits of exercise and weight loss, it hit me: this was the conversation I’ve been dreading all my life. My mind picked out key words like “diabetes” and “blood pressure” and “life span” but I wasn’t really paying attention to what he said. All I could think about was how could I have ended up here? How could I have let this happen?

The signs have been there forever. No longer being able to buy clothes at Walmart. Constantly complaining about shirts “shrinking” when in fact it was me, growing. Constantly dealing with back/hip/knee pain. Complaining about new cars being “too small.” No longer fitting in airline seats (or, at a minimum, carrying a seatbelt extended with me). The eating of the sweet snacks between the bigger snacks between the meals. The snowcones, the ice cream, the cake, the chips, the dips, the salty and the sweet, they all caught up to me right there in Dr. P’s office.

So… what were you hoping for? Another blog post promising to eat less and exercise more? As I told Mason before every basketball game, talk’s cheap — actions matter. Yoda nailed it: “Do, or do not — there is no try.” I don’t need Dr. P to tell me again. It’s time to get healthy or die trying.

For what it’s worth, I completely forgot about my knee.

This is the final entry in a series of posts chronicling our California Vacation. You find all the posts by searching my blog for “California Vacation” (or just clicking this link).

Chronologically our visit to Disneyland took place earlier in the trip than everything else we did, but we had such a fun and exciting time that it made more sense to post it at the end. This was our first time for all of us to ever visit Disneyland.

Our story begins in the Fairfield Inn, and specifically the “Pirates of the Caribbean Suite” which we got upgraded to due to my platinum stats. What additional amenities does the Pirates of the Caribbean suite hold for weary travelers, you might ask? How about a pirate themed border from the dollar store around the top of the room and this framed picture!

No matter; after a good night’s sleep overseen by Jack Sparrow, we began our block-long walk from the hotel to our destination: DISNEYLAND!

On Saturday, May 24th, the four of us arrived at Disneyland around 8:00am. The turnstiles open at 8:30am and we were some of the first people to enter the park.

I just noticed that both of my kids were wearing spring break shirts from Florida, even though we were really at Disneyland in California. We travel a lot.

Disneyland is a big place; fortunately, upon entering you receive a map. I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Star Tours. Star Tours is a motion-based ride that simulates a trip through the Star Wars universe by placing riders in a moving platform that synchronizes its movements with a 3D film.

Someone (not me) uploaded a video from inside the the ride to Youtube, if you want to get an idea of what the ride is like. My friend Guy Hutchinson also pointed me to this fantastic video that shows just how much that space shuttle is a rockin’!

Immediately outside Star Tours is the Astral Orbiter. The kids wanted to ride it and the line was short so off they went. Morgan, using a joystick, controlled the height of the Orbiter while Mason mostly just screamed like a maniac and occasionally posed.

From there it was off to ride the Buzz Lightyear ride, but not before running into a couple of old friends!

The Buzz Lightyear ride is a moving shooting gallery. Using a joystick, riders can control which direction their space pod is facing, and each rider has their own laser gun with which they can shoot targets. Each player even has their own score mounted in front of them in their space pod. Unfortunately for me, each target takes so many seconds to reset after being shot and Morgan and I ended up behind two military sharpshooters who destroyed every target as if they were carpeting the ride with napalm. Multiple times throughout the ride neither of us had anything to shoot because all the targets were offline. Although I was frustrated, Morgan couldn’t have cared less and had fun alternating between shooting at things and trying to shoot me in the head.

After the Buzz Lightyear ride, we rode Star Tours (again), Space Mountain, and watched Captain EO. We rode Star Tours a second time because the ride is randomized and there are somewhere around 50 different clips you can experience. Unfortunately for us, we had essentially the exact same ones. Bummer! Space Mountain is a roller coaster that takes place the dark with stars and laser lights surrounding you. It was fast and scary and awesome. Captain EO is a “4D” movie starring Michael Jackson that lasts about 15 minutes. The movie was removed years ago from the park but readded after Jackson passed away. It wasn’t the most exciting part of the day but I’m glad to have seen it.

The exit to Star Tours is next door to “Starcade,” an arcade with 30 or so classic arcade machines.

The kids and I could have spent all day here, but Disneyland is $100/person to get in so we left to try and make the best use of our time… but not before I squeezed in a couple of quick games of Fix-It Felix Jr.

Next up was Autopia, a ride where people drive slow cars around a guided track. The kids wanted to do it so we let them. We’ve had the same ride at Frontier City for years and nobody ever wants to ride it there so I’m not sure why they got so excited about it at Disney.

From there we took the train (through “Dinosaur Land!”) to go through the Haunted Mansion. I remember listening to a vinyl album as a kid describing the Haunted Mansion, and as a fan of special effects I have wanted to experience this for a very long time.

I didn’t love the Haunted Mansion as much as I wanted to. Now, after reading more about the ride, I wish I could ride it again and look for some of the more subtleties of the ride.

We had time for one more ride before we broke for lunch, and while it’s cheesy and old school, I insisted that we ride It’s a Small World.

It was cheesy and just like all the cliches I’ve ever heard, with the song “It’s a Small World” playing over and over on a very short loop. About 2/3 the way through the ride, I noticed that our boat was slowing down…

Up until this point we hadn’t seen another boat full of people. Suddenly, we were end to end with a bunch of them, all stuck in the same room.

We sat inside It’s a Small World for almost 30 minutes as (I can only assume) operators worked on fixing the ride. About 10 minutes into our wait we heard an announcement to cut the ride’s audio. They did, and without the ride’s soundtrack playing the room was filled with the clicks, clacks and whirs of the animations flailing around to a now missing beat. A few minutes later we heard an announcement to “begin evacuation of the ride,” but that never happened. After another five or ten minutes lapsed, the soundtrack began playing again and with some manual assistance from employees near the front of the line, the boats began to move. We were inside the ride for roughly 30 minutes and I can’t think of a better place in the park to get stuck. After a while the view got boring, but it was 80 degrees outside and 66 degrees inside our boat. Plus I’m a journalist at heart, so I love whenever something out of the ordinary takes place!

After exiting It’s a Small World, we took a long lunch/afternoon break over at Mimi’s Cafe (just off park property) where we had a good lunch and some refreshing drinks. After resting up for a couple of hours at the hotel, we headed back over to the park around 6pm.

One of the rides I was looking forward to riding was the Indiana Jones ride. Unfortunately by the time we got there no more Fast Passes were available (which we didn’t even know was possible) so we opted for the Jungle Cruise ride instead. The Jungle Cruise ride was there in 1955 the day the park opened and remains there today. It’s another classic/vintage Disney experience that I wanted to have. Everything my kids knew about this ride came from the following Weird Al song:

Both the kids and I were amazed at how many of the jokes from Weird Al’s song were used used by our own Skipper.

“And look at all the elephants out here today! This comes as a complete surprise to me cause I had no idea these guys were going to be here. If you want to take pictures go ahead — all the elephants have their trunks on.”

It was starting to get dark and one thing the kids really wanted to ride was the Matterhorn, so we headed that way next. I’ve read that the Matterhorn is not a particularly “fat friendly” ride so we let the kids ride and waited for them by the exit. Mason tried shooting some video on the ride but it was too dark and shaky to use. This one is much better. Watch out for the Yeti!

As we left the Matterhorn we passed right by the Mad Tea Party cups which the kids wanted to ride, and since there was no line it was no problem.

So, here is where our inexperience came into play. Our plan was to wait until everyone was watching the fireworks and then sneak back over and ride Indiana Jones. Unfortunately that plan didn’t work out. What we didn’t count on was 10,000 people standing in the middle of Disneyland, waiting for the fireworks and blocking our path. Circling around the center of the park was a mass of people that resembled white water rapids. The four of us dove into the human current and rode it to where we wanted to “get off,” but discovered that part of the park was now closed off due to the fireworks. Had we known we would have headed that way earlier. With that plan both figuratively and literally blocked, we decided to go with our backup plan of getting some corn dogs instead.

Before going to Disneyland I had read that the park has some of the best corn dogs in the world. The original stand we tracked down was already gone for the night so instead we found our wat to the Stage Door Cafe. There we had corn dogs and even got a free funnel cake that somebody named “Cindy” paid for and never picked up. Cindy, you missed out.

For what it’s worth, I did not think the corn dogs were better than the ones we get at the Oklahoma State Fair. Those are tough to beat.

Around 10pm while we were eating our corn dog, the fireworks show began. We should have left before they began because not only could we not see them from where we were sitting, but by the time we left thousands of other tired and cranky people were leaving at the same time. Whoever named Disneyland “the happiest place on earth” didn’t do so after being nailed in the back of the ankle a dozen times by some stroller being pushed by a kid.

We left the park four tired but very satisfied customers. All of us have agreed that we would like to visit the park again in the near future, so we can mark these things off our list and start with all the other rides and attractions we didn’t get a chance to see!

For anyone interested, here is a complete itinerary of what we saw and rode while we were there.

Date: Saturday, May 24: 2014
Hotel: Fairfield Inn, Anaheim Resort (Pirates of the Caribbean Suite)

Breakfast: McDonald’s (across from the park entrance) (7:30am)

8:00am: Arrive at Gate
8:30am: Gates Open
9:00am: Rides and Attractions Open

Rides that were closed: (Roger Rabbit, Nemo, Alice in Wonderland)

Morning Rides: Star Tours, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear, Captain EO, Star Tours, Space Mountain, Autopia (Kids), Train (Dinosaurs), Haunted Mansion, Train (Grand Canyon), It’s a Small World.

Lunch: Mimi’s Cafe (Off the property; a block’s walk.)

Evening Rides: Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party (Kids), Matterhorn (Kids).

Edelweiss Snacks: Chimichanga and drink ($11)
Stage Door Cafe: 4 Corn Dogs w/fries and drinks (~$50)

Somehow I think a more perfect gift would be a spell checker.

While visiting my son’s school I saw this poster hanging in the journalism room. The first word of the poster says “stuents” instead of “students”. That is a bad start for budding journalists.

Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock,” was a maximum-security federal prison that opened in 1934 and closed in 1963. It was built largely by military prisoners and served as a military prison before being upgraded and turned into a prison in the 30s. There was no rehabilitation at Alcatraz. It was designed to imprison.

“Those who break the rules go to prison. Those who break the prison rules go to Alcatraz.”

A visit to Alcatraz begins with a ferry boat ride to the island, which is 1.25 miles off the coast. Despite the fact that you can see the prison almost immediately after disembarking, it takes a while to get there. The cold wind, strong currents and rumors of sharks are enough to keep all but the most desperate of criminals out of the water.

Here is the sign “welcoming” you to Alcatraz Island.

After sitting through a fifteen minute video explaining the history of the prison, we began the 13 story hike up to the main part of the prison. Along the way we encountered lots of birds (seagulls and pigeons, mostly) and lots of great trees and flowers. There is actually a separate gardening tour available for Alcatraz, but we missed it.

One thing I did not know was that lots of non-prisoners (mostly family members of guards and administration staff) also lived on Alcatraz. One woman explained how she woke up every morning, took a boat with her friends to San Francisco, attended school, and then returned home to Alcatraz after school ended. Many of the flowers and trees on the island were brought over by the wives of staff, and volunteers maintain them to this day.

While the outside of the grounds may look nice, the inside of Alcatraz is as cold and foreboding as one might expect. The cells are 9 foot deep, 5 foot wide, and 7 foot tall. Each one has a metal bed, “desk”, toilet, sink, and shelves. If your kids complain because they only have a PlayStation 3 and not a PlayStation 4, you should show them these accommodations.

The hallways of the prisons are named after streets (Broadway, Michigan, Times Square) and there are four cell blocks (A-D). One of them faced windows that let sunlight in — those were considered the best. The worst was D, which was also home to “the hole” — windowless, dark cells designed for solitary confinement. From some of the cells, it was said you could actually hear activity from the mainland, especially on New Years Eve when people were outside partying.

In May of 1946, six prisoners overpowered guards and managed to obtain the keys to the weapons room. The battle that ensued is known as the Battle of Alcatraz. Two guards were captured and placed into a cell. When the prisoners realized they were not going to escape, they executed them. This part of the tour was very intense as the audio explained where everything took place and pointed out bullet holes in the floors and walls where the Marines had fired into the prison in an attempt to end the standoff. When the smoke had cleared, 17 prisoners and 1 guard had been wounded. Additionally, 1 of the original prisoners and 2 guards were killed. Two of the convicts who had led the attack and executed the guards were put to death in San Quentin’s gas chamber two years later.

The most famous escape in the prison’s history was the escape of prisoners Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin, known as the “Escape from Alcatraz” and immortalized in the movie of the same name. Led by Morris, the three men devised an escape worthy of a Hollywood feature. Using sharpened metal spoons and a drill made from a vacuum cleaner motor, the three carved holes through the walls of their cells which led to a ventilation shaft. Using stolen raincoats the three made an inflatable life raft, which they used — in theory — to escape the island. To buy them extra time, the three placed dummy paper mache heads (adorned with real human hair from the barbershop) in their beds, which fooled the guards throughout the night.

Here is one of the holes the criminals escaped through…

…and here is one of the heads, still on display in the cell. Do you think you would have noticed the difference, in a dark prison in the middle of the night?

The big question of course is, did the three get away? It depends on who you ask. The official answer is no — they drowned, and the government cites the discovery of an unidentified body floating in the bay a few weeks later as proof. Hollywood, and many others, believe that the three did escape. According to Wikipedia:

“However, there have since been reports that there was an illegal boat in the bay on the night of the escape, that a Chevy was stolen by three men on the mainland, and that there have been sightings of the three men and that friends and family members have received many unsigned postcards and messages. The mother of the Anglin brothers received flowers anonymously every Mother’s Day and two very tall unusual women were reported to have attended her funeral before disappearing. A call to the U.S. Marshals Office was reportedly made a day after the escape from a man claiming to be John Anglin.”

One of the things pointed out to us was that in Alcatraz, people didn’t have names — just numbers. In the gift shop while we were there was inmate number 1259 — aka William G. Baker — signing copies of his book Alcatraz #1259. I haven’t read his book yet but I’ll bet this guy has some stories to tell.

One thing I did not know anything about was the Occupation of Alcatraz, which began in 1969 and lasted for 19 months. A formerly signed treaty (the Treaty of Fort Laramie) declared that “retired, abandoned, or out-of-use federal land was returned to the Native people from whom it was acquired.” In 1969, several Native Americans claimed the island, 6 years after the prison had officially closed its doors. The occupation began with 14 people, but grew at one point to around 400. What might have started off as a good idea quickly turned into a mess. By May of 1970 the government had cut off electricity and phone service to the island, making an already uncomfortable place to live (we’re talking Alcatraz here) downright uninhabitable. In June of 1971, government officers removed the remaining Native Americans from The Rock.

Several hand painted signs from the occupation remain and serve as a reminder of that time.

After completing our tour we were hot and sweaty so we decided to take a quick shower in the prison’s shower room.

(We didn’t really take showers here.)

After standing in the shadows of such infamous inmates as Al Capone, Doc Barker, Creepy Karpis, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert “the Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud, we headed back to the mainland.

Funny, it doesn’t look so far from here…

The thought of a self-driving car seems like an idea snatched from the pages of science fiction. The idea of one seems fantastic and scary at the same time. Last week at the Computer History Museum, Google had one of their self-driving cars on display where we got to learn a little bit more about how they work.

I suppose if you can afford to design and build a self-driving car, you might as well do it in a Lexus SUV, as you see here. None of my pictures of the inside of the car came out very well, but other than a small computer module mounted to the dash and a big red panic button on the center console, it looks pretty much like the inside of every other Lexus SUV. The car begins with a detailed map of the area in which it will be driving (think: super detailed Google Map). That’s the “known”. Then it discovers the “unknown” (cars, traffic lights, people) using a LIDAR system mounted to the top of the car.

LIDAR (Laser RADAR) scans the environment and identifies things that are not on the map. Here is a picture of what the LIDAR “sees” …

…and how it interprets that into 3D objects.

The current version of the software is detailed and advanced enough that not only can it tell the difference between things like cars, bicyclists and pedestrians, but it also reacts to them differently. One example the demo gave was that the software can identify a bicyclist, watch for hand signals, and then slow down if the cyclist indicates that they are about to turn in front of the car. The software is also programmed to identify orange traffic cones and speed limit signs and react accordingly. The demo did not explain how the car would deal with Oklahoma potholes.

Another video explained how human drivers, behind the wheel, continue to teach the software how to drive comfortably. If the car brakes too quickly or turns too sharply, the human driver can correct those actions and the computer will learn from it. Very interesting!

After we left the museum we drove through the middle of Google’s campus. We couldn’t get inside for a tour but we did see tons of people on those multicolored Google bicycles, and we also managed to get a picture of the front of the building. Unfortunately as you can see, one of our thumbs was partically over the camera lens, which explains why neither of us work there.

Get ready for another picture-intensive post that documents my family’s visit to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California! The Computer History Museum is divided into 20 numbered rooms, which advance their way through the history of computers chronologically, and starts with a pretty old computer — the Abacus.

From a historical perspective this makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t do a good job in convincing a couple of kids that this museum is not going to be boooooring.

At least the first 10 rooms of the museum cover computers that were made before I was born. There were large sections of ENIAC…

…along with a large UNIVAC…

…and several other old computers. One room covered the development of transistors and another showed old analog machines designed to track trajectories. Again, all these things were historically interesting but did little to keep the kids’ attention.

One of the things that I found really interesting was this Enigma codebreaking computer from World War II. There was a short video playing next to the machine and the kids did think that was cool.

Another historical computer on display at the museum was this Cray 1. When I was a kid all I knew about Cray computers was that they were used in creating the graphics in The Last Starfighter. It’s cut off in the picture, but this Cray contained 32k of RAM and cost between $6 and $10 million dollars.

If you are a lady and think this museum sounds boring, then check out this computer from 1969!

This computer was designed to appeal to women and was designed to store recipes and live in your kitchen! For $10,000, owners would get the computer, an apron, a cook book, and a two-week course on how to program the thing. All the recipes were stored and presented in binary, which might explain why these kitchen computers from Neiman-Marcus did not sell well.

Also on display was this IMSAI 8080 computer. I don’t think anyone knows what this machine actually does. People only know it as “that computer from Wargames!”

The first room that really captured the kids’ attention was the one that focused on robots. There were several robots on display, from small toys to industrial machinery.

Then, as my dad would say, “this is where I came in.”

Starting with this Apple 1 (signed by Woz), the museum got into what I think of as the birth of home computers. While I know hobbiests dinked around with Altairs and other home machines, it wasn’t until they had monitors, keyboards, and simple storage that home computers came in to their own.

TRS-80 Model I

Retro Row

More Retro Machines

This was the first point in the museum where I could say, “I had one of those!” (Or in some cases, “I still have one of those!”)

One room contained a large display of peripherals, from early mice and keyboards to all kinds of controllers. Here are a few I recognized! Of course I owned (and own) Atari Joysticks and that Wico stick on the right, but that Archer joystick in the middle is the one we had for our Apple computer growing up as well.

The next part of the museum focused on computers in arcade machines. Two very famous arcade machines were on display at the museum.

Computer Space is, of course, the first coin-operated machine.

This was the first Pong machine (a prototype) that was put on location at Andy Capp’s. If you have ever heard the story about how the first arcade machine broke down because it was so jammed full of quarters that it would no longer operate, this is that very machine.

This room got more into computer software. As you can see by these games on display, this area focused on text adventures. A kiosk running Zork was on display and Mason spent a few minutes working his way through the first couple of screens.

There were three playable machines in the “computer game” area running a text adventure, Pac-Man, and Pong. All three were noticeably running emulators.

As quickly as the tour began, it ended. The last room focused on the “dot com” revolution. The coverage felt a little uneven with a lot of focus on early machines and not much on modern history. The kids would have liked more interactive exhibits (kids love pressing buttons and watching videos). Overall the museum was very enjoyable and we did learn some things. Seeing the old historical machines was exciting.

There was one last exhibit on display at the museum but I’ll be saving that for a separate post of its own.