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Games Hardware

Our Video Game Heritage Is Rotting Away 492

Posted by timothy
from the thermodynamics-at-work dept.
eldavojohn writes "There's been a movement to preserve virtual worlds but MIT's Tech Review paints a dire picture of our video game memories rotting away in the attic of history. From the article: 'Entire libraries face extinction the moment the last remaining working console of its kind — a Neo Geo, Atari 2600 or something more obscure, like the Fairchild Channel F — bites the dust.' Published in The International Journal of Digital Curation, a new paper highlights this problem and explains how emulators fall short to truly preserve our video game heritage. The paper also breaks down popular SNES emulators to illustrate the growing problem with emulators and their varying quality. Do you remember any video consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey that are forever lost to the ages?"
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Our Video Game Heritage Is Rotting Away

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  • Vectrex (Score:5, Informative)

    by jomama717 (779243) * <jomama717@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:44PM (#33059820) Journal
    I have fond memories of playing the Vectrex console when I was a kid - I suppose there must be a few working units floating around out there but based on the way the graphics worked I wonder if you could ever truly emulate it on a PC.

    Even if you could emulate the graphics you couldn't emulate the clear plastic templates you had to mount on the screen depending on the game :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sqlrob (173498)

      You can't?

      Ever see the emulations of Space Invaders that are colored? Space Invaders is black and white, the color was from plastic on the screen.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        You can emulate it, but poorly. Emulated overlays look like any other color graphics. It really doesn't strike you just how far we've come until you stand in front of a Space Invaders machine and see the overlays, or when you plug in a Channel F and hear the audio coming from the console instead of the TV. That's when history touches you. That's when you recognize the reality of a world before colored sprites and digital audio.

        • Re:Vectrex (Score:5, Insightful)

          by easterberry (1826250) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:59PM (#33060096)
          But we replaced those things for a reason. They weren't good. It's like people complaining about how games are so easy now and how we used to not have saves and only have 3 lives.

          Those things were terrible. We replaced them because they were frustrating and annoying and reduced the gaming experience. What you remember is the joy of being younger, and while remembering that system might help YOU with that, it doesn't mean that society as a whole needs to remember them and put them on pedestals and more than we need to keep our old betamax tapes and laserdisks.
          • Re:Vectrex (Score:5, Insightful)

            by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:51PM (#33060794) Journal
            it doesn't mean that society as a whole needs to remember them and put them on pedestals and more than we need to keep our old betamax tapes and laserdisks.

            But my laserdisk holds the proof that Han shot first.
      • Re:Vectrex (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:02PM (#33060164)

        You can't? Ever see the emulations of Space Invaders that are colored? Space Invaders is black and white, the color was from plastic on the screen.

        Bigger problem with the Vectrex is that it used a vector [wikipedia.org] (X/Y) display. Although you can now draw lines on a raster monitor that are very smooth, and you can do glow effects that look pretty nice, it's not the same as drawing a straight line from point A to point B. No pixels, just phosphors emitting light.

        Anyone who's played Asteroids on the original coin-op hardware (or even just played around with a CRT-based oscilloscope!) knows that if you dump a CRT's electron beam onto a single point, you get a spot of brightness that's radically brighter than a single white pixel on either a CRT or an LCD monitor.

        For emulation purposes, I could live with rasterization. Sometimes, preserving the original hardware's important. Fortunately, there are communities in both the coin-op [caextreme.org] (big convention two weeks ago in San Jose) and console [cgexpo.com] (big convention this weekend in Vegas) communities dedicated to keeping the hardware alive long enough for the software to be preserved (and as much as possible, the hardware to be reverse-engineered for emulation purposes).

        • Re:Vectrex (Score:4, Interesting)

          by lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:27PM (#33060406) Homepage

          Anyone who's played Asteroids on the original coin-op hardware (or even just played around with a CRT-based oscilloscope!) knows that if you dump a CRT's electron beam onto a single point, you get a spot of brightness that's radically brighter than a single white pixel on either a CRT or an LCD monitor.

          I've done both, i.e. played the original coin-op Asteroids on an oscilloscope when the screen broke. :-) Rather, we used an oscilloscope in X-Y mode to confirm that it was indeed the high voltage driver to the screen that had burned out, (someone much more skilled in electronics than me) fixed it, and were back in action. It was a bit different playing Asteroids green on a 4-inch screen with green traces though.

        • Re:Vectrex (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:38PM (#33060604)

          Behold, a CRT vector graphics implementation of Asteroids. [heise.de] The article (in German) [heise.de] describes the whole project. The logic hardware is recreated as an FPGA "program". An X-Y-capable oscilloscope can be used as the display.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sunshinerat (1114191)
        The problem with emulating the Vectex is that it is a vector based console, not raster based graphics. No matter what you would do in an emulator, you would have to translate the vector graphics into raster and that would take a way the one thing that made the Vectrex unique.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Applekid (993327)

          At a sufficiently high resolution, the raster construction of a vector image is indistinguishable. I don't think a display with such high dpi currently exists, but, given enough time, it will.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Emulating the clear plastic templates should be relatively easy; could look something like this [mooli.org.uk]. What I find tough (nearly impossible currently?) is emulating the look of the vector display itself. Up until recently I had a crt, and despite its high resolution the scan lines still gave it away. I have a nice lcd display now, but the pixel grid can still be noticeable a bit. As displays increase in resolution and quality it will probably become possible to get pretty convincing emulation, but for now it see
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tepples (727027)

      based on the way the graphics worked I wonder if you could ever truly emulate it on a PC.

      Vectrex's display is based on wireframe vector graphics. But for the past decade, PlayStation, video cards have been designed to do one thing and do it well: rasterize vectors. Draw each vector as a quad, apply a blur filter over the whole thing, and blend in the overlay. What difficulties did you imagine?

  • by JeffSh (71237) <jeffslashdot&m0m0,org> on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:48PM (#33059890)

    Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA. I'm not convinced that it is a practical or necessary goal to hold on to and remember every little thing, especially video game heritage.

    Some people may choose to make it a hobby, or an obsession, and that's their prerogative, but as a society and as a species there's certain things that once they're lost they're just gone. And future generations will not be robbed of some great cosmic truth when there are no longer any more NES machines capable of playing an NES cartridge. We will keep this memories in our own minds until we ourselves perish, and then the next generation takes over and creates something new themselves. I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, the fact we forget is the very reason we end up reliving the same nightmares over and over again. I'll forgo the foray into politics...

    • by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:54PM (#33059982)
      The problem as I see it is that we, now, don't know what will be valued in the future. Whatever clown decided to make the same rock with Hieroglyphs, demotic, and greek would have no idea that at the time he was creating one of the most important archiological artifacts ever.

      In short, preserve it now, let future generations decide what to study and what to ignore.

      By the way, I wonder what medium we should use if we want to store data for a really, really long time. It'd be nice if there was an "Ask Slashdot" on this. Ah well. One can only dream...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bky1701 (979071)
        The Rosetta Stone wasn't that special, though.

        At the time the Rosetta Stone was discovered, there was no such thing as archeology. The knowledge of Egypt that existed at the time mostly came from Greek writings. Nobody really cared enough to go digging around, looking for something that might let them understand the Egyptian writings. People tried to translate Ancient Egyptian languages, because many artifacts made their way to more convenient locations like Paris, but that was only the most valuable art
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#33060004) Journal

      I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

      Well, if you firmly believe that video games and the digital interactions they provide to the player are art and part of our culture (and I personally do) then yes it does make sense for society to have a prerogative to save these video games. Why give up on video games when we've spent so much time, money and resources saving the Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, the Statue of Liberty or old phonograph recordings of dead musicians? Your view is quite callous to the hours spent developing and imagining these video games as well as the hours spent enjoying them.

      Whatever plan that can be instituted to save games should be done now before too many consoles are lost to the ages.

    • by LordPhantom (763327) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#33060012)
      That's a bit short-sighted, don't you think? Do you similarly think we shouldn't attempt to preserve the works of Beethoven or Picasso? There may not be a great cosmic truth contained in many different works of art but that doesn't mean there isn't irreplaceable creative value in it.

      That's not to say that every game was noteworthy, but there are some that are worthy of preservation, not because of nostalgia but because they have value inof themselves.
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:20PM (#33060294) Journal

      Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA. [...] I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

      Wow - way to attack every single historian, archaeologist, paleontologist, archivist, librarian, and anyone interested in history in the planet by basically boiling it down to "It doesn't matter". If thats what you think, your history teacher wasn't very good. We learn from the past, we learn from history. Not just the mistakes, but also the successes. Not just the massive events, but also the mundane.

      To say that "Forgetting" is in our DNA does not make a connection that "It is meant to happen" - that correlation needs to be shut down right away. Cancer is in your DNA. Ironically fitting, so is Alzheimers, which you may or may not get, which affects your memory. In fact, one of the greatest attributes humans have that give them an advantage over every other species is our memory.

      If you don't care about your heritage, than you basically don't value your society. If you don't care that your grandparents fought in a war for YOUR freedom, you wouldn't value your freedom, because you wouldn't know you had it. Keeping Super Mario Bros. 3 in its original state might seem like a ridiculous goal now - but 3 or 4 generations from now, people will ask "What did people do with all their spare time?". It'd be great if we had that stuff in a museum for them to research, so that they can care about their heritage.

      And like someone else said - let them decide what's important. Perhaps entertainment will be the main industry in the future, once industries are farmed out to robots.

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:35PM (#33060558)
      Yeah, I read that slashdot story too. It's a crock. You are quite literally arguing FOR ignorance.
      Imagine if the investment bankers (or better yet the politicians who deregulated them) had remembered the horrors of the great depression.
      Imagine if people had remembered Vietnam when we went in and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. (or even just when the Russian got tired of dying in Afghanistan)
      Now, our "video game heritage" isn't nearly as important or weighty as that. But I like the patent for a hammer-mill strapped to a Cadillac that my grandfather had framed. I like the old silverware dad brought back from Thailand. I even like his super-ancient record of "the electric prunes".

      So I really don't get the glorification of forgetting and ignorance. Starting with a black slate sucks.

      Although, in an apparent about face, I'd agree that getting rid of useless junk and casting of materialism is a healthy thing to do. But keep the good stuff. (And that old TI machine with munch-man cartridge counts as "the good stuff").
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @04:09PM (#33061076) Homepage Journal

      Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA.

      Yes, but the ability to remember is as well. We remember the important things, while forgetting the trivial things. The problem is, sometimes we can't see what's important and what's trivial.

      When I was working at Disney World in the early eighties, an older man pulled out his wallet to pay, and it had a half inch thick stack of $100 bills. I asked him how he got his wealth, and he said that during the Great Depression, an out of work friend needed fifteen dollars to travel by mule cart to California where he hoped to find a job, and sold his old Model T Ford to him. He'd only paid the $15 for it as a favor to his friend, and it sat in his barn until the early '50s, when a stranger spied it and bought it on the spot for $150,000. He invested that cash, and became rich -- from an initial $15 investment was wan't really an investment, but just helping his friend.

      I wish I had that old IBM XT I left in the basement of my house on 15th street. Had I kept it, my kids might be rich someday.

      The man's advice to me was "never throw anything away".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA. I'm not convinced that it is a practical or necessary goal to hold on to and remember every little thing, especially video game heritage.

      If it weren't built into our DNA to try to remember stuff, we wouldn't remember stuff. Except that we do, so obviously remembering stuff is "in our DNA".

      What I think you are missing is the fact that the way our min

      • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @04:40PM (#33061454) Journal

        As an aside, I wrote a significant project using PHP-GTK (version 1) some years ago. (2003?) Well, the php-gtk project has moved on to newer version (2) and have all but dropped support for PHPGTK1, documentation, everything.

        Yet my project is still alive and well on the old version, and I'm doing an update to that program now! My only recourse for the documentation is (of course) archive.org, which has all the old documentation (dating all the way back to 2001) which is, for my purposes, very nearly as useful as the original documentation's website was.

        I'd be lost without this archive! IMHO, archive.org should be incorporated into the Library of Congress and treated as an imperpetuity electronic archive of the Internet.

  • No fear. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:49PM (#33059910) Homepage

    There will ALWAYS been crazy collectors that keep these things working, even if it means having parts custom made. If people can still own old automobiles that are drivable, they can still own old gaming consoles kept in tip-top shape.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is easier to find parts for my 1929 Model A than it is for my '06 Taurus.

      I'm not joking.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        That's because the Model A is a historical touchstone and the Taurus is a piece of shit.

        /ex-Taurus owner
      • Re:No fear. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by quanticle (843097) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:54PM (#33060850) Homepage

        Well, that gets back to the issues highlighted in the article. Your 1929 Model A comes from an era where cars were still relatively new and finicky. Owners were expected to have the requisite skill to repair their machines. That, combined with the relative lack of faith in the reliability of the system meant that manufacturers made the engine and drivetrain easy to service, and also manufactured lots of spare parts. In short, the Model A is like a PC - a relatively open system where third parties can make parts that fit just as well as those made by the OEM.

        Your '06 Taurus, on the other hand, is more like a console. These days, cars are expected to be reliable, and most owners are not mechanically proficient enough to service their own automobiles. That, combined with the increasing prevalence of electronic controls means that systems in modern automobiles are packaged up as black boxes with proprietary interfaces. This makes it very difficult for third parties to build replacements, while the lack of mechanical proficiency amongst the owners simultaneously reduces the demand for those parts. With all that in mind, its no surprise that its more difficult to find parts for your Taurus. Open systems will have larger ecosystems than closed systems, whether its a mechanical system (Model A vs. Taurus) or an electronic system (PC vs. console).

    • by us7892 (655683)
      I'm holding onto my Atari 2600 console, and basket of games to sell to one of these collectors someday. Alas, only worth about $23 on EBay. Oh well. http://cgi.ebay.com/ATARI-2600-Video-Game-System-controllers-and-games-/190421866960?cmd=ViewItem&pt=Video_Games&hash=item2c560719d0#ht_522wt_935 [ebay.com]
      • by Hatta (162192)

        There are too many 2600s in existence for the console itself to be worth anything in our lifetimes. And new hardware is still being produced [wikipedia.org]. Although, if you have any funny looking T-shaped [wikipedia.org] cartridges, you might be in luck.

        If I were you, I'd take it out and play it. Now is a great time to enjoy 2600 gaming, as there's a flash cart [atariage.com] that will play every 2600 game (even supercharger!) for the price of 1 or 2 carts back in the day.

    • Re:No fear. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:58PM (#33060060)
      It's easy to have custom parts made for things like the Atari 2600. It's engineering is relatively straightforward. Contrast that to a PS3, which specifically is designed with security in mind. Duplicating some of the parts there would be much, much more difficult.
      • by Pojut (1027544)

        True, but the technology behind the product is much more advanced as well (not to mention far less physical components present). I would think that a PS3 would survive sitting unused much longer than an Atari would, if for no other reason than at least because there are less objects inside that could fail.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fractalus (322043)

          An Atari 2600 is so amazingly simple that there is little in there to fail. The PS3, on the other hand, has a bazillion failure points by comparison...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mlts (1038732) *

            Don't forget that newer stuff has DRM and suicide batteries which will make things almost impossible for future people to be able to keep today's stuff working.

            Suicide batteries are a "feature" of newer arcade games, where after a couple years, essentially the whole arcade game bricks itself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cgenman (325138)

          Look at the gigantic size of the metallic components in a 2600. The solder joints, heat dissipation, overall speed all lead to higher durability. Remember, that was a system that gave code direct control over the beam during every scan line, because there wasn't anything like a graphics processor or a display buffer.

          The newer, more advanced technology tends to stress hardware more and die faster. I would be surprised if many 2600's died of natural causes. I'd also be surprised if more than 80% of the or

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If people can still own old automobiles that are drivable, they can still own old gaming consoles kept in tip-top shape.

      What was the last car you saw that was OLDER than the Model T?

      They are very very very few and very very very far between. Video games in the 80's and 90's were only just starting to penetrate the market broad enough to be considered a household item. When you look at Cars older than those that were mass produced, you have trouble finding a collector for them.

      Older consoles might share the same fate - replacement parts for the crazy collector require an equally crazy technician to create the parts that have

  • Fair use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jiro (131519) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:52PM (#33059942)

    Copying a game you own in order to run it on a different machine is fair use and doesn't require permission from anyone. The writers of this paper seem to take Nintendo's word as to what type of emulation is actually legal.

    But then again, what do you expect from a paper that uses the term "128-bit system"?

    • Look at Atari vs JS&A, where a court ruled that even though you were able to get backups making them themselves are illegal.
  • Virtual Boy (Score:4, Funny)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:54PM (#33059978)
    The virtual boy console from nintendo, due to its 3D nature and unique hardware, is simply impossible to emulate and will eventually vanish like it never existed. Oh wait, that's a good thing!!!
  • Legal or not, there are emulators and rum dumps out there of every system I can think of.
  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#33060008)
    It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

    Thanks to emulation, many of these older games have secured their spot in the memory of a digital society. Shame that the current generation of consoles is locked down in every way imaginable; perhaps historical obscurity is getting what they deserve. They will be remembered for their litigiousness rather than their art.
    • by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:02PM (#33060154)
      They want the old games to be forgotten. They want you to buy new ones. Unless, of course, they can find a way to monitize the old ones, such as the various new "Arcade" style stores that let you download old stuff for a price.
    • It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

      You are making a big assumption thinking that almost any of these game companies care about such a thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)

      It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

      heh.....in all honesty, if it came to a choice between having millions of dollars now, and being remembered by history after I am dead, I will take the millions of dollars now. It's not that I'm desperate for money, and I dislike DRM for other reasons, but being remembered by history 100 years from now does not matter to me at all.

      Heck, for that matter I'd give up my place in history right now in exchange for a nice, slow cooked, savory cut of filet mignon. Hmmmm. Delicious. Yes, I am hungry right n

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Garwulf (708651)

      I'm sorry, but what a load of crap.

      Disclosure time - I'm 33 years old, and my family had a Colecovision. I remember the age of the video arcade, as I grew up in it. I remember Cosmic Avenger, Gorf, and Qbert. And emulation had NOTHING to do with securing "their spot in the memory of a digital society."

      What secures their spot in history was that they WERE played and enjoyed in their day. Whether there's an emulator out there for them now is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that they were playe

  • by painandgreed (692585) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:56PM (#33060028)

    Hell, I'm even worried about computer games. I collect old Macs and games to play on them. While the machines are still out there, various accessories for such are getting harder to find as are the actual games. While on the PC, theoretically, they'll play on a newer machine, the Mac platform has had a couple of changes of processor types that make sit hard to carry software over. Classic isn't even an option on the Intel Mac. There are tons of old games for the Mac toasters alone that formed a good deal of early computer gaming history and are still fun to play: Net Trek, Lunar Rescue, Ancient Art of War, etc. Every now and then I find a copy to buy, but I don't even have the games I played on an those old Macs, let alone the ones I never got to play.

    I bet that even really old PC games have lots of issues, if you can track them down. I don't even want to think about what has happened to hardware and games for the old Apple ][s.

  • MAME does it right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deweyhewson (1323623)
    There's only one emulator out there which does it right, in my opinion, and that's MAME. Their goal is preservation, not playability, which they still maintain is a nice "side effect" of the code.

    Most emulators have it the other way around, and use whatever code hacks or tweaks they can to get the most popular games up and running, replete with all of the glitches and inaccurate emulation which inevitably follow. Instead, they should follow MAME's example, and code for 100% perfect emulation relying sole
    • Different emulators have different goals. Mame isn't in it for the money. Contrast this to an emulator such as the one used by Nintendo for the Wii. Their goal is to provide an acceptable level of emulation, at the lowest possible cost.
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @02:59PM (#33060094)

    There exists a wide gulf between the problem ('how do we store this stuff in a museum') and the proposed solution ('make it playable in the future'). It isn't as if the any of the aircraft in the National Air and Space Museum, for example, is ever taken out and flown by the museum guests. Does anyone really expect us to believe that seeing the Spirit of Saint Louis hanging up there is anything at all like the experience of crossing the Atlantic in it?

    An adequate solution would be to record samples of the gameplay onto more future-proof media, blow up huge screenshots, and otherwise fabricate museum exhibits out of what we have left. This would mirror exactly the way we preserve everything else.

    Typical geek silliness, if you ask me.

    • by shadowrat (1069614) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:42PM (#33060676)
      Interesting. I think a screenshot of metroid would hardly do the game justice. The art of the game is more than just how samus looked or how the platforms floated in mid air. The true nature of the game was how high you could jump, how fast you fell, how the different weapons opened up new areas to explore.

      I don't know if a couple of screenshots, or even gameplay videos really preserve the work. You wouldn't think a select handful of notes from a symphony or some stills and the trailer to a movie are an adequate way of preserving the work.

      In the case of the spirit of st louis, or the apollo spacecraft, i think there is a desire to convey how small this plane was, how cramped in there the astronauts were, etc. It's impractical to let anyone who wants to fly the plane across the atlantic, but i think the museum does expend a lot of resources on movies and exhibits and models trying to convey the experiences of the past to museum goers in the present.

      it seems like ensuring there is an emulator capable of running metroid 100 years from now should be an easy task and preserve the game really well. Even better, the code should be preserved.

      (i just picked metroid at random)
  • Pinmame and Visual pinball have there full code base in the open so they can live on!

  • Decapping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snarfies (115214) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:00PM (#33060120) Homepage

    There's a very interesting project aimed at "decapping" chips from arcade motherboards. They burn the tops of the chips off with fuming nitric acid until the silicone is exposed, and the silicon is then put under a microscope, and the resulting image is then somehow processed to obtain the ROM's actual contents. I don't see why it couldn't be applied to consoles as well, if necessary. See http://guru.mameworld.info/decap/ [mameworld.info] for more details (and how you can help).

    As to the article's position that emulation is not "good enough," well, perhaps not. Even assuming we have the exact decapped ROM contents, full documentation, and an absolutely perfectly coded emulator, we would still lack the original hardware - specifically the controllers and display. I used to play games on my Commodore with an old Atari 2600 joystick in a little 13-inch television. Its a tad different with my USB gamepad on my 22-inch widescreen LCD monitor, and there just isn't much for it.

  • Even more at risk are the electronic handhelds of the late 1970's (P.S. it was so long ago now that I feel compelled to include the century), in the manner of Mattel Football and Simon, but more obscure titles. I remember that whereas Mattel Football and three lanes of LEDs, there were knockoffs that had four or five lanes. And I recall a Bandai basketball game that had fully-drawn figures that would light up on a flourescent display. And then in 1981 there was a tabletop football game that sold for $70 at
  • IIRC, the Odyssey and its many clones were all based on a special-purpose General Instruments Pong chip. Maybe that's only the later ones, and the earlier ones were discrete. (ah, a web search confirms this; the GI Pong chip came after the originals, which were discrete). There's no copyrighted code to extract, and if you were to clone the hardware for preservation purposes, nobody's going to bother suing you.

    I also remember an electromechanical Pong game, but nobody seems to care about that one.

    And if so

  • by Thyamine (531612)
    I'm a gamer who grew up with an Atari 400 and an NES and down the line, but I don't really see how this ranks in the importance of things. I've gone back to re-play some of my favorite games and it's just not the same. The memory I have is always better than really playing it again, and no one today cares about how great that original version of Spy Hunter was. Ask your nephew to play and see how he feels about it if you don't believe me.

    Troll ahead: There are a lot more important things out there disa
  • I submit this comment from the article as proof:

    "Who cares
    The aging gamers who enjoyed the magnovox or gleco vision wont be around much longer so what's the point in preserving shitting games? I know that they must feel nastalgia for these cause i just bought a sega collection disk for my 360 but i could careless if the games on that disk are gone in the future cause there will be way better games. Frankly its a waste of time to emulate all this simple games like pong or those super super garbage rpgs. Ya f

  • CRT look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mprx (82435) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:28PM (#33060416)

    The article mentions attempts at simulating CRT display artifacts, but it doesn't mention the most serious problem. CRTs light up each pixel for a very short time as the beam crosses them. LCDs keep all pixels lit constantly. This makes a big difference to motion, especially scrolling as found in 2D games. The CRT will always look sharper because there is no error with respect to time for each frame. Each frame is shown as single point in time, and the human visual system is very good at reconstructing motion from that kind of sampling. With the LCD style sample-and-hold display you can think of each frame as being composed of many samples spread over time, all except one of them being incorrect (shifted into the past or future). Visually this shows up as blurring. It's completely independent of the response time of the display. Even with instant pixel switching speed you'd still see this kind of blur.

    You can see diagrams explaining the problem here:
    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/archive/temprate.mspx [microsoft.com]

  • by jridley (9305) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:29PM (#33060436)

    They're right, the emulator experience is not the same.

    To really be accurate, the emulator would have to crash a bunch, require you to spend hours cleaning contacts with pencil erasers, screwing with cassette deck head alignment, beating on flaky equipment with your fist, and having to buy replacement cables every few months.

    Kids these days don't know what they're missing with stuff that just works. I sometimes want to slap them around when they complain about hard drives that crash every 10 years on average. I had stuff that crashed every 10 minutes and I paid 10 times as much for it.

  • Not a problem. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:33PM (#33060516)

    Check out this. . .

    http://www.chiptune.com/ [chiptune.com]

    Amiga Workbench in HTML 5! (At least a cosmetic version, but you get the idea.)

    If you dig around, you'll find that somebody, somewhere who cares will have ported some version of it along. I remember hankering for one of my old and obscure Apple ][ games and I actually found the darned thing along with an emulator. (Rescue Raiders).

    -FL

  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:39PM (#33060618)
    Our rich heritage of sidewalk chalk art also quickly disappears, as do sand castles and Buddhist sand Mandalas... why can't people just accept the fact that everything is transitory -- including video games?
  • by bobcat7677 (561727) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @04:03PM (#33060986) Homepage
    While I am all for attempts to preserve history in general, I have to mention another perspective...

    When we as a society become "packrats" and attempt to preserve every obscure product, prototype, document, and recording of things of the past, it dilutes the value of the things preserved overall. You get to a point where the volume of items is overwhelming to someone wishing to do legitimate historical research and the "collector" value from a monetary perspective is also diluted as the object becomes just "one of many examples surviving of this ____ (fill in the blank)." So I pose the question: "Might it actually be healthy for things of a bygone age to naturally 'decay' over time in to a more manageable and valuable sub-set?"
  • by Myria (562655) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @04:41PM (#33061468)

    Emulation is no longer possible for new consoles. The last console for which a feasible emulator could exist (and in fact does [dolphin-emu.com]) is probably the Wii.

    Emulation requires that the emulating machine be several times faster than the emulated machine, because there is effort required in translating the original assembly code to the target processor's code. For older consoles, this isn't a problem. But consider emulating something like the Xbox 360: a tri-core 3.2 GHz PowerPC. In order to emulate one of the cores of such a system, you need to have a CPU that is several times faster than 3.2 GHz, even with advanced optimizing recompilation.

    Such systems do not exist. It comes down to the fact that computers are not getting faster, but getting more parallel instead. Emulation of a serial instruction stream cannot be parallelized in software.

    People generations from now will be able to play Contra but not Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

You will lose an important disk file.

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