Sunday, April 11, 2010

eheu fugaces labuntur anni

The bigger, more headache-inducing Atari programming challenge was dealing with the TV. The cathode ray tube screens of the late '70s and early '80s used an electron gun that drew individual scan lines on the screen. To create something as simple as a tank or a pong paddle, Atari programmers had to choreograph an intricate timing dance between their code and the electron beam. The most basic accomplishments on the 2600 could take months of solo work. The famous programmer of Adventure, Warren Robinett, describes the process of developing a cartridge as essentially a form of folk art:

In those old far-off days, each game for the 2600 was done entirely by one person, the programmer, who conceived the game concept, wrote the program, did the graphics—drawn first on graph paper and converted by hand to hexadecimal—and did the sounds.

Michael Agger on the Atari 2600, Slate

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