Talk about a growth spurt! The Phillyclassic, a second year show went from a respectable 40+ attendees last year to an astounding 250+ people this year! Growth of such magnitude has not been seen since the glory days of Nasdaq and the dotcom companies. To say that Phillyclassic has really grown from a small show to a major show is an understatement. What can you say but great job to David Newman, Chuck Whitby and the gang, who gave East Coast gamers a reason to smile.
While there have been numerous other video game shows (Electronicon, Cincicon, CGE, CCAG and the Jagfest to name some of them), this is probably the closest anyone has gotten to a show for the average fan. It featured an impressive arcade of games (including Dragon's Lair, Sinistar, Wizard of Wor, Frenzy and more), lots of systems set up for play, a ton of games and systems for sale, lots of of stuff on display, tournaments and an auction! You had some new games that were offered at the show and a whole stack of door prizes! It was everything the average gamer could want and a whole lot more!
The arcade was in a separate room and was set up much like an arcade of yesteryear. There were a few rows of games that featured a ton of great games. One of the hits was Dragon's Lair, a game that still catches your eye. Being the first laser disc game, it still has many fond (and some not so fond) memories. Probably the next most popular game was Sinistar, one that always seem to be in play. The duo of Berzerk and Frenzy allowed you to see the changes from the original to the sequel. Add in Gyruss, Wizard of Wor, Tron, Joust and the very rare Joust 2 and you can see that there was quite a selection of games to play. And they were all set to free play! The arcade alone was worth the price of admission! Plus, some of the games were for sale!
Another popular event was the auction. One thing that the auction proved was that eBay was not the only place that people were willing to pay high prices for extremely rare games. A boxed Crazy Climber fetched over $200.00, a sealed Swordquest: Waterworld pulled in $250.00 and other games brought in double digit prices. Proof that people are willing to shell out good money for the ER games, especially boxed and complete.
What was even more impressive was the affordability of the show. For a mere $6.00 if you prepayed or $7.50 the day of the show, you could play the arcade games all you wanted, join the tournaments and win a few cool prizes! Then you could pull out your want list and there was a darn good chance you could get any game you wanted. From the original Odyssey 1 (at Al Backiel's stand) to Nintendo 64 carts (offered by Mike Gedeon of Video Game Connection), you had over three decades of games, with almost every system being represented. There was loose overlays and manuals, boxed and loose games, handhelds and marquees for sale. About the only thing I did not see alot of was memorbilia (which I am a big collector of).
About the only negatives of the show was how crowded it was. While it was great that there were so many gamers, it also made for traffic jams. It was a monumental feat to get from one side of the room to the other and it was near impossible to walk five feet without having to stop and wait for someone to move. But considering the totally unexpected growth in attendance, you could not fault anyone for this. This was especially a problem because so many people waited to the day of the show to buy tickets (they had over 100 walk ups), so there was no way to prepare for this on such short order. But I must say that everyone was very polite and while they were crammed like sardines, there was no grumbling and everyone did their best to help each other out.
I do have a complaint with David Newman. My table placement was terrible! I think David has a thing against me. He takes a tabletop collector like myself and puts me across from Michael Roberts, (man am I envious) who has the biggest, most impressive collection of tabletops ever assembled (at least that I have ever seen). You may think that is a positive, but the catch was that none of the tabletops were for sale. So I had to sit there all day and drool over these items, knowing that no matter how much money I made, I could not spend it at that table. Talk about a living hell. Where is the humanity? Probably for the best. If the games were for sale, I would have left with no money and had to panhandle for gas money to get back home.
All in all, it was an incredible show! I was able to meet many collectors for the first time. Plus, I was able to sit down and talk with some people that I have met in the past. My only regrets is that I didn't bring more help, so I could get out from behind the table and actually get into a tournament or two. I am also bummed that by the time I was able to get over to Curt Vendel's table, almost all his marquees were sold. I was only able to get a beat up Centipede marquee, one that I have wanted for awhile. But all in all, I really enjoyed the show and barring any major crises, I plan on returning next year!
Check out the Phillyclassic
website for a huge stack of pictures.
(Pictures in the article were shot by Joel Park and John Dondzila).
It's that time of the year again! The days are longer, the sun is warm and inviting, people are out and about, and the smell of freshly-cut grass is in the air. To classic video game fans it can only mean one thing - staying inside and digging out your old baseball games. It's time to return to the glory days when baseball games were both easy to play AND fun. This article contains my reviews of baseball games for the Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, Atari 5200, and Odyssey 2. If you want to see the rest of my baseball reviews (all the way up to the Playstation 2), check out my web site: The Video Game Critic at www.videogamecritic.net.
NOTE: These grades mainly reflect how the games measure up to other titles on the same system.
World Championship Baseball (Intellivision) A-
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200) A
Super Baseball (Atari 2600) F
Pete Rose Baseball (Atari 2600) A-
For those of you who love adventure games, for you to truly appreciate them, you must look at the origin of this genre.
After getting to know Aaron, and contributing to his home page with some Atari 8 bit reviews, I convinced him that it would be good to tell the RT readers about how he collects video games in New Zealand. He could have written his own article, but preferred to have the RT staff guide him, via an interview. We'll do this in three parts, and maybe I'll help Aaron with a follow-up article on the Sega SC3000 if you the readers request it.
RT: Tell us about the New Zealand arcade game machines, were they imported from Australia, Japan, US?
NZ: Can't really answer this question fully, as I didn't take note of the physical details on the machines back in the day. But I think out machines were European type releases, via Australia, and the occasional Japanese release of the popular games.
RT: What kind of arcades did you have, and any other locations that had video game machines?
NZ: Each City had it's own 'big' Arcade, maybe 30 to 50 machines at any one time. And arcade machines could always be found in the Bowling alleys, indoor skating rinks, Takeaway Food Bars, and Dairy's (milkbars?). Games like Ms Pacman, Time Pilot, Galaga, Galaxian, etc were the more common ones in the small stores. And the arcades seemed to have a good selection of new, and old games.
The Big Arcades have all but disappeared (circa '93), and have now been replaced in almost every Town/City by 'Time Out' mini arcades, which have mainly racing games (sega rally, etc), with a few beat em ups, and a couple of puzzlers (BAM4+), and quite a few Pinball machines, a several of those stupid mechanical games of skill, like mini basketball, and whack a hamster, etc.
These Time Outs are everywhere now, in Malls, at Service (gas) Stations, Fast Food takeaway bars etc... In the mid 80's when arcades were 'big', pinball machines pretty much disappeared. But now, they are in all the mini-arcades 'Time-outs' with up to 8 pinball machines per arcade. Also, it's more common now to see pinball machines at Bowling alleys, Takeaway Food stores, etc.
RT: What Pong systems and early handheld games were sold there, and have you seen any recently?
NZ: I don't think that w got any of the early Atari or Coleco Pongs, but did get ones by Haminex, & Binatone. I remember playing tennis on a friends Pong system a long time ago, but I also remember feeling disappointed, as it didn't compare with my Fountain (video game system) at the time. [More about the Fountain Videogame system next month]. Obviously, the Pongs were first, but I hadn't seen one before this one ('82?) Pong's still turn up from time to time, mainly at the Car boot & garage sales. But quite often, they don't sell, thus I guess they get thrown out after the sale. I don't collect Pongs, so unless it's really cheap, I don't pick them up. I've found in the past, that they are really hard to trade overseas as nobody seems to want a PAL Pong.
RT: Where do you look to find classic home video games, computer games and their systems?
NZ: Garage Sales - Primarily Saturday mornings from 7am to 10:30ish. These are the places to get the cheap stuff, but quite often the condition isn't very good. 2600, 7800, Nintendo G&W's, Other Handhelds, SMS, NES, are all possible finds. Always Cheap, but you may have to hit 20+ garage sales before you hit something good
Car Boot Sales - Saturday/Sunday, same sort of things as you'd find at garage sales, but usually stuff is in a better condition for some reason. Always Cheap.
Thift Shops - Sell primarily Clothes, shoes, old crusty books, etc. If you find any Video Game stuff at these, you're extremely lucky. I've never found any good stuff at these, except a "How to Win @ Pac-Man" type book. Thus I rarely look now. Cheap, but nothing to buy!
Pawn Shops - Mainly deal with stereos, TV's etc. Not very often you find stuff at these, but occasionally you may find some of the recent consoles, like Playstations, N64's etc. Prices are usually high.
Second Hand Shops - Mainly deal with Furniture, and large items. But you can occasionally find old Computers, like Amigas, Atari's etc. An exception to this rule is the 'Cash Convertor' chain. Which falls under this category and the pawn shop category. They sell all electrical appliances etc, and always have a selection of Console/PC stuff. They don't like old computer gear, thus Atari stuff rarely appears here, but SMS($1US/$8US), NES($1US/$14US), SNES($2.20US/$14US), Megadrive($2.20US/$14US), N64($12US/$40US),
Playstation($13US/$55US), Dreamcast games/consoles($30US/$89US), are always available. (prices are an average for Games/Consoles for my region). As the margins for profit are nearly gone for games for the SMS & NES, I wouldn't be surprised if they stopped taking in these two soon. I once picked up a 2600 with a computermate keyboard for $4US. This is the exception to the rule. Game & watches turn up at these stores from time to time, usually at around $3US or $5US. But these go within the same day they are put out, thus I rarely see them. I just hear about them from sales staff! Occasionally Atari Lynx shows up at here too.
The other places to get classic stuff is adverts in the classified papers or local Newsgroups.
RT: Ah. No Funcoland yet.
RT: Does there appear to be much competition - dealers, or ebay types who will resell for lots more, or just other collectors like yourself - out there looking?
NZ: Mainly collectors, although I do know of several people that will buy stuff, and ebay it, mostly without knowing what it's worth. And quite often, their auctions don't meet reserve. In saying that, myself, and a few other collectors have put things up on ebay, that we know will sell. Not to make 'loads' of money, but just to finance our habit as it were. More money to spend on those elusive US items. ;-)
It's not as easy to start selling from NZ either, due to the methods of payment available. I used to use Paypal, but as they don't allow payments to be credited to our CC's anymore, I've had to resort to Cash only (sent registered mail) and money orders attract a $13US fee to cash here, thus, when someone is buying a $10 US item, they aren't going to want to spend a extra $13 US to cover fees at this end, not to mention shipping.
RT: Come back next month for part 2, classic home video game systems and later part 3, home computer systems and beyond in New Zealand.
(Aaron Wheeler can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his home page "Holmes Atari 8bit Games" @ http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/atari/ . Alan Hewston can be reached at email@example.com)
Life would be a lot simpler, both in terms of compatibility and standards, if all the world used the same electrical supply and television system. But they don't. In the US, Canada, Japan and other places, the NTSC (or Never Twice Same Colour as I was once told it meant) system is in operation, whereas in Europe, Australia and related Commonwealth places, the PAL (Phase Alternating Line) system is used. And this can cause problems whenever items designed for use with one system are used by the other. This article takes a quick look at the differences and problems that can be encountered from the perspective of the Commodore 64, but some points are relevant for any global retro collector.
Besides the television standard, there are two other differences between the two "territories" mentioned above. One is the electrical system, being of 110v and 60Hz in NTSC land and 220v and 50Hz in PAL land (with a few exceptions such as the UK which runs 240v). The other is the number of scan lines displayed on the screen, ranging from 525 (for NTSC) in the US to 625 (for PAL) in the UK. This is not significant in our case here, but anyone in Europe who had ever imported a foreign game for say the SNES, and played it on a PAL machine will remember the black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. This is due to the picture being optimised for 525 lines and PAL sets must fill the missing 100 lines with something!
The first thing to consider is that any machine running with the NTSC standard will be operating 17% faster than those running on the PAL standard. This is however not due to the frequency of the power supply, but due to some of the frequency constants and scan line calculations within the componants of the computer itself. This would generally apply to any machine comparison between the US and the UK. In the Commodore 64's case, this means that the computer is operating at just over 1Mhz in the US, and just under 1Mhz in the UK. This can cause problems if there is any portion of code used which ties itself into how fast the machine itself is running.
For the C64, there are actually differences between the machines sold in the US and UK. For a start, the graphics chip (VIC) is a different model number, to cope with the NTSC and PAL variations. Secondly the crystal within the machine runs at a different frequency as this is used to determine various other factors associated with picture generation, especially the colour. This can actually be applied to a number of other electrical items, including modern VCRs and DVD players. Finally there is a jumper to tell the machine whether it is an NTSC or PAL machine! Converting a machine from one standard to the other can be a tricky task, and not usually recommended.
So why precisely do some C64 games from one area work perfectly fine in the other, and others do not? At times this can be hard to figure out. Timing issues do seem to play a major part in this though. Whilst the main CPU may run at a different frequency within an NTSC or PAL C64, the floppy processor runs at the same frequency regardless. Some fast loaders used on disc games actually try to synchronise both of these frequencies together but only every 1 bit in 8. This can be fatal when trying to load a game in the other area as the loader will be expecting the data at a different speed to that the disc drive is giving it. Other reasons may be due to the different graphics chip used within the C64. Games published by the company Ocean are well known for having problems in NTSC countries due the graphical tricks and routines that are employed within that rely on raster and scan line calculations. An example is certain splitting tricks whose "side effects" can be hidden by pushing them outside the area of visible screen. However NTSC screens have less raster lines and if a PAL written program tries to utilise an area unknown to the NTSC machine, then problems will occur. They must be updated or fixed before being released elsewhere.
For PAL owners, what companies should you look out for and/or avoid? Origin and SSI are usually very compatible, and Electronic Arts are reasonably good as well. Accolade and Cinemaware should be avoided as very few US releases will work properly in Europe. In the other direction, whilst Ocean games can be hit or miss, all their cartridge releases seem to work fine in the US (despite having "PAL only" labels). In fact cartridges seem to be one format that compatibility problems never seem to affect. Anyone else care to share their NTSC or PAL experiences?
(Mat Allen is still looking for C64 cartridges from anywhere in the world, loose or boxed, to add to the 150+ obtained so far. He can be reached at Matthew.Allen@compaq.com. His website can be viewed at http://www.geocities.com/MayhemNaboo/ where you will find a range of articles, downloads, features and scans from his C64 travels).
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?---Steven Wright
A little clutter here. A little clutter there. It all adds up.
Here’s what’s going on. I’m getting ready for the Philly Classic Show on April 21st. By the time most of you read this, I’ll either be there or it will be over. If you missed it, you’d better have a written excuse signed by your doctor AND your mother. Anyhow, I decided a few months ago to split a table with a friend of mine. I didn’t know what I was going to take. I hadn’t really thought about it. The tables are now sold out. Over the last few weeks, when time allows, I’ve been going over the things that I have available for sale or trade that I’d like to take to the show. There are boxes in the basement. There are boxes in the game room. There are stacks in my office. In the attic. Heck, there are probably things I could get rid of at the show that are under my bed.
Where did all this stuff come from ?
If you read last month’s issue, you know I got a lot of stuff from the closing video store. But there is a lot of things that are extras that I forgot I had until now.
Extra Vectrex cartridges. Shrinkwrapped Intellivision games. Sega Master games. Who bought this stuff ?
Umm. I guess I did.
The good news is, I’ll have some stuff for sale and/or trade at the show. There are only a few things I’m actively looking for, so I’ll be selling if someone is buying.
The bad news is, I’m still going to have a lot of stuff left over when I get home. I’ll consider my visit to the show a success if I come home with less than I left with.
But I’ve got to clear some of this stuff out of here.
I guess it’s time I started selling some things online. Look for me on ebay sometime next month.
(Fred has been playing games for over 25 years and actively collecting them for over 10. The 2500 + 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 5 year-old, button-loving son, Max and his 1 year old, 4th player, Lynzie. The jury is still out on last month’s trial, but a majority is leaning towards guilty. Fred can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
In 1983, Bally Midway introduced Jr. Pac-Man as the seventh Pac-Man game to date. For classic gamers (or maybe just me), this may be the third most famous variation, of course, after Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. The video game crash of 1984 probably hurt it's chances of being a big success, both at the arcades, and at home - as Atari never bothered to released the all-but-finished 5200 and 8 bit versions. The only thing apparently missing are the intermissions (chase scenes) between some levels.
As the son of Pac-Man, Junior dons a spinning propeller beanie and like-father-like-son is trapped in a maze being pursued by the ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Tim (looks just like Clyde). You now have 6 energizer pills, and you'll need them because of the unique challenges added to the Jr. Pac-Man mazes. Basically, the maze is now twice as big as the screen! and the bonus prizes create problems wherever they go, culminating in the potential elimination of a power pill. The exit tunnel has also been removed (no loss there).
A set of 7 new prizes introduced for Junior, (in increasing point value) are a tricycle, kite, drum, balloon, train, kitten, and beer glass. I believe the glass remains for the duration. The prizes now create a trail, as any dots they contact transform into super dots. These are worth 5 times the point value, but just as the dots slow you down from full speed, these super dots really slow Jr. Pac-Man down. This is often deadly, but fortunately, the Super Dots all disappear if you do loose a life. The prizes bounce around the screen (just like in Ms. Pac-Man), but not in a preset path (pattern). In fact, in addition to their randomness, the prizes are actually heading for the energizer pills (and sometimes they almost head right for them). The prizes continue to show up after so many dots have gone, but no prize enters after all the power pills are gone, at which point a prize already bouncing around now appears to head towards you. When a prize touches a power pill, both are destroyed in an explosion, and of course, if this is off-screen, the action is put on hold - so that you can see and hear it for yourself. Talk about kicking you when you are down.
Because the maze is twice as big, only half is visible on the screen. Junior remains on screen at all times, but the action scrolls left and right, following Junior, to display the entire maze. Thus one quarter of each maze is to the left and one quarter is to the right of the center section. The scrolling really adds to the challenge - not only might you forget what dots you need to eat, but you do not know where all the ghosts are at, until you find out that one is coming right at you from off the screen. Also like Ms. Pac-Man, each of the 7 levels is a unique maze, which are then randomly selected for levels 8 and up. Levels 6 and 7 only have 4 power pills.
Arcade Game Designed in 1983 by Bally Midway
Classic Platforms: Atari 2600 ('86) & Commodore 64 ('88? Andrew Davie, Thunder Mountain) , plus the unreleased versions ('84) on the Atari 5200 & Atari 8-bit.
Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls
Have Nots: Atari 5200 (38)
Bronze Medal: Commodore 64
Despite the poor translation of the Gameplay, from the arcade, the intermission screens were included in precise detail. Too bad the scenes "They Meet", "The Gift" and "They Escape" are all titled the same "They Escape". Dooh! There is a pause feature added, two-player option, and choice of which of the 7 different starting levels (mazes), including the correct sequence of prizes - but that's about all that it has going for it. A bug in the code allows a prize to be passed through, so I was a bit harsh and scored the Gameplay as fair (5). The Graphics and Sound are superb (9), the best at home. The Controls are excellent (10). The C64 version is only available on disk, and since I just traded away my only original, you can understand why I only gave the Addictiveness a (6) - it's a decent game, nothing more.
Silver Medal: Atari 2600 (40)
Gold Medal: Atari 8 bit (43)
(Come back next month when I plan to review the many faces of Mario Brothers aka Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, Apple II and Commodore 64. Alan Hewston can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net)
Time to answer your questions, to help the classic gamers and to do my best to keep the average gamer informed.
I have an Atari 5200, but the joysticks suck. Is there any option or should I sell the system? Help! signed frustrated 5200 player
I can sympathize with you as the controllers are terrible. This is too bad as the games for the system are very good and it has one of the best libraries of classic games that are fun to play!
You do have some options, but none of them are very affordable. There are third party controllers, including the Wico and the Competition Pro joysticks. But each one will cost you a minimum of $20.00 and you need a 5200 controller to play them (you use the 5200 controller to choose the game level).
The other choice is the most desirable, but also the most expensive. A little item called the Masterplay Interface, which allows you to use 2600 controllers on your 5200. A great item, but it will set you back a minimum of $50.00 and may cost as much as $200.00! A boxed one was auctioned at Phillyclassic for $60.00, but they have gone as high as $200.00 on ebay. But they are worth either price!
I have some Atari games, can you tell me how much they are worth? signed looking for some info
I can do better than that! Go to the following website: http://www.digitpress.com and order a Digital Press price guide. It will give you the prices for all classic games from Atari to Coleco to Intellivision!
You have a very errr...unique last name, how is it pronounced?
You want me to give away my secret to knowing if a telemarketer is calling? Anyway, it is pronounced "Zayba", the "j" is silent and the first "a" is long. By the way, if any of our European readers know the meaning of the name (Zjaba), please let me know. I was once told that my last name meant "frog" in another language, but I am not sure if that is true or not. Any help would be appreciated.
I would first like to thank all of the kind people who have been sending me email in regards to the previous articles, especially from those whom I haven’t heard from in a very long time. Best to you folks in all the TI projects you are doing!
Like as I had mentioned in the previous article, the TI 99/4A Home Computer also had several very familiar chips that made up it’s design. The three chips we will examine are the VDP(TMS9918A), the sound generator(TMS9919), and the speech synthesizer(TMS5200)
The TMS9918A VDP was a very successful chip, outside of TI. The Colecovison/Adam used it, and so did the first generation MSX machines. The Tomy Tutor used one as well. I have heard that there was a possibility of actually chaining two or more of these chips together. I have never seen this myself, but if anyone reading these articles has, please send me email with the details.
From a first look, the 9918A is indeed very powerful for it’s time. 16K of separate video memory, 32 hardware sprites, and the ability for automatic sprite motions, and several different video modes. It was very versatile, and indeed, a couple of “in-between” video modes can be done with this chip; i.e. the “half-bitmap” mode.
Later models of this VDP, carried on by Yamaha for the MSX 2 and MSX2+ line, had even more features, including the much needed 80 column modes, and other higher resolutions.
The 9918A had a total resolution of 256 x 192 pixels. 16 colors total, with each mode having limits on the colors available. Bit map was obviously the big improvement from the older 9918. I have never messed with bit map myself in my TI assembly programming, but it is not true x-y coordinates. One of the great things about TI is they often told us about things we couldn’t do, such as having automatic sprite motions in bit map! Parsec makes this argument mote! And in an article to the 99er magazine, the author of Parsec says just how they did it!
The problem with bit map is that it takes up 12K in video memory for each screen, so not much else is left over! But fortunately, the sprite data and such didn’t take up too much space anyway!
The mode most of us are familiar with is graphics mode, the 32 x 24 display. This allowed the full 16 colors. In addition, the characters in the display were a 8 x 8 matrix, and you could redesign them anyway you wished. You had a total of 256 to work with! This is a fun mode to play with, and even a limited pixel-graphics can be done. This is where your characters form a large matrix, and the computer then redefines the display, and it appears that you have bit map, in one color. You are limited to the total amount of characters in the matrix. TI Logo used this, in it’s Turtle Graphics. And too much detail left you a “ran out of ink” error! Sprites were able to be used in this mode too.
Multi-color mode is another feature of this chip. The screen is divided into a 64 x 48 display, with each display in a 4 x 4 box. Sprites are also able to be used in this mode.
Text mode is what all of us who have ever used the Editor of the Editor/Assembler, TI Writer/Funnelweb/or any other 40 column text editor, mini-memory and the line-by-line assembler, or the Infocom games. This is a 40 x 24 display, with only two colors allowed, with all characters the same color. The characters are in a 6 x 8 matrix. They say sprites can't be used, however, the utility for XB known as “The Missing Link” proves otherwise.
That is the four known modes of the TMS 9918A. Other modes not documented are the half bit map modes, in which either the top 1/3 screen is bit map, and the rest text, or the top 2/3 screen is bit map, and the rest text. It allows for some unusual color combinations. The only thing I have never seen in the 9918A is an interlace mode, perhaps the MSX crowd would like to prove me wrong in this!
The TMS 9918A also had Sprites, 32 of them. And this was probably the biggest selling feature of this chip for use in computers and videogame consoles. You could have 1,2,3 and 4 magnification modes for the sprites. A total of 32 pixels for each sprite, 4 characters total. While one color, you could overlap the sprites to get mulit-colored detail. You could have them moved in two ways, moved pixel by pixel, or in automatic mode.
I remember many a sprite project in assembly language, let alone XB! Once I learned how to access them. The best book for accessing the screen modes, sprites, sounds, and input, was the Compute! Book-“Assembly Language on the TI 99/4A” I even came up with a hovertank sprite being moved by the joystick, and responding to the fire button!
The TMS9918A also had a very futuristic, yet hardly ever used, mode. One of the bitplanes was transparent, and would allow direct video to be input into the chip! TI’s Video Controller used this feature. You could mix live video, control each of the VCR’s frames, and graphics all at once!
The next chip is the sound chip. Probably one of the most well-known, and used(or abused) sound chips out there. The TMS 9919 can generate up to three tones, and one noise simultaneously! You may know this chip in other systems with a different number identification. The MSX systems used it, the Colecovison/Adam used it, Tomy again, the Atari ST line(and also as a floppy controller), and probably quite a few other systems I haven’t heard of. It was very flexible, and even would allow digitized speech and other sounds to be done. This was also done on the TI, but with limited memory, the sampling rate and size couldn’t be too great.
The final chip is the TMS 5200 speech synthesizer. While not on the TI 99/4A motherboard itself, a version was on the 99/8 motherboard, this chip was very innovative, and deserves mention. Because when you mention the TI 99/4A, many people will remember the Speech Synthesizer. TI basically recreated the human vocal tract with this chip. While you had a limited ROM set of known words to have spoken, I might add that “Texas Instruments” always came out very clear and concise, you could play around and really expand the vocabulary. TI had planned modules to fit into the Speech Synthesizer, but these were canceled by TI. TI used a method known as Linear Predictive Coding, LPC, to achieve such a high quality of speech output. And, one game in particular had a female’s voice digitized, then the LPC coding done in assembly, that game being Parsec. The arcade game Star Wars, by Atari, used the TMS 5220, which was the 99/8 speech chip as well.
A combination of known chips, and some relatively unknown processor chips, with the GROMS and GPL, made the TI 99/4A a rather unique computer. Had TI made the 99/4A much easier to program in assembly, with a cheaper expansion system, they would have done much better. But, that is another story, as TI did have different prototypes of Home Computer clones being worked on.
(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., and my particular product line that I work on is the Source Measure Unit(SMU) models 236,237, and 238. I have a 20 month old son, his name is Treyton. I enjoy retrogaming and things that go with that. : ) My email address: email@example.com)
This time, I am going to list two of the earliest sites that I frequented when I began on the internet, back in 1994. Good to see that both of them are still up.
Steve R's Classic Carts
Besides carts for sale, the site features overlays and manuals that you can view. There is also the rarity lists that cover most systems. Plus, he has a virtual arcade, complete with a Colecovision emulator. So you can go in and load your favorite Colecovision game and play it right there on his site! Cannot ask for a better way to try a game before you buy it! You can visit his site at the following URL:
Sean Kelly's Home
While there is alot on his site, what Sean is most famous for (besides being part of the CGE team and writing for Digital Press), is his Multicarts. With multicarts for the Atari 2600, 5200 and Vectrex, these are a great way to play alot of games, without all the hunting for games. His Vectrex and 5200 multicarts have almost every game released on them, as well as some prototypes and homebrews!
Another great item on his page is the Digital Press CD, which is a must have for all classic game fans! Many of the screen shots you see in this newsletter, come from the Digital Press CD. The price is only $12.00 and is a bargain at that price! You can find these items and alot more at the following URL:
While I had very little time to go around at the Phillyclassic, I have been to enough shows to know how to make the job of running a table at a show, a pleasant experience. So here are some tips for anyone who plans on setting up a table at any of the upcoming shows:
1. Put your carts in order-Nothing makes it easier for your customers and yourself than organization. The best way to do this is to put all your carts together by model (aka - all the Atari 2600 games together, all the Coleco games, etc...). Then go and put all of them in alphabetical order. This will make finding a certain cart a very simple task.
2. Either Price or Have Prices Ready-While it may be quite a bit work to price all your games (I did it and it nearly killed me), you may want to make up price lists and print them off. You can keep these behind the table for when someone asks how much a certain game is. Nothing wastes time like trying to thumb through the Digital Press guide, while other customers wait.
3. Bring Bags-If your prices or trades are reasonable, you will sell or trade alot of stuff and it is just polite to offer a bag for the person. So collect all those grocery bags and put them aside. This way you can offer a bag to your customers.
4. Make a Want List-If you are a collector (and we all are of some sorts), then you should have a want list. Bring it along and this way you can know whether or not that "Beany Bopper" someone is trying to trade you is a cart you need. Also, bring along a pen, so you can mark off the games you have picked up.
5. Print business cards or flyers-If you have a website or are looking for certain things, it pays to advertise. Make up a quick flyer with your email address and what systems you collect and hand them out. This way people can get in touch and you may be able to make some great trades. It doesn't cost much and it can really help.
6. Variety is the Spice of Life-Don't be afraid to bring those odd games you have. Remember that everyone will have Atari 2600 games, but how many will have Channel F or Emerson Arcadia? Even the newer games do well, so pull out your unwanted Super Nes and Playstation games and bring them. You just may be able to trade them for some older games you wanted.
7. Bring lots of change-Do your carts have odd prices ($1.50, $1.75, etc...)? Are you ready for when the first few people come up with a $20.00 bill and buy a $2.00 cart? Think ahead and bring a stack of change and you should be allright. Here is my general rule for change:
1 roll of quarters
It may seem like alot, but you can mix your own spending money in it. Trust me, other dealers will be happy when you pay in smaller bills.
Hopefully these tips will help out. While there is alot more I can tell you (like if you are selling handhelds, bring batteries so the customers can test them), this should be enough to make your experience an enjoyable one.
Time to end another issue. I apologize for the delay, but I had a ton of stuff to get ready for Phillyclassic. It turned out that my efforts were rewarded, as I had a great show! Now comes the task of getting my website updated. Tune in next month for more classic gaming info and thanks for your support!
(This issue was done while listening to a variety of music, including the Grateful Dead, Carly Simon and Clarence Carter).
(Pictures provided by the Digital Press CD, the best deal in classic games. To get your copy, go to the following website: http://home.xnet.com/~skelly/).