Archive for March, 2006

A Better Interview, Starring the Massive Video Game Collection Owner's Friend

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

VGC CollectionWho knew that you could have interviews about interviews? Well, when you are personally responsible for publishing the world's least-interesting interview, you can! Oh the perks. For those of you who don't know, the subject of that first interview (and the owner of the "Possible World's Largest Video Game Collection") was a bit vague about the details of, well…just about every question I asked. The decision of whether to actually publish the first interview was a hard one. I wanted to let people know more about the man behind the monster collection, but as it turned out, the collector's answers were so unspecific that they essentially poured gas on the flames of Internet speculation. In other words, my initial mission was a total failure. Without the new pictures provided by the collector himself, and the other pictures I had to share, I would have shelved the whole thing.

But I didn't shelve it; I published it and lots of people started getting interested in the collection — many more so than originally expected. Those same people, in the absence of any concrete information, soon began assuming all sorts of unflattering things about the nature of the man behind the collection (That's the net for ya. Whoo!). Having no one but myself to blame for so much intense public scrutiny of this man's personal life (trust me, he did not seek it himself), I thought I'd try to set the record…a little more straight…by interviewing his more outgoing friend and game shopping companion, who also happens to be the man who took most of the original pictures of the collection and persuaded the collector to put the pics online in the first place. And so I did, via email (The Official World's Worst Interview Medium). In grand Internet naming tradition, he shall be referred to as "Nesvidiot."

Yes, he likes Nintendo.

Vintage Computing and Gaming: How long have you known your friend? How did you meet?
Nesvidiot: We met at the flea market in about '95.

VC&G: How old are you? How old is he?
NV: We are both mid-30s.

VC&G: Where is he from and what does he do for a living?
NV: Western Canada. He sells games at the flea market on weekends and eBays during the week.

VC&G: Some Internet commentors have suggested that he of has some sort of psychological condition, i.e. obsessive-compulsive disorder, problems with hoarding, etc. because of his incredibly large collection. How would you answer those people?
NV: People do whatever they want to do — it doesn't matter if it is collecting video games, or hockey cards, or bottle caps. What ever makes you happy is all that matters. People that think he has a problem are usually envious and trying to hide their own problems by focusing on others. Hey, if it makes you happy…

VC&G: Other commentors like to make fun of the small monitor on a table near the SNES exercise bike in one of the pictures as if he played all his games there. Can you tell us what that monitor is for, and does he use it for gaming? Further, could you describe his real gaming setup (if he has one)? Is it upstairs?
NV:He plays games with the family upstairs on the 60″ TV. Downstairs is where he keeps everything and tests games on the little monitor.

VC&G: Why do you think he answered my original questions without much detail?
NV: He doesn't like to boast, he is a really quiet, humble person.

VC&G: Do you have any idea how many games he has? Does he have a system for keeping track of them all?
NV: He has over 10,000 for sure. Yes he keeps lists, although it is hard to keep up with everything sometimes.

VC&G: Can you tell us about some of the highlights of his collection? Any cool and rare stuff worth mentioning?
NV: The SNES Life cycle with Mountainbike Rally/Speed Racer. The Panesian carts boxed, his new crystal DS's, there is just too much cool stuff to mention.

VC&G: How much do you think he spends on video game collecting every month?
NV: Not a clue, probably every spare cent he has after bills.

VC&G: Where does he get most of his games?
NV: We go shopping every couple of weeks together — pawns, thrifts, game stores (EB, Microplay etc.).

VC&G: Does he have a wife or girlfriend? What does she think about his collection?
NV: Yes he has a wife of 17 years, and 2 children. This is what he does, obviously if she didn't approve she wouldn't have stayed with him this long. There are a happy family.

VC&G: Likewise with relatives. What do they think of his collection?
NV: He comes from a background of collecting and selling. They all understand and support him.

VC&G: How do you think his son feels about his father collecting so many video games?
NV: His son LOVES all the games and will inherit it one day I'm sure.

In addition to the interview, Nesvidiot added this comment at the bottom of the original interview page:

How many of you, if you had a collection of this size would advertise an open house viewing? Think about it, how many of you would even say anything about it, for fear of becoming a target.
No he is not French-
He has a 60″ bigscreen upstairs
the pics you see are of his collection- not his stockroom
he does collect a lot of import, including over 1300 Super Fam, a ton of Brazilian games, Pal variations, name it he's had it at one time or another.
Most of you big collectors out there have bought games from him at one time or another- whether it be on the old newsgroups 10 years ago or on E-bay since it started.
This is what he does. I collect, videogames were even a business for me at one time, now only a hobby. But this is what he does- all he does. And it seems to work out pretty good for him.
He operates a booth at a flea market on Saturdays and Sundays, during the week he game hunts and ebays games.
Don’t be envious- it is hard work to accomplish what he has. Be happy that he is willing to share it with the world. There are other huge collections out there that will never see the press that this one has. It took me a long time to get him to post pics- a lot of the pics were taken by me. I still am in awe everytime I visit him- and he is one of my best friends.

That's all for now. If I here from the collector himself again, I'll update you on it. I'd like to thank Nesvidiot once again for the interview and shedding some light on his somewhat elusive friend!

This Week's Game Ads A-Go-Go: Proof that Video Game Companies Want You to Die

Thursday, March 30th, 2006
Push Your Friend Over The Edge
"At some point in the early nineties it became wildly fashionable for video game publishers to threaten your bodily health. Everything was "In Your Face!" and "Attitude!" and "Play it Loud!" which is exactly why I played it quietly. Unlike my other gaming brethren, I didn't want to die."

Contributing Writers to Vintage Computing and Gaming Wanted (2nd Call)

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

I'm currently looking for writers who might like to contribute articles to this "blogazine," Vintage Computing and Gaming. If you have a passion for old computers or video games and like to write, then you'd be a great candidate. Of course, it's not a paying job…I don't get paid and I run the place. It's a labor of love — for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts. If you have any unique ideas or insights about computers or gaming (especially the vintage kind) that you've always wanted to share with the world, now's your chance. If you're interested, email me and we'll talk. Thanks!

Retro Scan of the Week: The Perfect Heathkit Robotic Family

Monday, March 27th, 2006
The Perfect Heathkit Robotic Family
Flash back to 1986: "Is your family life not quite how you'd like it to be? Does your husband stay late at work and seem ungrateful? Does your wife refuse to clean the house and make you dinner? Are your kids too gross, squishy and organic? Well worry no longer, because now you can buy and build your own Heathkit RoboFamily Plus (GD-9920) for only $2999.95 plus shipping! (Important Note: The 'RoboFamily Plus' comes pre-programmed to buy Heathkit products and demonstrate them frequently, thoroughly, and repeatedly, so do not be alarmed if you witness this behavior.)"

[Scan from a 1986 Heathkit Catalog.]

Thoughts on Building a 'Universal Game System'

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Universal Game SystemI have always wanted to build something that I like to call a "Universal Game System" (UGS). You could also call it the "ultimate game system," since it would play all games for every game system ever released. Well, theoretically it could — with a powerful enough processor and the right emulators. That's why I call it "universal." But for now I'll set my sights lower and stop at the N64 generation. The UGS itself would have a simple interface to launch every game, would have ports for every type of controller for each system (or at least a select few that could be used on most games), it would hook up to a TV, and it would require nothing more than a game controller to select the games and operate the interface. You, the user, would provide the ROMs and controllers, and the UGS would do the rest. I suppose this would be kinda like a making a "MAME cabinet" for console games.

Central to the UGS would be a powerful computer fitted with emulators for every system, all seamlessly integrated into one easy-to-use front end interface. You would never have to use a keyboard or mouse (although you could if you so desired), as you could easily select, launch, and play games with only a game controller. Also, you could see everything you're doing on an ordinary old TV (not HDTV, although it would definitely support that too) with larger fonts and a layout designed for analog TV legibility. While HDTVs should be cheap and plentiful in the future, playing games on an old analog TV might be a big part of the "authentic nostalgia factor" soon, as regular TVs are quickly being supplanted by the new technology. And besides, I personally neither have nor can afford an HDTV-capable TV right now.

MESS LogoIt is my goal to one day build one of these, but the requisite software is not quite together yet. I'm not aware of all the latest and greatest in the emulator scene, but maybe something that would help me build a UGS is in the works. I know about MESS (Multiple Emulator Super System), but last time I used it, it wasn't in the best of shape (it still needs lots of work, in my opinion). Still, when it's fully mature, MESS combined with the right front-end interface might just do the trick on the software end.

Super Smart JoyBut the software is only half the battle. I also need a small, compact, quiet, and cool PC case that can hold the right cards for the I/O required, while also being able to hold a powerful enough processor to do the job (processor-generated heat is the main factor in dictating noise level and case size). Inside said box would be a versatile computer video card with an excellent composite or S-Video analog TV-out that looks good on regular old TVs. I've tried a few cards so far, but the video is always lackluster, and you have to reference a VGA monitor on the side to actually read what you're doing (to select the games to play, etc.). As far as interfaces go, I plan on building a large controller interface box that has ten or more types of classic system controller ports that would all hook up to a USB connection, similar to RetroZone's controllers, or Lik Sang's Smart Joy series. You could plug in your NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, PlayStation, etc. controllers and play the original system's games with them on a regular TV as if you had the real console in front of you.

My question for you guys out there is this: do you know of any software or hardware that would help me fulfill my dream of building this ultimate emulator system? Hardware? Front ends? Emulators? Any suggestions about how the UGS should function? Let's work together to figure this thing out. Eventually, a commercial version of a device like this will probably be as common in a household as a DVD player is now (minus the ten different controller ports, of course). Until then, we have to work hard to make it happen on our own terms.

Update (03/31/2006): I like how I made the UGS sound like some kind of incredibly complex, dramatic project, requiring resources and effort akin to the Space Race to achieve properly. And then you guys come along and nonchalantly say "Yep, I've got one already." :) Well, I don't "got one" yet, of course, but I will some day, thanks to your help (it was your feedback that I wanted about front ends, etc.). Still, to me, the ideal, seamlessly fuctioning UGS has not yet been created. Who knows if it ever will…

Ok, I'm being dramatic again.

Interview Attempt: (Possible) World's Largest Video Game Collection Owner

Friday, March 24th, 2006

VGC CollectionI first ran across this man's amazing collection a little over two weeks ago when looking at pictures of cool "game rooms" on Videogame collectors.com. What struck me as most unique about this collection was the sheer volume of games and the fact that they almost entirely covered all the walls and the floor of an entire room. After posting a note about the collection on my blog, word of this massive collection quickly spread around the Internet, unfortunately toppling the Videogamecollectors.com site under the heavy weight of intense visitor traffic shortly thereafter…from which it has still not yet recovered (oops!).

VGC CollectionFascinated by the collection, I managed to track down its owner (who wishes to be known publicly only as "videogamecollector") and conduct an email interview with him. Well, I attempted to, anyway. He's a bit reclusive (answering only 10 of 17 questions asked), and not exactly a master at typing the English language (I've had to clean up his answers quite a bit), but he was kind enough to provide a nice little window, however small, into his unique world. He also sent me some new pictures of his collection, which are displayed throughout the interview below. And for sheer completeness, I'm also providing some of the original collection pictures (from Videogamecollectors.com) at the end of the interview. (Note: Be a pal and please link to this article, not directly to the images. Thanks!) And now, on with the show.

Update (03/30/2006): I just posted an interview with one of the collector's best friends, which reads more like this original interview should have. He sheds a lot more light on the mystery collector. Check it out here.

VGC CollectionVintage Computing and Gaming: Thanks for agreeing to the interview. A lot of people have seen your impressive video game collection as linked from my blog recently and are eager to know more about it. First off, what do you do for a living?
Videogamecollector: Collect video games, for now.

VC&G: About how many games do you have in your collection? Have you ever counted all of them precisely?
VGC: I'm not sure if I really want to know.

VC&G: What has driven you to collect so many games?
VGC: It seems to be the rush of finding something I don't have. Or you can call it my addiction.

VC&G: How many game systems (physical console units) do you have, including duplicates?
VCG: Again, I'm not sure — gotta get rid of those duplicates.

VGC CollectionVC&G: What parts of your collection are you most proud of? [i.e. complete SNES game library, all RPG games for Saturn, etc] Also, what are some of the rarest items in your collection?
VGC: Gotta think this one over for a few weeks.

VC&G: What are your collecting goals? For example, are you simply trying to collect every game ever made, or do you focus on label variations, all games for a particular system, game genres (RPGs, fighting games), etc.?
VGC: My goal is to get the games on my want list and sell all my variations and doubles.

VGC CollectionVC&G: Do you have a database or a list of all your games so you can keep track of them better? Or perhaps a system for storing them so you know where everything is?
VGC: I had a list of everything, and I'm now redoing my lists.

VC&G: Your collection seems to take up a lot of space. Where is the collection located? Is it in your basement? Have you ever had to physically move your entire collection?
VGC: Yes, everthing is in the basement. I've never had to move everything yet.

VGC CollectionVC&G: How long did it take you to amass your video game collection?
VGC: 16+ years.

VC&G: Do you know of anyone on Earth with a larger video game collection?
VGC: There are a few collectors online that have more, I think. Not sure though.

VGC CollectionVC&G: Is the young boy in your collection pictures your son? If so, what does he think of your collection and video games in general? Do you ever let him play any of your games?
VGC: Yes, my son plays games. He has a few hundred games in his room that he plays.

VC&G: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me.
VGC: Thanks.

VGC CollectionDo you have or know of a video game collection bigger than this one? If so, drop me an email!

And now, as promised, here are the original images [Note: Be a pal and please link to this article, not directly to the images. Thanks!]:

World

World

World

World

World

World

World

This Week's Game Ads A-Go-Go: "Guys Freakin' Out"

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006
Freakout
This week's Game Ads A-Go-Go is now up on GameSetWatch. It's all about guys freakin' out, which is always a great topic for video game-related columns. So check it out.

Anatomy of a Young Collector's Room

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Late last year I found this classic (for me, anyway) picture lurking in my files and scanned it. It's a Polaroid photograph of one corner of my then "computer room" taken by myself somewhere around late 1994 or early 1995 (yes, my family was lucky enough to have the space for another room dedicated mainly to my BBS computer, but filled with my other junk as well). I was 13 or 14 at the time. As you can see on the picture, I've labeled certain items in the room with numbers. Each number is associated with an item that I talk about below. With that out of the way, click on the image to open up the bigger version and let's start the tour!

1. DEC VT-125 Terminal - A true classic in the terminal world, pulled from a dumpster. The neighbor of my father's company serviced minicomputers and was always throwing neat stuff out. I got about 3-4 of these, took a few apart, eventually throwing them away for space concerns. But I think I still have one or two left.

2. Micromint Z8 Board - Part of the Micromint Z8 Basic Computer/Controller set. Inherited from my father's old workplace. The Micromint Z8 system was a BASIC language-programmable microcontroller, essentially for early "embedded computer" applications. I have a bunch of cool expansion boards too, including one that lets you save/load your program to cassette tape, and another that lets you burn EPROMs of your BASIC programs! Cool stuff — I should play with it again.

3. NES Games - Back in 1994, my NES game collection could actually fit in one cubic foot of space. Crazy. A NES Game Genie code book can be seen here, awkwardly sticking out of the top of the plastic basket. Eventually my collection would spill out of the pictured basket and beyond…

4. Commodore CBM 2001-32 - This was had at a hamfest for $10, including the separate companion disk unit. It's tucked away in the far back corner of the room, so I guess I didn't use it very much.

5. Zoom 2400 BPS Modem - My first modem, given to my family by a friend. The top cover is off because I was playing around with hooking the speaker audio output to headphones — both for kicks, and for late-night modem sessions without waking the parents (I did this before I figured out the Hayes AT command to turn off the internal speaker) . This very modem is responsible for introducing me to the world of BBSes sometime in 1991. Of course, this being 1994-95, my main workhorse at the time is an Intel external 14400 modem across the room (not pictured).

6. Apple II+ - My dad bought this for me around 1990-91 (from a hamfest, big surprise) so I could learn BASIC on it. And I did, having loads of fun with it over the years. At the time of this picture I had the luxury of a color composite video monitor (#11). Up until then, I was stuck with a monochrome green-screen. But somehow it almost didn't feel like an Apple II any more once it was in color.

7. Odyssey2 Games - Yes, this black blob is actually fifteen Odyssey2 games in interlockable cartridge racks, purchased for $10 along with an Odyssey2 console at a hamfest in the early 90s.

8. Nintendo Entertainment System - Back then, I took everything I owned apart, and the former "family NES" was not spared this treatment. Thinking myself clever, I switched the one and two player ports around, along with the "power" and "reset" buttons. How delightfully obnoxious. This unit, 11 years later, went on to become the NES DVD Player hack I did recently.

9. EPROM Eraser - It's the gray rectangular box on top of the Apple II+ (#6). Never really used it very much. It was inherited along with the Micromint Z8 controller board stuff (#2) and was used to erase EPROMs programmed by the unit. It works by shining UV light through a tiny quartz window on the EPROM.

10. Apple II Disks - Stacked here are two boxes of Apple II disks. The lower one is mine, the upper one was given to me by a friend (with all his Apple II disks in it!). In fact, it was the same friend who gave my family the 2400 BPS modem (#5). It's nice to have good friends.

11. Composite Video Monitor - What a grand day it was when I acquired my first color composite video monitor at a local hamfest! In this picture, the monitor is performing triple duty between the Apple II+ (#6), NES (#8), and Atari Jaguar (#14). I simply switched the AV connectors at the back depending on which one I wanted to use.

12. Atari Lynx - I bought this under-utilized portable wonder in used condition from a guy who regularly called my BBS ("Raven," if you must know) in 1993 or 94. The transaction was done entirely by mail and we never met in person (imagine that!).

13. Mystery Sticker - I'm not sure what this is. It looks like a random peel-off trading card-sized sticker just stuck on the wall at an odd angle. Weird. This picture have been taken after my dad made me take down the 100-odd posters and other crap I had tacked and taped all over the walls, believing they were a fire hazard.

14. Atari Jaguar - I was a total Atari nut in the very early 90′s, believing strongly that Atari was the greatest company ever. "What's this Nintendo business?" I said. "Atari was first!" I heard rumors of their Panther, then Jaguar, consoles and waited anxiously for their release. My birthday in 1994 was one of the happiest days of my life: I received an Atari Jaguar System and Super Metroid for the SNES. Here, Doom can be seen in the cartridge slot, a version of the seminal 3D FPS rivaled on consoles only by the PlayStation version.

15. Apple III - The prize of my collection at the time. When I first heard about the Apple III years before, it was like some magical, mythical beast. Would I ever catch sight of one, much less possess it? Naturally, I was extremely excited when my father and I came across this one later at a hamfest (again, big surprise). $10-20 later, I had my first Apple III, complete with dust cover (pictured on the unit). I only had the Apple II emulation disk for it, though, and to this day have never run any native Apple III software. Shortly after my Apple III was obtained (turned out they were not as rare as I thought), the Apple Lisa quickly became the next mythical beast to be had — a beast I'm still chasing in the wild to this day.

16. Plug 'N' Play Mosaic Book - This book is how I got my first copy of Mosaic, the first graphical web browser (it came on a floppy disk in the back). Shortly after, I began to develop my first home page, and boy did it suck. It's funny reading lists of "cool" web sites from back then because, well…there were only about ten web sites back then. Ergo, all of them were cool (and listed in this book).

17. Handheld Video Games Magazine - I just found this particular issue (Spring 1991) again recently while working on my "Game Ads A-Go-Go" column for GameSetWatch. Good issue. I apparently didn't value it very much at the time because it's sitting on the floor right next to the spot where our cats would leave all the dead birds they'd caught that week. Yum.

Well that's the tour, hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for accompanying me on a nice walk down memory lane.

Introducing the VC&G Discussion Forum

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

VC&G ForumYou are about to witness a new experiment for Vintage Computing and Gaming…a full-fledged discussion board. It's now up and running, so check it out!

I hope our forum can have a loose, friendly, all-inclusive atmosphere. I'm tired of forums that are filled with an elite, exclusive "old boys' club" attitude that shuns new members who don't know every esoteric detail about some computer / game system / whatever. As a result, as our forum grows and we get more established, I hope you can be as tolerant as possible to new members and those who might come looking for help on a situation that might seem "dumb" or "obvious" to you. Just remember that we were all in the same shoes once, knowing nothing at all about the world, much less computers and video games. Some of us were lucky enough to learn through the kindness and generosity of mentors and teachers who freely shared knowledge with us without feeling threatened. If you were graced with such fortune, think back and remember how it felt to be treated with equality and respect, despite your youth and inexperience. Now it's your turn to pass on that knowledge, and that gift, to a new generation. Now you are the mentor.

All forums will be moderated by myself (or trusted persons I choose in the future), so please try to stay on topic. We have a wonderful place to talk about miscellaneous stuff called the "Off-Topic Forum" as well, so if your post is not about computers or video gaming in some way, post it there. Blatant personal attacks by members to other forum members will not be tolerated. Disagreeing with each other (or me) is perfectly fine, but please be civil. Once you hurl an insult — no matter how subtle a dig — or assign someone a negative label (i.e. call them a name), the flame wars are sure to begin. Keep these things in mind so we can douse the fires before they spread out of control.

Any suggestions about the forum are welcome at any time. I stocked the forum with some interesting VC&G-related avatars to get us started, and I'll be starting more message topics in the days to come. I know the forum is really empty now, so any help you can provide in getting our new forum rolling will be incredibly, gratefully appreciated. Thanks a ton in advance, and have fun talking!

Retro Scan of the Week: "Video Game Saver (Never Die) with Unlimited Fun"

Monday, March 20th, 2006
Super Game Boy Flier
This advertisement appeared in the September 1995 issue of "Electronics Now." I found it lurking in the back of the magazine — you know the place, the cheap black and white section where all the "shady" ads are (for porn BBSes, diet pills, pirated games, etc.). This particular ad is for what appears to be a re-branded version of the "Game Doctor III" game copier for the Super Nintendo / Super Famicom. I happen to have a Game Doctor III, but could never get it to work properly (I prefer my Super WildCard DX2 instead, which vastly outclasses it anyway). "Backup devices" such as this are/were illegal, of course, so it's interesting seeing how this particular distributor skirted the issue with their entertaining "Engrish" description of the product. For Great Justice!