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84 votes

Could you reverse engineer silicon just by looking at it?

With a powerful enough microscope, you can see each transistor. Reverse-engineering silicon then boils down to carefully removing each layer (ceramic or plastic to expose the chip, then each metal ...
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62 votes
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What was Pong called in Britain?

Pong. I've lived in the UK for many years and never heard it called Ping! That is news to me. Now, when talking about the video game called Pong, we call it Pong.
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53 votes

Could you reverse engineer silicon just by looking at it?

(More of a memory dump related to Stephen's answer) At a time when ICs were of low complexity (compared today), could you actually see each transistor on the silicon and reverse engineer it? Yes. ...
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53 votes
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How was collision detection done on the Asteroids arcade game?

it seems to be a simple bounding box check, as shown here from 6502 code disassembly, collision check between ship and saucer HitDetShip: L6A63: CPX #$01 ;Is object 1 not the player's ...
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43 votes
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How did Atari lose money on home computers?

In 1982 the original 400 and 800 were on the market. These were expensive machines to implement. Even the low-cost 400 was significantly more complex and expensive than something like a VIC-20. Here ...
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34 votes
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How did "Ballblazer" pull off fast, smooth, first-person, solid-model 3D on Atari 8-bits?

There are two elements: The background The sprites The background is very straightforward: The vanishing point never changes so you have one graphic with a checkerboard in perspective. That graphic ...
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  • 3,592
32 votes

Could you reverse engineer silicon just by looking at it?

It's worth noting what you can see, and what you can't. First, you cannot see any feature that is much smaller than the wavelength of light that you are using. In 1995 I designed a chip for my Master'...
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30 votes
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Why did the Atari 800 designers choose such a radical system design?

The physical design of the Atari 800 was radical, but not for reasons related to the aspects you highlight. As others have commented, using multiple boards for a system was pretty standard at the ...
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  • 96.6k
28 votes

How did Atari lose money on home computers?

I can only add to the other answers with observations and memories, some of which come from owning an Atari 800 in the time period you're asking about. First, notice the names flying around in the ...
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  • 2,798
27 votes

What was Pong called in Britain?

According to Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Pong was marketed as "Ping" in the UK. He said so in this 1982 BBC interview ("because evidently Pong is not a good word in England"), ...
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  • 7,854
26 votes

How did "Ballblazer" pull off fast, smooth, first-person, solid-model 3D on Atari 8-bits?

The gameplay can be implemented without any 3D calculations (or very little, depending on your definition of 3D calculations): The checkerboard never rotates, so it can be drawn using affine segments ...
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  • 96.6k
26 votes

Were the custom chips in the Amiga exploited for their hardware bugs like the ones in the C64 and Atari 8 bit computers were?

The Amiga OCS was not exploited in the same way as the C64's VIC-II simply because the OCS was designed from the beginning to support rapidly changing video output modes. Unlike the C64, and most 8-...
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  • 57.3k
23 votes

Were the custom chips in the Amiga exploited for their hardware bugs like the ones in the C64 and Atari 8 bit computers were?

If one game would qualify, that would be Alien Breed: the game switches from PAL to NTSC rapidly to emulate a damaged CRT display (extract of longplay at this point). A PAL to NTSC switch should occur ...
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19 votes
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What did the cassette bootloader in 8 Bit Ataris do?

De Re Atari describes the cassette boot protocol, which helps understand why bootloaders were (nearly) always used. In cassette boot mode, the operating system reads a record from the tape recorder ...
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19 votes
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Can I hook up an Atari 8-bit computer to a flat-screen tv

Most classic computers will work fine on a TV with proper composite inputs. You want to make sure your TV has aspect ratio selection as many simply horizontally stretch the 4:3 image to 16:9. As ...
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  • 1,053
19 votes
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Troubleshooting and reparing an Atari 800XL with a single key not working

In the end, I decided that it had to be easier to take the keyboard apart than to de-solder the 4051's and so I carefully removed the 18 tiny screws from the back of the keyboard. It wasn't nearly as ...
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  • 8,456
19 votes

Why do some Atari ST motherboards include many Inductors?

They are not really inductors. They are EMI noise filters for suppressing electromagnetic interference that conduct out of the unit via the wires. These kind of EMI filters usually have two ferrite ...
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19 votes
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Why did Atari floppies run at 288 RPM?

the 810 and 1050 specifically, ran at 288 RPM rather than 300. I can't imagine why this might be, I do believe it was needed to securely store 18 sectors per track while using the WDC1771 at 1 MHz ...
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  • 173k
19 votes
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When was the 6502 second sourced?

When was the first of these license deals made, and what exactly were the terms? I have not been able to find any details on that. All the relevant parts happened in a very short time between ...
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  • 173k
17 votes
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How can I interface with an old Atari from a modern computer?

If you're willing to spend some money, there are some nice options using the Atari's SIO port (the big trapezoidal plug on the side). Maybe the most flexible option is the SIO2PC adaptor, which lets ...
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17 votes

Tool used to develop videogames with an Atari ST

I can only really answer from my own perspective, and I only wrote real code (other than simple BASIC programs) on an Atari over the last couple of years. IDE Used In terms of classic tools IDEs were ...
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  • 1,994
17 votes

Were the custom chips in the Amiga exploited for their hardware bugs like the ones in the C64 and Atari 8 bit computers were?

And now here are some really non-trivial hacks played with amiga chipset: 7-bitplane ECS hack: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/comp.sys.amiga.misc/HQBzx6E0K1Y (see the first message in the ...
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  • 9,326
16 votes

Looking for ATARI-ST Graphics Image

Looking for either "rose.neo" atari or "rose.pc1" atari in Google images with an exact requested size of 320x200 yields this result, which seems to match your description pretty well. Could it be ...
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  • 271
15 votes

Where are the blueprints of MOS chips?

MOS was renamed to Commodore Semiconductor Group (CSG) sometime after Commodore bought them in 1976. After Commodore folded in 1994, the CSG division was bought by its former management and renamed ...
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  • 4,062
15 votes

How do I rip sounds from Atari 2600 ROMs and save it in a more modern format?

Ignoring the copyright issues of such an endeavor, you're going to have a very hard time of ripping audio in a conventional sense. Old games don't store their sound effects and music as waveforms like ...
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  • 978
15 votes
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Why did the Atari 5200 forsake compatibility with 400/800 game cartridges?

At that point in time, Atari had separate divisions for the Home Computer market and the Consumer Electronics, or console, market. There was a lot of competition between the divisions. The Consumer ...
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  • 476
15 votes
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Why do some Atari ST motherboards include many Inductors?

There are versions of the Atari 520ST, and perhaps the 1040ST, that differ in having many discrete inductors attached at the I/O port lines for serial, parallel and floppy ports. Essentially all ...
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  • 173k
14 votes

Tool used to develop videogames with an Atari ST

I used to program on the Atari about 20+ years ago, so I might be a bit rusty on the subject. Also I used to mainly write demo effects and music, so I wasn't working on core game development directly (...
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  • 141
14 votes

Why was "Flight Simulator II" never ported to the NES? Was it technically impossible?

The NES's architecture isn't really ideal for anything that involves all-pixel-addressable plotting such as vector graphics. It's instead strongly optimised for 2d backgrounds made of repeating 8x8 ...
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  • 32.5k
13 votes
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Why did the Atari 8-bit computers make beeping noises while accessing the disk and cassette drives?

The beep comes from the OS ROM, and it is actually derived from the timing of the start and stop bits of each byte shifted into POKEY, this is determined from the interaction of the interrupts ...
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