Tuesday, May 31, 2011

SRGE report

This week end I stopped by the Seattle Gaming Retro Expo to check what was there. As usual a room full of vendors (prices where not too bad, just like eBay), I went from booth to booth and try to see as many game I think of getting one day, touch then with my bare hands.
To be clear, it is not extravagant as E3 or PAX, but a cool event for retro fans where you can discuss your passion and find the one thing you need at the moment.  And for me it was a Vectrex light pen.   As you can see here =>
I am getting a multicart of my Vectrex soon (it's in the mail), and I really want to try the drawing game, but the original pen is quite rare and too expensive on eBay. I found schematics on how to build a homemade one, but I am not too handy and I am pretty sure I will kill many of them before I can make one that actually works, or fit in the pen's case.
I knew that Chuck from RecycledGames would be there, and he was, surrounded by hundreds of vintage games, his booth was the most fun and cheap too. Not sure what to expect (he knew he built pens a year ago but apparently he had run out), I nervously asked, and he answered that he still had 2, my lucky day. I got one ($40 compared to how much it would have cost me to buy a soldering iron and supplies for 9 broken light pens to come...) and I left happy as can be.
Overall a nice hour spent there, I which there was more stands and some kind of museum to see truly rare stuff, maybe for the next time. There was a room full of consoles with a stand at which you could borrow every NES game possible, kind of cool if you are dying to play a specific game, but it was never full. i guess people don't go to these events to play Tengen Tetris on a NES, me neither.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seattle Retro Gaming Expo 2011 is this week end

at the Hotel Deca in U. district. I'll go hoping to find some nice hard to find accessories and see a lot of old junk.

The Hotel Deca
4507 Brooklyn Ave NE
Seattle, WA  98125

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maybe spotted a heavy Sixer in the wild (aka Walingford)

There is this ad on Craigslist. It is certainly an old Atari, and it looks in very good condition. It might be a heavy sixer, I asked for some more details from the vendor. The price is not a bargain ($240 for the boxed console + 9 games) , so it is not the steal of the century, but spotting such a console outside eBay became uncommon.


Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie

Here is a book that is likely to be my favorite for the coming week. Digital copy only $0.99 on Amazon (you can read it on any device with a Kindle app on it, your PC or your iPad for example.

 Extract from the first chapter, available for free here

Of all the arcade cabinets, videogame systems, retro computer
systems and mountains of games I own, my original Commodore 64
computer is still probably my most prized possession. Purchased back in
1985 and still kicking, it’s currently hooked up in my computer room
next to machines twenty years newer. Every now and then I’ll break out
my huge green milk crate full of old floppy disks and thumb through
them. The milk crate is filled to the top with close to a thousand 5 ¼”
floppies, each one numbered and labeled by my own hands many years
ago. Some of them are over two decades old now. Even though it’s been
a long time, just by looking at the labels I can often remember where I
got a particular game from, or with whom I used to play it. The disk with
“Bard’s Tale” handwritten in black marker on its browning, peeling label
sits on top of the stack. As I run my finger across the label, I think of the
summer my friend Charon and I spent playing the game. The two of us
spent much of the summer of ’86 huddled in front of his computer,
eating cold pizza and cheese puffs and each drinking Dr. Pepper straight
out of three-liter bottles. Each weekend we’d huddle in front of his
monitor, playing deep into the night until I would begin to fall asleep
around two or three in the morning. When I would wake up around eight
or nine in the morning, Charon would still be playing. From the bed I
could see images of the game reflected in his glasses. Then a changing of
the guard would take place – after a quick debriefing of the night’s
discoveries, he would go to sleep and I would take over our party’s
destiny. By the end of that summer I knew the streets and back alleys of
Skara Brae (the mythical town Bard’s Tale takes place in) better than I
knew my own neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dremcasts are cheap

Seattle's Craigslist have a lot of posting for Dreamcast, and they are really cheap.  This this one for $35. It seems pretty cheap, maybe the time has not come yet for these to be collector items, they are too new (9/9/99). For the ones who are interested, games are really cheap also, and Crazy Taxi or MSR are still classics.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Apple //c, the tiny brother who can do a little less

This was my first real computer (TI 99, you were a toy, you hear me ?), and I kept it all through high school, snobing Amstrad and C64 users.. I remember my parents paying 12 000 francs for it, or something like $2400 these days, and 2000 more francs ( $400) for the small green monitor (it was in June 1984, just when Arconada became famous for the ones who know soccer). I had the choice between the computer or this, maybe I would have become Valentino Rossi...  another story.

On the //c (2c, ][c 2c), I remember doing all sort of things with it. First I played, and played and played. Bilestoad, Ultima, Cap'tain Goodnight, Wizardry (Sorcellerie has it was called for us in France), there are so many great games on the Apple 2. RetroGaming Roundup guys (highly recommended podcast) made a top 10, worth checking for all the fans. I remember spending a full Easter vacation playing Castle Wolfenstein (ausweiz !!!  paper !!  Alert !!). Of course I bought very few games (hey they were hard to find and VERY expensive for a teenager), so I spend my time with Locksmith 5.0 and ended up buying a second disc drive for copying purposes, bad.
While I was coping I also started playing with the nibble editors, when you have  a disc that contains 170ko of data, it is easy to look at all the data to try to find the interesting parts (like the decrementing routine CA xx). I even made an automated tool that would get a disc, list of the decrementing routines, and make changes 1 by 1 (up to you to test the game) until you got to the lives decrementing part. Conan with 77 lives is much easier, trust me. Here is a link for the ones who want to know more about Call -151's magic.

So from playing it brought me to programming (into assembler even, not an easy language), it thought me everything. 

I wrote that it does a little less, because it lacks the extension ports that the Apple IIe had. Not that I could afford any card back then,  but I still felt less of a geek than my friends.

Now I have multiple Apple at home, and a very nice Apple IIe with the uncommon color monitor (I played all this games in glorious green phosphorous colors). I like the IIe the best, but the //c always stay close to my heart. The cool thing about it was that I could easily bring it where ever I was going, like 2 months at my my grandparents for the summer, I even remember buying games via mail order while in the boonies at my grand parents. Then waiting for the mail delivery man for days. It was always there, I discovered what muffin and demuffin means, and the basics of removing copy protections that are still relevant these days (not that I use this anymore).

I had hundreds of games and swapping with my friends or anonymous people on bulletin boards was a daily task. I can still find some freewares I worked on on the assimov collection site.

I stopped using it when it was clear that no new game will ever be realized onto it (X'mas 89), gave it away afterwards. The next computer I got was an Atari STE, and all I did with it was play games, nothing else. No hours spent discovering the joy of hacking, programming like on the Apple.

These days, it can be found for around $30 on eBay or Craisglist, it is really common. This one below I cleaned up totally, removing all the keys in the process.

Headset port and volume control, much better than the IIe

The keyboard switch allows you to use the keyboard in Dvorak mode

Apple keys, already

Power brick, heavy ....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Atari 600 XL

Here are pictures of an Atari 600 XL.  This is the less known little brother of the 800 XL that was pretty famous. The very 80's look is pretty nice and really love the small factor (only difference with a 800 XL is 16k of RAM instead of 64k).

Atari joystick connector

Missing cover for the expansion port

It works !! well it turns on