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Stella at 20 documentary

Stella at 20

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#51 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 9:02 AM

https://www.landley....eum/stella.html

#52 alex_79 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 12:00 PM

Yes, "Stella" was the codename of the project and of the TIA chip.
Curiously, in the "Jan Programming Guide" the TIA is referred to as "Stephanie"!
JAN_programming_guide.jpeg

("Jan" is the single chip version of the 2600 hardware found on some "junior" consoles)


Edited by alex_79, Tue Nov 8, 2016 12:01 PM.


#53 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 12:12 PM

Never hear about that guide. While searching for it, I found this website. Thanks for the hint!



#54 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 12:36 PM

Interesting, the color names in the "Jan" guide differ (!) from the "Stella" guide:

     Jan                  Stella
$0x: Gray                 Grey
$1x: Light Orange         Gold                !
$2x: Orange               Orange
$3x: Reddish Orange       Bright Orange       !
$4x; Pink                 Pink
$5x: Purple               Purple
$6x: Purple-Blue          Purple-Blue
$7x: Blue                 Blue
$8x: Blue                 Blue
$9x: Light Blue           Light Blue
$Ax: Turquoise            Turquoise
$Bx: Blue-Green           Green-Blue
$Cx: Green                Green
$Dx: Greenish-Yellow      Yellow Green
$Ex: Gold                 Orange-Green        ! 
$Fx: Light Orange         Light Orange

For "Jan", $1x and $Fx are identical, as requested by the Field Service Manual



#55 SpiceWare ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 1:30 PM

When I hit this slide while reviewing my presentation for Saturday, I got to thinking that Joe Decuir made a comment on one of the tapes about the dollar budget for Stella's hardware.  I think it was something like $50 or $60, which would be pertinent info for that slide, but I don't recall exactly. Does anybody remember which tape that was on?
 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2016-11-08 at 8.27.08 AM.png

 

 

I've been listening to the tapes at 1.33 speed while I work.  Tape 15, starting at 8:02, this guy mentions the hardware budget was $25-$35. Who is he?

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 1.33.58 PM.png



#56 Moo OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 2:06 PM

I think he's the guy that programed ET and crashed the video game industry in US.



#57 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 2:27 PM

I've been listening to the tapes at 1.33 speed while I work.  Tape 15, starting at 8:02, this guy mentions the hardware budget was $25-$35. Who is he?

 

Steve Mayer.



#58 SpiceWare ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2016 2:33 PM

 

Steve Mayer.

 

 

Thanks!  



#59 alex_79 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2016 8:07 AM

When I hit this slide while reviewing my presentation for Saturday, I got to thinking that Joe Decuir made a comment on one of the tapes about the dollar budget for Stella's hardware.  I think it was something like $50 or $60, which would be pertinent info for that slide, but I don't recall exactly. Does anybody remember which tape that was on?
 

attachicon.gifScreen Shot 2016-11-08 at 8.27.08 AM.png

 

If you have a "Stella gets a new brain!" CD have a look at the extras. There are scans of original hand-written notes made during VCS development.

@mos6507: It would be nice if those (I mean just the scans, not the full CD) could be made publicy available as they give a detailed insight on the evolution of the VCS console design.

Here is some relevant info about the budget:
In a late May '76 note by Joe Decuir, the estimated costs for the chips that were taken into consideration for the new system were:
(for 100K quantity)
6502    CPU:  8.20 $
6505    CPU:  5.50 $
6530    (I/O + timer + 64bytes RAM + 1k ROM): 8.00 $
6532    (I/O + timer + 128bytes RAM)        : 7.20 $
1k ROM  :   5.00 $
2k ROM  :   6.50 $

Depending on various proposed system specs, the total cost for the chips was estimated beetween 13,50 $ (for a very minimal system with 1k rom and 64bytes of ram, discarded as too limited) and 28.40 $ (for a 4k rom , 128 bytes ram system using a full 6502).

The 6505 was the only 24pin variant of the 6502 available at the time that was suited for the application, as the other ones (6503, 6504 and 6506) all lacked the required "Ready" line (used by the TIA to halt the CPU).


A memo in June 9, 1976 states that development had to be focused on two system configurations: the first with 2k rom /128 bytes RAM, using a 6505 + 6532 + Stella + 2k rom. The second with 4k rom / 128 bytes ram using an extra 2k rom and a full 6502 or a special 6505 bonding (with an extra address line instead of an interrupt line). According to Decuir's notes, this could have been obtained at no extra cost over a 6505. We know this ended up being the 6507.
 



#60 SpiceWare ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2016 9:48 AM

Thanks!  I do have a copy, will have to dig it out and review it.

 

I've been watching a tape or two each evening and during one of them the tests with 64 bytes of RAM were brought up and that it wasn't viable.  Also found it interesting that they tried other CPUs after Commodore bought MOS, and concluded the other options weren't viable.



#61 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2016 2:25 PM

@mos6507: It would be nice if those (I mean just the scans, not the full CD) could be made publicy available as they give a detailed insight on the evolution of the VCS console design.

 

Good suggestion - I'll ask him about it.



#62 mos6507 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2016 7:42 PM

Here's something people should keep in mind in relation to this footage...

 

When this video was produced, there was a retrogaming scene, but there wasn't really an effort being made to contact videogame veterans.  The idea of treating the rise of videogames as a serious historical topic was new.  The CG Expo I think got its start the year after I shot this footage, which pushed classic gaming into a Star Trek Convention sort of a niche where these people were routinely asked to appear and give presentations.  This was the crest of the wave and you can tell from people's wide-eyed responses how surprsied they were that people were taking what they did so seriously.  This is in addition to the human interest of these people seeing each other again for the first time in a long while.  Only a few of them (like David Crane and Al Miller) had continued to stay in touch consistently through the intervening years.  Getting Carol Shaw in particular to appear was a major undertaking.  You can tell how she probably has asperger syndrome and I don't think she's appeared on camera since then.

 

So it's really more of a snapshot in time.  There's probably no single bit of information in all these tapes that isn't documented elsewhere, probably in more detail and more accurately.  If there's something unique in here it's probably just a few interesting personal anecdotes.  I find the human interest aspects, just being able to see these people and know what their personalities are like, more interesting than the data itself.

 

There are certain highlights that I remember quite well.

 

One was Nolan recounting his decision to sell Atari, something that of course he regrets.  I remember what he said about this almost verbatim.

 

He said that he was "sweating every payroll" and how if you want to be in the "rough and tumble world of consumer electronics you needed deep pockets".

 

Then he went on to describe how disorienting it was being rich with nothing to do.

 

Nolan is the type of person who is good at rattling off some dimestore wisdom every now and then.

 

He said something like "Some of the most miserable people are holding down the bar stools at the yacht club."

 

When he was saying these things, he was not addressing the camera, he was addressing his peers on the opposing couch.  So what I was doing was documenting a confessional of sorts.  I don't think he ever had a chance to explain how all this stuff went down at the time, and this was his chance to do so.

 

Now, what nobody really knew at the time was that Nolan was under serious financial stress and he wound up losing the mansion not long after this reunion was shot.  So this was actually the last hurrah for Nolan to sort of bask in his Atari fortune after so many of his post-Atari ventures failed.

 

On a more personal note, I should mention the late Jim Nitchals who funded the shooting phase.  He had an obesity problem that was literally becoming life-threatening at the time.  Because he was sick he did not attend, only supplying the VCS cake.  What happened is after the shoot wrapped I got Jim on the phone and I handed it off to Nolan and the two of them had a brief little chit-chat.  Nolan was very gracious through the whole process.  At one point I was invited down to his workbench and saw all of the mess he had, like broken Androbots, or his attic which had a bunch of old arcade machines.

 

There's been a lot of dirt dished about the guy as far as how he conducts his business affairs but on an interpersonal level I found him charming and very insightful.

 

The other thing I want to do is remind people how this project actually got completed, because I simply didn't have the money to get it edited.

 

At one point I tried to get Activision to license it for the PSX version of Activision Classics.  Because that project was already budgeted and in the tail-end of development they would not expand the budget to cover what I was asking.  They pretty much were going to take it for little more than a credit which would have been insulting.

 

What eventually happened is I was panhandling at the CG Expo and David Crane came around and got wind of the situation.  I also sent this elaborate email with one of my custom Microsoft Agents giving this little TTS speech on my behalf to Joe Decuir.  Back then HTML emails could embed ActiveX controls so I thought I could get away with that, knowing that Joe worked for Microsoft.  Anyway, there was some group chatter about the status of the project behind the scenes, and Joe Decuir personally bankrolled my editing system.  At the time it was a big chunk of change.  That It's a Wonderful Life like act of generosity is not something most people witness in their lifetime.

 

Joe said it wasn't a donation but rather an investment.  I wish I could have made it pay off but the tapes barely made any money.  It was only recently that I contacted Joe again with the intention of settling the debt once and for all, which I did, since I'm in a much better financial situation now than I was then.

 

Unfortunately due to the careless lifestyle I was living way back when, I only have the finished edited master tape to one of the two volumes, NOT the one at Nolan's place.  (The duplicators went out of business and I had moved by then so they had nowhere to deliver the tape.)  This is why I have been so stubborn about not allowing it to go to DVD, since the VHS tape quality is pretty bad.  I suppose if some dedicated person tried to track down what happened to that duplication service for all I know that tape might still exist in someone's closet or something.  That would be quite a holy grail.  I do still have the editing system used to render things down, but the problem is that Amiga Toaster Flyer systems are extremely flaky.  I barely managed to get it to play the finished project out to BetaSP, and I had to do a couple hard edits to do it in chunks.  It does bother me that there's no good way to get back to the full quality edited master of Volume 1. :(

 

But at least getting the raw camera footage online in its totality is part of wanting to bring this project to a closure.

 

Nathan had expressed interest in doing a recut but it just never moved up enough in his priority list so this is the next best thing.

 

I don't expect other people to look at it the same way I do because the way this sort of assembled magically to the point where I was out there on the patio with the surprise birthday cake was just a highlight of my life.  It means so much more to me than the value of the raw information they had to offer.

 

But I did learn some valuable lessons about how companies revolve around the PEOPLE.  My career track from then onward has affirmed those lessons again and again.  It's that and the endless battle between bean-counters and innovators/creatives.  I wound up working for the parent company of MySpace and some of the things I experienced during that meteoric rise mirrored the experiences that the Atari guys had during the videogame boom.  I've come to see them as part of the larger tapestry of the rise of the information economy, of which I've gone on to play a small part in my own way--unfortunately not in games.

 

So that's that...


Edited by mos6507, Wed Nov 9, 2016 7:44 PM.


#63 ultrasteve OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 10, 2016 12:43 AM

Wow, thanks for taking the time to write all of that, and to let us know some of the background. It's really interesting to hear such priceless personal experience stories, especially through the mist of what everyone else thinks of Nolan.

 

Your work was, and still is, invaluable, and I for one thank you.



#64 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 10, 2016 8:55 AM

Wow, thanks for taking the time to write all of that, and to let us know some of the background. It's really interesting to hear such priceless personal experience stories, especially through the mist of what everyone else thinks of Nolan.

 

Your work was, and still is, invaluable, and I for one thank you.

Ditto, that is cool to hear the history of cataloging Atari history. :)



#65 Cafeman ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:50 AM

I just found this!    Thanks for the footage efforts, and posting it online.  There is so much to watch.  I was afraid the "VCR footage" would be too low res,  but it comes across very good quality surprisingly. (I only watched a few minutes here & there so far). 



#66 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:19 PM

I was afraid the "VCR footage" would be too low res,  but it comes across very good quality surprisingly. (I only watched a few minutes here & there so far). 

 

 

With the exception of the Jay Miner footage from 1989, all of the camera tapes were digitized from the original Betacam master tapes, which is a professional, broadcast tape format (albeit standard definition). The two Jay Miner tapes were originally recorded on VHS or some other consumer format, and later transferred to Betacam, which is why those tapes look much poorer by comparison.

 

All of the tapes were deinterlaced and upscaled to 720p using a Blackmagic Teranex converter, which is very high-end piece of gear. But really, the credit for them looking so good must go to Glenn for taking the time to do such a good job of lighting and shooting them in the first place. On a broadcast-grade CRT monitor, the original tapes look amazing - as good as standard definition material can. So since we had good sources to begin with, the end results look much better than they would have otherwise. Plus, I ran quite a few tests before Glenn and I settled on what we felt looked best for online presentation.

 

The quality of the camera tapes is one of the reasons it's so frustrating not to have that other edited master for Volume 1. The difference between Betacam and a VHS copy is rather dramatic. Once you lose resolution, color separation, and clarity, you can never get it back.



#67 SpiceWare ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 11, 2016 3:16 PM

I just found this!    Thanks for the footage efforts, and posting it online.  There is so much to watch.  I was afraid the "VCR footage" would be too low res,  but it comes across very good quality surprisingly. (I only watched a few minutes here & there so far). 

 

 

I've been watching them on my HDTV and have been very impressed with the picture quality as well.  It's way better than some of the broadcast stations that I regularly watch - namely the subchannels that show classic TV shows.



#68 ultrasteve OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 11, 2016 3:22 PM

On a broadcast-grade CRT monitor, the original tapes look amazing - as good as standard definition material can.

 

Interesting point! I'd not even considered watching them on anything but my LCD TV. I'm now thinking that I might watch them on the 14"CRT in my man-cave. I could connect my laptop to my upscaler and then send the signal via Scart to the TV, playing the sound through my soundbar!



#69 mos6507 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:04 AM

Yes, the original footage was shot on a pro camera with a huge lens worth well in the 5-digit range at the time.  The hope was to get this thing onto PBS or Discovery channel but I had no way to engineer that sort of business deal at the time.  Documentaries aren't normally sold after the fact.  They are commissioned before they even get shot.  I was pretty naive about the whole thing.



#70 hillelr OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 21, 2016 9:52 AM

That is Amazing

thank you very much for making this happen

This is a Wonderful piece of retro history



#71 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:19 PM

Cool... only 49 views to go! ;)

 

almost-there.jpg



#72 mos6507 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:59 PM

It's over 3,000 views now.

 

AA has pretty decent reach but it would be nice if this were to get slashdotted (is that still a thing these days?) or io9d or Kotakud or whatever.



#73 AAA177 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 6, 2017 7:52 PM

First I have heard of this. Sounds like an incredible video. I am going to seek it out now. Thanks for making this available.

 

Years ago I had Stella on a previous computer, but have yet to download the most recent version. As I get older I get nervous about doing that. I never downloaded music or movies or anything like that, but I did have some games that I just couldn't acquire, like Frankenstein for 2600 and Montezuma's Revenge (love those two titles). I'll have to check out the Archive to see if those games are there and play them in the browser, I assume that is legal as opposed to downloading, but I don't really know. Anyhow, I am definitely watching this video. Hope it is very informative and that there isn't a lot of joking around (sometimes that can get in the way of a great discussion).


Edited by AAA177, Mon Mar 6, 2017 7:53 PM.





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