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dgrubb

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Everything posted by dgrubb

  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.
  14. I actually really love the design of the console and their branding artwork. I don't know why, but this opinion really offends some people (admittedly, on somewhat rowdier forums than this one).
  15. Shame about the big RF shield inhibiting the view of the motherboard, because this is damn sexy otherwise: https://www.rosecoloredgaming.com/shop/snes-reimagined/
  16. Fixed link: https://www.amazon.com/NOVPEAK-Warranty-Converter-Composite-Blue-Ray/dp/B01N0HGKD2?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q But no, CrossBow pretty effectively summed up your options, of which modding is probably actually the option which will be cheapest and leave you with the best quality image at the end of it:
  17. dgrubb

    Soldering

    The topic of soldering has come up a fair bit recently so I thought it'd be helpful to share this playlist of soldering tutorials from EEVblog. I found them useful when I first started doing a lot of solder work on a regular basis: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2862BF3631A5C1AA
  18. The campaign has finished and is fully funded! Thank you to everybody who pledged and, also, to everybody who didn't pledge but nonetheless were very supportive of the project.
  19. Dab a small bit of flux onto your braid. You're essentially trying to create the same effect as when you solder to pads, but in the reverse direction. I use hot air a lot because, for most tasks, you don't need a terribly good unit and can get away with doing decent work with something cheap. I got one for work where I needed to do some SMD rework for ~$40. At that price I'm just going to use it until destruction and replace with something similar if the need arises again. N.B., I thought those suckers were a great idea until I had to actually do a lot of removal. It's handy for removing large amounts from some awkward spots, but it doesn't seem to really do much better than a bit of braid.
  20. Nice! What model did you pick up?
  21. I was a big Amiga fan in the late 90s, right after Commodore imploded and PCs took over the world entirely. As this was prior to the retro-scene explosion old Amiga kit was perceived as worthless and very easy to find at car boot sales, junk shops and the like for next to nothing. Consequently, I was able to get my hands on a bunch of 500s, 500+s, a 600 and a 1200 (sadly, sold off when I moved to the US). Stunning machines, even back then. True pre-emptive multitasking OS on a consumer mid-80s machine was practically unheard of, for instance. My favourites, in no particular order: Syndicate Civilization Worms Zool Ruff N' Tumble Elite (and its sequel, Frontier) Alien Breed Secret of Monkey Island II Beneath a Steel Sky Historyline
  22. I usually keep mine at around 350C, and even that may be a little high for the older solder alloys used in the late-70s. This is sound advice, especially with the anxiety this has been causing you recently.
  23. Yes! At work I'm right in the middle of producing a small batch of our upcoming product for a customer pilot and you wouldn't believe the issues we're having with static. Even just leaving exposed boards out on a table is a bad idea as the AC is pushing dry air around them. I've had to order special anti-static storage bags to house the boards until the cases arrive.
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