Once again, I look for the wild and the wacky to review for you. Two more classics (it is a speculative thing) for you to try.
While looks are not his strong suit, he does have some hard fists. He can punch out people and break steel fences. Plus, he jumps like a kangaroo! While nature whacked him with an ugly stick, it also made him pretty tough. Being tough is good as he has a bunch of people coming between him and the gold. Besides the guards, with their cool shades, there is a crazy barrel that rolls after you with a vengeance. Plus, there are the steel gates that need to be pounded repeatedly to fall down.
While the game is pretty typical in every other aspect, there is one area that is so ridiculous that it sets this game apart. Whenever one of the guards captures you, the characters switch from the typical ones to one of your character getting whipped by one of the guards, who changes into an outfit that would be all the rage at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. At the same time, you are wearing nothing but your underwear and crying like a baby. I was stunned the first time I saw this, as I would guess most arcade goers were also. This may explain why I never heard of this game.
Anyways, it is a fun game. Not the kind of game that I would pump money into, but for a good laugh, it cannot be beat (no pun intended). Just another odd game that made its way into the market.
The main character starts off in a gaudy red suit. He strolls along and his shuffling looks alot like the dancing steps of "Gene, Gene, the dancing machine" from the Gong Show. Every time I watch him walk along, I half expect beach balls and other items to come flying at him. What is really funny is when you drink the potion (what is in this stuff?), you turn into an all white, clad cowboy! Now you can kick the daylights out of the police! Me thinks the contents of that potion are probably not very legal.
Another odd aspect of this game is that there is a building at the end that you can climb up. But you better beware, because it is quite easy to fall off the building and this will end the game.
While the game is very similar to Pacman (or Pacmania), it is nowhere near as good. The game is pretty lame, to tell the truth. There are only two energizers and a bunch of cops, so the game is quite hard. Plus, it just pales in comparison to Pacman or even some of the other clones. I would avoid it, unless you really want to play all the Pacman influenced games.
(Atari 1982) B-
(Atari 1983) F
Star Wars The Arcade
Game (Parker Bros 1983) F
Berzerk (Atari 1983)
Vanguard (Atari 1983)
Rescue on Fractalus (LucasArts
For over 1000 more reviews, go to The Video Game Critic’s Site at
Coming next month, I’ll review all of the classic BASEBALL video games!
If I had an Atari 2600, and I could only play one game, I would select Pitfall. However, once you acquire all 32 treasures, the game loses some of its luster (get it -- gold - luster?). On the other hand, the one Atari 2600 game, which is truly addictive, is Yar's Revenge.
Even with the release of Yar's Quest later this year (for more info, check the http://khryssun.cjb.net website), nothing beats the original.
So, what is a Yar?
A Yar is a fly thingie, which was so popular, it also made cameo appearances in Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. Anyway, the Yar (played by you) has two missions: first, to eat the shield that protects your opponent. Next, once enough of the wall has been consumed, you must fire a Zorlon cannon and annihilate your enemy.
And who is your enemy?
In this corner, a swirling ball of terror: the Quotile! Now, the Quotile's job is to destroy you. How does it do this? Well, before it transforms into the Swirl, which looks like the Nazi Swastika, it sends a hunter killer Punisher-type of mercenary, known as a Destroyer missile.
And so, the battle rages on: you v. the Quotile. And on. And on. And on. Because once you play Yar's Revenge, you will be hooked. Hey, I've turned the game over five times in one sitting, and still I played on! It is that good.
So, how does the Robsterman rank this game? Well, read on, true believers...
Story (8/10). You can either get the cheesy comic book, or read the instruction manual. But really, you and the Quotile are partaking in a celebrity Death Brawl. That's it. You want to read literature, get War and Peace. You want good gaming fun? Get Yar's Revenge.
Audio/Video (9/10). The graphics are first-rate for an Atari 2600 game. When you destroy the Quotile, the explosion screen is awesome. Also, the sounds are way above average for a game played on this console.
Replayability (15/10). Not a typo. How can a game score a 15/10? Well, I would rate a 10/10 game as one that you want to play until you defeat the enemy. However, even after you do this, even after you turn the game over five times, like I did, you still want to play it. That's a class all by itself.
Challenge (10/10). For most of you, this game is challenging. But, for the Robsterman, who turned the game over five times, the challenge is gone. MUHA HA HA HA!
Fun (10/10). If it were possible for a human man to marry a female Yar, I would do so. I love this game that much. The only thing that would be an improvement would be a two-player mode, where your friend plays the role of the Quotile.
Overall (10/10). As I stated previously, if I had one game to play on the Atari 2600, it would be Yar's Revenge. Once you try this game, the only thing you will be collecting with your N64s is dust.
Bailiff : Hear ye ! Hear ye ! Retrogaming Times Court is now in session. The honorable Judge Zjaba is now presiding. All Rise !
Judge Zjaba : You may be seated.
Judge Zjaba : Mr. Wagaman, you stand charged with the willful destruction of classic video games in the first degree. How do you plead ?
Defense : Not guilty, your honor.
Judge : So be it. You will be judged by a jury of your peers. The trial may begin. Mr. Prosecutor, will you make your opening statement ?
Prosecutor : It will be my duty to demonstrate to the jury that Mr. Wagaman did knowingly and with forethought participated in the destruction of classic video game machines, software and memorabilia. On the night of February 23, 2001 he assisted in the “dumpstering” of over 2 dozen machines, a plethora of controllers and scores of other related items. And he did so with no concern for his “hobby” or other people that share his interest.
Judge : Mr. Wagaman, you have agreed to act as your own attorney. It’s been said that anyone that acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client. You may make your opening to the jury.
Defense : Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have no doubt that once the facts of this case come to light, you will have no qualms in ruling on my innocence. That once the story is told in full, you will see this trial for what it is : A farce.
Judge : Mr. Prosecutor, you may call your first witness.
Prosecutor : I call the former owner of the “Alphabet Video Store”, Mr. Red Jamesbach.
Bailiff : Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ?
Red : Yes.
Prosecutor : Mr. Jamesbach, in your own words, can you take us through the detail of that fateful night ?
Red : Sure. I was closing down my video store. All of the items had been purchased and I needed to get them out of the store prior to the end of the month. The defendant is a friend of mine and I asked him to help. Because of the timing of the sale, there was a possibility that some of the items would have to be placed in storage before being shipped, so I asked Mr. Wagaman to also help me clean out some space in my garage. On the night of February 23rdthe defendant came to my home and we began. There were an number of business related phone calls I needed to make, so Mr. Wagaman began the process. When I returned, he had already begun sorting the items. Initially he had started by grouping like items together. Atari games, Intellivision games, Sega Master games, etc. The games were the easy part because they were the smaller portion of the items.
Prosecutor : Then what happened ?
Red : Well, we started to get to the machines. He talked me into setting up a triage.
Prosecutor : What to you mean ?
Red : Basically, three piles. One for keeping, one for evaluation and one to throw away.
Prosecutor : Then what happened ?
Red : Well, as we were sorting, a few items went into the “keep” pile. I kept several Odyssey 2 units among others. That one was always my favorite. Nothing really went into the evaluation pile. Most of the machines, boxes, controllers and the like went into the discard pile. After we had gone through everything, we loaded into my station wagon and took it to the dumpster. We then threw all of the items into the dumpster.
Prosecutor : And was it you that was making most of the decisions concerning what pile the items went into ?
Red : No, that would have been Mr. Wagaman.
Prosecutor : You said Mr. Wagaman was throwing the items in dumpster ?
Red : Oh yes. He tossed in box after box. And I mean tossed.
Prosecutor : No further questions.
Judge : Mr. Wagaman, your witness.
Defense : Mr. Jamesbach, who did the items in question belong to ?
Red : There were mine.
Defense : And where did you get such a large collection ?
Red : I’ve accumulated them over the years. I’ve bought out collections and the like.
Defense : Is it true that you were a flea market vendor at one time ?
Red : Yes, but I abandoned that after I bought the video store.
Defense : So video games were no longer an item at your store ?
Red : Well, I did rent some of the newer systems. Playstation, N64, etc. Nothing earlier than the NES.
Defense : Have you done much with classic video games since you bought your video store 7 years ago ?
Red : No.
Defense : And a majority of these items had been setting in your garage for at least seven years.
Red : Yes.
Defense : Can you describe the condition of the items ?
Red : Most were stored in cardboard boxes. Stacked one on top of the other in the back portion of the garage.
Defense : Is it true you had a mouse problem over the last few years ?
Red : Yes.
Defense : And is it also true that the mice appeared to have frequently visited the game machine boxes ?
Red : Yes.
Defense : Were there any other extraordinary conditions surrounding the game boxes ?
Red : Well, there was the spilt bag of potting rocks…
Defense : Were you planning on getting rid of any machines and games in their entirety from your collection ?
Red : I decided to keep some Atari stuff, Vectrex, Odyssey 2 and Nes. Coleco, Astrocade and Intellivision were going.
Defense : Did Mr. Wagaman take any of these things with him ?
Red : Yes, he took a complete Coleco in its box, a couple Coleco expansion units, an Intellivoice or two, an Intellivision 2 and any games for those systems.
Defense : Nothing further your honor.
Prosecutor : The prosecution calls David Newman.
Bailiff : Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ?
David : I do.
Prosecutor : Mr. Newman, can you introduce yourself to the jury.
David : Hi, I’m David.
Prosecutor : That’s not what I meant. Please tell them who you are in the gaming community.
David : Oh. I am the organizer of the Philly Classic Game show. You can find out more about it at www.phillyclassic.com <http://www.phillyclassic.com>. I am an avid game collector.
Prosecutor: Can you tell us what you found in the dumpster on the day of February 24th.
David : I found a bunch of classic consoles, controllers and equipment.
Prosecutor : Were you able to salvage any items ?
David : I would say I snagged most of what was worth saving from an archaeological standpoint. Namely:
4 CV consoles, 10 controllers, driving module/gas pedal, 4 Atari module #1's, 6 SA
4 complete Intellivision I consoles, 4-5 detached Intv I controllers, Intellivoice
1 Intellivision *computer* module (same gray design as the Intv2) with AC adapter
- no keyboard!!
2 SMS decks, 2 SMS light guns, 1 control pad, no power supplies (!), 2 Sega
3 cleanable (but waaaaay filthy - everything was kind of scary-lookin') 2600s
1 2600 jr
1 Odyssey 2 loose
1 nice-looking boxed Odyssey 2 with adapter and water damaged falling-apart box,
but seems unused with docs/catalog
1 newish looking Action Max VHS game system with gun, red police light attachment,
4 separate ActionMax games
5 NES decks with various controllers, 7-8 AC adapters, NES Satellite remote unit,
2 NES Advantage sticks
8-10 extra 2600 power supplies
Assorted controllers for Sega Genesis, PSX, 1 odd unidentified controller
1 boxed pair Roklan UN-Controller trackballs (blue and yellow) for 2600
Prosecutor : Was it worth your trip ?
David : Now, I don't know if ANY of this stuff works yet. We'll see what works and the stuff I can make work and clean up nicely will be for sale at PhillyClassic!
Prosecutor : Based on your statements, as a video game collector, these items have value to you as and individual and to the classic video game community as a whole ?
David : Yes.
Prosecutor : No further questions.
Me: Mr. Newman, how far of a drive was it for you to come for these items ?
David : I'm a good 75-minute drive from the area.
Defense : How did you know to look for these items and where to find them ?
David : From a post in rec.games.video.classic.
Defense : And who made that post ?
David : You did.
Defense : Did you take every video game item from the dumpster ?
David : I did leave some stuff behind.... mostly 2600 consoles that were sooooo filthy you wouldn't believe. Also one beat up Odyssey 2, 1 or 2 NES decks, 1 or 2 ColecoVisions, a nearly full box of CV controllers, etc.
Defense : No further questions.
Prosecutor : We have no further witnesses your honor.
Judge : Mr. Wagaman, any defense witnesses ?
Defense : No your honor, I’m ready for summation.
Judge : You may proceed.
Defense : Ladies and gentleman of the jury. These spurious charges are a waste of time. I did nothing wrong. There was no wrongdoing to the classic game community on my part. The items weren’t even mine ! I was helping a friend, a friend that left the classic gaming community many years ago for the greener pastures of a video store. At any time, he could have decided to keep these items. Yes, its true, I could have decided to add these redundant items to my personal collection, or stored them in MY garage with the hope of one day selling or trading them. But they weren’t worth my time and effort. I saved what looked salvageable to me and was something I felt I could use. But anything else was trash. Yes, trash from my perspective. I felt that if someone wanted any of these items, they could have them. But they would have to make the effort to get them. That’s why I posted the newsgroup message. I wanted to give someone a chance to save these items. Throwing these items away wasn’t a criminal act perpetrated on the classic game community. It was a mercy killing. Thank you and I’m sure you’ll have the courage to see that.
Judge : Mr. Prosecutor, your summation.
Prosecutor : Mr. Wagaman say he committed no wrongdoing in the eyes of the gaming community. Yet his own actions speak volumes to the opposite. Mr. Wagaman knew what the plans were when he went to Mr. Jamesbach’s house. He knew what was there and what they were going to do with it. He directed whether an item was trash or not. And as you heard in Mr. Newman’s testimony, there were many fine times that were salvageable. Mr. Wagaman physically tossed the items in the dumpster and when he arrived home, felt guilty enough about it to try to assuage his guilt by giving others the opportunity to “save” these items. When it he himself that put them in jeopardy in the first place ! Mr. Wagaman is right. A decision by you on his guilt will take courage. Please make the right choice.
Now it is up to you. You the jury get to decide Mr. Wagaman’s fate. Verdicts and reasons for your verdict will be accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org until April 18, 2001. If you decide he is guilty, please list an appropriate punishment.
We have some very good letters this month, so jump right in and read them. Also, if you can answer any of the unsolved mysteries contained here, please do.
Sorry to bother
you, but if you have a moment, I wonder if you could
answer a question for me. I'm fairly new to classic game collecting, and
I need an expert answer to this question: Does any store sell a
cable-ready RF adaptor that will work with the Odyssey2 system? I've
noticed that the one I bought for my 2600 (at Radio Shack) won't work
with the O2 I just bought. Or can these things only be hooked up to an
"old" tv? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
While I cannot figure out this dilemma, other than doing some work on the connection (like removing the large, Odyssey 2 one and hooking up a smaller, Atari one, but that is beyond my Electronics 101 course I took in high school). But I know there are quite a few readers of RT that have vast electronic knowledge and may be able to help Steve out. He can be reached via email at: email@example.com.
Tom -- thanks for answering my question, and I saw it in the new Retrogaming Times. One more question: Are there any computer programs available to keep track of my cartridge collection (specifically Atari 2600)? Some of the old (like 1994)Atari 2600 Connection newsletters mentioned different progams that you could get from other collectors or buy inexpensively to keep cart records on your computer. Are these still around -- from whom? As always -- thanks -- Ray
A few weeks after receiving this email, I see a post on the internet about a program just like this. It is called the Cart Commander and can be found on the Arcade Restoration Web Page. It is located in the software section. Here is the URL:
Just wanted to let you know that the reason "Crazy Climber" isn't on the Worship the Woodgrain CDs is that it is an 8K game and the Supercharger will only support 2K and 4K roms.
This was one of about a dozen emails telling me the error I made (including one from the creator of the Worship the Woodgrain, Lee Kruger himself). I was also informed that there is an item in the works called the Super Duper Charger, which would work with any size game. It is being developed by the maker of the Intellicart, Chad Schell. For more information, check out the following URL:
By the way, as far as doing the modifications myself, keep an eye on the news. If I do attempt to do it, the fire I may start will make the blaze in Chicago that was caused by that cow, seem like a brushfire. So if Ohio is suddenly removed from the map, you will know why.
I was wondering why you chose the red and yellow color scheme? Are you trying to be McDonalds or something?
What is wrong with being McDonalds? The most successful fast food franchise in the world! Would it be better if I went with a white and blue motif and tried to be like White Castle? Speaking of McDonalds, what ever happened to Mayor McCheese and Big Mac the police officer?
The Commodore 64 arrived in the US in
August 82, and made it over to the UK and Europe sometime in early 83.
For those first couple of years, the influx of software from the US into
the UK made us sit up and take note. Such programs as "Beach Head",
"Impossible Mission" and "HERO" made a mark on the general UK C64 owning
public. In comparison, much of the early software written in the UK for
the machine did not come up to this standard. There were some
exceptions such as Jeff Minter, Steve Evans and Tony Crowther, but for
the most part the quality of the early games were not quite as good. I
feel this was partially due to the fact that the penetration of disc
drives was not as high as it could have been - Commodore making a
serious error about the pricing levels in this country. A competitor,
the Sinclair Spectrum, was vastly underpowered compared to the C64, but
was far better value and easy to program in many circumstances. This
lead to a higher demographic for the Spectrum as a whole. So you get a
vicious circle: less drives means less disc software selling, which
means less money to be made and hence to keep a level of income
production, prices are kept high.
Time to grab your mouse and surf around the net to these classic game inspired sites. Give them some attention and you may find yourself a new favorite site!
"I think I'm going Berzerk . . . . would you like to come too", lyrics from the Berzerk song on Buckner and Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever" album. With Winter now over, those of us up North can stop going Berzerk and hit the outdoors more. Alas, this often means less playing time of our good old video games, but we'll keep bringing you more reviews every month.
Hopefully you've had a first hand encounter with Berzerk at the arcades. Hearing "Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert", "The humanoid must not Escape" from across the arcade - where it would draw a crowd to see what was all this talk about. One of the first speaking games, instead of helping you, it taunted you - if you ran away without destroying all the robots you heard "Chicken, Fight Like a Robot!"
Stern made a simple maze game concept into their first big hit by adding voice digitization. I'd like to think of Berzerk as the Great Grand Daddy of Doom. After all, it is the first "kill or be killed, maze shoot 'em up". It spawned off its own sequel Frenzy, also by Stern, and has been copied many more times with a few generations of enhancements, such as Castle Wolfenstein, and Wolfenstein 3-D, and Doom. In Berzerk, up to 11 killer robots fill the maze and you must escape without being shot by or coming into contact with anything. Robots are 50 points each, plus 10 bonus points when all the room's robots are destroyed. An extra life at 5K & 10K (or every 5 K Vectrex).
I've been brainwashed by the Atari 2600 version of Berzerk, which I've played all too often. That is, I did not recall that the arcade version indeed had robots shoot at you in all 8 directions. I've been brainwashed to thinking that the 8 directions of shots from the robots was only added to the sequel, Frenzy. I was confused seeing this on the Vectrex version of Berzerk, but assumed that Milton Bradley just combined the diagonal shots from Frenzy into one game and still called it Berzerk. Why else would the robots be firing at you diagonally? Darn this game is much harder this way - let's try the 5200 version. Same thing - even harder. Atari 8-bit version, you guessed it. Obviously I need to do my homework here. So, from now on, I'll do more homework on checking out the arcade version of each game here. Were you brainwashed too?
Frenzy, the sequel was pretty much the same game as Berzerk, with some minor additions. Now, Evil Otto, the smilingest villain of all time, could be destroyed, albeit temporarily, if you shot him 4 times. But he'd come back, again and again, eventually as a pair of evil Otto's - coming at you from opposite sides of the maze. The mazes were similar, but much more complex, and then some of the walls were partial walls that could be shot through. There were more robots per room, and they could also shoot you through the partial walls. In general, the skill level started off slower, and with lots more robots to shoot you got more killing satisfaction for the same $.25 investment.
Arcade Game Designed in 1981(?)by: Alan McNeil of Stern (also did Wizard of Wor)
Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8 bit, Apple II & Vectrex.
Ported to the Apple II by Jorn Barger, Atari designers (unknown).
Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls
Sequels: Frenzy (1982) also by Stern, Alan McNeil. Ports on Colecovision (by ?) & Apple II by Steve Baker.
Have Nots: Apple II (N/A),
The Vectrex version is pretty much as I expected it to be. The Graphics are decent (6), considering that they are only monochrome and the screen is small. The sprites are crisp and well defined, but so small that they are hard to enjoy. Unfortunately, if you have the full compliment of 11 robots, plus their bullets and yours all moving, the screen flickers making the action slower and hard to see. Wow! is level 150 awesome (see photo). The Gameplay is enjoyable (8) pretty much all there but lacking a pause, a two player option, and any game/skill settings. The Sound is nice (8), but there is no speech and other effects seam to be lacking. The Controls are very responsive (8) but that small, left-handed joystick makes it tough to get used to. The Addictiveness is pretty good (7), but such a small, monochrome screen, with a small controller is not as thrilling as the medal winners.
Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (40)
Silver Medal: Atari 5200 (43)
Gold Medal: Atari 8 bit (45)
In fact, ditto everything for the 5200, save for a few differences, such as the Controls are flawless (10) which also boost the Addictiveness score to Superb (9). Again the Graphics are crisp (8), and the Sound is perfect (10). This is the version that you'll want to play - providing that you can find it. Aha! A catch! Yep, for some reason, this game never made it to a cartridge, so for those of you don't do disk Drives - sorry. Same story next month when I plan to review the many faces of Jr. Pacman for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64.
(After surviving a hard drive crash, Alan Hewston can again be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net
Feel free to as if you are looking for the Atari 8-bit version of Berzerk. I finally have a TI 99/4 system, and some games for this column, but have yet to get it working.)
Now for a special public service announcement...................
WEIRS BEACH, N.H. - Funspot, home to
the world’s largest collection of classic arcade games, hopes to
establish a Classic Arcade Museum in the near future.
We are going to discus two items in the TI 99/4A that are unique to the computer. But first, hey Alan, yeah you beat me to the punch this time!
Other computers during that era had more or less off-the-shelf hardware. In regards to the CPU, and sound chip. Now Atari and Commodore both had custom graphics and sound chips. But, both had a pretty standard CPU, the 6502.
And, many home computers used a Z80 for the CPU. And, of course, the CPM machines mostly used this processor. And, later on the 9918A became a very widely used Video Display Processor. The Sound chip went on to become a very well-used feature of many a computer, the 9919 or the SN9264.
But in two areas, the TI was very unique. The CPU, and the use of a special memory known as GROM, and the language, GPL.
Let’s discuss the CPU first. Let’s say hello to the TMS 9900! A 16 bit CPU, with the instruction set of a mini-computer!
And that is true, because the 990 family was originally a mini-computer system, later models had a 9900, a 99000, or a bit-slice version of the 9900. Hints of this are found in the Editor/Assembler manual for the TI 99/4A. And, has only 69 instructions to use.
I have programmed in assembly for several CPU’s, the TMS 9900, the 6809, and some Z80 compilations. With some ‘286 times. The TMS 9900 makes you very spoiled, real fast, and here is why…
There is only three hardware registers for the TMS 9900, the STatus register, the Program Counter(PC), and the Workspace register(WP). That’s it! But, the TMS 9900 is based on what is called memory-to-memory architecture. So, the outside “registers” are actually a 32 byte workspace. This allows you a total of 16 16-bit registers PER EACH WORKSPACE! Do a context switch, BLWP(Branch and Load Workspace Pointer: AKA Bullwhip), and you have ANOTHER 16 16-bit registers to play with!
No Stack, and no need to save a register contents to a memory location, then load it into another register.
Now, let’s be honest, not all of those registers can be used if you do a context switch. The last three are used up. And, when you do CRU instructions, that’s R12. And for branches, R11 keeps the previous PC address when you return from the subroutine. And, R0 is not to be used as an index register. But still, you have a lot of 16-bit registers to be playing with!
From a hardware designer’s standpoint, it’s easier to use SRAM for your memory projects, because for a move instruction, the CPU does a READ before a WRITE. Trust me on this! But, you programmers will never see that operation!
The TMS 9900 is organized as a 64K machine accessing 32K words. So, normally you would never see an A15. The reason this exists, is that TI converted the 16-bit data bus of the 9900 to an 8-bit bus. By memory mapping, you can have up to 1 Mbytes memory. More, if you decoded the data bus to a true 16-bit space.
Another unique part of the TMS 9900, and believe me, you can spend several articles just on it’s features, is the CRU, Communications Register Unit. This allows a bit oriented output. You have a maximum of 4096 unique input lines, and 4096 unique output lines.
The CRU is used to allow the defining of peripherals for the 99/4A, and at which address they may lie, for those that would need it, i.e. RS232, Disk Controller, Hard Disk Controller, AMS(SuperAMS)-only to turn on for MAP mode.
It’s a very unique style, and is very flexible. Just don’t use CRU address that are already established!
Now, onto the GROM’s!
GROMS, Graphics Read Only Memory, is basically a ROM chip with an internal address register. It is a 6K x 8 memory chip. Clocked at 447 kHz. This difference in speed, which TI called Medium Speed Memory, is why the 99/8 had problems, and programmers had to have NOP’s in their code.
They act in parallel, until selected, and then the contents is read in. Without extra decoding, you can have 5 GROMS in a Command Module. With extra decoding, you can have 3 additional banks of 5 GROM chips. There are cards that allow the GROMS to be dumped, and saved in SRAM. And, allow for a large amount of GROM space.
The beauty of this is that it allows for great expansion of software, within a limited space. And, with the Review Module Library function, an Extended Basic program, with the correct GROM simulator, could call features of other carts in that XB cart! Using the text-to-speech of the TEII cartridge, in an XB program is one such example!
GPL, Graphics Programming Language, was a “secret” TI kept from us for quite some time. It’s what the BASIC is written in! So, you have a double-interpreted BASIC! Which, is why it is so slow, but so very accurate, using the Radix 100 notation, getting 13 digit accuracy.
The GPL interpreter is built-into the 99/4A. I am not familiar with GPL at all, but have seen pieces of GPL code every now and then. So, with a GRAM type device, you could write a very large program in GPL! It really is a great way to allow a large programming model, to be stuffed into a limited memory space.
TI really put a lot of effort into coming up with the memory usage for the 99/4A. And, it’s one that we must use today. Especially the way they created a lower and an upper memory expansion window for us. And, the limits of the GROM’s themselves. In a way, it’s was it’s greatest strength. But, in a way, it limited third-party designing, without the need for a very expensive mini, at the time.
And, what about the TMS 9900? Very few home computers used it. The Tomy Tutor uses a version, the TMS 9995. And an arcade game used a stripped down CPU. The 99/8 had a custom 9995. And, the TI clone, the MYARC 9640, used the 9995. There was at least one S-100 bus 9900 system out there. It’s flexible, and powerful, but, not well known, in the larger computer world. You don’t find as much material for it, as for a 6502, 6809, or even more, the Z80. But, the code is indeed very compact. History has not been too kind to this CPU line.
(Hi, my name is Jim W. Krych. I am a 31 year old technician, with an Electronics Diploma and a soon-to-be finished Computer Programming and Operations Diploma. I am currently employed at the finest maker of electrometers/nanovoltmeters/etc., in their troubleshooting/calibration department. I have a 19 month old son, his name is Treyton. I enjoy retrogaming and things that go with that. : ) My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
While reading the final chapters in the book "Joystick Nation", a point made by author J.C. Herz inspired me to write this article. This is not a complete review of the book, but I do recommend it (even if you just borrow it from a local library). Let me start by saying that first you should read the book "Phoenix, the Rise and Fall of Videogames", by Leonard Herman. "Phoenix" provides an enjoyable, very detailed historical account and many insights of the comings and goings of the game industry, the promises made and never kept, as well as all the advances in the technology. "Joystick Nation" makes for a nice complimentary book to read as it is more of a psychological study and an insight from the gamers point of view on how video games and all electronic mediums have changed our lives and society as well. "Joystick Nation" covers element from the entire VG timeline, but only briefly on the first 3 generations of video games (ie classic systems) and more-so the late 80's and the 90's. Herz had several tours and interviews with the behind the scenes people who make video games work and become the multimedia format that it is today. It is fun reading the whole way through, and you'll learn a whole lot about video games too.
Now, onto the Activision patches - and did they help sell more cartridges?
Herz compared how during the initial arcade era, that games were made to get players to feed it more quarters. Later as the arcade games slumped and home systems were making more money, the game play changed to make you want to buy the next game sooner. They added an ending, a grand finale, a final boss to end the game. With an end in sight, you master (finish) the game, and then go buy another.
Most early arcade games were made to keep getting harder and harder, with no ending to the game. Later, intermissions were added, or a change in the scene every few rounds and so you wanted to get a bit further and see what the next intermission/scene was like. Then as the games evolved, longer adventure type games came about, and the manufacturer let you "Continue" for $.25 before the timer runs out. These were great ideas to keep you feeding the machine more money.
About this time, the home systems were doing fine on their own, and Activison came up with a great idea, or an improvement upon an existing one that may have saved them during the crash of '83. Activision game patches! Atari had a "Log Book", that told you what scores made you a Pro, Master, or Wizard at that game, but Activision (& CBS) went a step further. If you got the score required and took a photo of it, mailed it along with postage, you'd get a neat patch of the game. These patches are highly collectible today, regardless if you have the skill to have earned it. These patches provided a good way for the game to not have an ending per se, but to allow the player a sense of satisfaction that they have accomplished something. If you mastered the game, then it was time to buy a new one. Even better, their games were enjoyable enough that you could sit there and play a 6 to 8 hour marathon game just to see the score come to a halt at 1,000,000 points. It was the best of both worlds, and a step in the direction that games now have with endings.
I'd like to think that this marketing strategy worked well and was a big factor in the success that made Activision not only the first and best third party company, but one that remains in existence today.
So, does anyone know which third party game manufacturer came along next - and is still in the industry today?
I think the answer is Broderbund. Maybe Leonard Herman is reading and can tell us form sure.
Alan Hewston still needs many more Activision patches, and CBS medals to complete his collections.
If you have any to trade/sell, feel free to contact him at Hewston95@stratos.net I'm looking forward to finishing and sharing a series of articles/interview on video games and collecting in New Zealand soon.
If you look at any of the auction sites (like eBay or Yahoo), then you know that there are many names for the same item. This is also true with classic video games. So for the fun of it, I decided to list the many different names for the same item. Feel free to send in any that I missed.
Cart, tape, game, cassette, program
Hope you enjoyed this issue! We were fortunate enough to have many great writers in the past few issues, which makes my job easier. By the way, if you enjoy my writing, you can find my musings at a handful of other places. I am now a contributing writer for Classic Gamer magazine! I also write for a site called www.MacEdition.com as well as review games for www.allgames.com. I reviewed a handful of newer games, including Spawn, Looney Tunes Racing and Silent Scope for the Dreamcast, Tonka Space Station, Woody Woodpecker Racing, Crash Bash, Bomberman Party, Jungle Book Rhythm and Groove for the Playstation and Hey You! Pikachu for the Nintendo 64.
Anyway, back to classic games. Look for me at the Phillycon in the coming month and a review of the show in the May issue of Retrogaming Times! Also, I will be at the CCAG show in June and will have a review of that show in the July issue. And with any luck, I will try to make the CGE. So I will do my best to get out there and get more ideas for articles. As always, feel free to submit articles and feedback to myself and especially to my writers, is greatly appreciated. See you in 30 days and keep those joysticks working!
(No mention of music this time, instead, does anyone remember the old Saturday morning show called "The Hot Fudge Show"? Does anyone know where I could get a video tape of this show? I would love to relive some childhood memories. Also, does anyone know where I can get a MP3 of the Freakies song. They were a series of commercials for a breakfast cereal. Any help is appreciated!)
(Some photos were taken from the Digital Press CD-Rom. It is a great deal and a must have for any fan of classic games. It can be bought at the following site: http://www.digitpress.com).