Archive for September, 2014

A program that a friend of mine wrote on the Commodore 64 to promote my father’s expanding video store business. This would often play on a TV in his main store to attract potential partners. He also used a printed version of it when he met with people. This is screen capture of the program running in VICE, an emulator for Mac OS X (et al). I pulled the program from the original disk I had with a device called the ZoomFloppy that interfaces modern computers with the Commodore 1541 disk drive.

A gallery of sprites I made on the Commodore 64 circa 1984. I used “Sprite Magic”, a type-in program which was featured in a magazine called Compute!’s Gazette, to create the sprites. These were to be used in an adventure game, but I never did finish it. This gallery is taken from an actual 5 1/4″ Commodore 1541 floppy disk that I copied to .d64 format for use on an emulator on my MacBook.

Ninja Fight – 1985

Posted: 23 September 2014 in Arts, Movies, Music, Personal History, Retro

When I was in high school, one of my dreams was to become a film maker. I had made some stop-motion animation tests in Eighth Grade, mostly with a black-and-white video camera and Betamax machine but also some 8mm film (which never got developed). I’m not sure if the videotapes still exist or not, but I did find one tape a few years back that contained a martial arts (ninja) movie I made in high school circa 1985. The tape had deteriorated so bad that it was barely salvagable. The in-camera edits caused many dropouts and glitches because the Beta VCR we used didn’t have a flying erase head.

I edited it a bit with some sound effects and slow motion just to play around with iMovie and get it down to a tolerable length. I also added the original soundtrack (also salvaged from an old audio tape) back in since the copy I had was an older edit. No amount of editing or digital restoration can help the content though.

Anyway, here it is…

The Frame – Jamin Winans

Posted: 23 September 2014 in Arts, Movies, News

Just watched the trailer for “The Frame”, an upcoming movie by Jamin Winans. It’s hard to tell much about the movie from the trailer, but if this movie is anything like Winans’ previous films, then it will certainly be worth seeing.

Jamin Winans is known for the movie “Ink”, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The only reason I don’t rank it number one is because that spot is reserved for “Star Wars”. I first saw Star Wars (now Episode IV) during its premiere run in 1977 when I was in Fourth Grade. No matter how much critics berate it or how bad it really is, I’ll always remember it through a Fourth Grader’s eyes and the excitement I had watching it again and again.

But “Ink” is far better in terms of storytelling, an intellectual movie for the adult mind. The music and cinematography are also wonderful. What’s sad is that no major movie studio would pick up Ink (opting for lower quality crap IMO), so Jamin Winans and his wife, Kiowa, distributed it on DVD, Blu-Ray, and online themselves. Ink’s popularity is due in part to its release onto Torrent sites. Here’s what the Winans had to say about it:

Dear Fans and Friends,

Over the weekend something pretty extraordinary happened. Ink got ripped off. Someone bit torrented the movie (we knew this would happen) and they posted it on every pirate site out there. What we didn’t expect was that within 24 hours Ink would blow up. Ink became the number 1 most downloaded movie on several sites having been downloaded somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 times as far as we can tell. Knowing there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, we’ve embraced the piracy and are just happy Ink is getting unprecedented exposure.

As a result, Ink is now ranked #16 on IMDb’s movie meter and is currently one of the top 20 most popular movies in the world.

This all started as a result of the completely underground buzz that you’ve each helped us create. We’ve had no distributor, no real advertising and yet the word of mouth that you’ve generated has made the film blow up as soon as it became available worldwide. So many of you came to see the movie multiple times, bringing friends and family and many of you have bought the DVD and Blu-ray from us. All of this built up and built up and suddenly it exploded.

We don’t know exactly where this will all lead, but the exposure is unquestionably a positive thing.

Ink hits Netflix, Blockbuster, iTunes and many more tomorrow! Remember to get your signed copies, t-shirts and posters at the Ink Store.

Thank you so much for the constant love and support.

Jamin and Kiowa
Double Edge Films

Here is the full story.

Here’s the trailer for Ink:

Winans has also made numerous shorts, including “Uncle Jack”, which is my favorite from him.

Retro, Retro – Metropolis

Posted: 21 September 2014 in Information, Movies, Music, Retro

Just finished watching the 1984 Giorgio Moroder version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 futuristic dystopian classic “Metropolis”.  I had seen the original years ago, but never the 1984 Moroder version.  I have to admit, I quite enjoyed the 80s soundtrack – a double dose of retro – though the version was panned by many critics.  I’ve always enjoyed Moroder’s work, especially his movie soundtracks — Scarface, Midnight Express, Electric Dreams, Flashdance, Top Gun, just to name a few.

Many scenes from the original were lost over time, but have been rediscovered.  Moroder’s version from 1984 did an admirable job of reconstructing the film from what was available, but was still very incomplete.  According to Wikipedia the run times are:  153 minutes (1927 premiere, lost); 82 minutes (1984 restoration); 118 minutes (2002 restoration); and 148 minutes (2010 restoration).  The 2010 restoration is the most complete to date after a 16mm negative was discovered in Argentina containing footage previously thought lost forever.

I ran across this the other day and wanted to repost it.

Making a C64/C65 compatible computer in an FPGA

It’s a project by Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen to develop a Commodore 64 / Commodore 65 compatible system in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). There have been other similar projects for the Commodore 64, but not a hardware version of the Commodore 65 (a successor to the C64, but was unreleased to the mass market, with only a few of the prototypes being sold) that I know of.

What I like about this is that Dr. Gardner-Stephen (in his own words) “purposely used an off-the-shelf FPGA board, so no one has to wait for a PCB production run. Just buy yourself a Nexys4 board and get a spare SD card 2GB or less in size.”

Specs for the board are here (on the Digilent website – not an advertisement, just the first site I ran across).

I’m looking forward to seeing a completed version of a hardware (FPGA) Commodore 64.

Two-Nexys4s-ethernet

VNC ViewerScreenSnapz009

The Annelid Project – Coming Soon

Posted: 16 September 2014 in Writing

Hoping to finish our first novel soon.

Chronology Protection Conjecture

Introducing 80 Days

Posted: 10 September 2014 in Uncategorized

As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I’d post the authors’ video introduction to their interactive book 80 Days. Looks interesting. Kind of like choose-your-own-adventure books.

I just read an article on CNN.com about “superbooks” (CNN’s term), interactive books that let you participate in the story.

The full article is here.

It’s an interesting concept, but is really nothing new.

Interactive Fiction as a computer medium has been around since the 70s when Will Crowther made Colossal Cave Adventure (also known as ADVENT, Colossal Cave, or Adventure) circa 1975-76 for the PDP-10 system. Crowther was a programmer and caving enthusiast who based the layout on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. He later collaborated in 1976–1977 with Don Woods, who made significant expansions and improvements with Crowther’s blessing. A big fan of Tolkien, Woods introduced additional fantasy elements, such as elves and a troll. (Wikipedia)

Another well-known interactive fiction work was Zork: The Great Underground Empire, also created on a PDP-10 in 1977-1979 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling, MIT students at the time.

Zork was my first experience with interactive fiction. My father gave me the only copy he had for sale in his video store, the Commodore 64 version.

Zork I C-64 Folio

I was surprised that the article mentioned nothing about the previous interactive fiction games and companies, especially popular through the 80s. Not to mention Graham Nelson’s fantastic (my opinion) interactive fiction authoring system Inform 7.

After reading the article from CNN, I explored the inkle studios website (here) and found that Emily Short is a contributor to their work. Emily is well known in the interactive fiction community, working on the Inform 7 project and authoring several works of her own. Her WordPress blog can be found here. Very interesting reading.

I’m curious to see how “superbooks” catch on with readers.

I still enjoy the Infocom-style (et al) interactive fiction games.

A letter dated August 26, 1952 we found in the projection booth of the old Ritz Theatre in Ansted, WV when my father was preparing to reopen it as Cinema 63 in 1978.

Ritz_Letter

More information at Cinema Treasures http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/44697/photos

The 1863 Cinema flyer advertising the opening of Cinema 63:

20130330-160700.jpg

Flyer advertising an Atari game tournament at my father’s video and computer store, Computavid, on Saturday November 6th, 1982.

Computavid_Atari_Tournament

Screenshots of the competition games…

Megamania

MegaMania(1982)(Activision)

Cosmic Ark (space)

ca_space_shoot

Cosmic Ark (surface)

Cosmic_Ark_2600_ScreenShot4

Atlantis

atlantis_atari_2600_2

Various pictures of the 1863 Cinema circa 1979 and 2000.

I’m currently reading (actually listening to the audio book) Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and it reminded me of “Nightfall”, one of his short stories. It also reminded me of Robert Reed’s short story “Night Calls”, which apparently pays homage to “Nightfall”. I read Reed’s story in Asimov Magazine a couple of times, but didn’t really get the point of it. I thought the author would appreciate an inquiry, so I sent this to him:

Hi Bob,

I read “Night Calls” a while back (twice actually) in Asimov’s, and I’m hesitant to ask this because I’m probably missing the obvious, but could you explain to me what it was about? I’m sure there’s something deeper, but I just didn’t get it.

Thanks (and I hope I’m not coming across as implying something was wrong with the story).

Kevin

I was quite surprised when I got the following snarky reply:

Hello Kevin,

Nope, I’m not helping. You’re on your own.

Thanks,

Bob R.

Not sure what his problem was. My reply:

I thought you’d appreciate the inquiry. You didn’t have to be a d*** about it even if you do think it’s beneath you to explain what it was about. Sorry I f****** asked.

Probably not very professional of me I know, but I included my response in this post in the spirit of full disclosure. I’m sure Reed and/or his fans will have issue with my comments regarding his attitude, but I dont care. It was rude and uncalled for.