A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Atari 8 Bit Computer Collection Update/Gripe Session Part 2: Solid State Society

  Last time was my disks, in all their fragile magnetic glory.  This time its the cartridges!  See a lot of game software was cartridge based back then.  Most home computers had slots for them which meant no loading or additional hardware needed.  Just buy the program and plug it in!

  Except it was expensive to make cartridges compared to a floppy disk or cassette tape.  You needed your own molds for the cart (at least in those days before the machine publishers put in lock out chips and required a licensing fee and THEN they would print X number of copies they got a cut of the profits on.  Or even no profits.  They already charged you to make the things and have the "privilege" to do so, probably with lots of other rules and restrictions.), and then lots of expensive board and chip fabrication only to make games that were limited in size in comparison to the magnetic media based ones.  Thus a cartridge game generally had to sell for 2-4 times what a disk or tape program would. Although on some of these early systems the hideously low amount of RAM most machines came stock with (like 4-16 kilobytes for some of the late 70s/early 80s machines) meant a cartridge game could actually be bigger and more complex than the magnetic media titles that required both RAM to run said device but also hold the program.  On a cartridge title most machines can access the program ROM as a form of virtual RAM since the CPUs of the day could work with about 64 kilobytes of RAM total so your average 16kbyte ROM cartridge wasn't taking up even half of what the CPU could actually address.

  Thus like many things there were pluses and minuses to each format.  As a modern collector cartridges have the benefit of being vastly more durable than their magnetic brethren and easier to use as worrying about the magnetic drive itself is also taken out of the equation!  Cleaning some cartridge contacts is a LOT easier than cleaning a drive read/write head plus keeping all the connection and power cables in good shape and hoping all those moving parts and belts that connect to many of the moving parts all keep working.

  But here in Atari 8 Bit land we find that most cartridge games are of the arcade style variety with limited releases of other genres.  Arcade styled games had mass appeal whereas a wireframe flight simulator running at maybe 10 FPS tops or a complicated turn based wargame had a lot smaller audience.  Anyhow let us get on with the show, yes?

At this point do I even need to say one can click for larger images?
 We begin with my boxed Warner era Atari games.  At the top are the larger sized boxes of the XL era including one of the only full 4 level versions of Donkey Kong.  Ms Pac Man is a smaller box but the same format.  Star Raiders is of course one of the 1979 era launch titles.  The platform's KILLER APP.  (As opposed to Apple II's which was Visicalc, a spreadsheet.)

 Four of the XE/GS Tramiel era releases in blue, with what was probably a new old stock Moon Patrol.  Its a sticker so probably a cheap and easy way of clearing out all the excess inventory the Tramiels got when they bought Atari's home division.  Some they got, others ended up in the hands of companies to sell on Ebay decades later, others ended up in New Mexico landfills.  

 And the rest of the Atari carts.  As we see, most of them are original era titles outside of Jungle Hunt in the XL era format.  Unlike the XE/GS carts though these all had the fancy shield for the contacts and metal backs.  And thanks to Atarimania any manuals I don't have I can print out.  But in the back we see what the original era manuals looked like with Missile Command, and the various XL ones with Caverns of Mars, Defender, and Qix.

 Three companies' worth of boxed carts with Spinnaker's being on one of those fancy Trapper Keeper vinyl styled things, and Roklan's using the manual as the cover thanks to the open hole on the box.  Printing costs are quite a large percentage of a product's cost and this generic packaging was a great way to save money.  Albeit it makes things look a little ghetto.

 The last of my boxed carts by Thorn Emi Video.  They used custom VHS style plastic clamshell cases with the covers being a paper insert which is another and probably better way to save a few bucks.  Everything else is loose here and it lets you see some of the variety of cartridge types these companies made. 

 And we finish up with the best Atari 2600 publisher's Atari 8 Bit titles and an Epyx game.

Now if you vaguely remember when I started blogging about this machine back in 2011 a couple things seem missing.

Yes I have currently misplaced my River Raid and Gateway to Apshai manuals.  I know they are in my living room somewhere but I have too much nonsense out and about right now so they are hiding somewhere. I am sure I will find them eventually and the fact I have so much stuff out means I... HAVE A BIT TOO MUCH STUFF MAYBE?  and should ease up yeah?  Yeah.  Or at least get more and better storage/display/organization options before spending more money on this stuff!

Ok this was too good a deal (3 bux shipping!) for me to pass up, and RetroWorld Expo is next week but I will take my collecting from a 5-6 down to a 2-3 if you will.  Play more of what I have.

Next time I will finish this update out with all those lovely books I have involving this nifty little computer line history seems to try to forget.

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