Monday, June 19, 2017

Official Variations of the Nintendo 8-bit NES/Famicom Console Hardware

Nintendo tried to get its 8-bit system into homes across the world.  It was most successful in Japan, the United States and Canada.  But it also distributed its hardware in many other countries, usually with the assistance of a local distributor.  Some of these systems are rather rare, but have been documented to exist.  In this blog post let I will attempt to identify every officially licensed variation of the 8-bit hardware Nintendo ever released.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Ownership of and Issues with the ColecoVision Trademark

Courtesy of Wikipedia

A few blog entries ago, I described the current state of the ColecoVision.  In that blog entry, I identified Coleco Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Dormitus Brands and previously River West Brands as the claimant of the trademark to the ColecoVision name.  Given certain recent interactions between Coleco Holdings and certain ColecoVision homebrew developers, I believe it is worth exploring Coleco Holdings' trademark claims in some detail.

First, let me begin by summarizing the recent news which has caused interest in this topic, then go on to describe how a trademark is registered and finally the law and facts surrounding the ColecoVision trademark.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

NES and Famicom Controller Compatibility Issues and AV Famicom Microphone Mod

Prior to the NES, most controllers had a joystick and one or two buttons.  The Atari joystick was wired in parallel, where one wire corresponded to one button, and pressing a direction or a button completed a circuit with the common (ground wire).  The program would read these button presses in parallel, where reading from a single memory location would give the state of each of the five buttons at one time.

Nintendo's controllers were to come with a D-pad and four buttons.  These were originally hard-wired in the Famicom but would have required at least nine wires if wired by the traditional parallel standard.  Moreover, if they wanted to use other kinds of peripherals, they may have found that difficult.  To cut down on wires, Nintendo decided to use a serial method for reading buttons.  This also allowed for more varied expansion, as will be discussed below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Guard to HD Nirvana : HDMI Licensing

The HDMI connector and cables are ubiquitous today for all high definition digital video devices.  The DVI port is essentially deprecated, DisplayPort has not really caught on at all outside PC Monitors and Thunderbolt is seldom used outside of Apple products.  All consumer HDTVs can be counted on having at least one or two HDMI inputs, and some even have an HDMI output for passing audio through to an audio receiver.

The HDMI connector is a consumer's dream, it just plugs in.  The connector is keyed and robust, you are unlikely to break any pins on an insertion.  The fit is snug enough that you don't need to fiddle with screws and cables can be hotswapped.  The connector and cable are thin enough to be mounted horizontally or vertically.  The cable carries audio and video, so it is as simple as you can get to hook up AV equipment.  Cables are cheap if you know where to shop, Monoprice built much of its business model on affordable HDMI cables.  Frequently, the HDMI connector is the only way to obtain HD input to your TV or monitor (apart from the digital TV/cable tuner using the coaxial screw, but the High Definition picture produced by this method usually leaves much to be desired).  HDMI is great but it is not free.  Let's take a look at the costs associated with HDMI and how some individuals and smaller, hobbyist and enthusiast-oriented retrogaming entities try to get around paying those costs.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rise From Your Grave : The Game Boy Interface

The Game Boy Player (GBP) is a genuine Game Boy Advance (GBA) console that attaches to a Nintendo GameCube (NGC),  It allows you to play Game Boy (DMG/MGB), Game Boy Color (GBC/CGB) and GBA games.  The device fit on one of the expansion ports on the underside of the NGC and could be screwed into it for a permanent attachment.  It was a very popular purchase, essentially the Super Game Boy 1/2 (SGB) two generations later.  Unfortunately, the GBP does not boot or do anything without the Official Boot Disc (OBD) that came with the system.  While the GBP is frequently sold with a NGC, the disc was often lost.  Burning a replacement disc involves finding an image, modding the NGC with a modchip to bypass its copy protection.  Relatively few people have the skill or the inclination to do that.  However, there is an alternative solution these days, and it is a magnificent one.  In this blog entry, I am going to describe my experiences with the Game Boy Interface (GBI) software.

Friday, May 26, 2017

HDMI Solutions for the NES - Mid 2017 Edition

If you want to play NES or Famicom games on a modern TV or monitor with a digital HDMI input, there are many options available.  In fact, there are far more options for the NES than any other console which did not natively have an HDMI connection.  In this blog article I will give a brief overview of the features and drawbacks of each method.  Going by cost and roughly analogous quotations from The Legend of Zelda, let's begin :

Monday, May 8, 2017

20th Century PC Game Remakes, Remasters, Sequels and Successors

The home computer has produced many, many classic and groundbreaking games.  Some games have been sufficiently successful to spawn a series, others have just been held to be a pinnacle in their own right without sequels.  Eventually, interest in many games and series that were once popular tends to wane and commercially many of these series were seen to have no future.  Occasionally, however, a long dormant game or series can be reactivated with a new sequel.  Since 2010, there have been quite a few new games released for the PC that are late sequels, remasters or spiritual successors of older classic PC games.  It is still somewhat rare for PC games to get remade, but those that do should be identified.  However, it is especially impressive for a game to be revived after ten years or more without a commercial release (budget re-releases don't count), so I am going to focus on those games.

In this blog article, I will try to identify games that were released during the twentieth century I will not be covering late ports or fan mods, otherwise the blog article may include too many games to manage.  Several games have been successfully ported to mobile devices, but tracking down ports is too much to manage with my ten-year rule.  I just don't have the time to track down every re-release of Dragon's Lair, Defender of the Crown or The Oregon Trail, games that always seem to be ported or rehashed.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reducing Disks on Later PC Game Releases - What is Lost

PC games were often re-released.  Even though they may be older, a budget-friendly price can attract a surprising number of buyers.  To keep the costs down, often games are released in smaller boxes, sometimes paper manuals turned into electronic manuals.  It is not unknown for a game to be released on fewer discs/disks than it was released on originally, without being put onto a higher capacity storage medium.  In this blog entry, I will discuss several famous examples where this occurred and what the effect of the disk/disc reduction was.