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John Chow Seymour

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Everything posted by John Chow Seymour

  1. Well, no one else seems to be ringing in, so here's my guess. Could it be... Cosmic Ark, from 1982, designed by Rob Fulop at Imagic? I'm not sure I know which one was the 'snubbed' game though - possibly Fulop's port of Missile Command from 1981 while he was still at Atari. The clue that both games are highly regarded by classic games enthusiasts made me hesitate, because while Missile Command is a well-known classic (and one of my personal favorites), I'd never head of Cosmic Ark before looking it up.
  2. So, the next version of the C256 Foenix was announced about a week ago. There's a short video that shows the proposed design and goes through the features: And also this longer one (2 and a half hours) where the creator talks at length about her plans, philosophy (design and otherwise) and talks through the various features. The new one is called the "Gen X", which I at first thought was just yet another use of the notoriously cool letter X, but in the longer video she implies its a reference to Generation X - that is to say, the people who were active in computing in the 8-bit era, and probably most of the target audience for the project (as well as the X16). Here are some of my initial thoughts on the project. As a platform for eight bit computing: it has a 65C816 built-in, but also a slot for expansion cards that offer other processors. This will allow people to use their favorite processor. she talks about how she needs to be better at building a community, but the swappable "2nd processor" will probably fracture the potential community into cliques around the different processors it has both Atari style controller ports and NES and SNES ports, all built in. I think the idea is to make it versatile for game programming, but will all the options just fracture the community further? As a tool for music creation: The audio setup is plentiful: lots of built-in chips plus two slots for SIDs, and built-in MIDI ports. Not sure how easy it is to route the MIDI data to the chips, to assign MIDI parameters to commands relevant to each sound chip, etc. Not sure if that's in the hardware, or if users are able to route things themselves via programming (read: "will have to write code to handle MIDI input themselves"). A fractured community won't matter if someone is using it as a tool for sound creation. Once I output the chipsounds into my modern DAW for mastering I can export audio, and the fact that no one else has my exact setup won't matter, same as with any other synth I might use. likewise, for music creation, the various swappable processors let you access the robust audio hardware with whatever your favorite flavor of assembly language is. Misc: The price means it's not just a fun toy to mess around with. The base system is at least $500 dollars (I assume USD, but I'm not sure, as Stefany is based in Canada), plus $100 or more for each of the additional processor cards. If she's trying to do a better job of communicating, she hasn't quite mastered that yet. For example, the website still has almost no information about what the Gen X even is; you have the watch the videos to find out. I know she's doing this all herself, but still, I'd have gotten the website in order before making the announcement. So who's the market? I feel like it'll be best appreciated by people who exist at the intersection of "enjoy buying expensive music gear" and "enjoy programming in assembly (in order to use that gear)". Not sure how large a group that is. Then again, If I were to get one, my ability to use it for music-making won't depend on the amount of community support it has. I'm still considering it. Anyone else have thoughts on it?
  3. Both these earlier posts in this thread (one from January, one from earlier this week) compared the X16 project to the C256 Foenix project: Good news! Earlier this week Stefany announced that she is indeed continuing to develop the Foenix, and released some videos about what the next generation of Foenix would look like. I want to talk more about it, but I'll make another thread for that. In one of the two vids from last week, Stefany admits to not being very good at communicating (at least in a "PR" sense) or at building a community. She's very good at designing computers (as far as I can tell, anyway) but not so great at outreach... a Woz who needs a Jobs, if I may. (Then again, Woz never told people who disagreed with his designs to F____ off. She also apologized for that in the recent video, btw.) For example, as an audio/music person myself I would have loved to have bought the C256 Foenix FMX, but that model came and went before I even heard about it existing. When you do things like that it makes it very hard to build a community. She's acknowledged this so we'll see if the community starts to grow at all. Her dream computer is different than David's, and each has its own fans, but if the Foenix's community is smaller I'm not sure it's because of the FPGA-heavy design.
  4. I had no idea about this one, but I was very curious and so I did some research, which sent me down a rabbit hole of anecdotes about Atari and the several game development firms formed when Atari employees left to form their own companies. All that reading was quite enjoyable but it does feel a little like cheating, especially since I'd never ever heard of the game before (despite a 2600 being my first childhood game console, this game's existence escaped me). For this reason, I'll give it some more time before offering my guess.
  5. "Ultima III: Exodus" is correct! (I apologize to everyone for not being able to log in yesterday to check this thread. It was a long day.) In the NES version, the player is told that they need to defeat "Exodus, " which is some form of great evil. You do this by gathering four "cards" which my friends and I interpreted as being some sort of magical spell cards or something. At the end of the game, the final boss is simply called 'Floors', and it appears that the floor tiles in the final room are attacking you. You don't even fight Exodus... we were so confused by this as kids. Turns out, the original Apple version made all of this more clear. "Exodus" was supposed to be a supercomputer, and the cards you use to "defeat" it are punch cards. The 'Floors' boss was a reference to a security system that some company at the time had installed to protect its computer, triggered y pressure plates. This got parodied in the game - you had to literally fight the floor to get to Exodus. Apparently the people who ported the game to the NES thought kids wouldn't appreciate the weird references to computing, and removed all reference to it. (Recall that even the first Ultima game ended on a spaceship, so it's not like the weird mix of technology was new to the series). Later, in Ultima VII (I think) the plot references Exodus and refers to it as "that machine you destroyed", or something similar. So although they started taking the plot more seriously (less goofy) in the later Ultima games, they still made good on their own series history. @SlithyMatt, if you want a Steam code for "Baba is You", feel free to PM me. Sorry that's the only spare code I have at the moment.
  6. Okay then, here we go: Hint 3: This game is part of a series. There are numbered 'main series' games as well as a handful of spinoffs. The game I'm thinking of is one of the main series entries, and is neither the first nor the last. They're all in the same genre and the earlier entries all had a top-down view (later entries and spinoffs experimented with other perspectives).
  7. I'm afraid that isn't it. As someone who played the original Lode Runner on an Apple ][, before I ever owned a NES, I can tell you it didn't contain any industry in-jokes. Also, as far as I can tell, the dates don't work: the NES port was apparently released in 1986. (Interestingly, that's the same year the NES launched in N.A., and apparently a Lode Runner port was one of the first third-party games for the system. I didn't know that until I looked it up just now!) Before adding a third hint, I'd like to leave it up for one more day to give other people a chance to see it.
  8. Oh, what fun! Sure, I'll take that code; I'll PM you shortly. Well, perhaps I'll go with scavenger-hunt rules where the winner makes the next challenge. I'm thinking of a game... Hint 1: There are versions of this game for many systems of the 1980s. The first version of this game that I ever played was the NES port, which was released in 1987. I would later learn that the original release was four years earlier, in 1983, for the Apple ][. It's been ported to at least 10 other '80s systems. Hint 2: The NES port, which was handled by both a different studio and a different publisher than the original, was significantly changed. Among other changes, where the original had occasional in-jokes relevant to the early '80s software development world, these were all removed in the NES port. Sadly this made at least one key element of the plot much more difficult to understand. More clues to come, if needed. I also have spare Steam leys, and for the same reason: I would sometimes buy a game then later buy a bundle that included another key to the same game. Alas, none of my duplicate keys at the moment are retro-related. But I could give a key to "Baba is You," an excellent puzzle game which has graphics that at least look like they might have been designed on an 8-bit system. Remember, the 'prize' isn't really the point; don't be afraid to chime in even if you're not interested in the Steam code.
  9. I might be falling for a red herring here, but are you thinking of "Castlevania: Rondo of Blood"? I have never played it, but I did play the rather watered-down SNES version, "Casltevania: Dracula X." A few years ago I remember reading about the games' production history and how North America somehow never got the substantially better original version of the game. I had to google a little to remind myself what the name of the original was.
  10. I'm not going to go on and on about it, but I've always felt LOGO could be developed further. As a kid it really helped me understand the link between math and geometry. Later in life, I'd come across geometric proofs for problems that weren't necessarily geometry-related to begin with (mostly on YouTube math channels), and I'd think, "I wonder if you could've used LOGO to arrive at this." It represents such an interesting way of looking at things, I heartily second the idea of a 21st Century LOGO. Now you've got me thinking about LOGO (even a non-updated old fashioned one) for the X16...
  11. Thank you @Cyber! This is all very interesting information. I will check out the videos this weekend. I think it's neat that a device like this existed. I am surprised that this kind of attempt at an 'educational Nintendo' product didn't come out here in North America, especially since there was such a push in the 1980s for children's products to be educational. Thank you again for all the links!
  12. I found an interesting listing on eBay, so I thought I'd share. Plus, maybe someone here can tell us more about it. Over in this thread @Cyber introduced us to the Dendy, a Famicom/NES clone from Russia or perhaps one of the other former Soviet states. The pic they showed in that thread looked like a typical console: top-loading slot, two controllers, etc. But, this eBay listing I found shows what appears to be that same Dendy Famicom clone, but built into a keyboard case, labeled "Russian-English Computer Learning Set", and packed with a cartridge that apparently also has (two flavors? of) BASIC. RETRO Dendy SUBOR KEYBOARD (Famicom) Console + full set | eBay (I should point out, I'm not the seller nor am I encouraging anyone to buy; I'm just sharing because it's interesting.) An easily programmable NES (clone) is kind of exciting. (I know Japan released a keyboard for the Famicom, but they're rare.) I wonder if the BASIC on this system can access the sound capabilities, that would actually be useful for chiptune creation. I wonder if anyone can translate the contents of the cartridge (there's a close-up picture of it, but most of it is in Cyrillic script except the word BASIC, heheh.) I assume the language education is for Russian-speakers to learn English - and not the other way? Another pic shows what appears to be a 25-pin port on the back, maybe a parallel port. I wonder what that might have been for.
  13. Once you start trying to sound like real instruments, I feel like a stylistic line has been crossed, and better success would be had using modern sample-based instrument libraries. I prefer my chiptunes really chippy sounding, and the two I grew up with were the SID and R2a03, so I'll dream of a system with, let's say, 2 of each of those. In fact, I've been trying (well, not very hard, since I'm busy) to rig up a system where I can create music on an actual R2a03 from an old NES. It's tricky since the R2a03 is also the NES's 6502 processor. Unlike most setups where you can just send signals to the sound chip, the R2a03 only ever expects signals from itself; or rather the sound part of it only expects to get signals from the processor part of the same chip. It's too bad because that NES sound is the one I crave.
  14. I've made an upgrade to my physical desktop. When I bought a new Audio Interface recently, my desktop simply became too cluttered, so I built myself a small custom shelving unit out of some spare boards and other pieces of wood from my woodshop. (I am NOT a skilled woodworker at all, and the 'spare bits' were mostly from things I'd butchered.) Front: Sonicware Liven 8Bit Warps (a synth). C=64 to the left. Bottom: the new audio interface, a TASCAM US_4x4HR. Works well but I don't like the physical case design. Takes up real estate, won't sit flat - it's permanently tilted backwards by two non-removable front feet. This was what prompted me to make the shelves. Floor 2: 1530 Datassette for the C=64. At left, the PE6502 kit computer in the Apple-wood stand I made for it. Floors 3 and 4: Region 1 (US) and Region 3 (Korea) DVD players. The computer they're connected to has a built-in Region 2 (Japan). Top: Cheap (Amazon Basics) speaker. I have a used hi-fi for music, but usually YouTube videos and the like sound best on a small speaker like this. Also, the first thing I ever soldered, a digital clock kit. Still works! For Christmas I bought my mother a book on how to crochet cacti and succulents. She then made me the two cactus friends in the pot at left. I've named them Nord & Bert.
  15. Hey, that little clock was the first kit I ever soldered together. (It took me a while to realize it, but you can indeed peel that clear sheet of the front of the display). Feeling confident, the next project I did was to 'pro sound' mod a used GameBoy. And then, the third thing I tried was this oscilloscope kit: https://jyetech.com/dso138mini-oscilloscope-diy-kit/ What's fun about that one is, you can actually use it for electronics projects when you're done with it. I used it to help diagnose the C64 I rescued from the trash, for example, by checking for 'clock' signals at the appropriate pins. (It was also fun to hook up it up to the sound output of the GameBoy and look at the waveforms.) If what you need is an oscilloscope, then this is obviously this isn't the best one out there. But if what you want is more stuff to solder, why not solder something you can use afterward? (The pin header leading to the screen is very small, with not much space between the pins. It was, so far, the most challenging single component I've ever soldered. But I got through it!) Beyond that, I have to give a shoutout to the PE6502, which took me about three afternoons to build. At the end, you have your own little 6502-based computer, which I am still enjoying working with. It'd good prep for the upcoming X16p kit. The official page is here: http://www.putnamelectronics.com/ ...but you might check with @Corneleous Worthington to see what the current buying options are.
  16. Growing up in the 80s my house had an Apple ][e and my best friend's had a C64. But, sitting unused in one corner of the 'office room' at that friend's house were two slightly older computers that I didn't really appreciate until it was too late. One was a HeathKit that, supposedly, his parents had assembled themselves. The other was a CompuColor. When I was 6, my father had bought a decent-quality VHS camera, and by the time I was 10, I was using it to film home movies, usually sci-fi stories starring my stuffed animals. So, when I got word that my friend's family was throwing out their old computers, I asked if I could keep the keyboard to the CompuColor, because it was really cool-looking, and I thought I could use it as a prop in my little movies - as the bridge of a spaceship, or something. Alas, and to my eternal regret, 10-year-old me did not foresee that 40-year-old me would have a hobbyist's interest in old computers, so I didn't ask for the computer part of the CompuColor, just the keyboard! But it is cool looking: Look at all those keys! Although the keyboard unit is as thick as a C64 breadbin, it contains only the keyboard: the guts of the CompuColor was built into the monitor. The 'gimmick' of the CompuColor is that they built the computer to fit inside an already-existing line of color TVs, with the front control panel of the TV replaced with the disk drive. From what I've read, turning the CRT monitor on or off created an EMP that would wipe any disk in the drive, which was positioned right next to the CRT. To counteract this, they simply put a line in the instruction manual telling user not to have a disk in the drive when turning the monitor on or off. Solved! I don't know how I've been getting along all these decades without a dedicated BL/A7 OFF key. The idea to have (apparently) dedicated keys for certain common commands is interesting. Apparently "poke" is too hard to type, so let's give the user a "poke" key? At least this way one can literally poke 'poke' with one's finger. Still kicking myself for not asking for the monitor+cpu unit. It probably ended up in a landfill, what a shame.
  17. I can see how "retro" might mean ''actually old' or 'in the style of something old', but surely "vintage" only ever means 'actually old.'
  18. I get where Matt's coming from, but I disagree in this case. I think you can make an 'engine' for the kind of game you describe, right in BASIC, without really adding another 'layer' of interpretation or slowing things down too much. (Keep in mind, speed doesn't matter much for a text-based game like this.) In BASIC, your 'engine' would be a bunch of subroutines that handle the common tasks of your roleplay system. For example, if your game has combat, you might have some subroutines that handle what happens when a player attempts to attack an enemy. One for handling how the player selects what kind of attack to do, another for handling how the player selects which enemy to target, another that resolves the attack and assigns damage, etc. Other subroutines might handle buying from a shop, equipping armor and changing the player's stats accordingly, branching with dialogue trees, navigating from room to room, etc. Then when you go to write a new chapter of the game, you re-use all those same subroutines, but have new enemies, equipment, room descriptions, etc. Admittedly this may not be what's typically meant by an 'engine'. But it would be a set of tools that you could use over and over to make new games in this genre. Of course, this is exactly how you would do it in Assembly as well, but BASIC will be easier to learn as a programming language. The downside to BASIC is that it will always run more slowly compared to Assembly, but for a text-based game like you describe, speed really won't really matter. Speed starts to matter when you want to have graphical gameplay.
  19. I don't know... yes, there are revisions where the SID is just below the processor (or, from the point of view of the camera, to the left of the processor). But in this case, I think that's probably the PLA. If that's not the PLA, then which one is? Looks like there's an unpopulated spot next to that chip (toward the camera) that would've had the SID. I'll have to watch Robin's video later and see if he mentions it.
  20. A Phase 4? The 'X16h'? (since p for pocket is already taken, maybe h for handheld)
  21. That makes sense. In my case, I never stopped the program to go do something else, I just shut off the monitor and let it run, and checked back at the end of the day. So it's possible that the act of running the clock loop itself is what incrementally bogged down TI$.
  22. Neat, thanks for sharing this. I tried it out on my C64 just now. I'd never worked with either the TOD clock nor with TI$ before, so it was interesting to see the different ways you had to handle them. Incidentally, line 130 as-written is 81 characters long, so I simply broke it up. I also modified line 1090 like so: 1090 PRINT"{CLR}";:RETURN Which clears the time-setting text before running the clocks. Now I'll leave it running for a bit and see how the two clocks do. EDIT: After about 10 hours, they've diverged by about a second. It appears that both have lost time (slowed down) compared to the clock to which I set them (on my modern computer), but the TI$ version has fallen only slightly behind, while the CIA's TOD is now over a second behind. This has been interesting, thank you for bringing it to our attention. I wonder how time like this will be handled on the X16.
  23. What a neat thing to still have around. Was that a free gift when you signed up for their service?
  24. So which setup did the NES have? Its CPU is a 6502 variant, and the other main chip is its "PPU" ("Pixel Processing Unit"). But was the PPU a second processor, or was it more the 'fixed-function hardware' approach? (Based on what I know about NES programming - which is only very little, only from reading - I'm guessing it's not its own processor, since it seems like the main CPU has to spend a lot of time on the graphics leaving game logic crammed into vblank. But I haven't studied it that closely.)
  25. Ugh, I know from past experience that keeping spam off of a forum can be frustrating and exhausting. I'll PM you about that other stuff. In any case, hopefully your comment at the start of this thread will help people think more critically about production. Between this forum and the X16 Facebook group, I've seen a lot of comments, criticisms, or feature requests from people who clearly haven't thought about how their request would impact the cost and feasibility of production. Hopefully reading some advice from someone who's been there will get people to think about that side of it more. That said - it is possible to machine-assemble a board with through-hole components, right? Anyone know more about that?
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