the Pinnacle of Play: GRAND THEFT AUTO Returns to Westside

For some of us, playing video games is more than fun… It’s an obsession… but it wasn’t always this way, I swear.

I am a child of the Commodore 64 generation. Growing up, my friends all had Ataris, and SEGAs, and ColecoVisions, and while I might’ve been the last kid on the block with a Nintendo Entertainment System– we did always have the latest and greatest of the home computers. From the Commodore 64XS in all its color glory, to the green lettered IBMjr with its giant floppy disks, the Amiga, and CGA graphics (a milestone in computer gaming), in the Toomb household there was always a newer computer.

Enter the golden era of adventure gaming, and a little company called Sierra. I booted up King’s Quest for the first time in the 4th grade, and was immediately transported into every fairy tale I’d ever read. What I remember as brilliant color graphics and a fully-realized 3D world is mostly sentimental memory, because looking back now the graphics and game play are almost embarrassing. If I showed my kids these games, they would think there was something wrong with me… But I spent hours and hours glued to the mouse and keyboard- frantically typing in commands like “use hammer on door.” Those early adventure games were like an extension of my imagination, where the characters could go anywhere, explore anything, and complete some quests along the way. Sierra put out a slew of these Quest games when I was between the ages of 8-12- ranging from Police Quest to the extremely inappropriate and revolutionary Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Now, my parents weren’t the most censoring parents in the world, and while letting your 10 year old play a game where the sole purpose is to get laid might sound like fun, it’s sad to say that I learned a lot about the birds and the bees from ‘ol Larry (I will never forget the first time I saw digital breasts in VGA… all those pixels… wowza).

As I got older and Nintendo took over the world, I spent hours guiding Mario and Luigi through countless levels and machinations, from Yoshi’s Island to Mario Kart, Mario 64 to Street Fighter II. I also logged countless hours on the computer with flight simulators and open-world driving games like Test Drive, but something was always missing. Call it my young initiation into the Land of the Lounge Lizards, but video gaming was entirely too safe. By the time I was in my late teens, early 20s, the Playstation I had introduced me to blood-splattering fun games like Resident Evil and Siphon Filter, but they were all just plug-in-and-unwind kind of games. To be played with friends on a lazy afternoon, not to be immersed in. I always longed for those days of open-world adventure, where exploring a digital landscape was part of the fun. Nothing matched King’s Quest or Leisure Suit Larry.

Enter Grand Theft Auto III. The game that literally changed the way my brain was wired. In the video game world there is everything before GTA III, and then there is everything after. Before GTA my video game playing was a hobby, an escape, something fun to pass the time.

Grand Theft Auto puts the player into the shoes of a criminal who has just escaped from prison after being betrayed by his bank-robbing ex-girlfriend in the New York-esque town of Liberty City. I cannot impress the impact that this game had on me enough. It was as if every game I’d played in the past was really just building up to this particular game. It had everything I ever wanted in a video game: an open-world with tons of stuff to do besides the missions, a real soundtrack with real music instead of digitally produced noises, and a sense of humor- I repeat- a sense of humor. Until GTA, video games were all “hero this” and “save that,” but suddenly game play was wide open. I could steal cars, drive them at high speeds into oncoming ambulances, I could run from the cops and shoot my way out of going to jail, and most controversially: I could pick up a hooker, have implied sex with her, and then kill her and get my money back. A long way from Mario and Luigi, but not so much from that first game of Leisure Suit Larry.

Over the years, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has evolved- every time taking place in a new locale based on an American city. This is the key point to the GTA games… American popular culture is truly what’s being lambasted in these games. Sure you can sneak up construction cranes and snipe random people on the sidewalk, but it’s really our society’s ridiculousness that’s being assassinated. The games mix satire, social commentary, criminal fun, and whimsical amusement perfectly. Leave it to the British (Rockstar Games North) to skew American culture in such a brilliant “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” kind of way.

From Vice City (Miami) to San Andreas (Southern California) and Las Venturas (Vegas), Grand Theft Auto has clung tight to the criminal mythologies of America while offering up a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek comedy, mostly missed by critics. Grand Theft Auto eventually became sillier, wilder, and yes, funner as the years and locations progressed- culminating in what most see as the height of the series GTA: San Andreas. Taking on the role of CJ, an “LA” gang member, the bustling cities gave way to freeways and landscapes, deserts and ghost towns alike. San Andreas was the first in the series to incorporate 3 major cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas) into the game. San Andreas was a sprawling epic, with almost too much to do. From working out at the gym to become a hulk, or gorging yourself on fast-food until you grew fatter and fatter (even a little binge and purge at the “Burger Shot”). CJ could sneak onto an aircraft carrier and fly a Harrier-like aircraft (complete with missiles), he could even steal alien jet-packs from Area 51. GTA: San Andreas had it all… including base jumping from the Transcontinental Building and Golden Gate. Uh, yes please.

The outlandish qualities of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas were eclipsed (much to the chagrin of those who fawned over giving their characters different haircuts and tattoos) by Rockstar Games‘ reboot of the series, Grand Theft Auto IV. The only game I have ever waited in line until midnight for. Boy was it worth it. GTA IV, in my opinion, is simply the greatest video game ever made. Rockstar took a step back from the silliness of some of its previous titles, incorporating more dramatic aspects, free-form storytelling, and cranking up the social satire. Rockstar did this by creating the greatest video game character ever made: Liberty City. Based on New York’s Burroughs and New Jersey, Liberty Cityis a living, breathing monument to what can be done with a video game. When I first got the game I would get lost for hours, looking at scenery, following random street people as they go about their days, watching two drivers duke it out after a fender-bender… I mean,  for all intents and purposes Liberty City is the greatest simulation ever made public. From FoxNews pundits spouting fire and brimstone to reality TV (yes, there are in-game channels to actually sit and watch), GTA IV has it all- especially when combined with the two add-ons Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.

But that was almost four years ago.

Rockstar has released Red Dead Redemption and LA: Noire in the meantime, both of which are quality games of the highest marks, however still fall short of the bar set by GTA. Yes I said it, Red Dead isn’t as good as GTA. I know this is camp-splitting issue, and I don’t want to detract from the open-world awesomeness of Red Dead, but it didn’t have city buses I could drive down the sidewalks of Times Square at high speeds, killing hundreds of innocent bystanders while laughing maniacally… ok?! No amount of standing up to zombie bears with a flaming torch as a weapon can match that feeling.

However the wait (or should I say, the initial pre-announcement-wait) is finally over. On November 2, Rockstar officially kicked off the hype for Grand Theft Auto V with a teaser trailer featuring none other than a brand-new, re-imagined San Andreas (specifically Los Santos, the GTA version of Los Angeles). That’s right folks, GTA is returning to the West Coast with a bang.

From jets to jet-skis, the great outdoors to inner-city struggle, Grand Theft Auto V sets its sights on American culture and Hollywood lifestyles. The economy is also a big player in the latest in this franchise, as the trailer contrasts movie stars and mansions with homeless camps and soup kitchens. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to get my hands on Rockstar’s latest opus.


Advertisements

The X: Legend Continues With X: Rebirth

I’m talking revolution… One of the greatest space simulation games I’ve ever stumbled across, is about to be reborn. For those of you who know, the X: Universe is a fully formed universe whose mantra is TRADE, FIGHT, BUILD, THINK. Complete with interstellar trade, governments, militarism, and a complex economy, X:3 is a milestone in gaming. For years, German gamemaker Egosoft has been transporting players to a galaxy full of humans, aliens, pirates, peace, glory, war, and most of all: cash in it’s X: series. A fully explorable universe that players will either conquer, or get chewed up, and spit out by. Flying stealthy advanced fighters, to giant turret-filled destroyers, the X: games have brought the universe to your home desktop. Now it’s time for a rebirth.

Long after the events of the previous games, a  supernova renders all previous modes of interstellar travel useless, and the universe much, much “smaller.”

Even the Future has Light Rail!

“In the distant future, the X: Universe faces a period of profound and irrevocable change. While the universe stumbles towards an uncertain future, countless adventures await as new enemies rise in search of power.”

Space-Traffic!

Staying true to the “sandbox,” go anywhere, explore anything format, X: Rebirth brings us a revolution in one of the most popular and critically acclaimed space simulation games ever made. You enter the shoes of a new, brave young hero, who, along his unlikely female ally, will travel the universe in an ancient, battle-worn ship with a glorious past. Two adventurers, alone against the galaxy, the fate of the universe (indeed their very existence) rests in your hands!

Blade Runner Anyone?

From the looks of it, X: Rebirth, is changing (and adding) some serious changes to it’s fundamental formula. With the traditional “jumpgates” obsolete now, more emphasis has been put on interaction. Whereas before, the entire game was played from the cockpit of a spaceship… every indication now points to an out-of-ship experience for players. If you look carefully at some of the screen captures I took from the official teaser, you can see everything from “traffic lanes” in space to highly-populated stations. Even Egosoft has announced that a new interface is going to revolutionize the game. This has really got my interest peaked more than the other big 3 sequel releases this fall: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and the ever-anticipated Uncharted 3 (seriously, if you’ve never played an Unchartedgame, go buy a PS3 and do yourself, and your life, a favor).

An interview with Egosoft’s Bernd Lehahn detailed

Q: “Why another X game? What happened to the “end of the X trilogy” statement?”

Open-Mouthed Galactica? 🙂

A: “Well that is still true. At least partially 😉 We worked on the old X games from 1996 until 2007. That was 11 years of development and 11 years mostly filled with adding features.
Adding features is pretty cool, as you have this solid foundation. You never have to start from scratch. We replaced the graphics engine twice, and we made many other big changes to the technology, but we were never at a point where nothing would work. That’s a very luxurious position for a game developer to be in.

Escaping Orbit

BUT (and it’s a big but), adding features to an existing game design has limits. Especially when we talk about the actual gameplay design. Adding so many features that were not originally planned for was a bit like building a higher and higher tower. You run into problems. Problems like a user interface that gets more and more complex and that’s rarely a good thing.

So in 2007 we decided we need to cut off that legacy and do a fresh start.”

The Rebirth begins this winter this Christmas… stay glued to TOOMBLOG for more details!

LA Noire: First Impressions

Rockstar Games has consistently provided some of the most original, ground-breaking, and just all-around-good-times video gaming in the last decade. Did you know the Grand Theft Auto series alone has sold over 124 million copies? Since Grand Theft Auto III dropped on the Playstation 2, 10 years ago this October, the concept of the “sand-box” game has reached a pinnacle of graphics, gameplay, and story with LA Noire. Gone are the free-floating weapons, the killing-sprees are reserved for off-screen, and this time, Rockstar takes us into the mind of a straight-laced gumshoe circa 1947.

Los Angeles in 1947 was a beautiful place, a land of hopes and dreams, Hollywood promised fame for every boy and girl that stepped off the bus from where ever… however more often than not those promises we only weighed with blood, sweat, and tears. From the first scene we are placed in the perfectly shined shoes Officer Cole Phelps, a war “hero” who was a Lieutenant in the Pacific theater, and now believes he must atone for his sins in the war.

Now, believe me when I say, that Team Bondi (the Rockstar division responsible for this iteration) has faithfully recreated the Los Angeles of 1947. I’m talking, exact model here. Robert Spence is a photographer who in his 50 year career, took over 110,000 aerial photographs of Los Angeles. Team Bondi used Spence’s photographs to  recreate traffic patterns, public transport routes, and the locations and conditions of every building in the greater LA city boundaries. These are the mean streets, truly. Whether you choose to play the game in black and white mode, or regular color, it is simply amazing to drive around this town (even though our camera angles for driving are now firmly constricted to behind-the-car irritability… some of us need to drive from inside the car, like normal!).

One of the longest complaints about video games’ “sense of reality” is the lack of distinction when it comes to the face. Recent games have managed to make some of the greatest characters, levels, and beautifully drawn landscapes in history, so why haven’t they been able to nail the face?

Well that’s all history now, LA Noire brings the face. Not only can you tell when a shifty gaze means a suspect is hiding something, but most importantly the mouths match the dialogue. You could really turn off the sound and read lips (if you knew how) in this game, it’s almost on par with anything going on in Hollywood. While it would take an Avatar budget to get Avatar-like animation, this game really gets it right when it comes to motion-capture… Grand Theft Auto IV and the penultimate Red Dead Redemption have brought something new to the video game arena: reality.

In fact, it’s hard for a player with a large amount of imagination not to simply fall into the game. Especially in GTAIV, with it’s immaculate recreation of New York City in Liberty City (on the whole, and in my belief) is the greatest character ever created in a game. From the skyscrapers down to the pollution-filled rivers, the burroughs to Times’ Square, Liberty City is flawless. I have started GTAIV many times with the intention of completing a few missions, only to get lost in the scenery… watching drivers crash, get out, and have screaming matches, homeless street-preachers spouting an endless tirade of biblical paranoia… It’s enormous.

Officer Cole Phelps is easy enough to navigate through this alternate reality of 1947, you can feel his weight when you push the controller’s stick, he doesn’t “spring,” he leans. If you push the stick, he’ll begin to walk, then trot, then run (if you hold R2)… as the characters in GTAIV do… the realism is there.

As you guide Phelps through his career, he’ll encounter many people, places, and things that he can interact with. Whether it’s interrogating a suspect, questioning a neighbor, or interviewing another policeman… running after an assailant and finally being able to pull your gun (no draw-and-shoot capabilities here, you’ve got to wait for the computer to draw your gun for you) everything a cop can and will need to do in the line of duty is mapped out in LA Noire. Through the cunning use of a notebook Phelps keeps clues, locations, suspects, and information organized for each case.

The interview process is heavily mapped out, and despite initial feelings that I was going to botch an investigation due to ineptitude, it’s thankfully idiot-proof. If you mess up a line of questioning too bad or accuse someone without proof, you’ll hear about it, but it won’t change the final outcome of the case… it’s going to get solved.

In fact that might be one of the biggest downfalls of the game: that even if you blow every question in an interrogation, ultimately the case will be solved. I think it would’ve been better to simply fail the case and have to start over than be poked and prodded along through police work. There’s no way to change this either.

All-in-al my first impression of LA Noire is amazing. It’s not as much fun as GTAIV or Red Dead Redemption, simply because it’s too much fun to kill the innocent and destroy the environment around you. So as a square policeman, life can be dull in Los Angeles. The ability to answer any police call while driving, is fun… stopping off to chase down perps or shoot it out with bank-robbers keeps things fresh… but I simply haven’t played enough to see what the world is like post-homicide cases (I’m still mid-way through solving some of the most gruesome murders LA has ever seen).

Rockstar and Team Bondi have brought us another winner though, I can tell you that. LA Noire is addicting, clever, well-written, and well-acted. Pick it up and check it out for sure.

Battlestar Galactica Open Beta Goes Online- Join The Fight!

Those of us Battlestar Galactica nuts who can’t get enough of BSG since it left the air are getting a chance to join the fight against the Cylons in an epic Space Battle MMOG. Taking place right after the Battle of the Resurrection Ship in season 2, the Galactica and Pegasus are under attack from a massive Cylon fleet looking for retaliation. During the battle a strange energy signature is discovered from a nearby ancient (and destroyed) space station and before the Cylons can move in for the kill, Adama orders a red-line jump to safety. The strange energy is triggered by the FTL drives of the fleet, and causes a massive FTL overload that sends the fleet (and the pursuing Cylons) across the Universe to a strange and uncharted galaxy.

The galaxy, in fact the game, resembles X3: Universe games, with a few dozen “systems” that ships can jump to and from in order to finish the ultimate goal of the game: find enough resources to repair the fleet’s FTL drives and jump away from the Cylons, which are on the other side of the galaxy. The story is identical for those who wish to play as Cylons, however characters, ships, etc are all different. In this new galaxy, remnants of an ancient race are found with a few different kinds of ships (which are able for purchase throughout the game). Starting out in a Viper, you must complete missions, mine minerals, defeat Cylon patrols, engage in PVP combat, etc. in order to rank up. A “cubit system” is available for those who wish to purchase in-game money to use for things (apparently frowned on by the gaming community for some reason).

The craziest thing about this game, is you play it in your web-browser via UNITY Game Engine, the gameplay flows nicely, space combat is fluid and fun, and the graphics are beautifully rendered. If you’re a fan of the X3 games or any other space combat games, Battlestar Online is the game for you. Whether you feel like going head-to-head with NPC Cylon Raiders, or PVP fleet battles, or even planting a mining ship on a huge planetoid and guarding it with your life from Cylon attackers, this game (while in it’s infancy) is the most fun I’ve had outside of a PS3. It seamlessly combines the facets of a Massive Multiplayer Online Game, with the ability to head out on your own and complete individual missions for the good of the fleet.

While I’ve only made it to a “Level 11” (I’ve seen guys flying around that are level 60+ !), so far I haven’t had a chance to get bored with the game. I’ve managed to hook up with a large Flight Wing and every time I play I hook up with a squad to all share whatever resources are reaped from mining, NPC capping, or Cylon OP Popping (when a fleet jumps into a Cylon system to attack their base and destroy it). I can always tell how good a game is by how much flak I get for playing it too much, for BSG Online I’m getting level 7 (out of 10) flak from my honey… possibly level 8. 🙂

If you’re in the mood for some BSG action, space combat, or just want to see what the future of browser-based gaming looks like, Battlestar Galactica Online is the game for you! Good hunting nugget!

X3: A Universe, Open For Business

There is another galaxy (not so far, far away…) just waiting out there and I bet you didn’t even know it existed. I’m serious, it’s a universe where each planet is linked through a system of jump gates that allow instantaneous travel. In this galaxy live 5 different species, each with their own history and culture that has survived for thousands of years. The best part is, the galaxy is open for business.

When you first boot up a new game of X3:Reunion or X3: Terran Conflict, you have a choice whether you want to be a certain type of character. Let’s say a Teladi trader, or an Argon pilot, it’s up to you- and each pick has a certain amount of either $ or power (a bigger ship to start). From there the universe is yours. Either way you start the game, you’re going to be unknown in the galaxy… Especially in the sectors outside whichever you call home. Sometimes run ins with other races can be downright explosive, so it’s advisable to listen to any patrolling police officers or military presence you might hear hailing you when u jump into a new sector.

Map of Sectors

The thing about the X- Universe games, is that they are open for you to explore any avenue of the games basic point- money=power. Whether you decide to join up and fight the good fight, blasting away squadrons of pirates and ancient alien invaders known as The Ka’hK… Or decide to spend your time hunting down some of the many floating goodies in space- X3 has got all the epic space gameplay you can handle.

Save up cash early and buy yourself a freighter, begin to make some trade runs, get to know the galaxy. X3 has a fully-realized economy, where factors influence locally and universe-wide. There’s always a station or a mine that needs supplies and it’s up to you to find the best deals to buy, and where to sell those goods for prifitssss. Or there’s the less subtle route, hire some mercs to ride a suicide-mission in a shaky troop-transport long enough to board and capture a bigger ship, then hire more mercs and repeat.

Whatever tickles your space-flight fancy. As time goes on and you rake in the cash, you can buy bigger ships, huge TL tankers with compressed cargo-bays that allow for more freight. They also let you buy your own mines, solar-power plants, food processing stations, equipment docks, the works. You can even purchase special custom complex construction kits that allow you to hook stations together in order to minimize the amount of secondary resources it requires. It’s possible to build your own self-sustaining weapons factory, for instance, or if you really want to make money- and don’t mind attracting shady characters- then a space weed plant is for you! Or an equally profitable Space Fuel Distillery!

Any way you cut it, X3’s open economy and diverse universe is fun, fast, and dangerous. Join up with the military and fight the war against a new threat- the Xenon horde. X3: Reunion, X3: Xtended X3: Terran Conflict, and now at long last X3: Xtended Terran Conflict… Designed, written, built, coded, and animated by fans for the fans. I played the MOD of X3: Reunion, it added new story lines, new bad guys, and a whole lot of fun! This time the saints behind the last one have bled, sweat, and teared- to bring us X3:XTC 1.1, the best iteration of the X3 universe yet… and it’s completely done off the books! By a coolest group of people around- the mod team.

I’ve been flying the unfriendly skies of the latest installment, and so far (even though no story-mode levels are included yet, have to wait for the 2.0 update) so good. The universe is complex, new, and this time: ever-expanding. The plot takes place several years after the last game, in a new portion of space known as The Expansion Territory. Linked through the recently rediscovered Aldrin system, the expansion territory is huge, adding over 100+ new sectors as time progresses in the game. Also revamped this time is the ever-important Galactic News Service, which is now used to update the player on the progression of the expansion, the skirmishes in the galaxy, pirate hunts, and if you get neat enough ships, your name in print! Seriously thought, XTC is amazing so far. The artwork is brilliant, the music re-scored, each of the hundred plus sectors with a complete backstory and history. These guys have been busting their hump… and have put out a superior beta. I cannot wait for the official “game” release, to see how it all ties together in this ever-expanding galaxy.

Find your copy of any X3 game, and you will be addicted in no time. It’s a very different game than any I’ve played, sometimes a lot of the game can be waiting, programming, waiting for huge space battles to finish (if you’re a fleet commander like me, with eyes on taking over the known universe), and of course: making money. Thank you Egosoft for such an interesting universe to explore, and bless the mod team for making it the beautiful galaxy it is today. Until then, it’s your fleet versus mine.

iPhooie

Ok, so what can I say? It’s been almost 10 years since I placed hands on my first Apple product… An iPod… An old gray one with the wheel and a grayscale screen… Remember the wheel? Ahh… I can… it was my friend’s iPod, they let be borrow it and I immediately took to it. The iPod was to be the end of my CD Walkman days, and man I had carried that thing everywhere. I had just gone back to school and the iPod changed my life. Not only did I have dozens, hell even a hundred albums, on a pocket-sized piece of hardware… But with it came iTunes– simply put, a revolution in music.

I don’t remember how long it took me to burn my ENTIRE music collection into the computer, but gone were the days of rooting through cases and carrying tons of CDs around. Now it was possible to carry TOO many albums… It wasn’t because I didn’t have to stand in front shelves of albums trying to find that one I wanted to listen to, nor was it the fact that I could have hands-free access to my tunes- it was the fact that I could have almost all of the music I needed in one spot. The age of the Playlist was here, and no longer were we constrained by the shackles of an LP, no now we could make mix-tapes with a click and a drag.

WAIT! Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the concept of “the album.” As a musician myself I know that the implementation of iTunes has only fed the fast-food music we have today, a hollow shell of the once great “industry” that had so much control… all brought down by Napster and Apple. I still buy CDs. If one of my favorite bands puts out something new, I want to hear it like it’s supposed to be heard, start-to-finish, clear-as-a-bell. Take for instance the new Foo Fighters album Wasting Light. Soundcloud.com is currently hosting the entire album for preview before it comes out tomorrow (Tuesday 4/12). The Foo Fighters also just put out a feature documentary in theaters, online, and on Paladia (it’s brilliant, watched it Friday night). This multi-media promotional technique is par for the course with today’s bands. It all also coincides with the 17-year anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death (the immortal band the Foos’ Dave Grohl played drums in). The marketing strategy has worked, no ripped copies have leaked on the internet (except for the webrip from the stream) and I personally plan on picking up the CD tomorrow. It will be the first CD I’ve bought since September of 2010 when Alice in Chains’ new album dropped.

But of course I will rip it into iTunes so I can have it on my iPhone! I listen to music on all kinds of devices these days. Whether it’s from the iPhone speaker/armband I designed and built myself (great for bike rides and having on while working, it’s music with no earbuds), or plugging it into one of the seven i-ready stereos we have (two in cars and five in the house!), music from the internal iPod App or from Pandora is ALWAYS playing. Have I mentioned I love music? My parents were huge music buffs and I’ve probably been to 50 more concerts than the average person due to my dad dragging me to Grateful Dead shows, Neil Young concerts, and Bluegrass Festivals all before I was even 15 (also explains the partial deafness- but I don’t hold a grudge).

When I got my first 5G iPod Video in 2006 I thought I was going to die. 30 gigs of music and video, I didn’t know it was possible to fill it up… until I got all 6 seasons of Family Guy (there were only 6 then). I’ve always loved movies as much if not more than music, and a portable video player that I could pre-program with my favorite movies or shows to watch on the go?! I was in heaven! Little did I know… That 5G was my last Apple product for a long, long time.

I watched the fury of the iPhone and the iTouch come and go, 3G, 3GS, etc… I was busy with other obsessions at the time (Playstation 3 had just came out). Apple’s marketing campaign got so obnoxious that I started in with the haters even before the iPhone came out. I didn’t see what the big deal was at the time. I just saw it as a fancy and expensive waste of time. Boy was I ever right. My honey came back from a business trip with an iTouch 4G two summers ago, right after it had come out. It was my first experience with the new touch screens, it humbled me, it made me eat every word I’d spoken out of envy, I immediately turned around and got a refurbished iPhone 3G, the second model.

I loved my 3G. It was slow as molasses and dropped almost every call, but it was a touchscreen, it surfed the web, and allowed me to carry any movie (or music) I wanted and on a big screen! When the iPhone 4 dropped I drooled, I saw people with them everywhere… I wanted one so bad I could taste it (tasted like strawberry strangely enough). I jailbroke my old 3G and explored the world of 3rd party apps, but it was too slow in the end… and when iPhone 3GS’s went on sale for $49 this last Christmas I knew my time had come. Sure enough I managed to squirrel away 49 bucks and bought myself a 3GS for my 34th birthday. It is lightning fast, I can only imagine how fast the iPhone 4 is. I can watch Netflix on the fly, listen to Pandora Internet Radio, update my Twitter and Facebook, post blogs, write music, schedule appointments, anything! (Well, not anything… but I love this phone).

So almost a decade, 250 million iPods, 100 million iPhones, and a $65 billion dollar net worth later, Apple is doing ok for itself. What was once a dying computer company has revolutionized the way people buy, organize, and listen to music and movies. Not bad, not bad at all.