Tag Archives: atari 2600

How to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV

Connecting old computers and consoles to not-as-old televisions is frequently a challenge. Sadly, the VIC-20, Commodore’s runaway bestseller from 1982, is no exception to that. Here’s how to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV.

Unfortunately, there are fewer options for connecting a VIC than there are the slightly newer and more common C-64, but I’ll walk you through the options you do have.

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The first (and maybe cheapest) Amiga product for Amigaholics like me

Before the Amiga was a computer, Amiga was a struggling independent company trying to stay in business so it would get its chance at changing the world. In order to make ends meet while they developed their multitasking computer, Amiga produced and sold joysticks for the game systems and computers that were already on the market.

These joysticks turn up on Ebay fairly frequently.

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The Logitech F310 on Retropie

I went looking for a reliable, modern controller to use on my Retropie setup. I eventually settled on a Logitech F310, betting the Logitech F310 on Retropie would make a nice combination based on my experience with other Logitech peripherals in regards to their quality and value for the money.

The reviews I found suggested the F310 continued in this tradition, and I found enough people who said they got it working with Linux to feel confident I could get it working on the Raspberry Pi. And sure enough, I did.

I paid $18 for mine, and my first impressions of the quality were good. It’s precise, and button pushes register with a slight click. It’s no worse than a Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo controller, and if anything, I think I liked it a little better. A pair of Logitech F310s costs more than the Raspberry Pi board, but playing games is a lot more enjoyable when the controller does what you want it to do all the time, not just most of the time.

The F310 wasn’t a drop-in replacement for the controller I’d been using, though. I had to configure it for Retroarch, the software that provides most of Retropie’s console emulation.

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How thousands of Atari cartridges ended up in the desert

The famous story of Atari burying millions of dollars of unsold videogames, including the infamous E.T. cartridge, is no longer just a legend–it’s been confirmed.

How they got there was mostly a misunderstanding of the nascent business. Continue reading How thousands of Atari cartridges ended up in the desert

The trade off of fidelity and convenience in marketing, and how it doomed my favorite company

I’m reading a book called Trade-Off, by former USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney. It’s primarily a marketing book.

Maney argues that all products are a balance of fidelity and convenience, and highly favor one or the other. He additionally argues that failed products fail because they attempted to achieve both, or failed to focus on either one.

An example of a convenient product is an economy car. They’re inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to keep fueled up, but don’t have much glitz and you probably won’t fall in love with it. A high-end sports car or luxury car is a lot less practical, but you’re a lot more likely to fall in love with it, and gain prestige by driving around town in it. Continue reading The trade off of fidelity and convenience in marketing, and how it doomed my favorite company

What’s an Allstate electric train?

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was possible to walk into Sears and see an Allstate electric train on the same shelf as Lionel and American Flyer. These trains are still somewhat common today. That leads to some further questions.

Yes, it’s Allstate, as in the insurance company. What did they have to do with electric trains?

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Putting right E.T. for the Atari 2600

Hacking vintage video games has been a popular trend this year, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I saw this: A hobbyist spent a few weeks this year fixing the infamous E.T. cartridge for the Atari 2600, and kept a detailed analysis of the project. I found it interesting.

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Mimic Systems Spartan

The Mimic Systems Spartan was an elusive bit of C-64 hardware that made it Apple II+ compatible. Mimic Systems took out full-page ads in all of the Commodore magazines, starting in late 1984.

The problem with it was that you couldn’t buy one, at least not in 1984 or 85. The Spartan finally appeared in 1986, and at that point, not many people wanted one anymore. So Spartans are exceedingly rare today.

But it actually seemed like a decent idea. In 1984, that is.

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Stop blowing into your Nintendo NES cartridges!

Anyone old enough to have played with an original Nintendo NES knows the problem: You plug in the cartridge, turn on the system, and get a blank screen and the power light blinks at you.

The schoolyard fix is to take out the cartridge, blow into it, then put it back into the system. Then, with a little luck, you can play your game.

The trouble is, that’s just a short-term fix. In the long run, it makes the problem worse and eventually the system can’t play games at all.

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Happy 35th birthday, Atari 2600

The venerable Atari 2600 turned 35 this past weekend. People of a certain age remember it as the device that ushered in home video games. I know I spent a lot of afternoons after school playing blocky, chirpy video games on them in the early 1980s.

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