Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An experiment: Should I put on a show?

Posted by Trixter on October 11, 2015

I’m trying to gauge whether it would be worthwhile to produce a podcast dedicated to the IBM PC and other compatibles of the 1980s. (The actual date range may slip slightly later than 1989 on rare occasions for special topics.) Rather than go into a long diatribe of what I’m looking for and what would be covered, I’ve created a short survey you can take instead. The data collection is anonymous (no logins/accounts or personally-identifiable information is required), and you also get to see the aggregated results after you complete the survey. For anyone who knows me and my work who is interested in both vintage IBM PCs and podcasts or YouTube channels/videos, it would help me out if you took a minute to give me your opinion via the survey.

The survey link is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RK6Q25S

If you’d rather just give me your thoughts in the comments below, that’s fine too, although it may help to glance at the survey text first to see what I’m going on about.

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See you at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2015!

Posted by Trixter on August 27, 2015

The tenth edition of VCF Midwest takes place this weekend!  Admission is free, so if you’re west of Chicago or anywhere near Elk Grove Village, IL, please join us as we once again coax vintage electrons into motion!  For full information, consult www.vcfmw.org.

My contribution this year is a vintage IBM set up running 8088 MPH on continuous loop, and I’m also giving a talk on how 8088 MPH came together.  It’s less of a technical talk and more of a “how did you guys find each other and decide to work on a demo?” talk.  If the video stream works, I’ll publish a link to the stream and the slide deck after the show.

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Rave Movie Rundown

Posted by Trixter on August 14, 2015

I was a clubber in Chicago from 1988-1990.  (Medusa’s on Sheffield, anyone?)  I exited right when rave music was overtaking house music, but I caught the first wave for a tragically brief period and loved it: The transition from Kraftwerk to New Beat to Acid to Techno to EDM; chillout rooms; bringing the DJ from behind the booth to front and center… it was a great time to lack responsibilities.  (Before you ask:  No drugs.  The whole ecstasy movement was primarily a UK thing that wasn’t very prevalent in the USA.)

Rave culture peaked at the end of the 1990s.  There were a lot of films made for and about raves back then (and one recently) that try to capture what that period was like.  Unfortunately, most of them use raves as a backdrop instead of a character, but there are two notable standouts that are worth your time if you have any interest in raves:

  • Pump Up The Volume: The History Of House Music, 2001:  A BBC 3-part documentary that takes great pains to interview everyone involved in the birth and growth of House, which obvious had a lot of overlap with raves.  An excellent piece of research with tons of interviews and stock footage.  Out of all factual pieces that try to cover this period, this documentary gets just about everything right.
  • Groove, 2000: A fairly predictable story of several people trying to get to a rave, what happens when they get there, and how their lives intertwine… but unlike most fictional films that feature raves, Groove gets the feel of rave culture almost exactly right.  People aren’t dressed like caricatures, the music is great, raves are busted by the police, only to spring up somewhere else the same night, the light drug use is portrayed accurately, etc.  Most importantly, the DJs are played by actual local DJs who spin their own music (Digweed shows up at the end to drop the entire place to the ground with Heaven Scent).  The characters are a little cliched, but is the most accurate (fictional) portrayal of American Rave culture I’ve seen.

If you want entertainment, see Groove; if you want historical accuracy, see Pump Up The Volume.  I highly recommend both.

There are other rave culture movies.  They range from interesting to mostly bad.  Here is a partial list, in descending order of quality, with my subjective comments:

  • Weekender, 2011:  A fictional account of the early 1990s rave scene as rave migrated from Ibiza to the UK.  This particular movie centers around the Manchester scene as two friends try to turn raves into a business.  While this movie got bad reviews, I actually enjoyed it.  More importantly, the early 1990s house music choices are mostly period-correct.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Rave, 2002:  An attempt to tell Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream via rave culture.  The rave sections are fairly true, but the sound mixing is somewhat awful and a little distracting: The music mix isn’t loud enough during the dance scenes, so you hear their voices echo off the walls; just as distracting, the music is completely non-existent in the chillout room (there is always a dull thoom-thoom-thoom in the chillout room).  The actual storytelling is competent, being copied from Shakespeare.  An acquired taste.
  • Rave, 2000:  An amateur effort.  Plot and characterization are cringe-worthy, as is most of the acting.  Despite the title, the rave is essentially a club with bouncers.  Avoid this one.

Stark Raving Mad, Human Traffic, Sample People, and One Perfect Day were initially on the list, but I took them off because they portray clubs instead of traditional raves.  Go is not on the list because I haven’t seen it yet.

Did I miss any?  Disagree with my picks?  Leave me a comment.

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Final version of 8088 MPH released

Posted by Trixter on August 2, 2015

The crew is happy to announce a final version of 8088 MPH. Primary changes are improved compatibility with hardware, and some effects have vastly improved graphics.

And yes, it still breaks all your emulators.

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The Great Irony

Posted by Trixter on July 26, 2015

I am very active in one area of the electronic entertainment digital archival movement.  Prior to that, I co-founded MobyGames, and prior to that, I was a major factor in getting abandonware off the ground.  For two decades, I’ve spent more time handling games than playing them.  This is the great irony of working in this field, like the composer who is so busy writing music that he doesn’t have time to listen to any new music.  It is a quick way to become myopic.

When my team won the oldskool compo at Revision, I felt like I could finally exhale and relax in my hobby time.  So, what happens when you’ve been putting off games for several years while you work on other projects?  This happens:

capture_26072015_221547 capture_26072015_221557 capture_26072015_221606 capture_26072015_221610

The game archivist finally spent 210 hours of free time playing games.  Felt really good to use those muscles again.

Now that that is out of my system, time to return to more traditional projects!  (At least, until Fallout 4 is released.)

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Aftershocks and future plans

Posted by Trixter on June 23, 2015

After dropping the mic in April, I’ve been suspiciously quiet, haven’t I?  Truth be told, I got a little burnt out.  Winning Revision was a dream come true, but afterwards my free time and I really needed a break.  I ended up playing a LOT of games on the bucket list (Skyrim, Broken Age, replayed Fallout a 7th time) and generally caught up on movies.  So, sorry I’ve been quiet.

Some random interesting things that happened between then and now:

Since 8088 MPH, the crew has been working slowly but steadily on a final version that improves the sound and video quality a little, but more importantly, works on a wider range of hardware (ie. you should be able to use any CGA card instead of the first IBM revision).  Clone 6845 chips might also be compatible with the final version; we’re working on it.

As for me specifically: Before the end of the summer, you will see at least one of the following three things from me:

  1. An article series exploring the PC speaker and how to thoroughly abuse it (has information relevant for other platforms too, most notably lightweight compression/decompression schemes)
  2. A method to much more easily enjoy vintage games on vintage systems
  3. A vintage PC podcast (I’m still flabbergasted there aren’t any!)

Suggestions welcome if you’d like to nudge me in a particular direction.

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CGADEMO by Codeblasters

Posted by Trixter on November 22, 2014


I don’t normally reblog other people’s blogs, but my own blog has been neglected lately due to work on other vintage computing and programming projects, so I thought I would share a post by my friend Scali that covers a vintage programming problem just as well, if not better, then I would have covered. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Scali's OpenBlog™:

Today I want to talk about a rather obscure, yet interesting demo, namely CGADEMO by Codeblasters, from 1992:

As you can read from the scroller, what’s interesting about this demo is that it runs at full framerate (60 Hz) even on the original IBM PC (8088 at 4.77 MHz with CGA). And that there are 16 colours on screen at the same time.

Unstable rasters

To start with the 16 colours… They use a trick similar to my palette switching in the 1991 donut. Namely, they change the background colour of the CGA palette at every scanline, which gives a rasterbar effect. This is very similar to what I have discussed on C64. This demo does not use a stable raster however, since that is very difficult to achieve on a PC anyway. Instead, they use polling of the hblank status bit to determine when a scanline is…

View original 1,454 more words

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Dev journal, day 19

Posted by Trixter on May 20, 2014

Dev journal, day 19

Before you ask, this *IS* a bug. Always make sure your pointers are normalized, kids!

Posted in Demoscene, Programming, Uncategorized, Vintage Computing | Leave a Comment »

Dev journal, day 18

Posted by Trixter on May 18, 2014

Dev journal, day 18

Why, this almost looks like a compiler.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Dev journal, day 11

Posted by Trixter on May 11, 2014

Dev journal, day 11

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