Since most of us are trapped in our homes as viruses bang on our doors with their creepy little protein arms, I figured you could use a nice deep-dive Torchinsky Files episode, full of really intensely geeky crap. I think I’ve provided that for you, with this tour of something pretty amazing: essentially, a website before there was a web at all. A website on a 143K floppy disk, running on a computer literally hundreds of thousands times slower than whatever you’re reading this on. It’s Buick’s 1986 Buick Dimensions time.
I actually wrote about this way back in 2012, but something screwed up with the pictures in that story over the years, so I figured it made sense to take another stab at it. Oh, I think in the video I keep saying it’s from 1987, but it looks like it’s actually 1986!
Since 2012 and a move I seem to have misplaced the original disk—at first I thought I was doomed, until I found some disk images of it online and was able to get them to load into my real, got-for-my-Bar-Mitzvah Apple //e thanks to the help of DataJerk, the very clever person behind the Apple II Disk Server, a website that lets you plug your phone into the cassette input jack of your old Apple II and load up pretty much any software.
It’s great for old games and stuff, but DataJerk was kind enough to upload the Buick Dimensions disk images to the server for me, so I could make myself a new copy and any of you out there with old Apple IIs banging around can try it as well!
As I make clear in the video, I think Buick had an idea way ahead of its time—this is effectively a Buick website on a disk, rendered in six colors and a screen with 280x192 (well, really 140x192) resolution, which, I’d like to show you, compares to a modern iPhone like this:
And, of course that Apple II ran at 1Mhz, and it looks like this one actually required a full 128K of memory, which I misspoke about in the video, so, sorry about that.
I dig through as much of that disk as I can in the video, and even though we ended up cutting the parts where I talk about how to cut a notch in an old floppy disk so you could use the back side and the comparison of a Riviera to a BMW, I think there’s plenty here for you.
Oh, and also, in this episode you can see a different bit of my basement that includes an autograph from Baja 1000 Ironman winner Mark Stahl, a big, illuminated netsuke, and a painting of noted robot Johnny 5.
Plus, if you have an Apple II handy, you can try it yourself! What’s a better way to “socially isolate” yourself than to prepare to buy a Buick in 1986?
Nothing, that’s what.