And what an exciting time to be an iPhone user. The new apps, the slick games, the old games rechristened as iPhone games – to be on the ground-level with so much innovation is a rare experience. Blake and Arnold’s Touch Arcade blog help iPhone and iPod Touch gamers explore the games, separate the gems from the lumps of coal, and discover what’s coming next.
“We work hard to cover the titles that are emerging for the platform and are pleased with the response from our readers,” Blake says. “We strive to be the go-to site for iPhone gaming.”
For Blake, the newness of the Touch Arcade project is in contrast to his usual hobby: namely, taking old computers, fixing them up, and running games and programs on them. Blake’s other blog, Byte Cellar, explores classic Apple IIs, NeXT machines, and even the Newton. He even loves to take those “obsolete” machines and fire up modern apps, like streaming video to an Apple IIc, just to see if it works.
“Such a nicer machine,” he says. “I was in love with the total Apple package: the hardware, the documentation, the design, the marketing. It was love at first site.”
Arnold Kim (who also authored a Newton site back in the day) wrote a private community web app that Blake and his friends used to stay in touch. When Blake would post his retro computing projects, it sparked an idea for a dedicated blog to cover the craziness.
“So began Byte Cellar,” he says. “Purely fun, no profit.”
“Computers ‘felt better’ back then,” he says. “Back when every computer was its own platform, I’d move from one to the other and it was a whole different experience. As I geek, I loved learning the ropes on something wholly unfamiliar. Now there’s OS X, Windows, and Linux. Not nearly as much fun.”
Those retro computers are cheaper these days, too, which helps.
“Take my NeXTstation Turbo Color – I got it for $250 complete with 20-inch color CRT a few years ago,” Blake says. “That was around $8,000 new. I can live the dream of my past, today.”
His favorite antique? An Apple Lisa 2 that doubles as a prize possession and one of his more expensive acquisitions. The combination of the pioneering GUI and document-centric Office System was “ahead of its time,” Blake says.
“It was really the first commercial computer to feature a graphical user interface, and it certainly shaped what was to become the Macintosh,” he says.
Blake keeps his collection in the real-life “Byte Cellar.” His basement holds 15 working computers dating as far back as 1982; most of them are out in full view, turned on and ready to go.
“Only very few units in my possession are shelved and stored out of the way,” Blake says. “I care about using the machines, not simply owning them.”
While he considers himself more an “Apple guy” than a “Mac guy” (Apple tattoo, anyone?), Blake’s main machines now consist of a quad-core 3 GHz Mac Pro with three screens and a first-gen, 2 GHz Core Duo MacBook Pro.
At his day job as a web app developer, he takes his MacBook Pro along with him. The company Dells, Blake says, don’t do it for him, but he’s lobbying the group to make the Mac switch.
“It was so far beyond anything I’d seen in the mobile arena,” he says. “I promptly grabbed my own and it was heaven.”
Heaven, that is, until Steve Jobs killed the platform the next year. Blake still picks up the occasional Newton, and even experimented with NewtonScript development, but his Newton usage has slacked off recently.
It’s no wonder, because the iPhone 3G is keeping him plenty occupied.
Blake was sitting front-row during the iPocalypse debacle during this summer’s iPhone 3G release. His front-line Twittering, in fact, kept me informed of the Great Server Blackout midway through the morning. Still, all the standing in line and waiting was worth it just to get “faster data, stronger apps, but best of all: the iTunes App Store.”
“I was glad to get the phone and, just like last year, the people in the line were great,” Blake says.
When Apple broke the iPhone SDK news in March, the idea of a mobile gaming platform as advanced as Apple’s updated device led Blake and Arnold to their Touch Arcade idea.
“Looking at the hardware capabilities of the device, it was clear that gaming would be huge on the platform,” Blake says. “Arnold asked me if I was interested in co-running the site with him and I jumped at the chance.”
And so Touch Arcade was born. Since its launch, the site has been a hit, earning blog references and go-to cred for iPhone gaming. Since Apple doesn’t allow app tryouts before making a purchase, Touch Arcade’s handy game videos serve as a practical resource for iPhone app shoppers, too.
Blake credits the accelerometer, touch screen, and feedback mechanism (the “rumble” effect) – along with a high-powered CPU and graphics hardware – with making iPhone games rival any innovative software the Nintendo DS could put out. The freshness of the platform is key, because current games are just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of what’s possible, he says.
For gaming fans, Touch Arcade couldn’t have come at a better time.