Since my Pac-Man and Oregon Trail blog posts have proven how good I am at reviewing and playing computer games I thought I’d better keep it up. No one else seems to care about computer games. Here I’m going to look at five from the late 70s / early 80s because if I’m going to get through them all I’d better pick up the pace a bit. It’s more of a summing up of what they are about than an actual review but I’m sure there will be qualitative implications hiding in the words.
Note: Because these games are old they tend to look awful (even worse than old television) but that doesn’t mean that they are bad games, it just means that you don’t want to play them. Fortunately I am here to play them.
Missile Command (1980, Atari Inc.)
Missile Command is a horrifying interactive apocalypse experience. A continuous rain of fire falls from the sky above several cities of which you are the sole protector. The antagonist remains unseen, are they of this world? With limited resources you can do nothing but delay the inevitable obliteration of thousands of people.
The onslaught is irresistible, the consequences final. On the other hand perhaps this is the answer to the prayers of those that have to scratch their miserable living from beneath the desiccated landscape. Who is the enemy here? Why not take your fingers away from the controls and gift those lives this awesome relief.
Berzerk is interactive purgatory. You are a humanoid figure in a landscape of electrified walls. The electrified walls hide electrified robots that shoot electrified bolts. They move slowly but purposefully towards you, intent on your demise. You can shoot the robots and they are easy to destroy. Maybe suffering for your sins is not so bad after all. A smiley face suddenly appears, jumping in a jolly fashion towards you. Your heart jumps in a similar fashion as it seems as though you are to be rewarded for the great job you are doing killing robots. But then your heart takes a turn like old milk, the smile is looking more sinister the closer it gets. You shoot at the face. Your bullets do nothing. You turn and run as fast as you can. Your legs whirl round but your progress is a slow crawl. This is a nightmare. That fixed grin is gaining on you but fortunately you are nearing the edge of the known world. The face is all but upon you when your foot touches the edge and you are mercifully transported away, far away from that place to a landscape of electrified walls that hide electrified robots.
Tempest is a hectic, epileptic trip deep into a neon void. Scuttling around the edge of a tubular precipice you fire wantonly down the hole until, satisfied that your deranged electric nemesis has been forced to retreat, you plunge in after it. After a brief free fall through the boundless beyond you arrive at the next front line. To your delight, your enemy has reinforced. Caught up in a blind hysterical joy tornado you grasp the trigger. White knuckled, you will never let go, you have an insatiable appetite for destruction.
Lunar Lander is a terrifying moon landing simulator. When you begin you are just regaining consciousness after an incident to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and the thrusters are at full burn. The surface is rushing vertically past the window as you descend. Once you have physically assaulted your fellow astronaut and shoved them into a corner away from the controls you attempt to rectify the situation. To your dismay you discover that, in their mania, the idiot has maneuvered the capsule over mountainous terrain. You calm yourself and the capsule and focus on the task of pinpointing a suitable landing spot. You find one but it looks too easy, you desire a greater point score. Once you’ve located the landing site with the greatest associated point score you adjust the angle and speed of descent accordingly. You’ve burned off most of the fuel getting there but you don’t care, you really want those points.
The landing site is a small ledge half way up a gigantic cliff face. It is just as wide as the capsule. It has excellent points. A few tens of metres above the surface you fire the thrusters, almost draining the fuel tanks in order to attain the slowest possible descent speed. You land perfectly. You are congratulated. You get points. You regain consciousness to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and you are descending rapidly towards the lunar surface. Is this some sort of dream? You check the fuel gauge. The tanks are still almost drained. You crash into the side of a mountain. You are dead. You are chastised by the space agency for breaking the lander. Your family owes the space agency 100 Megabucks.
The little dot to the right of the sun in the picture above is Alpha Centauri, the closest star to the sun. It is a long way away. The middle stars of the big dipper were all made together and are travelling through space in the same direction. They are the closest “cluster” of stars to Earth. Dubhe and Alkaid (at either end of the dipper) are out on their lonesome, which is not true as there is another star (invisible to our eyes) that orbits Dubhe. Mizar and Alcor look to us like they’re close enough to go around each other but they’re not. Mizar is (however, actually) a system of four stars and Alcor, like Dubhe, is a two star system. Space is therefore a giant merciless collection of optical illusions and silly names.
Earth is spinning and moving along a sloppy oval orbit around the sun. One full spin is a day, one full orbit is a year. Also the Earth is gyrating like a slowing down spinning top does when it wobbles. When a spinning top wobbles the stick that you hold on to in order to spin it goes around in circles. The performer at 1:24 of Ian Russell’s spinning-top circus is showing off a particularly fine example of this effect:
It is whilst doing all of this circle making that we look at space. Fortunately once the movement of the Solar System is under control the stars become reassuringly static. There are only so many stars that a person can see with their eyes and as far as a person can see they will never change. It is very humane of our senses to create finite environments in an infinite universe. It is inhumane of the universe to make us do so many circles.
For this bit we are going to pretend that the sun doesn’t exist and so it is night time all the time. The stars are a fixed backdrop for the whole Solar System. Different areas of this backdrop get revealed depending on which way we’re pointing when it is night time. In most of the world it is only after a full year that it is revealed what, without the sun, could be seen in a full day.
1 – Looking at space from here no space can be seen that is below because the planet is in the way. And (as the planet is a spinner that is spinning around its poles) the whole sky seems to turn around the point right overhead and the stars that can be seen are the same ones all night every night. It is like sitting in the middle of the roundabout. There is a bit at the top of the sky that doesn’t move and the whole sky spins around that bit even though it’s the roundabout that is moving. The star that is closest to that point right overhead that doesn’t move is Polaris, the North Star.
2 – Here it is like being at the edge of the roundabout looking out at the playground. The playground all rushes past, none of it is still. When looking straight up at space from the equator the stars do not spin around a point, they move in a stream overhead and, when looking east, the new ones come straight up over the horizon and the old ones disappear straight down below the other horizon behind.
3 – This is like a mix of the two. Looking half way between straight above and the horizon there will be a point in the sky that the stars are moving around, whereas to the side and behind stars will be curving up and going down.
Now we will pretend that the sun does exist and that Earth is tilted, because those things are true. The direction of the tilt doesn’t change as we go around the sun.
This is summer time in the north. In fact it is June 21st, the longest day of the year. The north is as tilted towards the sun as it can get. But what does that mean for looking up?
1 – Here it is the shortest night. Most of the time is spent in the day with the sun hiding the rest of space.
2 – It is the exact opposite here. It is the longest night of the year, June 21st. It is a great night for space, a whole bunch can be seen as the sun is invisible for most of the spin, but it is winter so everyone is sad.
The red peg on the right of the Earth is where the sun is right overhead at the very top of the sky (where the North Star appears to be at the North Pole). It is the northest part of Earth as the sun can get to be at the top of the sky. The line that the sun draws here parallel to the equator as Earth spins is called the Tropic of Cancer. Six months on from this picture Earth will look the same but it will have moved around the other side of the sun, so the sun will be on the left. Then as Earth spins the sun will draw a line along where the blue peg is, the Tropic of Capricorn. These two times of the year, the longest/shortest days, are solstices.
Half way between solstices the Earth will be tilted neither towards nor away from the sun and all over the world day and night will be the same length. The two times of the year when this occurs are equinoxes. The yellow blob on the equator is where the sun is directly overhead during an equinox. Solstices and equinoxes are officially when the different seasons begin, although everybody has their own opinion of when the different seasons actually begin.
This image also demonstrates why you see different stars throughout the year. In this picture the stars on the left are visible, in six months the stars on the right will be visible.
Back in the playground the sun is sitting in the middle of the roundabout and Earth is sitting on the edge of the roundabout, looking at the sun. As the roundabout goes around, the edge of the playground rushes past behind the sun as if it’s moving in a big circle around the roundabout. The sun is looking at Earth too. The edge of the playground is rushing past behind Earth as if it’s moving in a big circle around the roundabout. Around the edge of the playground there are twelve constellations loitering like smoking parents, they are the zodiac constellations.
The zodiac forms a circle around the Solar System and as we go around the sun the zodiac circle seems to go around behind the sun like the edge of the playground. In summer the sun is covering the zodiac constellations that are high in the sky so you get to see them in winter. In winter the sun is covering the zodiac constellations that are lower in the sky so you get to see them in summer. The imaginary disc that stretches out from the sun to the zodiac is the plane of the solar system, called the ecliptic. The planets go around the sun on the ecliptic and so they also seem to travel around in front of the zodiac. It is possible to see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus easily when they’re not being hidden by the sun or the Earth below our feet.
This picture is how the plane looks from the ecliptic. Mars, Venus and Earth are the coloured blobs. The stars are where the zodiac constellations are. Earth (bottom left) is standing up straight (so the plane is tilted) to show how things can appear to be high or low in the sky. It is still June 21st so the sun is high in the northern hemisphere and the visible zodiac constellations on the other side of Earth are low.
The Tropic of Cancer is called that because when the tropic was named the sun appeared to be in front of the constellation Cancer on the summer solstice. These days it is in front of Taurus on June 21st. Your star sign corresponds to which constellation the sun was in front of when you were born several thousand years ago. If you were born more recently than that there’s a good chance you are not the star sign you think you are because the dates for the star signs have not changed. Every year on the same day the sun is over a slightly different place on the zodiac.
The stick that you hold on to in order to spin the spinning top is the North Pole and it is wobbling around in big slow circles. The tilt of Earth is Earth appearing to be frozen whilst doing the wobble but it’s not frozen it’s just slow. It takes 26,000 years for the North Pole to do one circle. This means that the direction of the tilt is slowly moving in a circle and so the position that Earth is in on its orbit when the North Pole is as tilted towards the sun as it can be is slowly moving in a circle and so the part of the zodiac that the sun is in front of at the summer solstice is slowly moving in a circle. The wobble is called precession.
As Earth precesses the point of space that is right above the North Pole and stays still while the stars spin around it slowly draws a big circle. The stars remain a static backdrop so over 26,000 years different stars that sit on the path of the circle become the North Star but most of the time there is no North Star.
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I was told that this blog post is too long and it should be two parts. I don’t want to make it two parts but I agree that it’s a bit heavy. It’s taken like, three days to write it. It’s especially taxing because I don’t want to use many pictures. I think words are more effective at getting things to stick but they are more work. This is a natural breathing point so you can have a break now and come back later if you want … or you can stop forever, it’s up to you.
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This is the bit at the top of the sky above the North Pole. The word Arctic means bear, because the bears are always up there: the little dipper shape in the middle is the Little Bear (Ursa Minor) and the big dipper is part of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). The W is Cassiopeia. Polaris is in the middle. In the northern hemisphere these things are always visible but they can appear in any orientation, so the best place to start is to find the big dipper and then you can follow a line from the two stars that form the lip of the dipper to the North Star. If you follow a line from a star in the handle of the dipper right through the North Star you’ll get to Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia sits on the Milky Way next to Perseus.
The Milky Way is a cloudy band that circles the solar system. The Milky Way is also the galaxy that the Solar System is in. Every visible star in the sky is part of the Milky Way galaxy. Most stars are in galaxies but there are also intergalactic stars that have been exiled from their galaxy and wander aimlessly through space.
The Milky Way galaxy is a big fat disc with arms that spins. It takes 200 million years to spin once. Just like the ecliptic is the disc-shaped plane of the solar system, the disc of the Milky Way is the plane of the galaxy. The Solar System is about half way between the centre of the galaxy and the edge and so we are surrounded by it. Looking at the cloudy band in the sky means looking through the plane of the galaxy, like in the picture of the Solar System plane from earlier. The plane of the galaxy is orientated differently to the Solar System plane so the band of the Milky Way is a lot higher in the sky than the band of the zodiac. The stars outside of the band of the Milky Way are still in the galaxy, the galaxy is a plump circular bed and we are snuggled inside it, but there is much less bedding to look through when looking up through the covers rather than down the length of the bed. The plumpest bit to look at is the galactic centre, because more stuff is there and you are looking through more stuff to see there.
Photographs of galaxies show them to be very bright. The reason why the band of the Milky Way does not appear to be particularly bright even though you’re looking through most of the galaxy is because galaxies are incredibly large, so there is a vast amount of space between stars and that space is compressed when you look at other galaxies, which are incredibly far away. Photographs of galaxies are also taken with long exposures that gather a lot more light than your eyes can. In addition to that, the Milky Way galaxy is full of dust and gas that block and obscure light.
The reason that galaxies and solar systems tend towards flatness and make planes is because when gravity is pulling a bunch of stuff (everything) together to form galaxies and solar systems all of the stuff moves around a point in the middle of the bunch (because it’s getting together). The individual bits of stuff move in different directions around this point but there will be a direction that slightly more stuff is going in because that’s way more likely than every direction having an equal amount of stuff going in it. The stuff going in that direction is slightly less likely to bump into other stuff and change direction. Over time that direction is favoured because it’s easier to follow a crowd than go against one. That is how you get a one directional flat spin. There will be bits and pieces that evade the flat spin and continue to go around the middle point in a different direction but the vast majority will suck it up and fall in line.
There is one more circle that should probably be addressed.
The moon is spinning and moving along a sloppy oval orbit around Earth. The sloppy orbit is why sometimes the moon looks more big because sometimes it is more close. It takes 27 days to do an orbit and it takes 27 days to do a spin, this ensures that the same side of the moon faces Earth the whole time.
Similar to how the sun does two types of circle across the sky (the daily circle caused by Earth’s spin and the yearly circle around the Zodiac caused by Earth’s orbit), the moon also does two types of circle across the sky. It does a daily one caused by Earth’s spin and it does a 27 day one caused by it’s orbit around the Earth. During the 27 day circle the moon travels above the night time side of Earth and the day time side of Earth. If you could see the moon at the same time each day, each day it would look to be a little more to the right in the sky, after 27 days it would be back where it started.
In the above picture the moon is over the night time side of Earth (in the night sky) and so the whole day time side of the moon is facing Earth and is most visible at midnight. This is when the moon looks full. On this scale this is the actual distance from Earth to the moon. It takes three days to get to the moon on a space ship.
In the above picture the moon is over the day time side of Earth in the day time sky and so the whole night time side of the moon is facing Earth and is not visible at all. This is the new moon. As the moon is in the sky with the sun at this point sometimes the moon manages to get in the sun’s way and cause a solar eclipse. They have to line up pretty perfectly for the tiny moon to cast a shadow all that way onto the Earth’s surface, and the shadow only covers a bit of Earth, which is why solar eclipses aren’t visible from everywhere.
The moon travels from that point in the midnight sky when it is full to that point in the midday sky when it is new, so it makes sense that it has to go through all of the points in between.
You’re probably wondering about the plane of the moon, I know I would be. The orbital plane of the moon is different to the ecliptic (the orbital plane of the Solar System) , which is why eclipses aren’t more common. If the moon was travelling around Earth on the ecliptic then every time there was a full or a new moon there would also be a lunar/solar eclipse. There are two times of year when the ecliptic and the moon plane cross each other and this is when eclipses occur. Like the equinoxes, when the sun is directly over the equator, the two times of year when the sun can be directly over both the moon and Earth are 6 months apart. They last a month or so each and there can be up to three eclipses during each eclipse season.
That’s the end. I’m glad it’s over to be honest, it’s been very tiring. I hope you’re glad that it’s over too. But I also hope that it made sense and was interesting, if you got this far I guess it probably was 【・ヘ・?】
Recently I fell into a hole made of early 80s dance and electronic music and had to listen my way out of it over several days. This is a period vaguely known as “post disco” which spans the period from the fall of disco in 1979 to the solidification of house and techno in the mid-late 80s, or so wikipedia tells me. I found this out only because the early 80s seemed to be where all of the playlists I was listening to were getting their music from. I guess at that time the hardware was becoming more available and so the little people could afford it, leading to a creative explosion. I believe there is also a specific genre called post disco but I don’t know what it is. I stapled an MP3 mix together of some stuff that I thought was cool. It contains disco, italo-disco, minimal wave and other electronic type things. It contains no electro or Hi-NRG as they are terrible.
The League Unlimited Orchestra – Love Action (1982)
Jean Michel Jarre – Zoolookologie (1984)
Bill Nelson – When Your Dream of Perfect Beauty Comes True (1982)
Logic System – Clash (Chinjyu of Sun) (1981)
Scotch – Take Me Up (1984)
Patrick Cowley – Sea Hunt (1981)
Brain – D.I.X.O (1982)
Pink Project – Der Da Da Da (1982)
Mr Flagio – Take a Chance (Razormaid Mix) (1983)
Expansives – Life With You (Instrumental) (1982)
Haruomi Hosono – Sports Men (1982)
Manuel Gottsching – Moderate Start (1984)
I had to get out of the hole when I realised I could tell when something had been produced by Patrick Cowley. However, there is still a gigantic mountain of stuff that I’ll probably have to return to at some point.
Here are some honourable mentions of things that I couldn’t include in the mix either because I was not technically able to, or they didn’t fit, or because they were not created in the right year:
^ This is a brilliant thing. But It is from 1985. That didn’t stop me from trying to put it in though but I couldn’t do it because I suck at music.
^ I’d stuck a little bit from the middle of this in the mix but when I came to writing the dates on the tracklist above I found out that it was made in 2009 so I had to swap it out for D.I.X.O. Sounds right though right? Good tricking.
^ I like this very much. And it would’ve been good to get another minimal wave track in. I was going to put it at the end but Manuel Gottsching just sounds way more better.
^ This is a great example of all of the horrible trash that I listened to. I had no intention of including it but I can’t forget it.
^This is a great example of all the amazing trash that I listened to. You will love this.
whole albums of goodness
I found a some albums that were brilliant the whole way through, some of which I included tracks from in the mix. Here are a few:
I balanced the camera on the box of books and then used the timer in order to take the last two. That was smart of me. It was hard because the camera doesn’t focus again once the timer has run down so I had to focus the camera and then press the button and then pick up the book and hold it at exactly the right distance away so that it would be in focus when the camera took the photo.
You can read the whole book here on my website already for free. Look. Whatever. Some people like spending money anyway. Like me, I just paid to have loads of the same thing made that I already have the original version of. I drew it.
Several years ago I went on a several hour holiday to Cornwall and documented it here. This was nowhere near long enough to appreciate everything that the county has to offer so yesterday I went back for several hours to finish what I’d started.
On the way down I made a list of everything people do on a perfect holiday.
I really wanted to go to another fogou. Specifically I wanted to go to Halliggye Fogou because it’s the best one and would’ve provided the longest video of trying to walk through a tiny tunnel in the dark. But it is hidden inside the Trelowarren Estate and, as I was using a map that marked the fogou but not the estate, I ended up driving right into it the back way and I got lost in there. It was all I could do to get out, I wasn’t willing to go back in. Fortunately there had been a hardened field defence at the beach with a dank interior of fogou proportions.
Also, whilst driving around I saw some of Poldark’s old houses.
I didn’t stop at them but there wouldn’t've been anything else to see there so I just as good as visited them. It doesn’t matter anyway because they are locally unique and I saw them so I can count them as that too. I just tick it. It’s not a problem.
- Dog eggs
I’d intended to draw scenery at the beach but I was playing so hard that I forgot. However, at dinner later on I did design an obscene fountain.
Fountain designing is a hobby.
Very much the Lands End of the south.
That’s two ticks for that one. I’m having such a good holiday.
I talked to the barman because the pub didn’t do food so I needed to know where the chip shop was. I also talked to Ross. Ross is Scottish but a Scottish person is a type of native too.
It was the best of holiday, it was the best of holiday.
Oh no! I forgot to add about getting a souvenir to the list!