Screenshot of a 1988 news report on the Morris Worm computer virus

Retrotechtacular: Cheesy 1980s News Report On Early Internet Virus

It was a cold autumn night in 1988. The people of Cambridge, Massachusetts lay asleep in their beds unaware of the future horror about to be unleashed from the labs of the nearby college. It was a virus, but not just any virus. This virus was a computer program whose only mission was to infect every machine it could come in contact with. Just a few deft keystrokes is all that separated law abiding citizens from the…over the top reporting in this throwback news reel posted by [Kahvowa].

Computer History Museum exhibit of the floppy disk used to distribute the Morris worm computer virus.
Computer History Museum exhibit featuring the original floppy disk used to distribute the Morris Worm computer virus.

To be fair, the concept of a computer virus certainly warranted a bit of explanation for folks in the era of Miami Vice. The only places where people would likely run into multiple computers all hooked together was a bank or a college campus. MIT was the campus in question for this news report as it served as ground zero for the Morris Worm virus.

Named after its creator, Robert Tappan Morris, the Morris Worm was one of the first programs to replicate itself via vulnerabilities in networked computer systems. Its author intended the program to be a benign method of pointing out holes, however, it ended up copying itself onto systems multiple times to the point of crashing. Removing the virus from an infected machine often took multiple days, and the total damage of the virus was estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

In an attempt to anonymize himself, Morris initially launched his worm program from a computer lab at MIT as he was studying at Cornell at the time. It didn’t work. Morris would go onto to be the first person to receive a felony conviction under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. After the appeals process, he received a sentence a community service and a fine. After college Morris co-founded the online web store software company Viaweb that Yahoo! would acquire in 1998 for 49 million dollars. Years later in an ironic twist, Morris would return to academia as a professor at MIT’s department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Interested in some info on viruses of a different nature? Check out this brief history on viruses from last year.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Cheesy 1980s News Report On Early Internet Virus”

Mortal Kombat Stand Up Arcade machines

Mortal Kombat ROM Hack Kontinues Arcade Legacy

September 13th 1993, colloquially known as Mortal Monday, became as dividing line in the battle for 16-bit supremacy. The mega popular arcade game Mortal Kombat was ported to Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles, and every fanboy and fangirl had an opinion on which version truly brought the hits. The Super Nintendo version opted to remove the blood and gore in an attempt to preserve the company’s family-friendly image. While the Sega Genesis merely locked the game’s more violent content behind a cheat code that so many fans learned by heart, ABACABB. Nintendo’s decision to censor Mortal Kombat on their console pushed public opinion in favor of the Sega Genesis version being superior, though it was clear that corners were cut in order to squeeze it onto a cartridge. Recently a group of developers led by [Paulo] sought to restore the Genesis version to its full potential with a ROM hack they’re calling Mortal Kombat Arcade Edition.

Mortal Kombat Arcade Edition is the sort of ROM hack where every facet of the game has been retouched. All sorts of sound effects and animations that were omitted in the 1993 translation to the Genesis have now been restored in higher quality. Every fighter’s look was remastered to more closely match the arcade presentation complete with move timing tweaks. Secret characters like Reptile, Noob Saibot, and Ermac are all playable, plus all the character bios from the arcade game’s attract mode make an appearance. An SRAM save feature was implemented in order to save high scores, and for an additional dose of authenticity there’s even a “DIP switch” configuration screen where you can set it to free play.

This ROM hack comes as an IPS patch that can be applied to a legitimate dump of the user’s Sega Genesis or Mega Drive cartridge. The site hosting the Mortal Kombat Arcade Edition patch features an online IPS patching tool called Rom Patcher JS that makes the patching process more convenient for those attached to their browser. The patched ROM can then be enjoyed in the user’s favorite emulator of choice, though running it on original hardware via a ROM cart is also possible (even encouraged). Considering the limitations of the Sega Genesis’ color palette the revamped look of Mortal Kombat Arcade Edition is all the more impressive. It just goes to show you that Genesis still does!

Not ready to FINISH HIM? Check out this countertop arcade build featuring some Mortal Kombat II art, or marvel at the incredible effort that went into creating the Knights of the Round ROM hack known as Warlock’s Tower.

Continue reading Mortal Kombat ROM Hack Kontinues Arcade Legacy”

Featured image of Aladdin's Castle Arcade

Retrotechtacular: Raw Video From Inside A 1980s Arcade

It was just this year that Sega left the arcade business for good. A company synonymous with coin-op games for over a half century completely walked away from selling experiences you can only get on location. No more Outrun or Virtua Fighter machines, because arcades these days tend to resemble The House of the Dead. Arcades still exist to a degree, it’s just that headlines like that serve only as a reminder of an era gone by. Which is what makes raw footage like the video [Jon] posted of an Aladdin’s Castle arcade from the 1980s so compelling.

scan of Aladdin's Castle Arcade pamphlet ad
Aladdin’s Castle ad brochure circa 1983. Credit: John Andersen

The raw VHS footage starts with a sweep around the location’s pinball machines and arcade cabinets. There’s an extended shot of a rare TX-1 tri-monitor sitdown cabinet. The racing game was the first of its kind to feature force feedback in the steering wheel, so it’s no wonder it received the focus. The arcade’s lighting tech was also a point of pride as it allowed for programmable lighting cues. A far cry from the flickering fluorescent tubes no doubt in use elsewhere. Eventually the employee filming takes us to the back room where it the owner has made it abundantly clear that they are not a fan of Mondays, judging by the amount of Garfield merchandise.

Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle was a chain of arcades and had nearly 400 locations across the US at its height in the mid 1980s (at least according to their brochure seen above). Those neon red letters were a mainstay of American shopping malls throughout the decade. Namco, the Pac-Man people, acquired Aladdin’s Castle in 1993 and the brand faded away soon after. Although there is a lone location in Quincy, IL that is still open for business today.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Raw Video From Inside A 1980s Arcade”

Valve Sells Software, So What’s With All The Hardware?

Steam branding is strong. Valve Corporation has turned their third-party marketplace into the first place millions choose to buy their PC games. The service has seen record-breaking numbers earlier this year with over 25 million concurrent users, so whatever they are doing is clearly working. Yet with all those software sales, last month Valve announced a new piece of hardware they call the Steam Deck.

Use the colloquialism you’d like, “not resting on your laurels” or “Mamba Mentality”, it’s not as if competitors in the handheld PC space are boasting ludicrous sales numbers. At their core, Valve is in the business of selling computer games. So why venture into making hardware? Continue reading “Valve Sells Software, So What’s With All The Hardware?”

Mega Man 4 Free of Charge ROM Hack Pexels Anete Lusina

Mega Man Hack Drops Charge Shot, Adds Classic Style

When it comes to the six original Mega Man games there is a clear dividing line between the first three and the last. Mega Man 4 introduced the charging shot mechanic that allowed players to hold down the fire button in order to power-up a single blast from Mega Man’s arm cannon. The aptly named, “Mega Man 4: Free of Charge” ROM hack by [Peter] seeks to bring cohesion with the first trilogy of Mega Man games by removing the charge shot mechanic completely. To compensate for the change, enemy health bars were also adjusted so that enemies aren’t as bullet-spongy.

The Mega Man 4: Free of Charge download comes as an IPS patch file. There are free utilities out there like Floating IPS that can apply the patch file to a clean dump of a NES cartridge. This ROM hack is playable on original Nintendo Entertainment System hardware via a flashcart device, or it can be played by any common NES emulator like FCEUX or Nestopia.

One of the most annoying parts of Mega Man 4 (minus the difficulty) was the constant whir of the charge shot drowning out the brilliant soundtrack. With a patch like [Peter]’s this is no longer a going concern, and players are able to give their thumbs a bit of a break by not needing to continually hold down fire throughout a run. All welcomed changes aside, it still won’t change the fact that the Japanese TV commercial for the game is cooler than the print ads in the US.

Continue reading “Mega Man Hack Drops Charge Shot, Adds Classic Style”

Retro League GX Homebrew on CRT

Rocket League Inspired Homebrew Reverses Onto Nintendo GameCube

Would it have been too obvious to call a game about soccer playing RC cars, Soc-Car? Well [Martin] thought so and opted to call his Nintendo GameCube homebrew game, Retro League GX. The game clearly takes inspiration from Rocket League developed by Psyonix, as it pits teams of cars on a pitch plus comes complete with boosts to boot. There are some impressive physics on display here, and according to Krista over at GBATemp everything is playable on original hardware. Though those without a GameCube can certainly get a match in via the Dolphin emulator.

There are a number of ways to boot homebrew on a Nintendo GameCube, however, the most essential piece of software would be Swiss. Swiss is a homebrew utility that interfaces with all the myriad of ways to load code onto a GameCube these days. Common ways loading homebrew include saving files onto an SD card then using a SDGecko device that plugs into the memory card ports, or a SD2SP2 device that plugs into one of the GameCube’s expansion ports located on the bottom of the console. Those who prefer ditching the disc drive entirely can load homebrew via a optical disc emulator device like the GC Loader.

Still on the roadmap Retro League GX are ports for 3DS, PSP, Wii, and Linux. LAN and Online multiplayer are in the works as well. So at least that way GameCube broadband adapter owners may get to branch out beyond Phantasy Star Online for once. Best of all, [Martin] stated that the code for Retro League GX will be open sourced sometime next year.

Continue reading “Rocket League Inspired Homebrew Reverses Onto Nintendo GameCube”

Super Mario Sunburn Mod on TV Pexels Ricardo Ortiz

Super Mario Sunburn Mod Shines Up A GameCube Favorite

Super Mario Sunshine always felt a little under-baked when it came to 3D Mario games. Whether it was wonky camera controls, aggravating coin quotas, or the inclusion of a sentient super-soaker the game didn’t quite fulfill fan expectations. Seeking to wash-away that reputation [Wade] created a mod to revitalize the oft disparaged GameCube game. Over two years in the making, Super Mario Sunburn breaks Super Mario Sunshine wide open with new levels, more coins, and the freedom of a modern open-world game. Collecting in-game shine collectibles no longer automatically warps Mario back to the island hub, but rather allows Mario to keep filling those pockets.

In order to apply the Sunburn mod patch, a clean rip of Super Mario Sunshine for Nintendo GameCube is needed. The easiest method of ripping GameCube discs is actually with a Nintendo Wii — provided it can run CleapRip via the Homebrew Channel. With a clean game image, the Sunburn patch can be applied on Windows by running Delta Patcher. From there a Sunburn-patched image can be enjoyed via emulator with the optional HD Texture pack, or even real Nintendo hardware. A comprehensive mod like this is surely deserving of some WaveBird time.

The arrival of [Wade]’s mod comes at a crucial time for many Mario fans. Late last year Nintendo released an underwhelming compilation of 3D Mario games called Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The release brought with it the lightest of touches and failed to provide a suitable modernization of Super Mario Sunshine. The company didn’t even allow players to play in 16:9 widescreen (unlike Sunburn). At the end of March Nintendo will cram Super Mario 3D All-Stars into “Bowser’s Vault” thereby removing it from store shelves. All the more reason to give Super Mario Sunburn a try. Continue reading “Super Mario Sunburn Mod Shines Up A GameCube Favorite”