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dgrubb

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dgrubb last won the day on November 26 2017

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  • Birthday 06/26/1986

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  1. Yeah, this is definitely a problem, and it's not one unique to Jaguar either. I have the utmost respect for emulator developers because it requires such a unique cross-section of skills: the ability to write good code, a deep understanding of the hardware (including its buggy and undocumented behaviour, of which the Jaguar is a particular culprit), and the free time to devote to, sadly thankless, large projects. The brightside is that the gains from improving software don't go away, so the emulators will only ever get better and more accurate.
  2. Very nice! I've always felt re-implementing the TIA would make a great undergrad project, considering it largely boils down to repeatable clock and latch stages which are very easy to handle in modern design tools. I can only imagine what Jay Miner would have come up with if he had access to today's synthesis tooling.
  3. That put me off a lot of really great stuff for years. I enjoy a lot of 8 and 16-bit era platformers but it seemed like so much time and work to make any progress, just to have it scrubbed at the end of each play. Those games didn't become viable for me until emulation allowed save states. I really begrudged the first PlayStation back in the day. At the time I perceived it as a force for corporate power overwhelming creativity, where Sony were using their massive resources to swamp a market and drive out a lot of innovative players. At the same time wider consolidation in the industry meant many smaller game developers were being bought out, home micro-computers stopped being viable platforms, bad/early 3D muscled out really great 2D styled games and the rising cost of development led to commercially safe games being the ones which received the funding and marketing attention. Basically, I blamed Sony for all the problems of the modern gaming industry by starting those trends. In retrospect I was being very unfair, especially now I know a lot more about the internal management problems at Atari, Sega and Commodore. Now I'm revisiting the library a little bit and am discovering just how good the port of Doom was, and how good Symphony of The Night is, for instance, I can't attribute the console's success to corporate bullying. There's a lot there which earned success. The economics are definitely in the collectors' favour. Running for so many years, selling so many units, and getting such good developer support has resulted in a flooded second-hand market.
  4. ????? Name a single Atari console or computer that wasn't based around a 6502-derivative or 68000. The closest you'll get is the Jaguar. EDIT: You could argue the Transputer workstation, which was an amazing experiment, but I'm not sure that counts as it was canceled immediately.
  5. Similar to the Tetris effect which has had the benefit of being clinically studied, perhaps? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris_effect#Place_in_cognition
  6. A common sentiment found among retro-computing enthusiasts is that there's nothing quite like the real thing. It's understandable, computers and game consoles (i.e., computers disguised as toys and appliances) are physical items and our happy nostalgic memories are complimented by recollections of touch and heft: the feedback of button clicks, shunting cartridges into slots, and so on. However, there's a particular aficionado - we've all met him, he's a member of every fan group and forum - whose affection for real hardware gives way to an unpleasant snobbery. A "true fan" would never emulate, he says, implying that a gaming community is only a place for those with disposable income, space, and a nihilistic acceptance that the platform will die with the original hardware. I'm certainly not arguing against the value of hardware and experiences which come with it, we're all in agreement of its importance, but I do insist that emulation is also a first class citizen without which a platform has no future. Ashes to hardware ashes Take the Atari Jaguar; fewer than 250,000 are known to have been produced, with even fewer numbers of accessories such as CD-ROM drives. Of that number a great deal will have been owned by people with no interest in preservation. Many Jaguars have likely been dumped in the trash along with an avalanche of VCRs. Of the survivors many will suffer electrical faults due to old-age (the dreaded open-circuit capacitor problem). Many more will simply be damaged in accidents. This is already a serious problem for CD-ROM units which were produced in much smaller numbers than the console itself and are notoriously failure prone - although, arguably, no more so than other CD-ROM drives from the time. Taking the long view there will be a time when, for most people, original hardware will no longer be a viable way to access the content produced for the platform! New developments This is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of emulation. New content is vital for a platform and emulation is key to lowering the barrier in producing new content. In the late 70s it took highly skilled programmers with excellent design sense (a very select cross-section of personality) months to produce new games for the Atari 2600 using mainframe computers costing thousands of dollars. Today, a cheap PC with the Stella emulator, which includes an excellent debugger and the ability to step through program execution and inspect the emulated Atari's emulated state. Imagine what those original Atari and Activision programmers could have achieved in an afternoon with such capabilities! Imagine what today's programmers, of all kinds of skill levels, can achieve! A more thoughtful perspective I highly recommend that anybody with an interest in retro-gaming listen to Frank Cifaldi's GDC talk on the subject of emulation. It's witty, thought-provoking and quite brilliant. There's a lot to unpack, but in under an hour he touches on numerous relevant subjects such as preservation, the ethics of piracy, and how emulation can be leveraged in the most positive (and commercial!) ways:
  7. I have a little way to go before getting to the big 5-0, but the last decade of aging has had a huge effect on my gaming experiences. Specifically, I got married, started a real career and had children so the time involved in a game has become a huge consideration. I'd love to play through Symphony of The Night, for instance, but there's no way I'll make any reasonable progress in the small amounts of free time I can snatch! A'yup. It's mostly the reason why I find retro-computing/gaming far more interesting.
  8. Reverse engineering has always been legal, even of a competitor's product! Most of the pitfalls actually involve potentially violating copyright rather than the reverse engineering itself. See Compaq reversing the IBM BIOS chip (who did it the right way) and Atari vs Nintendo (who did it the wrong way, by deceiving the USPTO). There's a really great chapter on the subject in: https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Xbox-Introduction-Reverse-Engineering/dp/1593270291
  9. The Jr. is interesting because it exemplifies how elegant and minimalist the original 2600 design was. Typically, when companies release successor consoles ("slim" versions and whatnot) they achieve a lower price point by knocking the bill-of-materials cost down through merging ASICs and simplifying the circuitry. If you look at the schematics and PCB layout for both the original and the Jr. they're still, largely, identical (not that there's much to merge together when you only have three ICs, mind). All the cost savings are achieved through industrial design and the natural gains of a decade of chip manufacturing optimisation.
  10. The Spectrum community have produced exactly that: https://www.specnext.com/about/
  11. Sounds great. Thank you to everybody whose hard work keeps this site up and running for us all to enjoy!
  12. The difference being it was Atari's own engineer who plainly said it's not ready yet, the antithesis of the Chameleon's faked prototypes and subterfuge.
  13. I'm not entirely sure the comparisons to Coleco Chameleon are warranted. This may well end up being a flop or a complete waste of time, but unlike the Chameleon everything that's been announced (streaming, emulation and Minecraft-level games) is realistic for a small team to accomplish using off-the-shelf components (Linux on a low-end Intel device with an AMD GPU). There's no large scale custom FPGA work to do, for instance. I can at least see the path to actually building something. Whether what they build will be desirable to Atari fans or a new customer base remains to be seen, but that's an entirely different issue than faked up prototypes obscured with electrical tape.
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