Cathode Ray Tube

I've been searching for a cathode ray tube television for some time, with the belief that the older consoles in my collection were just not being properly represented on more modern sets.  By happenstance, I was reunited with a National TR602A "Delux" 12 inch television set from my childhood.

It was on the way to the municipal dump and had been left out in the rain for three days, so my hopes of getting it up and running were pretty low but, after taking some safety precautions, the almost forty year old set came to life.

 Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&W mode).

Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&W mode).

After a couple of hours of searching through cables, and my extra Atari 2600's I had River Raid up and running and looking better than it had in some decades.  Although the television is limited to being black and white, the crispness of the pixels is immediatley impressive. The curvature of the screen, convex rather than the concave options available in the 21st century, also adds a long forgotten quirk of technology, much more obvious in a vertically scrolling game than say, watching the cricket.

It has been difficult to pin down the exact year of manufacture, but this "all transistor" model (charming) was made by Matshushita in Osaka around 1980.

It is made of modern plastics, with the white casing holding up extremely well -- this model was also available in red. In terms of inputs the set is limited to screw terminals on the back of the set (you can daisy chain more modern inputs from the screw terminals, but there is a loss of quality for every adaptor you add).  While I was able to get a NES, NES, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and an Atari 2600 hooked up simultaneously, the video degradation was not worth the novelty, so I ultimately kept just the Atari 2600 attached.

 The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

Other features include an earphones port (mono only) as well as brightness and contrast controls on the front with vertical and horizontal hold on the back.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views), due to our regulators removing free over the air television programming the receiver now only picks up FM radio stations.

As of today I was able to find a single set, slightly newer than mine, on E-Bay for $130 AUD, but given the perils of shipping and handling, I've found that for vintage electronics it is best to source locally.

I throughly enjoyed setting up the Atari 2600 in it's own area of the collection, and even if I did come across a colour set, I'd be hesitant to "upgrade" given the moderne stylings of the National Deluxe.

- Phil Fogg

 

Advisory: If considering working on a CRT yourself please remember that according to ifixit.com "A CRT can hold several thousand volts of electricity in its flyback circuitry. If you do not have the necessary experience and tools to properly discharge and make safe a CRT, you should not even take the plastic cover off. There is also the chance of physically damaging the fragile neck of the CRT, leading to a violent implosion as the vacuum is released. This could spray poisonous, phosphor-covered shards of glass all over the room." 

Cat Person and Cibele

Recently, a short story published in the New Yorker caused a lot of people on twitter to say some things (in 140 characters or less), and a lot of journalists to say some things (in 1,400 words or more) about the people on twitter saying things (in 140 characters or less). The most notable thing about the short story itself, is its description of romantic texting as being "like dancing"; this sort of language in describing the act of texting instead of some shitty typographical gimmick to depict texting itself, is probably why so many people found it to be such a revelatory description of their own experiences of awkward sexual encounters.

 The titular Cat Person from the short story in mentioned above.

The titular Cat Person from the short story in mentioned above.

Not at all recently, I wrote some bullshit about Cibele; a game which deals, sort of, with similar themes. I wrote about it, unlike most people on twitter, not because it recounted in ways I could not some awkward sexual experience I had had (nor because it reinforced my belief that awkward sexual experiences were the sole domain of my own sex, due to only having friends of my own sex, and being utterly incapable of empathising with people of the opposite sex), but because it managed to describe the way people now interact using technology without the videogame equivalent of a typographical gimmick*; something literature, and most other mediums, were incapable of doing (until now, apparently). 

Now that my bullshit is out of date, I thought it would be a good time to publish it.

If you want, you can read it here.

You can also read Phil's review of the same game here.

Be sure to tell us who succeeded in writing the "plainer" review.

*If you think the structure of cibele is equivalent to a typographical gimmick, you're wrong. It's entirely prosaic, because it represents such things literally, in a medium where representing them literally does not contradict the other aesthetic principles of the work.

Game Under Podcast Episode 101.5

After our first official "Lost Episode", our show 102, Tom and Phil drown their sorrows by taking on a completely non-gaming related topic, that of Shakespeare, and his place in literature. (Click Here for Episode 101.5)

 A scene from Shakepeare's most recent game, King Lear.

A scene from Shakepeare's most recent game, King Lear.

No, seriously, there is not a smidgin of gaming discussion in this episode (well, there is some Kojima talk), we made sure to edit it all out (thus the diminutive ".5" added to the show title. But if you have any interest in Shakespeare (and if you read english, you should) please listen in to this short show before we recreate podcast magic in Episode 102.

If you are interested in this type of content you may also want to read Tom's article covering English Renaissance Plays on Youtube.

- Phil Fogg.

Carol Shaw

It was great to see Carol Shaw recognized for her lifetime achievements at the Game Awards last week.

I've admired Carol Shaw from before I was ten years old, as her visage and name was prominently promoted in the colateral materials for the Activision game River Raid, which I consider to be the best game for the Atari 2600 and is enjoyable today as it was when I first played it in the 80's.

 Some of my River Raid stuff. Commodore 64, Atari 2600 cart and the Atari 5200 box (still in original shrinkwrap. I have a couple of manuals for the game as well.

Some of my River Raid stuff. Commodore 64, Atari 2600 cart and the Atari 5200 box (still in original shrinkwrap. I have a couple of manuals for the game as well.

Game Under Podcast Episode 101

Gagandeep Singh of the Endless Backlog Podcast joins Tom Towers in Smugcast 2, to discuss the Wonderful 101 (get it?), Horizon Zero Dawn, Super Mario Oddessy, Killzone Vs. Halo, GTA III through V, Platinum Games Studio and much more.

However, just in time for the announcement of Bayonetta 3, they debate which is better, Bayonetta or Bayonetta 2; and whether Gagan and his bros simply suck at Metro and Killzone.
Listen Here.

One's Gagan, one's Tom

Game Under Podcast Episode 99

Tom and Phil return to discuss Cloverfield and its political subtext, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (probably some other games, too; we can't remember), and why videogames are not art. With actual reasons. Roger Ebert wishes he was on this level.

Oh, as well as little bit about Godzilla, Cloverfield and their political subtexts. 

Ecstasy_of_Saint_Teresa_September_2015-2a.jpg

Game Under Podcast Episode 98

In Episode 98 of the Game Under Podcast, Tom Towers and Phil Fogg return remastered in HD to give their final impressions of a long list of games, discuss the Cold War and make sense of Pseudo-Academic New Commercial Post-Textual Video Game Criticism. Or, as it is known to the layman, YouTube video "essays" and reviews.

Here's a bunch of games: The Cat Lady, Mafia III, Splatoon 2, Year Walk, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, SNES Mini, Yoshi's Story, Titanfall II, Yakuza 0, Transformers Destruction.

 

 

 

 

Super Nintendo Entertainment System Mini

I was able to pick-up a SNES mini a few days ago online for the Australian price of $126 (that included shipping). It was a limited window sale on ebgames.com and since I knew it was difficult to find at retail decided to take the plunge (it is currently selling on Ebay for $190).

 Sits nicely in the Nintendo section. (The NES and SNES have moved to the shelf now that the Retron 5 is hooked up).

Sits nicely in the Nintendo section. (The NES and SNES have moved to the shelf now that the Retron 5 is hooked up).

I was not all that interested in the system, since I have almost all of the games that come on the system, and by last count five SNES or SNES clones on which to play them, but relented on the basis of it's convenience and reliability.  Old carts work reliably in the original hardware, but the original hardware does not display that well on HDMI.  The downside of the clones like the Retron 5, is that often the emulator does not include the cart you want to play.

This way I can play most of the classics, with the benefits of save states, with a high degree of convenience.

 Inside the SNES mini, looks just like the NES mini. Photo courtesy of  https://mynintendonews.com/,  please visit their site.

Inside the SNES mini, looks just like the NES mini. Photo courtesy of https://mynintendonews.com/, please visit their site.

Here in Australia we get the EU version, which comes with two of the four colour buttons, as opposed the violet and purple buttons of the NTSC version. The downside is the buttons are all convex, unlike the top two buttons on the NTSC version which are concave. Oh and... the cables are too short, okay if you are outputting to your PC monitor, but in the living room you won't be able to sit on the couch and play at the same time.

The only other down-side is that you'll need to supply your own power.  Nintendo provides a USB cable, but no wall adapter.  I used a Samsung micro-USB charger and it worked fine.

All in all, it's a nice little package, and well worth the price.

For reference, here are the games on the system.

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby's Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!
  • Yoshi's Island

- Phil Fogg