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Leonard Herman, Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry September 13, 2018

Posted by Mike C. in Books, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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Posing with Phoenix IV moments after completing it

One of the last things I picked up last month at the annual Long Island Retro Gaming Expo was Phoenix IV: The History of the Videogame Industry by Leonard Herman.

Leonard co-hosted a panel with The Immortal John Hancock on the second day of the expo.

Copies of Leonard’s book were available in the vendor hall, so I bought one for him to sign. On the dedication page (“This book is dedicated to my friend & mentor Ralph H. Baer”), he wrote:

To Mike,

Best Wishes

Leonard Herman

In my recap of the expo, I noted that I would read Phoenix IV from cover to cover, no matter how long it took. I kept my word. It took 31 days to read the blurbs, forewords, introduction, 43 chapters, four appendices, endnotes, and the About the Author page. In all, I read 781 pages between August 12, the day after the expo, through Tuesday. My copy was the black and white paperback edition. The color hardcover edition is slightly longer in duration with more illustrations.

The “IV” in Phoenix IV indicates that it is the fourth edition of a book Leonard first released in 1994. The original title was Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Home Videogames.

Phoenix IV is a treasure trove of information, spanning from 1951 to 2015 (with the endnotes extending into 2016). Leonard introduced facts and figures that I’d never known about while also providing a trip down memory lane. I recalled my experience with certain games and consoles, and where I was in my life when they launched. I learned more about certain events in video game history, as well as video game consoles and accessories, including lesser-known consoles like the Coleco Adam. I found out that the Atari 2600 was first called the VCS (Video Computer System) and didn’t take its numeric name until the 5200 was released years later. I got used to the initials SCE to describe Sony Computer Entertainment when the various PlayStation consoles were referenced. I was educated on the yen-to-dollar ratio in a given year for Japanese console, game, and accessory prices.

There’s so much more to learn about when you read Phoenix IV. My only complaint is it has occasional typos and formatting errors, but if that’s my only complaint, then you know it’s a great book. It’ll take a while to read, but it’s a journey worth taking.

Thank you, Leonard.

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