Cosmic Ray Flips Bit, Assists Mario 64 Speedrunner

We’ve all heard about cosmic rays flipping bits here and there, but by and large, it occurs rarely enough that we don’t worry too much about it on a day-to-day basis. However, it seems just such a ray happened to flip a crucial bit that assisted a speedrunner in the middle of a competition.

The flip happened to [DOTA_Teabag], who suddenly found Mario flying upward to a higher part of a level, completely unexpectedly. Testing by [pannenkoek12] seems to indicate that this may have been due to a single-bit change to Mario’s height value, from C5837800 to C4837800, leading to the plucky Italian plumber warping upwards through the level. The leading theory is that this bit flip was caused by a cosmic ray event, though the likelihood of such an event is exceedingly rare.

It’s possible that there remains another cause for the flip, though after much work from the community replicating the situation in emulation, none has been found. Other suggestions involve electrical noise or other malfunctions causing the flip, though one would rarely expect such an occurrence to change just one bit of RAM. For now, the jury remains out, but who knows – maybe in the future we’ll find out it was a hidden, undiscovered exploit all along. Of course, if Nintendo doesn’t get you going, try speedrunning Windows 95.  Video after the break.

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Speedrunning Windows 95

Speedrunning is the practice of attempting to beat a videogame in as short a time as possible. There are a huge variety of methods and styles. There are 100% completion speedruns, tool-assisted speedruns, and speedruns that just focus on getting to the game over screen as quickly as possible by hook or by crook. Now, there’s a world record speedrun, installing Windows 95B in just 1 minute 10.9 seconds.

The current best attempts are collected in a Google Sheets document. So far, there have been few competitors but we expect to see more activity in future. The current rules for world record competition require original floppy and CD-ROM images to be used, but there are no limits on hardware, so records should tumble as time goes on. All the top times have been completed in virtual machines, but we’d love to see an attempt made on raw hardware.

It all kicked off when [oscareczek] grew tired of trying to compete in traditional gaming speedruns, so invented a new category instead. Competition has already come a long way from that original 4 minute time, and competitors are now considering advanced techniques such as RAM disks to speed their runs. All keystrokes are by hand at the moment, but we could see a tool-assisted competition starting up in future.

We’ve seen speedrunning techniques pushed to impressive limits before – like running Pong within Super Mario World, just for fun. Video after the break.

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