If you have a question for me, feel free to send it to owen-at-orubin-dot-com. I can't promise that EVERY question will be put on these pages, but I'll post as many as possible!
All letters are pasted exactly as I get them.
From: Nathan Strum (nstrum@calartsNOSPAM.edu)
Thanks for a great site! What a terrific resource for old arcade junkies like myself. The new design is great - very easy to read.
Regarding Triple Hunt - MAME .61 is out now and has that driver in it. If someone can shoot decent photos of the artwork somewhere, I'm familiar enough with Aaron's new artwork handling system where I could set it up to work with MAME. Some examples of what I've already been working on are up on my page at: http://www.macmame.net/artcade/.
I look forward to reading more great stories on your site!
P.S. Thanks for the volcano! Battlezone is my all-time favorite, and I spent many a quarter trying to get to it. :)
From Angel Daly
i did a web search on petsters from Axlon inc and your web page came up, somehow atari and these pets are somehow related? Anyway i recieved a petster cat when iwas about 12, packed it up in a box when i moved back to my moms and there it sat for about 15 years in a box, until yesterday i thought i had lost it, but i took it out of the box and she still works perfectly, my kids and dog think this is the greatest thing ever ( mom is so cool right now) anyway i cant find any information on the company, i just 5 minutes ago learned that there are more petsters out there, if you know nothing of this i apologize for wasting youtr time, but any info would be greatly apreciated, im just curious to learn more about this item and the company thank you very much
Owen: It is strange that it would find me, as I did behind the scenes work on the Petster, maybe because I mention it on my Kermit page. You will see on my web page (www.orubin.com) a link to Kermit, a robot I worked on while at Atari. This robot became Nolan Bushnell's model for a robot company called Androbot. He tried with Androbot, a company in Sunnyvale California in the mid eighties to build home robots. For obvious reasons, it was not all that successful as the robots did not do that much.
Given that I had programmed Kermit to be more of a pet and less of a robot, something that just walked about, made noise, followed a few command when it felt like it, it really acted like a pet robot. Nolan obviously liked this idea and created Petsters from a company called Axalon, one of Nolan's many start-ups.
I have a Petster cat sitting on my floor near my fish tank. Unfortunately, one of the most common failures of these toys was that the small gears break and the motors no longer drive the unit.
The unit is controlled by clapping your hands. Two short claps, two times will put it in attention mode. ("clap clap, pause, clap clap") They eyes should blink very fast.
One clap only will put the unit into "come when called mode"
Two claps will put it in "go away" mode
Three claps, pause, one clap will make it purr (when you make noise)
Three claps will put it into "obey" mode, where more claps move it (1 to 4 claps)
Four claps puts it in random "go play" mode.
They are quite fun, and drive the real cats nuts.
A bit of info on Nolan can be found here.
You might look here for Petster info.
Hope this helps.
From: sorry, but the header got munged! So I don't know who this is from :(
Q: Greetings. I am a huge retro fan and am also a creator, but my focus has always been on music more than coding... I am only wondering... How is it possible that someone of your talent is actually looking for a job/has a resume? I just don't get it man. Life has sure took a turn for the worse! High level languages leave low level coders in the dust, but what I wonder is what happens when the low level coder is completly eliminated? Since high level languages are coded in low level languages, will there come a time when people are so accustomed to the software they use that noone remembers anymore how to program it? If so, will this natural evolution be a good or a bad thing? I fear the same has happened with art. People have the ability to create wonderfull things now, but with no soul in them whatsoever. Where will things go? Understanding is becoming relinquished. Understanding is no longer required, so the understanding that the forerunners achieved is being deemed irrelevant, yet their devices are being used. ONce again, I wonder where it will all go... Oh well, enough babble!
My website is WWW.MENTALDOMINANCE.COM
Space Duel is one of my alltime favorites, I can recall the whole atmosphere of walking into an arcade back in the 80's and playing it, it was truely a beautifull time period!
Owen: Thanks for this message, made my day.
Lets see, why am I looking now? OK, I was a low level bit twiddler, and then like everyone else in my days, I went to C and to 12 years ago I got moved to management and found I was very good at finding and growing good talent, and was considered by my teams (with a few ugly exceptions of course) a very good manager. So I kept growing into management, built some very successful teams, and now reached the VP level.
With the economy as crummy as it is and so many people being laid off, I too was hit with a "down-sizing" as my last company ran low on funds. I guess I could go back to coding, but not sure I want to do that. I can find so many people who can do it much better than I, why bother. What I am good at is managing and helping teams grow and be successful, which I can do well. Add to that a good understanding of business, project life cycles, and engineering budgets and schedules, as well as a very strong technical background in software, hardware, networks, and broadband and I am strong executive candidate. Except that there is not a strong demand for executives at this time, so I am still looking. (any leads are welcomed.)
As for low level coders, the new compilers are built with high level languages as well. Compilers compile themselves basically, so low level coders are less and less needed. And to be fair, trying to hand code at low level on today's processors is VERY difficult because of the extreme complexity of the data and instruction flows. I did some hand coding on the Power PC at Apple, and it was very hard. I finally wrote the same code in C and compiled it, and the compiler created faster, more compact code! *SIGH*
In my view, if the processors are complex enough (didn't RISC stand for reduced instruction set computing?) then the compilers and higher level languages are needed more. A good compiler (VERY HARD TO FIND ONE THESE DAYS) will do a much better job than any had assembler these days. Yes, understanding of how it works is being abstracted away behind complex language structures and methods.
I will have a look at your site and music, one of my favorite parts of a game is the sound and music, but I was not great at music unfortunately.
Thanks so much for the message, and good luck with your music. And of course, if you know people looking for executives....... :-)
From Chip (chips@gearboxsoftwareNOSPAM.com)
I recently came across your page and was very interested in your response to a letter about your laserdisc games. First of all, I'm a developer of modern games at Gearbox Software, but I spend most of my "free" time working on an emulator called Daphne. Daphne, as you may know, emulates laserdisc games.
Daphne began as a project to emulate Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, but we've grown into much more than that. Presently, Daphne emulates 12 different laserdisc games, and we even have preliminary support for the "turd", as you called it :), Firefox.
But what I'm mostly writing about is the prototype games you mentioned on your site, and whether or not you might be interested in these games seeing the light of day by running them in Daphne.
If you've got any of the program code, we could emulate that. But, Daphne is capable of running a new game natively, so if the original program code is lost, we could still get, say, the golf game or the knight rider game up and running with all new game code if the footage were available. You mentioned you still have the discs for golf and KR. Daphne can either control a laserdisc player with an original disc, or it can run our "VLDP", or Virtual Laser Disc Player, which basically uses a combination of mpeg and ogg files to display the laserdisc footage.
If something like this is of interest to you, all we'd need to get started is a capture of the LDs, and an idea from you of how the flow of the game was supposed to be.
So, stop on by and check us out: http://www.daphne-emu.com, and let me know what you think. I, for one, would love to be able to play out those games you talked about, and daphne is a tool we can use to bring it to life. And with Daphne, the hardware issues of yore are no longer a concern. :)
Lastly, I just quickly wanted to say thanks for your contributions to the industry. I spent more than I care to share on your games, and I wouldn't be in the biz now if it weren't for designers like you. Ok, enough butt kissin'...
Owen: I was not aware of Daphne, I will indeed go check it out. There are some cool Laser Disk games, and I loved Space Ace and especially Dragon's Lair. I spent a LOT of money on DL. We finally got one at Atari, and I played so much that I could finish the game in one play, and play most waves from a quick peek at the first direction, and then move by the sound alone!
I have a laser disk with SOME of Golf's test shots, and I believe only the test footage of Battlestar Galactica's landing bays. I do not know what happened to Knight Rider's disk, I continue to look for it because it was very cool.
I am just heading out of town for a week, but would like to contact you when I get back into town to talk about what I have. I do not, unfortunately, have any of the code, but creating some new code would be interesting.
Thanks for the message.
And yes, I thought Firefox was a poor game as it was rushed into a game (or as far as it actually got) and never really thought out well at all. It could have been so much more. Sad really, Atari spent all that money sending me to MIT, and then ignored all my advise because it was not what they wanted to hear. Everyone else was doing laser disk games, they needed to do them too. The equipment of those days was just not meant to be bashed around like an arcade environment created, and as I said before, the players were just too slow.
From David Steinhauer (dc_steinhauer@hotmailNOSPAM.com)
my name is david steinhauer, im currently attending fullsail in orlando, florida. im about to graduate (still have 4 months), and will soon be lookin for a job (whenever i say that, i wanna laugh). ever since i was about 4 years old (playing poker/blackjack on the intellivision) ive wanted nothing but design video games. my mother used to drive me around on sundays to different locations where they had arcade games... my favorites, major havoc, wizard of wor, and discs of tron (enviornmental). i clearly remember jamming over $10 worth of quarters into the major havoc (in one day) at the "diamond jems" in montgomery, alabama. now that im on my own, ive started collecting what i consider the best games of all time... i have a wizard of wor upright, warlords cocktail, and a stern super cobra (not one of the best, ive never been a fan of it, haha). one day (when i win the lottery) ill get my very own major havoc (the day my life is 3/4 complete). i just wanted to tell you that you unknowingly gave me the drive and inspiration to fill my dreams. i "show and tell" as many people as i can about early coin-op vector games and what they have to offer; people are amazed and they ALL want MORE. its a shame that the coolest game of all cant be controlled as intended on a pc... one of these days i can show them how its done (on an upright). what you created in the early 80s will never die... i or anyone, can frag 10,000 quake duds and not remember what happened the last hour i played, but i can still remember the first time i found the MH escape shuttle (and the last time, for that matter). i only hope that one day i can offer the world what you have accomplished... making some of the best games EVER made...
Owen: Thanks for the very nice letter. I appreciate your message and I am glad, that indirectly at least, those of us who created these early games helped drive you in your education. Good luck in your search for a job. Remember, you first job may not be your ideal job. After graduating, there is still much to learn, and professional growth is just beginning. All I can say is have patience, work hard, and you will get what you want. Do tell me when you have your first game out, I would like to see it!
From: David Pollitt
Hello Mr. Owen Ruben,
My name is David Pollitt and I just saw your home page. My home page is: www.ncf.ca/~es230
When I was in High School I played Space Duel a lot and in my opinion it is the greatest action video game of all time! I loved it and I bacame quite a good player as I remember. It is becasue of experiences like this that I went into Computer Science at Carleton University here in Ottawas Canada. I just want you to know that you are a hero of mine and I very much respect you and your work on the design of Space Duel.
Owen: Thanks for your message. Some of the credit for Space Duel has to go to Steve Calfee, my manager and the project manager for the game, and Ric Mauer (spelling?) (NOTE FROM BRIAN: It MIGHT be Rick Mahler; not sure if Rick Maurer of 2600 Space Invaders fame was the programmer) started the game before leaving Atari. I used much of his code, and Steve was a driving force behind the game and getting it done. While I added a lot to that game, it was a group effort, as are most games today.
Good luck in your schooling. Maybe when you get out, you can build a game I will play! :-)
From: Paul D.
Hello Mr. Rubin,
First of all, I would like to thank yo for putting up your website and sharing your insights to enthusiast like myself.
You mentioned in one of your email correspondence (in the site) about having to design something similar to a Golf Simulator in LD. I have a home/self project and currently looking for sensors that would work on golf application in particular, one that would work with Microsoft's Links 2001 Golf Software- that I may fit real golf balls with my own clubs.
I was wondering if you could refer me to such a manufacturer or distributor of sensors for this application.
Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.
Owen: Well, that was 30 years ago, so it may be hard to find. There was a small device, about the size of a can of tennis balls, made by I think, Panasonic, which had an LCD display. The device came with a mat of green "grass like substance" with a bunch of magnetic sensors in it. It had a tee you could remove for tee shots and grass shots. It could read any steel club swinging past, and came with small magnetic strips to put on "woods" (which, in that time frame of the late 70's and early 80's WERE WOOD!) which let the device read drivers.
We bought a bunch of these for our prototype game, took them apart and built an interface into the LCD to that my computer could read the information that this thing displayed.
On the device, you would select which club you were using, and hit a real ball into a driving range net. The device would read the speed of the club, the height of the club, and the open and closed face angle, then display the distance the ball should have gone, if you hooked or sliced, and how badly, and how far off track the ball actually went. We added additional sensors of our own, basically weight monitors, to monitor the weight shift of the person (you can search the web for "strain monitors" I believe) and also added a number of microphones. With the mics, we could pick up the exact time the ball was hit, and then the time AND location of there the ball hit out "screen", which game me additional information on the speed, height and direction of the ball.
Sorry, but thatŐs the best I can do here for what we did. There are some gadgets that you might consider buying then adding a small PIC processor to interrupt the output to something that MS Golf could use.
Obviously, someone did what we planned to do, have a look here. The first 3 are almost exactly what we were doing at Atari in 1984!
This is an interesting one that looks inexpensive: http://www.golftek.com/minipro.html
Good luck. Let me know what you figure out.
From Greg Ewasiuk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You know, your link to your website and all your stories on there that I just read, really brought back some memories from my youth. I was 11 years old when you were programming for Atari Owen, and I may say that you had my dream job in that magical era. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be at Atari during those classic years that started a revolution. I've dabbled in programming since I was about 9 years old, but I never really made a career out of it, although I currently work closely with computers and their related technologies. Thanks for the line, and the link! (I love the proto-type 2600!.. Amazing!)
From Paul Maglinger (PMAGLINGER@scvl.com)
We were at work, talking about jobs of yesteryear and I mentioned that I had been electronic tech for several amusement machine operators and manager of a couple of arcades. I managed a Gold Mine arcade back in the early eighties and they had a Major Havoc. Undoubtably one of my favorite games. Never could find one, but I do have a Tempest that's in pretty good shape. Love those X-Y Quadrascan monitor games (if you could keep the driver transistors from blowing). I remember a Black Widow too, but it never made it big. I only saw one. Anyway, one of the guys did a search and came up with your site. Pretty cool. I'm trying to get the emulation to work so I can enjoy a little nostalgia.
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