Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2015 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

The end of an icon ^H^H^H^H sprite?

22 January 2013

Pong. It can mean two things...

It can refer to an awful smell but it was also the name of one of the earliest computer games using a CRT display and interacting with players in real-time.

The very first computer game I ever played was a variant of Pong. I recall at the time that the simple games console (with eight variations of the game) cost about $150, way back in the mid 1970s.

The slim plastic box had two knobs (no namby-pamby joysticks back then) and when you turned a knob, the corresponding bat (just a white line) moved up and down along the side of the screen in concert. The ball was just a square block that bounced around the screen.

By today's standards, it was pretty lame -- every bit as addictive some 40 years ago as WOW or any contemporary computer games are today.

The inventor of Pong was Atari, a US company whose innovations in the computer and gaming field have left an indelible impression on generations of young people.

I still fondly recall my Atari 400, a small plastic computer with a hideous membrane-based keyboard, ROM-pack and limited RAM. However, as a platform for games it was brilliant.

Not only did the Atari have full-colour graphics (not very common back then) and a reasonable version of BASIC but it also had hardware sprites.

For someone who'd been programming systems with far more basic display systems where creating smooth animation was a significant task, the 400 was a breath of fresh air.

Complex timing and double-buffering routines could be thrown out the window. You simply created a bitmap for the character you wanted to animate and then "poked" the position values into an index area stored in RAM. This power and sophistication meant that quite playable games could be written in BASIC, rather than the complex assembly code required for other systems such as the Apple.

I shudder to think of how many hours I spent playing Asteroids, Missile Command and Pacman on this thing.

Even years later, after the Atari 400 and its bigger brother the Atari 800 had been relegated to the history books, Atari was still around. Their ST series of computers was a bold (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to take on the likes of the wildly popular Commodore Amiga.

Back in mid 1980s, while the "standard" for computers was the wimpy 8088-powered IBM PC, the Atari ST was sporting a grunty Motorola 68000 and an advanced bitmapped video display which could run the GEM GUI from Digital Research.

I remember playing with the Atari ST and marveling at how much "nicer" it was than the IBM PC. Unfortunately, the ST suffered from its lack of PC-compatibility, a weakness that was to ultimately spell its demise.

And now (yes, finally -- the guts of today's column), it seems that Atari themselves are going the way of the 400 and the ST as they have just filed for bankruptcy protection.

Hopefully the company will survive this threat to its future. Given how much they contributed to the early evolution of personal computers and realtime computer games, they deserve to.

How many readers have had encounters with Atari systems over the years and what were your impressions?

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say on this...

PERMALINK to this column

Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines


Rank This Aardvark Page

 

Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines

 


Apart from the kind support of the sponsor, Aardvark Daily is largely a labour of love that involves many hours of hard work each month. If you appreciate the content you find here (or even if you don't) then please visit the sponsor and also feel free to gift me a donation using the button above.

Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.


Features:

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam

 

The Missile Man The Missile Man book

Previous Columns

Good idea, bad implementation
You may not have noticed but yesterday a very powerful new law relating to the internet came into effect here in New Zealand...

Australia, the new fascist state?
Just last week I wrote about the fact that Australia has passed new laws that will see its citizens' access to the internet censored...

Mr Net TV, a huge business opportunity?
As I watched the final-ever episode of Top Gear featuring Jeremy Clarkson on the 40-inch LCD TV set in the livingroom whilst eating my dinner...

Maori, not an official internet language in NZ?
New Zealand has two official written and spoken languages - English and Te reo Māori...

Big brother shows contempt for the brave
We all know that in just about every country on the face of the planet, "the state" is increasingly probing into the private lives of citizens...

Flash buggered again
Tech websites around the world are carrying the story that Adobe has issued an emergency patch for Flash...

Do no not much evil
These days, Google is the internet and the internet is Google...

Netflix to be blocked in Australia?
Spare a thought for our Aussie mates across the ditch...

UFB disaster?
The good old POTS (plain old telephone system) is great in a disaster...

A new language for the Web
We all know that English is (or at least "was") the language of the world wide web...

The tapping of white canes
First of all, my heart-felt apologies to those with impaired vision. Comparing the buffoons in parliament to those with such a disability is wholly unfair but, in this case, necessary...