Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

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Posted by Trixter on December 30, 2022

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How to stream UHD 4K HDR rips to an LG C8 OLED via Plex

Posted by Trixter on April 29, 2022

(This was originally posted in an LG C8 owner’s thread, but once I saw that I was post #25529 in that thread, I figured almost nobody would see it. I’m posting it here in hopes that google will pick it up and help other LG C8 owners.)

I love HDR/DolbyVision on my LG C8, and I love streaming media to it from Plex.  After I had enough UHD movies on disc, I bought a UHD drive for my desktop PC to rip my UHD movie collection to my Plex server.  The ripping went fine, and plex can properly stream UHD HDR content to the C8 (and can even tonemap it for my older SDR displays), but some movies would pause a few times during playback for several seconds, and a few would pause every 5 to 10 seconds, making them unwatchable.  (Everything else, including full blu-ray rips, stream perfectly.)

My first thought was that the network connection to the TV wasn’t fast enough.  I started out on the 100mbps wired ethernet connection on the C8, then switched to wireless, then even an ethernet-to-USB adapter on the recommendation of this video:

…and while all of these switches got me faster speeds, UHD movies still stuttered when streamed.

I have a background in digital video compression, as well as unix, so I wrote some scripts to use ffprobe (part of ffmpeg) to figure out what the average and peak bitrates of UHD rips were.  The average video bitrates in my collection ranged from 34mbps (The Martian, 2015) all the way up to 85mbps (The Thing, 1982).  These were well below my networking speeds, so the network was not the culprit.  I then thought my Plex server was an issue, so I used the Plex Dashboard to see what its sending bitrate speeds were, and it didn’t have any trouble either (and the server wasn’t using any CPU because it didn’t need to transcode; the LG C8 decodes h.265 + bt.2020 + HDR in hardware).

Finally, I decided to probe the TV itself:  I transcoded a problematic UHD rip to SDR 4k h.264, at the same bitrates as the original, and streamed that… and it streamed fine with no pausing.  My conclusion: The LG C8 can only decode h.265 content roughly up to 60mbps.  Anything more demanding and it falls behind.

My solution for working around this:  Encode slightly lower-bitrate “proxies” to sit alongside the originals in Plex.  I have an RTX 3080 in my desktop PC, and it can decode/encode 4k h.265 faster than realtime, so I came up with this batch file in Windows:

REM LG C8 TV can't handle HDR streams with bitrates over 60mbps streamed
REM over any network device (chip limitation, not network limitation).
REM This creates a Plex Versions proxy that preserves as much quality
REM as possible without exceeding an LG C8's capabilities.
REM Call this batch file from the plex directory containing your main movie.
REM The 120M bufsize represents a 3-second window @ 40M vbr that the max of 60M
REM can be sustained.

mkdir "Plex Versions\LG C8"

for %%a in ("*.*") do ffmpeg -find_stream_info -hwaccel auto -i "%%a" -map 0 -c copy -c:v hevc_nvenc -pix_fmt p010le -tune:v hq -preset:v p7 -color_primaries bt2020 -color_trc smpte2084 -colorspace bt2020nc -spatial_aq:v 1 -temporal_aq:v 1 -b_ref_mode middle -profile:v main10 -tier:v high -b:v 40M -maxrate:v 60M -bufsize:v 120M "Plex Versions\LG C8\%%~na.mkv"

The above batch file uses the highest quality encoding settings for the NVENC block on my RTX 3080, uses an average and maximum bitrate that stays within the C8’s limits, and also preserves all of the HDR info.  Now, when I stream a UHD rip using Plex to my LG C8, if it starts to stutter and pause, I switch to the lower-bitrate proxy to finish out the movie.

The only question I’ve gotten is “don’t the RTX 3080 NVENC transcodes look terrible?”  Since I use a high bitrate for the transcodes, and NVENC’s hq settings, most of them look nearly identical.  I noticed a very, very slight lack of texturing in building walls during the latter third of Saving Private Ryan, as those scenes have fine texture, lower light, and lots of film grain.  But even if there’s a tiny loss of quality, it still beats the same movie’s blu-ray rip by a wide margin.

Not all of my UHD rips pause when playing. But now, if one starts to pause, I can just switch to the proxy and avoid getting off the sofa, fumbling around with discs, etc.

Posted in Digital Video, Entertainment, Technology | Leave a Comment »

The Care And Feeding of the M24/6300/6060/1600

Posted by Trixter on December 9, 2021

The Olivetti M24 was a fantastic PC compatible that was double the speed of the IBM PC, had built-in expansion ports, a smaller footprint, and special hi-res graphics, all at a price cheaper than the original PC. AT&T brought the M24 to the USA and sold it as the AT&T 6300, and it was very popular over here as an alternative to the PC. (Xerox also imported it to the USA and sold it as the Xerox 6060; in France, it was sold as the Logabax 1600.)

As the vintage computing hobby continues to grow, a lot of people have been coming across these and wondering if they should take the plunge. While the 6300 is among my most favorite systems ever made, I usually don’t recommend it for beginners because it uses a proprietary keyboard and monitor, and if you don’t have both, it can be extremely difficult to adapt a traditional keyboard and monitor for use with the system unit. But, if you see one for sale for cheap, and it has everything and works, I’d like to offer some modern tips on the care and feeding of these unique beasts. These hints can help get your system up to speed as a useable and practical member of your collection. (Note: When I write “6300”, I’m talking about all versions of the Olivetti M24, as they were identical hardware.)


First and foremost: If you have a working system, IMMEDIATELY power it off, open it up, disassemble it, remove the motherboard from the bottom of the system, and carefully desolder and remove the barrel battery. It’s not needed to operate the system, and can only cause permanent failure if it corrodes the motherboard. (You can try to snip the battery off with snips, but I have broken a motherboard this way so I usually recommend the gentler option.)

If your system boots up with a ROM BIOS other than 1.43, flash the 1.43 ROM BIOS and install it. It fixes some bugs. There is an associated PAL that came with the ROM BIOS upgrade kit, but in my experience it wasn’t necessary to operate the machine (some of the hardware support introduced by 1.43 won’t work without the updated PAL, but the rest of the BIOS enhancements will work). One thing the upgrade gives you is the ability to run Microsoft Word for DOS 4.x and higher in graphical mode using the 6300’s high-res graphics.

If you don’t care about running GeoWorks Ensemble, replace the 8086 with an NEC V30 for a 20% speedup. Ensemble will no longer work for some reason, but everything else will feel zippier.


If you want to add an XT-IDE, you need to use any XUB BIOS made in the last 2 years or newer, because it has speed-optimized code that deals with the bus issues of the AT&T. The speedup is minimal, so if your XT-IDE card works as-is, it’s using the slow compatible mode and you may want to leave it that way so you can use it in any system.

Bus issues? Yes, unfortunately on the 6300, doing a word-sized read or write will accidentally transpose the values. This causes some software to break. A “bus correction kit” was available that fixed this, but they are rare. An effort on the VCF forums was made to reproduce them, but I don’t know where that project landed; sorry. If your XT-IDE card is using the wrong BIOS that tries to do word-sized reads, you may see it start up with endian-swapped lettering when it identifies the CF card: Instead of your transcend CF card showing up as “TRANSCEND”, you’ll see “RTNACSNE D” and then it will hang. Flashing a new XT-IDE XUB BIOS using the most compatible options will fix this.

You can put any 3.5″ drive in the system and get free 720K DSDD support by ensuring you have a DEVICE=DRIVER.SYS line in CONFIG.SYS with appropriate params for 720K. But that’s it; the built-in controller does not support high-density drives. You’ll have to get a replacement floppy controller and disable the onboard one if you want to do that, but IMO it’s not worth it when XT-IDE makes transferring files with modern systems easy.


Intel Etherexpress 8/16 network cards don’t work in an AT&T because of the bus issue mentioned above. Xircom parallel-port ethernet adapters work fine, albeit slowly. I’ve used other period-appropriate ethernet cards with success, although I prefer to use anything with an RJ-45 connector as I find 10 base-t ethernet transceiver dongles cumbersome.


The keyboard, and it’s plug and signaling, are proprietary. It is nearly impossible to use a different keyboard. There is someone on the VCF forums who came up with a hardware design to translate the signaling between the 6300 keyboard port and a PS/2 connector, but I also don’t know where that project landed, sorry.


The display adapter is proprietary; it outputs a high-res 25 KHz horizontal signal, but that can only be used with select AT&T monitors. It also provides voltage (!) to power AT&T monochrome monitors. Trying to replace it with something like VGA is difficult and frustrating, especially if you don’t have the bus conversion kit mentioned earlier. My advice is to try to keep the original monitor running, as that is part of the system’s charm.

If you can’t find a working monitor, you can use an RGB2HDMI and a custom adapter to translate the signal to HDMI. It’s an RGB TTL signal that runs at 56Hz vertical and (if memory serves) 25KHz horizontal, and provides a 640×400 display.

Speaking of that display, it had more support than people realize. You can run Windows 3.0 in real mode, Geoworks Ensemble, and GEM in 640×400 if you like graphical environments.


The power supply is very odd (24 V?) and is difficult to repair because it is built in two halves. It also houses voltages that can injure or even kill you if you open it up and try to repair it. Be careful, and refer to the Olivetti M24 technical reference or the 6300 Sams Computerfacts to know what you’re getting into.


The dimensions of the system are proprietary; they will not take replacement motherboards. In fact, the motherboard and the bus interface are two separate backplanes that interface through the display adapter (you read that right: The display adapter) so it’s impossible to adapt the case to house anything else.

I do not know which accelerator cards (ie. 286 or 386 speedup cards) work in a 6300. My guess is that most of them would not work because of the aforementioned bus issue and/or expecting an 8088 when the system uses an 8086. The only accelerator cards that are likely to work are those that didn’t use a ribbon cable to replace the CPU, such as Applied Reason’s “PC-elevATor” board.

Most, if not all, 8-bit sound cards work just fine in a 6300 as they didn’t require word-sized accesses. I recommend an 8-bit Sound Blaster clone, or a Sound Blaster Pro. DMA on those cards works fine and you can even play MOD songs on a 6300 at 24Khz or higher with one. You can also use an LPT sound dongle (ie. Covox) as there is nothing particularly odd about the 6300’s built-in parallel port.

You can put EMS cards in 6300s and they work. EMS boards are slow in the 6300 unless you get the AT&T-specific, AST-made, EEMS 3.2 board, which uses the proprietary 16-bit wacky interface unique to the AT&T, and then the EMS memory is the same speed as the main memory (and enables some other neat tricks, like expanding lower DOS RAM from 640K to 736K). Desqview also runs very well with this board installed, although a regular EMS board helps with that too.

Posted in Vintage Computing | 1 Comment »

My IBM PCjr Print Media Archival Project

Posted by Trixter on April 25, 2021

While I’m not the #1 PCjr fan in the world — that honor goes to Mike Brutman — I consider myself in the top five. I’ve owned, used, and programmed for the PCjr for decades. A flawed problem child, the PCjr was an underdog that never fully met IBM’s expectations, but it succeeded at something much greater: With its 16-color graphics, 3-voice sound, and early support from Sierra, it showed the world that PCs could be treated seriously as viable gaming machines. Because of this, I’ve evangelized the PCjr, given extended PCjr history presentations, and even set up comprehensive PCjr exhibits. So you could say I’m a PCjr superfan.

Along these lines, I’m happy to announce the results of a years-long scanning project: A gigantic cache of IBM PCjr resources: Books, magazines, newsletters, catalogs, adverts, and technical and repair information. So what does that mean?


Let’s start with over 20 PCjr-specific books, covering topics from introductions to personal computing, all the way down into technical details about how the PCjr’s enhanced features work. You can pick these up here: http://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Books/


There’s also a complete run of the Eugene PCjr Club newsletter (over 135 issues), as well as a complete run of jr Newsletter out of Connecticut (75% of which are new 600 DPI scans). There were at least 32 (!) different PCjr clubs during PCjr’s lifetime, but only a few had long and comprehensive newsletters as these two. The Eugene PCjr Club was the longest-run active PCjr club in the world, starting in 1984 until disbanding in 2002, and from 1985 onward they had their own newsletter.

Reading these is not only a nostalgic trip back in time, but also chock full of surprisingly relevant information to vintage computer hobbyists today. They continued coverage where the magazines left off, reporting on which new hardware add-ons and modifications you could perform on a jr, iincluding a potential 286 upgrade, VGA upgrade, hard drives, and more; they also had many tips on getting software to run on the not-quite-compatible PCjr. You can pick up the entire Eugene PCjr Club and jr Newsletter runs, as well as other PCjr newsletters (check out The Orphan Peanut, prepared completely on a 768K PCjr!), here: http://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Newsletters/

Heck, there’s even 21 issues of The Junior Report, a newsletter from “The PCjr Club” which I never knew about during their heyday, which surprised me since they were held in Schaumburg, Illinois — practically in my back yard at that time.


I’ve also managed to archive complete runs of most magazines that were dedicated only to the IBM PCjr, such as Peanut, PCjr Magazine, and even PCjr World, a special insert included in PC World magazine for a few issues. (These jr-specific magazines are rare, and I acquired them at considerable expense, so please give a moment of silence to thank them for their sacrifice.)

Additionally, I’ve managed to scan very many magazine excerpts from other magazines that covered PCjr. Some of these excerpts were quite good and comprehensive, from using PCjr as a cheap scientific data acquisition platform, to detailed accounts of what was happening with PCjr during its original time period. You can grab the magazines and excerpts completed thus far here: http://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Magazines/
(I’m still working on the complete run of “COMPUTE! For the PC and PCjr” as well as “jr”; if you can lend or donate issues for scanning, please let me know.)


Finally, I’ve archived some catalogs, which can serve as a collector’s checklist of all the PCjr-specific hardware and software it was possible to use with your PCjr. The PC Enterprises catalogs list some esoteric stuff that is nearly impossible to find, and IBM’s The Guide has some gorgeous product shots of PCjr and other hardware. There are also catalogs from Computer Reset, Paul Rau Consulting, and others. Pick up all the catalogs here: http://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/drivers/IBM/PCjr/Catalogs%20and%20Price%20Lists/

What’s in it for me?

All of these are high quality scans and fully text-searchable. Advanced techniques were used to ensure the highest quality possible at reasonable sizes. You will not find any JPEG “mosquito noise” compression artifacts, screened printing moire patterns, or unreadable text in these scans.

While I originally did this for new PCjr owners so that they could get up to speed quickly, there is a lot of nostalgic waxing and trivia for grizzled old collectors too. For example, there’s references to third-party hardware and modifications that I never knew existed until I started this project (a reset button, an SVGA sidecar, 286 upgrade, quad-cartridge-port adapter, EMS sidecar modification, etc.), esoteric program patches to get equally esoteric software working on PCjr, and even trivia like what the “L” port was originally meant to be used for.


I’d like to thank Louie Levy for donating most of the Eugene PCjr Club newsletters to me for this project, and L. Teague for many jr Newsletters, PCE catalogs, and other materials.


Q: Can I ______ these files?
A: I don’t care what you do with these files, as long as you’re sharing and enjoying them and don’t utterly destroy my bandwidth. Please leech responsibly, preferably at 512KB/s or less.

If you want to upload these to The Internet Archive, go for it; just let me know what the collection links are so that I can edit this post and link to them. Someone has already done some of these files piecemeal, without acknowledging my efforts, but that goes with the territory; we (archivists) are used to it. If you want fame and fortune, being an archivist is a pretty terrible way to go about it.

Q: What is your scanning process?
A: Funny you should ask.

Q: The PDFs are great, but–
A: Don’t worry, OCD friends: The original physical pages are being stored off-site, and I also made a copy of the raw unprocessed 600 DPI scans if newer and better technology becomes available.

Posted in Technology, Vintage Computing | 2 Comments »

October Horror Movie Challenge Results

Posted by Trixter on October 31, 2020

Every October, I allow myself to get all of the horror, gore, and halloween-themed movie-watching out of my system. For literally no reason or benefit, I usually challenge myself to watch 31 such movies, one for each day of the month. This year is the first year I succeeded, likely due to a mixture of the pandemic limiting excursions, and also because horror movies are a light and breezy diversion from the real-life hellscape that is 2020.

So what did Trixter watch? Here’s the list, in chronological order of release date (this was not my viewing order, which is much less interesting):

The Thing 1951
The Premature Burial 1962
Theater of Blood 1973
The Exorcist 1973
Haunted: The Ferryman 1974
Trilogy of Terror 1975
Halloween 1978
Alien 1979
Phantasm 1979
Humanoids from the Deep 1980
The Thing 1982
The Beast Within 1982
Cat People 1982
Aliens 1986
Invaders from Mars 1986
April Fool’s Day 1986
Predator 1987
Phantasm II 1988
Cellar Dweller 1988
Scarecrows 1988
Death Spa 1989
Dr. Giggles 1992
Leprechaun 1993
Phantasm III 1994
Ice Cream Man 1995
From Dusk ’til Dawn 1996
Phantasm IV 1998
Shaun of the Dead 2004
Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn 2015
Phantasm: Ravager 2016
Hubie Halloween 2020

And a special bonus that I completed just now: Night of the Living Dead (1990) viewing party with three of lead actors, giving live commentary. Was very fun, first time I’ve ever done that.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

How to reasonably archive color magazines to PDF

Posted by Trixter on July 14, 2020

During a conversation with one of my archival collectives, the topic of archiving color magazines came up. Our goal was to distribute scans of the material as PDF, primarily because of its ubiquity of viewing software, but also because OCR’d text could follow the images, making the magazine searchable without requiring the user to perform OCR. However, most of us haven’t started archiving our magazines, because it’s an extremely daunting task. Color magazines are notoriously annoying and difficult to scan to digital form because:

  • Most were printed using screened printing, whose tiny high-contrast dots hurt compression ratios, and produce moiré patterns when scanning at, or resizing to, lower resolutions
  • The high number of pages in color magazines (300, 400, or even 500 pages per publication) makes using a flatbed scanner a tedious process, as well as resulting in a very large set of data per magazine (if preserving quality is a concern)
  • Some magazines print almost all the way into the binding, leaving only a few millimeters of margin at the gutter, which prevents traditional book scanners, both flatbed and camera-based, from capturing the inner 1 CM of printed material

However, we’re in possession of several magazines that the original publisher hasn’t archived and aren’t available in the wild, so we decided to experiment with various scanners, software, and methods to see what was possible, while staying within the limits of what is practical.

While everyone has their own views on what’s important (size vs. quality, speed vs. accuracy, effort vs. volume, etc.), I came up with a set of rules and processes for myself that I’ll be following, and would like to share them. I held myself to the following goals:

  • PDF file sizes should not exceed 1MB per page on average. In 2020, and for the next 5 years at current broadband capacities and growth, a file size of 500MB for giant magazines, or 100MB for modest ones, is appropriate. This isn’t because of total size — storage is cheap — but rather because of transfer rates. I could easily scan a 500-page magazine to 30 GB of TIFF files (which I’ve done many times), but it’s not practical to share 30GB per magazine with online repositories. And besides, I’m not made of money, and some online repos may balk at an attempted upload of 7 TB (approx. 20 years of a large magazine’s print run).
  • Pages should be scanned at 600 DPI. This preserves the screening which can be dealt with later if necessary. It also ensures that very fine print will not only be legible, but able to be OCR’d. (Even if 300 DPI material is eventually needed for extremely large publications to stay under 1GB, the 300 DPI material can be obtained by resizing the 600 DPI material, instead of re-scanning the entire document.)
  • No matter the amount of processing, text should never dip below 600 DPI. This is less of a preference and more of a way to ensure that very fine print, such as a magazine’s masthead/impressum, is legible.
  • All screened material should be de-screened. If the scanning system has a proper de-screening option (a real one that asks for the LPI of the source material, not just a dumb blur filter), it will be turned on during scanning (and the results checked afterwards). If no such option exists, all 600 DPI (and better) scans will be run through a proper de-screening process. I have had excellent results with the Sattva Descreen plugin and endorse it for this. Descreening screened material not only improves the quality of screened images by removing the screening pattern, but results in smaller files (no matter the compression method) due to what is effectively noise reduction.
  • Mild degradation of images is appropriate as long as the text legibility itself is preserved. (Acrobat and DjVu can both do this, although some repositories aren’t accepting DjVu any more.)

To achieve these goals at the highest legibility but the smallest file size, I follow these practices:

  • Destroy the magazines. If you cut the binding off, you have flat sheets that you can run through an ADF or sheet-fed scanner. You can cut very close to the binder glue, giving the inner printing a change to be scanned. It’s a sacrifice, but I feel preserving information printed on paper is more important than preserving the paper. I bought a guillotine paper cutter for $120 specifically for this purpose.
  • Use a high-quality sheet-fed duplex scanner with a configurable TWAIN driver. Usually people think of the Fujitsu ScanSnap series for this, and that was what I first purchased, but the ScanSnap series’ software is not configurable, and it’s only 9 inches wide which prevents scanning some material. I was lucky enough to acquire a Fujitsu fi-series scanner second-hand. This line of professional office scanners have an extremely configurable TWAIN driver that allows groups of settings to be saved into profiles appropriate for various kinds of material. And while it’s not a photo scanner, it does a more than acceptable job of scanning color magazines (better than the ScanSnap, which always has washed-out colors). Would I use it for scanning photos or artwork? No, but it’s my first choice for scanning entire books or magazines. This can be a case of spending some real money, but you do get what you pay for.
  • Pay for Acrobat. Real, commercial Acrobat supports JPEG2000 compression, which outperforms JPEG in both size and quality. But more importantly, it has a feature that can drastically reduce large PDFs called Adaptive Compression. It works by separating text and line drawings on a page into their own monochrome layer that is compressed losslessly. Then, the image that remains after the text has been lifted is downsampled and recompressed. This results in much smaller files without compromising the legibility of text and the sharpness of line drawings. (This feature may have been inspired by DjVu, whose early claim to fame was doing exactly this.) Finally, commercial Acrobat can perform OCR without requiring additional software.

With those rules and methods set, I performed many tests with a lot of material, and came up with a set of best practices that met my criteria. I compiled those practices into a handy flowchart:

I’ve continued to put this flowchart into practice with a lot of material, including mixed-content manuals (color, grayscale, and B&W material in the same manual), 500-page color screened magazines, 8.5×11″ photocopied material, dot-matrix printouts, and printed books. In all cases, I follow the flowchart until the size is reasonable for the material, and I’ve never been disappointed or felt like I was giving up too much quality for the file size. (What is “reasonable” is different for everyone according to personal preference, goals, and motivation, so it’s up to you to determine what that size eventually is.)

I hope that this information will help you finally tackle your own stacks of magazines that, like me, have been leering at you ominously for years from the various corners of your abode.

Posted in Lifehacks, Technology | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »

Experiment results and changing tactics

Posted by Trixter on October 31, 2019

At the beginning of October, I pledged that I would do two simple things to see if I could improve my physical and mental state: Get enough sleep, and get a small amount of exercise every morning. I chose several physical, mental, and emotional aspects of myself to record during the month to see if they improved with regular sleep and exercise:

  • Foot pain
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Procrastination
  • Bad food decisions
  • Anxiety level
  • Anger/irritation

Twice a day, I’d make a note of how these felt on a scale from 1 to 10. Since they are all normalized to the same scale (representing “bad” things) lower was better. The goal was to see downward trends in the data throughout the month.

While I gained some insight about my behavior and motivation, the experiment broke down: I was only able to get decent sleep about 38% of the month (up from 25%, but far short of the intended 100%), and I did not exercise at all because I couldn’t consistently get up in the morning to exercise while still getting to work on time. Despite this, some of the results were interesting enough to examine, so I’ll present the data here.


My left foot suffers from a longitudinal tear due to having flat feet, and needs surgery. Walking is painful, and sometimes my right foot gets tired because it is working harder than the other foot during my stride. I know that my left foot won’t get better on its own, but I was hoping more sleep might alleviate the discomfort a little. Did that improve?

I was not expecting that to improve, but I guess “more sleep = more time to heal” is glaringly obvious in hindsight :-)

I’ve been worried about my core, as I’ve had lower back pain for seemingly no reason ever since I turned 40 (a multitude of humanity cries out “Join the club!”). I have also had upper back pain (neck, shoulders, limited mobility) on and off for the last five years. Did those improve?

Same obvious results: If you get more sleep, your body has more time to heal. A tiny downward trend, but I’ll take it.

Getting more sleep should have helped my feeling of tiredness or general fatigue. Did it?

Anything under the midline is good, but I neither like nor can explain the upward trend.


I go through cycles of depression that, regardless of the trigger, I’m pretty sure are chemical: They usually last a few days, and then I’m fine again for 6-8 weeks. Did slightly more sleep help with that?

The takeaway here is not the flat trendline, but that my daily feeling of depression was all over the place. Some days I’m really depressed; some days I’m not. Maybe I don’t have a 6-8 week cycle like I thought I did. Maybe these numbers are linked to my levels of procrastination. More study needed.

The genesis of this experiment was myself getting alarmed at my anxiety levels, and frustrated with myself on how I am procrastinating more and getting things done less. These two factors combine into a perfect storm of compelling me to eat bad food to feel better. They’re all linked, so let’s see how all three did:

It’s possible anxiety got worse because I could see, day by day, that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Because anxiety got worse, eating bad food stayed constant. Procrastination decreased slightly, which is what I was hoping for, although I wish it were a more significant change than what was observed.

Not listed on the chart: Continuous bad food decisions resulted in gaining 4.7 pounds this past month. Yikes.

As I get older, my mental state has shifted from more logical to more emotional. I’ve talked about this before, and gotten some good advice along the way (from “embrace it!” to “here’s how you can slow this down”). While some people like this natural transition that happens to most men as they age, I do not want. Besides, the last thing my family needs is a more emotional me. So, did slightly more sleep help with fleeting anger and irritation?

This is a very welcome outcome. :-) I guess it’s also obvious in hindsight, that more sleep reduces irritability, but it’s still nice to see.

Self-evaluation, and one more round

Despite mostly failing to improve myself during this experiment, I made some correlations that weren’t obvious to me going in (or, maybe I didn’t want to admit them until I saw hard data).

My self-evaluation: I suffer from anxiety. When it flares up, it manifests as mild OCD or unproductive behaviors, such as not being able to start (or finish) projects due to fear of… something, I don’t know, but it leads to procrastination. Instead of working on a project (which would be a good outlet for nervous energy), I end up wasting time in an effort to squash the anxiety. At night, I stay up late in a frantic cycle of trying to find something (computer games, youtube videos, movies) that will either calm me down or make me so tired that my mind finally shuts up and my body gives out — but this always leads to not getting enough sleep… which then leads to a higher anxiety level the next day… which perpetuates the cycle. And since I don’t have decent coping mechanisms for anxiety, I also make bad food decisions during the daytime (fast food, sweets, etc.) to try to reduce my anxiety level.

I probably need therapy or treatment for anxiety. Before going down that path, I want to exhaust my options for coping with it some other way. I’m not against drugs or therapy — several close friends and family have had great success with both — but I want to tell myself that I gave the problem a thorough, logical, scientific examination before I go that route.

So what will I change in November? I’ll go after the exercise I attempted in October. My excuses for not exercising in October were not entirely rational:

  • There’s no benefit to exercise unless it’s in the morning, to raise your overall metabolic rate
  • If I exercise too late at night, I won’t be able to sleep
  • Getting more sleep in the morning is more important than exercise

…etc. I’m going to throw these excuses out the window and commit to doing 20 minutes of moderate-to-intense cardio every single day, regardless of what time it is, even if it’s right before bedtime (that’s neither desirable nor optimal, but it has to get done). Ideally, the earlier the better, but if it has to be at 7pm when I get home from work, so be it.

I’ll check back at the end of November with a new set of data.

Posted in Lifehacks | 2 Comments »

What does normal living feel like?

Posted by Trixter on September 30, 2019

Technology has human physical cost. The year I started using computers daily may have been the most formative year of my life, but it also started a lifetime of bad habits. For decades, I haven’t slept more than 5 hours a night except maybe on weekends. I’ve spent those same decades sitting in a chair instead of moving around in the real world. Both of my feet hurt, and not from the same cause. My upper back has pain that doesn’t match my lower back pain. I am deficient in vitamin D. I process information more slowly than I used to. I no longer feel like the smartest kid in the room.

October is my month to unplug from everything and perform personal experiments on myself. Last year, it was watching one horror movie a day and commenting on it. In 2012, it was completely disconnecting from the internet. This year, it will be attempting to live life like a normal human being is probably supposed to:

  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Exercise (cardio) every morning

That’s it. No other changes, nothing crazy or extreme; just live life like human biology meant for me to live. Burgers and pizza are still on the table.

Why haven’t I done these two basic things thus far? Why is it difficult? Maybe it’s the low-level anxiety that makes me fear going to sleep. (90% of my dreams are nightmares, which doesn’t help.) Maybe it’s FOMO. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, and so computer time is my vice. I don’t know, and I’m not ready for therapy.

Will I feel better? Will I have less pain? Will I think more clearly? Will my outlook on life change? Will I be more productive? Will I have more energy? Will I lose weight? I’ll be recording and charting my physical and mental status every day, and will share the results with you at the end of October.

Posted in Lifehacks | 7 Comments »

20 Years of MobyGames

Posted by Trixter on February 28, 2019

MobyGames turns 20 years old on Friday March 1st, something I am overjoyed to witness. It’s occasion enough for me to come out of semi-retirement and tell my side of the story of MobyGames’ humble beginnings: A tale of two friends starting up a company to fill a void in the gaming community.

MobyGames was created in a figurative basement (an apartment, actually) during the formation of the first Internet Bubble, and somehow stayed alive and grew once that bubble popped. It has become the de-facto source of historical data of the game industry, for people both inside and outside that industry. It is frequently cited as the source of material for tens of thousands of Wikipedia articles on video and computer games. It has achieved and surpassed the goals I originally had for it, and I’m grateful to everyone who volunteers their valuable time to contribute to the database, even more so by all of the admins who edit and audit all of the information for accuracy and authenticity. I am humbled by all of their efforts, past, present, and future.

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing very clear: While I’m writing this article from my perspective as the person who dreamed up MobyGames, the real hero is Brian Hirt. Brian was the other co-founder at our inception, and MobyGames simply wouldn’t exist in any usable form without his many years of dedication getting it off the ground. A lot of people don’t really understand what goes into making a new online product and a company to support it, and it was even harder in the 1990s when the web was still young; there simply weren’t many off-the-shelf components and established standards you could use to jumpstart the process. Brian did just about all of the gruntwork, from establishing the business entity, to writing all the code, to working on MobyGames full-time for many years. Some of those years, Brian didn’t earn a living wage, while still somehow managing to invest a substantial amount of his own money into keeping MobyGames afloat (hardware, rack space, and network bandwidth aren’t free). Everyone who has gleaned use out of MobyGames owes a huge debt to Brian. I, for one, will be eternally grateful to have worked with a good friend who believed in my idea.

I’d also like to thank Rob Lim (cornpopper), who was an early contributor that became such an approval powerhouse that we hired him on as an employee. He took on more than was asked of him, and kept MobyGames data flowing during some of its darker times — a thankless job, but one I do thank him for.

This article is, by necessity, subjective; it’s based on my personal recollection of events. Others may remember events differently; I speak only for myself. Also, I’m not going to write about anything that didn’t go smoothly in MobyGames’ history — I don’t want melodrama to detract from the achievement MobyGames is today. Finally, it’s customary to remind readers that my opinions are my own, and do not represent the current ownership, staff, admins, or contributors of MobyGames.

So, what led to the birth of MobyGames? Now that the statute of limitations has long expired, I can formally confirm that the idea was born out of software piracy. Wait, what? Read on, true believer:

A Software Pirate Reforms

In 1997, I operated a website dedicated to classic games for the IBM PC. (My site was one of the original 10 Abandonware sites that started the Abandonware movement, but that early history warrants its own article for another day.) Why classic games? Early games hold a certain charm for me because they were pioneers of a new art form — interactive electronic entertainment — and the IBM PC fascinated me in particular: A business machine attempting to entertain instead of crunch numbers. While there was no shortage of early console and arcade games before personal computer games, the IBM PC had fairly bad graphics and sound, so creating an immersive entertainment experience on that platform was particularly difficult. I admired any effort to do so, and wanted to share this admiration with the rest of the world, which I did with voluminous amounts of information per game, including what kind of game it was, who made it, other games like it, what it looked like, and a personal review of the gameplay. All of this information was presented in a quasi-database format, with crude searching and organizing capabilities. It was a proto-MobyGames, and, amazingly, you can still view it thanks to the Internet Archive, who was covertly spidering the web for years before offering their archives to the public in 2001.

There was only one problem: What I was doing was illegal. In my quest to educate people on the merits of early IBM PC games, I became overzealous and included download links to the actual games themselves. At the time, I thought that if other people could enjoy them in the same way I had years ago, they would gain a better understanding of the art form. The ESA (back then known as the Interactive Digital Software Association, or IDSA), rightly so, quickly made me aware that what I was doing was illegal with a cease and desist letter sent in October of 1997. Discouraged, I took down the entire site and shelved the idea of documenting the history of early PC gaming.

It was in 1998 that I was motivated to revisit the idea. Fueled by nostalgic curiosity, I had attempted to search for some information on older games that I wanted to play or learn more about, but kept coming up short in all of my searches. I wasn’t being totally unreasonable; I was searching for answers to questions like these:

  • Who composed the wonderful AdLib music in Continuum, and what else have they worked on?
  • Did that old Cinemaware samurai game ever come out for the PC?
  • Everyone on the newsgroups talks about Star Control 2; will it run on this old Tandy I have lying around here?
  • Speaking of which, what other games will take advantage of my Tandy’s sound and graphics?
  • I like racing games; what other racing games were made for the PC?
  • I am completely stuck in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis; where can I get a hint or walkthrough for older games?
  • Speaking of which, what other games are like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis?
  • I’ve never played King’s Quest 7; what does it look like?

I was coming up short again and again, day after day, and I kept thinking that there had to be some place you could go to for answers. Usenet provided information with some quality control (whenever someone posted bad info, someone else corrected them) but the results were partial and scattered. Various websites were a bit more concise, but had absolutely no quality control. While the wiki itself had been invented two years prior in 1995, this was 1997, and Wikipedia wouldn’t launch for another three years. The more I searched, I kept thinking there should be a single, complete, audited resource for gaming information — and eventually, I became determined to create that resource.

In January of 1998, I began work on an extension to my old hobbyist website, http://www.oldskool.org, that would be an online database of gaming information. My website experience at the time was PHP and standard Apache server-side includes and CGI, so I naively thought I could build the entire database out of a quasi-relational database system of my own design using a Perl/PHP mix and text files. (You can stop laughing now.) I brainstormed for a week and created a design document for the project, which is the true original kernel for the design of MobyGames.

Seeing as this design document is the first milestone in MobyGame’s history, I have kept it online for your amusement. While it is mostly humorous to see just how different MobyGames is today from that original design — and how naive I was in thinking that the proposed design could scale to millions of unique IPs per month — it is interesting to see how similar MobyGames today is to the original vision. Even the hacker slang term “Moby” is in that document, as the search function was going to be called MobySearch.

The work involved in programming a custom system of that scale was beyond my capabilities at the time, so I decided to bone up on PHP and Perl to develop the system. However, the entire idea was put on the backburner as I got distracted with real life (new job, newborn son, etc.) It was in December of 1998 that the real surprise came.

“Go here.”

In mid-December 1998, I worked up the courage to begin the gaming database project again. In trying to take a stab at programming the database system, I had run into a lot of problems, and called my longtime friend from high school (and best man at my wedding!) Brian Hirt, a higher-order Perl and SQL god, for advice. I had difficulty explaining the problems I was having, so he asked for a view of the big picture: What was I trying to accomplish? What system was I programming it in? We talked for almost an hour, with me explaining my idea and the motivation behind it, the way I wanted it to navigate, how I wanted it to appeal to the user, etc. and with him asking related questions for clarification. We then talked about other regular stuff, like games, family, etc. and then hung up, and that was the end of it.

About two days later, he called me up and said mysteriously, “Go here,” and gave me a URL to follow. To my utter amazement, it was a mock-up of my idea — and scarier still, it was a functional mock-up! He had already created a basic relational SQL database, and a basic web front-end to browse through the database. My jaw hit the floor. It was the fastest, most functional prototyping I have ever witnessed, but equally surprising and wonderful was that Brian was very excited in the idea and wanted to co-develop it with me.

The next six weeks were a blur as Brian and I went back and forth over email and the phone, working out the basic structure and navigation. The original idea was to develop in PHP shelling out to SQL for the data, so that I could help develop it, but early on Brian did some scalability tests that showed PHP was not up to the task of scaling properly. (This was before the days of Zend, p-code, and JIT compilers.) In early February of 1999, the development system of Apache serving up a large monolithic Perl program was finalized, and we refined what we wanted MobyGames to be. Finally, a few days before March 1st, Brian added the first game ever to the database: X-Files. And on March 1st, I started posting to Usenet announcing the grand opening of MobyGames.

Open for Business

It is at this point you would expect me to say “and the rest is history” — but in fact, things were only just starting to heat up. The entire month of March 1999 had Brian and me exhausting all of our free time entering games into the database, and fielding email containing new database submissions and corrections. By the end of March 1999, there were over 200 games in the system; some strategically chosen to exploit the database engine’s ability to cross-link from entry to entry, and others chosen simply because they were our favorite games. I was personally spending at least 3 hours a night entering information into MobyGames — entering data, scanning covers, playing the game to take screenshots and write a review, etc. — and it simply wasn’t growing fast enough. I was initially resistant to the idea of opening up MobyGames to outside contributors because I wanted to control the quality of the information in the database. Brian had to convince me, over many weeks, that it was painfully obvious we needed a way for willing users to help out without our direct intervention.

(I should take a moment and point out that all the scanning, screenshots, etc. may have seemed like unnecessary work in getting MobyGames off the ground — just get the basic data in there, right? But they were necessary, because the whole point of MobyGames was quality over quantity. Sure, we could have just scraped the Killer List of Videogames, or Dadgum’s Giant List of Classic Game Programmers, but we would then have a database that was a mile wide and an inch deep. There’s no value in looking up a game only to see four or five things about it, barely confirming its existence. There were (and still are!) databases like that out there, like the Universal Videogames List, but it is the depth of information about each game and attention to detail that makes MobyGames the resource that it is today.)

Much of the time Brian spent on development in the first six months of MobyGames’ existence was developing a way for users to submit information for review and inclusion into the database. Brian had the idea of walking the user through the process, allowing them to contribute anything they wanted yet still requiring a few key pieces of information like title, developer, publisher, release information, genre, description, and rating categories. He came up with a practical method of doing this, virtually holding the user’s hand through the process and allowing them to go back and correct mistakes before submission. The benefit to the database was that it ensured the data was normalized and conformed before it was comitted. This became the Add Game Wizard, which is still in use today.

Along with the wizard, a method of motivation was needed to help entice people to contribute to the project, and help existing contributors continue adding information. Enter human psychology: Earlier in life, I’d contemplated going into marketing and advertising, and for a year I took classes to that effect. While I didn’t follow through with that as a career path, I did take away some basic knowledge that I applied to MobyGames. I came up with a point system for contributors: 4 points for an entry, 2 points for a screenshot, etc. The more you contributed, the more “contribution points” you got, and that number was proudly displayed next to your name, which itself was displayed on the same page as the information you contributed. This made MobyGames, itself, a game: You could watch your own progress grow, and also identify other users just as passionate as you. It was an early form of website gamificiation, years before Nick Pelling coined the term in 2003.

The earliest browsable archive of MobyGames available online is from around this time that same year (November, 1999). I haven’t seen that form of the site in nearly two decades, but even at that early stage, I’m reminded of how useful it was even before it was a year old.

Opening the Gates

The Game Wizard was a success, but it was a blessing in disguise: We found ourselves under a steadily increasing load of approvals instead of content entry. Approval of an entry is not something to be taken lightly; it may need to be fact-checked using whatever resources you have available to you (old game lists or magazines, the web, Usenet, game binary code or manuals, etc.). Even if we could approve about half of the entries without any research because of our strong backgrounds in gaming, it still left the other half to research. We found ourselves getting overwhelmed.

Luckily for us, we had struck up email dialogs with ten or so dedicated users who were friendly, prolific contributors. They had expressed a desire to help, so Brian got to work on a hierarchial approval system, where people could “weed out” the easy approvals and send only the harder ones up to us. This system worked so well that we felt it was time to open up the floodgates to multiple platforms.

Multiple platforms? Yes, for the first two years of MobyGames’ operation, our sole coverage of games was on the IBM PC platform. This limitation seems unfathomable, but was actually my fault. I was very much against multiple platforms from the beginning, because I wanted to ensure quality of submitted information, and I felt limiting to the DOS/Windows platforms was the best way to do that because it was the platform Brian and I were the most familiar with. Brian wanted multiple platform support from day one, and being limited to DOS/Windows for the first two years was something we frequently clashed over. It took a third informed opinion from someone else before I finally realized the value of covering the entire electronic entertainment landscape. It’s one of a few things I regret about how I handled MobyGames’ development and growth.

With an approval system in place and users manning the content entry battlements, we started adding platforms. The first choice for new platforms was (then) modern consoles: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Nintendo 64, Xbox, Dreamcast, and Game Cube. Adding only the latest platforms at the time was intentional, to ensure a large, growing library of games to be added, which had a secondary benefit of working out kinks in the new system.

Keeping Up Appearances

We figured out early on that the data in the database was the way for MobyGames to grow in value, and growing in value meant more visitors, more advertising revenue, and more opportunities to turn MobyGames into a full-time business for all involved. To that end, we printed up promotional materials and manned booths at several events, to spread the good word. The largest three I personally attended were:

Classic Gaming Expo 2003, August 9–10, Las Vegas, Plaza Hotel: This was my first time in Las Vegas, and while that experience was somewhat overwhelming, the actual show and manning our booth was a blast. We got nothing but great comments and feedback, which was vindication of our work and idea. One of the problems of trying to promote an internet-only business in 2003 was lack of internet connectivity — whole-event wireless was not yet a thing, and they couldn’t run cables to every table, so how do you show off a site on the internet if you have neither? Brian solved this by working up a portable version of MobyGames we dubbed PortaMoby(tm), displayed on a custom-milled aluminum stand.

Classic Gaming Expo 2004, August 21–22, San Jose, McEnery Convention Center: For the much-larger CGE2004, we had a double-size booth area, and set up both a gaming lounge as well as a projector showing off a trivia game that you could find the answers to on PortaMoby: Play the game and we gave you a free soda; get all the answers right and earn a T-shirt. For more details of what it was like, you can consult the blurb I wrote about CGE2004 at the time.  Better yet, you can skip right to our booth footage at the 4m40s mark in this video retrospective I shot and edited in 2004:

Game Developer’s Conference 2007, San Francisco, Moscone Center: I developed a 103-degree fever right when I arrived on Monday that lasted for 3 days. I don’t have a consistent memory of that week, but can recall a few notable (for me) events:

  • People kept coming up to the booth and asking us what we were doing there. I was confused by this at first, thinking it was a put-down or an insult, but it turned out to be a gigantic complement — everyone in the gaming industry already knew about us. In other words, there was no need to advertise MobyGames because it was already an established resource for the professional gaming industry. It was a huge moment of validation.
  • I am video compression nerd, and when I realized RAD Game Tools was only a few booths away, I stole some time to talk to Jeff Roberts and tell him what an admirer I was of both Smacker and Bink. He was impressed I had reverse-engineered parts of them, but then laughed because Bink was constantly changing for new platforms and there was no way reverse-engineering Bink was viable year after year. (He was right!)
  • On the Wednesday night awards show, we were seated at the intersection of two walkway rows. After accepting an award, Shigeru Miyamoto headed back to his seat, and he chose the walkway closest to where we were seated. He got so close that Chris, an intern working for MobyGames at the time, stood up and got him to shake our hands. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have shaken hands with someone when I had a 103-degree fever, but hey. Chance of a lifetime.
  • On Thursday morning, I felt well enough to attend the IGDA Game Preservation SIG’s kickoff meeting, also on the premises, and met Henry Lowood and Frank Cifaldi during the roundtable discussion. Henry and I have written sporadically a few times over the years, and I reconnected with Frank in 2021 via Twitter.

Regrets? I have a few

A lot of people have asked me over the years why I didn’t stay active with MobyGames. The first two years, I put every single hour of free time I had — and several day job hours, something my employer never found out about — into the site. By 2001, I had two young boys, one of whom was developing some very severe developmental delays. My wife was overwhelmed; I had been neglecting the family a lot during that time, and she needed help with our son who was starting special therapy and undergoing a battery of tests. I was the sole wage earner, and MobyGames didn’t make money its first few years, so I couldn’t make it my full-time job. I started to pull back my involvement, and only dedicate truly free time to MobyGames (ie. after everyone was in bed), which amounted to about 60-90 minutes per evening, with a few hours on weekends. This had a detrimental effect on Brian’s ability to support the site, because he had to take on additional community manager and approval duties that I had mostly owned. Thankfully, we had additional professional interest in the site at that time, who joined on and was able to help as I spent less and less time on MobyGames.

Because of pulling back, I never had the chance to help Brian code up one of my most ambitious goals for MobyGames: Discovery based on a pure gaming taxonomy. I wanted MobyGames to be the ultimate game discovery engine, and my idea for achieving that was to define a very clear gaming taxonomy/heirarchy that every game could be classified under. That structure is somewhat intact even today; if you go to the Game Browser, you can see some top-level classifications like Genre (Action, Sports, Adventure, etc.), with sub-genres and additional branches of the taxonomy, perspective in particular (top-down, 1st-person, etc.). One of the ideas behind the discovery engine was that you could pull up a game you liked, and based on its individual components, could recommend other games that were similar. For example, let’s say you pulled up Ultima 6. Based on “Adventure”, “Role-playing”, “top-down perspective”, “DOS”, etc., the engine could return the results of a database query that would show you similar games. Of course the other Ultima games would be returned by such a query, but also games like Wasteland, Times of Lore, Hard Nova… other games that share the same classification attributes, but possibly in completely different story settings, possibly some you’d never considered before. The Game Browser, as well as the Collaborations area of any Credits section, come closest to this vision today.

I didn’t communicate this taxonomy idea very well with the broader MobyGames community, which is why I fought against a 2006 vote to create Role-Playing as a main, top-level genre in the database. My argument was that all RPGs were Adventure-class games, which is technically true, but not a view shared by most gamers due to unfamiliarity with what I was trying to achieve, as well as the changing nature of language. I was faced with sticking to my guns in support of a pure taxonomy while alienating many valued members of the contributing community… or letting go of the idea to keep the community together. I chose the latter, but it was a blow to my ego that contributed to me pulling away from MobyGames even further. By 2007, I was technically still a partial owner of the company, but I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day running and administration of MobyGames any more.

I regret how I handled some of these situations. My home life was turbulent at the time (my son was eventually diagnosed with autism, and things only got harder after that), but even still, I could have found better ways to communicate and at least stay in the loop, rather than just fading out.


Remember those questions I was trying to answer back in 1998? MobyGames can easily answer them now:

  • Who composed the wonderful AdLib music in Continuum, and what else have they worked on? Frédéric Mentzen, and he stopped writing game music shortly after MobyGames was founded.
  • Did that old Cinemaware samurai game ever come out for the PC? Nope!
  • Everyone on the newsgroups talks about Star Control 2; will it run on this old Tandy I have lying around here? Not unless it has an 80286 and VGA, no.
  • Speaking of which, what other games will take advantage of my Tandy’s sound and graphics? Over 800!
  • I like racing games; what other racing games were made for the PC? For DOS? Over 250.
  • I am completely stuck in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis; where can I get a hint or walkthrough for older games? While gamefaqs cornered the market for walkthroughs, we implemented basic hints that users could contribute.
  • Speaking of which, what other games are like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? Whether you meant like Indiana Jones or like SCUMM games, MobyGames has groups for both.
  • I’ve never played King’s Quest 7; what does it look like? Like a cheap cartoon, unfortunately.

Some of the more fun stuff include questions that I couldn’t dream of answering back then that I can now, like:

And so it goes. And in the capable hands of the current owners, with all of the tireless efforts of dedicated admins and contributors, I look forward to another 20 years using MobyGames.

5th-year Anniversary Testimonials

Portions of this article were originally written in 2004 for an unpublished piece praising MobyGames’ 5th-year anniversary. At that time, I solicited some comments and testimonials from various users of the site as well as industry professionals, and am happy to finally reproduce them here:

“MobyGames has developed its content so professionally that it’s an invaluable source of information on dates, companies and people. I particularly find the cross-referencing of information incredibly useful — finding out what games certain people have worked on throughout their careers. It’s the IMDB of the PC gaming industry — a site that every gamer should have bookmarked.” — Rob Smith, Editor-in-Chief of PC Gamer magazine

“Imagine my surprise and astonishment when I stumbled upon mobygames a year or two ago… here was a system that was working to catalog games! Not just release information (still more than I had done already) but also interesting things to set any one game apart from all the others… things like trivia, screenshots and it’s cover art. A magic spark went off inside my head because here was something that someone else had dreamed up that was suspiciously similiar to my own dreams and disjointed design scribbles on notepaper…” — WildKard

“Its shining glory .. compiling data about game developers and their roles. Nowhere else on the internet can you find that. Movie and theater cast members … but never for games.” — Jeanne

“There are many sites with plenty of information about games, but none of them can even be compared to MobyGames, for two main reasons: Scope and personal involvement. No other game catalogue website allows the user an unlimited involvement in its development, together with countless other contributors. The feeling of growth and of challenge — so many games are still not documented, so many entries are still incomplete, what about finding some rare games to add, screenshots that are tricky to capture, credits that are not documented anywhere except in the game itself, interesting trivia, personal and involving reviews? — is one of those things that make MobyGames so great.” — Unicorn-Lynx

Random Trivia

  • The first month of MobyGames’ existence, it lived on a 200 MHz Pentium II server in Brian’s apartment, and was connected to the internet via a 128K ISDN line.
  • The first game ever entered into MobyGames was The X-Files Game. This was not because it was a great game, but rather because Brian was testing the system and it was the first game within arm’s reach. The second entry was by myself, for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. It was, also, the closest game within arm’s reach for me; I’d grabbed a smattering of titles from my collection to start populating the database with. The third entry was more proper for a historical database on gaming: Wing Commander. (As of today, these last two entries still retains their original contribution date of March 1st, 1999.)
  • The first developer entry fleshed out with a Bio and picture was Michael Berlyn.
  • In the 1990s and early 2000s, whenever someone on a Usenet binary piracy newsgroup wanted to refer to a game without giving away its title, it was common to see the game represented as “gameId,11970”. This is a reference to the game ID embedded in the URL of early game entry “Rap Sheets” (summary pages) on MobyGames.
  • One of the earliest funny and most blunt developer-contributed pieces of trivia would have to be John Romero’s recounting of why the low-res graphics mode was present in Doom but omitted in Doom II: “160-pixels horizontally looked like ass so we removed it.” This trivia item is no longer in the database for some reason, but I’ll never forget it.
  • California Games’ gallery of screenshots for DOS contain a few shots called “CGA ‘MORE-color’ mode” that are technically impossible to capture by dumping the screen buffer on the original system, because the additional colors were created with realtime scanline tricks. The screenshots in MobyGames that depict this mode were hand-edited to match the original graphics mode, and were matched side-by-side with an original IBM PC for authenticity. Today, in 2019, both emulators and homebrew TTL-to-RGB converters make it possible to capture more true CGA output regarless of what tricks were used, but back then we had to massage the raw screen dumps/captures for tweaked modes like this. I even wrote a screen-capture TSR to help contributors take shots of the more difficult and odd CGA DOS games.

Posted in Gaming, MobyGames | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

End Of Line

Posted by Trixter on December 30, 2018

I’m leaving myself behind.

Wow, that sounds really melodramatic, doesn’t it? I have started this post multiple times, and each time, it sounds like some hammy grand exit, like I’m taking all of my toys and going home. That’s not my intention, but in today’s social media landscape, there isn’t a way to word something like this without it sounding sensational. I’m just trying to leave a signpost to my friends so that they don’t wonder what happened to me.

Let’s try the direct approach:

  • I am exiting my long-standing hobby circles: The demoscene; personal computing history; software preservation and archival; vintage gaming history; others.
  • I will neither monitor, nor participate on, social media or online forums.
  • I am completely changing my physical lifestyle: Diet, sleep, and exercise.

Why? While the timing makes this seem like a New Year’s resolution, that’s just a coincidence; the reason is because I need to make improvements to my mental health, which suffered trauma some years ago and never quite recovered. It surfaces whenever various triggers present themselves, but unfortunately for me, there are triggers for this kind of trauma everywhere I currently haunt online. So that ends.

(I explained this in great detail in my previous post, which you may notice is hidden behind a password. Just before I posted it, I got excellent advice from close friends that made me see how posting it in its current form could make things worse, but could also go off like a claymore and unduly hurt someone else, so I walled it. I’m leaving it up as something I can refer to in case I need a therapeutic reminder. If you are a close friend whom I’ve known for over a decade, email me for the password.)

While leaving my previous interests is necessary for mental improvement, it is also required for physical improvement: The time I would normally spend on hobbies will instead be spent learning how to take care of myself, preparing my own food, and getting enough sleep.

The physical aspect of this change intrigues me: I will be trading a youthful appearance for health. Since 2000, I’ve steadily gained about 5 pounds every year to the point where I’m 90 pounds overweight, but that’s had the effect of pushing out the skin on my face to fill out whatever wrinkles would be there. I don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, I have all my hair, and my hair isn’t gray — all of these factors combine into making me look younger than I am. A few times a year, I get mistaken for someone in their mid-30s when in fact I am nearly 50. Losing weight will thin my hair, and also allow my wrinkles to show. I will finally look my age.

Literally and figuratively, I will become a different person.

So what happens after that? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping it’s a return to what got me here in the first place. I built Mobygames because of my love for computer gaming history and etymology, which ironically led to a drastic reduction in playing actual games. I participated in vintage computing forums, programming, and archival to help others with the hobby, which again led to a drastic decline in my own activity in that area. I wasn’t careful what I wished for, and got it. Maybe I’ll return to those and find my passion again. Maybe I’ll do something else. I’ve always wanted to make personal computer history videos. I’ve always wanted to program a game for vintage computers. I have some ideas I’ve always wanted to turn into science fiction short stories. I really miss willing things into existence.

But for now, this is it. I’m no longer going to seek validation through projects or interaction. I’m not going to follow your achievements or hear your opinions — nothing personal. I hope you understand. This is now a one-way street, and we’re at different intersections.

Can I be contacted? Yes, via email. I’ll always respond to email, although it might take a few days. I’m also not skipping out on any works-in-progress: If you and I are in the middle of something, I’ll complete that thing. Email me if you’re concerned.

If I manage to accomplish something I’m proud of that I feel benefits anyone, I might pop in for a second to announce it via the usual haunts. Until such time… take care.

PS: For those of you secretly wishing I was a drama queen and hoping that this post was going to be overly melodramatic, I’ll leave you with a personal soundtrack. Listen to it when you think of who I was.

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