Geeks of a certain age will remember fondly “going to the arcade” where much time and money was spent on video games. This was a time before home consoles, before Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox. An era of Space Invaders, Missile Command, Defender, Pacman and Battlezone that has passed into history. If this all brings a tiny tear to your eye, then you might be interested in Bespoke Arcades, creators of “the world’s finest arcade machines” that will take you back to that mis-spent youth.
Bespoke Arcades will hand-build in the UK arcade machines to specification in a range of styles, from the traditional upright cabinet to table-top machines. Everything is customisable from the cabinet finish to the controls and all come with a huge range of games.
Ben tells me about the history of Bespokes Arcades, some of their famous clients and how these might look like old arcade machines but are actually bang up-to-date PCs under the skin. Prices start at GB£2000.
Podcast (specmedia): Play in new window
Space 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.