I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but, something isn't quite right here....
Yesterday, September 23, was officially autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere: a fact that prompted a very frustrated gamer to ask Atari what was going on with the product that he had forked over hundreds of dollars for more than a year earlier. “On your blog and repeatedly online you promised substantial updates this …
Get away clean ? I think they've already blown that as well. Atari fans will never forget this shambles of a botched project, nor the names of the people attached to it. The head architect may have gone to another startup, but that will not diminish the furor of the people who paid good money on a promise made of empty.
And frankly, said architect managed to go for over a year with nothing to show for in the end. I would not want to have anything to do with his new startup after such dismal results.
I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but, something isn't quite right here...
Inspector Reddit: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Sherlock Reg: To the curious incident of Atari in the night-time.
Inspector Reddit: Atari did nothing in the night-time. Nor in the day, for that matter. For several years now and counting.
Sherlock Reg: That was the curious incident.
I had an Atari 800XL too and I feel *exactly* the same way. For all that I can get nostalgic about the system, loading games from cassette is the one aspect that remains stubbornly resistant to rose-tinted glasses.
I think it was particularly slow because the original Atari 800 was released back when 8K RAM was standard, and loading 8K at that speed would have been nowhere near as painful as the later 48K and 64K games were. I eventually bought a tape-to-disk thing which I wish I'd bought years earlier (since I had loads of tape-only budget games). Urrrrrgh.
This damn game was what I remember. I remember how much my 8yo self hated loading it and I remember how frustrated I was until I figured out you have to press the joystick button (as you know only one back then) when ball gets to your guy to catch (Madden was almost still coaching then forget in a game which came much later so sure foreign to kids today). Loved the game even though was laggy IIRC. Luckily not too long after my dad bought a floppy drive and joined some local shareware type club (read pirate disks to each other) and that era was quickly over.
(edit: Turns out it was hard to time button press to catch the ball anyway so sure that is why burned in my memory decades later).
I personally find it hard to understand why many fork out major cash for such baubles in the first place, even when they are a reality.
So being prepared to send ~$400 to a ghostly outfit, trading under a brand name long synonymous with failure, for stuff that only exists on a webpage (at most), does sound a bit unhinged to me...
"Atari" is a brand custodian nowadays. They get by with licensing and outsourcing, and in the case of "Atari VCS," crowdfunding. They don't make original games anymore and their biggest cash cow is licensing the Roller Coaster Tycoon name from someone else. This project seems like an attempt to paint on a thin layer of competence, perhaps to raise their stock price or fatten them up for acquisition. It won't/can't work, because of their stunning incompetence.
Atari did well in the '80s and for some insane reason decided to enter the PC compatible market at a time when PC's were sold at a loss by the trustees of bankrupt PC makers. They failed to re-enter to console market but became a successful litigation company in the '90s. The company changed hands many times and released a bunch of new games. It filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013 and the current Atari is what rose from the grave mumbling "brains... brains... brains..."
tl;dr - Original Atari Inc. split in mid-80s after videogame crash, its two "successors" are both themselves long defunct, PCs weren't a major factor, and today's "Atari(s)" are just what used to be Infogrames.
Longer reply- Bits of that are right, but lots isn't.
The original Atari Inc. did well in the *early* 80s... right up until the 1983 North American video game crash hit and Warners' former golden goose started haemorrhaging money. *That* was what brought about the end of the "original" (and some would argue only true) Atari.
In 1984 Warner sold off the computer/console division to Jack Tramiel- forming the basis of his "Atari Corporation"- leaving behind the arcade division ("Atari Games"), which was sold completely separately the following year.
This site suggests the PC line came out in 1987, i.e. under Tramiel's ownership. I think it was a red herring, rather than the reason for even Atari Corporation's downfall- I don't recall it being that big a deal at the time, when Atari Corp. was enjoying success in Europe with the Atari ST.
It was more the decline of the ST and the failure of their later products (including the Jaguar console) that brought about Atari Corp's enforced demise in the mid-90s when (as you suggest) it had lots of money from litigation, but no products or future. It effectively died after its "merger" with JTS (a second-rate HDD manufacturer), which was little more than a mechanism for Tramiel to reinvest Atari's monetary value in JTS.
One can argue about how much of a "true" successor Atari Corporation was to the original Atari Inc. They continued the existing products, but got rid of most of the existing staff and the "Power Without the Price" approach of the Atari ST, shoestring operation and general philosophy of Tramiel's Atari was completely different to that of Atari Inc. under Warner's ownership.
Regardless, both Atari Corp. and Atari Games are themselves long defunct, and anything after that *is* just exploitation of the name and IP. As far as I'm aware, the current Atari(s) are just the descendants/subsidiaries of Infogrames, which bought the rights in the early 2000s and renamed itself "Atari".
Atari and JTS?? omg.
Haven't heard that name in a long time. In fact, I think I heard it only once. Unfortunately, it was a week when I was fed up with reliability problems of WD, Seagate, Quantum, Maxtor, Samsung and IBM drives, and lamenting the lack of an alternative (yes, "way back then"). Then I saw a JTS drive...bought a pair for a project, figuring "how bad can they be?"
Answer: unbelievably bad. Stunningly, incredibly, never-seen-before bad, leading to a disaster of a project (including data loss I absolutely could not blame on the client) which I'd love to forget... "second rate" doesn't begin to describe JTS drives.
Infogrames (I rather not call them as Atari, they don't deserve it) pining for the good ol' days as usual. They've always been a huge scumbag of a company ever since they failed to be like one of the major players. Anyone remember the whole Driv3r scandal many years?
The last good thing I remember Atari doing was Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, but they fell out with the developers, Frontier. So when years later Frontier and Atari go head to head on new theme park tycoon/sim games... avoid Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 and get Frontier's Planet Coaster instead. Atari cheaped out and went for the cheapest developers they could find, after going through two different developers they ended out with a mobile games developer... for what is supposed to be a relatively high-end PC Game... it did not end well. Planet Coaster meanwhile continues to go strong.
As Frontier goes, well before Planet Coaster had already made Elite Dangerous and since made Jurassic World Evolution and this November have Planet Zoo due to come out.
He's lucky* enough to work on whatever he wants whatever he wants, so he designed the system they asked for, but he's not going to build each unit. That's up to the handful of marketing idiots that run the hollowed-out shell of the once-great name.
* if you can call the original XBox and the PS3 luck.
Is it just me or does this look delightfully similar to the Speccy reborn fiasco (that's all gone quiet ... what's happened to it ...?)
I can't believe how people can complain when they freely give money to someone they don't know, to build something which is not even designed, for delivery at some point in the future ...
Simple way out of this conundrum : don't pay up front for something that doesn't exist unless you are happy and willing to own snake oil.
There does seem to be a pattern emerging. The extra spice is that, unlike perpetual motion machines or Solar Highways!, none of these projects are technically infeasible. You'd quite reasonably think someone could stick a raspberry pi or android tablet in a box and job's a good 'un. Probably they did too.
Which "Speccy reborn"?
The Vega appeared.
The Vega+ is a thing of myth and legend.
The Spectrum Next is waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for keyboards, but they have at least issued the dev boards, so the guts of the machine do exist. And I've played with a couple at shows (not quite complete as they're still waiting for keyboards, but working).
I still have high hopes for the SpecNext, because everyone I've spoken to who's involved is really enthusiastic, answers any questions you have, are refusing to take orders for more, and seem to slump almost imperceptibly when you ask them about keyboards.
Are there others in the works?
FFS, it's a friggin *KEYBOARD* Unless they are trying to assemble it out of UnObTanium, wtf is the delay in making them?
Fer chrissake, let's stupify this for the masses. It's a whole bunch of friggin switches that one closes when you press a key, and are open when you do not. There is a grid of traces on a PC board, a bunch of rubber doogles that have alphanumeric characters on them, and a plastic 'template' that keeps them doogles relatively in place. You press the doogle, it closes the circuit, a chip sees that, and it can figure out what key was pressed, then squirts that data to wherever it needs to go (USB, IO port, wheredafuk, etc)
HOW FUGGIN HARD IS IT TO DESIGN A SIMPLE ASS KEYBOARD? Especially for a chunk of old ass hardware whose behavior is *very* well known? Are they idiots? Are they fools? Are they incompetent? (realizing I have very little idea what the measure of competence for this situation is....)
The *only* thing I can think of, is that they're trying to re-create the unreliable, mushy, squishy behavior of the original keyboard, and every test sample they've gotten back from manufacturers is simply too reliable and usable for their standards.
Meanwhile, it is Wednesday, which means the sammich shop near work has a two for one deal. Sounds like breakfast time to me, at 9:07 EST.
I love the reg. I get to vent my frustration caused by users by ranting like a crazy person at times. It helps me keep my sanity, and prevents bad karma when I have to go fix their stapler. Yes, a system admin gets called to fix a stapler. Granted, it's an electric power stapler, and I can only trust the user to staple their fingers together (not my problem, the stapler worked, didn't it?). But such is the life, innit?
The prototype that I played with worked. But that was only for a minute or two.
My understanding of the issue is that superficially the keyboard was fairly good, but they were determined to make the keystrokes lighter. That involved reducing the number of layers in the membrane. But that introduced a number of combinations where the keys would clash. You press three keys at once, and a fourth appears instead. I had that on a keyboard on my old Archimedes - it was fucking horrible, and we ended up going back to the old model that the shop had kicking about and which was the wrong colour.
I could be wrong on that one. Go and speak to the SpecNext guys and they'll explain that better.
Again, my understanding is that the reason they couldn't just copy the old Spectrum membrane is that they wanted to put some extra keys in there. In the end they've commandeered a couple of extra I/O lines to drive the keyboard, eliminating the key clash.
And again, I could be wrong with that one - this is all my understanding of the situation, and whilst I'm interested I've not been watching intently.
So now they have new keys, membranes and key frames being manufactured in a short run for final testing. My impression is that that should be done any time now, and they can start assembling the keyboards.
For those with the dev boards, you can just shove in a PS/2 keyboard. So whilst those backers for the full machine have been frustrated (and for a long time now), those who just wanted the board have been able to get on with using the machine. The silicon itself exists.
Anyway, as I say, I'm familiar with the situation, but not in huge depth. I'm not involved with the project in any way (other than thinking it's a ludicrously pretty machine, and pestering them to sell me one from the second batch!), so if you're really wanting accurate details then go to the source. They've at least got much more info than the Vega+ debacle.
And (as I say) working silicon. In the wild!
My old employers bought a system that replaced a reliable but aging one. The new system came with a 'special' keypad for each setup where we'd just been able to use a Mouse & QWERTY before. One of the supporters of the new system was harping on about how the keypad was a beautiful thing. They charged an arm and a leg for this hardware and I pointed out that this was an off the shelf item. I said we were being charged an arm and a leg for the labelling on the keypad. I said we could do the same with some transfer lettering and lacquer. Sadly the head of technology was a fan and my comments fell on deaf ears.
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Careful there, because the Spectrum Vega actually appeared. It's basically an 8-button device to plug into your telly. The handheld Vega+ is the absent one.
Even got a listing on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B013BC7IR6/
Not that you can buy one now (or ever again, because it's Retro Computers).
I've said it several times before, but it bears repeating. This "VCS" is pure nostalgia/name recognition exploitation- it has no logical reason to exist beyond that.
It's been possible to emulate the VCS since the 1990s, and the software to do so is widely available. By modern standards, its power is ludicrously dwarfed- and should be easily emulatable on- even the most underpowered computer. (#) Even the original Raspberry Pi could do it in its sleep.
Even the Joe Average that just wants an off-the-shelf experience and doesn't want to piss about with MAME has been sold officially-endorsed recreations, emulations and compilations of the same old VCS games countless times. This has been happening since Hasbro bought the IP in the late 90s. I'm surprised people aren't bored of it by now.
There's absolutely *no* logical necessity for have a new console just to run VCS games. But conversely, it only exists because of that. Take away the cliched woodgrain, VCS branding, "Atari" connection et al, and it's just some arbitrary gaming hardware that none of the VCS fanboys would give a second glance, which wouldn't stand a chance in hell of being a "proper" console able to get the support needed to compete with the PS4 and XBox One.
In fact, it's obvious that it still won't. They sold it as a "modern" VCS that would run new games, and I'm sure that the buyers will- or rather, would have- rationalised it that way, but we all know that they'll run a few VCS games- that they could have played in numerous other places anyway- realise how dated most of them are, piss about with the "new" stuff, realise there's not much of note, then leave the thing gathering dust at the back of a cupboard.
Or rather, they would have if "The Creature Wearing The Skin Of Atari" had actually managed to release it. By not doing so, they're actually freeing up that valuable cupboard which would have been wasted if it *had* been released.
Which is nice of them.
(#) I'm aware that there are still some issues with emulation due to the fact that VCS programming was incredibly primitive and the epitome of low level "bare metal" design- because there was no other way to do it- and thus dependent upon timing issues and quirks of the original hardware that aren't always easy to recreate. But this has nothing to do with how powerful the emulating hardware is, per se.
(##) And that's assuming they can even manage *that*... which they clearly can't, so far.
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On a 3D printer, hotel rooms, websites, marketing and "expenses" . Shame really as some of us would like to re-capture our youth and don't have the time to build one ourselves.
Back to repairing my old CPC 6128 and seeing if any of the games still work (anyone know of a good place to get decent nine pin joysticks?)
Back to repairing my old CPC 6128 and seeing if any of the games still work (anyone know of a good place to get decent nine pin joysticks?)
3D printerer your own and build these DIY-style?
Should not be that difficult, I assume that the paddles and joysticks were simple devices and can be duplicated quite easily.
That's ironic, as the Amiga has far more claim in terms of lineage to be the "true" descendant of the Atari VCS- via the Atari 800- than the Atari ST does.
It shared several of the same designers- after they'd left Atari and formed their own company. (#) It had architectural similarities- the copper was arguably a more powerful version of the same approach taken by the ANTIC graphics co-processor in the Atari 800 (which had in turn significantly built on and improved the architecture and approach of the original VCS design). And much like the 800 when it first came out, it used lots of custom chips to create a machine that was both state of the art and expensive.
The Atari ST was created after Jack Tramiel bought Atari Inc's former computer/console division, sacked most of the existing staff and had his own people work on an entirely new design that was far more along the lines of "Power without the Price".
(#) The major design work had already been done by the time Commodore bought it in
There's parallels between the "wars" which occurred between the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
In both cases, Commodore released a highly capable machine stuffed with custom chips, while their rivals released a machine which contained the bare minimum hardware necessary to compete.
As a result, the ZX Spectrum and Atari ST were both cheaper than their respective Commodore brethren, and captured a lot of market share as a result. Though in both cases, the cheaper machines eventually ended up being outmatched - and arguably out-lasted - by the more expensive machines, as people learned to make better use of the higher-end hardware.
(admittedly, the ZX Spectrum had a few tricks up it's sleeve, in the shape of a faster CPU and the release of the 128k models, which proved far more popular than the C128. And the Atari ST enjoyed a long life in various recording studios, as it was very capable when it came to using MIDI. But there's only so much background you can shoehorn into a paragraph or two...)
Not that it really mattered in the end, as the IBM PC juggernaut rolled over everything in the end!
> The Atari ST was created after Jack Tramiel bought Atari Inc's former computer/console division, sacked most of the existing staff and had his own people work on an entirely new design that was far more along the lines of "Power without the Price".
If I remember correctly, it was a bit more convoluted than that. In essence, some people left Atari and founded the Amiga Corporation to build a next-gen computer.
Skip forward a few years, and Jack Tramiel acrimoniously left Commodore and bought Atari from Warner Bros. At the same time, Amiga were running out of money and ended up taking a loan from Atari, with the caveat that if they failed to repay the loan, Atari would take ownership of their IP.
So, Atari and Jack were sitting there and rubbing their hands together in glee at the thought of getting this next-gen technology effectively for free, when in stepped his old company, Commodore. Who first gave Amiga Corp the money needed to pay off Atari's loan, and then purchased them outright.
Unsurprisingly, Jack was a little incensed by this, and demanded that his Atari engineers build a rival computer which could undercut Commodore's marvel machine. And at least partly thanks to the powers of litigation (deliberate or otherwise), they were able to steal a march on Commodore and release the Atari ST several months before the first Amigas began to appear on shop shelves...
While I've seen various people dispute the fine details surrounding the development of the ST and the legal issues relating to the acquisition of the Amiga, this is- as far as I'm aware- broadly correct.
Something I forgot to mention in arguing that the ST was less the heir of the Atari 800 and VCS than the Amiga was is also that it was based more around "off-the-shelf" technology with less custom silicon than the Amiga. This probably helped its quick development, although the speed of its design is still generally considered impressive. (It also reinforces the comparison- in your other comment- of the ST as being somewhat the 16-bit equivalent of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum).
Atari needs to go dig up those unwanted copies of "E.T.--the Video Game" that were landfilled back in the early 80s and distribute them to the new VCS customers. This will either sate them in their desire for something tangible, or remind them that the actual return of Atari VCS after all these years is perhaps not such a good thing.
A quickie google and wikipedia gives this timeline :
September 1975 - Wescon trade show : MOS technology 6502 introduction
December 1975 - prototype development
March 1976 - Second prototype completed
November 1976 - Fairchild releases Fairchild Channel F home console, putting pressure on Atari
1977 - Sellout to Warner Bros, WB gives Atari $100mil cash injection
September to November 1977 - First unit ships to retailers
I'm not buying "NDA" as a reason for his silence. I'm pretty sure you can't use an NDA like that.
If the company itself claims - or at least, refuses to correct the impression by others - that he's still with them, then if he is still working for them he can say so (because he's only confirming what they've already intimated), and if he isn't he can also say so (because they're defaming him otherwise).
It's a Ponzi schema, no less. And yes, it will end up badly.
"But with huge numbers of people having already paid the company $329 for their chance to get an updated version of the classic Atari VCS console"
Time for some courageous folks to thank them all for paying the bills and salaries for the 10 persons still profiting at the zombie remaining of Atari.
So long and thanks for all the fish !
"We remain confident in our predictions over the Atari VCS’ future success."
The what success ? Nothing of this name exists here ...
With Rasp. PI3 being so cheap and already running whatever emulator you want, 2600 or otherwise, and those bozos not even being able to showcase a single game, there is absolutely no doubt no-one has ever done anything about this project, outside of an empty plastic case.
Depressingly, showing empty cases at game industry events is common, though usually the box redirects cabling from the badly hidden, high end developer PC running an emulator or prototype boards that won't fit in the real case. If they couldn't even be bothered hooking up a PC running a VCS emulator behind a curtain...
Bring extra sleaze to a sleazy business.
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I'm sure you can be removed for stating "scientific facts" that are neither scientific nor factual. If that's a fact at all, it's a linguistic one (hinging on the definition of "gender").
As a scientific hypothesis, it was disproven several thousands of years ago, when it was discovered that you could make men less... masculine by cutting their balls off.
Sounds about right as I had a 2600 as a child. I just retired so don't have long to go. Good news though; The old 2600 still works and the only repair was replacing the big capacitor in the power supply brick.
This current Atari VCS 'company' is nothing more than the brand name owned by lawyers, FYI. Read the previous excellent evaluation by El Reg for the full details.
From June 2018
But most of all, we would like to apologize, sincerely, to all our readers and to anyone considering putting down money for the Atari VCS for completely omitting a critical part of the interview in our original article.
We made no mention of the fact that there is every reason to believe that Atari's entire enterprise is being funded by hype and that the only way the company can afford to create even its first console is by persuading people to hand over their cash before the company itself has a working prototype.
Atari has entered the vapourware age 40 years too late.
Last time they fucked up, we had a landfill as proof. You can delete a Reddit subpost, but you can't delete a landfill with ET cartridges. And in both cases, people would notice it.
At least there is no ground pollution with heavy metals and plastic, for once.
It's evolution. Sorta.
To be honest, even taking the piss out of them in this way reinforces their pretence that the modern "Atari" is remotely the same company as- or a continuation in anything other than name of- the one that buried the ET cartridges (and which made all those classic games and hardware).
Really, the sight of some minor subsidiary of the post-bankruptcy Infogrames-masquerading-as-Atari scrabbling to get funds for a completely pointless nostalgia exploiting console makes even Jack Tramiel's shoestring-budget Atari Corporation look good.
Most of the components for their consoles have been reproduced quite faithfully in FPGAs. They have access to everything that was used to produce the originals (Design specs, silicon masks, etc). Even if they had to rebuild the systems by de-capping the silicon and reverse engineering it by hand with a microscope, they still should have finished by now. I assume that they would just go the easy route and implement each system as a separate FPGA and just set up some kind of switching logic to control which chip gets the control input and video output. Once that's done, then sending the VHDL over to the sand benders to cut some wafers.
But, in any case, they should have at least finished -something- by now. Even something as simple as a 2600 running the original code would be fine.
Pretty certain you're expecting too much and it's just going to be some poxy emulator-based thing anyway, not a hardware recreation. The only reason this is a problem is that they're designing a whole new modern console to run it on (which I've already ranted about in more detail here) despite the fact you could probably emulate the original VCS on anything more powerful than a musical Christmas card nowadays.
I figured they had to be doing it in hardware because of how long it'd take and how they are promoting it. If its just an ARM chip running some software, then this thing it pointless and I figured that the fans would stop throwing money at it.
But now that I know its just an emulator running on top of a Linux system, I am going to have to lower my expectations of rationality of the Gamer community, which has been pretty damn low since that massive tantrum in 2014 (I still can't quite wrap my head around what got them so irrationally angry...)
Despite the media's (and their own) habit of lumping together supposed groups of people with similar interests as a "community", I'm not sure that the people (potentially) interested in the new "VCS" is necessarily the same group as that which drove the Gamergate thing a few years ago.
I'm sure there's *some* overlap, but I wouldn't treat the two groups as synonymous. I mean, *I'm* discussing this here because I'm interested in 80s gaming and video games. But I really couldn't give a damn- or tell you anything about- anything remotely recent, or even most things released in the past 20 years, and I have sod all in common with the Gamergaters.
Anyways courts all over the world have better things to do than regulate the lies of an over-promising, under-delivering shart (one of many) - so why trouble the law with any of this?
Or maybe people will NOW decide to get off their backside and class action their monies back.
Once again we see a case for either buying an original with the cartridges off eBay or the slightly more "iffy" route of emulation on another system. I cannot believe people keep falling for these stupid retro consoles, promises, funding, money paid over and no product after 2 years. When are you people going to learn?
Let's all repeat this together..."If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.".
There's nothing "too good to be true" about the proposed console. In fact, there's nothing much good about it at all, it's just some arbitrary hardware using (presumably emulated) VCS compatibility as a selling point when you've already been able to do that on even the most underpowered computer for years now.
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