E.T. Video Game Gets Re-Imagined In 10 Lines Of BASIC

Most people would recognize E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 by its reputation as one of the worst video games of all time. We’ll have more to say about that in a moment, but E.T. was nevertheless chosen as the inspiration behind [Martin Fitzpatrick]’s re-imagining of the game in ten lines of BASIC code for a contest that encourages and celebrates games written in ten lines of BASIC, or less.

Ten lines of BASIC is a big limitation, even when getting clever by stacking multiple statements into a single line, so [Martin]’s game has a much narrower scope than the original Atari 2600 version. Still, the core elements are present: E.T. must find and gather all the parts of the phone in order to contact his ship, after which he must meet the ship in time to escape. All the while, FBI agents attempt to interfere. The game was written in SAM BASIC, used by the SAM Coupé, a British Z80-based home computer from the late 80s with an emulator available for download.

Now, for lovers of “um, actually” topics, do we have a treat for you! Let’s take this opportunity to review a few things about E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. That it was a commercial flop is no doubt, but the game itself is often badly misunderstood. Way back in 2013 we covered an extraordinary effort to patch improvements into the binary for the 2600 game, and in the process there’s a compelling case made that the game was in many ways far ahead of its time, and actually quite significant in terms of game design. You can jump right in on an analysis of the hate the game receives, and while reading that it’s helpful to keep in mind that In 1982, many of its peers were games like Space Invaders, with self-evident gameplay that simply looped endlessly.

HOPE 2020 Delivers Historic Marathon Of Hacking

Anyone who’s ever attended a hacker conference knows that the talks and workshops are only part of the reason that people travel from all over the country (and indeed, the world) to be there. The social and extracurricular aspects of these events are just as important as the scheduled content, if not more so. After all, you can always watch the recorded version of any presentation you missed when you get back home; but there’s only a relatively short window for drinking Club-Mate, driving a Segway at unreasonable speeds, and hanging out with other people in the community.

So I don’t mind admitting that I was extremely skeptical when it was announced that the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference was going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially since the decision came just a few months before the event was set to kick off in New York. Trying to recreate the experience of a large scale hacker con as an online-only event is hard enough, but doing it on such short notice seemed like a recipe for disaster. Particularly for an event like HOPE that had always crammed the historic Hotel Pennsylvania to the rafters (and sometimes, above) with content and activities.

Which is not to say they didn’t have some interesting ideas. Since so many people were stuck at home anyway, they decided there wasn’t much point limiting HOPE to a single weekend. For 2020, the event would instead run for nine continuous days. Prerecorded talks and interactive workshops would start at 9 AM Eastern and run right up until the wee hours of the morning, often concluding with a live musical performance.

As founder Emmanuel Goldstein described it, the idea was to turn this year’s HOPE into a 24 hour hacker television channel that could beam a diverse array of ideas and opinions into homes all over the planet. Rather than pretending that the classic hacker convention experience could be fully replicated online, they would fully embrace the possibilities offered by the Internet and create something completely different. But could they pull it off?

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Classic 8-Bit Computing The Atari Way

In the classic gaming world, even before the NES arrived on the scene, there was no name more ubiquitous than Atari. Their famous 2600 console sold almost as many units as the Nintendo 64, but was released nearly 20 years prior. In many ways, despite making mistakes that led to the video game crash of the early 80s, Atari was the first to make a path in the video game industry. If you want to explore what the era of 8-bit computing was like in the Atari age, a new resource is compiling all kinds of Atari-based projects.

This site has everything, from assembling Atari 8-bit computers based on the 6502 chip, to programming them in BASIC and assembly, to running official and homebrew games on the hardware itself. This was put together by [Jason H. Moore] who grew up around Atari systems and later, their home computers. He even puts his biomedical experience to use here by designing a game for the 2600 called Gene Medic which can be found at the site as well.

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s and are looking for a bit of Atari nostalgia this site is the place to go. It’s even worth a visit from younger folks as well since the 8-bit world is a lot easier to get immersed in and learn the fundamentals of computer science. Of course, if you want to take it the other direction, it’s possible to modify the old Atari to add a few modern conveniences.

Photo via Evan-Amos

Retro Console Upgrade Gives Atari Flair

If you’re desperate for a sense of nostalgia for video games of yore but don’t want to shell out the big bucks for an NES classic, you can always grab a single arcade-style game that’ll plug straight into your TV. Of course it’s no longer 1980, and playing Space Invaders or Asteroids can get old after a while. When that happens, just replace the internals for an upgraded retro Atari 2600 with all the games from that system instead of just one.

As expected for something that has to fit in such a tiny package, this upgrade is based on a Raspberry Pi Zero. It’s not quite as simple as throwing RetroPi on it and calling it a day, though. For one, [Blue Okiris] is still using the original two-button controller/joystick that came with the Ms. Pac-Man game this build is based on, and that added its own set of challenges. For another, RetroPi didn’t have everything he needed so he switched to another OS called Recalbox. It also includes Kodi so it could be used as a media center as well.

The build looks like a hack in the truest sense of the word. The circuit board sticks out the bottom a little bit, but this is more of a feature than a bug because that’s where some extra buttons and the power switch are. Overall, it’s a great Retro Atari system that has all the true classics that should keep [Blue Okiris] entertained until Atari releases an official system one day. If you’d like to go a little deeper in the Atari world, though, you could always restore one instead.

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An Atari 2600 In Your Pocket

If there’s one console that holds a special place in the hearts of console gamers of a certain age, it’s the Atari 2600. A 6502 based system with a cartridge slot and a couple of joysticks, it plugged into your home TV and if you had one for Christmas in the late ’70s you were suddenly the coolest kid in the neighbourhood.

The last new 2600s were sold in the early 1990s, but all was not lost for 2600 fans. In the last decade the format was revived as the Atari Flashback, an all-in-one console containing a selection of games and no cartridge slot. The Flashback had a flaw though, it stayed true to the original in that it needed a TV set. Rather a pity in a world of hand-held consoles.

[Lovablechevy] set out to release the Flashback from the TV set, and created a very tidy hand held Atari 2600 console with sound and a screen, all in the casing of an original 2600 cartridge.

There isn’t a lot of room in a 2600 cartridge, so as her worklog shows, she had to cut up the PCB and be very careful with her wiring to ensure it all fits. She’s using the Flashback 2 as her source console, and she tells us it has 42 games to choose from.

If the worklog pictures weren’t enough she’s posted a video of the device in action, and it shows a very neat and playable hand-held console. We would have done anything to get our hands on one of those had it been available in 1980!

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Atari Video Game Burial Hits Ebay

1983 was the year of the great video game crash, and after the chiefs of Atari realized they had produced more copies of Pac-Man than consoles sold, these games, along with other ‘treasures’ were loaded into trucks, shipped out to the desert, and buried in a New Mexico landfill. Last year, these consoles were rescued. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society, these cartridges are for sale again.

Want to grab your own copy of E.T., Asteroids, Star Raiders, or Centipede rescued from a landfill in a desert? Here’s a link to the seller on eBay, with the highest auction being E.T., in box, going for $400 with nine days left. The auction comes with a certificate of authenticity from the city of Alamogordo.

This is only the first batch of cartridges and boxes rescued from the dump, with the Tularosa Basin Historical Society putting at least another 700 items up for sale if this batch goes well.

With the rousing success of this bit of dumpster diving, we must point out another techno-archeological myth/legend: there are several thousand Apple Lisas in a Utah landfill, just waiting for someone to come in and pick through the remnants of an Apple tax writeoff.

HOPE X: Commodore 64’s Are Back, Baby

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Maybe they weren’t really ever gone but even so Commodore enthusiast [ALWYZ] is here at HOPE X spreading re-awareness of the Commodore 64 and that there is still a community of Commodore fans out there who have been up to some pretty cool projects.

One of those projects is a Quantum Link-esque service called Q-Link Reloaded. Quantum Link was an online service available for Commodore 64 and 128 users that offered electronic mail, online chat, file sharing, online news, and instant messaging. It lasted from the mid-80s to the mid-90’s and later evolved into America Online. In 2005, a group of folks reversed-engineered the original server code and the resultant Q-Link Reloaded lets the Commodore folks once again communicate with each other.

Also on display is a Raspberry Pi running a C64 emulator complete with a controller to GPIO adapter. Hackaday has covered this emulator just a few months ago and it is great to see it working in person.

C64 emulator on raspberry pi