A computer science teacher has the world's biggest hoard of games, with a collection of nearly 11,000 software titles and the hardware to play them, according to the Guinness World Records organization. Michael Thomasson Forget it ladies, he's married. "I have games on cartridge, laser disc. I have VHS-based games, cassette- …
Are there emulators for this lot? And dumps of the various cartridge images?
History, access to, future years, hardware failure &c, should be a grant given for writing ones that are not available.
I totally agree, they should be preserved for posterity in what ever format is current.
But then, I have a woman and it all becomes irrelevant.
Open your front door. There are people out there ....
Did you not read the article? The man has both a wife and children.
Just as philatelists don't spend their every waking hour licking stamps and sticking them on envelopes, so games collectors don't just slob in front of a TV all day playing their games. The playing isn't the point: it's the having that matters.
As for emulators: oh, hell no. An emulator does not give the same look and feel of the original: running a ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 emulator on a PC plugged into a modern flat-screen display just isn't the same.
You need the flicker, poor regulation and dot-crawl you can only get from a consumer-grade TV of the period, like an ex-rental Ferguson TX colour TV; the oddly hypnotic squeals while the game's loading screen streams in from the tape, or the short screech and burst of the US national anthem as a US Gold title's Novaload fast-loader kicks in. The sound through the mono, mediocre loudspeaker of the TV set, or the piezo-electric transducer of a ZX Spectrum 48K...
That 3-4 minutes of waiting for the game to load (with the possibility of it failing to load and having to be restarted – often after a few moments of twiddling with the tape head alignment) has the exact same effect as the queue before a theme park ride: the ride teases you with glimpses of what's going to happen; the game's loading screen similarly teases you and builds up the anticipation. By the time the actual title screen appears, you're already invested in the game, your imagination having had plenty of time to visualise what to expect.
And then there's the feel of the dead-flesh ZX Spectrum keys under your fingers, or the digital Kempston and Cruiser joysticks of the '80s. (Or the analogue controllers of the BBC Micros and some arcades.)
Any true preservation effort must preserve all of that context! Sterile emulators on modern hardware can provide some of that for you, but you need to preserve the hardware, for that, too, is a key part of this fading history. It not only gives you a much better idea of how the game felt to play, but it also shows the design ideals of the era, such as the materials used, the colours – the orange and black of a Binatone "Pong" clone console, or the wood veneer trim, as seen on the original Atari VCS – as well the manuals and marketing.
Modern LCDs are harsh critics of games designed to be played on old, often second-hand, and frequently imperfect bedroom CRT TVs. That dot-crawl, the convergence and geometry issues, etc,. also helped smooth those chunky, low-res graphics.
Preservation is not, and never has been, about merely keeping the code itself.
@ Sean Timarco Baggaley
"Preservation is not, and never has been, about merely keeping the code itself."
Code preservation is.
Hardware doesn't last forever. The importance of the hardware in relation to the experience is not something that can be imparted by looking at a museum piece; you have to actually use it.
In time that simply won't be possible and emulation ensures that, at that point, the games themselves won't be lost. Indeed, some emulators actively work to preserve the hardware as well, by emulating the chips and logic, rather than just the functions, though this is less common.
Your rather flat denunciation of emulation - ". . . oh, hell no . . ." - is the same as saying that we shouldn't digitise old texts or photos or music or movies because something is lost in the process and nothing can replicate the full experience of the physical media.
That something is lost in emulation (or digitisation) is unavoidable but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done. As with books and film, there is something essential that transcends the physical implementation and is worth preserving for ourselves and future generations.
A hundred years from now, when the last Atari 2600 has stopped working, people will still be able to appreciate the challenge of Pitfall and, with a bit of background on the capabilities of the hardware, appreciate the impressive feat it represented.
But for you, I suppose that won't be good enough.
But then I also must assume that you are very poorly read, given that you would, logically, eschew reading all but original, first editions of works. Subsequent printings, after all, might not give the full experience - the different paper stock, margins, typesettings, font weight, etc... The feel of the binding or the particular irregular imprint are analogous to the ". . . flicker, poor regulation and dot-crawl . . ." you mention so are presumably just as necessary for an authentic experience.
Yes, there is something lost, but I, for one, would rather lose only part of that experience than the whole damned thing. Not being able to play a game on its system is lamentable; not being able to play it at all is a big loss. Just as not being able to hear a recorded work on the original pressing, from the original master is a pity, but losing that music is a tragedy.
Preservation is about preserving as much as possible. We can preserve the systems as museum pieces, but not as integral parts of the game-playing experience because that requires actual working systems. We may well preserve some in workable condition for an extended period of time, but who would be able to play them? In which case, the effect is identical; you can't play the original game on the original system.
I am glad people dedicate so much of their time to assuring we can still get as much of that experience as possible.
. . . and while we're at it, the media doesn't last forever either.
How on earth can a great story like this descend into an argument? Come on, Christmas is still in full swing. Enjoy what he's done for the sake of it.
Maybe you all work for HP in which case you have my full sympathy.
This is El Reg. Everything descends into an argument.
No it doesn't.
It does so to.
Considering the present trend to having consoles rely on various online services, I wonder for how long it will be possible for anyone to maintain a collection of historical games software *and* actually run it?
Even if emulators were possible (despite all the various security keys embedded in consoles these days), the online services needed to play online games won't be operated forever. And so a huge part of gaming culture will be lost when those services go. In 10 or 20 years, we'll only have memories of what WoW or GTA online were like, because the ability to actually play these games just won't exist. Perhaps there will be a market for some start-up there to continue to run these games for enthusiasts under license.
>It does so to.
That's not an argument, it's contradiction
>That's not an argument, it's contradiction
No it isn't.
"New Hardware doesn't last forever."
Newer hardware built by RoHS standards and other annoying crap is built to only last ~10 years. It's exactly the older hardware (capacitors notwithstanding) that will, in fact, outlast most of the newer hardware:
So, yes, I am planning on keeping some older PCs & hardware that were built during a time where RoHS didn't exist or are specifically stated as being non-RoHS compliant..
Lead-based paint (while certainly a health hazard for inside of home) is some of the most durable paint ever made.
A good friend of mine and I have a saying that we've developed over the years, if a product's label states that it's dangerous to your health, chances are that the product works and is very effective at what it claims to do. If the product has the words "eco" or "green" on its label, it's pure rubbish and is completely ineffective for its stated purpose. That pretty much sums up anything with RoHS on it.
There is a hidden RoHS tax in the form of guaranteed failure and required replacement. The only reason most people don't realize this is that generally, consumer electronics are designed to be replaced sooner, otherwise how would the corporations such Apple, Dell stay in business?
Another case in point, just research lithium ion rechargable batteries, they only last around 500 cycles and if the battery is non-replaceable (like almost all portable devices are), then you throw away a perfectly functioning device and are required to buy a new one. But I digress....
I think you've got the wrong room. This is unnecessarily vituperate and essentially irrelevant comments about Apple because the article mentioned in passing a product they once produced.
Minor pedantic nitpick, re: Dan1980
Thank you for standing up for collectors, but one minor detail, the 48k Spectrum's speaker was, in fact, a tiny regular loudspeaker, moving coil, with mylar diaphragm, not a piezo sounder. Although given the size, the difference in quality wouldn't have been much!
Re: Minor pedantic nitpick, re: Dan1980
Most Speccys I've opened had a paper-coned 'speaker, although some are indeed Mylar.
You would have to be using poor cells to only get 500 cycles. Remember that typically means full cycles - i.e. fully charged to fully discharged (or near to) and the 500 cycle quota usually means that at that point the cell only has around 70-80% of original capacity - so may still be good for years to come.
Take for instance an iPad - typically good for 10 hours of use. Now let's assume 2 hours use per day - it is going to effectively get 1 full discharge / charge cycle every 5 days. So if we assume 500 cycles (and it's quite probably more on more premium cells) that means the battery is typically good for around 2500 days - i.e. almost 7 years - and at that point it probably retains around 70%+ of it's original capacity - so still very useable.
Cells do deteriorate over time as well as due to cycles (and additionally based on how they have been kept - i.e. temperature and don't leave fully discharged etc.) but (other / cheaper) tablets with less battery life may find their battery dies much sooner assuming the same usage.
Re: emulators? - Online Services
> In 10 or 20 years, we'll only have memories of what WoW or GTA online were like, because the ability to actually play these games just won't exist.
You are aware that he wasn't making a comment about Apple specifically but rather about the manufacturing processes companies *like* Apple have to use because of RoHS rules.
Please calm down, even if he was attacking Apple, his comment won't make your preferred device any less shiny or diminish the good aspects you see in them.
Re: "if a product's label states that it's dangerous to your health..."
I couldn't agree any more with that statement; my father taught me to select things based on how many warning labels the government requires to be slapped on it (even better if they banned its use in consumer products). From that guidance I've ended up with: an asphalt shingle roof that hasn't been replaced since Reagan was in office and hasn't leaked (The roof I mean, although...); a kit radio that I built to listen to Skylab (And re-purposed for Mir and then the ISS) and hasn't needed to have anything re-soldered; and paint thinner that could melt the stripes off a zebra.
You can have my lead-based materials when you pry them from my cold, heavy-metal poisoned hands. I figure that the time I would gain by using healthy and eco-friendly products would just be wasted re-roofing my house, fixing electronics, or struggling to clean metal surfaces.
Re: "if a product's label states that it's dangerous to your health..." @COG 00:12
So does all that stuff have any connection to your name? :)
(And I don't mean Operations or Guy, smartarses ...)
Emulation doesn't give you the full experience, as you admit. You lose the context if you rely solely on emulation and that's my point. It does not solve the preservation problem, because preserving the code on its own is pointless. Jet Set Will on a modern HDTV has nothing like the same feel.
As for failed 1970s / 1980s hardware: something tells me that, by the time hardware rot becomes a real issue, it'll be trivial to just print out a replacement unit. We can almost print the bloody things now using 3D printing technology. Take a look at the PCBs on an Atari VCS or a Sinclair ZX Spectrum: they're not exactly difficult to duplicate. Besides, we've seen people willing to voluntarily (re)build Babbage's Difference Engine and even Turing's Bombes. What makes you think nobody would be interested in servicing old tech?
The hard part will be finding CRT televisions to plug 'em into, but I suspect there'll be enough nostalgia sloshing about by then to support production in small volumes. They'll cost a mint, but collectors are often very willing to pay.
We have national, state-funded art galleries right now that still display paintings from over 1000 years ago. First-edition books are still kept in our libraries. The National Railway Museum in York still has working steam locomotives that date right back to the 1800s. Even London's Transport Museum has old trolleybuses and horse-drawn trams in its collection – and, yes, they're all maintained. Because they're museums, and preservation is what they're for!
The UK needs an equivalent for its games industry – an industry it still manages to kick serious arse in, thanks precisely to the likes of Sinclair Research, Acorn Microsystems (and the folks behind today's ARM). Not to mention Rockstar, DMA Design, Psygnosis, Gremlin Graphics, Ocean, Matthew Smith, Messrs. Braben & Bell, and all their contemporaries.
I'm aware that there are some attempts at archiving this stuff by existing organisations, but having a small department within another museum's sub-department doesn't really count. Resources are very finite for museums and preservation in general: what the UK needs is a dedicated institution. Where's the games industry's equivalent of Tate Modern? Why does a pile of bricks or an unmade bed get its own power station-sized space, while the UK's huge contribution to the games industries is tucked away in a basement and barely even mentioned in polite company?
Games and Play have been an integral part of growing up for Homo Sapiens since before the days of recorded history. They play such an important role in how our species learns – even other mammals play for educational purposes – it's shocking that it's had so little attention. Why is this important field not getting the recognition it deserves? Toys have their own museums already, but even they tend to focus on static toys like dolls and teddy bears.
As a one-time game designer and developer myself, I have strong feelings about this. Preservation isn't just about retaining just the code and graphics, any more than history should be limited to lists of kings and dates.
We need a National Games Museum. And not one limited solely to video games – hence my dislike of hanging such an institution off the side of a video or film archive – but one that takes a broad, holistic view, covering board games, tabletop / war-games (which, believe it or not, was actually a hobby of a certain Herbert G. Wells; he even wrote two articles on it), and going right back to pinball machines and Victorian end-of-pier games.
Re: "if a product's label states that it's dangerous to your health..." @COG 00:12
Not sure, it seems like one of those chicken-egg type situations...
Re: "if a product's label states that it's dangerous to your health..."
I figure that the time I would gain by using healthy and eco-friendly products would just be wasted re-roofing my house, fixing electronics, or struggling to clean metal surfaces.
Generally agree, but I've found Franmar Corp's Soy-Gel to be as effective a chemical stripper for most finishes as anything else I've tried, including methylene chloride and my father-in-law's lye + cornstarch + water recipe. And Soy-Gel has both very low toxicity and very low volatile organics, which makes it suitable for use indoors (for example on wooden surfaces that aren't easily removable, even in the winter. So it's worth a try, particularly when you need to strip surfaces in inhabited areas.
It wasn't terribly effective (at least at reasonable timescales) on most of my exterior housepaint, but that was five layers of various sorts of gunk going back to the turn of the twentieth century, and in the end grinding it off with a siding shaver and HEPA dust-collection system proved the only viable method.
3 hours a week
So he will never be able to play any of his collection properly :(
The best moments of gaming is after a long long lllloooooonnnng gaming session and you beat something, although as I get older I can no longer game without a break every 1-2 hours and of course work :(
31 years * 365 days = 11315.
So very nearly one new game a day.
I wonder how many of them are still unopened.
Even more impressive is how he managed to afford 342 games a year and remain within his self imposed budgetary constraints.
Well done, sir!
At $3K per year, thats just under $9 per game.
Assuming he isn't buying games for brand new consoles all the time, you can pick up a lot of second user, formerly crazy expensive, last generation media for about that price on ebay.
Do digitally distributed games count?
If so, I reckon I could give him a run for his money... Especially after a Steam sale!
Although I guess technically, I don't own those games, just the right to have access to them so I can play them when the distributor says I can.
Yet another sign of how far they have fallen
.. since 1995 and the end of any involvement from the founders.
Sid Sackson had eighteen thousand board games (sadly the collection was broken up and auctioned in bits after his death, because the museums that should have run to Acquire it weren't interested).
Compared to that, eleven thousand video games is trivial.
Re: Yet another sign of how far they have fallen
true but to be fair board games have been around a lot longer.
No one has offered him work in a museum?
Seriously? The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) has consoles as a part of its permanent collection. They also put together the Game Masters exhibition that is now touring http://www.acmi.net.au/game-masters.aspx It is a full time job just keeping some of those consoles running especially the older arcade and SEGA stuff. Logical pin diagrams for most of the older consoles can be easily found.
Yes, there are emulators but they are not the same as running it on the original hardware. There are very few that actually run it like the game did through the TV. The new LCD and plasma flat screens cannot run some hardware such as light guns that was designed with a CRT in mind.
...I've got way more than that on my hard drive and they cost nothing....Hold on, some idiot's banging on my front door asking me to open up...BRB.
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