Tag Archives: MSX

Elite 25

Via-via, I heard about the 25th anniversary of the computer game ‘Elite’ (Wikipedia), indeed as Wikipedia calls it, the seminal Space/Trading/Combat game released in September of 1984. It was first released for an Acorn BBC and over the years it was (succesfully) ported to other 8 bit systems, like, in our case, the MSX computers.

If I remember correctly, we found out about the game in a popular tech magazine, which detailed the addictiveness and open-endedness of the game. The graphics for the game were pretty much advanced too, that is, for the early Eighties: I mean, who would have thought of using vector graphics to draw 3D spaceships and celestial bodies?

Eventually, a lot later than everybody else, we got our hands on a copy of the game and found out that ‘docking’ at space stations was a nearly impossible task. We weren’t the only ones who thought it was impossibler: Twenty five years later, David Braben (co-designer of the game) admitted:

Pt2. I might want to make docking a bit easier – but we did try at the time – we had no more memory to make it any more sophisticated.

Et tu, David?

That didn’t stop us from playing the game though: in fact, we managed to reverse-engineer the savegame file format. Which meant that we were able to give ourselves a whole bunch of credits, specialty upgrades and the inevitable and necessary ‘docking’ device (of course). Not bad and I wonder if that part was the foundation for the “file-format studies” I eventually embarked on in my career as a programmer.

I personally never made it to the rank ‘Elite': I can’t even remember how long I played it but it definitely wasn’t for years. Like all other games, it eventually wore out. I don’t think we ever discovered the proper bits to set this rank in our savefiles (we assumed it was heavily encoded with checksums). That is, until recently, I hear that the magic word was 0x1900.

Das Assortiment

Assorted links, noteworthy and that:

Just last week, an EA executive said that rivaling console makers should concentrate on making a single gaming platform. According to him, incompatible consoles made life harder for both developers and customers. Not surprising, the article reminds of this one time Microsoft initiative to create a common home computer platform, called MSX. Hey, you’ve heard it here before!

Sandisk is on a litigation rampage. It filed suit against 25 companies, claiming that they infringed on patents for a technology that most likely was not invented in their labs. The sun is free and that.

Via Alfons, I found out Google’s ‘Current Time Trick’, which allows you to find out what time it is in your favourite international city or capital of the world. If you weren’t already aware of this, to do this trick, you MUST HAVE INTERNET ACCESS of course. I throw in another trick: Windows only, if you keep the alt-key pressed in and click an icon on the desktop it will open the icon’s (program/shortcut) property-sheet. See also ‘Shell extensions’ in your Windows SDK book.

So, hey, KeePass, the password keeper software I have adopted since ages, has moved to .Net, and to be precise, its 2.0 version is written in C#. The source packages compile perfectly (without problems) in any Visual Studio version as long as you don’t forget to enter the right key number. For the unmanaged libraries, you may need to have a C/C++ compiler.

And last but not least, Gimp 2.4 was officially released yesterday, which comes with many exciting features, like… well, see for yourself.

What, Salamander?

By coincidence, I ran into videos of a guy completing the MSX game ‘Salamander’ (Salamander at Wikipedia). The video is in 4 parts and doesn’t include the very first stage: movies 1, 2, 3 and the end stage, 4. I discussed this game earlier: yesterday, last year and the year before that. Do I see a recurring pattern here?

There were a couple of things I recognized while watching those movies: I could identify most of the player’s actions. One of those actions is to spread out the ‘options’ [or clones as they were called too, so once in a while] as wide as possible so that every corner is covered by your firepower. I also recognized at what point ‘enemies’ would come from behind, a thought I find creepy and that only because it has been too many years ago.

While I’m on this MSX topic: In the early 80s, the MSX was heavily pushed by Microsoft (the company wrote the operating system [MSX-DOS at Wikipedia] and the BASIC programming language) under the slogan ‘one standard for computers’. I discovered this old video in which a very young Bill Gates explains why the MSX computers (both hardware and software) were the ‘logical next step’ in home computing.

You asked: most difficult shoot’em ups

Without a doubt, that would be Salamander, a Konami game released in 1986 (wikipedia). I played the game on an MSX-2 home computer and I actually tried to beat it last year (that older entry has a screenshot plus original sound!).

There are a couple of reasons why I think that game is so hard:

  • The game can be played with two players simultaneously, which shows: there’s so much action going on all over the screen that it is sometimes impossible to break through stages without any help.
  • The game features multi-directional scrolling in all stages.
  • There’s a frequent change of view: in most stages, you ‘fly from left to right’, however, there are 2 or 3 stages that shows your ‘ship’ from a birdsview.
  • ‘Yo Save Games are for losers’. There are no save games in Salamander. You’re supposed to beat the game. And you start with only 3 lives.

That said, I beat the game: However, if you plan to play it (there’s plenty of MSX emulators around nowadays), make sure you buy the right joystick. The game is all about counting.

I read that the Wikipedia article states that the MSX version contained way longer stages. Yeah: like if I didn’t know.

More Hardware

Alfons earlier One Chip MSX pointed to Basix, a company that recently released the One Chip MSX, a computer that is compatible with the MSX1/MSX2 standard1 (A press kit can be found here).

Actually, the box is supposed to do more than just emulating MSX/MSX2s: the main processor is actually a programmable logic device, which means that it should be able (according to the specs of that processor) to emulate other home-computers (Back in the days, quite a lot computers carried Z-80 processors).

It looks like the One Chip MSX comes with the typical two cartridge slots but not with (the typical) diskdrive(s). That said, the concept is neat.

Back to Linux: Slashdot carried a posting about D-Link and GPL violations in one of D-Link wireless devices (purportedly the device contained a modified Linux kernel). Earlier, D-Link undersigned the cease-and-desist order and halted distribution of the device but refused to reimburse the lawyer bills of the complaintant by suggesting that:

“Regardless of the repeatedly-quoted judgement of the district court of Munich
I, we do not consider the GPL as legally binding.”

OK. You can laugh now.

The last device I noticed was at Hauppage: The company recently released a wireless mediaplayer which is (surprisingly) powered by a penguin and a PowerPC processor.

1 For more on MSX, see also Wikipedia and MSX.org.