The Old Timey Computer Show 2nd Anniversary


This is a collation of tweets posted on May 19, 2021 on @OTComputerShow. They are recreated here, with edits for clarity and continuity, for archival purposes.

May 18 marks the second anniversary of the Old Timey Computer Show. What started as a fun experiment is now a hub to learn, discuss, and rediscover the history of computers and video games for over 12,000 followers. The (belated) two-year retrospective follows in this thread.

One year ago today, the channel had 3,100 followers, and in that amount of time, viewership has tripled. I have dedicated much of the year expanding the channel's content in my free time, and also opened a Patreon to offset the costs of upkeep after much resistance to the idea. The channel was formerly run from an Atomic Pi running OBS. While this was able to keep the channel online for two years, it was overkill. I wanted to be able to run an unattended 24/7 channel on a headless box, but the Atomic Pi's imperfect stability made that impossible. In April of this year, I decided to finally migrate to Raspberry Pi, which required an entirely new backend. I spent two weeks writing a Python script that controls a special fork of ffmpeg capable of weaving discontinuous video files for HLS. The ability to correct discontinuities in real time is a feature that has been requested in ffmpeg for many years, and is crucial to making the goal of truly unattended video relay possible. To date, only this fork has this feature.

With this, I was able to complete my Python program. Mr. OTCS reads a text file with the names of video files and transcodes them to a local sever that ultimately relays it to an external service, all without interruption to the viewers. One of the unique features of Mr. OTCS is to read ahead in its internal playlist and create a live schedule of previous and upcoming programming. It answers the most common questions: "What did I miss?" and "What's coming up next?"

One of my habits with online content is to answer as many questions as possible before they are asked. To that end, every video presented has the title and year shown on the sides, and the chat responds to that information. Knowing exactly what year a show was produced is a key part of the conversations that ensue. Observing how people discuss the history of technology and how it relates to their own personal experiences growing up alongside it is one of the most rewarding things of running OTCS. I've spent a tremendous amount of time maintaining the channel and seeking out video for it, all to give the visual history of computers and video games a fresh audience it could not have otherwise gotten. Much of what's shown has recorded less than 1,000 views. (After all, who would go out of their way to watch VHS lectures on now-obsolete networking technologies and instructional videos for installing CD burners?)

I sometimes get comments that the shows are "boring" or that no English speaker would care to see it. With the online schedule, I can reply that since OTCS is a TV channel, not everything will be to your liking, and you can change the channel until something you do like is on. With the ability to deploy Mr. OTCS on cheap hardware like the Raspberry Pi, I'm able to back up the current Patreon goal of 100 concurrent subscribers to launch side channels with specialized content to address these concerns.

Finally, I will once again promote the primary inspirations for the Old Timey Computer Show. OTCS was the original idea of @chuboh, who mused that a Twitch channel that plays nothing but "old timey British computer shows" would be fun to watch. chuboh streams obscure computer games and arcade games (even stuff like plug and play games) on Twitch:

One of the biggest supporters of the channel is @forgottenvcr, who streams VHS mixtapes of eclectic and bizarre videos three times a week, and also participates in vaporwave music and aesthetic festivals.

In closing, none of this would have been possible without the unending support of the viewers, those who give context for the shows, those who share their own experiences with early computers, and those who just enjoy the channel in the background. Thank you for your support.

Support the channel on Patreon: Follow the curator: @TheOpponent