Miscellaneous

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A catch-all for anything not covered elsewhere...
Mark Vergeer's picture

ZX Spectrum - 55 minutes of Speccy Galore including real time tape loading!

RetroGamerVX has challenged us to make Spectrum themed videos this week in honor of the ZX Spectrum's 30th birthday. Of course all I could do is comply to escape the wrath of my Evil Twin from the UK. Read more below...

Bill Loguidice's picture

Making My Collection Usable - Part I - The Classic Computers (photos)

As mentioned previously, I've been re-thinking my collecting activities, including selling off the non-working and duplicate portions of my collection, which presently consists of over 430 videogame and computer systems and countless thousands of related software, accessories, and literature. Naturally, part of that reasoning was "thinning the herd" after all these years, because - even though I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space for these types of activities - it has long since reached the point where I well and truly have too much to handle. Why has this become an issue? There's simply too much stuff, there's no time to use it (that would need to be my full-time job), and, when I do want to use it, it takes up most of my available time just setting something up, only to have to break it down and put it back on the shelf again. It's innefficient, and frankly, no fun anymore.

With that in mind, in addition to the thinning - which will take a very, very long time of course in a collection I've been cultivating for over 30 years now - I've been plotting how I can make better use of what I have. Like I said, I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space. I have a large basement area, with about half unfinished, which is used for storage, and the other, finished half, consisting of an office room, hallway, workout area, and den area. The main floors of our house contain our active systems, including the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Co-Star, various computers and handhelds, etc., but they are not an option for me to make use of for classic items, other than on an occasional basis. That just leaves the basement, which is, of course, fine, but also limits my flexibility.

Anyway, even though each area of the basement is brimming with stuff and each section serves a specific purpose, either on a permanent or temporary basis, I decided that my best course of action is to pull out the truly must-have-accessible systems from the hundreds available and make them accessible at a moment's notice. This was not easy to do, as I have a genuine passion for each and every system I own, but the bottom line is is that some systems are more interesting, more "useful," or I simply have a critical mass of items for them that they can't be ignored. I decided I'd tackle that task with my classic computers first, followed by my classic videogame systems at a later date. I cleared space on my big L-shaped computer desk in the office area and proceeded to select the systems that met my criteria and would fit on the desk (I'll have some flexibility when I set up the classic videogame consoles to make a little use of the den area as well).

While I have many different models in most of the specific computer series I selected, I tried to choose the one model in my collection that would give me the most bang-for-the-buck. This in and of itself was not easy, as there's rarely a "most perfect" choice when it comes to choosing the ideal model in a series, which in this case also involved being a good fit for the available space. The systems I chose were as follows: TI-99/4a, Apple IIgs, Atari 600XL, Atari Falcon, Commodore Amiga 2000HD, and Commodore 128DCR, with a special appearance by the Radio Shack Color Computer series, which I'll explain at the end. So yeah, as hard as it was, no Sinclair Spectrum, BBC, IBM PCjr, Coleco Adam, Imagination Machine, MSX, Interact, Exidy, etc., etc., items, even though I'd love to have those out and ready to go as much as the others.

My initial goal - which I was able to accomplish - was to set up a basic system configuration for each and make sure it was working properly. I actually had a slightly different mix of specific systems, but, after testing, found some things didn't function as expected or didn't work at all. Over time, I'll add to each system I've set up (and address the other stuff that's not working) until each and every one is set up properly with their respective disk drives, flash cards, transfer cables, etc., to be fully usable with all of the stuff I have available. At the very least, with these minimum configurations, they're ready to go for most quick usage scenarios. I also decided it was important not to have any of them plugged in full-time, so everything gets hooked up and powered up on demand. This is actually simple and will not delay my usage in any way. In fact, the way I have the various monitors and TV's set up, I can hook up other systems as needed without too much fuss, which is another bonus. Anyway, here are the photos and additional explanation:

Mark Vergeer's picture

Gameroom Tour - August 14, 2012

A small view around the gameroom - not a proper tour but more a bit of a test and a looksee of the room as it was around August 14 2012
Music used: 'Gator Drive' by Nigel Glocker & Roger Adams - provided by YouTube & created using YouTube Video Editor

Bill Loguidice's picture

More on Avalon Hill Computer Games on Heath/Zenith platforms

I had some time to further test Telengard (which I discussed here the other day), B-1 Nuclear Bomber, Computer Football Strategy, and Computer Stocks & Bonds, which, as far as I can tell, and seems to be confirmed by the "Heath/Zenith Games" insert included with all of these boxed games, were the only H-8 H/Z-89 Z-90 H/Z-100 ports from Avalon Hill. As was stated, these games require CP/M-85 and MBASIC to work on my Z-100, which is an all-in-one model. They're all single density disks. All of the games worked, and I was able to make backups of each, though some disks did have errors, which as far as I can tell did not affect running the games or were necessarily present in the copies. It probably helps that these were more or less one or two program BASIC files.

One thing I should point out is that Avalon Hill games are notorious for having catalogs and manuals with staples that become rusty, even when the box is sealed. That was present in my sealed copies. I put any of the documentation with rusty staples in their own zip loc bags for safety, so hopefully that will solve that particular issue going forward.

Of the four games, the only game with multi-platform instructions that specifically mentioned and included the Heath/Zenith platform(s) was Computer Stocks and Bonds, otherwise, every other game just included the aforementioned insert, with the previously mentioned incorrect instructions for running Telengard. So, outside of Computer Stocks & Bonds, you basically had to use the generic instructions for keyboard commands and otherwise wing it.

On a side note, Avalon Hill specialized in supporting many, many platforms with single games right up to the mid-80s through a combination of games written in BASIC and the use of cassette tapes, the former making ports easy and the latter allowing multi-platforms on each side of the tape (six or more platforms on one tape was not uncommon). Naturally, with a disk, at best you could have two formats, one on each side, but all of these Heath/Zenith-based games just had the one platform. In looking at the instructions for B-1 Nuclear Bomber, which again, didn't even mention the Heath/Zenith version it was included with, the game was on Atari 8-bit, Apple II, C-64, TI-99/4 and 4a, TRS-80 Model I/III, IBM PC, and Timex/Sinclair (oddly enough, no PET or Vic-20, which were two Avalon Hill favorites). Every version was assumed on the same tape except for the IBM PC version, which mentioned being on a disk.

The Heath/Zenith versions of these games are mostly unremarkable, with rudimentary text-based graphics, with the occasional line or symbols that vaguely represented what they were intended to be. Crude, but functional, and again, the only CP/M support that I know of that Avalon Hill ever directly provided.

Here are some rough photos of the screens for each of the games just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Avalon Hill's Telengard for Z-90 or H/Z-100 with CP/M-85 and MBASIC: A casual tale of making it work in photos and videos

Telengard (Z-90/H/Z-100 version)Telengard (Z-90/H/Z-100 version)This right-after-the-fact casual blog posting will be about the rarest known version of Telengard, one that has not previously been documented in otherwise exhaustive historical accounts, so bear with me a bit as I set the scene... Since I lack any real electrical engineering skills, I recently sold off the non-working portions of my Otrona and Heathkit collections. Both collections went to fellow collectors who should be able to get the various systems working. While it was difficult to part with even those non-working portions of my 430+ system videogame and computer collection, this will give me more room and time to focus on all of the items that do work, and at least shows that psychologically I'll be able to part with more redundant and/or non-working portions of my collection going forward. One item in those groupings that I didn't sell off was my Zenith Z-100 all-in-one, which is the pre-assembled version of the Heathkit H-100, able to run Heathkit-branded versions of CP/M and MS-DOS thanks to its dual processors. As you may or may not recall, I was trying to get my low profile (same system, no built-in monitor) to run way back when. Long story short, among many other hurdles and much fact finding, and after acquiring an unnecessary replacement power supply and a necessary replacement disk controller board, it had a memory error on boot-up. So, I sold it along with various other Heathkit items. However, when I was going through my saga of acquiring those replacement parts, I was able to acquire a working all-in-one version, the Z-100. Now, I obviously love old technology, but truth be told, I was most interested in running the aforementioned rare versions of the official Avalon Hill games on the system. Interestingly, these ports run on the Heathkit/Zenith Z-90 or H/Z-100, as long as they're running CP/M-85 and MBASIC. Now, I did not have a copy of CP/M-85, but I was able to acquire a replacement set (among other disks) from a gentleman who provides that service for a modest fee. Unfortunately, the Avalon Hill games require MBASIC, which was NOT included by default with the Heathkit/Zenith systems apparently. Luckily, a gentleman from the SEBHC mailing list was able to come through with a copy for me. Here is what went down, told casually, as it happened a little while ago, complete with equally casual photos and videos (by the way, check out Matt Barton's old interview with the late great author of Telengard, Daniel M. Lawrence, here):

Rob Daviau's picture

A couple thoughts, because I refuse to "twitter" on Walking Dead FPS and Flashcarts defense....

Ok, I had a couple thoughts just shaking aorund my head and I just refuse to do the "twitter" thing (yep I am a stubborn old fogy, GET OFF MY LAWN!)

davyK's picture

SCART users' dream

For those of us in Europe with lots of older consoles to connect to a designated retro gaming TV, the fact that most CRTs only have 1 SCART socket that supports RGB is a pain. In Europe an RGB connection is the way to go - superior to s-video and also supports PAL60 for Dreamcast era on.

Mark Vergeer's picture

Summer Holiday Portable Gaming 2012

My games on the iPad while vacationing...This time no Pandora, PSP, DS or 3DS for my portable gaming needs.
Suffice to say that my phone more or less features the same setup.

Rob Daviau's picture

Alice: Madness Returns is only $6, today only, on Steam! 28/05/2012

Just thought I should mention, I don't DO the Twitter thang so I mention it here:

Alice: Madness Returns is only $6, today only, on Steam!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/19680/

Bill Loguidice's picture

Some nifty history in The Best of Creative Computing: Volume 3 (1980), Kindle edition

I sent the free sample of The Best of Creative Computing: Volume 3 (1980) to the Kindle app on my iPad 2, and I must say, speaking as both a historian and tech enthusiast, there are definitely some historical nuggets of genuine interest in there. The book was originally a 1980 release and collected more than 120 articles from the 1978 run of the legendary magazine. From the tone and content of the articles, you can definitely tell this was written for an unusually intelligent, sophisticated, and yes, geeky audience, which makes sense considering the type of individual who would be interested in computing in the late 1970s, and is a refreshing change from what tech magazines became from basically the late 1980s on as the potential readership expanded and the content had to be simplified accordingly.

Anyway, below you'll find a few select screen captures from the free preview, with a bit of commentary. I'll definitely be making this a purchase, since it's only $9.99 for the Kindle edition, and the original paperback often sells for upwards of $100+! Enjoy (and get the ebook!):

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