Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Tag: retro

Space Invaders

Posted by Andrew at 5:30 PM on November 29, 2012

Wind up Space InvadersSpace Invaders marched into the arcades in 1978, making the pixellated alien an instant classic, daa-da-ing his way backwards and forwards across the screen. Designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, Space Invaders brought video games to a worldwide audience.

The National Media Museum in Bradford, England, is offering a range of Space Invader-themed novelty items that would make great stocking fillers for old and young geeks alike. There’s an ice cube tray full of Space Invaders (£6), a Space Invaders-themed iPhone cover (£6), a pocket Space Invaders game (£8) and a wind-up Space Invader (£8). With the 80s being particular in vogue at the moment, anything Space Invaders is undoubtedly cool.

Space Invader Ice TraySpace Invader iPhone Cover

Somewhat bizarrely, you can’t order these on-line and you have to actually phone up to place an order. It’s probably taking the retro experience a bit too far but there you go. Order from the Museum Shop to beat the Christmas rush on 01274 203448 for our UK readers.

While reviewing the Museum of Media’s website (vainly looking for the on-line store), I also discovered that the Museum has a Videogame Archive, dedicated to consoles long forgotten such as the Nintendo Famicom. There’s also an Internet and Home Computing collection, with several items looking very familiar, including a BBC Microcomputer.

Worth a quick browse on-line or a real-world visit if you are in the neighbourhood.

Elite: Dangerous

Posted by Andrew at 6:56 AM on November 7, 2012

There’s a pretty good chance that if you are a 40+ British geek, the mere mention of “Elite” will roll back the years to hours of gameplay in front of a BBC Model B, flying a wireframe starship around an almost limitless universe. Trading, fighting, arms-dealing, slavery, whatever it took to get respect and the coveted Elite status. Even now, I still feel a small hint of pride in my own Elite achievement, over 20 years later.

Created by David Braben and Ian Bell, Elite was the first 3D game and eeked every last ounce of performance from 8 bit processors and 32 KB of RAM, even less once the OS had taken its share. There were tricks such as making all the objects in the universe concave, which significantly reduced several calculations in techniques such as hidden line removal and despite being largely only in monochrome, it was totally amazing for its day.

The successor to Elite, “Frontier”, never gained the same traction as the original Elite. In some ways it was too big and just wasn’t as immediate as the original Elite.

Returning to the original ethos of Elite, David Braben has launched a Kickstarter campaign for “Elite: Dangerous” to raise £1.25 million ($2 million) for the development of a new game in the canon, aiming for delivery in March 2014. Elite: Dangerous will be a multi-player game in a massive universe and initially the game will be for the PC, but other platforms will be looked at.

As usual, there are various funding levels, but £20 gets you a copy of the game plus the opportunity to reserve your commander’s name. But if you were looking to get lunch with David Braben at £5000, I’m afraid that all five slots have already been taken.

There’s additional reporting at the BBC.

 

Say Goodbye to the 90s

Posted by Andrew at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2012

Geeks older than 40 are likely to remember the 90s well. The Internet was a sleepy village, PCs were expensive, hard disks were small and software came on floppy disks. And I have lots of floppy disks, from packaged software and magazine cover disks to drivers and trial software. A rough estimate is that there are around 500 3.5″ floppy disks in both 720 kb and 1.44 Mb varieties stashed away.

Old Floppies

In my mind, I always hoped to get into retro computing, but the reality is that there’s always going to be something new which is more interesting than hacking CONFIG.SYS to squeeze the drivers into as little memory as possible. So it’s with resigned acceptance that I’m finally having a clear out of the disks to reclaim valuable storage space.

Of course, I can’t simply throw the floppies in the bin. I’ll have to copy the files to my NAS “just in case” which has thrown up a couple of interesting things.

First, I’m surprised at how well the disks have survived. Of all the hundreds of disks, only two disks proved unreadable, both of which were magazine coverdisks. Expectations of floppies shedding iron oxide like Italian cars of the same era have proved unfounded and on the whole, they have been quite reliable.

Secondly, and not entirely unexpectedly, there has been the massive increase in file sizes and numbers over the years. Here’s a quick comparison of the Windows install disks.

  • Windows 1 – 178 files 1.9 MB over six 320 kB floppies
  • Windows 3 – 282 files 47 MB over eight 720 kB 3.5″ floppies
  • Windows 95 – 1946 files 574 MB on one CD
  • Windows XP – 6655 files 542 MB on one CD
  • Windows 7 – 2.2 GB download

Finally, it’s the “blast from past”. What companies and software has survived the 20 years since then? Here are a few of the disk sets that I uncovered.

Ah well…all good things have to come to an end. I suppose I’ll have to clear out the data CDs next….

Rubik’s Cube Speaker

Posted by Andrew at 5:06 PM on September 19, 2012

Geeks of a certain age will undoubtedly remember when the Rubik’s Cube craze (or Magic Cube as it was originally known) spread through school playgrounds in the early 1980s. Building on the current popularity of all things retro, this Rubik’s Cube Speaker will bring back memories of success or frustration depending on whether you were able to solve the puzzle or not.

Rubik's Cube Speaker

The Cube speaker uses the USB connector for power and the 3.5 mm jack for the audio, so there’s no batteries or power adaptor required. Unsurprisingly the speaker is NOT a functioning Rubik’s Cube but you can try and impress your friends by saying that you solved it…until they spot the cables.

Available from the Science Museum Shop (and other online retailers) for £20.

Smashing Retro Games

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on October 10, 2010

I try not to give too much love to any one single website, but this is too good to resist.  Smashing Magazine have a great article listing some of the best retro and DOS games which are now available on-line, some as downloads, some online.  As far as I can tell, all the games are legitimate, but use your own judgement.

The games include (and my progress in them when they first came out.)

- Prince of Persia – completed.
- Lemmings – completed (and Oh No! More Lemmings).
- Pac-man – can it ever be completed?
- SimCity – thousands of hours wasted!
- Secret of Monkey Island – never really played it.
- Leisure Suit Larry – man, I played this and several sequels to death.
- Doom I/II – completed, but lost interest with Quake.
- Micro-Machines – even have this on my Playstation 2.
- Dune II – the precursor to Command and Conquer, Total Annhilation, Z and a thousand other strategy games.  I loved Total Annhilation and Z.
- Wing Commander – I, II and III completed.  Didn’t get far in WC Armada.
- Worms – best played against your mates.  Watch them suffer.
and loads more.

These were the games of my youth and it’s fantastic to see them getting a second life.