Archive for January, 2007
For those of you who might not know, the GCE Vectrex (1983) was a unique game system that had a built in black and white vector graphics display. Vector graphics are composed of lines drawn point-to-point on a specially-driven CRT rather than through a bit-mapped pixel graphics method on a raster scan display (like an ordinary TV set). That may be a bit too technical for you, but the least you need to know is that vector graphics are different than usual and, in the case of the Vectrex, consisted of white lines on black backgrounds only.
In order to spice up the system's monochrome gameplay, each Vectrex game came with its own custom translucent colored overlay that snapped in place over the Vectrex's built-in monitor. The white vector lines on the monitor underneath shone through and gave the illusion of a color display for certain parts of the screen. The one you see above is for Flipper Pinball. Notice the different regions of the play field which have different colors to add more life and variety to the game.
It should be noted that colored overlays were not a new idea to the Vectrex. Their use in video games spans back to the medium's very genesis, from the days of Ralph Baer experimenting in his lab at Sanders, and later on the first video game system ever, the Magnavox Odyssey. Also, most early arcade games used black and white displays with colored overlays to keep production costs down, as the components needed to generate and the monitors needed to display colored graphics were expensive at the time.
Personally, I've never been a fan of overlays — I find them a chintzy substitute for a true color display, and instead prefer to play my Vectrex games without them. Monochrome ain't so bad.
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This week's pixel challenge is our first to have a theme. This week's theme is "Sega Systems," which means that all three of these pixel blocks came from video game systems produced by Sega. That should help you pin them down. The first block is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!
The answers to last week's challenge are after the break.
Instead of simply letting their classic machines collect dust on a shelf as display pieces, vintage computing enthusiasts regularly struggle to find modern uses for their equipment that also double as good excuses to keep them "around" and active. I know this because I've been looking for novel ways to use my obsolete computers since I started collecting them. Thankfully, a new Internet service just popped up that will give us all a reason to pull that old terminal out of the closet again. It's called StarTTY.
StarTTY, created by Dorian Garson, is an information "push" service designed for old serial terminals and computers than can run terminal emulators. It turns your old computer or terminal into an "information kiosk" by displaying live, up-to-the-minute weather, news, date/time, and other features directly on your terminal's screen. It accomplishes this feat through the ancient-but-perennially-useful protocol known as telnet, which is commonly used for remote server administration, MUDs, and Internet BBSes these days.
Sure, consoles age and get dirty. Heck, I remember a suspicious incident involving my Super Nintendo (SNES) console and a can of Coca-Cola in the early '90s that left my SNES looking more like a moldy loaf of bread than a video game system. But around five years ago, I noticed that my SNES console was aging particularly badly. I cleaned off all the remnants of fossilized Coke residue from the chassis with a wet washcloth, but the "moldy bread" look still remained. The top half of the console's plastic body retained a uniformly nasty yellow-brown hue, while the bottom half flaunted its showroom shine — that native SNES gray that we all know and love. I soon realized that a much deeper mechanism was responsible for the aesthetic disfigurement of my beloved SNES than mere dirt and sugar.
To further complicate matters, I have another SNES unit that was obviously produced more recently than my original one, and that console shows no sign of aging whatsoever. Comparing the units and the way different parts of them had discolored led me to believe that there is something different about the two batches of plastics — the one for the top half of the SNES chassis and the one for the bottom, or the plastic for the old unit and plastic for the new — that made them age differently over time.
Immediately below are two photos I took of my actual SNES units. Notice the difference between the colors of the top and bottom halves of the plastic chassis on the older unit, and also how the newer unit shows no sign of discoloration at all.
It's the end of an era, my friends. At today's MacWorld keynote, Steve Jobs announced that the company is changing its name from "Apple Computer, Inc." to simply "Apple, Inc." to reflect their increased focus on consumer electronics.
The world's most beloved computer company is no longer just a computer company. That's fine with me, of course, because they make some of the best consumer products on Earth. Still, for someone who grew up with the legendary Apple Computer of old, it's a little sad to see the original name go.
Welcome to our first Name Those Pixels Challenge of 2007. I think I'll be making this column bi-weekly from now on so as not to overload your ultra-sensitive pixel receptors. Also, if you like this column and want it to continue, please show your support in the comments.
Now, on to the pixels. This week we've got three games again, and two of them are from the same system. The first is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!
The answers to last week's challenge are after the break.