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Web Video / The 8-Bit Guy

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"Hello, and welcome to the 8-Bit Guy!"

David Murray is The 8-Bit Guy (formerly The iBook Guy), a YouTube personality who focuses on retro computers and other forms of technology coming from the seventies onward (he first focused on classic Apple products before broadening his focus).

His videos show repairs, restorations, and demonstrations of well-known vintage computers such as the Apple ][, the Commodore VIC-20, the Commodore 64, the Tandy Color Computer, and the ZX Spectrum, as well as more obscure vintage computers. He also produces long-form documentaries that delve into the history of notable computer systems.

David occasionally reviews homebrew games made for vintage systems, and he himself has also made his own homebrew games and software, notably Planet X2 for the C64 and Planet X3 for MS-DOS; both are sci-fi Real-Time Strategy games where the player controls an army of human colonizers on a uninhabited Earth-like alien planet and must defeat a hostile race of alien colonizers, known as the Protoids, who seek to claim the planet as their own.note  His most recent game is Attack of the PETSCII Robots; it is an sci-fi Action-Adventure game where the player must use their wits, rather than brute force, in order to survive against killer robots. David initially created the game for the Commodore PET, VIC-20, and C64, and subsequent ports were developed by other people for platforms including but not limited to the Commodore 128 and Plus 4, Apple II, Atari 8-Bit Computers, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, PlayStation Portable, and MS-DOS.

Also in development is the Commander X16, a 6502-based 8-bit computer built with modern off-the-shelf parts; though David started the project and entitled it "his dream computer", eventually most of the aspects of development were taken over by other people, most notably fellow retro tech YouTuber Christian Simpson, aka "Perifractic", who was responsible for the marketing and branding and Kevin Williams of TexElec, who is responsible for the hardware design.

A related channel is 8-Bit Keys, which demonstrates vintage musical keyboards, mainly amateur and toy keyboards by Casio and Yamaha, and other vintage sound production equipment. This page will show tropes from both channels.

In June 2021, David, his older brother Mike Murray, and childhood friend Craig Bowes launched the GeekBits Podcast, where the trio mostly discuss retrocomputing and other geek topics, but sometimes they discuss topics unrelated to their channels.

The official website can be found here, and the Patreon account can be found here.

The 8-Bit Guy contains examples of:

  • The Alleged Computer: In his video "AST Computer - Tales from Tech Support", David talks about the staggering return rate of the titular computers. Some calls were after the computer had caught fire or were still smoking.
  • April Fools' Day: In an episode where he unboxes donations given to him by viewers, he receives a box that supposedly contains the realistic wax bust of a programmer. Since the upload date of the video is April 1, that box is an April Fool's prank — the "bust" is just a real living head on a box, with conspicuous camera angles to hide the prank.
  • Artifact Title:
    • The channel's original name "The iBook Guy", especially when David started focusing more on retro tech rather than just Apple products.
    • David's game Attack of the PETSCII Robots took its name from the Commodore PET character set used by the game to render the play area. The game was later ported to multiple other systems, where it instead uses custom glyphs or even bitmap graphics, making the "PETSCII" part of the title something of a misnomer.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: At the end of the Apple Monitor Restoration Part 2 video, he does a fake-out sponsor tag:
    David: I also need to tell you this video is sponsored by... (giant 3D "NOBODY" text appears on screen) Nobody! Because we don't do that sort of thing on this channel!
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: His actions during a video on the IBM Executive Workstation 7496 ended up causing a bit of an uproar due to perceived recklessness in his attempts to get it up and running, specifically cutting a few screws with a Dremel when he didn't have the correct security bit and using a paperclip to short the power supply due to a mistaken conclusion he reached when using a multimeter. Since the controversy, he has poked fun at himself on numerous occasions in reference to it, such as referring to the paperclip as "his favorite thing" in the roadside NES repair video, and in a cameo appearance on an LGR video about Computer Reset, he is holding a Dremel and paperclip menacingly (while LGR is showing a couple boxes of new old stock IBM Executive Workstation 7496's, natch).
  • Christmas Episode: One episode focuses on the Commodore Christmas Demo, which was first released in 1982 for the C64. The demo is one of the forerunners of the Demoscene.
  • Color Blind Confusion: David is partially color-blind. Though it's usually not a difficulty, he does make note of this during his construction videos for his new studio in December 2020.
  • Crazy Enough to Work:
    • In a 2015 episode, David repurposes some old Pentium II heatsinks to cool down his microwave dinners.
    • In an episode where he restores a Macintosh LC II motherboard, David puts the motherboard in the dishwasher in attempt to clean off corrosion from leaking capacitors. He was initially skeptical about doing the procedure, not so much about damaging the motherboard but in how well the dishwasher would clean it; however, it did remove much of the corrosion, although he did follow up with alcohol in some spots.
  • Crossover:
    • David often brings in other YouTubers for assistance if he's stuck with a repair. He'll also ask YouTubers to record segments in their own styles to provide their opinions and insights on vintage computing and the systems he's restoring/examining.
    • Lampshaded by Techmoan at the end of the "How NOT to create MP3 music from cassette" episode.
    • Techmoan also appears towards the end of "How Speech Synthesizers Work", when David demonstrates a Prank Call using an 1980s era speech synthesis program.note 
    • In his 8-Bit Keys sister channel, one video had David tune and attempt to play Ben Heck's Atari Junk keyboard that was built on The Ben Heck Show. Said channel also often collaborates with musician Anders Enger Jensen.
  • Determinator: In an 8-Bit Keys episode where David reviews the Fisher Price "I Can Play" keyboard, he was determined to get inside the keyboard to see its logic board; however, despite taking out a lot of screws, the case halves wouldn't separate. Since he wasn't interested in saving the keyboard, he tried more destructive methods such as taking a rotary tool to the case. He eventually found the last screws underneath the decal where the keyboard controls are, only to find the logic board contained only a system-on-a-chip epoxy blob.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Besides his early videos that pretty much solely focus on Apple products, a few of his other early videos are unrelated to technology, like this video on how to conceal a handgun and this video where he builds a wooden tower for his pet cats.
  • Edutainment Show: David goes in depth about the history of vintage computer systems and how vintage technologies work.
  • Enraged by Idiocy: During his tenure as AST Tech Support he tells of a co-worker who would calmly and politely be helping a customer, then spontaneously put them on hold and fiercely begin shouting foul vulgarities, hollering about how stupid they are, and calling them every horrid name in the book, and then take them off hold and continue politely helping them as if nothing happened. Naturally, one time he failed to put the customer on hold, though David explains he somehow managed to not get fired.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas:
    • David lives in Kennedale, Texas, which is within the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If he goes on a road trip to pick up a computer or a part, he'll show just how far distances are within the state. If a destination is away from the Super Charger network, he'll remark that the trip will test the limits of his Tesla.
    • As a Texan, David owns firearms and holds a concealed carry permit.
      • In the "Is It Obsolete" episode covering Windows XP, he shows off a Glock 19 handgun he purchased in 1994 as the oldest piece of technology he still regularly uses. It was that or a toilet as an example of the oldest functional piece of technology in his house.
      • Early in his YouTube career, David operated a channel called Awesome Airguns. David largely abandoned the channel in 2014 due to monetization issues by YouTube.
      • Another video has David walking around various businesses in the DFW area open-carrying a rifle, to demonstrate how (at the time) Texas law allowed open-carry rifles but required pistols to be concealed.note 
    • The "Amazing Tech from Texas" mini-series:
      • The series shows off various computer hardware and software companies, both past and present, that operated or were founded in Texas. Companies David highlighted include, but are not limited to, 3D Realms, id Software, Origin Systems, Compaq, Dell, Texas Instruments, and Tandy.
      • In the second episode, while traveling to Houston, David makes a pit stop in Madisonville at Buc-ee's, a Texan convenience store chain well known for their huge size.note  David also makes a stop in Huntsville to show off the giant statue of Sam Houston, visible from Interstate 45.
  • Fun T-Shirt: David often wears t-shirts highlighting his favorite TV shows, films, and games. Sometimes, he'll wear t-shirts of his own design.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
    • He never swears due to the educational focus of his videos. In the video where he repairs the Casio CT-380, his reaction to the battery corrosion that has gotten so bad that it seeped through the keyboard's metal under-plate?
      The 8-Bit Guy: Holy cow to the third power!
    • However, it is subverted in an video where he shows how to rebuild a laptop battery pack; while David doesn't actually swear, he has a "bullshit" graphic over an eBay listing for cheap Chinese rechargeable 18650 Li-ion batteries advertised as being rated for 6,000 milliamp-hours and explains that their real world capacity is a fraction of thatnote .
    • In the Game Boy Color backlight episode he says Nintendo has been acting like a jackass to content creators.
  • Iconic Item:
    • David often uses a mid-90s 13" Samsung TV as a monitor for his retro computers and game systems. He gives a brief backstory about the TV in an episode where he mods it for RGB output, receiving the TV as a gift when Samsung acquired AST Research, David's employer at the time. In November 2021, he acquires two more of the exact same model, both of which came from former AST employees, one of whom is David's father-in-law.
    • For sound output for his keyboards, David uses a vintage '80s Panasonic boombox with RCA line input. While the speakers and radio work fine, the tape deck does not; David attempted to repair the tape mechanism but was unsuccessful.
  • Insistent Terminology: David almost always refers to IBM PC clones as "MS-DOS compatibles".
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: One point he makes is leaving mistakes or slip-ups in his restoration videos, both to prove that he doesn't want to portray himself as incapable of making mistakes even for as long as he has been working on electronics, and to help other people avoid making the same mistakes for their own potential projects. This even applies to the times when David's repairs did more harm than good, such as when he destroyed an Osborne I's perfectly good faux-leather handle during retrobriting, or when key caps reacted strangely to retrobriting and ended up streaky.
  • Once per Episode:
    • If the video involves restoring a dirty old computer or keyboard, his process for cleaning the case first involves window cleaner, then rubbing alcohol, then baking soda, and finally blasting it outside with the garden hose. David might skip later steps if earlier steps can sufficiently clean the parts in question. For stubborn label residue, David will use WD-40.
    • If said computer or keyboard has yellowed-out plastic parts, expect him to use the "retrobrite" technique that involves hydrogen peroxide and heat. Earlier videos used the "plastic wrap and salon cream" method while later videos use the submersion method. Typically, David likes to take parts outside in the Texas heat; however, in his most recent videos, he has experimented with indoor retrobriting with UV lights when the weather doesn't cooperate. For smaller parts like keyboard keys, David will put them on the stove in warm (not boiling) hydrogen peroxide solution.
    • In 8-Bit Keys episodes where the keyboard he's reviewing lacks an integrated line output jack, he will add one in; even if the keyboard in question has a line out, David will open the keyboard anyway to see the logic board, especially if the keyboard needs to be repaired and/or cleaned. David records a multi-track song on the keyboard, hence the reason why he adds a line output.
  • Operator from India: Used in a skit in "Old Computers Did It Better", where he compares tech support from the 80s to today, using this trope in the latter.
  • The Perfectionist: Whenever David does a documentary on retro tech, he is a real stickler about showing the item(s) in question as close as to original as possible.
  • Playing Games at Work: David admits that he and his colleagues at AST played Duke Nukem 3D and Starcraft while on support callsnote ; however, he states that his bosses didn't mind so long as they did their jobs properly and helped customers in the end.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: David has been fascinated with tech since receiving his first VIC-20 at the age of six, and he is a fan of various geek TV shows and movies, such as Futurama, Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Star Trek.
  • Special Guest:
    • Anders Enger Jensen, a Norwegian musician who has contributed much of the music in David's videos, guest stars in some episodes of 8-Bit Keys. David even challenged Anders to compose music using the featured keyboard. Anders also composed the soundtracks for Planet X2, Planet X3, and PETSCII Robots as well as designed their boxes and instruction manuals.
    • In the "History of Commodore" mini-series, former Commodore engineer Bil Herd guest stars in the episodes covering the "TED series" (the Plus 4 and C16) and the C128, providing background on the development of said machines.
    • TX Dj, another DFW-based retro tech YouTuber, assists David in restoring an IBM PCjr monitor. DJ later guest hosts an episode where he restores and upgrades a NeXTStation while David and his family were on vacation.
    • In one episode, he shows off a full-scale replica of K-9 built by Fitz Walker, who runs the YouTube channel HobbyView, which deals in radio controlled vehicles, mostly planes.
    • David's older brother Mike Murray, who runs his own YouTube channel The Geek Pub, guest hosts for a July 2018 episode, demonstrating how to install a Raspberry Pi into the shell of a C64. David also used Mike’s shop to construct the previously-mentioned custom cat tower.
    • Other retro tech YouTubers such as The Obsolete Geek (who also lives nearby), LGR, Ben Heck, and Techmoan will occasionally appear and offer their insights or assistance. Both LGR and Techmoan did voiceover work for the teaser for Planet X3.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: In his Moonbase arcade machine restoration video, David got everything apparently working and restored, only for the monitor to revert to its erroneous constant rolling again. He exclaimed he invested too much time and money to give up on it, and asked for suggestions for a future Part 2.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: In the video where he visits Germany for the Thomann Synth Reactor event, David can speak German pretty well. In his one million subscriber special, David reveals that he took 4 years of German in high school and was an exchange student in Germany in his senior year.
  • Take That!: His Old computers did it better one has the bit where he's talking about how useless tech support is these days and has a skit where a lady becomes enraged by an utterly useless Operator from India who brushes her off by telling her to run Scandisk and Defrag, and then more or less hangs up on her. Much later when his Tales from Tech Support video aired, it becomes apparent this was a jab at a specific co-worker of his, one of the few he didn't like, who would pull that exact same stunt whenever he couldn't fix a customer's problem: tell them to run Scandisk and Defrag, and then call back if that didn't fix the problem. Naturally it never would, they'd call back more irate than ever and likely get a different tech support worker who'd have to deal with them, and this specific co-worker would then gloat about how many calls he took in a day.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill:
    • In a very early video, David builds an iBook G4 from dead parts and demolishes it, first shooting it with pellet and BB guns, then using a grubbing hoe. David mentions that he would've used a real firearm to finish the job, but he didn't want to break the law by discharging a real firearm in a residential neighborhood without a good reason.
    • In a video where he reviews a Retraux cassette/MP3 boombox, David finds that the quality of the cassette to MP3 conversion was so terrible, he had a friend of his destroy the boombox with a steamroller.
    • In a video where he reviews the Nyko Worm Cam, a Game Boy Camera knockoff designed for the Game Boy Advance, David finds the camera is poor qualitynote  and suspects his unit may have been defective, so he smashes it with a sledgehammer at the end of the video.
  • Trekkie: David is a fan of the Star Trek franchise, and has made several references to the series when pointing out retro computers in popular culture, such as Captain Kirk owning a Commodore PET as an antique in The Wrath of Khan and Scotty using an Apple Macintosh in The Voyage Home.
  • You Are Better Than You Think: In the episode where he discusses how CGA graphics work, David demonstrates that CGA was capable of producing more color in composite mode than in RGBI mode due to NTSC artifacting, similar to how the Apple II series produced color graphics. However, CGA composite mode had the side effect of making text near unreadable due to the effective horizontal resolution being cut in half (160×200), and composite mode became less prevalent for games when Tandy graphics and EGA came out in 1984, since both standards could produce 16 colors at 320×200 on a digital TTL signalnote , and obsolete by the time VGA came out in 1987, which can produce 256 colors at 320×200 or 16 at 640×480, and games whose intended mode of operation was VGA (and to a lesser extent, EGA and Tandy) only supported the RGBI mode of CGA as an afterthought, if at all.