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5:34 PM on 10.10.2008  

Knyte's VGM #9 - Pioneers

Fairchild Channel F



With so many "Pong" clones on the market at this time, The Fairchild Channel F was a breath of fresh air. The Channel F was the first programmable cartridge based video game console to enter the videogame market. Initially, it was called the "Fairchild Video Entertainment System", but was later changed. It was developed by Fairchild Semiconductors and released in August of 1976.

Other then the fact that Channel F was the first to use cartridges, it had other unique features that set it apart from the "Pong" flood. Rather then having you near the actual console, the Channel F developed controllers that would let you play up to 8 feet away from the console (innovative for it's time). It also used a specially designed multiprocessor that contained a main CPU and several support processors ( called F8 ). The console also featured games built into the system (Hockey, Tennis and 2 drawing programs). These were unique innovations that set Channel F apart from other consoles of it's time, and thus brought about many changes to the industry.

Even with the Channel F's unique features, the console's success was very short. A year later, the Channel F faced fierce competition from the popular Atari VCS / 2600. Other consoles would soon follow, and Channel F sales began to suffer. Fairchild would soon pull out of the videogame market, and stopped production of the Channel F with only 21 games released.

In 1979, a company called Zircon purchased the rights to the Channel F. They released a scaled down version called the Channel F System II, and sold 5 more previously unreleased games. The Channel F II also featured detachable controllers (The previous model had controllers hard wired to the unit). The Channel F would continue to sell well up to the "Videogame Crash of 1984." It then became a mention in history.

The Channel F did continue to make successful rounds throughout Europe. It appeared as the Saba Videoplay in Germany, the Luxor Video Entertainment System in Sweden, the Adman Grandstand in the UK, and the ITT Tele-Match also in Germany.



Processor
8 bit Fairchild F8

CPU Speed
1.78Mhz

RAM
64 bytes

Video RAM
N/A

Resolution
128 × 64 w/ 102 × 58 pixels visible

Colors
4 colors plus an additional 4 colors using a palette / sprite trick

Polygons
N/A

Sprites
N/A

Retail Price
$170.00

FACT: Not only did Fairchild Semiconductors produce the first cart based system. They were the first to use a microprocessor for use in a videogame console. Also two of their employees became co-founders of a company called "Intel".

**********************************************************************
Magnavox Odyssey



The Magnavox Odyssey was the very first home video game system. It was the brilliant creation of Ralph Baer (dubbed "The Father of home video games"). It played "Ball and Paddle" games such as "Ping Pong", "Table Tennis", "Volleyball", and others.

On January 27th, 1972, Magnavox began production on the machine, and the system was released in May. It was heavily advertised and reportedly sold 100,000 units in 1972 for around $100 each.

The Odyssey has no real specs. It contained no processor or memory. The box is made up of transistors, resistors and capacitors. Odyssey used cards that contained pin outs to change game settings. Plastic overlays that could be placed over the TV screen created graphics and color, but the actual display consisted of white squares (Paddle and ball) on an all black background. The Odyssey originally came with six game cards, and a 36-page user manual for the twelve games offered by the system.

The launch of Odyssey generated a severe case of "Pong Madness". Companies worldwide began developing their own "Pong" machines.

FACT: The Magnavox Odyssey was sold only in Magnavox stores. Customers were told that the Odyssey would only work on Magnavox brand televisions. A nice lie that contributed to the amount of units sold.   read


5:34 PM on 06.30.2008  

Knyte's VGM #8 - Cool consoles from China.

We have Atari Plug and Play, and other crappy "Systems on a controller", but did you know that China gets a freaking SNES/N64 in a controller? Or how about a Dreamcast clone that has more features than the original? Check out the awesomeness!

***************************************************************************

Nintendo IQue



China has been a piracy plague for videogame manufacturers for years. Many home consoles have been cloned and sold throughout the streets of Hong Kong. Why spends more money when you can get a cheaper clone?

Although many of their older consoles have been cloned, Nintendo realizes there is still money to be made there. So in November of 2003, They announced a low cost system to debut in China. The system called "Ique" (rough translation = God's Toy) is not necessarily a new console. Nintendo used nanotechnology on their Nintendo 64 console (similar to Sony''s PSX) to create a single chip solution containing CPU, Graphic Engine, etc. This new design allows doubled operating speed, reduced electronic noises, low power consumption, and most noticeably a reduced size. The picture above tells the tale. The heart of N64 has been built into a single controller. The nanotechnology design also gives Ique the ability to "hardware emulate" the SuperNES system.

What makes it even more interesting is the fact that Ique, although essentially an N64 machine, does not use cartridges. The console uses a 64-megabyte Flash Card as a game media. These Flash Cards will be used to download and store N64 / SuperNES games. The overall concept works similar to Nintendo's efforts with the Famicom Disk System. Gamers simply purchase a game title and download it onto their Flash Card. This design makes the games cheaper for purchase.

So how will Nintendo discourage piracy? Each Ique flash card contains a digital signature specific to that unit. So a flash card from one Ique will not work in another. The flash card also stores a download log. This log records what games have been purchased. This will prevent downloads of games not purchased. It also works for the gamer. If a purchased game is deleted simply to make room for another game, it can be downloaded again for free the next time. This download log system is also used to allow time limited game demos.

The Ique retails for Yuan 598 (Less then $100USD). It comes packaged with the unit, a power supply (220V), and the 64megabyte flash card containing 5 pre-downloaded games. Doctor Mario is a full version title, but Zelda 64: Ocarina of Time (10 hours), Mario 64 (7 hours), Wave Race (1 hour) and Star Fox (1 hour) are time limited demo versions. The package also contains a serial number and password that allow you to download new titles to your system at locations throughout Shanghai, and possibly through the Internet. Full versions of games cost 48 Yuan (approximately $6USD per download), and contain in-game manuals.



An interesting device that can be imported, but may also appear on other shores.

FACT: The Nintendo Ique uses an operating system called UOS (Updateable Operating System). This allows Nintendo the ability to possibly change features in the unit. These changes simply need to be downloaded by the gamer onto their flash card.

**************************************************************************

Treamcast



It seems to have been the going trend in the year 2000. Take an LCD screen and attach it to a console, provide an alternate power source, and you get gaming on the go! It's been done with the PSOne and the GameCube consoles, but who would think to make one for the Sega Dreamcast? Apparently the people of China felt it was a good idea. From the streets of Hong Kong comes the Treamcast! For around 1500HKD (around $192 USD ) you could get your hands on this portable Dreamcast .

The Treamcast unit comes in it's own soft nylon suitcase styled carrying bag sporting it's name. The bag contains velcro straps similar to a laptop bag, and open slots for game storage. The Treamcast bundle comes with the system, two 6 button Neo Geo CD style game pads, wall power cable, car adapter, and a remote. Why a remote? Treamcast not only plays games. It can also play VCD (Video CD), SVCD, and even MP3's. Other modifications include a brightness regulator knob for the built in back lit LCD screen, and also input jacks for speakers or headphones. There is even an adjustable volume knob. To top things off, the Treamcast is completely region free.

When placed side by side with the actual Dreamcast you can clearly see that the unit is a lot bulkier, but generally the same size. The LCD display works well, but like most displays of this type can get blurring during fast pace action. The control pads work amazingly well, and are suited better for fighting games. However they lack the ports for both the VMU and rumble packs. So you may have to pick up an official Dreamcast controller to get the most out of certain game titles. All in all the Treamcast is a remarkable system.

FACT: You don't have to take a trip to China to get your paws on a Treamcast. You can find the unit available at many game import sites.   read


5:04 PM on 05.30.2008  

Knyte's VGM #7- The Greatest Movie Game Never Made

Nowadays, you can throw a rock without hitting a videogame based on the latest Hollywood Blockbuster. And, usually, those said titles just plain suck. But, how does a move whose plot centers around a videogame, not acually get a Videogame made of it? Who let that one slip through the cracks? Read On to Find out!



"Greetings Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada."

If you recognise those words, then you remember watching The Last Starfighter as a kid, and dreaming that could have been you! The ultimate gamer's dream! To be called upon to save the world, or galaxy, with your awesome video game playing powers. (That or the other dream involving princess peach, the DOA girls, Samus, and whipped cream. That could be the ultimate video gamer's dream, also. Maybe a close tie.)



At the very least, the beginning of the movie focuses around a badass looking Arcade game simply called, "Starfighter." It looked liked a far better version of the old ray-traced Star Wars game. With filled and shaded polygons, creating an awesome looking 3D space shooter. Not only that, but the game also had an awesome Sick and Yoke combo, that looked like something outta of a fighter jet. So, if you couldn't have lived Alex's role, at least you could run to the arcade and play the game, right?

Nope.

Why not?

Because they never made it!

So, in this F'd up world in which we live, they don't make a videogame based off a movie that centers around a videogame. But they make crappy videogames based off every other movie that isn't about a videogame. (Make your own logic conclusion about this one.)

But, at least, they make a off-broadway musical of it!
I am not kidding, see here: http://www.stormtheatre.com/reviews.html#star

So, why didn't we get a Last Starfighter Video Game? A few of them were in the works, but unfortunately timing played a big part in their pre-mature demise. The movie was released in 1984, and the games were in development around the same time. One year after the "Great Video Game Crash." The rights to making the games fell into the hands of the once almighty Atari. Atari had been working on the games before the movie was even released, and the arcade game was promised in the end credits of the film. But, unfortunately, no one knows for sure, why it never appeared.

The actual arcade game was about 75 percent completed when the project was cancelled due to numerous reasons. The closest anyone outside of Atari or the licensing company ever saw of the prototype is what you see on the arcade game screens in the film, which were based on the initial designs of the coin-op game. There was one set of wire-wrapped prototype boards and those may have been reused in the creation of other games. The prototype software for the game may still exist in the archives at Atari, but getting access to it, and in turn using it, would be nearly impossible.



Some Screens Of The Arcade Game:





Here's some footage of the prototype in acton:
http://www.youtube.com/v/ghjjeZpoKLI

Also, a version of The Last Starfighter game was created for the Atari 5200, however. Though it too, was never released. They eventually took the game and repackaged it had Star Raiders 2, by removing the movie references and changing a few names and sprites in the game. The ROM image for the game has recently become available and it can be played using a 5200 emulator.

(Here a link to see a side-by-side comparison of The Last Starfighter and Star Raiders 2: http://www.atarihq.com/atcomp/lastsr2.html )

But, fear not! Not all is lost! An independant software company know as Rouge Synapse have made their own version of The Last Starfighter arcade game and have released it for free!

http://www.roguesynapse.com/games/last_starfighter.php

Almost 25 years after the movie. But, at least it's not too late. So, what are you waiting for Starfighter? Get to it! The Star League needs you!

And, may the luck of the Seven Pillars of Bulu be with you at all times!

FUN FACT: The CGI used in the movie was created on a Cray X-MP Supercomputer, The X-MP was sold with one, two, or four processors and from two to sixteen megawords (16–128 MB) of word-addressable RAM main memory (while initial memory capacity was limited to 16 megawords with a 24-bit address register, the later extended memory architecture XMP/EA raised addressable memory to a theoretical 2 gigawords, in practice the largest memory produced was 64 megawords. The XMP/EA had an 8.5 nanosecond clock), delivering a theoretical peak speed of 942 megaflops. In 1984, a X-MP/48 was about US$15 million plus the cost of disks. In comparison to modern CPU speeds, the X-MP had less than half of the raw power of a Xbox.* (The original, not the 360 even!)

*There is still speculation over which system is bigger and heavier, though.   read


5:40 PM on 05.29.2008  

Knyte's VGM #6: Systems That Never Were

Here's a few game systems that were designed and (mostly) devoloped, but for various reasons, never got to see the light of day. Let's take a look shall we?

WoWoW



One of the most difficult console prototypes to get information on. This system was developed in joint-venture between JSB (owner of the Japanese satellite TV channel Wowow), the coin-op company Taito and the Japanese software editor ASCII and was presented in 1992 at the Tokyo Game Show.

The console would have been a 16-bit CD-based machine built around Taito’s arcade circuitry. The Wowow would have been able to produce near perfect Taito arcade game translations. A similar goal that another former 3rd Party arcade software developer accomplished (SNK and Neo Geo).

The most innovative idea was the system could receive games via a satellite antenna (transmitted like a TV or radio station). The white card visible from the front of the console would most likely be the method of payment. Perhaps similar to the use of phone cards. Each card would authorize a specific length of game time.

The console was never released to the public, but the idea of transmitting games via satellite was later used by Nintendo with the Satellaview (BS-X).

=======================================================================
3DO M2



Two years after the release of 3DO, the company began working on it's successor codenamed "Bull Dog" (model FZ-DR21)At first, M2 began as 64-bit add-on for 3DO systems. The concept was initially developed by the same people responsible for the first 3DO system (called Opera).

Later around 1995, 3DO sold the technology to Matsushita and left the hardware market. The Japanese electronic giant worked on the base of the system to produce a better technology called M2. At first this technology was to be sold as a videogame system in June of 1998, but Matsushita felt the market was not ready for another videogame console, and changed their game plan.

Matsushita / Panasonic finally released M2 later on that same year. The technology was remade into a TV-based interactive multimedia player that was geared towards corporate businesses for use in Public Information and Display Terminals, Sales Promotion and Exhibit Presentations, 3-D Viewing, Educational and Training Kiosks, etc.

The Panasonic M2 Interactive Media player came in two versions. The FZ-21s was a more sleek and compact version that featured a 4X CD-ROM (Plays M2-CD's, as well as VideoCD 2.0) and a PCMCIA Type III slot for use with modem, Ethernet, memory, hard drive or other compatible PC card devices.

The FZ-35s is the more high end featured model that features a DVD-ROM drive for increased content storage capability, as well as expanded input/output device connectivity, expanded SRAM, a built-in Infrared Receiver, LS-120 SuperDisk, Flash Memory, Modem, or LAN card.

It would have been interesting to see what the M2 could have done videogame wise. Sadly, it remained a multimedia device.

Prototype game screens:




=======================================================================
Indrema L600



A start-up company called Indrema promised to release a new gaming console in 2001. Using a Linux operating system, the Indrema L600 would have played games, DVDs, and CDs, and even record TV shows on its hard drive.

A man by the name of John Gildred decided to found a consumer electronics start-up. Gildred was a fan of Open Source software. Apparently he thought it would be great if people could design and improve their own video games, and maybe download them off the Web. So Gildred, backed by a few friends and generous investors, plus the credit line of his charge cards and the content of his savings account, went out to perform in the marketplace. He started his new company, and focused on it’s product called Indrema. It was going to be an "Open Source" system designed to be a game machine, DVD player, Internet appliance and digital video recorder.

The Indrema Entertainment System (a.k.a. L600) was to be based on common hardware (x86-style CPU, DVD drive, hard disk drive, nVidia graphics chip, USB ports and Ethernet connector), and the Open Source operating system, DV Linux. DV Linux is an Open Source distribution of the Linux operating system specifically designed for consumer electronics or digital multimedia applications targeted at the television as the default view port. Indrema partnered up with Red Hat to initially manage the development of the DV Linux Distribution.

The first Indrema console, the L600, was planned to initially ship in Spring 2001. It was to cost approximately $300. The Indrema Entertainment System would have also been the first modern game console to allow free software to be developed for it, and made available widely via Internet. However, this impressive machine never saw the light of day. The company ran out of money and was unable to secure additional financing in a capital market that seemed to have grown hostile to Linux-related business. The demands of the hardware market took their toll on the small California based company as it had done to even bigger companies such as Sega (Sega left the hardware market after the Dreamcast). Nvidia sought more prosperous grounds with the Microsoft Xbox. Being an "Open Source" system most likely contributed to the consoles demise. If software could be distributed for free then there could be no money made by the company with licensing fees. The units would be sold at a loss. Software developers would have difficulty selling software since users would prefer freely distributed games. Without strong software developer support, they had no hopes of competing with the established Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft companies.

In 2002, Indrema closed it’s doors to the hardware market. It’s founder, John Gildred, still pursues the dream of making the console a reality. For now it remains a dream.
=======================================================================
Atari Mirai



The Mirai is apparently an enigma to many since there is really no information about it. There are many who feel that the Atari Mirai may have been meant as a console conversion of Atari’s ST line of computers. This may be since it so closely resembles the Atari XEGS, which is a console conversion of Atari’s 65XE line of computers. Such a guess is understandable since both units share the same pastel like color scheme. However, Atari never produced cartridge software for their ST computers. The Atari Mirai clearly displays a cartridge port (an enormous port as you may be able to tell).

Another guess was that the Mirai was another mock-up for the Atari Panther, but many disagree since the design does not appear to match (Particularly for a console in the 1990’s. It is believed the mock-up appeared in the 1980’s).

Possibly the most interesting guess is that Atari Mirai may have been meant as home port of SNK’s MVS arcade system. There are a few facts that seem to point in that direction. For example, look at the cartridge port. This port can easily handle the MVS / Neo Geo sized cartridges. In the late 1980’s, Atari and SNK were corporate neighbors both residing across the street from one another in Sunnyvale California. Both companies were no strangers to each other. Both collaborated to port SNK’s arcade hit Ikari Warriors, and other undocumented items were also reported. Also look at the name Atari Mirai. “Mirai” is the Japanese word for “Future”. Why would Atari use a Japanese name? Atari’s other consoles either used numerical names, used wife names for developing units, or felines (In the case of Panther and Jaguar). The Neo Geo was released in 1990. It may have very well been that SNK thought to partner up with Atari in order to insure a successful home market launch. Such a concept may seem far fetched, but hey…Nintendo almost had Atari release the Famicom…

All in all the Mirai remains a mystery. An interesting console enigma.   read


8:58 PM on 05.28.2008  

Knyte's VGM #5 - 3 Fallen Heroes

Today we look back at three software companies who gave us years of amazing games, only to be become so successful that they caught the eye of larger software publishers, who then bought them up and devoured their talents.

So here's to the fallen heros:

***

New World Computing



New World Computing, Inc. was a computer game development company founded in 1984 by Jon Van Caneghem and Mark Caldwell, best known for its work on the Might and Magic computer role-playing game series and its spin-offs, especially Heroes of Might and Magic. When its parent company, the 3DO Company, declared bankruptcy in 2003, New World Computing ceased to exist, and its assets were sold off to other companies.

A list of noted titles:

Anvil of Dawn
Chaos Overlords
The Faery Tale Adventure
Heroes of Might And Magic 1-3
Might and Magic 1-9
Joe & Mac
Planet's Edge
Nuclear War

Might & Magic - Darkside of Xeen Intro:

http://www.youtube.com/v/6vLSoU0E07M&hl=en

***

Dynamix



The company was founded in Eugene, Oregon in 1984 by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye. Their first title, Stellar 7, was released before company founding and was later re-released with the Dynamix name on it. They made a number of games for the Commodore 64, among them Project Firestart which was one of the most atmospheric titles for the C64.

In the following years, Dynamix created a line of action games for Electronic Arts, including one of the first games for the Commodore Amiga, Arctic Fox. Later titles were developed for Activision. After self-publishing their games for a short while, in 1990 Dynamix was bought by Sierra On-Line.

Once part of Sierra, Dynamix created some of their most famous games, including a line of adventures and flight simulations that included Red Baron and The Adventures of Willy Beamish. They also created the puzzle game The Incredible Machine, along with the spinoff Sid & Al's Incredible Toons. Another successful product line was the Front Pages Sports series, designed by Pat Cook and Allen McPheeters which included Football, Baseball, and Golf. Versions of Red Baron and Front Page Sports Football were included as part of the ImagiNation Network.

In 1994, the first game in a new series called MetalTech was released, a giant robot combat game with similarities to the BattleTech universe and games. This series resulted in two Earthsiege games and eventually Starsiege. As a side development of the Starsiege game, the successful Tribes series was created. Dynamix also created Outpost 2: Divided Destiny, the second game in Sierra's strategy/survival franchise, Outpost.

The Dynamix studio was closed by its parent company Sierra in August 2001, as part of Sierra's restructuring under Vivendi Universal. Several veterans of the studio (including Tunnell), however, stayed in Eugene and founded a new studio / electronic publisher, GarageGames.

A list of noted titles:

Stellar 7
Skyfox
Caveman Ugh-Lympics
MechWarrior
A-10 Tank Killer
Deathtrack
Red Baron 1,2,and 3D
Rise of the Dragon
The Adventures of Willy Beamish
Heart of China
Aces of the Pacific
The Incredible Machine
Betrayal at Krondor
Space Quest V: The Next Mutation
Metaltech: Earthsiege
Starsiege
Starsiege: Tribes
Tribes 2

Red Baron Gameplay:

http://www.youtube.com/v/rY5mDKmS_xk

***

Black Isle Studios



Black Isle Studios was a division of the computer and video game developer and publisher Interplay Entertainment, created specifically for the development of computer role-playing games. It was based in Orange County, California, USA.The division was formed during 1996, adopting the name "Black Isle Studios" during 1998. The idea for the division's name came from the Black Isle in Scotland - founder Feargus Urquhart's native country.Black Isle Studios is most famous for working on the Fallout and Baldur's Gate series of computer role-playing games, though it only published the Baldur's Gate series.

In 1998, several key members responsible for the division's first title, Fallout, left Interplay to form Troika Games after they "were unable to come to an agreement with Interplay as to how [their] next team should be structured". On December 8, 2003, in the midst of serious financial difficulties, Interplay laid off the entire Black Isle Studios staff. As of 2007, Interplay has neither explained the move nor clarified what the future holds for Black Isle Studios, but considering the fact that Interplay itself is now a company in serious financial straits, the future of Black Isle is grim indeed. Many former Black Isle Studios employees now work at either Obsidian Entertainment or Bioware.

A list of noted titles:

Fallout
Fallout 2
Planescape: Torment
Icewind Dale
Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter - Trials of the Luremaster
Icewind Dale II
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II
Last Kingdom

Among the products whose development Black Isle assisted are:

Baldur's Gate
Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal
Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

Fun Fact:
The studio used to code-name its projects after U.S. presidents and vice-presidents. The system was reportedly created by Josh Sawyer (aka JE Sawyer), who joined the company in 1999.

A list of some BIS projects with their code names:

Project King - Stonekeep II, canceled in 2001
Project Adams - Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
Project Washington - Black Isle's Torn; announced and canceled in 2001
Project Madison - Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster
Project Monroe - Icewind Dale II
Project Quincy - Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (This was a ruse by Feargus Urquhart, as there never was a U.S. president with that last name and Lionheart was not developed by Black Isle Studios. Lionheart was also codenamed Fallout Fantasy.)
Project Jackson - Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II 2003
Project Jefferson - unofficially known as Baldur's Gate 3: The Black Hound; project name mentioned as early as 2001; canceled 2003
Project Van Buren - Fallout 3; canceled 2003 as PC staff was laid off

Fallout Intro:

http://www.youtube.com/v/oUX6LrrksS8   read


6:01 PM on 11.06.2007  

Knyte's VGM #4 - Honoring A Phone Company?

And, no we are not talking about the N-Gage.

Today we hail Motorola. Not for the Razr, not for any phone. But, for a microchip they developed in 1976.



That chip was the 68000.

What's so great about a 30 year old chip, you may ask?

That chip gave us such memorable characters as Ken & Ryu, Sonic The Hedgehog, Captain Commando, Arthur (Ghouls 'n Ghosts), Strider, Morrigan Aensland, Haohmaru, Marco Rossi & Tarma Roving (Metal Slug), Mai, Haggar, Opa-Opa (Fantasy Zone), Joe Musashi (Shinobi), Gilius Thunderhead (Golden Axe), and many more!

That one chip gave us litterally thousands of video games.

The 68000 was first used during the early 1980s in high-priced systems, including multiuser microcomputers like the WICAT 150, Tandy TRS-80 Model 16, and Fortune 32:16; single-user workstations such as Hewlett-Packard's HP 9000 Series 200 systems, the first Apollo/Domain systems, Sun Microsystems' Sun-1, and the Corvus Concept; and graphics terminals like Digital Equipment Corporation's VAXstation 100 and Silicon Graphics' IRIS 1000 and 1200. While Unix systems soon abandoned the original 68000 due to limitations of the processor, its derivatives remained popular in the Unix market throughout the 1980s.

During the mid 1980s, the 68000 was first used in personal and home computers, starting with the Apple Lisa and Macintosh, and followed by the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and Sharp X68000.

As technological advances obsoleted the 68000 from use in the standalone computing market, its use grew in consumer and embedded applications. Video game manufacturers used the 68000 as the backbone of many arcade games and home game consoles. Atari's Food Fight, from 1983, was one of the first 68000-based arcade games. The 68000 was the main CPU of many arcade systems during the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as Sega's System 16, Capcom's CPS-1 and CPS-2, and SNK's Neo Geo. A number of arcade systems used two 68000s; some even used three. During the 1990s, as arcade systems switched to more powerful processors for the main CPU, they often continued to use the 68000 as a sound controller.

The 68000 was also the central processor in several home game consoles of the late 1980s/early 1990s, including the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis), the Sega Mega-CD (Sega CD), and the console version of the Neo Geo (AES). Some later game consoles still included the 68000: the Sega Saturn used it as a dedicated sound controller, and in the Atari Jaguar it co-ordinated the activities of the other specialized graphics and sound chips.

So, a company that is now known for only making phones, gave us a revolutionary chip that gave us years of fond video game memories.

So, is the 86000 retired after so many years of faithful service to the world? Nope! It can still be found in everything from TVs to specialized medical equipment. In fact, kids are still using the chip today. But, not so much for gaming, as for high school math. Texas Instruments uses the 68000 in its high-end graphing calculators, the TI-89 and TI-92 series and Voyage 200.

Although, I fondly remember playing Tetris on my TI-80 all those years ago, and I no doubt believe that kids are still playing games while they should be learning tangents and cosines...

So, I guess you could say, that little chip is still gaming on to this day.



(If you do an article about Motorola, you gotta have a picture of the awesome 80s-tastic DynaTac cell phone!) ;)   read


8:02 PM on 10.30.2007  

Knyte's VGM #3 - Three Systems You Never Knew Existed.

Here are three videogame systems from the 90's that you may have never known existed. Two were never released outside of Japan, and the third disapeared before it had a chance to get off the ground, due to it's company's bankruptcy.

So without further ado, let me introduce them:

*********************************************************************

FM Towns Marty



The FM Towns Marty, a.k.a. "FM Towns", a.k.a. "FM Marty Towns. A brief glance at this system, and you might mistake it for a white Turbo Duo, but on closer inspection, you'll notice that the slot on the front isn't for a HuCard, but instead for an actual 3.5" floppy.



The Fujitsu Company decided to make an attempt to penetrate the console games market by taking their popular FM TOWNS line of computers, and adding in some special components to create a stand alone video game console. The plan was for the software designed for the FM TOWNS computers to be modified slightly so that the games would work on both the computer and the console. The FM Towns Marty has the distinction of being the first 32-bit video game console.

This system was compatible with most of the Fujitsu line of computers, so it could use the 3.5" slot to play many of computer games. The 32-bit system's CD reader was used mainly to play games made specifically for this system, although some computer software at the time also came in CD format. The system was released in 1991 with a 386 processor that was later upgraded to a 486 (The FM Towns Marty 2). The first version is much rarer, but more limited. Since the system can play games designed for the FM Towns PC, it's library is larger then what you might expect.

It came with a two button controller and had a port for a second controller as well. A mouse and keyboard were also available to play compatible PC games.
The price does climb.

Now let's talk about the real reason to get a FM TOWNS MARTY.

Porn. Loads and loads of anime porn. Some of the best anime porn games were made for the FM TOWNS, and it's one of the reasons the MARTY series sold well. Adult content was allowed and even welcomed.
The famous "RANCE" and "LA Blue Girl" games were on the Marty. 3rd party support was enormous for porn, and it's to the point you're hard pressed to find a non-porn game you really want.

An overall great system, and with some of the best conversions of 80's and 90's games. The only 32 bit version of operation wolf, etc.

Fujitsu supported the units for many years, and some third party games supported the systems as late as 1999. Fujitsu wisely discontinued the console line with the arrival of the more powerful 32bit Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn.

CPU: 32bit AMD 386 processor

CPU Speed: 16 MHz for Marty 1, 25 MHz for Marty 2

Graphics:

Resolution: 352x232 up to 640x480
32768 color palette - 256 onscreen
Sound:

6 channel FM
8 channel PCM

RAM:

2 MB
Data Storage:

CD-ROM, Single-speed (1x)
Internal 3.5" HD floppy drive

Controllers:

digital, 2 fire buttons, select, and run
2 standard controller ports
keyboard port

***********************************************************************

NEC PC-FX



The PC-FX was designed based on a new 32-bit development kit by NEC called "Iron Man". Iron Man was designed in 1992, while the PC Engine was still quite popular in Japan. It was around the time of the first running demonstration units in mid 1992 that NEC started discussing an imminent release of an Iron Man based system with its many third party developers. Many PC Engine developers seemed upset and disinterested since the PC Engine market was still growing, and as a result NEC halted work on the Iron Man and continued making modifications to the PC Engine. By 1993 the 32-bit 3DO platform was released with lots of the developer interest and Sega and Sony let it be known that the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation would be ready for the Japanese marketplace in late 1994, and Bandai was also readying the release of their 32-bit Playdia system. Now in a rush to keep the large development base that made the PC Engine so successful, NEC had to make a decision. Rather than spending the time to develop a new, more powerful platform capable of standing up to their competitors, they marched out the now dated 32-bit Iron Man architecture to be used in the PC-FX. The result was that NEC wound up with a severely underpowered system that failed to impress either developers or consumers, and ultimately led to its demise.

The NEC PC-FX strayed from the common console design. The console resembled a PC desktop tower, and even included 3 expansion ports for additional upgrades, and peripherals. NEC decided not to load it up with 3D generating hardware, and instead focused on making PC-FX a killer 2D machine. Focusing on FMV (Full Motion Video) and 2D capabilities, the PC-FX used a custom chip capable of Run Length JPEG compression technology. The result was animation and FMV using full screen true color at 30 frames per second.
The PC-FX is one of the most unique video game systems ever made. Instead of the usual flat & square designs associated with most game systems, NEC decided to use a different approach when designing the PC-FX. One main factor was making the system expandable. Taking a card from the PC market, it was decided to create a tower shaped video game system that offered 3 expansion ports for upgrades and peripherals.

The front expansion slot was to be used for the FX-BMP, a memory expansion module that allowed you to save games to it, rather than the FX internal memory.

The rear and bottom expansion ports were available for connections to the PC-9800 series of computers made by NEC. One of those connections were used for a PC-FX-to-SCSI adapter which allowed the FX to be used as a SCSI CD-ROM drive. To the rear of the unit, you can also find direct A/V, S-VHS connections and the power cord. Voltage and other power information can be found to the top of the rear panel.

In addition to playing PC-FX games, the unit could also play audio CDs (with an expansive CD menu control screen), CD+Gs, and Kodak CDs for viewing your home photos.

The NEC PC-FX was released in Japan on December 23, 1994 to a lukewarm reception. The Sega / Sony consoles shadowed an otherwise impressive system. Most software development was done by NEC and Hudson Soft with a total of 50 game releases.

NEC supported the PC-FX till 1998, and never released the console outside of Japan. A total of about 100,000 units were reported sold.

FACT: In 1995, NEC took a similar concept as the Creative Labs version of 3DO Blaster. The PC-FX Game Accelerator (PC-FX GA) was a card that would allow PC-FX games to be played on computers. The card came in 2 flavors. The C-Bus interface card was compatible with NECs Japanese line of PC-98xx computers. The other has an ISA interface for IBM / AT compatible computers. The ISA card however requires the DOS/V operating system (DOS/V is a special version of DOS for the Japanese market). The package contained the card, a PC-FX controller, a driver CD, game development software (Basic fighter / RPG game type engines). The card itself supported S-Video, Composite, multiple audio in/out, and requires external power. It is an interesting device that can be imported or purchased on eBay.

CPU
32Bit NEC V810 RISC Microprocessor
Clock Frequency: 21.5MHz
MIPS: 15.5
MEMORY
Main RAM: 2MB
VRAM: 1.25MB
CD-ROM Data Cache Memory: 256KB
Back-up RAM: 32KB
ROM: 1MB
VIDEO
Television Output Type: NTSC
Video Output: 1.0Vp-p 75 ohm
S-Video Output
Bright-Signal: 1.0Vp-p 75 ohm
Color-Signal: 0.286Vp-p 75 ohm
GRAPHICS
Maximum On-screen colors: 16,777,000
Resolution: 640x480
Maximum Parallax: 9 layers
Effects: Rotation, magnification, reduction, cellophane, fade, priority
Image Compression: JPEG w/Run Length compression, full-screen/true color decompression at 30fps, Kodak Photo CD compatible.
SOUND
16-Bit Stereo w/2 ADPCM channels and 6 sample channels at 44.1kHz.
Sound Output: 1.0 Vrms (0db)
Sound Frequency: 20Hz~20kHz
CD-ROM DRIVE
Standard 2x CD-ROM drive compatible with 12mm/8cm CD
INPUTS/EXPANSION
2 PAD Terminals
EXT1 (for Back-up memory)
EXT2 (for extra functions)
EXT3 (for main memory expansion)
DIMENSIONS:
132mm (width) x 267mm (depth) x 244mm (height)
FORMATS:
FX-CD, CD-DA, CD+G, CD+EG, Photo CD
POWER CONSUMPTION: 16W / AC 100V
WEIGHT: Approximately 2.9kg


A list of of known games:
http://www.pcenginefx.com/PC-FX/html/pc-fx_world_-_game_overviews.html

**********************************************************************

Amiga CD32



The Amiga CD32 was Europe and North America's first 32-bit CD-ROM based game console. It was first announced at the Science Museum in London, United Kingdom on 16 July 1993 and released in September of the same year. The CD32 is based on Commodore's Advanced Graphics Architecture chipset, and is of similar specification to the Amiga 1200. Using 3rd-party devices, it is possible to upgrade the CD32 with keyboard, floppy drive, and mouse, turning it into a personal computer.

A hardware MPEG decompression module for playing Video CD was also available, however, as few as 400 modules made it to market. Often regarded as a failure, the CD32 managed to secure over 50% of the fledgling CD-ROM market in the UK in 1993 and 1994 outselling the MegaCD, Philips CDi and even PC CD-ROM sales.

The CD32 was released in the United States and Canada, but was not successful. Commodore was not able to meet demand for new units because of component supply problems. The success of the CD32 in Europe was not enough to save Commodore, and the bankruptcy of Commodore International in April 1994 caused the CD32 to be discontinued only months after its debut.

Like all Amiga computers, the CD32 has a hidden boot menu that can be accessed by plugging an Amiga mouse into port 2 and holding both buttons down while turning the system on. Most of the options in this menu aren't useful on a CD32, but from this menu you can choose to boot in either NTSC or PAL mode. This is important, as there are some games that will refuse to work if the system is in the wrong mode, also since most games don't advertise what video mode they were developed for. It should also be pointed out that despite the naming, the menu really only allows a choice of 60Hz or 50Hz video output; a PAL system booted in NTSC mode will still output a video signal using PAL color encoding, which will usually result in a black and white picture when connected to an NTSC television.

While the console was fairly successful during its lifespan and managed to be the best-selling CD format console in 1993, it was not able to sustain its growth, with Commodore filing for Chapter 11 just a year after its release after not being able to secure additional CD32 shipments for the holiday season. It was speculated that the holiday season could have kept Commodore afloat for another six months. Another problem was the lack of original games, which had also plagued the CDTV before it. Most CD32 titles were simply A1200 games on a CD, with the occasional full motion video sequence or CD audio tracks added on.

I accually own this system, my aunt was a huge Commodore fan, and she had a VIC 20, then a C=64, then an Amiga 500. She preordered the CD32, and after owning it for a couple of months she gave it to me, as it was more of a console system then she was expecting, and no games interested her. (She was big into RPGs such as Ultima, Might & Magic, etc)

I remember showing this system off to all of my friends, blowing them away with the stunning 2D graphics, and the Full motion video scenes in games. At this time, everyone still had SNES and Genesis consoles, and the CD32 blew SegaCD games out of the water.

Processor
68020 @ 14 MHz

Memory
2 MB Chip RAM
up to 64 MB Fast RAM on processor boards
1 kB Flash ROM

The CD32 has 2 MB 70 ns Chip RAM soldered to its motherboard which could not be expanded further.
Although the CD32 is an entirely 32 bit machine, the 68EC020 processor has only 24 bit address space (16 MB) besides its 32 bit data path. This allows 8 MB for Fast RAM expansion which can be added via the expansion slot. Further expansion of the Fast RAM requires the use of a processor board.
The 1 kB flash ROM is intended to store game high-scores.

Custom chips
Alice - AGA display controller
Lisa - AGA display encoder
Paula - audio and I/O controller
Akiko - system address decoder, CD-ROM controller, chunky to planar conversion acceleration

Although the CD32 has the same AGA chip set as the A1200, there is no output provided for the doubled productivity screen modes. This limits the available resolutions of the base model to:

All screenmodes offer up to 256 colors from a 24 bit palette, or 262144 colors in HAM8 mode.
Chunky to planar pixel conversion is hardware accelerated by Akiko's built-in corner-turn memory.
Audio output is 8 bit, 4 channel stereo up to 28 kHz.
All CD32s shipped with Kickstart 3.1 ROM.

Expansion slots
1 expansion slot

The 182 pin expansion slot allows the connection of the FMV module, processor boards or other system expansions.

CD-ROM drive
The CD32 features a double speed (330 kB/sec) top-loading CD-ROM drive. The supported CD formats are ISO-9660 CD-ROM, Audio CD, CD+G.
With the addition of the FMV module CD-i Digital Video and Video CDs can be played.

Interfaces
2 mouse/game DB9 male
1 aux, 6 pin female mini-DIN
2 stereo audio, RCA jack
1 stereo headphones, 3.5 mm jack
1 composite video, RCA jack
1 CD-ROM header
American / European version
1 RF Out
1 S-VHS, 4 pin mini-DIN
French version
1 Scart, 8 pin mini-DIN

Two games that I highly recommend:

Defender Of The Crown 2

This was basically a remake of the original Cinemaware title, except with higher res graphics, a full orchestrated soundtrack, and voice over work for all the game's text.






Pirates! Gold

This was the best version of Pirates! Gold by far. The controls were tight, the graphics were great, and the best part is, you could save your game at any point, on the system's built-in memory.


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12:36 AM on 07.20.2007  

Knyte's VGM #2 - Remembering An Old Friend..

"Mattel Electronics Presents"*: Intellivision!



Intellivision was released in 1979 by Mattel. It was also released under different names to expand its market. The Intellivision was released in Sears stores as the Super Video Arcade, at Radio Shack as the Tandyvision I, and as the GTE/Sylvania Intellivision.

Intellivision was the main competitor of the Atari 2600. It's graphical capabilities were much better than Atari's console.It was the system to own for playing sports games, but also had a fair amount of action games and strategy games thrown into the mix as well. While Intellivision excelled at graphics and sound, the Atari 2600 was more capable of handling action games due to its superior speed.

So why didn't the Intellivision surpass the Atari 2600 in popularity? For one thing, the Intellivision had little 3rd party software developer support until late in it's life (nowhere near the amount the Atari 2600 had). Also many people did not like the disc controllers, which may have been great for sports games, but made other games difficult to play. Atari also had nailed down almost every popular arcade / movie license they could get their hands on. This left Mattel scrambling for less popular arcade games from Data East and other developers. So what better way to expand your game library then to add your competitor's consoles games! Mattel released a Atari 2600 adapter which gave the Intellivision an even greater library of games.

In 1982, the console would be remodeled (Intellivision II) with a lockout feature that prevented Atari 2600 (and unfortunately some of their own games) from being played. Also in July of this same year, Mattel approached Bandai to distribute Intellivision in Japan. The Bandai Intellivision retailed for 49,800 yen.

In 1983 Mattel introduced a new peripheral innovative for the time: Intellivoice, a voice synthesis device which produced speech when used with certain games, most of which would not work without the add-on component. Top Mattel programmers including Bill Fisher, Steve Roney, Gene Smith and John Sohl were diverted to the project, slowing the previous initiative to counter Atari with new arcade-style games. Voice titles included:

Bomb Squad
B-17 Bomber
Intellivision World Series Baseball (Intellivoice optional since the game already required the ECS keyboard)
Space Spartans
TRON Solar Sailer



Many users waited patiently for the promised release of the "Keyboard Component", an add-on computer upgrade unit touted by Mattel as "coming soon" even when the original console was first shipped. The unit featured a built-in cassette tape drive for loading and saving data. The Keyboard Component would plug into the cartridge slot on the Intellivision, and had an additional cartridge slot of its own to allow regular Intellivision games to be played in the usual way.

The keyboard component became so notorious around Mattel headquarters that comedian Jay Leno, when performing at Mattel's 1981 Christmas party, got a huge response with his joke, "You know what the three big lies are, don't you? 'The check is in the mail,' 'I'll still respect you in the morning,' and 'The Keyboard will be out in the spring.'"

After its limited release, four thousand units were sold; many were later returned for a full refund when Mattel recalled the unit in 1983 due to various support problems, including the then-innovative cassette tape unit which had never proved to be reliable. According to the Blue Sky Rangers web site, users who opted to keep theirs were made to sign a waiver absolving Intellivision of all future responsibility for technical support. In addition, the Keyboard Component could be modified into a development platform for the Intellivision, and such units were used internally for game development during the latter portion of the system's lifespan.

By this time, Mattel had set up competing internal engineering teams, each trying to either fix the Keyboard Component or replace it. The rival Mattel engineers had come up with a much less expensive keyboard alternative. The Entertainment Computer System (ECS), was much smaller, sleeker, and easier to produce than the original Keyboard Component. While the original Keyboard Component had some advantages over the small computers of its day, the new Keyboard Component was designed to be inexpensive, not functional, and was far less powerful than emerging machines like the Commodore 64. The two keyboard units were incompatible, but owners of the older unit were offered a new ECS.

To maintain secrecy in a toy industry where industrial espionage was a way of life, many projects had code names, so documents and casual discussion did not reveal company secrets. With the video games business already staggering by the time the new Keyboard Component was planned, Daglow suggested the new device be code-named LUCKI (for "Low User Cost Keyboard Interface.") The name stuck but the good fortune did not: the cheaply manufactured ECS keyboard add-on was a retail failure.



In 1984, the rights to the Intellivision were sold for 16.5 million dollars. The new company called INTV Inc began rumors of the release of the INTV III, or Super Pro System. This redesigned unit was identical to the original console, except that it had a black plastic case with silver plates, and also had a Power LED indicator between the Power and Reset switches. The console was released in 1985, and appeared in Toys R Us, Kiddie City, and mail order catalogs. The console continued to sell into the 1990's with 35 new game titles released. INTV Inc continued to sell out it's stock in 1991, and it eventually became a piece of gaming history.

All in all The Intellivision was an impressive machine that sparked the first real console rivalry in console history. For example, Mattel used television advertisements demonstrating Intellivision graphics outperforming Atari 2600. These rivalries would be duplicated by other companies in later years. Intellivision is also the only 2nd Generation console to have survived the "Videogame Crash of 1984."

General Instrument CP1610 16-bit microprocessor CPU running at 894.886 kHz (i.e., slightly less than 1 MHz)
1352 bytes of RAM:
240 8-bit Scratchpad Memory
352 16-bit (704 bytes) System Memory
512 8-bit Graphics RAM
7168 bytes of ROM:
4096 10-bit (5120 bytes) Executive ROM
2048 8-bit Graphics ROM
160 pixels wide by 196 pixels high (52 TV pixels make one Intellivision pixel)
16 color palette, all of which can be on the screen at once
8 sprites. Hardware supports the following features per-sprite:
Size selection: 88 or 816
Stretching: Horizontal (1, 2) and vertical (1, 2, 4 or 8)
Mirroring: Horizontal and vertical
Collision detection: Sprite to sprite, sprite to background, and sprite to screen border
Priority: Selects whether sprite appears in front of or behind background.
3 channel sound, with 1 noise generator (audio chip: GI AY-3-8914)

FACTS: No the stats are not typos...The GI 1600 processor had 16 bit registers, used 16 bit RAM, and has 10 bit instructions. So in an odd way you could call Intellivision a 16 bit system.

The Intellivision was also the first system to feature downloadable games (though without a storage device the games vanished once the machine was turned off). In 1981, General Instrument (manufacturer of the Intellivision's CPU) teamed up with Mattel to roll out the PlayCable, a device that allowed the downloading of Intellivision games via cable TV.

In 1987, a new Intellivision model called INTV System IV began to surface. This model would have detachable controllers, and some sort of timing device. It never saw the light of day.

For all the Intellivision info you could ever want go here: http://www.intvfunhouse.com/faq/

*Those of you who owned a INTV will remember the primitive voice that use to say that phase when turning on any Voice Game.



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6:06 PM on 07.18.2007  

Knyte's VGM #1 - Two Forgotten Console Heroes

Turbografx 16 / PC Engine



On October 30, 1987 the first 16-Bit home videogame console was released in Japan by NEC. The PC Engine was clearly a "next generation" system with it's amazing specs, and wallet sized card games called "HuCards".

The PC Engine was immensely popular in Japan, outselling the Famicom by a significant margin. Two years after its Japanese introduction, NEC announced plans to bring the PC Engine overseas. NEC dubbed the US release Turbografx-16, and prepared to dominate both Nintendo and Sega as they did in Japan.



In 1988, NEC took gaming to the next level. They were the first to use the immense storage capability of Compact Disk. NEC's CD-ROM add-on device was called Turbografx CD or TG-CD (PC Engine CD in Japan). It retailed for an expensive $399.

The console was redesigned several times in Japan (for example the Coregrafx released in 1989 and Coregrafx II in 1991).

In 1989, NEC decided to redesign the console, and upgrade it with more RAM. This new design called Supergrafx was sold in Japan only, and created to compete against the threat of Nintendo's Super Famicom console. NEC stopped distributing Supergrafx when they saw their PC Engine was still selling well. Only 5 games were made to take advantage of the upgraded Supergrafx, and it played all PC Engine games as well as use the CD add-on.

So how is it that a company that produced such state of the art gaming go almost unnoticed by the American gamers? So many factors contributed, but most stems from NEC's lack of marketing. Perhaps their success in Japan made them think the system would sell itself. Whereas you could find commercials and advertisements for Sega and Nintendo, you could not find any for Turbografx.

NEC was also introducing games, titles, and characters that American players simply werent familiar with, and many truly excellent games were either ignored outright, or subject to Nintendo's "exclusive licensing" policy that was in effect at the time. The gist of this policy was, if a game was already available on NES, then game companies could not produce any versions for any other game system. Although this policy was later ruled illegal, it hurt the TurboGrafx a lot in the early stages of its life.

Hudson Soft, the primary producer of PC Engine software, was also producing games for the huge NES market. Releasing a game on TurboGrafx exclusively (as they would have to do) would restrict its potential sales (as the NES had a greater installed user base).



Even the Turbografx CD with it's amazing potential was marketed poorly. Not only was this item priced at a ridiculous $399, but only two games were even released for it during its first six months of existence. Neither TG-CD game, "Fighting Street" nor "Monster Lair", came anywhere close to taking advantage of the systems capabilities.

Soon after... word began to spread that the TG-16 was not a "true" 16-bit system, as its CPU was only 8-bit. (The system used two 8-bit processors).

These factors caused the Turbografx to have a small impact in the US. NEC seemed to only focus on their Japanese market. Japan saw many quality games, console redesigns, and accessories. This helped the system to remain successful in Japan for quite some time.

FACT: NEC used the "Hucard" technology to produce "System Cards" that boosted the consoles RAM thus providing better quality graphics. The Arcade Card Pro card in particular added 16 megabits of RAM, and was used to play arcade quality games such as Fatal Fury and other SNK hits. Sadly the card was never released outside of Japan. This would also explain why Supergrafx was discontinued.

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NEO GEO



SNK (Shin Nihon Kikaku, translated as "New Japanese Project"), a small third party software developer for the Nintendo NES, decided to try their hand in the arcade market in 1989. It seemed like a bad business decision since gamers no longer flocked to arcades. Nonetheless SNK released the MVS (Multi-Video System). The MVS allowed the arcade operator to house many different video games in a single cabinet.

The MVS's strengths lay in the design of its hardware. Its brain was composed of a 16-bit microprocessor (68000) and an 8-bit microprocessor (Z80). They were plentiful, cheap, and quite powerful for the time. Using them kept production costs down and made coding much easier. Both the 68000 and the Z80 were in common use at the time (Sega's Genesis had the same CPU combination, for example).

The real magic of the MVS lay in its custom graphics chipset, and its ability to hold up to four games at once while switching between them at will. While this multi-game concept had been tried before (one example being Nintendo's Playchoice system), SNK's hardware was far superior to any of the multi-game systems currently available, and its vast ROM storage capacity allowed for detailed graphics.

SNK took another gamble and created a home version of the MVS in 1990. The NEO GEO AES was released at a high cost of $650, and came with either NAM-1975 or Baseball Stars Professional. Other game cartridges came at a cost as high as $200 apiece. These cartridges played the exact same software as it's MVS counterpart, but were quite expensive due to the game' high megabit count.



At first SNK marketed the Neo Geo falsely by calling it a "24-Bit System" (due to its combination of a 16-bit and 8-bit processor). After the initial advertising campaign, SNK decided not to advertise their home system anymore, since games could be seen in nearly every arcade (and kind of advertised themselves).

SNK's gamble of entering the arcade / home game markets eventually paid off. In 1992, an game called Street Fighter 2 brought gamers back to the arcades. SNK took advantage of this by releasing similar arcade games such as Fatal Fury, and Art of Fighting. The games were quite successful, and many more were spawned. Third Party developers such as Data East began also producing titles for the Neo Geo AES / MVS.

SNK also created an innovative accessory that would become quite popular later. The Neo Geo 'memory card' could hold 19-27 save game positions, and worked on both the home and arcade systems. So a gamer could save their place in the arcade and take it home, and vice versa.

The Neo Geo was a phenomenal machine, but the high price tag catered to the hardcore arcade lovers only. Nonetheless it was an amazing machine that stood the test of time. The MVS alone managed to last over eight years in the demanding arcade environment, and its hardware has out-lived every other arcade hardware. Walk into any arcade, and you're bound to see a Neo Geo MVS.

The last game for the Neo-Geo system, Samurai Spirits Zero Special, was released on October 19, 2004. SNK ceased to manufacture home consoles by the end of 1997, but software for both formats and arcade hardware was produced for many years after. Measured from the introduction of the arcade hardware in 1990 to the release of the last home cartridge in 2004, the Neo-Geo's 14-year span of support from its manufacturer makes it the longest-lived arcade system, significantly longer-lived than either the Sega Naomi or the Capcom Play System 2.

FACT: "330 Meg Pro-Gear Spec" always seemed to appear in Neo Geo game intros, and was the ROM addressing technology of the Neo Geo. Truth is that the machine has no such limit. Back in 1990, SNK had to give a certain Megabit count as their maximum, and so 330 was used. However, Neo Geo titles eventually surpassed this 330 megabit standard. For example the game "King of Fighters 2001" was 892 megabits in size. Games over 100 megabits more this this limit, followed this screen by displaying an animation touting "The 100 Mega Shock". The original ROM size spec was later enhanced on cartridges with bank switching memory technology, increasing the maximum cartridge size to around 1 gigabit. These new cartridges also caused the system to display "GIGA POWER" upon startup, indicating this enhancement.

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