Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ten Advantages of an IBM PC/XT over an IBM PC

If you are looking for an early PC-compatible "8-bit system", the IBM PC and the IBM PC/XT are good choices.  They sold well, are built to last and "just work".  But while you may want to get one of each, if money or space is tight, I would suggest trying to find an IBM PC/XT over the IBM PC.  Some reasons why are as follows :


Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Great Unknown : 720p and 480p Retro Solutions

While retro video games and consoles have been getting the digital treatment in the forms of emulators, PCs and services like the Virtual Console, buying hardware to specifically play retro games in a digital form (as opposed to a clone console) is a relatively recent phenomenon.  There has been a draw for people who want to really use their cartridges on a high quality, high definition system using a modern TV.  There has also been a market for people who want a plug-and-play box where they don't have to fiddle with emulator options.  Most modern TVs use the HDMI connector for passing digital content through to a LCD panel's display processor.  HDMI licensing issues aside (search my blog for information about those issues), most of these retro devices support a maximum resolution of 480p, 720p or 1080p.  While some of these devices support 1080p, many only support 720p or 480p. which can lead to thorny problems with lag and image resizing.  Let's take a look at the issues in this blog article.

First, here is a list of current or actually released retro-centered solutions by the maximum resolution they support :


Saturday, June 23, 2018

New Accessories and Ideas for the Game Boy Camera

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Game Boy, while a modern marvel in and of itself, had a very unique peripheral released for it toward the transition from the monochrome Game Boy to the Game Boy Color.  That device was the Game Boy Camera, a cartridge with an twistable camera lens capable of taking four-color photographs in a 128x112 resolution surrounded by borders.  It could save up to 30 user-taken pictures to its battery-backed memory.  The program included some rudimentary editing tools, simple games and many little touches which were weird by Nintendo's standards.  Nintendo also released the Game Boy Printer, a small thermal printer which functioned as the only official way to memoralize photos outside the cartridge.  While the Camera was considered a modern marvel itself in its day, the Camera has had a cult following ever since.  Let's look at some of the ways in which continued interest in the Game Boy Camera has manifested itself.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Legal Remedies for Copyright Infringement of Open Source Software & the Trouble with Temporary Copies

Clone consoles are nothing new, clones have been made since the Atari 2600 became successful.  During a console's market life and for years thereafter, clones were usually illegal because they infringed on the maker's patents.  But patents expire, usually after twenty years, and after the consoles that utilized those patented chips and technologies could be freely recreated.  For successful vintage consoles, hardware clones usually follow their patent expiration.  Early clones used reverse engineered ASICs to replicate the functionality of an Atari 2600, a NES, a SNES and a Genesis.  But newer clones frequently use ARM processors and run emulators to cut down on costs and improve features.  One such clone, the Hyperkin RetroN 5, caused a great deal of controversy when it was discovered to have used emulators without permission from their original authors.  Let's dive into the legal ramifications of the this behavior.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Search for Artifact Color on the Commodore 64

NTSC composite artifact color is something typically relegated to computers with off-the-shelf graphics hardware.  We associate it with the Apple II mainly, which used it in its high resolution modes.  TRS-80 Color Computer fans also know it very well, because it was the only color available in that computer line's graphics until the Model 3.  IBM PCs also used with more frequency than was commonly known in the early days in CGA graphics cards.  But Commodore didn't rely on off-the-shelf 74-series logic to drive its home computers' displays.  It had bought the MOS company and all its chip fabrication expertise.  Its computers used real graphics chips and they displayed real color.  They didn't need the composite tricks to get their graphics working and they didn't need boards devoted to graphics either.  But I have come across some information which suggests that the assumption that the Commodore 64 did not support composite artifact color may not be supportable.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Gaslighting a Historical Event? - Billy Mitchell and His Perfect Pac-Man Game

On July 3, 1999, Billy Mitchell made history by playing the first verified perfect game of Pac-Man.  This was major news at the time and Mitchell was celebrated for his achievement.  He not only became something of a celebrity in the video game world but also helped to raise the visibility of Walter Day's Twin Galaxies, an entity devoted to keeping records of high scores and other video game achievements. For nearly twenty years that achievement was generally accepted and unchallenged. Recent developments, however, have called this historical event into question. Allegations of cheating by Mitchell have caused Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records to no longer recognize his achievement.

We will discuss the game, give an overview of Mitchell and Twin Galaxies, recount the story behind the event and the incidents which gave rise to allegations of cheating and the effect they have had on high scores and records of the past.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Expanding Vintage IBM PC & Compatible Display Options - the GGLabs CGA2RGB Converter

GGLabs' CGA2RGB (courtesy of GGLabs)

Getting a high quality and proper video signal from an IBM CGA or EGA card or an IBM PCjr or Tandy 1000 without their specialized monitors can be difficult.  These computers used specialized RGB monitors to give a high quality solution using digital signals to tell the monitor which color to display.  Unfortunately this standard was not really adopted outside of the expensive PC compatibles and most RGB monitors only accept an analog signal.  When VGA and its analog RGB signal format became standard, support for the older digital RGB format went away.  In this blog entry I am going to examine an inexpensive converter that can help you adapt your vintage PC compatible's digital RGB video output to the more accessible analog RGB video output.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Compatibility Issues within the Game Boy Line

In the beginning, Nintendo released the Game Boy and it took the world by storm.  Since 1989, Nintendo has released no less than 9 major followup products in the Game Boy line sold to the public in the eighteen years to follow.  The Game Boy line has a reputation for rock-solid backwards compatibility, but here we will explore issues with backwards compatibility in as much detail as I can find.