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About mos6507

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  • Birthday 07/17/1970

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    Classic games, computer animation

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  1. Correction, the CG Expo was Las Vegas, not Los Angeles, but I think readers got the gist.
  2. I'm not active in the community anymore but I wanted to stop by to pay my respects. My most vivid memory of him was where I went to one of the CG Expo conventions in Los Angeles to panhandle for money to finish editing Stella at 20. Curt was gracious enough to devote a monitor at his booth for me to run a tape through with a leaflet. That was a really nice thing for him to do. I've come to realize that there's a continuum between being a fan or collector over to being a historian. As Generation X interests age more and more we rely on people like Curt to document that history for posterity. This is because more traditional "historians" don't see enough value in (relatively) recent history to document. But by the time they come around, much will have been lost. Surprisingly enough even some of the people directly involved discounted their past. So there are usually only a very small number of fans who have the passion, time, and skill to do this. Without them, this history will fade into legend and/or obscurity. I have started to gather up some of the fruits of these enthusiasts, these thick encyclopedias that tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about stuff that (let's face it) normies might feel wouldn't justify the attention. I have stuff like Nick Nugent's Knight Rider Companion, When We're Singing about the Partridge Family, Jeff Bond who has archived classic soundtracks like the original Star Trek and has just released this book on The Motion Picture. Curt is part of this exclusive club, and it deserves more respect.
  3. mos6507


    Just stumbled on this thread. I'm not a big fan of the fringe effect on the right hand side. I know it's an attempt at doing fake shading and to create more of a boundary between pieces but with only 5 wide pixels to work with it doesn't really sell the effect. This is especially true with pawns and rooks that look asymmetrical this way. If you went with evenly shaded pieces could you possibly use 1-pixel wide sprites colored blue to paint over the sprites and hence create a border? Can you get enough sprite copies to draw?
  4. Wow. Two years and 839 pages later and what have we got to show for it? Frankly I'm surprised that consoles have soldiered on at all. PS4 and XBOX are both essentially glorified gaming PCs now (but without the added value of being full-fledged PCs). Any console you make is going to be all off-the-shelf. If the hardware isn't that unique then all you gain by making a new platform is DRM and locking things up behind a walled garden. How does the consumer benefit from that?
  5. For those that don't like emulators I always liked the idea of an FPGA system like the Commodore One that could transform itself as needed into whatever hardware architecture you want. I used to be on the mailing list for that back in the day and it seemed like it never got fully baked.
  6. I have become interested lately in the history of computers before the mid 70s when I first got into them. Maybe it's because I sort of exhausted my curiosity about computers during the 70s and 80s and always thought of anything earlier as the dark ages and not worth spending any time learning. But this hit a fever pitch lately with the project I picked up on via Youtube to restore an Apollo guidance computer. That actual AGC then went on tour and I got to see it in action at the MIT Museum about a month ago. As much respect as I have for the original Atari programmers who had to code for the 2600, the AGC is next-level in what they had to do compared to what they had available in tooling. I now have this completely impractical and pointless (and probably impossible) desire to learn how to build my own CPU out of TTL logic, similar to what Larry Rosenthal did with Vectorbeam. I still feel like there's some unfinished business in my life for having never truly learning the ins and outs of assembly language, let alone electrical engineering. But there comes a time when you get too old to put in Malcolm Gladwell's 10K hours anymore.
  7. While I can't bring myself to declare my animation aspirations dead, I've had a series of setbacks resulting in burnout and a need to turn away from it, so I went back to my guitar hobby. My hobbies tend to ride at the intersection point between two. Like with classic videogames I used my film degree background to make the Stella at 20 documentary. With the guitar stuff I was always fascinated with gear, most specifically, the tiny niche of guitar modeling and synthesis. Well, not that tiny if you consider the variax, but tiny if you limit it to Roland gear, since Roland is (IMHO) a highly dysfunctional company when it comes to its GK (13-pin) gear. Anyway, from a 2019 vantage point I kind of see the entire GK scene as analogous to classic videogames, more of a legacy thing for eccentrics, although Fishman seems to be doing alright with its MIDI converter wart. I'm in the process of making an adapter board that will allow the Triple Play to hook up via 13-pin, so it's a way for me to dust off my soldering skills (that I last used with AtariVox+) and do PCB layout for the first time. If I manage to pull that off I want to build a smart pickup switcher device for this fancy doubleneck guitar I have, but one thing at a time. Anyway, since some people do sub to my blog I wanted to make them aware of a thread I started related to a piece of vaporware gear that has a chance to come back via the daughter of the engineer. I am pretty sure she can find the help she needs via AtariAge: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/288450-resynator-project/
  8. I found this Kickstarter via the guitar synthesizer hobby which I'm getting back into over at the vguitar forums. When I heard that they were having trouble recreating the hardware due to obsolete chips it seemed like the best place to find help would be classic videogame guys over here, where this sort of thing is old-hat. I sent her a PM so maybe she'll drop in and and reply to the thread, otherwise if you want to offer your expertise, please reach out to Alison Tavel. Here is the Facebook page as well. My main interest is seeing the Hexsynator brought back which is the same generation of tech as the Roland GR-300. (Mainstream listeners probably heard the most of this flavor of synth via Andy Summers in backing tracks on The Police albums).
  9. I do recommend his channel. It never really dawned on me how many analog audio/video formats came and went until I started watching his channel. Consumer electronics in the 20th century was defined by this endless cavalcade of formats. Sometimes I forget how much excitement there used to be about storing audio and video onto physical media (which I guess bridges straight over to the eventual digital treadmill, ROMs, floppies, hd, optical, flash). Now everything's digital and other than the recent HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray battle and then Flash vs. HTML5 there's not a lot of format warfare anymore.
  10. Funny to be in a position to revise a position I had 11 years ago, but here goes... My opinion is that while R&D is good, indiscriminate R&D is something companies do when they feel they have cash (or credit) to burn and a lack of direction. That was certainly the case with Atari. They tried to do too much, too fast, with too many redundant/overlapping ideas. It's not that R&D is bad, but out-of-control R&D is the sort of thing most people associate with the wasteful government spending in the military industrial complex. For every SR-71 triumph you'll have another jet plane that just flushes tax money down the drain. I don't buy the idea that the hit to miss ratio is completely random. I know hindsight is 20/20 but there IS such a thing as a stupid idea. In the case of Atari, they had a combination of ideas that probably never should have been worked on in the first place (the Sylvia 10-bit system, for instance) and others that should have been completed (the 1400 series and breakout box).
  11. I think it's a factor of the complexity. Back in the early days it was possible for smaller companies to design their own ICs. Even the original ARM chip was made by a small company in the UK. But as the transistor count went up it just became impossible for even seemingly big companies like Nintendo and Sega to keep up with what was going on. So the funny thing is they say the PC is dead but effectively the PC has won. It's just that the definition of the PC has changed. Desktop sales have gone down but a lot of people are just using older machines longer. But consoles can be construed as PCs insofar as they have all the basic guts of a PC, despite being closed (or semi-closed) platforms. What as the last real proprietary innovation? The PS3 cell processor? Developers hated it. So now all chip development has really been consolidated down to five sources, Intel, AMD, ARM group, ATI, and nVidia. Everything else is just licensed off of that. And then you have software...unless you are at the size of a Microsoft or Activision-Blizzard how can you afford to make a AAA title? It's become the new Hollywood. As huge as Atari was back in the day, the actual overhead of coding out a game like Space Invaders was miniscule comapred to today, and that's even including all of the logic analyzers and minicomputer cross compilers and what not that they needed. But today, filling out a game, just the art assets, is like producing assets for a greenscreen-heavy movie like Avatar. Then you have the engines that sit in the middle, which I think are a good thing, but at the same time have led to a certain sameness in the finished product. So it's just kind of...over. I am also noticing that retro gamers are sort of becoming the equivalent of our parents who might have wound up collecting old jukeboxes. I think something like building a MAME cabinet is like owning an old Wurlitzer was when we were just starting to buy CDs in the 80s. These old games that wind up on retro packs are sort of like an old Bing Crosby christmas tape in a gas station. At one point I used to think the commercial emulation scene would eventually dry up but it will just keep circulating in more and more of a marginalized fashion, like old movies from the 1930s in the bargain DVD bin at Wal-Mart. I really was surprised to see a Flashback 8 in the back of a Walgreens recently. This stuff is out there but it's becoming more and more of a selective niche and the last stop is gonna always wind up being emulation.
  12. I've actually felt for a LONG time that consoles as anything Generation-X would classify as such are an obsolete concept. It's not that hardware is dead, but consoles are dead. Technically speaking the current XBox and Playstation are consoles, but are they really? They're both x86 boxes with PC-derived graphics hardware are they not? Plus, most games are built using authoring environments like Unreal or Unity, which can often compile be directly ported out to different platforms. Nintendo has effectively ceded the AAA market in favor of mobile-ish hardware. So that's kinda where we are now. AAA console games are basically just PC games for very specific hardware. They're network enabled and they have local storage just like PCs. And mobile is, well, smart-phone games. So...we're kinda done here, right? If there ever is a PS5 or an XBox-n it will just continue to be the equivalent of Valve's Steambox. Just take a snapshot of what's state of the art in x86 and ram it into a console, done and done. On mobile you've got your usual system on a chip ARM stuff. Done and done. I guess the reason I'm thinking about this is because of the Ataribox thing... I think, mentally, us Generation-X still sort of fetishize the IDEA of a console, a proprietary device that used to play ROM cartridges, something that you had to write 100% custom code to drive, had custom ICs in it, etc.... I just think that ship sailed a looooong time ago. I just find it sad that whatever comprises the corporate entity known as Atari is continuing to try to revive something that is in any way shape or form a "console" the way we used to think of them, when everyone knows under that pretty case it will be nothing more than stock hardware of the sort that's already in cell phones, tablets, and set-top boxes. The only thing that matters now...is software. Platform isn't as important as software, and software (if it's AAA) is EXPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENSIVE! Grand Theft Auto V supposedly costs 137 million dollars. Destiny? Over 140. When gamers think of what a "relevant" game is, they think of these things, the blockbusters. Little classic game style things, little flappy bird things, they're a whole other niche. So if you own the Atari name, and you know making a game that "matters" costs over 100 million dollars, what are you to do? Well, apparently, you don't have a lot of options, hence Sega is withering away, and Nintendo is becoming a retro brand, and Atari probably can't hope to make much money other than cheap merch and the continued licensing of its properties for use in emulators ad nauseum. I guess this is why I don't really play games much at all anymore. The idea of what a game is even has changed to the point where I don't even recognize it. The last game I put any time into was Star Trek Online. I do have a soft spot for MMORPGs but they are too big of a time-sink for me and I don't like all of the instancing that breaks the immersion. But I was just kind of thinking of this whole thing, 20 years from when I did my documentary on Atari, and where I could have seen all this going. I guess it hasn't turned out THAT different from my predictions. Even back then people were starting to hook up keyboards and ethernet jacks to things like Sega Saturns. Back then I was working for a startup company that was all about "digital convergence". And I guess this is what that world looks like.
  13. You're free to feel that way. I, personally, like pastels. How many other consoles used pastels, even in the 80s? The console was doomed anyway. At least it went down in a blaze of pastels.
  14. This appears to be one of those threads that will not die. The takeaway for me is that most game consoles don't age very well because fashion changes. I do think once we get to the pseudo-PC era with the PS2 and Xbox onward that things gets terribly boring with these slabs and wedges. Not necessarily ugly, but boring. At least the ugly consoles were trying to make a statement back in the day. I think a lot of the criticism leveled at some of these consoles merely reflect these changes in fashion. For instance, people tend to have warm fuzzies to this day for the woodgrain of the 2600, and yet really, the Astrocade with its smoked plastic cover and woodgrain is pretty much the exact same industrial design, which is to make something that would have looked at-home among your stereo components. There's really nothing wrong with it as long as you don't judge it based on today's aesthetics. The same is true of the XEGS. The XEGS is a total Miami Vice 80s aesthetic. The diagonal cart port is kooky and yet sooo appropriate for mid 80s. And you can go on down the line.
  15. There are also some really cheap mini arcades now being sold through Cracker Barrel. I am starting to think that the mini arcade games are going to become the newest fad, and I can see why. It gives you all of the aesthetics of a full-size machine at a size where you can create sort of a miniature game-room at doll-like scale. The problem with the Cracker Barrel ones is the screen res sucks so you're not getting all the pixels. I'd prefer something that offers full playability rather than it just being little more than an animated prop. So this Centipede thing and potential followups has me intrigued. But like I said, this could very well catch on in which case we could see others that offer better and better screens / fidelity. It just seems early days on what's gonna be a fad cycle.
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