Waiting for delivery!
Blog Entries posted by Clint Thompson
So I just got this proof image back from a special someone someone working on a special something something! =)
Waiting for delivery!
I've been in the hardware bug lately and can joyfully claim taking ownership of an amazing new (to me) keyboard:
The Roland S-50
It fascinates me, this once $2,695 sampling keyboard released in 1986 (a solid era for the Atari ST computers!), can now be found for as little as $100 in 2016. This thing is an absolute monster and definitely doesn't come without its own set of quirks. Just under 24-hours ago was this beast delivered to my doorstep but I powered it up and checked it's video output to ensure it was functioning as intended - beyond an intermittent display issue which I've yet to resolve - all seems well!
[My personal machine...]
[Look at this lovely bootup screen when attached to a TV monitor!]
[A look at some of the tech under the hood of this monstrosity!]
[Please Insert System Disk!] Compliance!
My next step is to create the actual bootup disk required to rock this thing and see how far I can take this incredible for its age, 30 years to be exact, technology. =)
Purchased my 130XE for $99 many years ago thinking I got a good deal and have only recently had the chance to play some games utilizing the extended memory the 130 is supposed to offer, which is why I decided to get this model after my 800XL keyboard started acting up. Kind of pissed to learn that something is really messed up with it and should have just bought a new one from Best Elec. I can't isolate the problem and don't really want to spend the hours trying to find out and pinpoint the exact issue. I suppose the board is still usable for basic programs that don't require anything above 64kb of RAM but I fear something else is wrong with it. It's not the CPU either because I tried swapping with a different unit with identical results.
I can't even load the RAM test program because it goes absolutely bezerk before fully loading so something is really wonky with the system. Who knows....
Guess I'll just pick up a replacement board.
I've always been pro-hardware and anti-emulation but I'll tell you, when something goes wrong with the hardware and it's an expensive hobby due to the age of said hardware, it makes you want to reconsider at times. Maybe a proper FPGA solution will exist someday.
Diving back into the A8 world and while I have an older sio2pc that uses a serial connector (no access to that on my current laptop setup), it can't be used. I was certain that I would have managed to get a nice Indus GT or XF551 by now but so far, null results. I'm still disappointed by the whole fiasco over my last Indus GT purchase, especially since it had such a nice box. Oh well...
I've officially ordered the SIO2PC USB version so I can put one or both of these machines to use in upcoming weekends and have some competitive gaming nights with the daughter and girlfriend. I'll finally be able to load up some Yoomp! and GTIA Blast! Would really love to see a Cosmic Ark clone on the A8s using the enhanced GTIA mode... that and many more games in general make use of it. Outside of alienating the core 800 base, was there really any reason as to why more games didn't use said mode?
Anyways, order placed and incoming... hopefully come this time next weekend it'll smell like warm 8bit machines in my room!
Really enjoy the translucent plastic used....
As I expand my knowledge and experience in different manufacturing/post application processes, there's always a constant light blinking away in the far distance, almost humming as a reminder. The things I see that are now possible today that wasn't possible 20 or 30 years ago is truly impressive and opens up far more opportunities and options for modifications and customized hardware that just wasn't possible back then.
The bad news is, Atari is dead as a doornail when it comes to releasing new hardware.
The good news is, Atari is dead as a doornail when it comes to releasing new hardware.
My point is, it forces users to make the best and most out of what was given to use as a system. In this particular instance, I'm referring to the Atari 8bit line. If you want to be really specific, the XE line even. My angle is: If Atari could make an Atari XE today, how would they do it? Maybe not so much even how they would do it but what would I, as a user and gamer, want from such a modernized retro gaming computer system. That thought doesn't hurt the brain even a little, does it? ;-)
So, how exactly does one modernize, in the sense of current day releasing of said hardware, an Atari 8bit computer? Where do you start and what is the final, end product? The Atari 8bits are (probably not so arguably because I'm biased ;-) ) the best 80's 8-bit computer of all time. Off the top with what's available: Stereo pokey, 1MB of RAM, mechanical keyboard switches for that proper tactile feedback! what else is there? Internal SIO2SD for storage so you never have to have an external accessory to load the entire library of Atari 800 games? I know what I want to give it that special look and feel in the end but what about you?
What would you want?
Anyways, Atari is and forever will be just a hobby and I doubt this project will ever turn into something that makes much money, if only to cover the costs for making what I want for myself a reality. In the end, maybe a few people will end up with some truly astonishing and cherished Atari 8bits in their hands to have fun with...
Somewhere in an alternate universe, this 3rd party controller exists:
It's 2016 and unfortunately, the Blade Runner scene will become anything but reality and Atari isn't even close to how we could have imagined it some 20-years ago but maybe that's a good thing. Never the less, the dreams and memories continue to live on. The games, artwork, music, design and passion behind so many products and games will forever remain. The best part of it all is the community behind it all. The wide range of hardware and software hackers that continue to adapt these machines into useful modern day gaming systems, not to be left behind or forgotten, is amazing. It's nice to have new hardware or software for our machines and the majority of the people behind any of these projects mostly are in it because they enjoy it.
At some point, I feel any Atari aficionado would have hoped for a better outcome that is Atari and kind of hope to live in a world where futuristic game consoles and computers continue to be developed and released to this day. Atari was always about promising the future, especially in its early years. Sleek, modern designs with never before seen features in consoles and computers, it was always something fascinating to look forward to and in a weird sense, gave many hope and something to look forward to.
Today, I accept Atari for what it is: a childhood past time that I can adapt and bring into the future with me to enjoy, picking and choosing which time period I want to experience again. We can just about purchase any Atari console or computer for mostly reasonable prices and have access to flash carts to load these machines up with some of the best software our minds can remember. We live in a day of age where we can instantly relive our childhood memories in abundance at a fraction of the cost.
I've owned and sold a lot of my Atari collection over the years, downsizing as needed due to space constraints and constant moving. The good news is, I have space again but no longer really need much more than to house the hardware itself. That's not to say there isn't a possibility it won't get out of control but I'm ready to rebuild a core Atari hardware collection so I can enjoy the massive amount of software created over the last 30+ years. Emulation isn't really for me, I'm a purist when it comes to the hardware side of things.
My focus has been the Atari A8 or 800/XE series lately. It's one of the machines that has a ton of great games and is really easy to get into with a proper SIO2PC setup. I've yet to obtain a XF551 or Indus GT drive for my 130XE but am in no rush. Getting good hardware the first time around is important so I'm willing to wait. I've pretty much sourced an Atari Falcon I would like to follow up with next in my collection phase and if any of you spot a really nice STe or have one to sell, please drop me a message. I've got some cool projects going on in the controller department of things and the Jaguar side of things, so this will be the place I post about updates and an inside look when the time comes.
Hopefully the next few years will prove to be fascinating with what comes from this hobby we all share!
Anything is truly possible. Here's to a New Age of Atari -- it's ours for the taking.
Modern rendering capabilities have far exceed beyond imagination of what was possible in the early 90s and I find it interesting to take the idea of using everything currently available and incorporate that into some sort of game for a much older system. In this case, the Atari Jaguar.
After about 3 test renders, I was able to make a few more for a quick idea/view of what's possible and am really excited at the possibilities here.
The renders aren't complete but give you a quick idea of what a 30-45 minute render is capable of. The idea is to use various scenes and models in a somewhat silently being developed or worked on in the background game, Midsummer Dreams. I would love to have 64-characters and an endless amount of scenes but I think the realistic target range will be between 12-16.
On the flipside in regards to music - The Roland JV 1080 synthesizer was one of the well known items used to create the music in the award winning Tempest 2000 soundtrack and I finally have one coming my way, only a slightly better version. The Roland 2080 with up to 8 expansion modules, MIDI controlled by a Roland S50 and ultimately programmed using an Atari STe. Look forward to diving head first into all of that and see what I can come up with for this game. It's all just for fun but it's still a blast to do and is a nice hobby on the side.
That's right... in an unexpected impulse purchase for a very affordable Atari 7800 system, Sally is soon to be shipped and on her way. She's apparently been through some rough times (frayed wires on controllers and power supply, cracked casing) and had a little fixing up but at $30, she's the perfect candidate for what will eventually become my 3D printed Atari projects! Maybe she can even shed a few pounds or gain some modern edges in the process. ;-)
I've got a ton of things waiting to be delivered before I can actually make use of the Roland S50 (TSR patch cables, MIDI cables, floppy disks for samples, etc.) but I did manage to find an original Digitizer Tablet for $75 and now basically have the ultimate Roland S50 setup combination as depicted back in the late 80s! I don't know what it is about this keyboard or how I've managed to go so long in my life without noticing its existence but I'm glad to have landed one and am even more thrilled to be able to finally use it in the coming week or so. While it's a huge step back in terms of performance and limitless options to the Roland Phantom Workstation I once owned in the early millennium, I feel it's definitely more in my realm of enjoyment and can ultimately be used as a glorified MIDI controller.
May have also found a few Atari STe computers to add to my setup so I can MIDI link everything together when the time comes to laying down some tracks and really getting my feet wet in that arena. Going to get a rack mount from Amazon and some other goodies to get my studio jump started so when I move into the new place, I'll be rock solid and ready to go in letting whatever meaningless creativity juices flow into audio form. I'm really wanting to do something Yoomp! soundtrack related at some point because I really love the music in that game! Effects processors and more to come...
Turned out rather decent, no? =D
Red vinyl on black acrylic!
I'm only a few bits away to having what I would consider my ultimate, for the most part, studio setup and I couldn't be much happier! The RolandS50 has proven to be an absolute blast to play with and while loading disks is kind of slow, there's something warming about it. It sounds warm, too! It was pretty awesome to find some Juno and Jupiter sounds make their way to the S50! Still waiting for the draw tablet to arrive but once it gets here, gimmicky or not, it'll be interesting to see what can be done with that.
Scored a Roland VS880EX multi-track recorder that also does real time effects for only $40 which is a steal imo - that fact that I can plug in an electric guitar and it can act as a pedal box for various effects is worth the price of admission alone. The buttons will need to be retrobrited and there's some minor scuffing around the base that I'll likely mask with some sort of carbon covering to bring the entire thing up to speed in the looks department but so far it really seems like quite an elaborate little box that I'll be able to lay down many tracks with and if I ever come up with some truly creative worthy of sharing.
Outside of the STe, which I still haven't found one I'm in love with and will continue to take my time in getting, I've got my eyes on some other tasty Roland gear I hope to add in the near future but I'll have to get and assemble an audio rack for that. I'm not sure why I'm letting all this vintage gear get a hold of me but I'm enjoying every bit of it so far - quirks and all!
Roland this, Roland that. Give me reverb and MIDI stat!
I think it may be possible to come up with some sort of tasty Tempest 2000 soundtrack replications of sorts or maybe even a mashup. Still waiting on a few more bits to be added before I can really dive in but I like it =D
Maybe next year for Midwest Gaming Classic...
As it stands, I'll have:
Tempest 2000 for DOS (PC)
Tempest 2000 for Jaguar
Tempest 3000 for Nuon
Space Giraffe for 360/PC
TxK for PSTV
TxK VR for Oculus DK2
Maybe I can have a table setup dedicated soley to Virtual Light Machine goodness (VLM1, VLM2, Neon) and all the different iterations of Tempest Jeff ever made for the multiple consoles and PCs setup. Too much Tempest? Hopefully not =D
I suppose I could also throw in there a few clones like Typhoon 2001, Tsunami 2010, and maybe Cyclone 2000?
I'll have to have dedicated sound/headphones for each one so people can truly enjoy the music/soundtrack.
Llamasoft on Tour? ;-)
Seeing as how fast it is to create photo realistic renders in about 30 seconds per frame, I figured it would be interesting to attempt a very short animation of a female character, meant for possibly a sidescroller:
... things like this make me think of Donkey Kong Country and just how incredible it was for the SNES. I've always felt that something similar could have been done on the Jaguar, just not at the time due to the rendering requirements involved. Things have changed... and with TRF being in the light again and realizing how easy fighting games could be with rendered scenes, making up a slew of characters with various animations could be done very quickly and easily. Take this scene for example in a jungle like setting:
Then I feel characters like this could fill the scene (the red area is panning space left and right)
Not really sure what you could do with a 6MB ROM with this sort of thing, but I imagine it would have to be an extremely limited amount of characters and/or scenes if that were the case. Going the JagCD route would almost be mandatory in a sense or maybe a combination thereof utilizing both 6MB cart for character data/assets and Jaguar CD to load backdrops and other scenes that aren't required to be loaded so much in realtime.
and just to show what the original character I started out with looks like in hi-res: