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There are exhaustive collections of dumps of (all?) historic ROMs available. I don't think there is any room for improvement there :)

Yes, there is:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/103737-2600-rom-comparisions-and-dumps/?p=1257686

 

As you can see, there are still quite some original PAL versions that need to be dumped.

 

IMO it's important to have at least the .bins of all original versions.

 

They form the core of the VCS era.

 

8)

Edited by Rom Hunter
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I wish there was a console that played cartridges. I would be nice to buy an atari off the shelf that played carts.

 

 

 

I'm not aware of any cartridge-capable Atari VCS console being sold today, and certainly not within 100 miles of home. What am I missing?

 

 

 

While yes it would be nice to have the VCS version of BD made available. It will never happen. But that's alright. There are other versions available. Some versions are even better by sheer virtue of having been made on more sophisticated hardware. Not to downplay the technical prowess of VCS BD of course.

 

 

 

Yes I agree here. And I believe this is the best way to move forward. While a cartridge's masked-rom is projected to live for 200 years, many avenues of attrition will kill it before the infamous bit-rot sets in. And a cartridges is one. One single instance. There may be 20,000 instances of Demon Attack out there in physical form. Whatever. But those are NOT available to anyone and everyone. The number is limited.

 

A Digital Collection built around emulation can be unlimited. In fact a DC relies on numbers and widely distributed storage "spots" to maintain existence.

 

If the kids want to play Doom (or a VCS game), see the box, hear the sounds, revel in the fast-action graphics.. Where and how is it going to happen? Likely it will happen on a phone, tablet, or PC or any other device. Not a dedicated console. Ohh there may BE new hardware, or a virtual game pack for the PS or whatever system is in vogue, but one thing in common is emulation/virtualization.

 

This Russian-doll effect.. It's part of the migration process. It may grow several 4 or 5 layers deep, and then a re-write and consolidation is likely to take place. And we're back to only 1 layer. Tablets and phones are in the here and now. They're windows into the server farms and datacenters. Who knows what will be in the future? But change has proven to happen slow enough that migration is effective. I'm not using the Activision ActionPacks from Windows 3.1 anymore, I could, but I don't. Nor am I using DOS based Stella or PCAE or Z26 anymore either. The vehicle has changed, the passengers are the same.

 

I can't emphasize this enough. DATA MIGRATION IS KEY!

 

I've blabbed about it before. All the sci-fi stories and crazy stuff and recollections of Estes model rockets I wrote about on my TRS-80 Pocket Computer 1 and Apple II back in the 70's and 80's has been migrated through 7 or 8 different mediums till it ended up on a PC-based USB drive at the end of the dot-com era.

 

Some went from the TRS-80 Pocket Computer to a cassette and back to the computer then to a strip printer narrower than a McDonald's receipt. Then it was scanned into the Apple II with a hand scanner. Some was OCR'd or just saved as a hi-res image. Some manually printed and then re-typed. Material originally done up on the Apple II w/ProTerm was sent directly to the Amiga and then to the PC. Then it was transfered to floppy, then a Sider HDD, then to Amiga based 720K disks. Then to a PC HDD, floppies, ReWritable CD-RW, ZipDrive, then 1394 FireWire drive, then several USB disks. I even uploaded some text to a BBS and re-captured it natively in ProComm Plus (pc terminal software). There's more. And it gets more convoluted for some. But hey! I was learning then. And we didn't have solidified standards either!

 

But I'm happy to say that today I have the original cassettes & diskettes from the 1970's and some printouts too. Today I could just zip'em on over via ADTPRO or CFFA3000. But either way. The files on my modern HDD today contain the same exact information as they did back then. Solid proof that migration works even if done haphazardly.

 

When I check the dates on some of them the last-action took place around 1993/1994. It was around then that I containerized them in a zip file with checksums. And they've been frozen since.

 

---

 

It should be noted that data storage and interface standards have slowed and continue to slow. Back then in the early days it was a whirlwind because capacity was growing rapidly and new standards had to be implemented to handle the capacity. We've seen many interfaces from custom SCSI/SASI jobs on the Apple II to proprietary memory cards and half-baked attempts at large capacity (and unreliable) consumer devices - think CD-RW, Bernoulli Boxes, Flopticals, 720K floppies, and early high-speed HDD in overheated ventless external enclosures.

 

All of that happened in a ~10 year span. But today, the USB standard is still working quite well. Drives I got in 2006 are still using the same interface, USB 2.0. And they are backward compatible with USB 3.0. That's more than 10 years on one standard. And I'd say we have another 5 or 10 years more before something better comes along.

 

The point being is that standards are changing slowly enough that there is ample time for migration. USB, for example, isn't going to suddenly drop off the planet. It will be phased out gently because of the huge installed base. And hardware to read USB devices will be available years after that via auction houses and flea markets.

 

And most certainly transfer to new storage containers will be as easy as a couple of clicks. If I should ever need to (and I expect to) replace a removable HDD, the information can be put on a new one as fast as the data moves across the wires. Couple of clicks and we're done.

 

Over the years Microsoft has released readers and converters and plugins for Office that let the suite be aware of older obscure formats from the DOS days. So there's that too.

 

Lots of options!

 

---

 

As far as documenting the culture and era? Well it isn't too hard. Periodicals and a/v materials of the day are best. We don't need too many summaries and history rewrites by some hmucks that thinks they know how "vintage" "retro" "classic" apply to gaming and computing. Direct records pulled from the mists of time trump all!

 

post-30777-0-30853600-1496993362_thumb.jpg

 

The new portable Atari console is indeed cartridge-capable. You can't tell from the picture, but the tiny cartridge even inserts backwards into the tiny console just like bitd and they work on full size consoles too via the adaptor.

 

You get the Russian doll analogy but those layers you described are exactly what I like to avoid along with system notifications, reminders and a pop-up advertisements because they degrade and derezz (derezz meaning like in Tron) the retro gaming experience.

 

Modern operating systems are essentially Nagware with the ability to interweave nag dialogs and intersperse audio visual cues with demands to periodically reboot and to interact with (often) meaningless nagware dialog boxes.

 

This is meant as satire but all you need is a modern OS where emulators must necessarily time-share with the nagware:

 

http://retrogamingmagazine.com/2014/11/20/pac-man-released-modern-platforms/

 

No doubt you can usually play without these interruptions but at any point those "important" mechanisms (notifications, reminders, etc.) still have the potential to interrupt your gaming experience based on a predefined (but also constantly changing) set of interrupt criteria:

 

When interrupts happen (however rarely) while you're enjoying playing a classic it messes up the experience commensurate with how intrusive the interrupt was; interrupts where you have to reboot the system (or where it starts nagging you every 5 minutes) are the easiest for us to recall and prompt the question do we really want to run nagware to play Atari?

 

Not if we don't have to; turn on the portable console to play (or a full size console) and the similarity to your emulator ends there because it's just an Atari console with nothing to interrupt the game, to require you to install updates, new drivers, schedule system maintenance or just ask you if you'd like windows to record your game.

 

You can get closer to that experience by minimizing your OS's nagware capabilities which is not possible with a modern OS however Windows for embedded systems or a disconnected older version that cannot phone home or update is a good option.

 

Regarding long term storage I find paper seems to last better than other mediums though Tape holds up well; floppies last too but not the Drives - old cassette players still work and you can buy new ones, just like Atari consoles :)

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There are also many pieces of hardware that are not documented yet. From time to time we have a glimpse of some obscure and interesting items.

 

examples:
https://atariage.com/forums/topic/204788-bit60-atari-2600-complete-computer-system-on-gamegavel/
http://atariage.com/forums/topic/134938-frob-and-frob-52-pictures/

Unfortunately, most of the time people who buy those are not interested in tracing the boards, dumping roms, scanning the manuals and making them available before the originals are lost for all the causes mentioned.

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These answers sound like solutions as if we all died today when there will likely be better solutions in the future. Everything being discussed here is just an Atari version of the big data problems in general that companies are already working on using A.I. For an example, doctors can't keep track of all the new medical breakthroughs, treatments, etc. So, companies, like IBM for an example, are trying to have it so that a doctor could share their patient's symptoms with an A.I. assistant, it searches the entire web for all relevant medical information, knows what to look for and understands it, sorts it, and then provides the doctor with answers so good that the A.I. assistant is basically the doctor and the doctor is just basically the A.I.'s hands. So, by the time most of us are near death this kind of technology and way better than what we have today would likely be everywhere and a standard way to search. In other words, by then it could be as simple as someone saying,"Okay, Google. Tell me about Atari.", then they give follow up questions and receive the correct answers, and then if they are fascinated with what all they are learning it may be as simple as,"Okay, Google. Now 3D print out a functioning Atari VCS Heavy Sixer from the launch in 1977 new in box."

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As you can see, there are still quite some original PAL versions that need to be dumped.

 

IMO it's important to have at least the .bins of all original versions.

 

Yikes, I wasn't aware there were som many that haven't been dumped yet. I agree, they should be all dumped and preserved :)

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These answers sound like solutions as if we all died today...

This may happen to anyone of us any day.

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This may happen to anyone of us any day.

 

But any one of us would have a very small impact on preserving the future of the Atari 2600. There would have to be some kind of major event that took out most if not all of us and very soon for us to have to think up solutions that could only be done with today's methods and if such a major event is coming soon then I'm much more worried about what that is than preserving the Atari 2600 because such an event could be an event that results in there being no one around to appreciate what we preserved.

 

Anyway, think about if this question was asked in the 80's and people were only thinking up solutions with methods that existed at the time. Then a guy suggested that it would be easier in the future because computers would be connected with other computers across the globe, there would be entire retro gaming communities talking to each other through this global communication, there would be these things called search engines that you could type in what you are looking for and they would find it and you could even find to buy Atari stuff with this global communication, there would be a cart with so much storage it could hold all Atari games and you could get them all for free, you could easily access digital scans of manuals, boxes, and labels, you could play Atari on your phone which could fit in your pocket, etc. That guy's suggestion would have seemed pretty far out there but would also have been entirely correct. I agree with this hypothetical guy. It has become way easier than back then and it will be way easier in the future. Especially since technology advances exponentially.

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Back then I thought of a briefcase computer with magic circuits that could play any game from any home console or arcade machine. Today we have a laptop in a bag that will do exactly that.

 

So yes, as long as we keep alive the source code and dumps and scans and schematics and plans and stuff we should be good to go. The future might not lend itself to sitting in wood-paneled basement with blue shag carpet and glowing CRTs. But that's ok. It will give us and descendants other comforts in place of that. The magic of Combat, Defender, Missile Command, and all other games will still be there for those that want it.

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The future might not lend itself to sitting in wood-paneled basement with blue shag carpet and glowing CRTs.

 

But it also might lend itself to those things too with them fitting in a briefcase computer with magic circuits.

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Following this post I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how to preserve the Atari 2600 and all things around it for the future.

 

The people interested into Atari 2600 are getting older on average. Eventually most of us will be gone. What happens then to our legacy? Who will take care of the numerous collections? Who will look after our homebrews, the documents, our tools etc. And last not least AtariAge (and other websites) who tell the stories of Atari 2600.

 

Accidents can happen to us everyday and sooner or later we have to face the end of our lives. How many of you have taken care of? And what can and should we do now?

 

I dunno Thomas. I beamed back in for a while to see what the world looks like. I'll tell you what, I don't recognize anything. What is an Atari 2600 anyway? What is worth preserving? You go to a museum and what do they show you? They show you the "good stuff" right? What is the "good stuff" for the Atari 2600? Is it the DPC+ bankswitch scheme? OK so now we get to write assembly language in two languages at once! What does that have to do with an Atari 2600? Is it a cart for the Atari 2600? Or is it a gameboy advance with a 2600 strapped on underneath? And what does it have to do with great game design anyway? It goes on and on about some technical features that makes things more "advanced" but has anybody figured out how to make things more fun to play? Besides, you are missing the challenge of writing a 4K game with a handful of bytes of RAM. You see, I like Demon Attack. I like Phoenix. I like Yars Revenge. And guess what... I like Halo2600. What a breath of fresh air. Get yourself a Supercharger and fill it up. What happened to that? Has anybody come up with anything more fun than that? Has anybody come up with games that are more fun than Demon Attack or Yars Revenge? So I don't know what an Atari 2600 is any more. Except to say that there are still some places I can go to buy a "real" 2600 off the shelf and some games. I like that. Maybe that's telling me something about what a 2600 is. Maybe that's telling me something about what should be preserved. Maybe...

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I'm pretty sure museums tend to go with the most common denominator cultural icons. Whatever the general populace says. Unfortunately the general populace only gets ya' 60% of the way there. There are plenty gems lost in the ignored 40%.

 

An example is that Pac-Man will almost always be mentioned in anything to do with classic games, but what about the other 9,999 titles? Might as well be a random chance if they get mentioned.

 

Pac-Man is THE icon for all classic gaming, just as the C64 is THE icon for all things classic computing. It's ok that a museum uses them to spearhead any exhibit provided they keep their display dynamic and evolving and allow its visitors to take deep dives into all the genres and machines and as many games as possible. Games are meant to be played and interacted with. So every exhibit should have a representation or model of many other machines (working or not), AND an emulation console that can be used by visitors to experience those other machines.

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On 6/11/2019 at 12:34 PM, Keatah said:

I'm pretty sure museums tend to go with the most common denominator cultural icons. Whatever the general populace says. Unfortunately the general populace only gets ya' 60% of the way there. There are plenty gems lost in the ignored 40%.

 

An example is that Pac-Man will almost always be mentioned in anything to do with classic games, but what about the other 9,999 titles? Might as well be a random chance if they get mentioned.

 

Pac-Man is THE icon for all classic gaming, just as the C64 is THE icon for all things classic computing. It's ok that a museum uses them to spearhead any exhibit provided they keep their display dynamic and evolving and allow its visitors to take deep dives into all the genres and machines and as many games as possible. Games are meant to be played and interacted with. So every exhibit should have a representation or model of many other machines (working or not), AND an emulation console that can be used by visitors to experience those other machines.

I don't want to say too many bad things about emulators. ;-) But seriously, why would you want to run an emulator? Sure I run at least one emulator from time to time but by far my favorite way to play 2600 games is on an unmodified 2600 plugged into a CRT TV-set. They make these very nice adapters that screw into the CATV input of the TV set so you can plug the Atari video cable right in. I can get these adapters at the same videogame stores that I can buy a 2600 at. So it's easy to do. Why not do that? And frankly, I think folks interested in preservation should be collecting TV sets now while you still can. Because my most recent TV set took weeks to show up at a thrift store. And by the way, avoid flat screen, the sprites look a little weird at the edges. Go with the curved screen.

 

Other than that I'm not sure what homebrew games are the good ones. I think there's at least 9,999 homebrew roms by now. So how do we pick out the good ones? I think this is part of preservation. You need to show folks things they would like to see. It's pretty hard to sort through that many roms if you're "just passing through" so to speak. Then if you're interested you can look through the rest. But again, what are the good ones? This "scene" has been going on for 20-25 years. It seems like a list of 20-25 of the best homebrews would be a nice thing to have. Any ideas?

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18 minutes ago, John Saeger said:

It seems like a list of 20-25 of the best homebrews would be a nice thing to have. Any ideas?

As far as AtariAge homebrew goes, go to the store and sort by most popular.  That gives you a pretty good idea.  Roms are available for most of it with a little searching.

 

BTW, love z26 (works great in CentOS).

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On 6/24/2019 at 12:54 PM, s0c7 said:

As far as AtariAge homebrew goes, go to the store and sort by most popular.  That gives you a pretty good idea.  Roms are available for most of it with a little searching.

 

BTW, love z26 (works great in CentOS).

Thanks! The store is a great idea.

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I run an emulator because I want to play games on a modern TV without all the snowy interference that was typical with old systems.  Don't get me wrong, I still have my original Atari hooked to a CRT TV, but after either one breaks down, I'm done with trying to search for a used system or TV to keep the thing alive.  If they came out with a new Atari console that could play cartridges, I would buy the thing!  For me it's all about convenience.  I don't have the time or money to put into used equipment anymore.

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I seriously want to give stephena and those who volunteer on Stella a huge hug.

 

It has become, by and large one of the most accurate emulators I've ever seen. The last 1% has been an absolute bitch, for sure.

 

-Thom

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On 7/16/2019 at 9:05 AM, tschak909 said:

I seriously want to give stephena and those who volunteer on Stella a huge hug.

 

It has become, by and large one of the most accurate emulators I've ever seen. The last 1% has been an absolute bitch, for sure.

 

-Thom

I'm telling you what, they deserve more than a hug, or even a bake sale or whatever other funding they get. Not too long ago I downloaded the source code to stella and it came out to more than 100,000 lines of code. There's a program on linux called sloccount that I used to analyze the size of the program. I forget exactly when I downloaded the code but sloccount told me it had 101,171 lines of code. But sloccount tells me more. It estimates the cost of development. It tells me the estimated cost of development for stella is $3,443,107, and that's assuming a programmer salary of $56,286 a year. How many person years does it estimate? 25.49 person years of effort. It's hard to explain why folks do that sort of thing.

 

I, however do not work that hard. The current version of z26 has less than 12,000 lines of code. The current release z26 4.02 comes in at 11,321 lines of code with an estimated development cost of $345,319 and 2.56 person years of effort. So I guess you can send me a Combat cart and we'll call it good. ;-)

 

I totally understand the last 1% thing. For me that happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That old assembly code engine is fairly decent actually. That's why I decided to simply translate it for z26 4.x instead of fixing the engine in z26 3.02. I just didn't want to go through the 1% thing again, even though the engine in 3.02 would likely have turned out to be a better engine - in the long run. Meanwhile I wanted the multi-sprite trick working and I couldn't remember how it worked anyway, so translation was the best solution for that problem, at least in the short term.

 

Other than that, a couple of years ago I would probably have agreed that the square pixel approximation to what a real 2600 shows us on a TV screen would be good enough. Although if you actually look at what a 2600 does and try to do a square pixel approximation to the output we find that current emulators are lacking. What current emulators do is emulate the digital model of what TIA does, not what shows up on the TV screen. The system of 2600 + TV is decidedly analog in nature and the digital model just doesn't do the trick, if you ask me. But like I'm saying, until recently I was fairly satisfied with the digital model. But the more I played the classics on real hardware, the more I think the guys who wrote those games tuned them to the display with the complete analog picture of things in mind. Although I suppose it might have been possible for those guys to have a very slow emulator, I think it isn't likely that they did. They most likely had an assembler and an EPROM programmer. Even something as primitive as a Supercharger would likely have been a luxury. They wrote the games on real hardware and if you ask me, it shows. Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion, but if emulators are the answer to preservation, IMHO they have a way to go.

 

Have fun!

 

John

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