Project Start Date: August 27th, 2005 **UPDATED 10/31/06**
Prelude: Back in the very early 90's, when I had only JUST started using the Internet, I was a paranoid little twentysomething. Before getting on the net, I had amassed a large collection of text files ranging from bomb plans, to hacking documents, to subversive literature, to conspiracy theories. Never having been a "mainstream" normal kinda guy, anything sort of anarchic or subversive appealed to me. Especially the hacking docs and political rants. "F*ck the system" was my motto, and the Internet appealed to me as a sort of clearinghouse for subversive or controversial material. After a few months on the web and a lot of time on the Usenet, my mind started to play tricks on me. I started getting paranoid, like "they" were watching me. "They", that shadowy, nebulous international paragovernmental agency, were logging everything I had downloaded, and could browse my system while I was online. I figured, "If I could only buy some obscure old system, one "They" would have no experience using, and that only had floppy drives, I would be OK. So, I backed up all my text files to several dozen 1.44Mb floppies (this was before affordable CD burners hit the market), wiped my HD, then put an ad in the Usenet group winnipeg.forsale.computers, asking for a computer system that met the following criteria:
IBM compatible (x86 architecture)
Was not an Amiga or other Commodore product (C64, 128, PET, etc)
Was not an Atari computer (800XL, ST, Panther, etc)
Was not an Apple product (//c, //e, Lisa, Mac, etc)
Had a standard RS-232 serial port supporting at least 19200bps
Had an OS and terminal program and operating manuals
I received several responses. Oddly enough, nobody thought I was trolling, which, looking back, is pretty amazing. One guy who replied had said that the only thing he could think of that fit the bill was a Coco 3 with a Deluxe RS-232 pack, which was funny, because I HAD that exact setup and had sold it two years prior! Another offered to sell me an Osborne system with extra monitor and about a hundred disks, another who couldn't read offered me an Amiga 500, but the last response was the best. A gentleman who lived out of town offered me his Sony SMC-70G setup for $900 CDN, but I had to come pick it up. I balked at the $900 price, so at first I said "I'll think about it" and made arrangements to pick up the Osborne...
The gentleman who owned the SMC-70G emailed me the specs for the machine, and described the software he had, what the system could do, and that he was using it for video production (titling, scrolls, etc). Suddenly, my mind got to work. Hmmm, it could do titling...it had software to control VTR decks, it had a paint program...and best of all, a superimposer/genlock! At that time, my brother and I were really into anime (specifically Sailormoon), and I had a line on Japanese laserdiscs. If I were to buy this setup, I could translate the dialogue on the laserdiscs and essentially start my own video empire! So I went to the bank, got a loan, and was on my way to picking up the machine. Well, I didn't realize HOW far the gentleman lived from Winnipeg. I suckered honourary Thug Fryguy into driving me all the way to Grandview, Manitoba (which took five hours) and back (which took another five hours) to pick the thing up. When we got there, the gentleman (if I remember correctly, his name was Jack Liebgott) showed us to his computer area. I remember my jaw hitting the floor... he had a black video control deck, a couple of editing monitors, and a couple of VTRs... as well as the SMC-70G. He gave me a quick runthrough on the SMC-70G to show me it worked, gathered the equipment, and helped us load Fryguy's truck. He offered to sell me the rest of his stuff, too, such as the VTRs, the control deck, and so on, but I didn't have the money. If only I did...
When we got the thing home, I played with it a bit, did a bit of research, then started reading up on the unit. A couple of days later, my ISP eliminated Unix shell access, and so I was completely unable to use my newfound investment to access the Internet! What a crock! I phoned around town, and as it turned out, EVERY ISP in Winnipeg had eliminated shell accounts, citing security reasons... and to add insult to injury, BBS systems around Winnipeg had slowly gone away, quickly forgotten with the introduction of affordable Internet access.
So, I was essentially left with a very expensive toy. My original plan of using an obscure, floppy based system to access the Internet was dead. I checked around the Usenet and on video equipment shops online and found that editing VTRs, especially the Sony decks I wanted, generally held their value and were prohibitively expensive. The other equipment I wanted, such as the SMI-7075 Videotizer, the SEG-2000A special effects generator, and the like were either impossible to find, or ridiculously expensive as well. My interest in the SMC-70G soon waned... A year later, I picked up an Amiga 2000 computer and soon after bought a genlock and subtitling software for it. The SMC-70G was soon relegated to the back of my closet.
Here we are, ten years later. Thanks to the advent of eBay, I can find VTRs, control decks, editing monitors, live cameras, and SEG machines fairly cheap. I'm thinking it's time to drag the machine out of its box and into regular use. I hope it still works!
Project Details: Ever since Slam and I resurrected the Thugs a few years ago, I've been itching to find a use for my SMC-70G. As it stands, I can use the machine to learn CP/M, and even use Maxi-Mite, a terminal program supporting Xmodem and Ymodem (including -crc and -batch variants), to access one of the Unix machines, and in effect get the machine online as I'd intended ten years ago! But that's really not much of a challenge, is it? Nope, so I'm likely going to need to write my own programs for the machine. As well, I want to use the unit as a video production studio. The SMC-70G will be at the heart of Conceited Jerk Creative Media, producers of ThugTV (coming soon).
Hardware Required: Apart from my writing ability and the fact that Slam and I are perfect foils in a personal and creative sense, we'll need to upgrade the SMC-70G to maximize its potential. The following equipment will be needed:
Sony VTRs (like a Umatic Videocassette Recorder Part# VO-5850 or
Another composite or BNC monitor
Videotizer (Sony part # SMI-7075) - Bought!
Automatic Editing Control Unit (like Sony part # RM-440) - Bought!
Special effects generator (Sony part # SEG-2000A) - Bought!
Colour Video Camera - Bought!
Blue screen material
This will give us a great live studio setup (let's see you do THAT with a new fangled PC!), and allow for some truly oldskool video production, without having to resort to Adobe Premiere or Quicktime or the like.
Estimated Date of Completion: Second Quarter 2007