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Keatah

Retrocomputing might be more fun now than BITD!

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Retrocomputing might be more fun now than BITD!

 

Oh sure we all had loads of fun back in the day because everything was new and life was simpler and more care-free. Thems was the pioneering days. Everything was new, fresh, exciting, and different. And we each have many stories and experience to tell.

 

But I will argue that today it can and is more fun. We have decades of experience to draw on. And tons more of documentation and information for your fav platform, available in many respective repositories. We have new storage media and archives of just about everything ever made. Not to mention loads of history.

 

If not that, then there's all the convenience that modern tools offer to smooth out the rough spots.

 

We're spoiled!

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4 hours ago, Keatah said:

Retrocomputing might be more fun now than BITD!

 

Oh sure we all had loads of fun back in the day because everything was new and life was simpler and more care-free. Thems was the pioneering days. Everything was new, fresh, exciting, and different. And we each have many stories and experience to tell.

 

But I will argue that today it can and is more fun. We have decades of experience to draw on. And tons more of documentation and information for your fav platform, available in many respective repositories. We have new storage media and archives of just about everything ever made. Not to mention loads of history.

 

If not that, then there's all the convenience that modern tools offer to smooth out the rough spots.

 

We're spoiled!

Yep!  I am continuously blown away by what can be done for old computers with some sort of SD card solution, not to mention what can be done for old consoles and/or handhelds with flashdrives.  Definitely we are spoiled to have hundreds if not thousands of games available to us at any given time, not to mention (in the case of computers) tons of other software we may not have had. 

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4 hours ago, Keatah said:

Retrocomputing might be more fun now than BITD!

 

Oh sure we all had loads of fun back in the day because everything was new and life was simpler and more care-free. Thems was the pioneering days. Everything was new, fresh, exciting, and different. And we each have many stories and experience to tell.

 

But I will argue that today it can and is more fun. We have decades of experience to draw on. And tons more of documentation and information for your fav platform, available in many respective repositories. We have new storage media and archives of just about everything ever made. Not to mention loads of history.

 

If not that, then there's all the convenience that modern tools offer to smooth out the rough spots.

 

We're spoiled!

IDK,  a lot of the fun I used to have on old computers is now redundant.

 

I always wanted to see how far I could push the tech, usually with an eye towards multimedia features.   If your computer would talk even in that 80s robot voice, that was amazing.  If you could make it display photos in spite of the limited graphics, that was awesome, as were crude attempts at video.  Playing 8-bit 12khz samples seemed so cool.   And so on.

 

Nowadays modern tech can do all that at high quality without breaking a sweat, so there isn't much fun left in that kind of stuff.

 

Also all the little BASIC programs I used to write to accomplish this or that--  I can often find a free app that does the same thing.

 

So while it's cool that my old 5 1/4" full height 120mb monster of a hard drive can now be replaced by a microSD card,  I find that much of what I used to use the computer for isn't fun anymore.   Mostly I just go back and revisit my favorite old games from time to time.

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For me, the nature of what is fun has changed. In the 80s and 90s, the software was what was fun. I was interested in the hardware only to the extent that it enabled me to run the software I wanted or needed.

 

Now what's fun is collecting the hardware and getting a system to run as smoothly as it possibly can. The software is just a tool to measure my success at doing that.

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I wouldn't want to go back and try all that pushing-hardware-stuff again. Having done it once is good enough. Though in the day I never thought of it as actually pushing or straining the hardware itself. It was more like what hidden stuff was in there to be discovered. How can that large (48K Apple II) memory array be arranged to do something new. And expanding that to 64K or 128K was a momentous occasion.

 

Getting 450 baud from a 300 baud modem BITD was an exciting project. Using software compression to eliminate all the zeros and un-used spots on a disk prior to transfer was groundbreaking frontier work. Getting 202 and eventually 212 were both indicators I had arrived. Today, doubling the speed of a cablemodem is ho-hum. Not excited by it.

 

Today, my GTX 1080 graphics card, for example, is some two generations old already. I'm not interested in getting that last 50MHz of performance from the insanely fast memory bus. But, rather, looking to see what new & creative stuff it can do. Like run DOS & Windows on the GPU in its entirety. Or using it for physics compute. That's exciting.

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21 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Today, my GTX 1080 graphics card, for example, is some two generations old already. I'm not interested in getting that last 50MHz of performance from the insanely fast memory bus. But, rather, looking to see what new & creative stuff it can do. Like run DOS & Windows on the GPU in its entirety. Or using it for physics compute. That's exciting.

There is diminishing returns from graphics upgrades anymore.   It used to be a night and day difference -- higher res, bigger color palettes and eventually 24-bit color where any color could be placed anywhere without restriction.  But now that pixels are so small the jump in resolutions results in a somewhat sharper picture, sure but apart from that the content looks mostly the same.   

 

I love these videos that compare a games ultra settings to lower setting or PC to console.   They'll run them side, and then freeze the frames,  zoom in and point out a slightly more detailed shadow and act like that was worth the extra hundreds of dollars spent for that GPU.  When it's something you won't even notice when the game is in motion.

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Yes. Diminishing returns. But that is alright. 2me it indicates technological maturation. Nowadays I prefer a gentle evolution of existing features, compared against the haphazard heydays of the 8-bit rigs.

 

Take televisions for example. I'm pleased to see the gradual increase in resolution, gamut, and refresh rate. It's also interesting to see the refinement of the LCD crystal, and Quantum Dot tech, and whatever else is on the horizon. But I don't baggie-chase anything new because new. None of it is of the gotta-get-it-now urgency. As these things trickle down into the mainstream (with associated low cost) then it pops up on my radar.

 

Do away with radical so-called advancements like 3D-TV. That was nothing more than an expensive gimmick. Costly mostly on the engineering & production & filmmaking sides. Not so much on the consumer side. I couldn't wait for the fad to run its course and burn out. It finally did in 2017. I hope it never comes back.

 

I believe the best way to convey depth on a 2D screen is by parallax shifting. This is so simple that every display device can handle it. No special hardware on the part of the studio other than good lighting. It's just side to side movement of the camera with a little bit of rotation and bokeh thrown in if the scene is stationary. Everyone gets a sense of depth. It's cheap. It works. Been around for years. And even multi-million dollar professional simulators use it. Or for us cheapskates, imagine the standard platformer or shmup, with different planes or layers that move at different speeds.

 

And everyone knows the slow-motion bullet.

 

Increased resolutions, gamuts, refresh rates, and camera work do more for immersion than anything 3D. And I believe those aspects of television technology will continue evolving for decades to come.

 

Note: I would be remiss to conclude without mentioning one positive effect "3D" had on content creation. The tech tended to slow down the hyperactive editing and rapid-fire cutting on the production floor. Necessary to allow the audience to locate themselves in 3D space. Scenes last an average of about 1.6 seconds in your typical superhero movie. Compare that against 2001 A Space Odyssey.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

There is diminishing returns from graphics upgrades anymore.   It used to be a night and day difference -- higher res, bigger color palettes and eventually 24-bit color where any color could be placed anywhere without restriction.  But now that pixels are so small the jump in resolutions results in a somewhat sharper picture, sure but apart from that the content looks mostly the same.

Absolutely. I think we're good enough. Happy to watch the incremental improvements happen over the years to come, while not having to get excited over every little new thing. Just show me the stuff on a 1-page spec sheet.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

I love these videos that compare a games ultra settings to lower setting or PC to console.   They'll run them side, and then freeze the frames,  zoom in and point out a slightly more detailed shadow and act like that was worth the extra hundreds of dollars spent for that GPU.  When it's something you won't even notice when the game is in motion.

I did exactly that. A blink comparo of two identical scenes. One rendered with DLSS and one without. The were really no discernible differences other than the flavor of and detail in the shadows. Neither one was better or worse. Just different. Like choosing a dithering algorithm. This one or that-a-one. Do I set my pixel values to 127, 127, 127? or 127, 128, 127?

 

In fact the differences were so subtle it took Nvidia like 1/2 hour to explain what to look for on zero-day. Then to discover it's partly cloud-based, with the results of the comparisons of low-res and hi-res scenes (per-game) pre-computed on Nvidia servers and stored in the drivers. Uhm. Ok. But I ain't paying $2300 for that. Nor am I interested in GB-sized drivers containing data for games  may or may not be playing.

 

This sounds like a lot of tedium and opportunity for things to get messed up. Maybe just wait till it evolves and can be done locally in real-time?

 

OR. MAYBE.. Just enjoy the game as it is? On my 4 year old graphics card? Fuckin' cry me a river!

 

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42 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Increased resolutions, gamuts, refresh rates, and camera work do more for immersion than anything 3D. And I believe those aspects of television technology will continue evolving for decades to come.

I think the best returns are gained by putting more detail into the scene.  A highly detailed scnen looks great at 1080p, 1440p or 4K

 

but people expect "next gen" to be 4x the resolution and double the refresh rate.  That alone puts considerable extra workload on the GPU, how are you supposed to get photorealistic detail and do all that?

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Intel’s Ångstrom initiative, Foveros packaging tech, and in-chip vapor cooling microtubule technology is expected to trickle down. Thus Making all that an everyday task.

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15 hours ago, Keatah said:

We're spoiled!

I completely agree.

 

Thinking back to 20 or even 10 years ago, things were relatively stagnant by comparison, particularly at the 20-year-mark.  Sure, there had been some developments on both the hardware and software fronts, but nothing like we have now.

 

What's enjoyable to me is that I'm using my Atari systems very similarly to how I did BITD - but with so much more capability, and with new stuff to explore as a result.  The upgrades really have extended the machines' abilities, but without losing their soul in the process.

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Modern Flash memory has changed the landscape so much for the better. I remember back in '85 I had nearly 2000 diskettes. With more coming in every week. And keeping track of them all was a complete impossibility.

 

Today I can search through a library stored in a pocket box and find 1 out of 20,000 disk images in under 20 seconds. And then instantly play it in an emulator. Or send to Flash media. Or make a real disk.

 

Want to see vintage astronomy programs? Right over there! Want to play Willy Byte In The Digital Dimension? Step right this way. Ha!

 

IMHO the stagnacity lasted from the mid 1990's through maybe 2016.

 

Additionally we have things which image disks in greater detail than the sizes of individual bits themselves. And it'll make disk images directly usable in emulators. Tools like that would be a 1980's courier's wet dream.

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30 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Modern Flash memory has changed the landscape so much for the better. I remember back in '85 I had nearly 2000 diskettes. With more coming in every week. And keeping track of them all was a complete impossibility.

This was a problem I also faced, and ended up developing my own cross-referenced physical disk filing system to cope with it.  I don't recall all of the specifics, but it was not simple.  It worked, but to anyone on the outside of my own head, it would have been utterly byzantine.

30 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Today I can search through a library stored in a pocket box and find 1 out of 20,000 disk images in under 20 seconds. And then instantly play it in an emulator. Or send to Flash media. Or make a real disk.

Or copy it - instantaneously enough as doesn't matter - from another side of the country, or world.  No more starting a file transfer before going to bed and hoping that it didn't error out during the night.  Or just load it straight into memory and run it from wherever it happens to be stored.

30 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Want to see vintage astronomy programs? Right over there! Want to play Willy Byte In The Digital Dimension? Step right this way. Ha!

And it's easier than ever to get one's hands on whatever takes one's fancy.  Repositories, open to the public, abound.  Contributions to the preservation of software keep rolling on.  The ability to ask - in many cases directly of the software authors - others who share similar interests for or about a particular title is unprecedented today.

30 minutes ago, Keatah said:

IMHO the stagnacity lasted from the mid 1990's through maybe 2016.

I'd be willing to roll that back a little bit to around 2011 or 2012.  IMHO, that was about when we started seeing the first devices released in an appreciable way that were intended to adapt older machines into modern usage.  Definitely agree that 2016 was about when the momentum really picked up, though.

30 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Additionally we have things which image disks in greater detail than the sizes of individual bits themselves. And it'll make disk images directly usable in emulators. Tools like that would be a 1980's courier's wet dream.

If the Kryoflux was available in, say, 1989, would we have seen fewer cracktros?  Given how easy it would have made it to spot certain types of copy protection, the bragging rights behind a cracktro wouldn't have carried as much importance.  Or perhaps many of the physical copy protection schemes would have been dropped altogether as being considered ineffective.

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53 minutes ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Or copy it - instantaneously enough as doesn't matter - from another side of the country, or world.  No more starting a file transfer before going to bed and hoping that it didn't error out during the night.  Or just load it straight into memory and run it from wherever it happens to be stored.

Part of the late-nite transfers at 300 baud was the downtempo mood. Loved it all. Late-nite stories, late-nite snacks, reading books. Watching sci-fi on the VCR. Figuring ways to skip school the next day. Didn't learn anything there anyways.. There was even mystery involved. Will it get through? Who is tracing the phone call? Is that a secret agent on the other end of the line watching us?

 

53 minutes ago, x=usr(1536) said:

I'd be willing to roll that back a little bit to around 2011 or 2012.  IMHO, that was about when we started seeing the first devices released in an appreciable way that were intended to adapt older machines into modern usage.  Definitely agree that 2016 was about when the momentum really picked up, though.

I recall getting the first CFFA board from Dreher in the 2002-2003 timeframe. And then the 3000 around 2013.

 

53 minutes ago, x=usr(1536) said:

If the Kryoflux was available in, say, 1989, would we have seen fewer cracktros?  Given how easy it would have made it to spot certain types of copy protection, the bragging rights behind a cracktro wouldn't have carried as much importance.  Or perhaps many of the physical copy protection schemes would have been dropped altogether as being considered ineffective.

Maybe. I kind of like the cracktros. Like a badge of honor. It's so much a part of the culture in the Apple II world. An annoyance on other platforms. They weren't really animated much. Most were done in green/violet/black/white, so to speak, as a result of artifacting. They're especially important today as fresh cracks come out. As preservation of disks in the WOZ format preserves all copy-protection, eliminating need for said cracks altogether.

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There was tension in the air as the last 5 (out of 400+) sectors came through. Like a countdown. And the last one always paused for a moment longer with disk access before returning to our..

 

[-] K-Kalico-Kool Modified Æ TAC 2.0 WaReZ Command Center [-]

Complete With Gyroscopic Command Prompt (>Animation8.gif.d03092f9b6fde218f63d90234cd91310.gif

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Keatah said:

I kind of like the cracktros. Like a badge of honor.

Yup.  There were comparatively fewer in A8-land, but by the time the ST rolled around they were all the rage.

 

The best ones are the ones where rival groups or individual l4m3rZ are being taunted and/or insulted; always enjoyed getting a glimpse into who wasn't fond of whom on that particular release.  I seem to recall one where the target was completely doxxed in the pre-load scroller and had his transgressions (involving someone else's girlfriend, IIRC) laid bare for the cracked-ST-software-using world to see.  From what I understand, things did not go well for him after that one made it out into the wild :-D

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