Archive for February, 2008

Benj's Epic GDC 2008 Adventure Slideshow

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Benj's GDC 2008 AdventureAnd I mean epic. Last week, I crossed the country to attend Game Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco, California. Below, you'll find a detailed report on my travels, replete with in-depth photos, each accompanied by both honest and sometimes facetious commentary. But be warned: it's going to be a long trip. If there be any lilly-livered scallywags amongst ye who fear the voyage, turn back now, or forever will ye be scarred by me words.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] NCSU Computer Punch Card

Monday, February 25th, 2008

NCSU Computer Punch Card

I found this wonderfully stamped card in an old, metal, 20-drawer punch card filing cabinet that I bought from a N.C. State University surplus sale late last year. Actually, it was one of many hundreds of such cards, most of which were rubber-banded together in program stacks for the psychology department.

I'm no expert on punch card-era computers, so I'll let the more knowledgeable amongst us do the talking. It's a great piece of history, though. I'm currently using the card cabinet as a tool chest.

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My Odyssey: Flying with Baer

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Ralph Baer with Benj Edwards on an Airplane

Benj here reporting from my secret base-like hotel room in rainy San Francisco, CA. My grueling 14 hours of travel time today (from the first airport to the hotel) paid off with an unusual and fortuitous coincidence. During my five hour connecting flight from Chicago to SFO, I sat next to none other than the Father of Video Games, Ralph Baer.

I was planning on meeting up with Ralph at GDC, but I didn't know he'd be on the same flight as me (he'd come in from New Hampshire). Normally one is wary of whom one might be stuck sitting next to for a long flight. But thanks to Ralph and a nice fella named Jason Graves (a composer, also heading to GDC), I had my most enjoyable flight ever.

Expect more from me after I actually attend the show. For now, I'm tired. Time to hit the sack.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Atari Beach Puzzle

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Atari Age Beach Puzzle - 1982

So this is what the famous Super Breakout Astronaut does when he's not battling gigantic rainbow force fields.

If you haven't noticed, this painting is a Where's Waldo sort of exercise. Here are the instructions:

The seaside has been invaded by characters and objects from 23 different Atari games — how many of them can you identify?

Put your Atari knowledge to the test and post your guesses in the comments section below.

[ Scanned from Atari Age, July-August 1982 ]

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Go West, Young Man — To the Game Developers Conference

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Game Developers Conference 2008Next week, I'll be flying 2,000 miles across the country to scenic San Francisco, CA in order to attend Game Developers Conference 2008. What does this have to do with Vintage Computing and Gaming, you ask? And why would any man spend eight hours cramped in a tiny plane seat if they didn't have to? Well, I'll tell you. My old pal Ralph Baer (you know, the inventor of video games) is going to be there, and he'll be hosting a session in conjunction with Pong hardware guru Al Alcorn entitled "How to Create an Industry: The Making of the Brown Box and PONG." Unlike Baer and that other Atari guy, it seems that these two men get along swimmingly.

I'll be there, of course, and I'll try to submit some reports from the field while I'm at the show ("Benj Edwards here, reporting to you live from the eye of the Hurricane!"), especially if I spot any other retrogaming-related happenings. Luckily for you, I won't be leaving Ulaf Silchov in charge of VC&G this time while I'm away (I think he's in Switzerland doing a film or something).

Anyway, if you're at the GDC and spot a seven-foot tall guy wearing a neon green jumpsuit, mirrored sunglasses, and an enormous pink sombrero, feel free to say "Hi." You'll likely be talking to the mascot of some new game from Rare. It won't be me, though, because I'm actually pretty short. Wish me luck.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] SNES Save State Device

Monday, February 11th, 2008

NakiTek Game Saver+ SNES

Who needs emulators? Accessory maker NakiTek released an innovative device called the Game Saver+ in the mid-1990s that allowed gamers to store the exact state of their game at any time to memory. As you can see by the picture, the unit worked a bit like a Game Genie, acting as a bridge between a cartridge and the SNES. While playing, you could save your game by pressing something like Select + Right Shoulder button. To restore the game state, you'd press Select + Left Shoulder button (I forgot the combinations exactly). As long the Saver unit received power — either via the SNES's AC adapter, which passed through the unit, or AA batteries — the Game Saver+ would save your game state. It also offered a few extra features like "slow motion" play.

Unfortunately, the Game Saver+ was released too late in the life of the SNES to make much impact. I picked one up in the late 1990s on clearance at Wal-Mart for a few bucks. By that time, I was already emulating the SNES on my PC.

From what I've read, the Game Saver+ didn't work too well with certain games, causing graphical glitching upon resuming your state. In my experience (I remember mostly playing Super Castlevania IV with it), it seemed to work fine — although I wouldn't want to depend on it.

[ Scanned from Electronic Gaming Monthly, January 1995 ]

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Goodwill Goods: Pokémon, God's Y2K, and Japanese AI

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Three Used Books from GoodwillYesterday afternoon, I drove to a local Goodwill store in search of more random junk to clutter up my house. As always when the electronics pickings are slim, I spent most of my visit perusing their used books section. Among the mountains of Danielle Steele and self help guides, one can usually find a number of interesting obsolete computer and video-game related books there. Yesterday was no exception, as I picked up three interesting printed techno-artifacts from the past. Care to take a look? To the Bookmobile!

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] TAC-2: Totally Accurate Controller

Monday, February 4th, 2008

TAC-2 Controller Ad 1983"It's like your hand is part of the game."

[ Scanned from Electronic Games, December 1983 ]

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