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Rediscovering Arcade Nostalgia


Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My dad wouldn’t buy me any games for our Apple either, so I used the books: 101 Basic Computer Games and 101 More Basic Computer Games. Anytime someone things GOTO is ok, I just pull out those books.

The 2600 Basic computer programming cartridge is classic.


I used the books: 101 Basic Computer Games and 101 More Basic Computer Games. Anytime someone things GOTO is ok, I just pull out those books.

Yep, me too. Those books are based on earlier work in Creative Computing and referenced here:



I loved the early 80’s video games. Asteroids … PacMan … Lunar Lander … and MISSLE COMMMAND ROCKED!!! And then I got a VIC 20 and fell in love with BASIC programming. But years later I discovered LabVIEW, an icon-based, data-flow language that you could use in a laboratory to communicate with and get data from instrumentation. I’ve been at it for over 10 years now. Games are fun but the go-to-work-every-day-but-still-have-fun kid in me loves data acquisition. LabVIEW is taking over the test engineering world, and I’m thankful to be a part of it. Now I’m dabbling in Python …


Jeff: Why is it silly for a specialized controller to show up as a USB keyboard (or mouse, for that matter)? It actually seems pretty elegant to me. Using my expensive whiz-bang controller w/o requiring any OS-specific drivers seems like a win to me, especially since I’d love to be able to use that controller on future computers and future OS’s.


Computer games (arcade and otherwise) have had a huge impact on my life. My fascination with computers began when I was 15 and my father had a dial up terminal to a time share. He showed me Zork and I was fascinated. He called me from work one day to tell me I was using up too much CPU. I accidentally discovered that I could type BASIC commands in at a certain point. I was literally hooked for life.

My buddies and I used to spend hours at the Stop N Go at the front of our neighborhood playing Defender and Venture. We played so much we had to start taping thread to quarters so we could get multiple credits. Even after college, I remember spending hours at another Stop N Go playing Street Figher – the one with the big pads that you had to punch. I actually got blisters on my knuckles from playing so much and I had to start wearing gloves.

Several dates with my girlfriend (now wife of 18 years) were playing Ultima III on the computer at my Dad’s office. In college, I cut the floppy for Ultima IV so I wouldn’t fail out of school.

Games for me have been a love/hate relationship. Now, I just don’t seem to get to play that much. My wife, son, and I played several MMORPGs (EQ, AC, SB, WoW) together. I think I’ve finally burnt out on games or at least I’m taking a couple year long respite. I played Army of Two with my son but I just don’t commit the time to games like I used to.

Not really any point to this comment, your post just brought back memories.


Why is it silly for a specialized controller to show up as a USB keyboard (or mouse, for that matter)?

It isn’t silly, it’s most likely because of driver support, why not just register your USB device as a HID (Human Interface Device) like a keyboard or mouse and use the built in API to interface the function of the device, that way you don’t have to right your own drivers and support them.


http://www.1984arcade.com/ I direct you to this site, it’s a real place ran by good people.


Concerning the Competition Pro Joysticks: at least the C64 models had four buttons. The triangular small fields next to the stick were additional buttons (with no functionality whatsoever - as much as I can imagine).

Ohh - a trip down memory lane.


The main problem are the licences. I think most people which are using mame using illegal copies of the games. There exist some devices like a C64 stick (competition pro style) which integrated games and scart adapter to plug it to a tv. But most things are just illegal copies.


It isn’t silly, it’s most likely because of driver support, why not just register your USB device as a HID (Human Interface Device) like a keyboard or mouse

… or as a Joystick HID which is also 100% supported with no drivers necessary, even on crusty old 2001 era Windows XP.

Seriously, try it yourself. Plug in generic USB gamepad and watch how it shows up. It’s supported out of the box, literally plug and play. Showing up as a keyboard is just a side-effect of years of PC backwards compatibility.


I had that Atari Basic set - it’s still at my parent’s house. I think I remember it came with an instruction book with some simple programs that beeped a lot. It frustrated me, but I’m a programmer today. I also liked your tweet on Sunnyvale Golfland - I just happen to be in San Jose on buisness (about 10 mi away) and am going to go there tomorrow night - Thanks!!


Jeff, your blog needs a nice big “Warning - sentimental nostalgia trip” stamped to the front of it :wink:

I love those old video games. They were so simple and easy to get into, with no messing about. They didn’t rely on fancy graphics because it wasn’t possible to do fast and fancy graphics back then, so you had to rely on pure gameplay. And games were simple enough that it was possible to think about the game logic and wonder how you’d reimplement it on a home computer (usually in BASIC) in your head. Try that with today’s blockbusters.

I dug out a Playstation style controller (plugs into a standard PC gameport) from the attic the other day - I think I got it well over ten years ago as a controller for old games. Certainly it was before “Dave’s Classics” got shut down.

Yeah, it’s a shame most MAME ROMs out there are illegal cracks. A lot of the copyrights have changed hands so much it’s a huge logistical nightmare to get clearance to release them officially. I’d love to get hold of some of the old Ultimate (as RareWare were originally known) games that were around on home computers in the early eighties, but the copyrights are being closely guarded - pity, as I think the games could still be sold for profit today.

I haven’t played a new game since Quake came out - and a large reason I played that is because of its ability to be customised and tweaked.

Oh, Jeff - about your controllers - how well do they stack up to “Track and Field” (and variants)? I’ve found an original IBM Model M keyboard to be the best for the job - you can bash the hell out the keys and it just keeps working.


I somewhat have the feeling that this arcade stuff is/was rather US specific. I can’t remember ever having seen many around here in Germany, and I don’t think that’s just because I am too young. At least I remember only C64 games and somewhat later PC games and Nintendo consoles…


Hey Jeff, great post, I finally finished cutting the wood on my 2nd MAME cabinet last night and am planning on putting it together this weekend. Cheers for al the help and encouragement along the way It is great to know that I am not the only one obsessed with this sort of stuff. :slight_smile:



I used the books: 101 Basic Computer Games and 101 More Basic Computer Games. Anytime someone things GOTO is ok, I just pull out those books.

Now, you’re sending me back too… I still remember putting my old vic 20 in my backpack and biking 3 miles to my closest friend’s house to type in those old basic games from the magazines. And how could I ever forget playing lawn dungeon on the PET in school.

But when I found MAME, I never seemed to make it beyond the vector graphics version of Star Wars, I just love that way too much.

thanks for the nostalgia!


I “programmed” on that Atari 2600 BASIC Programing cart/controller package. Wasn’t as bad as you’d think. Was kind of fun. Could implement a full fledged “pong” game in those 63 instructions (I don’t specifically remember it being 63, so I’ll take your word for it). Did some interesting music too in that space. Good times. :slight_smile:


@ T.E.D

You might want to check out Kid’s Programming Language (KPL) for your son. http://www.kidsprogramminglanguage.com/


Those Atari things look hideous indeed.

What brought me to programming was indeed when my father once told me about computers, that I could make my own games with it. It was not like he said “you have to do them yourself”, he just mentioned I could, and from that moment on I was fascinated. Took some years though until I finally had a computer, a C64, already old then. But the Commodore BASIC 2.0 manual came with it, and from that moment on my father had to drag me outside to make me play in the garden instead of being behind the screen all day :smiley:

I’ve seen the Competition Pro USB in a computer shop maybe a year ago, the action felt a little different from the original Competition Pro, but seemed quite robust like the original.


Yeah, I thought about building a MAME cabinent. But while I did eventually justify buying an arcade controller, the $2500 pricetag for a replica cabinent kind of put me off, and I’m not mechanically inclined enough to DIY.

But yeah, I’ve spent countless hours playing games that my parents would never give me more than a quarter or two for when I was young… good times.


I have very similar feelings about arcade games. I grew up near a Nathan’s Hot Dogs in New York which had a great arcade. They always got the newest games and had several machines of each of the more popular games. I spent most of my pre-college earnings at the arcade :(. I also discovered that Bahama pennies were the same size as the Nathans tokens ;). Through an unlikely set of circumstances about nine years ago, I turned my hobby into a career. Today, 99% of my time is spent writing emulators for arcade and console games on various platforms (PC, Mobile, embedded board). I work directly with the game companies and with game publishers. My favorite project so far is the Chicago Gaming Arcade Legends 2. My partner designed the embedded board around a XScale CPU, another wrote the BIOS and bring-up code and I wrote the game emulator code (mostly ARM assembly language). For existing UA2/AL2 owners with the 100-game model, we’re about to release an upgrade pack with another 45 games :).