Memorable gaming moments: #1 Fractalus Fright
Mar26

Memorable gaming moments: #1 Fractalus Fright

Welcome to the first in a series, where the Retro Games Collector team reminisce about their most ‘memorable gaming moments’. First up we have Trevor Briscoe and his Fractalus Fright. Most people who have played video games over a period of time have experienced a particularly scary and shocking gaming moment.  Maybe it’s the Resident Evil dogs leaping suddenly into the quiet corridor through a window. Maybe it’s the mind games played by the Game Cube’s Eternal Darkness.  Maybe it’s having the T-Rex from 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81 breathing down your neck. This is a story of a moment of terror I experienced while playing a computer game that lives intensely in my memory to this day. My tale takes place in the winter of 1983 but I remember it as if it were yesterday. The home computer boom was at it’s height and I had watched the great Commodore vs Spectrum playground battles of the early 80s as a bit of an outsider being the owner of the under-supported Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. As I said goodbye to school and headed off to university I also said goodbye to the TI, bought a 16K Atari 600XL and soon afterwards the extra memory to bring it up to a magnificent, for the time, 64K. Along with granting access to the much increased library of games requiring at least 48K, this memory expansion would allow my machine to use a disk drive and leave behind unreliable and slow cassette software forever but disk drives were costly and out of range of my student financial resources. I began my degree course in Physics at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne but took Computing Science as an option in my first year little knowing that it would become my major by the time my second year began and the basis for my career. In one of my first lectures, I was informed by one of my new friends that another student in the group also had an Atari and was looking to sell his spare disk drive to raise some cash. Introductions were made, a deal agreed and before I knew it I was excitedly on my way to pick up my nearly-new Atari 1050 disk drive holding a box of blank disks that the seller had said he would copy some games onto while I was there. The copied games I left with included two titles I had not previously heard of and that had not yet received an official release and went by their working titles of “Behind Jaggi Lines” and “Ballblaster”. The two early and innovative Lucasfilm titles...

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Atari 8-Bit Memories
Apr11

Atari 8-Bit Memories

After reading Danny Major’s recollections of owning a Commodore Amiga, I was taken back to my own memories of owning an Amiga 500.  I loved my Amiga, but there was a hint of sadness about its arrival into the household as my beloved Atari 800XL died that same day. It was almost as if that 800XL felt betrayed, that it had decided it wasn’t going to function anymore and couldn’t cope with being ousted as the top dog even though it shared the Amiga’s father, Jay Miner. In many ways the Amiga architecture was an evolution of the Atari 800 that had itself evolved from the Atari VCS console (later rebranded the 2600).  The Atari 800 was released with it’s cut-down sibling 400 in 1979 in competition with the Apple II, TRS-80 and Commodore PET.  It outperformed the competition significantly in graphics and sound as you would probably expect from a company synonymous with games after the success of the VCS.  With graphics co-processors “ANTIC” and “GTIA”, a sound chip “POKEY” used in many Atari arcade machines and 48K RAM, the 800 outclassed every home machine for games until it’s nemesis, the Commodore 64, appeared in 1982.  To compare them I would say the 64 was tailor made for the sprite-based 2D games you would typically find in the 80s and in which it excelled with a higher colour resolution than the Atari. The Atari has a more “raw” feel – a slightly lower colour resolution, graphic changes over the screen that show off it’s colour palette along with a healthy dose of speed as a result of the flexible graphics modes and faster processor. In sound I believe it’s a matter of taste, the 64’s SID chip is legendary but I don’t believe the Atari’s POKEY is inferior, just different. For me SID is better for music, POKEY for sound effects but then beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Atari 800 Atari 800 Atari 800 XL Atari 130 XE box Atari 130 XE The 800 was replaced with the restyled and cost-reduced 800XL and 600XL computers that increased the available memory to 64K in an attempt to match Commodore’s all-conquering machine.  Commodore’s sacked chairman Jack Tramiel would later buy out Atari’s computer division and release the last in the 8-bit range, the XE range, styled to match the new 16-bit ST machines and sporting up to 128K in the 130XE.  This took production up to the beginning of 1992 and not a bad run at over 12 years for the platform.  All of the peripherals, whichever styling they had, worked on all of the 400/800/XL/XE ranges...

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