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Donkey Kong and Me

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the when-men-were-men-and-code-was-16k dept.

Programming 123

MBCook sends us to the blog of one Landon Dyer, who posted an entry the other day entitled Donkey Kong and Me. It describes how he was offered at job at Atari after writing a Centipede clone and ended up programming Donkey Kong for the Atari 800. It's full of detail that will be fascinating to anyone who ever programmed assembly language that had to fit into 16K, as well as portents of what was to come at Atari. "My first officemate didn't know how to set up his computer. He didn't know anything, it appeared. He'd been hired to work on Dig Dug, and he was completely at sea. I had to teach him a lot, including how to program in assembly, how the Atari hardware worked, how to download stuff, how to debug. It was pretty bad."

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123 comments

Nep0 (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688134)

My first officemate didn't know how to set up his computer. He didn't know anything, it appeared. He'd been hired to work on Dig Dug, and he was completely at sea. I had to teach him a lot, including how to program in assembly

Without RTFA, I bet its a relative of an Atari bigwig.
       

Re:Nep0 (3, Interesting)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689174)

" My first officemate didn't know how to set up his computer. He didn't know anything, it appeared. He'd been hired to work on Dig Dug, and he was completely at sea. I had to teach him a lot, including how to program in assembly "

Makes me miss the good ol' days when you didn't need a staff of hundreds and a multi-million dollar budget to make a good game. Back then one guy who didn't know anything could sit down and within a few months crank out a fun game for a popular console. I took a semester of assembly for CS and it's not that bad, wrote a tic-tac-toe game as a final project where the computer randomly placed it's pieces (could have had it scan the board but that'd be too hard for players, as-is the PC wins most the time) so I know a tiny fraction of what the author's talking about.

Re:Nep0 (2, Interesting)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689614)

Weird coincidence. I wrote a Tic Tac Toe program in assembly the other day with the goal of making it fit in the 512 bytes of a floppy disk bootsector.

Right now two players take turns placing either 'X' or 'O', but I have about 40 bytes left to make the computer play.

Fun stuff.

Re:Nep0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22690050)

"where the computer randomly placed it's pieces (could"


Why not? You randomly place apostrophes after all.

Re:Nep0 (2, Interesting)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691082)

Makes me miss the good ol' days when you didn't need a staff of hundreds and a multi-million dollar budget to make a good game. Back then one guy who didn't know anything could sit down and within a few months crank out a fun game for a popular console.
You know. Except for the gaming part, exactly that happened with general application programming and the VB/JS/PHP programmers of the 90's and 00's and a lot of people complained that untrained, know nothing dolts were diluting the talent base and bringing down the perceived value of classically educated computer science graduates. For some reason if on the job training occurs with ASM it's romanticized, but if it's high level scripting, it's denigrated.

I took a semester of assembly for CS and it's not that bad, wrote a tic-tac-toe game as a final project where the computer randomly placed it's pieces (could have had it scan the board but that'd be too hard for players, as-is the PC wins most the time) so I know a tiny fraction of what the author's talking about.
ASM is rather fun if the project is small. It's just about the closest you can get to pure, refined coding.

Re:Nep0 (2, Insightful)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691880)

Makes me miss the good ol' days when you didn't need a staff of hundreds and a multi-million dollar budget to make a good game. Back then one guy who didn't know anything could sit down and within a few months crank out a fun game for a popular console.

Well, nowadays, that's wht Xbox Live Arcade is for.

And your point is? (-1, Flamebait)

NMajik (935461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688140)

Frankly, I enjoyed reading through TFA but I don't see how it's relevant. Sure it can be noted how all technology is doomed to failure, companies enjoy success before getting sloppy, and new, inexperienced, programmers are hired and must be mentored by experienced employees. But honestly, this article doesn't mean anything; it's history and anything that can be learned from it is common sense.

Re:And your point is? (2, Interesting)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688230)

You missed the best part of TFA. A new word has entered the lexicon by accident of hyphen: "cow-orker".

Some of us wrote video games in 6502 assembly language back then. I made enough in the first year off of royalties to buy a brand new car for cash back in the early '80s. Now get off my lawn!

Re:And your point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688274)

I'd like to point out that this has already existed for many years around the group of anti-socialites and misanthropes that I occasionally call my friends.

(As a bonus, the verification word for this post was 'spoilers'.)

Re:And your point is? (2, Interesting)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688374)

That's impressive. Am curious though, you know how some people put their very first paycheck into a frame to hang on the wall? Have you ever saved your work or preserve it in some way that you can show to peers? This is after all, back then, when "bloat" was not used to refer to software yet =)

Re:And your point is? (1)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688388)

> Some of us wrote video games in 6502 assembly language back then.

Which ones? Anything we might remember?

Re:And your point is? (1)

glavenoid (636808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689646)

> Which ones? Anything we might remember?

Probably ET. So, yea, perhaps we should just forget...

Re:And your point is? (4, Funny)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688632)

A new word has entered the lexicon by accident of hyphen: "cow-orker".

You kids today, no sense of history. "Cow-orker" is at least 15 years old, it was common on alt.folklore.urban when I was a USENET junkie. (USENET. You know, USENET? Newsgroups? The original peer-to-peer system? Ah, forget it. I gotta go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.)

Re:And your point is? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689106)

"Newsgroups? The original peer-to-peer system? Ah, forget it."

I know what you mean. I tell friends use to p2p that I get files off newsgroups within minutes instead of waiting days for people to share and they look at me like the first time they heard about mp3s or divx. "How do I get on a newsgroup?!?" They ask excitedly. I use to explain it all, but now I tell them just to google it.

Re:And your point is? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690274)

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

The first rule of Usenet is that we don't talk about Usenet in public forums. It's okay to tell your friends and set it up for them, but for God's sake don't go around blabbing about it.

If anyone here wants to know what Usenet is, search on google and look for 'More/Groups'. It's just a bunch of text newsgroups. There's not any sort of humongous binary trading going on on it. You can't get movies or music or TV shows on it, they don't show up sooner than they show up on torrents, and you certainly don't download at full speed instead of having to download piece-by-piece from other people.

No sirree, that doesn't exist at all. It's just a bunch of people talking about Veronica Mars. (Or whatever the hot new show is...Torchwood maybe?)

Re:And your point is? (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690658)

ahhhh....the good old days of split archives and parity files, and hoping that enough of the chunks made it to your ISP's server for you to get the file!

Re:And your point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689718)

Not to nitpick or anything, but I'm pretty sure IRC is/was p2p, but usenet is/was client-server...

Re:And your point is? (4, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688416)

TFA is not supposed to be relevant to most people.

TFA is an act of geek nostalgia. A good number of us like to remember for the sake of remembering. While I couldn't care less about Atari pre-Tramiel (the DOG!), stories about Amiga still interest me.

Check the comments section at the end of TFA, the messages are from people who still revere Atari and people with personal connections.

Re:And your point is? (5, Interesting)

kabdib (81955) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688664)

That is exactly right; this is pure geek nostalgia. Nobody really cares about the details of a failed company 25 years ago, or about some guy who wrote an arcade game clone on an obsolete computer. The world has moved on.

But . . . some of the lessons are timeless: Failing companies go south in common ways (poor hiring practices, success concealing bad mistakes, miserable engineering practices, etc.). This was my first job out of college, I had no idea what the real world was like, and it was a real eye-opener. (And from a geek perspective: You can do amazing stuff in 16K. Still can. Firmware engineers do this kind of thing every day).

(It kind of sucks to be slashdotted. I never expected that).

Re:And your point is? (4, Interesting)

DingerX (847589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688768)

dude, as a professional historian, I find it pretty cool. In a period where we tend to sentimentalize the early years of videogames, it also highlights a key part of the game industry: many, many games were written by people who had no particular interest in video games. It was a coding job. It's hard to imagine now, when there's enough demand that writing videogames involves taking a pay cut, but people were involved in it with no inspiration whatsoever, producing shovelware. In my short period in the industry as a (paid) tester, years after this incident, I remember explaining just what constituted traveling and offsides to a lead programmer whose basketball game was already in final testing. We remember the smart folks, and the good games, but there was a lot of junk out there. We all played the games of the believers, but most of the games were made by hacks, and only a small number played them.

So, yeah, thanks for sharing.

Re:And your point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691232)

Out of curiosity, what's your professional historian guy focus? Is it a geek-related thing, thus making you the kind of person who would read Slashdot? Or is it something else entirely, but you happen to be a computer geek on the side? Personally, I'm majoring in psychology so that would make something me akin to your "something else entirely" possibility.

(Posting AC due to overzealous moderators)

Re:And your point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22691260)

Something entirely different, usually involving los of Latin. Of course, the 'geek approach' is essential to understanding any sort of technology, including really old books. Determining how people approached and used expressive technology is the first step to understanding what they say and why they say it that way. Many just assume the tech gets used the same way.

Re:And your point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22689172)

(It kind of sucks to be slashdotted. I never expected that).

Modded 5, Interesting

As if the community was forced to look at itself and say, "Hmm."

Re:And your point is? (1)

Wells2k (107114) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688738)

I disagree. I have done a lot of reading on the history of computer culture over the past fifty years, and this story reflects the histories that I have read. It is a good, introspective look at the culture of computing at that time.

Been there, done that.... (2, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691122)

I've done most of the stuff mentioned in that article so it was fun to read, but a bit light on horrific details.

I remember well the hundreds of pages of assembly language with no comments, the overloaded "server" machines which would grind for an hour if everybody hit "assemble" at the same time, RS232 downloads to the target machine, etc.

Crappy license deals, the "need something, anything, by next week" deadlines which meant that most games were much worse than they could have been, all standard fare in those days.

Re:Been there, done that.... (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691512)

I remember well the hundreds of pages of assembly language with no comments,
Heh. The first project I ever worked on professionally had something like that. The module that computed partial differential equations had no comments whatsoever except for a comment at the top that read - "I had to strip the comments out of this because it overflowed the Apple ][ P-System's memory when assembling, sorry."

Whee!

Great guy... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688180)

I've conversed with Landon online a couple of times over the years. He seems to be a super nice guy, and his blog is at times hilarious. My favorite two stories are the guy with no degree (who purports to have one) and repeatedly applies for a job, and another entry with an intimidating inscrutable bulging forehead genius who interviewed Landon for a job.

Re:Great guy... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689636)

I had a job interview with the QA lead at 3Dfx before they went under. He had a mohawk, neck-to-toe tattoes, and more piercings than I wanted to count. His boss reassured me that he had piercings in other areas. That was too much info and I didn't take the job.

Other Media of Related Interest (4, Interesting)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688184)

Not that it has direct relevance here, but if you haven't seen it, "The King of Kong" is a fantastic documentary about "Competitive Donkey Kong". It's the tale of a guy who has the gall to challenge the world record holder in Donkey Kong and the corruption in the competitive gaming industry. It's also fantastically funny and a great time to watch.

Highly recommend it if you're at all into gaming, but it's also a great social commentary to watch even with your non-gamer girlfriend/boyfriend.

If you're interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688214)

Possible kill screen coming up.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (2, Informative)

NMajik (935461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688272)

I haven't seen it yet, but it looks interesting. Trailer is here [dejavurl.com]

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (2, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688336)

Search for "King of Kong" on YouTube. Clips are posted by PicturehouseDF. The second clip is simply named "King Kong", but it's really "King of Kong". Fun documentary.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688452)

I've seen the King of Kong documentary and after reading this article I was wondering how he managed to reverse engineer the game without beating it. TFA mentions that Atari reversed engineered their arcade ports without any help from the original developers. Given the fact that Donkey Kong is unbeatable and that only 2 people in the country have even seen the last level.. makes me wonder if he designed his own levels for the port or had to extract them from the rom or something.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (5, Informative)

kabdib (81955) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688678)

We just played it. A *lot*. And read the cheat guides in books and magazines. (For some titles we got "expert hands" and took video tape).

But you don't need to beat a game to get a good feel for it.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (3, Informative)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689486)

Donkey Kong consists of 4 boards that repeat in a sequence, with increasing difficulty. And then there's a wraparound bug [jeffsromhack.com] on the timer that makes a level unplayable.

Anyone with a decent amount of reflexes can make it through several cycles of the boards, enough to document the way things work and change well enough to clone it. If they never make it as far as the timer-glitched level, it won't matter; what they create will still be quite recognizable as "Donkey Kong".

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (5, Interesting)

BeeBeard (999187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688684)

I saw "King of Kong" and rank it among my most favorite films.

However, I would object to the notion that competitive arcade gaming is an "industry" at all. Some of the movie's best moments were when it laid bare what competitive gaming really is--a self-regulated collection of sycophants, plagued by the childishness of its most famous poster boy.

Your assessment of the film's accessibility to nerds and non-nerds alike is completely accurate. If any Slashdot readers have a friend or girlfriend (although that might be stretching things in the latter case ;) who may not share your interest in gaming, this is the perfect film reaching across the non-nerd isle. I cannot recommend it enough.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (1)

gertam (1019200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688686)

I absolutely loved this movie!! It was filled with drama and twists. And Billy is a Tool!

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (1)

luke923 (778953) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689004)

There's no excuse for you not to see it if you have a Netflix account, considering Netflix offers this movie as part of their streaming service. YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (2, Informative)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689100)

Funny this article should come up, since I just watch "The King of Kong" today. Very good documentary, but wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has more info (or at least another perspective) that wasn't covered in the movie.

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (1)

Albert Sandberg (315235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689696)

it was a fascinating documentary, but it seems Billy Mitchell and the fancrew are real bitches, IMO it seem slike Steve Wiebe beat the record but the others are fanboys of mitchell and refuses to give in. hos publicly shown top score to them should show that he had the capability to beat him.

The part with the kid in his sent in video was hilarious though :) Go Stevie!

Re:Other Media of Related Interest (3, Informative)

J44xm (971669) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689912)

I, too, found it fascinating. However, despite how well and convincingly the movie presents everything, I would encourage people to take the factuality of the events portrayed with gracious helpings of salt, as a number of the events in King of Kong have been disputed [wikipedia.org] by Twin Galaxies [twingalaxies.com] itself. Personally, I believe that it's safest to view King of Kong as a piece of fiction based on actual people and events rather than a truly factual documentary.

Open Development (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688238)

How I wish Atari had got that guy to teach everyone how to program the Atari 800 and 400. I had to teach myself from the most cryptic, sparse and often contadictory documentation. There was an "Internet" in the early 1980s, but practically no one had access (I did), so we depended on the few published books, occasional insights in magazines like COMPUTE!, Creative Computing and Byte.

It wasn't enough. Programming wasn't just hard because it required assembly code skills (or forth, hah!), but because it was completely hidden territory. There was no real way to get source code from the programs that some people managed to write and distribute, and certainly no obligtion for anyone to release it (except the occasional superficial magazine article).

The competing Apple ][+, IBM-PC and TRS-80, all had BBSes full of downloadable code (often including source). Their corporate vendors each published detailed programming guides. The TRS-80 was doomed because of the direction of its corporate parent (which should have stayed in the PC business, porting its OS on Intel HW when they all upgraded from 8 to 16 bits). But IBM and Apple survived, even thrived (as we all know), because it was easy to get in the programming game.

By the time Atari finally published its "De Re Atari", which was a good start (the source code to the OS), the small developer "community" had already chosen either Apple or PC. If Atari had taught us all how to program from the beginning, its superior hardware and attractive game platform would probably have left it a strong competitor to the PC, much as the Mac has. But we were all on our own, and our platformed disappeared.

The same dynamic is still true on new platforms. Make it easy to develop for it, and it will survive, even thrive.

Re:Open Development (4, Informative)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688334)

Agreed. I had been doing assembly on the IIe for a couple years before(enough to start hacking the kernel and working on my own DOS) I got my hands on an Atari 800 and then I discovered that all of the info on writing anything for the 800 was basically useless and, as you stated, contradictory. I had at least 2 books on assembly for the Atari and neither of them got me to first base. Eventually I just dropped it and bought an Amiga which was a lot easier to get into.

Re:Open Development (5, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688522)

I had been doing assembly on the IIe for a couple years before(enough to start hacking the kernel and working on my own DOS) I got my hands on an Atari 800 and then I discovered that all of the info on writing anything for the 800 was basically useless and, as you stated, contradictory. I had at least 2 books on assembly for the Atari and neither of them got me to first base. Eventually I just dropped it and bought an Amiga which was a lot easier to get into.
WTF? The Amiga didn't come out until 1985, by which time the Atari 8-bit line had been around for years and was reasonably well-documented. (*1) Sure, in its early days, Atari (intentionally IIRC) did not release information about the 400/800 line, and caused problems for developers. However, AFAIK people mostly had them figured out by the mid-80s.

And I don't understand how the Amiga could be easier to get into than the 8-bit Ataris; being a 16/32-bit machine, it was far more complex and had fewer obvious routes to get "into" it.

The Amiga was neither the contemporary of, nor (at the time of its release) comparable in price with the Atari 800/XL/XE. Even if you did get your Atari then (and you meant "Amiga" rather than getting it confused with another machine), it wasn't the same mystery as it had been in earlier times.

(*1) The same year that the Amiga came out (1985), the third iteration of the same basic Atari 8-bit hardware (now sold as the XE line) hit the streets. The 400/800 had come out in 1979, the XL line in 1983... that was *years* earlier.

Re:Open Development (2, Informative)

Shinobi (19308) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688582)

"And I don't understand how the Amiga could be easier to get into than the 8-bit Ataris; being a 16/32-bit machine, it was far more complex and had fewer obvious routes to get "into" it."

Wtf?

You never noticed the full hardware specs for the Amiga, that were available from the start, as well as the specs etc for the various API's?

If those aren't obvious, you must be fucking blind.

Re:Open Development (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688884)

You never noticed the full hardware specs for the Amiga, that were available from the start
By the mid-80s the Atari 8-bit hardware was well-known, regardless of how unhelpful Atari had been in the early days. In addition, not only was it a far simpler machine full stop, but having been around for six years, its ins and outs and the techniques used to get the best out of it would be fairly well established.

The Amiga may have been well-documented, but it was a far more complex machine and being fairly new would have meant that people were still finding their way around it. Having a dictionary doesn't make you an expert in the English language.

Of course, all this assumes that we *are* talking about the mid-1980s, something which wasn't properly established, but seems likely. It's possible the guy could have been doing all this a couple of years back, just not very probable.

as well as the specs etc for the various API's?
The guy was talking about assembly programming, so that wouldn't be applicable here.

Re:Open Development (2, Interesting)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689038)


The guy was talking about assembly programming, so that wouldn't be applicable here.

Actually, he was talking about assembly on the 8 bit machines. Along with Basic, that was about your only option to program in.

The 16 bit machines had C compilers available for them, so programming was quite a bit easier.

That may explain the "easier to get into" comment.

Re:Open Development (3, Interesting)

schon (31600) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690542)

The Amiga may have been well-documented, but it was a far more complex machine and being fairly new would have meant that people were still finding their way around it.
I started with a vic-20, the to the C64, then to the Amiga. The Amiga had more complex hardware, but the archetecture was *much* easier to code for - and the documentation made it a breeze to move from one to the other.

Having a dictionary doesn't make you an expert in the English language.
This is completely irrelevant. You don't need to be an expert in the English language to be able write a story.

the specs etc for the various API's?
The guy was talking about assembly programming, so that wouldn't be applicable here.
If you believe this, then you have absolutely *NO* idea what the Amiga documentation consisted of. I programmed the Amiga in assembly (right off the bat), and the "Includes and Autodocs" were indispensible. To say that they "wouldn't be applicable" just shows that not only are have you never read them, but that you don't really know what you're spouting on about.

Re:Open Development (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691746)

This is completely irrelevant. You don't need to be an expert in the English language to be able write a story.
No, my point was that having a big pile of words doesn't in itself give you the skill to string them together to write a half-decent story.

If you believe this, then you have absolutely *NO* idea what the Amiga documentation consisted of. I programmed the Amiga in assembly (right off the bat), and the "Includes and Autodocs" were indispensible. To say that they "wouldn't be applicable" just shows that not only are have you never read them, but that you don't really know what you're spouting on about.
First off, I never claimed that I'd read the Amiga documentation. Show me where I said I had.

Do the "includes and Autodocs" constitute or describe an API (for assembly) in the conventional sense? *If* so, fair enough, I was wrong, but this suggests a blurring of the boundaries between assembly and higher level languages. (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing if you know where the line is being drawn).

You may well be right that the Amiga architecture was easier to program than the 8-bit Atari's (with six years of documentation and experience) from day one, but I'm still sceptical. You say you were writing programs in assembly, but what does this constitute? For example, I've touched upon x86 assembly, but it was the equivalent of a child saying "Ma ma!" for the first time compared to Linux or Windows' "War and Peace". :-)

Re:Open Development (2, Informative)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688882)

"And I don't understand how the Amiga could be easier to get into than the 8-bit Ataris; being a 16/32-bit machine, it was far more complex and had fewer obvious routes to get "into" it." The complexity has little to do with the number of bits, and the Motorola 68xxx with its flat memory model and universal registers was really easy to get into. Switching from that to 8086 with its segments and offsets made me want to slit my wrists.

Re:Open Development (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688934)

Yeah, that's true. I was really using it as a (technically misleading) shorthand for the generations, since the 16/32-bit lines tended to be (essentially) next generation computers relative to the 8-bits, with an accompanying increase in overall system complexity.

As for the x86 instruction set, I'm no expert on that, but I've seen enough that I can entirely understand why you hate it so much :/

Re:Open Development (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690534)

Agreed. Learning asm first on the 6502 then moving to the 68000 was great, but then moving to x86 was horrific. The entire Intel engineering staff should have been drawn and quartered for the literally thousands of headache inducing design decisions made.

Re:Open Development (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689062)

Just because "other people" had figured out the hardware does not mean I had access to that information back then. I was mostly poor back in the 80s(and also still a teenager), and living in a mostly rural area so owning a computer with a cassette adapter was a luxury, and modems were far out of my reach for many years and BBSs were very hard to find in the area. Additionally, your issues adapting to learn new platforms/chips/etc. are not a reflection of my own.

Re:Open Development (5, Funny)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689862)

I had at least 2 books on assembly for the Atari and neither of them got me to first base.

You have much to learn about women, grasshopper. Much to learn.

Re:Open Development (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689238)

But IBM and Apple survived, even thrived (as we all know), because it was easy to get in the programming game.

They survived largely because they were targeting multi-purpose usages whereas Atari was targeting mostly games. The game crash of '82 didn't stop general computer growth. IBM thrived because of the clone market (eventually hurting IBM) and Apple survived because of the desktop publishing market it helped spark. Amiga could've had a chunk of that market, but didn't bother catering to it well.
         

Re:Open Development (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689276)

The Atari computers weren't targeting mostly games. Atari released all kinds of general purpose SW. VisiCalc ran on Atari. It had serial ports, modems and printers.

The problem was that the Atari corp was mostly not targeting. RTFA to see what a circus it was. In the early 1990s I knew the guy who wrote the Atari computer game version of "Millipede" (funny how the creeper programmers like to talk). He told me stories of how the halls of Atari were filled with people wired on coke so much, there literally was a team whose job was to collect people freaking out, usually locked inside their offices.

If Atari hadn't been first absorbed by the Warner giant conglomerate that failed to gain "computer" insights just by buying Atari and letting go its visionary founders, it might have had a great chance. Everything Amiga should have been Atari's. Atari even had a Mac-type desktop (GEM, on its 16bit 68000 versions) much truer to the Xerox PARC model, before the Mac did. That desktop was a better publishing platform than the Mac, too.

With its games attracting programmers and users, it should have had it all. But it didn't have the spirit. And mainly, it didn't have the marketing that either IBM's momentum or Steve Jobs' genius brought. It lacked either the industrial muscle or the visionary spirit to match its HW brains.

Re:Open Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22690200)

IIRC, didn't programing anything other than AtariBasic require a cartridge too? Although I think there may have been some PEEK/POKE type tricks that some folks used to write a program that would compile to another program when run. (I remember typing something out of Antic that'd do nothing itself other than write a file to the drive. Which I think was a playable game or some demo. Sucked if you didn't type it in right the first time though - which would either throw some error or have the resulting file not work. I even remember a later util program called "Bottleneck Breaker" helped with stuff like that, I think it did some neat validation things - like a small checksum for each line of a typed in program. Although the two letter codes associated with each line for that didn't show in the back pages until after that util was available in the magazine.)

It's been a long time since messing with the 130-XE though. Most of my computing is that of an end-user these days (leaving programming to the pros), unless you count occasional putzing about in ECMA-script stuff for web/flash.

Re:Open Development (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690604)

There was an "Internet" in the early 1980s, but practically no one had access (I did), so we depended on the few published books, occasional insights in magazines like COMPUTE!, Creative Computing and Byte.


You needed a subscription to Antic my friend.http://atarimagazines.planetmirror.com/antic/ [planetmirror.com]

Many a night was wasted writing and saving to cassette the code of that mag. Always praying no one hit the light switch or tripped over the plug (Happened a maddening # of times.)

Re:Open Development (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692974)

I had a sub to Antic. I've got a stack of _The Atari Connection_ magazines going back to V1#1/Spring1981. I've even got _Atari 400/800 NEWS BITS_ going back to #1/1979:

FOR A 36 CHARACTER DISPLAY
TYPE
POKE 82,2: POKE 83,37
PUSH [RETURN]

FOR A 40 CHARACTER DISPLAY
TYPE
POKE 82,0: POKE 83,39
PUSH [RETURN]


And so began the next 4-5 years of people like me poking and peeking around memory spelunking for hooks into the science-fictional hardware we'd hooked to our TVs.

I learned character set redefinition and display list programming from _Antic_, then I pulled it all together to animate characters in the VBlank. But it was all so sketchy, disconnected. The downside was it retarded development for that multiprocessing platform. The upside was it taught me to hack. Thanks, Atari!

Maybe they wrote their server in 16K!! (3, Insightful)

nexusone (470558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688258)

Just to think I started programming that was a lot of memory, today code seems so bloated....

Re:Maybe they wrote their server in 16K!! (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688510)

Some of my most interesting projects back in the Apple II days were in assembly and were well under 16k. 8k seemed to be about the point where things leveled off at finished. The boot loader I wrote took two pages, but the start of it that was able to load the 2nd page was entirely in the first page, so with that it could cold boot an entire disk. Amazing what you can squeeze into 256 bytes of 6502. Considering that disk IO on the // was at the state machine controller level and not just calling a ROM/Firmware function to do your work with the bits, that's not too bad.

Re:Maybe they wrote their server in 16K!! (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689320)

Take off the rosy glasses and you'll remember all the bad things as well. I had a Commodore 64, and there were so many things that you couldn't possibly fit into that amount of space. For example, I doubt you can fit a simple truetype font rendering library with hinting in 16K. I'm glad I'm past that point where I need to think about the 200 byte structure I'm working on is passed by copy or reference, or whether this is a short or a long. I'm glad I can pass around a larger structure and not try to chase byte-size improvemets by calling everything on a need-to-have basis. I'm glad I can use standard library functions, even when they're ovrekill to invoke.

My primary metric is clear, do as much as possible with as little code as possible. By that I don't mean extreme LOC-compression or extreme cross-referencing, I'm talking about writing using standard functions to minimize maintenance, complexity and sources of bugs. Bloated? Well, you can say that I don't care how much memory the libraries eat, but I certainly don't want the *code* to be bloated.

Re:Maybe they wrote their server in 16K!! (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689528)

The first microcomputer I used that had a hard drive was back in the early '80s. It was used to process the data for a dental lab, ran CP/M on a TRS-80 Model II and had a 5MB SASI hard drive. That hard drive was so BIG for the day that it was formatted as four partitions!

My 8 megapixel camera makes 4 megabyte JPGs for each picture it takes.

And now that office mate is . . . (5, Funny)

cheebie (459397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688314)

My first officemate didn't know how to set up his computer. He didn't know anything, it appeared. He'd been hired to work on Dig Dug, and he was completely at sea. I had to teach him a lot, including how to program in assembly, how the Atari hardware worked, how to download stuff, how to debug. It was pretty bad.


So, what was it like to work with Bill Gates?

[rim shot]

Re:And now that office mate is . . . (2, Funny)

Gregg M (2076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688754)

So, what was it like to work with Bill Gates?

This was not funny at all.

Re:And now that office mate is . . . (1)

jay-be-em (664602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689056)

No shit, +5 funny? C'mon moderators -- not any completely unclever insult to MS/Gates/Balmer is funny.

Re:And now that office mate is . . . (2, Informative)

Enahs (1606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690696)

You DO know that Bill was a programmer, wrote for the Altair, and had a reputation for writing tight code, right?

Re:And now that office mate is . . . (1)

ld a,b (1207022) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691004)

Yes, just because Bill became rich selling bloated code doesn't mean he likes bloat.
All his computing needs are covered by his x86_64 PC. The whole OS(MS-BASIC 64, written by himself in long-mode assembly) fits in 16kb, and he has never used more than 640kb of RAM.
He never uses Windows as evidenced in the Windows 98 presentation.

My English Teacher would kill you if he read /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22688322)

It's Donkey Kong and I ;-)

Text in case the blog goes down again (4, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688462)

Donkey Kong and Me

In the fall of 1981 I was going to college and became addicted to the Atari arcade games Centipede and Tempest. I knew a little bit about the hardware of the Atari 400/800 home computer systems, and decided to make a scary purchase on my student budget and buy an Atari 400 and a black and white TV (which was all I could afford). I messed around in Basic for a while, then bought an Assembler/Editor cartridge and started hacking away on a Centipede clone. I didnt have much to go on in terms of seeing prior designs for games and had to figure everything out myself. Like most of the school problems, you really just have to work things out with a few hints from the textbooks and lectures.

Anyone whos worked with that Asm/Editor cartridge probably bears the same deep emotional scars that I do. It was unbelievably slow, the debugger barely worked, and I had to remove comments and write in overlays of a couple K in order to squeeze in enough code. My game, which I called Myriapede, took about three months to write. I still have the original artwork and designs in my files; graph paper marked up with multi-colored pens, with the hexadecimal for the color assignments painstakingly translated on the side.

[I had to guess at colors. All I had was that cheap black and white TV, and I had visit a friends and his color TV for a couple hours in order to fine tune things].

The Atari Program Exchange (a captive publishing house) was holding a contest. The grand prize for the winning game was $25,000. Id spent a semester of college blowing off most of my courses and doing almost nothing except work on Myriapede. I finished it with a week or two to spare and submitted to the contest.

A few weeks after I mailed Myriapede off to the contest, I got a letter from Atari that said (1) they were very impressed with the work, but (2) it looked to them like a substantial copy of Centipede (well, it was) and that theyd rejected it for that reason. The subtext was they would probably sue me if I tried to sell it anywhere else, too. I was crushed. I wound up going to a local user group and giving a couple copies of it away; I assume that it spread from there. I hear that people liked it (best download of 1982 or something like that).

A few weeks later I got a call from Atari; they wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for a job. I was practically vibrating with excitement. I flew out and did a loop, and made sure to show Myriapede to each interviewer; it was a conversation stopper every time. Until they saw it they kind of humored me (yeah, okay, you wrote a game), then when the game started up they started playing it, got distracted and (ahem!) had to be reminded that they were doing an interview! One of the guys I talked to was the author of Ataris official Centipede cartridge. He said on the spot that my version was better than his.

A couple weeks later they gave me an offer. Atari moved my single roomful of stuff out to California. I flew out and spent two weeks in a hotel waiting for my things to arrive; Atari wanted me out there real bad.

Now, there were two popular arcade games that I simply could not stand; the first was Zaxxon, a stupid and repetitive scrolling shooter. The second was Donkey Kong it was loud, pointless and annoying. Of course, the reason they wanted me in California was so I could work on a Donkey Kong cartridge. After a few moments of dispair (and faking enthusiasm in front of my bosses) I gritted my teeth, got a roll of quarters and spent a lot of time in the little arcade that my hotel had, playing the DK machine there and getting to know it really, really well.

I should explain how Ataris Arcade conversions group worked. Basically, Ataris marketing folks would negotiate a license to ship GameCorps Foobar Blaster on a cartridge for the Atari Home Computer System. That was it. That was the entirety of the deal. We got ZERO help from the original developers of the games. No listings, no talking to the engineers, no design documents, nothing. In fact, we had to buy our own copy of the arcade machine and simply get good at the game (which was why I was playing it at the hotel our copy of the game hadnt even been delivered yet).

So I played about as much Donkey Kong as I could stand, and started fiddling around with ideas. I wrote a 25-30 page design document that broke out the work into modules, and estimated the work at five months (this was early November of 1982) and handed it to my boss, Ken, with some trepidation. Was it good enough? Would they send me packing for not being a real designer and games programmer?

Were totally blown away by that spec, said Ken. Id simply enumerated the objects in the game, written some psuedo code for some major game modules, and assumed that it was a starter for a real specification. But everyone else treated it like the whole thing. I just needed to code it up. That was kind of scary.

Marketing wants it by Christmas, said Ken. I had made a careful estimate, and came up with about 150 days of work. There was no way the game would happen in a couple of weeks, but the sense of pressure was clear. With nothing else to do (besides find an apartment and wait for my stuff to arrive), I began to spend almost every waking hour at work. I did my first ever all-nighter, cranking the stereo notch by notch to keep pace with a guy in the office next to mine who was also doing an all-nighter. The company cafeteria was open for three meals a day.

The neat thing is that once youve gotten into a project to this extent, the project tends to write itself and youre just along for the ride. Life is defined by work, and then the boring eating/sleeping stuff. I know that sounds hellish, but its really a tremendous amount of fun. I was was like 21 years old and being paid to do something that I think I would have done for free.

We used a Data General minicomputer, an MV/8000, for cross-development. This was the machine that Tracy Kidders book Soul of a New Machine was all about. While it wasnt a VAX running Unix (which I would have preferred) it was still pretty easy to use and had some decent tools (no Emacs, though). We used a version of the Atari Macro Assembler that had been ported to the MV/8000, and that was worlds better than the miserably slow Assembler/Editor cartridge Id done Myriapede on, but everything had to be downloaded to our development systems at 9600 baud, so turnaround time became a big issue toward the end of a project, especially since we had to share the MV/8000 with fourty or fifty other people during the day, just like the overloaded mainframe back in college. Id often stay late, and after about six PM the systems were pretty fast again (five minutes, instead of nearly an hour).

- - - -

My very first day at work I arrived at my office after orientation and found an Atari 800 computer in a boxes. I spent a little while setting the machine up, got it working, and went to get coffee.

When I returned, a staffer appeared in my door. Oh, she exclaimed, You knew how to set up your computer! I was going to do that.

Well, thanks, but Didnt everybody know how? Setting up an Atari computer wasnt amazingly simple and obvious, but it wasnt all that hard, either.

It was a portent of things to come. My first officemate didnt know how to set up his computer. He didnt know anything, it appeared. Hed been hired to work on Dig Dug, and he was completely at sea. I had to teach him a lot, including how to program in assembly, how the Atari hardware worked, how to download stuff, how to debug. It was pretty bad.

That would be a general theme throughout my tenure at Atari. Newly hired people didnt necessarily know how to do their jobs, and I spent a lot of time helping them figure stuff out that they should have known in order to land a job in the first place. Ataris hiring practices were not very careful.

- - - -

Id been writing in C for a number of years, and I developed a sort of pidgin C that I used in fleshing out modules. Id write a few pages in this high-level pseudo-C, then spend half a day compiling it into 6502 assembler. Sometimes a significant chunk of code would work the first time (this is a scary experience, really it is).

The other thing I got somehow was that comments were important. Id seen a bunch of OS code (including the 400/800 OS sources) and it was really nice and understandable. But most of the game sources I saw in the consumer division were crap, just absolute garbage: almost no comments, no insight as to what was going on, just pages of LDA/STA/ADD and alphabet soup, and maybe the occasional label that was meaningful. But otherwise, totally unmaintainable code. For the most part that was okay in the games industry, since almost none of the code in the company was ever re-used or shared (the exception being well-debugged subroutines in the Atari Coin-Op division for doing math and operating the coin mechanisms of the arcade machines).

I think that DK is one of the best-commented consumer games that Atari shipped (Super Pac-man is better, but it arguably didnt ship). Customers dont see comments, but other engineers do, and its worthwhile for them to learn from what youve done. For instance, Marios jump moves are derived from basic physics of motion, and the calculus-based equations are in the source, nicely formatted so you can see where the magic equates just below came from. After DK shipped, a cow-orker of mine got a copy of the source listing, spent a week reading it and said that he was blown away (I dont know how you could have typed all that, certainly not in just five months, and when I saw the motion stuff my jaw hit the floor.) Blush. Code should both entertain and educate.

Donkey Kong shipped in mid-March of 1983. I vaguely recall a small party at work, but mostly I was glad it was all over.

- - - -

Technical details. Kong is in graphics mode $E (192 scanlines by 160 color clocks wide). When a level is started up, the background is stamped once. Barrels and other creatures are XORd onto the screen (I had some mask-and-repaint code at one point, but it was way too slow). Mario is a few player objects (three, I think). The prize objects (umbrellas, etc.) are the remaining players. The XOR graphics are pretty annoying to me, but most other people didnt seem to mind and some people even thought it was cool.

All of the sound was done by Brad Fuller. Mona Lundstrom did a lot of the graphics design (but I wound up replacing most of it). The cartoon sequences were given to another engineer, whose code I had to entirely replace (he originally wanted to do the job in FORTH, and didnt understand that the game couldnt afford to devote half the cartridge space to a FORTH interpreter just to make his life easier).

At its peak DK was about 20K of code, and it had to go on a diet to fit in the 16K cartridge; a lot of the images were compressed (notice that Kong himself is symmetrical). Towards the end I was crunching out only a few bytes a day, and it shipped with maybe a dozen bytes free.

Theres an easter egg, but its totally not worth it, and I dont remember how to bring it up anyway (something like: Die on the sandpile level with 3 lives and the score over 7,000).

For tuning difficulty, I slowed the game way down and simply made sure that it was possible to play. Some of the object movement is random, but should be within beatable constraints, assuming you are fast enough.

- - - -

The first division meeting I went to strongly hinted at the future of Atari. It was greek to me, but the basic message from management was that sales were slowing, margins were plummeting, and that the company was going to have to restructure to stay profitable.

The building next to mine was the first to go; Atari used it to manufacture the 2600 game console. They moved the buildings manufacturing overseas and laid off most of the people who worked in it.

There were some distant purges in marketing. The little conversion group of 8 programmers I was in had been moved to a satellite location far away from any of Ataris major buildings, so we were pretty isolated from what was going on, but even from a distance it was clear that things werent going well. The game industry had essentially crashed, and Atari was putting millions of unsold cartridges into landfills. All of the mistakes that wild success had covered up were coming around to bite hard.

My office-mate had finally finished Robotron. By request, she made three versions of the ROM image, located at different ROM addresses. Unfortunately, the Q/A staff was only able to test two of the images. Guess which image Atari sent to be manufactured? Guess which image had a fatal bug? I saw a hardware engineer struggle to come up with a cheap gate-or-two fix that would make the game work; only a few bytes of it were wrong. In the end, Atari threw $200,000 worth of ROMs away.

I have the impression that mistakes like that were being made all over. This was compounded by the fact that games were just not selling; fueled by time-to-market, Atari marketing had forced its engineers to write games that lacked polish and fun, and that practice had come back around. People were bored with playing the same old junk.

There were layoffs and reorgs every few months. Our little group moved to one corner of the Coin-Op divisions building; a consolidation to save money. I was working on Super Pac-Man and nobody seemed to care, so I took my time on it and did a good job.

Eventually Jack Tramiel bought the parts of Atari that he wanted, and I would up working on the Atar ST, but thats another story.

503 Service Temporarily Unavailable (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688562)

And he's now hosting his blog on that very same Atari he used oh-so-many years ago.

My Ego and Me (-1, Troll)

custompccases (904255) | more than 6 years ago | (#22688642)

Interesting insight into the games of that era. Could have used a lot less ego stroking and more details, I wouldn't be all that proud of a port.

Re:My Ego and Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22690296)

You've also never written a line of commercial software in your life. So shut up.

Best...computer..ever... (5, Interesting)

obstalesgone (1231810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689138)

the best computer ever in the whole universe, except for virtually every other computer that has been produced since, was my Atari 600XL. Simple enough for a 5 year old to program in machine code, by copying long lists of poke statements out of the blue pages of antic magazine, this computer changed the way I saw the world. In fact, after only a few short years of sitting in front of a 27" inch TV typing in listings, the way I saw the world had become rather myopic.

Until I got my first Amiga of course. 68000 assembly language reads like a great literary work. Yes, the Amiga 500 with it's unix-like (but not *too* unix like) operating system and it's non-surface mounted giant chips named after *hot chicks*, and later, pregnant chicks, brought a 12 year old and his potentially permanently scarring soldering iron closer together than they had ever been before. Yes.. I got my first virus on an Amiga. It was so cool.. and so scary. Never before had I seen a virus! Don't share floppies kids!

Back then, there were also machines called "macs" which were identifiable by the fact that they used completely different hardware than a PC (stuff made by Motorola.. pfft.. a cellphone manufacturer. leave it up to them and we'll soon be computing on our cellphones!!) and completely different input devices. People said we would never learn to like mice... and they were right.

Well.. it's all gone kids. The mac doesn't exist anymore. Just PC's with unix-like operating systems, and PC's with Microsoft operating systems... and we still rate them on the same system... we fire up mame, and see how well they can duplicate the Donkey Kong experience.

I nearly beat level 2 today.

Re:Best...computer..ever... (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689948)

...Simple enough for a 5 year old to program in machine code, by copying long lists of poke statements out of the blue pages of antic magazine...
Ahem, that'd be data entry, not programming.

Re:Best...computer..ever... (1)

obstalesgone (1231810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690556)

How dare you suggest that there could possibly be an inaccuracy or hidden agenda in my post! My post was 100% pure grade "A" bullshit.. no "B" class bullshit in it at all.

XOR lawsuit (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689202)

Barrels and other creatures are XOR'd onto the screen (I had some mask-and-repaint code at one point, but it was way too slow). Mario is a few player objects (three, I think). The "prize" objects (umbrellas, etc.) are the remaining players. The XOR graphics are pretty annoying to me, but most other people didn't seem to mind

Wasn't there a big lawsuit in the late 80's over using XOR for mouse cursors? If so, you had provable prior art right there. Then again, it was your competitor, Commodore that was under the gun, so wouldn't have benefited Atari.
     

FORTH (1, Flamebait)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689326)

The 'cartoon' sequences were given to another engineer, whose code I had to entirely replace (he originally wanted to do the job in FORTH, and didn't understand that the game couldn't afford to devote half the cartridge space to a FORTH interpreter just to make his life easier).

That's what happens when you over-educate people: they learn all these great abstractions and ideas, and then have to do it the primitive way in the field. My first job out of college was programming in Fortran-66 (1966 standard), which had no IF blocks and WHILE loops, only GOTO's. The company didn't want to pay for a newer compiler. It was hard to accept; I was not ready for the real world and can relate to the poor FORTH dude. I hope he's making big bucks in a FORTH shop with plenty of RAM somewhere.
     

Re:FORTH (2, Interesting)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689442)

My first job out of college was programming in Fortran-66 (1966 standard), which had no IF blocks and WHILE loops, only GOTO's. The company didn't want to pay for a newer compiler.
Don't hold back, tell us what year that was.
My first programming job was while I was still IN college, in 1989, converting Fortran 66 code into the state of the art Fortran 77, if you can consider 11 years old to be state of the art. It was kind of comparable to running Windows 95 today.

Re:FORTH (2, Funny)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689572)

I got a job offer in my inbox the other day from some moron recruiter. (Apparently he is incapable of understand that there is a "macro assembler" other than IBM 370, or that "I will not relocate" in all caps is just pretty formatting.)

Some company in Ohio wants to convert their "Macro Assembler" code (hopefully 370 and not 360!) to... COBOL! Yes, in 2008. Way to be 20 years behind the times, guys! Maybe in another 10-15 years you'll discover SQL and the internet.

I'm entitled to proper use of "titled" (1)

capaslash (941889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689540)

"MBCook sends us to the blog of one Landon Dyer, who posted an entry the other day entitled Donkey Kong and Me." Entitle: to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something titled: to designate or call by a title

Re:I'm entitled to proper punctuation (1)

capaslash (941889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22689586)

Gah. That last post came out formatted differently than I had intended. Here's a correction: "MBCook sends us to the blog of one Landon Dyer, who posted an entry the other day entitled Donkey Kong and Me." Entitle: to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something. Titled: to designate or call by a title.

Re:I'm entitled to proper use of "titled" (1)

Porchroof (726270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691904)

Isn't it ironic that the better communications technology gets, the more corrupt the language becomes?

what's with the badmouthing of dig dug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22690074)

dig dug was the best arcade game of its time -- way more fun than donkey kong.

hyphen hilarity (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22690398)

From the aticle: "After DK shipped, a cow-orker of mine got a copy of the source listing" So how do you ork a cow?

Re:hyphen hilarity (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691630)

I don't know, but you could always ask Scott Adams [wikipedia.org] or Dilbert [wikipedia.org] ?

Adams has coined or popularized words and phrases over the years, such as...cow-orker

The strip has also popularized the usage of the terms "cow-orker"

Maybe they'd have the answer?!

FWIW, I'm fairly sure cow-orker predates Dilbert. I'd be prepared to wager a smallish sum on this being a Kibo [google.com] -ism.

Oh, the shame (2, Interesting)

Atari400 (1174925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22691210)

My first computer was an Atari 400 (hence the moniker), and I had a lot of fun with it, first learning Atari Basic, then moving on to 6502 Assembler (Assembler/Editor cartridge, then the bliss of Mac65). I upgraded the RAM from 16K to a massive 48K, then got an Atari 1050 disc drive, then a Happy/US-doubler chip for the drive so I could make "backups" of my legitimately purchased software.

The only code I wrote that got in to the wild was some disk based copy protection. I wrote the loader using an interpreted C compiler (Deep Blue C), and some 6502 code - stored in duplicate sectors on a certain track. For example, track 5 would contain two sectors 7s, one sector 7 with valid 6502 code, the other with bogus code. The only way to read in the correct sector 7 was by reading the track sectors in reverse sequence, something no disk copy program would do, but the Deep Blue C code did (the code took advantage of the order in which sectors on a track were placed so as to optimize read times). The 6502 code was the loader (and de-mangler) for the rest of the program.

Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I'd have written Tetris and retired...

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