Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Atari 2600 (Computer #1)

I get moments of gut-wrenching, heart-squeezing sentimentality when I think of the computers I grew up with. Not because I was a nerd (though I was), but because computers were a wonderful escape into new worlds and -- later, when they became more sophisticated -- they allowed me to created my OWN new worlds, which is something I still love to do.

The beginning, for me, was the Atari 2600. I was probably 8 years old. I vividly remember the smell of the rubber joysticks which everybody chewed but few admit it. I'd sometimes play unsatisfyingly abstract games of Breakout, but my imagination was held most by the maze games we had: "Adventure" and "Maze Craze." I must have been a bit autistic because I was ENTHRALLED by mazes, I used to draw them and imagine them and write about them all the time. To this day I still get a thrill looking at a maze, and I have absolutely no idea why. Someday, to illustrate my mania, I'll post a picture of the ridiculous multi-page maze I spent months drawing in public school. You'll understand why my mating pool is so small.

I also get a thrill thinking about the Atari 2600. I haven't played one in about 25 years, so -- after some depressing auctions of the original article -- I've settled on an "Atari Flashback 2." It's pretty much the real thing with all the original quirks, and it's certainly more tangible than an emulator. I want to play these games on my TV...while chewing the joysticks.

And now, with experience in broadcast signals and assembly language, I better understand the terrifying process that went into creating these 4K games. I also understand why the Pac-Man ghosts flickered so horribly, and why the playfields tended to be horizontally symmetrical.

I don't have it yet, and maybe I'll be bitterly disappointed when I get it, and it will probably sit unused after the first few weeks...but I'd rather spend a small amount of energy and money on a throw-away toy than continue feeling my heart get squeezed like this.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

On "Law and Order Criminal Intent" tonight, one of the characters had a disease called labyrinthitis, which, as google tells me, is a disease of the inner ear that causes vertigo. I had never heard of the name before, but I have suffered a few times from something very similar--and once had to drive solo for 1500 miles suffering from the after-effects. To this day I don't know how I did it.

I just mention this to point out that "labyrinthitis" struck me as an elegant way of describing your maze mania.

I hope your flashback unsqueezes your heart.

Minotaur

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Labyrinthitis would be good if it actually caused problems for me in my life, but other than my desire to find out what's at the end of every corridor I see I think I'm doing pretty well.

I vote for "labyrinthaphilia."

Anonymous said...

I agree--much, much better.

What does a minotaur know? He has been punished: no Athenian youths for a month.

Dedalus

Anonymous said...

Sadly, minotaurs are not native to Madagascar, alhtough it would be a much more interesting place if they were.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

If minotaurs were anywhere, you can bet they'd be in Madagascar! Especially the jealous ones.

Anonymous said...

My bull-headed friend--literally, in his case--took ten pounds of wax and eighty pounds of feathers from dad's workshop and left this note:

"Gone on a trip to seek out minotaurettes. Madagascar is definitely not on the itinerary."

I hope you guys are happy. Ariadne has no one to play with now. This minotaur is not jealous, but very sensitive.

Now I have to catch about 500 more birds before I get my flying lessons.

Icarus

Muffy St. Bernard said...

That never ocurred to me: there WERE no Minotaurettes!

Poor thing! A real Tragedy!