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Spacewar 1 and the Beginnings of Video Game Aesthetics

Tales of the early days of the first digital video game.


Sometimes it’s only a short sentence, a few words dropped as an aside, which changes our understanding. A short glimpse, which provides deeper inside and understanding in what is a complex process. As it is here the case regarding how Spacewar!, the first digital video game became this remarkable program that gave birth to an entire industry. As usually, what was intended to be just a brief dump of an idea — at least, this is what a blog post is all about, isn’t it? — became lengthier than expected. Not for the least, as it’s still necessary to establish the subject, even as Spacewar! is rapidly progressing towards its 60th anniversary.

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Rare Retro-Computing Find

Atari Heavy Sixer running System V.

Illustation for April 1: Atari 2600 running System V in PDP/11 mode
Click for a larger image*).

Now this is some rare piece of equipment: An Atari 2600 “Heavy Sixer” running UNIX System V. The venerable VCS is attached to a box branded “pdp11/2600” and runs System V from a DEC cartridge. TTY is looped through the Spectravideo CompuMate keyboard add-on. Must investigate…

Illustation for April 1: Atari 2600 running System V, screen
A rare sight: System V on a color TV set.

However, the system is a bit finicky and runs about once a year.

*) Original image source, Atari 2600 & Spectravideo CompuMate: Avon Fox,
PS: Check the post date. ;-)

Great, A Boat is Stuck!

Finally, something to agree upon.

Illustation: A big boat stuck in the suez canal

So a boat is stuck in the Suez Canal. Why should this be great? Now, finally something to agree upon: it’s a boat, even a big boat, it’s stuck, and it’s in a canal, yes, in a big canal, in the Suez Canal…

See, how easy this may be?

Read more about why this is great here:

“I Like That The Boat Is Stuck” (

Check here, if there is still something to agree upon:

PDP-1 Spotting — The Mystery Solved

Update: Solving the Amherst Mystery.

Spotting PDP-1s (and trains)

Earlier, in our last blog story, we investigated into the mystery of what appeared to be a PDP-1 prototype at Amherst, which doesn’t seem to fit into computer history, as we know it. Now, I eventually found out what it is and how it fits into the lineage of PDP-1 machines. — So, without further spoilers, see the update to this post:

PDP-1 Spotting - The Amherst Mystery #Update

PDP-1 Spotting — The Amherst Mystery

Yet another PDP-1 riddle, extended mode.

Spotting PDP-1s (and trains)

Yesterday, we solved the mystery of two well-known images, formerly known as “The PDP-1 at the Tech Model Railroad Club”, with the help of the Hacker News community. — A triumph of shared knowledge.

In 1971, the German artist Daniel Chodowiecki (1726 – 1801) commented his etching “Enlightenment” (Aufklärung) by the words, “However, if the sun only rises, mists do no harm.” (Indessen wenn die Sonne nur aufgeht, so schaden Nebel nichts.) In real life, mists rise only to reveal another bank of fog. Which is the very process of research. — And this is certainly no exception. So this is a post about annother bank of fog, in the amazing form factor of a fully transitorized electronic contraption apt to manipulate 18-bit words in realtime according to a stored program and human interaction.

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Trainspotting (I)

A story of trains, computers, and two images.

Spotting trains and computers

This is at the same time a continuation to what may become a loose series, namely, “Things on the Web that aren’t what they seem to be”, and the beginning of an entirely new one. Anyway, this is the story of two photos that are rather well known in the context of computer history. You may even have seen one or the other popping up on a website.

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Update of the MOS 6502 Instruction Sheet

Some work for better accessibility.

MOS 6502 MPU
The MOS 6502 8-bit MPU designed by Western Design Center, Inc..

It looks about the same, but much has changed behind the scenes. What started out as a pure text file is now a properly marked up document with suitable semantics. E.g, the instruction details where formerly just a run of preformatted text, but are now a definition list. Each entry has its own summary paragraph, a synopsis, a flags-table and the instruction table proper with all the address modes. All tables come with proper headers, where appropriate also with scopes for columns, rows, and even groups. Many tables have changed to definition lists and there’s additional ARIA annotation available. (Some more broad scale information has been included before, but as an addition to this, all the new bits are labeled properly to tell what these are.)

And, since you can’t beat simple things, thanks to the wonders of CSS it still looks like a simple run of text.

— *phew!* —

See the 6502 Instruction Sheet:

Copy & Paste for PET 2001

A quick update on the PET 2001 online emulator.

Title: copy & paste for PET 2001 emulator
The PET 2001 emulator just became even better.

The PET 2001 online emulator just received its first sponsored update, by this advancing to version 1.4. And this update is all about Copy & Paste integration. — TLDR version; have a look at the respective section in the online help, accessible via the “Help” button on top of the emulator’s page.

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