The excitement of a game...
The mind of a computer!
Even Mom likes the O2!
 Back from the Dead: Two Lost Videopac Interviews

I'm very pleased to report that I've managed to restore two "lost" Videopac interviews. Each of these were available on other Web sites that have since gone offline. It's been a few years since either was last available.

The first is an interview I conducted with Jon Shuttleworth, the Philips employee largely responsible for the distribution, design, and even the name of the Videopac G7000. Mr. Shuttleworth reveals several anecdotes, such as how the original 1979 launch of the G7000 was delayed by a power defect, and where he and Dolf van de Paauw thought up the name "Videopac." I conducted this interview back in 2001 for ClassicGaming.com, which at the time was one of the best retrogaming sites around. Sadly, it's now gone. Luckily, I found a backup copy of the interview text and am pleased to make it available once again.

The second is an interview conducted by Maurice "BuckyB" Simon with Gil Williamson, one of the principals at the UK-based Amazon Systems, the software firm that developed Tutankham for the G7000. This interview was conducted before the Tutankham proto was found, when the game was still only a rumor – so, as you can imagine, it was a revelation at the time. It was published, in Portuguese, on the Brazilian site Odyssey Mania, another fine site which has unfortunately evaporated into the electronic ether. However, I had saved a copy of it, so I contacted Maurice, and pieced the original English text back together with the help of his notes and my backup copy. Again, I'm pleased to make this piece of Videopac history available again, and I thank Maurice for his help.


 K.C. Munchkin... Now for Atari 7800!

Atari 7800 K.C. Munchkin!

I've been meaning to post this for a while but somehow kept forgetting to do so. Homebrew developer Robert DeCrescenzo has completed an impressively accurate Atari 7800 port of K.C. Munchkin!. Cartridge copies are currently for sale at the AtariAge Store.

The game faithfully recreates the Odyssey² original, right down to the purple color scheme and blocky O2 score font. K.C. and the Munchers have been given a bit of graphical polish, but otherwise the game is strikingly accurate. You can even enter your name after attaining the high score. Like the O2 version, there are four built-in mazes – including the original's "invisible maze" option. You can also choose to have a random maze selected at the start of each level. The game even supports the "programming mode" of the original, which lets you create your own mazes.

The package for sale at AtariAge includes a cartridge and full-color, four page manual. The price is $30.

Thanks to doug for the news!

 Coming Soon: Ralph Baer's Pinball!

Ralph Baer's Pinball! 2600 Connection, in connection with Good Deal Games Homebrew Heaven, made an exciting announcement today. One hundred numbered, special-edition copies of RALPH BAER'S PINBALL will be produced for Odyssey² and Videopac-compatible machines. Longtime O2 fans will recognize this game. It was produced by Sanders Associates – the then-employer of "Father of Home Video Games" Ralph H. Baer – in 1978, essentially as a tech demo. Sanders had been asked by Magnavox to design Odyssey² games, and they produced this prototype pinball game as a feasibility study. Don McGuiness actually programmed it, but Ralph Baer helped with the design, including suggesting technology that let players manually position the bumpers on the playfield. The prototype was never made into a complete game, and sat forgotten in Baer's basement until 30 signed cartridge copies were produced and sold at Classic Gaming Expo 2000.

Fifteen years later, Michael Thomasson, the owner of Good Deal Games (and a personal friend of Ralph's) is preparing a special NEW edition of Pinball. The cartridge will contain both the original prototype and an enhanced version that is currently in the debugging stage. The package will include a vintage black-and-white replica of the only known photo of Ralph Baer with an Odyssey² game system, a refrigerator magnet, a color Odyssey² vinyl waterproof sticker, a miniature pinball, and an embroidered patch. Each game will include a professional-styled box and manual personally signed and numbered by Ralph Baer earlier in the summer of 2014. More information is available on 2600 Connection's Pinball Page.

I'm sure you're all set to buy a copy, but please note that the game is NOT YET FOR SALE. After all, debugging isn't even complete yet! To reserve your copy, you must contact Michael at service@gooddealgames.com. (The price is not yet finalized, but is projected to be about $100.) Keep an eye on the above link for updates.

This package is shaping up to be a fantastic tribute to Ralph, who sadly passed away on December 6, 2014. I'd like to thank Michael Thomasson, Tim Duarte, Leonard Herman and the others who helped make this release a reality. What great news to start 2015!

 Ralph H. Baer, 1922-2014

Ralph Baer Video gaming lost one of its luminaries this weekend when Ralph H. Baer passed away on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, at age 92. I'm sure that anybody reading this site knows that Ralph was the inventor of the first home video game system – the Magnavox Odyssey – forerunner of the Odyssey². He came up with the idea of using a television set to play games all the way back in 1966. This was before Pong, before Atari, before just about everything. True, others had independently been using electronic displays to play games before, but Ralph's vision was the one that stuck, thanks in no small part to his hard work and meticulous focus. His early efforts directly led to the multi-billion-dollar industry we all take for granted these days.

I communicated with Ralph twice, and met him in person once. It still amazes me that the first time we talked, he reached out to me. This was in the late 1990s; The Odyssey² Homepage! had been online for only a couple years at the time. In those days, Ralph's name wasn't as well known as it is now, even among classic game fans. Nolan Bushnell and Atari tended to get most of the limelight. (Not to take anything away from Bushnell – his company established video games as a cultural force and his ability to market them was second-to-none.) Ralph – the technical guy, the engineer – didn't get as much credit back then. There weren't a lot of sites dedicated to video game history yet, and mine was one of the very few that discussed the Odyssey line in any detail. Ralph came across it one day and dropped me a line complimenting my site for reporting accurate information, which he felt was in short supply. It was a surprise and an honor for me, one that still makes me feel proud.

The second time I spoke with Ralph was in person at Classic Gaming Expo 2000. I worked for GameSpy then, and was covering the event for ClassicGaming.com. I had a chance to speak to Ralph shortly before he gave his keynote lecture. He remembered who I was, and was friendly and still whip-smart, despite being in his late 70s at the time. What I remember most about that encounter was that he was looking for some soldering equipment to fix the Brown Box – the legendary Odyssey prototype that's now in the Smithsonian. He was planning to hook up and play the Brown Box as part of his lecture, but a connection had come loose and needed to be repaired. That image always stuck with me. Sure, he's the Father of Video Games, one of the most prolific inventors of our time, but he's also just an engineer looking for some solder. (If you're curious, the Brown Box did get fixed in time for his lecture.)

It's rather breathtaking that in just a few years, the recognition of video game history has gone from a situation where the guy who invented the medium was scrambling for solder at a small convention, to a place in the Smithsonian. Along the way, Ralph went from being a virtual unknown, to being the subject of niche articles and interviews, then to winning the National Medal of Technology in 2006, finally emerging as an international figure, eulogized by many web sites and media outlets over the past couple of days. Today has been a surreal experience, as I've heard several national radio broadcasts dedicated to a man I personally met and talked with, albeit briefly. The credit for "rescuing" Baer's name must go to others – Len Herman, Michael Thomasson and David Winter to name a few – and to Ralph himself, of course. But if my site contributed in even a small way, then I'm happy.

Rest in peace, Ralph. You made this world a more enjoyable place.

If you haven't read Ralph's book Videogames: In the Beginning, I urge you to do so now. You will never read a more informative book on the subject.

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