This issue is unofficially called the "Loose Ends Issue". This is where I decide to write all the articles that I spoke of in past issues. It is a time to answer questions that were never answered. It is a time to tie some loose ends. Like the mystery novel that is coming to an end, we need to tie up all those ends and carry on. Before I get a deluge of mail asking if this means the newsletter is coming to an end, let me set your mind at ease. It is! .......Just kidding! The newsletter is healthier and more popular than ever!
So why do I decide to do a loose end issue? Well, the idea came from one of our former writers, Ben Valdes, who did an article that was originally intended for issue #25. For some odd reason, I never received it. But from another source, I found out about it and luckily he still had it. So, eleven issues later, it makes it debut. Well, this made me think about other things in the newsletter that were overlooked or forgotten about. I began to go back and reread some issues and found a handful of articles that were supposed to have a follow-up. I saw a contest, where I never announced the winner. So I decided that this issue would be the "Loose Ends Issue!" By the way, if you ever sent an article to Retrogaming Times and it was never published, email me and let me know. Maybe your article was "lost in the mail." Now go on and read Ben's lost article.
I am not one who is prone to editorialize. I may carry a collapsible soapbox inside my brief case, but I assure you that it is strictly for emergency soap purchases. Yet every now and then a wrenching controversy arises — one of such staggering consequence to the classic video gaming community that I am forced to speak out. The issue: How many different Atari 2600 cartridges do you have?
Frankly, it does not surprise me how often this question comes up. Determining which of your Atari 2600 cartridges are "different" is tricky business indeed. It is an undertaking that confounds both newbie and grizzled collectors alike. Is this game unique? Is that one merely a label variation? Is a double-ended cartridge one game or two? Is it okay to count Sears titles? To find your own answers to these vexing questions you must dig deep. You must weigh the mighty wisdom of the most ponderous thinkers of our time. To quote none other than the Leader of the Free World, "It all depends on what your definition of the word is is."
Now, I don't claim to be an authority. I checked the mirror this morning — no grizzle yet — but I believe that I am qualified to highlight a few of the reasons why categorizing and counting your collection is so fraught with pitfall. Here goes...
I. Label Variations
This is an appropriate place to start. After all, it is the first thing that we all notice when we begin building our collections. "I just shelled out $1 for a plain text Missile Command, and now here's another one with a pretty picture? Should I buy this one too? Hmmm." But it's really a no-brainer. You buy it, as we all do, because it is different. Surprisingly, your master plan to use your text label Missile Command as trade bait never seems to pan out. Now you have 2 Missile Commands. For life. They are different, but should you really add that second one to your Official Count? Tough call.
Some collectors take label variations to unimaginable extremes. Driven by an unquenchable thirst for "one of each," they seek out variations in font size, border style, color tone, texture and a variety of other subtle differences that can only be distinguished with a Scanning Tunnel Effect Electron Microscope. If you are really serious about collecting label variations then you have got to get one of these babies. A good one, new, will set you back about $3 million. But keep your eyes open — you never know when one might turn up at a flea market or yard sale.
One collector I know is trying to assemble a complete set of Pac-Man cartridges, one for every different date code embossed on the end label. Another boasts that a tour de force of the ubiquitous Combat cart is the centerpiece of his collection — 55 "different" cartridges in all! The latter collector's other hobbies, by the way, include repeatedly folding and unfolding the same piece of paper and counting to really, really high numbers in his head.
Another collector friend of mine bragged endlessly over his discovery of a Defender cartridge made unique by a ® symbol on its end label. Must be a prototype!!! After months of agonizing over it, he finally summoned the courage to risk degrading his extreme rarity by actually playing it. Giddy over the possibility of discovering novelties in its game play too, he invited me over for the solemn occasion of its initial power up. It was my privilege to bear witness that night when a remarkable discovery was indeed made. It was our handling of the prized Defender variation that shook the crusty remains of a smashed up spider skeleton free of its decades old bond to the cartridge end label. Tragically, his Official Count was thus reduced by one.
Two important lessons can be gleaned from the anecdotes above. First, the variety of Atari 2600 label variations is as difficult to categorize as it is limitless. And second, I desperately need to expand my circle of friends.
II. Re-titled Games
Atari threw us a real curve with a few of their titles. There's Stargate and Defender II, Hunt & Score and Concentration, Basic Math and Fun with Numbers. More than just label variations, they are whole new titles! And still, they are the same old game. If we collect both, what does that do to our Official Count? Are we counting different games or different titles? Decisions, decisions.
III. Manufacturer's Re-labels
Parker Brothers' Q*bert, Atari's red label Q*bert. How many different carts is that? The Atari release is a licensed re-label of the Parker Brothers original. They're not really duplicates, but they are the same old game. Atari also issued licensed re-labels of games made by Coleco: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Mouse Trap and Venture.
Activision bought the licenses to a trio of Imagic games: Atlantis, Demon Attack and Moonsweeper. They packaged them in their familiar Activision-style cartridge cases, but with plain blue labels on them. Interestingly, Activision's name appears nowhere on the cartridge casings nor anywhere on the labels. The name "Imagic" does. Are they, then, Imagic label variations or Activision re-labels?
Mattel gave us SuperChallenge Baseball and SuperChallenge Football. INTV later bought Mattel out of the video game business and reissued the two games as simply Baseball and Football. (Whether INTV is really a different company is also a source of much debate.) As if things were not complicated enough already, INTV stirred things up even more by changing the labels, too. The old blue text on black labels became black text on white labels. SuperChallenge Baseball and SuperChallenge Football can therefore be simultaneously considered as label variations, re-titled games and as manufacturer's re-labels. Categorizing the two games is, in itself, a SuperChallenge. And the waters get murkier as we go.
IV. What about NTSC / PAL cartridges?
Many games are available in both NTSC and PAL formats. If you have one of each for a particular title, how many different games is that? The ROMs are different. But are they really different games? Would you consider the little P that designates some PAL carts as a label variation? My spider skeleton collecting friend surely would.
V. What about the "Sears" cartridges?
The number of people who do not count the Sears titles is amazing. "With the exception of Submarine Commander, Stellar Track and Steeplechase," many are quick to say, "Sears carts are just Atari re-labels." But if memory serves me correctly, wasn't it the Sears labels of the cartridges that hit the store shelves ahead of the Atari labels? Back in 1977, Atari was still struggling for name recognition. They decided it was wiser to have the established and esteemed Sears brand name launch their product instead of their own name. At the risk of being burnt at the stake for heresy, I say that the 11 introductory Atari label carts should be counted as Sears re-labels since Sears was the name under which they first appeared. If you see it this way too, it may seriously alter your Official Count.
VI. The Double-edged Sword
Double-enders pose nasty little logic problems. Xonox gave us Ghost Manor/Spike's Peak, Artillery Duel/Spike's Peak and Artillery Duel/Ghost Manor. How many different games is that - 6, 3, 2 or 1½ ?
If you find the single-enders first, you're in for a real treat. Pick up Artillery Duel, that's one. Pick up Ghost Manor, that's two. Now find the Artillery Duel/Ghost Manor double-ender and what have you got? The acquisition of the double-ender has demoted your two single-enders to mere duplicates, and your unique Xonox cart count drops from two to one! Finding that double-ender was an absolute disaster, the mathematical equivalent of negative one. Your collection would be better off if you threw it away!
VII. The Bad Boys (damaged carts)
Do you count your label-less wonders or no? It's pretty tough not to include your only copy of Mr. Do!'s Castle in your Official Count just because it is missing its label. When the cart is that rare, you want to brag about it even if it looks like it spent a few seasons as the puck in the neighborhood street hockey league. Can you really keep from counting your Quadrun cart just because the casing happens to be smashed and the chip is a crispy black blob on the exposed PC card? "I just need a little free time. I swear I can fix it!"
VIII. Avast Ye Matey! (pirate carts)
How dare you legitimize pirate games by counting them!
IX. Starpath and Coleco Tapes
Do you count them? They are not really cartridges, but many collectors include them in their "cartridge" lists anyway. Perhaps Starpath collectors should only count the Supercharger itself, since that is what they are actually plugging into the cartridge slot. Starpath's Party Mix release is a mix of 5 completely separate games on a single cassette tape. How would you count that?
...Let Me Count the Ways.
Ok, enough gerrymandering. I have raised a lot of questions, but I have answered nothing. It's time for me to face the issue: "How many 2600 cartridges do I have?"
Here's how I break down my own 2600 collection...
There are an additional 23 noteworthy label variations that I confess to keeping, but I can not bring myself to include them in my Official Count. I have accumulated many of the lesser variations as well, but I don't count them either. In fact, I don't even bother to weed them from my trade bin.
I suppose that if I really wanted to get technical, then I would have to disqualify several of my cartridges from my Official Count for a variety of reasons.
So, I could have as many as 419 or as few as 336, depending on how you want to count them. 396 doesn't exactly split the difference, but I believe I drew the line at a logical location. I am satisfied. Besides, I don't really care all that much how you want to count them. I prefer to count them the way that I want to count them.
How do I justify the "Gray Zone" cartridges?
Because I doggedly hunted each one of them down. Because each cartridge was different enough in appearance that it made me say, "Kewl!" when, at last, I found it. Each was its own little triumph, a separately savored victory. To tell me that any one of them "doesn't count" because it is not the way VGR, DPG or The Consensus counts is absurd. No, an insult! It would be as if a stranger went through my family photo album and told me, "Those memories don't count because you used the wrong speed of film." VGR can count his carts however he wishes, and you can count your collection as you see best (In fact, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do exactly that). But this is MY collection, MY list, MY 396 different carts! It is my categorical decisions that ultimately matter, my accounting that elevates 396 cartridges to a COLLECTION and distinguishes it from being just another bean counter's investment portfolio.
How many different Atari 2600 cartridges do I have? There are as many ways to enumerate as there are ways to define what "different" is. But I know the true number because I know when one of my carts is different. It all depends on what MY definition of the word is is.
My fellow collectors, I believe that the time has
now come for us all to take hold of our... whoops! Sorry. I have to step down
now, gotta run. A mega-sale on soap is about to expire.
If you are an Intellivision fan like myself, then all this news is great! This month I am happy to report that a sequel to the wildly popular, "Intellivision Lives!" CD is on the way! This one is titled "Intellivision Rocks" and it features many games missing from the first one! These are among some of the best games out there! Here is a list of the games (keep in mind this list may change):
From Activision -
Beamrider, Dreadnaught Factor, Happy Trails, Pitfall, River Raid, Stampede, Worm
Whomper and a previously unreleased Robot Rumble!
That's 26 more games and some great ones too! The Imagic and Activision games are among my favorites for the Intellivision and the computer games are a big bonus!
The CD will go on sale on October 31st and will be available at the Blue Sky Rangers website at the following URL:
If you are a veteran classic video game fan, then this article will not be much use to you. You know all this stuff. But if you’re fairly new to the Atari 2600 scene, then maybe I can give you something to put on your list of “must haves”.
The Supercharger was an Atari 2600 add-on device made by Arcadia. Eventually Arcadia had to change their name to Starpath to avoid conflict with Emerson. The Supercharger looked like a double-length Atari cart with a tail. This tail was actually a headphone jack that would plug into any cassette player. The Supercharger games came on cassette tape and you would “play” them into your machine. Not only did it change the storage medium of games, but the Supercharger itself added additional memory to the 2600. The Supercharger came packaged with a game called Phaser Patrol.
Most of the Supercharger games were remakes or clones of existing games. All of them tried to offer some improvements over the originals (like graphics). Here’s a list of the games that were commercially available.
There were also several games that weren’t clones. They were
The last three games listed were also unique because they were “multi-load” games. As different areas were completed, you were instructed to press “play” on your cassette player and load in the next level.
I vaguely remember the price of the initial package being around $40. Additional games were $20.
While the Supercharger games were cheaper to produce, they were also easily copied. Anyone with a dual cassette deck or with two cassette players could easily copy a Supercharger game. And those Playstation pirates think they have it easy today !
There were also several games that were in development or were only released through mail order. Sword of Saros and Survival Island, I believe, were going to be along the lines of Dragonstomper. Sweat was going to be similar to Decathlon. I’ve only ever seen these available on the “Stella Lives” CD.
Something else I should mention about the original Supercharger cassettes. They had the game recorded on both sides of the tape. One would load quicker than the other, but the slower one would load more reliably. If you had problems with the fast side, you were instructed to use the other side.
I remember keeping my eye on the Supercharger at a record store at the local mall. They had a huge wall of games and the Supercharger unit itself, in its oversized box, was kept on the bottom shelf. For quite a while, I waited for the price to drop. When it finally did, I picked up a copy. By then, the Atari 2600 was on its last legs and I was able to pick up most of the games for it fairly cheap.
I mentioned the “Stella Lives” CD earlier. The people that put it together had special permission to include all of the Supercharger games on that CD. For some of us, that is the only chance we’ll ever have to play some of the last Supercharger games. All you have to do was put the CD in a portable CD player, pick the proper track and press play.
So, if you don’t have a Supercharger in your collection, should you get one ?
Other than the capability to play the games listed, the Supercharger has other capabilities that only have come to light in the internet age. That is the capability to a) use the Supercharger as a development testing device and b) use the Supercharger to play downloaded Atari 2600 ROMS. More information about that can be found at:
Imagine playing a game like “Coke Wins” that you or I will never own the way it was meant to be played. With a single button joystick on a 13 inch color TV !
Every Atari 2600 fan should have a Supercharger in their collection.
(Fred has been playing games for over 25 years and actively collecting them for over 10. The 2400 + games that he has takes up most of his home office and living room. He lives in Denver, PA with his understanding wife Jennie, his 4 year-old, button-loving son, Max and his wire-chewing, 1 year old 4th player, Lynzie. Next month, he will mention the first person that can correctly name the song played in "Rabbit Transit". Retrogaming Times writers are disqualified. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
First off, I want to make a correction. After receiving dozens and dozens of emails about how the Atari 8-Bit version of Donkey Kong also has all four screens, I felt I needed to put this correction. Just goes to show you that you can ask a question and get little or no response, but make a mistake and you get a ton! Maybe I need to slip an error per issue to increase the emails ;)
This month we are going to take a look at some of the peripherals that were available for the system. While it had the standard stuff like joysticks, disk drives and cassette players, it also had some unique items that really improved the system and made the games better. So here are three items for the TI that every owner should get (at least two of the items are fairly affordable).
Wico Joystick Adapter
MBX (Milton Bradley
The device is very nice and while the speech recognition is limited, it did work quite well, especially with games like the Baseball game. There were a total of 10 carts released for it with a mixture of games and some music and art programs.
Hunt the Wumpus
Here is a website with a version of Hunt the Wumpus that is almost exact to the TI version for you to play. I also have a link in the "Sites of the Month" for a multiplayer online version of Hunt the Wumpus!
(TI screen shots provided by Bryan Roppolo and Michael Fox. Bryan can be reached at email@example.com. By the way, Bryan is working on a huge TI cart page. More details when it becomes a reality!)
Many others have done a far more detailed and in-depth history of this fascinating computer. It is not my purpose to re-invent the wheel, with historical facts, but to tell just how this one machine, very much directed the course of my life for quite some time.
When we look back at events in our lives, purchases we made, and things we did that at the time didn’t mean much, we can see from afar, how situations tied themselves together.
Texas Instruments released their model TI 99/4A in early 1981. At that time in my life, my family had just gotten the Atari VCS. Although, my friend Craig Dyson’s dad had purchased a TRS-80 model I and I had spent much time over his house playing on that system, and I had been introduced to other computers of that time, I was more into the video games of then.
I would often spend hours, not just playing, but getting out graph paper and design new games. I guess I was a little early to be on a team back then to design the graphics of a video game!
It was in the middle of 1982 that my mom had shown me an advert of the Timex Sinclair 1000. WOW! A computer I could actually buy, on my Plain Dealer route money! In reality, I never would own that computer. I would over a period of several months, look at the different brands that were within my buying power. By reading different magazines and such, going to friends houses-Eric Peterson’s VIC 20, and so forth.
The list was a T/S 100, a VIC 20, a possible C64, and that was it. The TI was not even part of my list. Well, that school year, my science teacher, a Mrs. Fathe, had purchased a TI 99/4A. That was the fall of 1983. That had me hooked, by playing with it at school-Chestnut. What also finalized it for me, was two things: the $100 rebate, AND my dad worked for JC Penny, so I got a discount on that. And so, in December of 1982, I bought the TI 99/4A. I believe the price was around $249, before the rebate and the discount.
With the $100 I bought a 13” color TV several months later-imagine having your newest toy, and having to wait a few months to play with it-except trying it on our big TV once!!
The first things I bought were: Extended Basic, cassette cables and a GE cassette player, Parsec, and an adaptor to use Atari joysticks. I remember going through Compute and other magazines, plus the manual. I must say, that TI did a great job with their Beginner’s BASIC book. I quickly master the CALL CHAR command, and CALL VCHAR and HCHAR! Plus the easy CALL SOUND commands. What a first summer!
People in the TI community tend to remember where they were when IT happened, Black Friday. The DAY TI dropped out of the home computer business. Since I was in middle school, and the sole computer owner in my house, I never really heard about it, except from some friends at school. So for me, Black Friday never affected me at all.
I was able to get a PEB that October actually, and slowly, built my TI up. First extra 32K memory from Edu-Comp, the Thalner’s in North Ridgeville, the speech through a free speech deal, an RS232 card, and finally, with a lot of hard work and lots of payments to them, I got a disk drive system! I got a second drive very soon after that. And, I had purchased a second-hand Gemini 10X printer.
You know, that Editor Assembler package made a great word processor for reports and such! I was able to not just write code with it, but reports, paper route stuff, and I still have those files somewhere……
I will go into my programming experiences with the TI in a later series. It was when my Grandpa bought me a Volksmodem 300, that it got really interesting!
I remember the first time connecting with the Terminal Emulator II! This was all so new. Not many people used computers back in 1984-85. And not many were even getting online back in my high school days. And you “old-timers” will remember this; when almost everyone in the Cleveland Ohio area had a BBS running, from like 10PM to 6AM in the morning. Plus, Railnet, St.Silicon, North Coast (public Unix system), Skull and Crossbones, and the many C64 BBS’s.
I have always tried to be an ACTIVE participant in the TI 99/4A community. And I first started that when I ran my own BBS-The Hardcore Tavern, after the short-lived Hardcore 99ers-a technical user group. I got that software, and at 300 baud, it took forever, from Walter Ryder, who had written it himself. Plus, that neat little device that turned the Volksmodem into an auto-answer modem, that device was so sensitive to static. I too ran the BBS from 10PM to 6AM. I first ran it on a Saturday, and actually turned the modem to answer when I got a call! Hey, it was all so new!
I managed to have about 45 users that summer! Pete Haliday, Smoosedude! WPR, and others! Playing the game Heroland! I even remember when two guys from Parma drove over at 2:30, just to chit-chat and to drop off a replacement battery! I had been given some old hard drives, and the effort to interface them, spawned an expanded memory project idea, and also I had met a much-younger friend, alias, Turtle. BTW: my alias on the BBS was “Texan”.
In all, this first section of my TI history, was one of learning TMS 9900 code, C, and setting the foundations for what would be the most important stages, the 1990’s. Because in the end of 1987-1988, other than some experiments at school, I used a CPM system-Xerox 820 with 8” drives, for reports and such. (Running a BBS on a CPM machine is not Sysop friendly) And, I had put the TI away just before I joined the Coast Guard, in 1988.
(Hi! My name is James(Jim) Walter Krych. I am 31 year-old QA Tech. I am also a member of the Ohio Army National Guard, B Co 112th Eng. I have a technical diploma in electronics technology, and I am currently taking computer programming and operations from CIE. I have a 1 year old son, August 24th, and his name is Treyton. I have an Atari 7800, 201 games, an ST, STe, MegaSTe, and a Falcon030.)
Two more sites for the masses to go to and check out. Between the emails and my own personal searching, I keep finding sites that are worthy of your attention. Check out this months!
My favorite section of the site was his instructions on making your own overlays! He shows you a very detailed instructions on how to make them at home. This is great for people who are in need of replacement overlays or for people who bought the emulator and want to make overlays to go with them.
There are also sections on modifying Intellivision 1 controllers to work on Intellivision 2, a System Change mod and more! There are also downloads for the Intellivision Service Manuals. Not only is this stuff detailed, but there is also photos!
By the way, they are having a contest right now! A design a logo contest with the top prize being an original Intellivision (the gold one) and a stack of games! So if you are artistic, this is your chance to add an Intellivision to your collection.
So if you like the Intellivision, then check out
the site. It is worth the time and you never know when you will need some
Peek n Poke
Besides reviews, there are also emulator and game downloads. One nice section has unreleased Commodore 64 games that you can download! I cannot wait to try the Judge Dredd game! There are also downloads of PC games, C64 music and other stuff!
The site is very pleasing to look at, with little animations on the different pages. You are also greeted by the Pole Position music as you enter the main page. So if you like the classic computers, this is a nice site to check out!
Here is the URL: http://leespeeknpoke.members.easyspace.com/Bonus Site - Boston University Interactive Games!
Here is a collection of games to play on the net, nothing too spectacular. But there is one game that is alot of fun! It is an online, multiplayer version of Hunt the Wumpus, an old computer game that is one of the first computer games made. While this may seem crude, compared to many of the other games out there, it is a fun little game and just about any computer can handle it (they have a text only version for people with slow connections). So head over and play a few games, you may find yourself hooked!
Here is the URL: http://scv.bu.edu/Games/games.html