Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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B & W

1026 words

Photo of Nibbler, a Mac SE Somehow my copy of HyperCard – which has been with me for more than a decade – didn’t make it over to my new iBook. While I tend to have everything saved on CDs, I also tend to be too lazy to actually dig those out. But I remembered that I still have HyperCard on Nibbler, my Mac SE, which is still sitting on my desk because I used it the other day and thought it looked quite cool there. So I decided to get the copy from there, having forgotten the amounts of suffering Mac OS X.4 requires you to go through if you want to do that.

After considerably more time than digging out the CDs would have taken and that I spent doing unpleasant things like manually entering IP addresses (which at least you can do with the numeric keypad only when using the German keyboard layout in System 7) or restarting the SE for every TCP/IP configuration change, I had managed to copy HyperCard over to the iBook:

HyperCard old and new

And after that I thought I should enjoy the SE a little. As I tried to fill its hard drive with games – those games which run on a 68000 driven computer with a black-and-white screen – back in the days, that was easy. Particularly as two of my favourites made it into that list. The first is the classic StuntCopter where you drop a guy from a helicopter trying to get the timing right for him to land on a moving hay-wagon.

StuntCopter screenshot

The thing about StuntCopter is, though, that it isn’t particularly challenging. It’s quite easy to make the guy drop right into the hay. What’s amusing about the game is that hitting either the driver or the horse will kill that character and you’ll go game over. And it turns out that the driver is really small and considerably harder to hit than the hay-wagon. So a friend of mine and me twisted the rules back in the days to that you have to drop the guy from the top of the screen and that your aim is to hit the driver, which looks like this:

Driver after being hit

While not quite in the spirit of the game, that’s more tricky and more fun. Another problem with the SE is that the game’s difficulty depends on the screen size, which is tiny on the SE, so you can’t drop the guy very far and after a few rounds you’ll be pretty good. Luckily this ancient game will run happily in the Classic environment, so we can make good use of today’s larger screens, like the iBook’s:

StuntCopter running on the iBook

My respect will go to the people who manage to consistently hit the driver on their 30″ Cinema Display. The other great game I played was Dubbelmoral!. Unfortunately it stopped working in Mac OS 9, so having the SE is worth the hassle just for that game. It’s from Sweden – so some details may evade me because everything is in Swedish – and it is about carnival. You’re a young guy and want to go there but you’re supposed to be in your room with your mum coming from the kitchen to your room from time to time to make sure you’re doing your homework:

Drinking on the street in Dubbelmoral

Your aim is to be both a good boy – doing your homework – and a bad boy – drinking in the streets – at the same time. So when mum is cooking you sneak away to the streets, drink all the bottles of beer you can find, watch your drunkenness (Fylla) rise and also the damage (Skada) you take by falling over when drunk or by the trees that keep falling from the sky hitting you. In addition you’ll also need to pee (Nödighet)after a number of drinks, so you’ll have to go to the screen with the urinal to solve that problem. Similarly you can meet a girl to ease your Skada.

Mum coming to see what her boy is doing in Dubbelmoral

It’s a perfect and very fun game. With these old games I keep being amazed by their graphics. No quickly fixed photorealistic Photoshop jobs but carefully crafted black and white pixels. Phantastic. The same goes for icons from those days. They had to have black and white versions. Recognisable black and white versions.

Games folder with icons on the Mac SE

Compare that to the icons we have today. They may be pretty but they tend to degrade very poorly. Many icons are rather hard to tell apart once they’re shrunk to a small size in the Dock. While photo-quality icons are technically possible today, they won’t be good icons in most cases.

As a final note, let me mention the FTP client Anarchie which I had to use to copy the screenshots over to the iBook. After doing a number of uploads, it came up with the following message:

Interarchy message suggesting to get hold of drag manager

What a nice idea.

Next up in retro-computing: My dad called and said he’s missing a document from around 1990. A copy of it may still exist on the old Atari which is in our holiday flat. I’m supposed to have a look and get if it happens to be there. That will be interesting: The Atari uses double density disks in an MS-DOS format. While the Atari can read and write MS-DOS formatted disks it won’t work the other way round. Macs refuse to read Atari disks as well (not that I have a Mac with a SuperDrive, as in HD capable floppy disk drive, around here anyway, in that case I think some Atari emulators could do the trick). So the first problem to solve is to get hold of a DD-MS-DOS formatted disk. All the DOS users are running XP these days. Which means that while they still have (unused but paid for) floppy drives, they still can’t help me as XP apparently can’t format disks to double density. I’m pretty sure some Linux can be kicked to do the right thing eventually but all this sucks in spectacular ways…

If the file really exists where it is expected to be, things should be easy, though. A benefit of using TeX where backwards compatibility is quite good.

December 7, 2005, 0:06


Comment by d.w.: User icon

I’ve found that some games that fail in Classic can be coaxed to run in vMac.

December 7, 2005, 2:27

Comment by Dave2: User icon

Reminds me of “Glider” which is an ancient Mac game I used to love playing for hours. I’ve forgotten most of the games I used to play on my Atari and Atari ST computers.

December 7, 2005, 3:26

Comment by Jonathan: User icon

Put some sticky tape over the right side hole (not the lock side) on a 1.4Mb floppy. You should then be able to format it to 720K in windows.

I used to have to do this with my ancient PC, much easier than finding DD disks.

December 7, 2005, 18:41

Comment by ssp: User icon

d.w.: Thanks for that hint… I think I never tried it because of the whole ROM business… and the download link seems to be 404. In case you have a copy or even a working copy of it hanging around, my mailbox will be more than happy store a backup for you.

Dave2: Glider is a classic as well. I never had a copy myself, though.

Jonathan: Thanks for the hind. A friend googled this for me as well today. And it really seems to work. Absurd and cool, I’d say.

December 8, 2005, 1:16

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Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.