Archive for December, 2005

The Games Will Grow With Us:
Video Game Market Growing Pains…and Pleasures

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

I know this site is called Vintage Computing and Gaming, but what this site is really about is celebrating the history of computers and video games. I’m interested in the history of computers and video games over all time: past, present, and future. What is current now will soon be in the past, and part of history. Those of us who ponder the history of video games can’t help thinking ahead and wondering what will come next. Well, one can’t get a glimpse of the future of an industry without knowing its past. That’s why amateur enthusiast-historians like myself are here.

It has been said many times that the video game market has grown up with the gamers who purchase and play the games themselves. For example, take “Gamer X,” born in 1975, who played his first video game console, an Atari 2600, at age 3. Then maybe he moved on to a Commodore 64 around age 8, switching later to a NES at age 12, then a SNES at age 16. By the time he hit 1995 and the launch of the PlayStation in the US, that gamer was 20-years-old. That 20-year-old was probably no longer content to play the same video games he did at 3 and 8, although he probably still loved them for nostalgic reasons. No, that person was at a completely different stage in his life with different dreams and a new worldview. As Gamer X grew up, video game complexity and maturity grew up with him, matching him almost perfectly along the way. He had Atari 2600 games with the simplicity for a toddler to pick up and play, NES games with more depth and imagination for adolescents and early teens, then the SNES with its more violent fighting games and deeper and more emotionally rewarding RPGs for mid- to late-teenagers. Then along came Sony. With the launch of the first PlayStation, Sony was the first company to aggressively go after the late-teen and early-adult gamer market. This was a huge surprise to the whole world of “older folks” (i.e. Baby Boomers and above) at the time, because until then, everybody thought video games were strictly for kids. Why did they think they were for kids? Because kids were young, flexible, and open-minded enough to embrace video games when they came into their own.

At this point, we’re due for a stop off at the present. Even today, in 2005, with the average video game player being 30-years-old (also see this), and — surprise — with Gamer X at 30, video games as an entertainment medium are still being misunderstood by the generations that have come before it. But this behavior is not new; other forms of popular entertainment have experienced similar growing trends…and growing pains. The rock and roll record-smashing of the 1950s and 60s was similar to what’s going on today with social conservatives and alarmist politicians pointing their pens at violent and sexual video games. Remember Elvis? Neither do I — I’m only 24. But I’ve read some books and I know that when he first shook his hips on TV, the whole world of over-40-year-olds thought teenagers everywhere would instantly collapse into massive inter-racial orgies, never to recover. It’s been the same story with every generational gap and entertainment medium since the dawn of time. You can look back in the history of TV, music (rap and jazz are good examples in addition to rock & roll), movies, theater, books, paintings, and poetry, and you’ll see the same trend as you do with video games today. It’s the same old story: the older generation in power just doesn’t understand, and frightened governments everywhere, knowing magically what’s best for people under 30, want to make state-parenting de rigueur.

Well, guess what? Gamer X isn’t going to stop growing, aging, and maturing. By the time people who grew up with video games take positions of authority, the current controversies over games as an entertainment medium will, for the most part, cease (to be replaced by some other concern, no doubt). Rock and roll music, once shunned, misunderstood, and censored by the WWII generation, has grown up with the Baby Boomers until we regularly see 60-year-old rockers like Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones drawing crowds of thousands.

Now, back to the present for a moment. At 30, Gamer X is currently enjoying PlayStation 2 games, with ever-growing depth and maturity. But soon (if he doesn’t already), he’ll have his own wife, kids, and family, and his priorities will change again. What happens when Gamer X reaches 40? At 40 years of age, I bet he’ll probably still want to play video games. But will Gamer X be content to run around and shoot hookers, kill virtual people, and steal their cars like he does today in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Or will he want something different? He’ll probably work hard all day and come home exhausted — to a wife to attend to, kids to play with, and bills to pay. Will he have time to play that 100-hour RPG any more? Or does he want something more casual and less involved? Maybe he wants to tend a farm. Maybe he wants to sculpt clouds and float casually through the air. Or maybe he craves more driving simulators for his pending mid-life crisis. And what if he doesn’t have time to master the super-sophisticated, glowing, 20-button control pad that is being peddled to teenagers of the day? Maybe he wants to simply wave his hands in the air (like with the upcoming Nintendo Revolution controller, perhaps), and control things more intuitively. Well, I don’t think Gamer X will have to worry, because I firmly believe that the video game industry will grow with him to meet his changing needs and desires along the way.

But why stop at 40? Eventually there will be video game systems and content suitable-for and tailored-to a market of 50-, 60-, 70-year-old gamers and beyond (Gardening simulators, anyone? :P). In 2055, when Gamer X is 80, there will be millions of people his age that have grown up with interactive digital entertainment as a way of life. They will want new games to play, and digital entertainment companies, eager for their Social Security dollars (if SS hasn’t collapsed by then), will provide them. This will give the phrase “gaming grandma” a whole new meaning.

Finally, our short story of Gamer X’s gaming life ends one day in 2082, when he is 107 years old. There, in a richly decorated room (with Star Wars posters and antique Spawn action figures), he lies on a bed, jerking, moving, and definitely occupied with something. Concerned, his 10-year-old great-grandson enters and poses a simple question:

“What are you playing grandpa?”

“Heaven 2.0, son. Now leave me alone, I’m busy!”

Absolutely Weird: IGN’s Generation NEX Review

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Generation SUXHeh. And I thought all this NEX stuff was over. It has come to my attention that IGN posted a review of the Generation NEX yesterday on their site. And what’s more, they gave it a 9.5 out of 10. Whoa. They must have been on nostalgia overdrive to hand out a score like that to a piece of absolutely mediocre hardware. Considering that the reviewer probably hadn’t played a NES game since 1992, I can almost forgive him for his enthusiasm (“WHOA!! You can still play NES games?! Dude!!”). What’s more, IGN was apparently provided a set of Messiah’s wireless controllers for free (which cost $59.99 and don’t come with the unit) and that probably significantly improved their overall impression of the NEX. They should have reviewed the wireless controllers separately. I know that whether one likes/dislikes the NEX is really a glass half-full or half-empty issue, but the NEX’s glass is definitely not full enough to warrant a 9.5. I don’t know if I should be suspicious of IGN’s review integrity, or if they just don’t know any better.

I stand firmly by my review. But of course, I also respect the opinions of others who actually like the NEX. At least most of those people have the sense to take a realistic look at it (like my buddy Jake at 8-Bit Joystick).

Update (12/23/2005): I’m not the only one who thinks IGN’s review is weird. Take a look at this thread on the AtariAge forums.

Midori Linux on the Compaq IA-1 (Update)

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

IA-1I had no trouble putting Midori Linux (best package found here) on the IA-1 last night after following these instructions (and using a program called WinImage instead of Dskprobe in Win2k). For anyone taking notes, make sure you use the El Torito image first before attempting to install/boot Midori, as listed in the instructions above.

This thing is cool. I never expected to have so much fun with it. The particular Midori distribution I used has been tailored specifically to the unit, so everything works instantly — LCD, keyboard, sound card, modem, USB ethernet, and USB wlan drivers are included. It’s got an XFree86 GUI with the Ice window manager (looks nice) and some apps like Opera, an email client, and an MP3 player, which are useful. It’s amazing they squeezed all that stuff into 16 megs of space. Once I get a USB ethernet NIC, I’m thinking about putting it in the living room, hooking it to the stereo, and using it as a streaming MP3 client (The XMMS MP3-player built into the Midori package supports this). You could do a lot of neat stuff with this machine. Maybe I’ll put MS-DOS on it and run a BBS. Or perhaps it should be my dedicated Klondike solitaire machine. 🙂 Either way, this thing is neat. If you can find one for under $30 and are comfortable with doing some simple modifications, get it.

(Update: 01/28/2013 – Since most of the Compaq IA-1 pages out there are dead now, I’ve decided to host a version of the Midori Linux image for the Compaq IA-1. You can download it here. It also includes the El Torito boot image and instructions on how to use it in a text file.)

Latest Crush: The Compaq IA-1 Internet Appliance

Monday, December 19th, 2005

IA-1I got my Compaq IA-1 today. It’s a spiffy little Internet machine from the peak of dot-com optimism (read: circa 2000). Unfortunately, it only runs a dumbed down version of Windows CE, was designed to use only Microsoft’s MSN ISP service, doesn’t have an Ethernet card built-in, and won’t do anything unless you’re connected to the Internet. So why get it? Because it was absurdly cheap and really neat-looking — and you can put Linux on it! That’s right, folks…these days, someone could find a way to put Linux on my toilet if they tried hard enough, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is already a guide somewhere out there to do just that.

Some of the unit’s virtues are thus: a 266MHz AMD K6 CPU, 32MB SDRam, internal 16MB Flash RAM, integrated 800×600 color LCD display, four USB ports, a 56K modem, built-in microphone and speaker, a compact flash slot, wireless IR keyboard, and it’s tiny! Supposedly, the best form of Linux for the IA-1 is a variant called Midori, so I’ll try that out and let you know how it goes. With any luck, I’ll have an underpowered web-browsin’ machine in a few days. What’s the point? I have no idea. It’s the hack that counts.

The Secrets of Archon

Friday, December 16th, 2005

A detailed look into one of the best games of all time

v1.0 – by Medarch

I would say ‘greatest,’ but that usually means influential, which Archon hasn’t been particularly. But that only serves to solidify its uniqueness. Billed as a combination action/strategy game upon its release in 1983, Archon ends up being far more action-oriented, but the diversity of characters from the fantasy realm and their combat attributes the game employs should be enough to dazzle any self-respecting game geek.

Answering the call of my own inner geek, I have exposed Archon‘s mechanisms and hidden numbers through days of experimentation with the game’s original and best version, that for the Atari 800. The description, analysis, and numbers below pertain only (as far as I know) to the Atari 8-bit computer version of Archon.

Recently I’ve been thinking about building a new Archon-type game for Windows. The first step, I figured, was to find a detailed FAQ on the original, but since apparently none exist, I had to make one myself. And so this report was born…

ArchonOverview / Rules

Archon is a war between the Light and the Dark: two armies of creatures and persons of myth and legend, called by the game ‘icons.’ Each side begins with a force of 18 icons, with 8 different types per side. The Light and the Dark do not share any types, yet the teams are very evenly matched. The armies alternate turns, maneuvering for position on a chessboard-like Strategy Screen. On a single turn either one spell may be cast, or one icon moved. Turns may not be passed. Whenever an icon is moved to a square already occupied by an opposing piece, a battle ensues on the Combat Screen, where each different type of piece has its own hit points, attack damage, and so on, detailed below. The winning icon keeps the square, while the loser is eliminated from the game (both icons may be destroyed in the battle, in which case both are eliminated).

ArchonEach side aims to occupy the five ‘Power Points’ on the board or to completely eliminate the opposition. Victory can also be achieved by casting the Imprison spell on the opponent’s last remaining icon. The game can end in stalemate as well in either of two ways: the last two icons destroy each other in battle, or there is no progress for a certain number of turns. (‘Progress’ here means battles or Spells cast, and the number of turns is at least one full cycle of color-change (12 turns per side) but depends on the number of pieces left and has been difficult to determine in some cases.) Games usually last between 50 and 100 turns per side if the players are well-matched.

[ Continue reading The Secrets of Archon » ]

Late Review: Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection 5-in-1 Unit

Monday, December 12th, 2005

Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV GamesSo far I am an owner of four “TV Games” units. I have the venerable Atari TV Games unit that looks like a vintage Atari 2600 joystick, the highly underrated and very hackable Commodore 64 30-in-1 unit, the Namco 5-in-1 unit (with Pac-Man, Galaxian, etc), and of course, the subject of this mini-review, Jakks Pacific’s Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection unit. Sure, this thing has probably been reviewed to death by now, but I really wanted to share with you how cool I think this thing is. And being the picky vintage game enthusiast I am (as some might have noticed by my harsh NEX review), this is a miraculous thing.

Jakks Pacific got just about everything right with this unit. For starters, the console’s presentation is appropriate for the casual player that is likely to buy it: nostalgic and fun. The price is pretty good too. The retail price of the Ms. Pac-Man Collection is probably about $25, but I paid $15, so I am happy. But the true beauty of this puppy comes when you install four AA batteries, hook it up to the RCA phono jacks on your TV and switch it on. The built-in game selection menu is professional and nicely done. It’s easy to select from any of the five included games (Ms. Pac-Man, Pole Position, Galaga, Xevious, and Mappy Land) with the built-in joystick and buttons. The unit also has a really neat feature that is a drastic improvement from Jakks’ earlier TV games: a pause button. And not only that, but when you press the pause button (labeled “Menu”), you are given a choice to either continue the current game or return to the main menu. Very professional, and very slick. Try taking a bathroom break from a game of Galaga in the arcade and you’ll see why this is a good feature (of course, pause buttons have been standard on home consoles for years… oh well). Also, this unit has two regular play buttons instead of only one button found on earlier units, which allows for improved functionality on some games (like using it to shift gears in Pole Position). Interestingly enough, the feature of this console that I find the downright niftiest also seemed the most gimmicky to me before I tried it. I’m speaking of the “twist control” built into the joystick. That’s right: for steering in Pole Position, you twist the joystick post itself left and right as if it were a tiny steering wheel. When you release it, it springs back to a center position. I was shocked when I tried it and learned how incredibly well it actually worked. It feels smooth and responsive, and allows for really nuanced and accurate control of your car in the game. It makes the experience of playing Pole Position at home actually fun for a change. Not to be forgotten is the regular 8-way joystick, which is also very responsive — although any time you throw diagonal controls into the mix, it makes Pac-Man games a little tricky. All the controls use microswitches for a more durable, clicky, and arcade-like feel than you’d expect in a $25 novelty game toy.

Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV Games“That’s great RedWolf, I’m glad you like the buttons. But what about the games?” I’m glad you asked, Reader Steve. The collection of games in this unit is excellent, save for perhaps the inclusion of Mappy Land, which I personally could live without. Obviously Jakks Pacific and Namco wanted to milk the market for all it’s worth, separating the high-profile games into two different units (Pac-Man and Galaxian in one, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga in another). If they replaced Mappy Land with Dig Dug, they would have made a much better collection (Xevious can stay — it adds refreshing gameplay variety, and Pac-Man and Ms. Pac Man are pretty similar anyway). The translations of the arcade games presented in this unit are near spot-on, with accurate sounds, graphics, and gameplay (as far as I can tell, anyway — I haven’t exactly lived and breathed Mappy Land like I have Super Mario Bros., for example). The unit gets a huge thumbs-up in this category — the games are extremely playable and actually fun.

By far, the biggest opportunity for improvement of the Ms. Pac-Man Collection TV Games unit is the case design. A more ergonomic controller scheme that’s more comfortable in your hands would put this unit one step closer to perfection. As it is, my hands start to get really sore after even a few minutes of gripping the bulky, sharp-angled case. But such sweet pain it is.

As a final note, it occurred to me at some point while playing Galaga that this tiny $25 console would make an excellent basis for a dedicated, home-made arcade machine. Who needs a $2000 MAME rig or a $3000 Ms. Pac Man / Galaga machine when you could hack some real arcade controls to this box, stick it in a cabinet with a 20″ TV and have a damn good recreation of the arcade for a lot less? After a little bit of poking on the net, I found that someone else had the same idea and acted on it. I might just have to do that myself some day. If I do, I’ll be sure to let VC&G readers know about it. 🙂

The Skinny: Namco TV Games – Ms. Pac-Man Collection (Jakks Pacific)
Good Features: Good game selection that’s fun, varied, and faithful to the arcade. Great interface. Pause feature. Microswitch controls. Twist-controller kicks ass. Easy to set up.
Bad Features: Harshly-angled, anti-ergonomic case design cramps your hands after a while. Game selection could be better, with more and/or better games included.
VC Rating:
(10 Being Best)
[ 8 out of 10 ] Extreme Super Rating Units

An OS/2 Christmas Miracle

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

I woke up groggy and cranky this morning, thinking about all the trouble I had setting up Windows 95 on one of my machines last night. The main problem with Windows 95 is that it’s just not cool. No matter how you slice it, it reeks of squareness. “What I really need,” I thought, “is a totally cool way to run my computer.” But after some hard thinking I realized that such a computing product doesn’t exist. I sat down for breakfast, resigned to the fact that I would be stuck with Windows 95 forever. I didn’t get five minutes into a bagel when the doorbell rung. It was David, my friendly neighborhood postman with a package for me. “What ever could be inside?” I wondered, as I tore into the box with excited impatience. I pushed aside the layers of bubble wrap to reveal…

OS/2 Warp 3 Box Cover

“Oh boy.” I thought with disappointment, “Another archaic copy of OS/2 for my collection. Whee.” I was about to set the box down on a shelf and forget about it when my eyes meandered over to the upper left corner of the box cover. “Whoa! What’s this…?”

The Totally Cool Way to Run Your Computer

“Holy mother of goat cheese!” I screamed, nearly dropping the box from my hands. It was as if IBM had been looking into the future and totally reading my mind all those years ago when they released OS/2 Warp, the apparent mother of all operating systems. I flipped the box over onto its back to read more: “The new 32-bit, multitasking, multimedia, Internet-accessed, crash-protected, Windows friendly, totally cool way to run your computer.” Now that was what I needed to hear. No more Windows 95 crap for me. I rushed to install the system on my machine and experienced the pure operational bliss that is OS/2 Warp Version 3. It was a Christmas Miracle.

Performing a Permanent Famicom to NES Game Conversion

Monday, December 5th, 2005

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESIn the VC&G article How to Tell if a Copy of Gyromite has a Famicom Adapter in it, I discussed how certain early NES game cartridges, especially Gyromite, have Famicom to NES converter boards built into them. Near the end of the entry I suggested that one could use such a board and an empty NES cartridge case to build a permanently-converted Famicom game for play on a regular American NES. Well, last week, I decided to actually do it. I chose a common Famicom game, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 3 as my first guinea pig. There aren’t that many notable differences between the US and Japanese versions of SMB3, so this sort of game conversion would be better suited to a particularly good game that was never released in the US, or another game with more important differences between the US and Japanese versions. I don’t have that many Famicom games, so hence the choice.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESThe project wouldn’t have been much of a project if I hadn’t made a custom label for the cartridge. That is the only step in such this conversion that required any serious labor (unscrewing screws isn’t that hard). First, I carefully measured the dimensions of a regular NES label (approximately 2.125″ x 3.8125″ to save you some time). Actually, I ended up using a second measurement in millimeters, but I forgot to write that down. Then, for the primary label artwork, I decided to scan the label of the Famicom SMB3 cartridge and start with that. I edited it in a number of ways, erasing some Japanese text that got in the way of my design, flipping a few things around, and making it fit regular NES label dimensions. I used a modified SMB3 logo from the game’s title screen for the title on the spine. After a few hours of tinkering, the label design was done. And for your notes, the final label is 650 by 1146 pixels at 300 DPI.

Next, I had to figure out what sort of adhesive paper I would actually print the label on. I happened to have some Avery 3.5″x5″ self-adhesive labels on 8.5″x11″ computer printable sheets lying around (Avery number 5168) that would do just fine with a little trimming. I also had some clear, self-adhesive laminate sheets lying around that would give my label a more professional glossy look. There are probably a million better ways to print a custom NES label with different materials, but I just used what I had on hand.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESI did some tests with regular paper first to make sure my label would fit. Then I set up the page margins to print the label properly on the Avery sheet and printed it out in a high quality photo mode on my ink-jet printer (nothing special at all — just an Epson Stylus Photo 820). Then I went to work removing the old label on the Gyromite cartridge. I have eight copies of Gyromite, so this was no big loss. The best tip I can give you for label removal is to use lighter fluid (naphtha). It works as a powerful solvent without damaging plastics — the adhesive on just about any label dissolves in it and then you can peel the label off, sometimes with no trouble. Squirt some on there, wait for it to soak in and slowly start peeling with your finger nail or a hard plastic tool (so you don’t scratch the case). An important thing to know is that you should immediately wipe up the lighter fluid and adhesive residue you get the label off. If the lighter fluid evaporates (and it evaporates pretty fast), the adhesive will be left behind and your cartridge will be sticky again. You want to get the cartridge clean and smooth for the new label you’re about to put on. Also, remember not to juggle flaming fire-sticks while doing this at the same time.

So, now we have a clean, young, blank and impressionable cartridge upon which to impart our new label. The next step in the label process, after applying a laminate over the printed Avery label, is to actually cut the NES label out of the bigger self-adhesive page you printed it on. You can use an X-Acto knife for accuracy, scissors if you’re impatient, or perhaps a guillotine-like paper cutter for straight edges. I did mine a little sloppily, which I regret. The rounded corners of the label are hard to cut out properly. Also, since my design had no bleed, (a printing term for an image purposely going outside of the designed cutting boundary) it was difficult to cut precisely along the label’s line without including any white (from the surrounding unprinted material) on the edges. My recommendation: if you have the luxury of designing big artwork that can bleed a bit off the edges, make it bleed and you’ll get a much better result when you cut it (sounds gruesome, doesn’t it?). Although with a bleed you’ll need to have either a NES-label-sized blank cutting template or a faint outline printed out on the label to tell you where to cut.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESOk, enough of the cutting. After you have the final label, it’s time to apply it. Carefully peel off the backing from the self-adhesive label you’ve created, and start applying the label on one end (I chose the bottom of the recessed label space on the cartridge face), making sure to slowly, evenly, and firmly push the label down so you don’t get any waves, wrinkles or bubbles in the label. Also, the label will obviously have to bend around the cartridge from the spine to the face, or vice-versa, so be careful about that too.

Once you’ve applied the label, you’re almost finished! Well, except for one very important detail: you actually have to get the game inside the cartridge to match your new label. Cracking open a traditional Famicom cartridge without breaking any plastic tabs is not easy (some don’t use any screws). I’m not even going to try to describe how to do it properly other than to say that there were four tabs locking into place on my Super Mario Bros. 3 Famicom cartridge: two at the top, and one on each side (see the picture for positions). Your best bet for dismantling a cart without breaking anything is to use a very flat, thin, but wide-bladed screwdriver to try to pry it open. If all goes well, then you can always change your mind and put the Famicom board back into the old case. If you break a tab, it will still hold together anyway. But if you accidentally rip the whole thing apart, then I guess it really will become a permanently converted Famicom game.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESYou will also have to disassemble your Gyromite cartridge (the one with the converter board in it). They typically have five screws that require a small, flat-bladed screwdriver for unscrewage (that should be a word). After that, you’ll have to unscrew the two screws that hold the Gyromite ROM board and adapter assembly down on the face half of the cartridge. Then, unplug the Gyromite ROM board from the connector on the top assembly and set it aside, feed it to your dog, or play it in your Famicom — we won’t be needing it anymore. Get some isopropyl rubbing alcohol and some Q-Tips (TM) and thoroughly clean the connectors of the Famicom game you’re converting. Also, give the connectors of the conversion board itself a good cleaning. Then plug your desired Famicom game’s board in where the Gyromite ROM board was. Be extra careful you have it in the right way: the former “front” of the Famicom board should be facing away from the front of the NES cartridge when you screw it back in. This is also a good time to test the assembly (if you have a top-loading NES) to make sure your game will work with the adapter and that everything is oriented the right way (hmm.. maybe we should have done this before making the label). I’ve accidentally put Famicom games in backwards before using the Gyromite converter and nothing blew up. So I guess that’s good news — if it doesn’t work, try flipping the board around.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NESOnce you have the boards (game board and converter board) mated together properly, you may or may not have to remove two plastic posts from the center of the NES cartridge case to get it to fit. It all depends on how big your Famicom game’s PC board is. My guess is that you’ll probably have to do it anyway, as I did in the case of using SMB3. Various methods could be applied for proper post removal. One nice technique that comes to mind is to cut them off with a rotary cutting tool (like a Dremel). You could also snip them off with heavy gauge wire-cutters. But I didn’t feel like doing either, so I simply lit a butane torch, heated a screwdriver blade and melted the post off in a nice, clean, flat, and dust-free fashion (Kids, please try this at home). Don’t try to break the posts off by force or you might leave a nice round hole in the face of your NES cartridge (I tried the same thing back in 1991, with the aforementioned undesired results).

After plastic post removal (or PPR, as the pros call it) is successful, put your new game-converter assembly into the cartridge and screw it in with the original screws that once held the Gyromite assembly in place. Then put the back on the cartridge and screw that down as well, also with the original screws, EXCEPT — do not attempt to screw the middle/center screw in the back of the cartridge. Since you previously cut the receiving post for that screw off, it is no longer there, and in its place is a Famicom game board that could easily be damaged if you try to force a screw through the hole. Having done that successfully, the game is now in one piece and ready to play. Try it out and have fun! Let me know how it goes.

RedWolf's SMB3J for the NES

The final Super Mario Bros. 3 Japan cartridge for the NES! Sorry about all the watermarks on the images — if I didn’t do it, some hoodlum would be trying to sell an ultra-rare alternate SMB3 cartridge prototype on Ebay tomorrow.

Update (09/28/2006): To download the actual label graphic that I made for the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 3, click here.

New Tech For Old Computers: A Call For Links

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Apple II Compact Flash Adapter CardThere are really only three groups of vintage computing and gaming enthusiasts out there. One is the purist, who wants to maintain, restore, and operate his vintage systems in a historically authentic manner, using only the technology available at the time, one is the devoted user, who doesn’t care how you use the computer, as long as it gets the job done (perhaps better and faster than before), and then there’s the tinkerer / hacker who just wants to play around and push old systems to, and beyond, their designed limits.

I’m setting up a special page on Vintage Computing and Gaming to include a collection of links to pages for projects and products involving the interfacing and integrating of modern computing and electronics technology to older computers or game systems — either to replace failure-prone parts, to enhance their functionality, or “just because you can.” It’s intended mainly for the tinkerer type, but it could also easily be of interest to the devoted user as well.

I’m asking my fellow vintage computing and gaming enthusiasts to come forward and help me assemble this resource for our fellow enthusiasts out there. Additions, corrections, and dead link notices by sources in the online world will be incredibly helpful towards achieving this goal. Feel free to suggest links on the comments section of the page, or to contact me directly using the email link on the VC&G sidebar. I’ll be working on improving the organization of the list as it grows, so don’t worry.

Here are some suggestions of appropriate things to submit to the page: Ethernet adapters for old computers, modern hard drive / compact flash interfaces, floppy emulators, software design for a modern use on an old machine (i.e. an Atari 800 web server, or an Apple II web browser), new controllers and peripherals for old gaming systems, significantly new peripherals for old computers, CPU upgrades, old computer OS hacks and upgrades, modern clones and replacements for old parts, computers, or game systems, etc. All in all, don’t worry; just submit it and if it applies, I’ll add it to the list. Thanks so much for your help in advance.

Vintage BBS Validation Message of the Week (#4)

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Call The Cave, Punk!Here are a few more entertaining and interesting validation messages from my archive. For an explanation of what a validation message is, check out the first entry in this series. By the way, check out my new Synchronet Cave BBS at port 23.

Subject: log o0n
Name: Kerry Straughn #532 @2
Date: Tue Oct 07 17:03:36 1997
RE: Validation Feedback

Hi, heard about you from the Sanitarium. Pittsboro just got local service to the Apex,Raleigh and Cary areas. Know any other good bbses to try?

[about six blank spaces]

I had this same problem at the Sanitarium. A backslash in the direction of your help screen brings up my com program directory. I don’t know how to get out of this screen or if this message will save when I hang up. That’s the only way I can get out of here.


I remember getting stuck in similar situations on other online services before. Especially when telnetting into Compuserve, where I had to manually hit Ctrl-J just to get a new line.

You know, not everybody who called my BBS was silly, bad at spelling/grammar or technologically inept. I’d post some nicely written messages, but they’d be pretty boring.

Subject: hmm…
Name: Tom Violins #380
Date: Sun Nov 17 19:07:04 1996
RE: Validation Feedback

changes changes… it’s been a LOOONG while since i’ve called here. let’s see you might not remember me… i was uhm Mr Self Destruct, Bad Acid, uhm Liquid Jesus… anyway, it’s been a while.. access would be appreciated (and appropriate) just kidding. well, no, it would be appreciated..

anyway, uhm hope things are going cool… just stay away from dat crack, man!

tom violins

Reading other people’s colorful and interesting BBS aliases was a large part of the fun of BBSing. Ah. The good ‘ole days.