29 December 1999

End of the Year Brag

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

Inspired by the story here of the thrifts overflowing with last minute tax write-offs, I visited a few in my area today.  While none seemed to be overflowing, I was pleasantly surprised to find some stuff. It's been a long time since I've found so much new stuff at once! (And it's been a couple weeks since I've done a proper thrift shop run.)

At the first stop I picked up a hard cover copy of the 1986 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records for $1.  This is the last edition to contain video game world records.  (And they'd only started in 1984.)  Off-topic, I also picked up DragonLance Chronicles vol. 4: Dragons of Summer Flame.  I enjoyed the original DL books back in high school, and this is by the same authors.  I'm sure it'll be worth the 50 cents I paid. 8)

The second stop was the highlight of the trip.  First I see two stacks of boxed Intellivision games behind the cash register.  But there's not an employee in sight!  @!#?@!  I managed to restrain myself and check the rest of the store.  First thing I find is two set of Pac-Man twin sheets for $3.99 each.  The total is two fitted sheets, two flat sheets, and three pillow cases.  This works out fine since I found a set of just the fitted and flat sheet in this same store some months ago.  Once my son's out of his crib, he'll have plenty of Pac-Man sheets. 8)

Darn right, "colors may vary"!
In the board games, I found a Pac-Man puzzle.  It's not a jigsaw puzzle, but more of a logic puzzle.  Take the 12 pieces and fit them in the four Pac-Man shaped slots in the tray.  Then move them to the three circular (Pac-Man with his mouth closed, it says) slots.  The box is in so-so shape, but all the pieces are there.  I wonder if I can still write to the address given for the solution? 8)  Oh, yeah, the box says "colors may vary," and they weren't kidding.  The box has yellow Pac-Man with a blue tray.  I got blue Pac-Men with a yellow tray.

Okay, now I'm back up front and ask one of the two salesladies (Where were they when I came in?) to show me the old games.  Most of the games had overlays and instructions, but I'm short on money.  At 99 cents each, I pick out the ten I don't think I have.  I forgot my list, as always, and don't want to pull it out right in front of the cashier any way.  I told her I'd have to dig out my Intellivision. What I mean is that my room is one big heap o' stuff right now, but of course she thinks I put it away in the attic or something.  Who am I to correct her?  Here's what I got:
  • B-17 Bomber         
  • BurgerTime          
  • NFL Football        
  • Tron Maze-A-Tron    
  • Space Spartans
  • Vectron
  • Happy Trails (Activision)
  • Carnival (Coleco)
  • Beauty & the Beast (Imagic)
  • White Water! (Imagic)
It turns out I already have Football, Maze-A-Tron, and Space Spartans. I also already have BurgerTime, but not with the box.  I left a dozen or more games there.  All common, but maybe I should go back. After tax, I spent a total of almost $21.

The next two stops yield nothing.  In fact, one seems to be trying to empty some parts of the store in some sort of clean up effort.  They did have two Champion Joysticks for the SNES, but at $10 each I'll pass.  (They're large, arcade quality joysticks.)  Besides, I already have one.

I'm late getting back to work, but there's really nothing for me to do this week anyway, so I make one more stop.  For 25 cents, I get the original, black cover version of How to Win at Nintendo by Jeff Rovin.  I've probably got half a dozen red cover versions, but this is the first black one I've found.  It's a shame thrifting isn't always like this any more.

[I'm not sure what the first stop was, but it was probably the Goodwill on University Dr. I think the second was Value Village on N. Memorial Parkway. The next two were probably the Breaking Free Rescue Mission Thrift Store, also on N. Memorial Parkway, and the Salvation Army around the corner on Oakwood Ave. I have no idea what the last stop would have been. Unless it was the short-lived store I've forgotten the name of on Oakwood on the other side of Memorial Parkway.

Today (2018), only the Value Village and Salvation Army stores are still there. Goodwill moved to Whitesburg Dr. and if Breaking Free is still around, I don't know where.

Today I'm kicking myself for not getting those SNES joysticks. They sell for a lot more than $10 today. And apparently they were made locally.]

18 December 1999

CVG 101: Cleaning Your Cartridges (originally for Classic Gamer Magazine)

[Classic Gamer Magazine introduction. This article originally appeared in CGM volume 1, #2 (winter 1999–2000). This is the article as I submitted it and may not exactly match what was published.]

Finally, after months of searching, you find a new and sought after cartridge for your collection. You take it home, plug it in your system, and . . . nothing! The game appears to be dead. Maybe it’s just dusty. You take it out, blow on it, and try again. Still nothing. Your sense of euphoria has been dashed by a cruel jest of the fates. Or maybe not . . . .

Just like everything else, cartridges get dirty over time. How dirty depends mainly on the environment they’re kept in, but you probably only care whether they work or not.Well, first let me suggest that you clean all the carts you find, because some of the dirt on the contacts is going to stay in your console’s cartridge slot. Using only clean cartridges will help prolong your system’s life. (Think of it as "safe sex" for your video game system(s).)

Before I proceed, I must say that neither I nor Classic Gamer Magazine take any responsibility for any damage you might do to your cartridges following any of the advice below. Although the techniques described work for most people, I can’t guarantee that something totally weird won’t happen when you try them, so please don’t blame me.

Okay, the first rule of cart cleaning is don’t blow into them! Although I don’t know of any studies that prove it, the conventional wisdom is that all you’re doing is blowing moisture right on to the contacts, which will only make them corrode faster. Although it may seem that you’re blowing the dust out of them and making a cartridge that didn’t work a second ago work now, it was probably just the fact that you reseated the contacts by taking it out and putting it back in. If you must blow into them, try using a can of compressed air from your local electronics store. This is exactly what those cans were created for.

There is a better, more thorough way, although it’s not as fast. First, go to your local pharmacy and buy some cotton swabs and a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol. The higher the percentage of alcohol, the better. The rest of the solution is water, you see. Alcohol evaporates quickly, but as you know, water doesn’t. Water causes corrosion, so the less, the better.

As you probably guessed by now, simply take a cotton swab and dip it in the alcohol. Then rub it up and down along the contacts. You will probably be surprised by how black the swab becomes. Now whatever you do, don’t dip it back in the alcohol because then you’ll just contaminate it. You can, however, rotate the swab to a clean area as you rub. You’ll end up with three or four "sides" to your swab. While I’m at it, I also clean the inside of the cartridge around the contacts so the dust there doesn’t settle back on them. Finally, make sure you wait until the alcohol has evaporated and the contacts are dry before plugging it in!

Oh, but you can’t get to the contacts because there’s just more black plastic on that end? Okay, then that’s probably an Atari-made Atari 2600 cart. If you look closely, you’ll see two tabs sticking out at each end next to a "hole." Take something like a nail file or knife and carefully poke it into one of those holes. You should see the "door" on the long slot in the middle slide up. Now simply push back on the entire black cover and the contacts should be exposed.

At this point, most cartridges will work if they didn’t already. Occasionally you have a stubborn one with harsher corrosion that won’t clean off with this technique. Now you have to bring in the big gun: a pencil eraser. Simply rub the eraser up and down on the contacts. This goes with the "grain" of the contacts from their many insertions into and removals from consoles. Don’t over rub, as the eraser can actually remove the conductive coating of the contact. Once you do that, your cartridge will no longer work no matter how much you clean it.

You might have problems getting the eraser to the contacts. William Cassidy once suggested cutting a slice of eraser and gluing it to a Popsicle stick. If that doesn’t work, you can try taking the casing off the cartridge to better get at the contacts. Many systems’ cartridges are held together with a screw under the label. This can lead to a dilemma if the label is in excellent shape. Do you want a beautiful looking cartridge or one that works?

There are a few options. You can use a utility knife to cut a small X over the screw, carefully peel the label back, and then fold it back down when done. You might also try removing the label (or peeling it back enough to get to the screw) and then re-applying it. If you do this, try heating the label with a hair dryer. This usually loosens the glue so that you can keep the label in good condition if you’re careful.

As time goes on, more and more cartridges will go "bad," when actually they’re just dirty. Keeping your cartridges, and thus your system, clean will increase their lifetime. And hopefully you’ll get a lifetime’s worth of play out of them as well.

Postscript (June 2013)

The date for this article is taken from the day Cav said he was going to start mailing out copies of the issue to subscribers. The issue's theme was video games and movies, but cleaning cartridges was the topic stuck in my head, so I went with that. CVG 101 was the kind of column that didn't necessarily have to follow each issue's theme. Also, if you have copies of CGM, you'll note that first issue had a header proclaiming the article part of "Lee's Classic Corner." I asked Cav to ditch that after the first issue and he did.

10 November 1999

Walter's Vocabulary

This post provides a snapshot of Walter's vocabulary at 18 months. These are words that Walter says (or has said) regularly. There are more things he has seemed to say, but since he did not say them regularly, I'll assume it was a fluke. Some of these words have fallen into disuse at the current time.

Walter understands many more words than he says. For example, he knows what "stand" and "sit" mean. He also has learned a few more body parts than he says, but he's working on it.
One of Walter's first words after Mommy and Daddy.
(belly) button
This was amongst Walter's early body part vocabulary. Unfortunately we're now having a hard time teaching him what a shirt button is. (You say button, he thinks "belly button.")
Another of Walter's early words, but after "ball."
When we first tried reading to Walter, he wouldn't sit still long enough. Now he loves to have books read to him. His current favorites are The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss and Tigger's Big Bounce.
Walter loves to blow bubbles, but "bubble" can also mean "grape."
Walter started waving bye-bye early on, and then quit. Once he started doing it again, it took a little while for him to also say the word. Now he's a professional.
Walter refers to any snack food (cookies, fruit chews, crackers, chips) as a cookie. He will sometimes say "cracker" when corrected.
I couldn't tell you exactly when Walter started saying this. He just slowly went from "duh-duh-duh" to "dad-ee." One of his first words, along with "Mommy." Early on, he had stages where he'd only say one or the other. Currently, Walter seems to have a problem understanding Lee is Daddy and Dorothy is Mommy. He tends to reverse them most of the time.
One of Walter's most recent words.
This was the third body part we worked on. He picked it up fairly quickly.
The fourth body part we did. Now we just have to teach to be gentle when indicating it.
French fry
We've unfortunately fallen into the trap of fast food. Walter loves French fries. We have to limit what we give him so he'll eat his other food most of the time. He's even said "French fry" once as we drove past McDonald's now, so we're definitely in trouble (and trying to cut back).
Walter tends to greet me with this when I come home. He'll also answer "hi" when you say it to him.
Any liquid that goes in his cups (juice, milk, water) is juice, although we're working on "milk." Walter uses this word a lot, basically meaning he's thirsty. Sometimes it's hard for me to tell "juice" from "shoes."
kitty (cat)
Walter learned this fairly early, despite the fact our cats always run away from him.
One of Walter's first two words. (See Daddy.)
For a while, this was Walter's all-purpose answer, no matter if he meant yes or no. But if you tried to give him something he didn't want, he definitely meant it because he'd say "no" and push it away. He's gotten better about it, but "no" still doesn't always mean no.
One of the first two body parts we worked on, and one of Walter's favorites. (See toes.)
Another of Walter's more recent words. He knows what it means. Now if we could just get him to say it when he needs to "go potty."
When Walter starts saying "shoes," it sometimes means he wants to go outside. Although usually he'll go get his jacket first and then we'll tell him he needs his shoes. Then he starts saying "shoes."
Walter usually says "shoes" when he sees someone putting on socks, but will start saying "socks" after he's corrected.
One of Walter's more recently learnd body parts. I think it's surplanted mouth, so I guess we'll have to work on tongue, lips, etc.
One of Walter's grandmothers managed to start teaching Walter to blow his nose at an amazingly early age. He later learned to say "tissue." Usually he starts saying it whenever someone else gets a tissue, indicating he wants one too (whether his nose really needs blowing or not).
One of the first two body parts we worked on, along with "nose." He learned the difference amazingly quickly.
Another of Walter's early words, although I don't remember precisely when he started saying it. He most likely picked it up from Teletubbies. At first, he'd just say it for no apparent reason. Then he started saying it any time he saw Teletubbie merchandise. As of this writing, he tends to use when he spills or drops something.
I started saying this to let Walter know sliding down a slide is supposed to be fun. Now he often says it just as he starts down one. (And he does think they're fun.)
When Walter does something right or good, we try to encourage him by saying "yay" and clapping. He picked up on it and will now clap for himself while saying "yay!" He's also started doing it when other people applaud, including people on TV.
Walter sometimes says this in response to a question, but I don't think he really understands its meaning.
[This was originally a web page at my personal site. It was created November 10, 1999 and last updated on November 15 of that year.]

20 September 1999

I hate my thrift!

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic. "Thrift" is slang for a thrift store--a store usually run by a charity that sells used items donated to them.]

I hate one of my local thrifts. They have insane prices, but I have to keep going back because they tend to get in more of what I'm looking for. (Unfortunately, it's so dry here that even they don't get in much in the way of video games.) Here's an exchange I had with the cashier today:

I put on the counter a C-64 magazine and paperback. The price sign by the register says $0.25 & $0.50 for paperbacks, but nothing about magazines.
"A dollar? For a magazine?!?" I ask. I had been expecting 15 to 25 cents.
"For a computer magazine," she says as if this makes perfect sense.
"But it's over ten years old!" (It was from 1986.)
"It's an antique then, isn't it?" she says incredulously.
"Then you can keep it," I say in a bit of a huff.
"Be happy to," she responds icily. I paid my quarter for the book and left.

The cashiers at this store get to set the prices. Nothing is marked, although there is aforementioned sign giving prices of the more common items. They apparently have some unwritten code for pricing some items. (Like all video game cartridges, from 2600 to Genesis, are $3.) This is the same lady that priced an in-the-box pong-style system at $10 for me last week. I passed on that, too, and it was still there today.

Maybe I'm showing up on different days, but it seems to me they get a cashier who works for a few weeks and then disappears. (And for some reason they're all older women.) This lady has been there before. At least the previous cashier was pleasant, even if she was equally insane on pricing. The store is run by a local rescue mission, and I'm sure they'd make more money if they sold some of their items for less.

ObCVG: Picked up a NES Game Genie for $0.50 at a yard sale this weekend. Haven't tested it yet.

["ObCVG" stands for "obligatory classic video games" content. The newsgroup was supposed to be for discussing classic video games, which was not the main topic of my post. So I added a teeny bit about them to make it on topic.

I was much later told at another thrift store that some other thrifts in town priced items based on how the purchaser was dressed. I typically did my shopping on my lunch hour, so this is probably what bit me because I was wearing "business casual" dress--essentially slacks and a collared shirt. Fancy clothes for someone buying stuff at a thrift store. — 5 June 2009]

18 September 1999

Catching Up With Buckner and Garcia (originally for Classic Gamer Magazine)

[Classic Gamer Magazine introduction. This article originally appeared in CGM #2 (winter 1999–2000). This is the article as I submitted it and may not exactly match what was published.]

"I've got a pocket full of quarters and I'm headed to the arcade."

Do those words sound familiar? If you're a child of the '80s, they should. They're the opening of Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia's hit song, "Pac-Man Fever," from the album of the same name. The "Pac-Man Fever" single went platinum (about 1,700,000 copies sold), while the album went gold (roughly 900,000 sold). Both were released in early 1982 and quickly rose up the charts. The single peaked at #9 on the Billboard chart and #3 on the Record World chart. Not bad for two radio jingle writers in Atlanta who wrote the song in about an hour.

Now, 17 years later, Buckner and Garcia have re-recorded and re-released the album on compact disc. Shortly after the re-release, Classic Gamer Magazine got Buckner and Garcia to take a little time for an exclusive e-mail interview.

The CD

Classic Gamer Magazine: Let's start with the most obvious question: Why re-release Pac-Man Fever on CD 17 years after the original album's release?

Buckner & Garcia: The demand and desire we have been receiving showed us a lot of people wanted a CD version.

CGM: This project seemed to be on-again/off-again for over a year. What finally prompted you to actually do it?

B&G: It took awhile to get all our ducks in a row to make the release possible.

CGM: Did you have to renegotiate certain rights with the arcade manufacturers of each game?

B&G: We still have and maintain all the rights we had on the 1982 release.

CGM: What was involved in re-recording the songs? Did you still have your lyric and music sheets from when you originally recorded the album?

B&G: The original lyric sheets and music were gone, so we went on memory and the lyrics [Lee Seitz] had printed on [his] website.

The Record

CGM: Who sang what on both the album and CD?

Garcia: The vocals are done by me.

CGM: I know you were going to do a tour in Europe when the album was released there? Did it actually happen? Did you do any touring in North America?

B&G: There was never a European tour, but we did a lot of touring for promotion in the U.S.

CGM: In an interview in Video Games magazine, you said a man named Edgel Groves had recorded a country and western version of Pac-Man Fever. Did it ever see commercial release?

B&G: The country version of the song was never released.

CGM: Besides singing "Puck-Man" instead of "Pac-Man," were there any other differences in the Japanese version of Pac-Man Fever ?

B&G: "Puc-Man" was the only change in the version for Japan.

CGM: I've seen a reference to a German version of Pac-Man Fever (called Pac-Man Feiber ) sung by Gerald Mann. Did you or anyone else do any other versions in different languages?

Garcia: I have not heard about the German or any other different language versions.

Back to Today

CGM: So just what have you been up to since Pac-Man Fever slid off the charts?

B&G: We still are writing, recording, and producing music and advertising jingles.

CGM: What were your favorite video games in the '80s? Do you still play video games? (If so, which ones?)

Garcia: [My] favorite game was, is, and always will be Pac-Man.

You can order your own copy of the Pac-Man Fever CD for $15.99 plus $3.50 shipping and handling at www.bucknergarcia.com. [OFFER NO LONGER VALID.]

Postscript (June 2013)

As you may have guessed, the title is a bit misleading. This was not an interview with Buckner and Garcia, but just Gary Garcia. How it came about is probably a blog post in itself, but essentially their recording engineer turned to me for some minor help while they were re-recording it because I had one of the few Web pages dedicated to the album at the time. You can find a bit more at my Pac-Man Fever Forever pages.

I was a bit disappointed in the final result of the interview due to Mr. Garcia's curt answers. But in his defense, it was an e-mail interview and I don't know how his typing skills were. Perhaps I should have done it on the phone. Also, I'd hoped to get some answers from Jerry Buckner as well, but he didn't respond.

If you didn't know, I'm a bit of a Pac-Man Fever aficionado, so several of these questions might have been a bit obscure, but after reading the vintage interview in Video Games, they were what I was wondering about. I suspect the county version of "Pac-Man Fever" is what the duo later released as "Pac-Man Fever Unplugged." I've forgotten whether that was released before or after I asked the question about it.

14 August 1999

CVG 101: Classic Video Games in a Nutshell (originally for Classic Gamer Magazine)

[Classic Gamer Magazine introductionThis article was originally published in CGM volume 1, #1 (fall 1999). This is the article as I submitted it and may not exactly match what was published.]

Welcome to the first CVG 101 column. My name is Lee K. Seitz, and I’ve been actively collecting classic video games since the late 1980s. The purpose of this column is to help educate newcomers to the hobby of collecting classic video games. Each issue I’ll pick a different topic to explain. I hope you find these columns both educational and entertaining. For this, my first column, I’m simply going to try to define many terms often used within the hobby while giving a brief history of home video games.

If you’re on the Internet, there’s a Usenet newsgroup where collectors discuss classic video games. Its name is rec.games.video.classic, or r.g.v.c for short. If you’re not familiar with newsgroups, I’m afraid it’s too big a topic to go into detail about here. Try a site like DejaNews (www.dejanews.com) or RemarQ (www.remarq.com). You’ll see many of the terms I discuss here come up in the discussions in r.g.v.c.

First, let’s cover the home video game systems of the classic age (roughly 1972-1984). You are probably familiar with the some of the major systems of the time, particularly Atari’s. The Atari 2600 was first released as the Atari Video Computer System (VCS). When Atari released it’s second programmable system, the Atari 5200 Super System, they went back and changed the VCS to the 2600. Atari later released the Atari 7800 Pro System, which could play both games designed for it and 2600 games.

Although the Atari 2600 was the reigning champion of the classics, it was not the first console. That was the Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972. It was a very simple system that played mainly pong-type games. It came with overlays to tape to the TV screen and numerous cards and game boards to help enhance it. Next came Atari’s Pong for homes, based on their Pong coin-op (coin-operated) game. It’s success spawned numerous imitators, notably Magnavox’s Odyssey series and Coleco’s Telstar series.

The first programmable console was the Fairchild Channel F, but the 2600 was released shortly thereafter, quickly taking the lead. Again, Atari’s success created competitors. Magnavox’s first truly programmable system, the Odyssey 2, was notable for its full keyboard. Toy company Mattel created the Intellivision, which upped the ante on graphics. Meanwhile Milton Bradley bought out GCE (General Consumer Electronics) and released their Vectrex. The Vectrex is unique in that it is the only home game system to use vector graphics. Vector graphics are those found in arcade games like Asteroids and Tempest, where everything is drawn with straight lines.

Finally, the technology ante was upped again, this time by Coleco with their Colecovision. And then came the Crash.... The Crash was a period in 1983-84 in which the video game market took a nose-dive. This was caused by several factors, including a glut of sub-par games and the falling cost of home computers. Many video game companies went out of business during this time. Most collectors consider this the end of the classic era. It took a company new to the American home video game market to turn things around when they released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985.

As you can see, there are many "classic" systems out there. You might wonder where you can find them and their cartridges (carts, for short). There are several places. If you have a lot of time, but little money, search thrift stores (such as Value Village or those run by the Salvation Army or Goodwill), flea markets, and yard sales. Some collectors visit thrift stores so often that they’ve coined a word for the act of visiting several thrift stores around town: thrifting.

If, on the other hand, you have plenty of money, but not much time, you might try a classic video game dealer. Yes, there really are people who have made a business out of selling old video games. There are no national chains that do so, which makes finding them hard. On the bright side, most do their business via mail order throughout the country. Check out some of the ads in this issue. [Cav, do any dealers have ads going into the first issue? If not I’ll need to rewrite this part.] Another option is Internet auction sites such as eBay (www.ebay.com) or Amazon (www.amazon.com).

Notice I made the distinction of time vs. money. That’s because some items are rarer than others. For example, you’ll have no problems finding an Atari 2600 and a dozen games, while finding a Vectrex with any games can be quite a feat. Some enterprising collectors have created rarity lists of the games for various systems. The first to do so was Craig Pell, also known as VGR. (Only he knows what that stands for.) He created a 2600/7800 rarity list. While it is still around and often referred to, it has not been updated in some time so portions of it are outdated. Many lists use the same rarity ratings VGR created: C = common, U = uncommon, R = rare, ER = extremely rare, and UR = unbelievably rare. There is also an unofficial rating of OC (obnoxiously common) that people use in conversation to refer to Atari 2600 Combat and such.

A great way to get rarity lists for most classic systems is to buy the Digital Press Classic Videogame Collector’s Guide, more commonly known as the Digital Press Guide or DPG. Digital Press (www.digitpress.com) is a fanzine dedicated to all home video game systems, old and new, with more emphasis on old. It rates games and hardware on a rarity scale of 1 (common) to 10 (practically unique). It covers most of the systems mentioned above from the Channel F to the NES. To get a copy send $20 (for U.S. and Canada; $30 elsewhere) to Joe Santulli at Digital Press, 44 Hunter Place, Pompton Lakes, NJ 07442. [Prices and address for historical reasons only. Do NOT send money to this address.]

You might wonder what kind of items get rated a 10. Well, they’re mostly prototypes. The term prototype is used to refer to pre-production cartridges. These are generally of two types. The first is a cartridge containing an EPROM (erasable, programmable read only memory) chip that the programmer used to test his or her game on an actual console. In general, the programmer would erase and reuse a cartridge many times during the development process, so few of these exist. The more highly regarded ones are those that contain either a game with some differences from the commercially released version or a game that was never released at all. The second type are called "lab loaners." These were pre-production, but usually completed, games sent to magazines and such for review. Because of the lead time in publishing a magazine, game companies had to get the games to the reviewers early in order for the review to be published at the same time the game was released. These prototypes were supposed to be returned to the game company afterwards, but many were not. They generally have an official, yet generic label on them including the address to return them to.

Finally, let me mention holy grails. These are the games or systems that collectors prize most of all. Now not every collector considers the same game(s) to be his "holy grail." One that many collectors want, however, is Chase the Chuckwagon. (In fact, some collectors use the phrase "chasing the chuckwagon" instead of "thrifting.") Chase the Chuckwagon is an Atari 2600 game that was only available by mail order from Purina if you collected enough proofs of purchase from their dog food. Therefore, it’s fairly rare. It’s far from the rarest 2600 game, but it’s taken on a certain mystique among collectors. Good luck finding your own holy grails, whatever they may be.

Postscript (June 2013)

As you can tell, this is my first article for Classic Gamer Magazine. It appeared in CGM #1 (fall 1999). I chose the date August 14th for the first day of Classic Gaming Expo '99, where the magazine debuted.

I touched on many topics here that I wrote about previously for Suite 101You'll notice this was back when r.g.v.c was still the center of the collecting hobby and before Google bought up DejaNews' Usenet archives.

This is the original article, before Chris "Cav" Cavanaugh did any editing, so I left in the comment addressed to him to give you a behind-the-scenes peek.  As it turned out, there were no advertisers for the first issue, so the sentence before the comment was struck and the sentence before the struck one was modified to say, "...via mail order throughout the country and many are based on the World Wide Web."  And remember when Amazon tried to go head-to-head with ebay by doing auctions?

Craig "VGR" Pell's list is still around (although even more outdated), as is the Digital Press web site (but not so outdated).

30 July 1999

Brag: Hardware for $0.10 each (& More finds today)

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

Subject: Brag: Hardware for $0.10 each

More classic computer oriented, but anyway. Today I stopped by a thrift I don't have much luck at. It's actually more of a consignment shop, but if people leave their items past a certain amount of time and they don't sell, the shop claims them and sells them itself. What I didn't know is that red tag items (ones the shop has claimed) are 10 cents on Fridays!

I went up to the cash register with a Commodore 128D (just CPU, keyboard, & built-in floppy drive; marked $2.50), TI 99/4A (computer, power supply, switchbox, and Wico joystick adapter; $2.50), and an Atari Video Pinball (w/switchbox & coax adapter, missing side buttons covers; $3.00). Don't ask me to explain why the Video Pinball was marked more than the computers.

The couple in front of me let me put my stuff on the counter, but was still going to go ahead, which was fine with me. The lady saw I had a red tag item and said they were $0.10. I was amazed and said they were all red tag items, so she let me go in front of them after all. It came to $0.32. I had planned on charging my purchase since I had all of $0.35 on me, but I got to pay cash. 8)

The computers will be eBay bound after a while. If I sell them for $1, I'll make almost a 1000% profit. 8) The Video Pinball is an duplicate unit. I figure if the paddle works better than my other, I can transfer the button covers. Just like my other one, I haven't managed to get the battery compartment open to see if there's anything in there or not. Finally, am I correct that the C-128D just needs a normal power cord like a PC? (No fancy power adapter like a C-64.)

[This was the Thrift Shop on Redstone Arsenal. Sadly, I no longer work on the Arsenal and hence don't have access to the store any more. To give locals a feel for how long ago, this was when the shop was still in the complex of out-of-the-way buildings between Ajax and Patriot Roads, just north of Neal Road. (Sorry, I don't remember the building number.) It was while I was working out there (1998–2000) that they moved to their current location in building 3209 on Hercules Road. — 18 June 2010]

[Here's a second post made the same day.]

Subject: More finds today

I forgot to mention another thing in my "10 cents each" brag. At another thrift I picked up a set of twin size Pac-Man sheets for $3. (Just fitted & flat sheets, no pillowcases. 8( ) We don't currently have a twin bed in our house, but our son will be sleeping one in a few years. But do I dare let him actually *use* them?

At the same thrift, I found an NES Roll & Rocker controller for $4. I've heard of it before, but hadn't paid much attention. Can this be used in place of a standard controller or does it only work with certain games? Anyway, it's an addition to my informal "odd NES controllers" collection.

[I did indeed use the Pac-Man sheets on my son's bed when he got older. And eventually they were a preferred alternative to Barney. — 1 July 2010]

14 July 1999

Re: Someone got Perfect Pacman Score????

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic as part of a lengthy thread about the original announcement of Billy Mitchell's perfect Pac-Man game.]

In article <r#1XL5Vz#GA.68@pet.hiwaay.net>, Lee Seitz wrote:
Okay, let's try this again. Looking at the split screen photo at VGR's web site (http://www.clark.net/pub/vgr/pics/pac-man.gif), and comparing to a normal board, it looks like there's 104 dots and two engergizers. So... [snip] 612,000 + 1040 + 51,000 + 100 + 204,000 + 2,459,600 = 3,327,740 Hmmm, now I'm 5,620 under. Assuming it appears okay and is edible, I believe 102 dots will only yield one key (5000 pts.), which still leaves me 620 points off. Heck, I think I'll just ask Mr. Day. I'll let y'all know what he says.
(Cross-posted to r.g.v.a.c because of similar threads there.) 

Well, Walter Day called me and conferenced in Billy Mitchell earlier this evening. (Surprised the heck out of me! He sent a brief e-mail earlier, but I was in a hurry and only half read it.) I'm not at liberty to reveal everything we discussed, but here's what I can tell you.

First, after the call, it occurred to me I could use MAME's cheat function to go straight to the split screen. (Why didn't we think of this before???) I think I miscounted the dots on the good half. There seem to be 112. Anyway, the key is that there are also dots on the bad half. (They're hard to see on the photo I referenced earlier because it's so small.) And they reset each time you die! So a perfect score includes eating these dots and dying, then repeat.

A perfect game also sets the number of lives to maximum. Since the game has a finite end, it was agreed among the top players that this should be done to allow the absolute maximum score to be achieved.

At this point I'm sick of trying to do the math, so I'm simply going to take Walter & Billy at their word that 3,333,360 is the max. possible score. I have no reason not to believe them.

Some other threads referenced classic magazines that gave higher scores and ways to get past the split screen. Quite simply, Walter didn't believe back then that people would lie about a video game score. In his defense, most players had signed documents from their local arcade saying they achieved the score they submitted. Apparently the arcade's simply went along with the lying claimants, either knowingly or unknowingly. After relating all this, Walter said, "I hope I'm not wrong now, but I was definitely wrong then." He seems to have enough different people who should know all telling him the same thing to be right this time. Thanks to him and Billy for taking the time to talk to me.

[The opening equation is: 255 boards of dots + split screen dots + 255 boards of energizers + split screen energizers + 17 boards of monsters (4 per energizer) + 255 boards of fruit. My total is off because there are 112 dots on the left side of the split screen, not 104. Note that the image above is much clearer than the one I mentioned on VGR's web site — which, as far as I know was the only one available at the time — so it was more difficult to count the dots.

Also, as I figured out, I forgot to include one key on the split screen for 5,000 points. So the total should be 3,332,820. That leaves 540 points to be picked up by eating the nine dots hidden on the right six times (five starting lives plus a bonus life).

I was utterly flabbergasted when Walter Day called me on the phone at home. And I don't think I gave him my phone number, either. Apparently he knew enough about my Classic Video Games Nexus site to think I had some standing in the classic video game community to deserve such treatment, and I certainly wasn't going to dissuade him. I later saw Mitchell play Ms. Pac-Man at Classic Gaming Expo 2K. His skill is awe-inspiring. — 18 June 2010]

[Here's the breakdown:

I actually created this spreadsheet a long time ago, but it only occurred to me today, as I happened upon some detailed information on the split screen, to post it here. — 9 Jan 2013]

30 June 1999

Odd cart holder & one that got away [NES Action 52 box]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

Time for me to drone on again. I've been busy, but here's how things went last week.

I found the box with all inserts for the NES Action 52 cart. These carts go for a quite a bit on eBay, so I tore up the bins where I found the box. No cart. 8( Farther over, I find some pristine label 2600 carts and a labelless Parker Bros. cart. I'm not sure that I need the label upgrades on these, but pick up four plus the PB cart. I figure I can afford $0.50 a piece. I get to the check out and the lady, who's been charging me $0.50 (instead of $3 like another lady there) says $3 each! I end up just getting Worm War I so I can get the Action 52 box & docs for free. BTW, this thrift also charges $3 for Sega & NES carts. It's my least favorite in town, but seems to have stuff the most often.

One day I went with very little money. I saw a Sears 2600 in the box at Value Village marked $25. More than I care to spend (even if I had it on me), but the box looks like the first release. (The picture on the front has the little Sears labels on top of the joysticks.) There's also a brandless 2600 holder and interesting cart holder for $3.99 each. Then at Salvation Army I see a Video Pinball console (white version) for $5. I already have one so I figure I'll come back tomorrow after I've gone to the bank.

The next day I go to Value Village and get them to let me open the 2600 box. I told them I wanted to know if it had any extra games in it (which I did want to know). The box said "complete as pictured," but you never know. It turns out the 2600 was a Sears version, but they substituted Combat for Target Fun (same game, different label) and 7800 sticks for 2600 ones. There was also an extra boxed 2600 stick in it. (It wasn't plain white, but had pictures on it. A football player is all I remember.) No extra games and definitely not worth $25. I also leave the 2600 console holder as it's generic. (No Atari label on it.)

I do, however, pick up the funky cart holder. It reminds me of a 5-1/4" disk holder. It has a transluscent cover that swings to the back when you open it. It holds 18 carts in two columns of 9. There's a small slot for instructions at the top. Anyone seen one of these before?

Then I get to Salvation Army and the Video Pinball is gone. No great loss, but it might explain why I never find much. Too much competition.

[I don't know why I called Target Fun the same game as Combat with a different label. Target Fun is the Sears equivalent to Air-Sea Battle. I posted a follow-up the same day berating myself.

Jeff Salzman responded a month later, saying, "The funky cartridge holder sounds like a TI-99 cartridge holder I have several of them myself and the cartridges are stored at an angle."]

19 June 1999

Today's finds (future classics?) [N64 clock, strategy guides, Stop Thief]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I only had time to hit four yard sales today, but the first one was good. It advertised computer & video games. Turns out the guy was a former Electronics Boutique manager and was dumping a bunch of stuff. I picked up several expensive hint books for games and systems I don't have (yet) at $0.50 each! I even picked up a little bit of software, too. But the coolest item had to be a Nintendo 64 clock for $5. It has the big 3-D N logo in the middle. I don't have a clock in my office, so this will do. It might even be worth something to people like us in 20 years. 8) Of course, I'd trade it for an Atari logo clock in a heartbeat. 8)

Quick notes on some of the books:

The Battlezone Strategy Guide has some quotes from the creator of the classic arcade game. He talks about how being a home game allows the new Battlezone to have more depth.

The Summer 1999 Expert Codebook actually tells you how to find the secret room in Adventure! It's an "Extra" in the Saturn section. (Yes, there really is a short Saturn section.) Right below it is another Extra that talks about the stuff you can get by frying your 2600. They don't actually call it that, nor do they mention that you could potentially damage your system doing it.

The only other things I found were at my second stop. A Stop Thief board game ($1, eBait) and a computer data switch ($2). I think I'll eventually use the latter for the Intellivision Controller Interface when I get the money for them.

[The N64 clock is still on my wall, but I still don't own a N64. Nor did I ever buy the Intellivision Controller Interface, which is probably just as well since computers have all gone USB since. — 15 August 2010]

[Galen Tatsuo Komatsu posted the following regarding the Adventure secret room instructions four days later (6/23/1999):]

This originally appeared in the August'98 issue of Expert Gamer, in an article, "50 Greatest Videogame Tricks of All Time" which also appears on their videogames.com website.

Since you have the item in front of you, grab a copy of Atari B-TECH and compare the text of the trick in the two.


03 June 1999

Last week's finds [joysticks]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I've been meaning to post this for a while. This is stuff I found last Friday (May 28th). A couple weeks ago, Alex added a picture of the Accuball controller to the 2600 Nexus. Well guess what I found in a box full of Commodore 64 stuff? Yep. Plus three Super Champ joysticks. These are the ones that let you wind the cord into the base. Very handy. Two of them work fine. The third was completely disassembled, but in the box. I told the lady I really just wanted the box and showed her the parts inside. She sold that to me for $0.50. My total was $5.50. I could have sworn I got something else, too, but I can't remember what.

I slapped most of the parts together. The previous owner apparently disassembled it because the plastic ring that presses the direction contact broke. It looks like this wasn't the first time someone tried to fix this problem. All the parts are there, except a couple screws, but they went a little overboard on their disassembly. They not only desoldered the fire button wires (which is necessary to get it apart for the fix), they also cut the ones going from the top button to the trigger button. Oh, and it's missing a suction cup, too. If anybody wants the broken one, just let me know. It's yours for the cost of shipping. I'm happy to have two working ones now, plus a box!

14 May 1999

This Week's Finds [Mattel Baseball, Lost Luggage, catalogs]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I didn't get out much this week due to a stomach virus. But I still had some luck. First stop Thursday was to go pick up a Mattel Baseball handheld I'd seen earlier. At $3.75, I'd been hesitant to pick it up, but a quick check of eBay afterwards confirmed I should have gotten it the first time. I was tempted to let it sit until it was half-price, but at this store it seems anything I want disappears the day it goes to half-price. Oh, and it was still there. Now it'll be eBait.

The last stop Thursday netted me a copy of Lost Luggage (green label) with the manual for $0.50! I've been looking for this for a while. I found one last summer, but the board is loose and I haven't had a chance to repair it. (Gotta be careful so I don't ruin the label.) This one works fine. I also picked up Apollo and Spectravideo catalogs with it, as I didn't have those. Oh, and an Entex Hockey for $1. It has some cloudy spots on the screen and I wasn't real impressed with it, so I may trade it.

I'd forgotten to take my list with me, so when I got back I discovered I should have picked up the Towering Inferno for its manual, too. I went back today (Friday) and did so, also deciding to pick up Defender & Atlantis (label upgrades) and Planet Patrol just to round things out to $2. All came with manuals. It just occurred to me, however, that I think I didn't really need that Defender. I need to get my printed list updated again, I guess.

A prior Friday stop netted me a Coleco Alien Attack handheld for $1.50. I can't say much about it yet as I don't keep C batteries at work. It looks nice and clean, though.

I also picked up two N64 promotional video tapes. The ones they send in the mail to registered customers. I only ever got two in the mail myself, as I never upgraded to the N64 from my SNES (that I rarely play). I already had both of them (Diddy Kong Racing & Banjo-Kazooie), but figures extras won't hurt at $0.50 each. Does anyone else collect these? I don't know why I started. Partly to preserve them, partly in hopes they'll be a wanted item in the future
since everyone seems to throw them out eventually.

[I eventually gave the Entext Hockey to a fellow collector who's also a big hockey fan. I found it incredibly hard to hit the ball in Mattel Baseball, so it went on eBay, as did the Alien Attack. —15 August 2010]

04 May 1999

Today's finds [Telstar Colormatic, Simon, battery guarantee]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I tend to be long-winded, so here's the topics of interest in this post: Coleco, dedicated (pong-style) systems, Ralph Baer, Simon, Microvision.

At my first stop, I found a Coleco Telstar Colormatic. At first I thought it someone had broken off the paddle knobs. But then I realized the external two paddles sitting next to it were meant to plug into it. They weren't taped to it or anything, so I felt lucky they were still sitting beside it. The really unusual thing about this system is it's from Coleco *Canada*. (I live in Alabama, USA.) It also has legs that it sits on so the console is angled for reaching it easier.

I haven't seen a Telstar exactly like this one before. They wanted $5 for it, which seemd like a bit much, but since I hadn't seen one before, I picked it up. Does anyone know if it has a U.S. equivalent? Or was it released here in the U.S. too? As I said, it has two remote paddles. It also has a rest button, and on/off, tennis/hocky/handball/squash, & beginner/intermediate/pro slide switches.

The next find was at my second stop (of two): a complete, looks-like-new Simon. I've kind of been wanting a vintage Simon since I learned Ralph Baer (inventor of the original Odyssey) created it. I saw the box and thought it looked in good shape at a glance. A closer look showed the box was in great shape with only light wear on some corners and edges. Opening it revealed a pristine Simon, complete with instructions, blank warranty sheet, and even the styrofoam bit on top to keep the box from getting squished. The D battery compartment was empty, but the 9V compartment still had a battery in it. Luckily, it hadn't leaked (see note). Do modern Simons still require this many batteries of these sizes?

I put it back in the box and inspect it to see how "original" it is. It has the Milton Bradley Electronics logo on it, like a Microvision. There's a 1978 copyright on it, but that just means they hadn't changed the box markings since then. Then I look at the bottom. There's ads for the Super Simon (Never seen one of those before.) and Mircovision on it! That cinches it. This is worth $3. Once I got back to work and looked at it more closely, I found 1984 copyright dates on the instructions and inside top of the box. I guess they printed up a *bunch* of stickers to cover the boxes back around '78 and were still using them in '84. Oh, well, I won't quibble with one in this great a shape. (Hope it actually works.)

Note: As I was throwing the 9V battery (a Ray-O-Vac Heavy Duty) away, I noticed a note on the side.
Consumer's Guarantee: If any device using this battery is damaged by leakage, send the battery and the device prepaid to Ray-O-Vac corporation, Madison, WI 53703. We will either repair or replace the device and batteries at no additional cost. Guarantee void if either user or device recharges battery.
Now *that's* a guarantee! I wish modern batteries had that kind of guarantee on them. I'll have to look more closely at the electronics I find with corroded batteries in them from now on. I wonder how they'd repair or replace a vintage handheld or pong?

29 April 1999

Today's finds [2600 Racquetball, Colecovision Spy Hunter & Spectron, Comp IV]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I hit a store today and was surprised to see they had some new Atari 2600 games in. ("New" as in used games that were new to the store.) I pick out what I thought was two 2600 carts and one Colecovision cart for about $1 each. Later, in the car, I glanced in the bag and noticed that there were actually two Colecovision carts. I had previously not noticed the distinctive Colecovision shape at the end of one of them. It turns out both CV carts are rare! Here's what I
  • Racquetball (2600; tradebait)
  • Spy Hunter (CV; now I *really* need a Super Action controller)
  • Spectron (CV)
The labels aren't in the best shape. In fact, the two CV carts look like they've been stored in an open box in someone's basement for several years. I also noticed after I bought them that the labels around the screw holes have been punched through, so I hope they really are what they say they are. (I once bought a Destructor that turned out to be a non-working Super Action Baseball.)

I also picked up a Comp IV at another store. For those that don't know, Leonard Herman says in Phoenix that this was the first electronic game produced commercially. This is my second one, and I still need the instructions. Anyone got them? (Photocopy, ASCII, anything!)

[I still don't have Super Action Controllers for my Colecovision. And I can't check at the moment, but I believe the two Colecovision games worked and were what they said. I believe I also found some form of instructions for the Comp IV as well. Interestingly, the silkscreen on the "screen" of the second Comp IV is different from that on the first. —15 August 2010]

26 April 1999

Good find or not? [2600 & 7800 stuff]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

So how do you define a "good find"? I'll tell you what I found and you can tell me if I did good.

First stop was an annual church rummage sale. I bought a C-64 Fast Load cart for $0.25 just because it was so cheap. I don't have a C-64 or any real interest in owning one, but I figure I might end up with one someday anyway and carts typically don't get any cheaper.

A few stops with nothing from there. Then I hit a neighborhood yard sale. The first house has a box with some SMS games & a loose Colecovision Venture. The sign on it said "Sega system & games $20," but there was no sign of the system. I wasn't interested and didn't need the Venture, so I moved on. (I probably should have asked about more Coleco games, though.)

The rest of the neighborhood revealed nothing until the last pair of houses. I saw a TI-99/4a box and decided to stop. Very little TI stuff and nothing else classic. Then I walked to the house down the street.

One of the first boxes I see is filled with about a dozen boxed 2600 games and loose console. I ask about the Atari and the owner points to *another* box saying, "this here?" It contains two 7800s, two 2600s, and some loose games. I ask how much for all. He says $30. I only have $25. He takes it.

I haven't tested most of it yet, but here's some of what I got. This is from memory as I don't have the stuff in front of me.
  • 1 complete 7800 (power supply & two joysticks)
  • 1 7800 minus power supply w/two questionable joysticks
  • 3 2600s w/power supplies (I think it's 1 black 4-switch and 2 wood 6-switches.)
  • 2(?) standard 2600 sticks
  • 3 *gray* Atari power supplies (What the--?!)
  • Shrinkwrapped 7800 carts (all available from O'Shea):
    • Centipede (x2)
    • Choplifter
    • Donkey Kong Junior
  • Boxed 2600 carts:
    • Codebreaker
    • Combat
    • Jr. Pac-Man (shrinkwrapped)
    • Pac-Man
    • Space Invaders
    • Space War
    • Video Chess
    • more commons that I forget
  • Loose 2600 carts:
    • Astroblast
    • Fathom (the only one I needed; the label could be much better)
    • Gorf
    • E.T. (x2)
    • more commons that I forget
I figure I'll sell the complete 7800 with some games on eBay to make back my money. The other one will probably become a spare. (I rarely see 7800 consoles in my area.) I don't know what I'm going to do with the 2600s. I may turn them into complete systems with some games and sell them, too. I didn't have some of the game boxes and instructions, so I'll keep those. I guess the rest goes on my trade list.

If you've read my brag posts lately, you'll know that I recently found a copy of Video Chess while waiting for one in the mail. Now I find one CIB! Why is it I go years without finding this fairly common cart, and then find two of them?

The disturbing thing is the seller said, "these things must be getting popular again. I sold five this morning." I'm not sure if he meant five games or five systems (w/about 10 games each, from what he offered me at first). I fear the latter, in which case who knows what good stuff I missed out on?! Well, to whoever got it, you missed the Fathom! 8)

["CIB" stands for "complete in box," meaning it has the box, instructions, and cartridge. —5 June 2009]

19 April 1999

Hardly a brag [Mattel Football I handheld, 5200 joysticks, Pac-Man Fever 45]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

When yard sale/rummage sale hopping on Saturday. The only video game items I saw at all were a Virtual Boy w/1 game($15; I passed), a Mattel Football handheld w/o battery cover ($0.25; I took), and a pair of 5200 controllers ($1; I took). The Mattel Football replaces my older unit which I've been unable to repair. (I don't have a screwdriver bit in the shape of a little triangle. Damn you, Mattel Electronics!) The 5200 controllers I haven't tested yet, but I only got them for spare parts. Someone's messed with them before because the two fire buttons are missing from one side of one and the flex circuit for the Start/Pause/Reset buttons has been incorrectly reinserted.

Finally, the minor brag. On a lark, I flipped through the 45s at one yard sale. About the third one in was the Pac-Man Fever single. One dime later, it was mine! This prompted me to finally hook up the turntable I bought at a yard sale last year. Now I've finally heard the instrumental version of Pac-Man Fever. I just need the Donkey Kong single now.

[I've since bought the Donkey Kong single on eBay. I still could use that stupid triangle-shaped bit, though! — 18 June 2010]

16 April 1999

First good 2600 brag in a while [Picnic, Stellar Track, Video Chess]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

Today's thrifting started out bad. Went to a store not usually worth going to and found some computer & SMS stuff. (I don't usually pick up either, but it's been so dry!) I grabbed three mostly common, third party, 2600-compatible joysticks, Pengo & Star Raiders II for the Atari 8-bit, and a Master Gear Convertor for SMS. The guys there weren't the regular guy and didn't know how much anything was if it wasn't priced. (They said the store wasn't even supposed to be open.) None of my stuff was priced, of course. I offered $5. He claimed a joystick alone was worth that. I left it all there. They said the guy who runs it is only there two days a week, and of course he didn't know which two. I think it's time to just stop going to that thrift.

At the next store, I found a Sears 2600 set up that had apparently just come in. (It hadn't been there Monday.) Lots of Sears game, but I don't collect those and at $3 a piece, it's usually not worth it for trade bait. I picked out Picnic (Woo-hoo!!! Didn't have it!) and Stellar Track. Take them to the register and the lady says $1. I tell her I'm going to grab a couple more! (I gotta make sure I only buy when this lady's at the register!) Go back and pick up Sears Demons to Diamonds and Video Chess. I've never found Video Chess before. I have the Sears version that a friend gave me, but prefer an Atari label. Of course, I just sent out payment for a copy of Video Chess two days ago, but bought this one anyway out of principal. Why does it always work like that?!?

This makes the third new 2600 cart I've found in the past two months. Before that, I don't remember how long it's been since I found one. This year just might be shaping up. Maybe I'll finally break 300. Oh yeah, the Sears Demons to Diamonds and Stellar Track are up for trade. My incomplete trade and want lists are at http://home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/trade/.

[18 June 2010 comment: That URL isn't linked because it no longer exists. My trade pages never seemed to lead to any actual trades and it was a pain to maintain them, so I eventually ditched them.

For anyone that is local to Huntsville, the first store was in the 900 block of Oakwood Avenue NW, between Buford and Grace Streets. I don't remember the name. It was two different thrift stores, one right after the other. One was much better run and organized than the other, which you can guess means it wasn't the one above. I don't even remember which store came first any more, it's been so long.

I honestly don't remember the incident at the second store, but from the $3 price mentioned I'd guess it was the Breaking Free Thrift Store on N. Memorial Parkway just north of Oakwood Avenue.]

[10 Nov 2011 comment: And regarding Video Chess? In a few days, it gets worse.]

09 April 1999

Minor finds & unrelated grouse [Stop Thief, blue label Pitfall!]

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I don't remember the details, but I dreamt of finding boxed carts last night. Unfortunately, this wasn't an omen. All I found was a Stop Thief board game (complete minus battery cover) and a blue label 2600 Pitfall. I passed on an Atari 8-bit Gyruss and a Comp IV. This is my third Stop Thief in two months, but the first with instructions. (Naturally, someone mailed me a photocopy of them just a couple weeks ago.) The blue label Pitfall is up for trade. See my trading post (http://home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/trade/) for my want list & a link to my have lists. (It's under construction, but the video game part is pretty much done.)

The grouse has to do with what I missed out on. Near the concentration of local thrifts is a Blockbutser Video. I've been visiting it weekly, waiting for them to get rid of their last set of SNES games, which included Atari's Greatest Hits:The Atari Collection. I went today and didn't notice any new SNES games for sale, but when I went to see if it was on the shelf, I found PlayStation games. I asked the clerk and AGH had already been sold. Bummer! (Not that I really needed it with MAME and a full-sized Missile Command in my garage.)

[I'm not sure why I passed on the Comp IV, although it's probably because there doesn't seem to be much of a market for them, despite their historical significance. Later in the month, however, I picked up my second Comp IV. The trading post link is no longer valid. I gave up on it because it wasn't generating any leads. —14 August 2010]

05 April 1999

Re: Is there a classic system you really DON'T like?

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

In article <19990405024751.06059.00002725@ng101.aol.com>, BluRoom wrote:
>I don't know if this has been thrown around recently, but just for fun - is
>there a classic system you just can't stand or have no desire to collect for,
>and why?

I have two Odyssey2s and a dozen or two boxed games collecting dust. This mostly has to do with the controllers not working properly, but even after getting at least one to work, Odyssey2 games just don't inspire me.

It's the same story for my two Channel Fs. Except one system doesn't work at all and I only have two cartridges. (Which both have one game in common. What's up with that?!? Atari never even stooped that low.) Of course, this is the sum total of Channel F stuff I've seen in all the years I've been collecting.

Also stored away are various pong-type systems, a Studio II (one cart), a Microvision (about six boxed games), and some original Odysseys. (Come on, who can honestly say they can't get enough of their Odyssey? The only reason any of us buy them is for their historical significance.)

It's quite likely I'll eventually sell the Odyssey2 stuff eventually. Maybe the Channel F as well. I've got to clean up my room so I can actually sort through it all first. For some bizarre reason, though, I kind of want to keep the Studio II. Maybe it's just because it was one of my early finds. The Microvision and original Odyssey are definite keepers, even if I don't play them much.

[It's now 2010 and I still want to get rid of the Odyssey2 stuff, but haven't. — 14 August 2010]

Small brag & Wico info

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I went to a thrift today and picked up a box for a Wico bat handle joystick marked $2. I wouldn't have been interested if not for the box. I opened it up and saw a Gemini Gemstick inside. (Bleah!) I decided it was still worth it because the box was in good shape. Looking around more, I found the joystick and swapped it for the Gemstick. I also picked up an NES Advantage and an Apple II copy of Ultima III (to go on eBay to support my classic video game habit).

Here are some part numbers from the box that might help people identify any Wico adpators they have:
  • TI 44/9a: WICO Adaptor 72-4530
  • Apple II: WICO Adaptor 72-4525
  • Odyssey^2: WICO Adaptor 72-4540

Also in the box were the original twist-tie for the cord and a manual that covers the installation and use of most of Wico's joysticks. That's probably about as close as I'll ever get to owning their 5200 stick and numeric keypad.

10 March 1999

Brag, anti-brag, and book

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

I went to Value Village today. A couple months back, I bought about a dozen Intellivision carts with overlays & manuals (no boxes) in a bundle for $0.50 each (about $6 total). This seemed like a good deal, even though I only needed about half of them. Today I got in and they've got bundles of four Atari carts for $6.99! (About $1.75 each.)

I started to buy a package just for an Enduro manual, until I made out the price on it. Then I went up to the front and they had more bags behind the counter. Unfortunately, these had two rare carts I didn't have (in two separate packages, of course). I hated to encourage them by buying them, but for $1.75 I couldn't pass up (both for 2600):
  • Frankenstein's monster (w/manual)
  • Time Pilot (w/manual)

Hey, the Time Pilot seems to be a bit heavy. It's obviously not a prototype, though. Is this common for Time Pilots?

That's the brag. The anti-brag are the other six carts I had to buy:
  • Combat
  • Ice Hockey (w/manual)
  • Missile Command (w/manual)
  • Phoenix (w/manual)
  • Vanguard (w/manual)
  • Wizard of Wor (w/manual)

At least the Wizard of Wor is in better shape than my current copy. And I didn't have the manual for it.

Lastly, I picked up a book called The Home Computer Wars: An Insider's Account of Commodore and Jack Tramiel by Michael S. Tomczyk for $0.50. It should be interesting reading about the man who destroyed Atari. (There's a book title for you!) In fact, the book ends right after Tramiel's takeover. First I gotta read Hackers that I got back at Christmas, though.

I've already learned something from the back cover. Mr. Tramiel is a Holocaust survivor. Interesting.

[I later found out that the book was probably a better brag than the cartridges. It's apparently much sought, yet hard to find. — 18 June 2010]

12 January 1999

My Best Brag Ever

[Originally posted to rec.games.video.classic.]

The short version:

Today, out of the blue, I got a working Missile Command coin-op in good condition! For free!!!

The long version:

A friend of mine sent me e-mail saying a coworker of his was getting rid of a Missile Command arcade game. I just happened to be checking my personal e-mail when his note arrived. (Thank goodness!) The guy was going to trash it if no one wanted it. My friend works very close by, so he said I could drive over and take a look. His coworker had it in the back of his truck.

Upon arrival, I found the Missile Command to be in good shape. The owner, who had had it dumped on him by his mother-in-law, said it worked, so I quickly agreed to take it. We transferred it to my friend's truck. At lunch, he drove it to my house and helped me get it situated.

I turned it on and it came up just fine. Of course, the text was in French, but I knew from the quick research I had done that it was just a switch setting. It was already in free play mode, so I tried a game. Everything worked, except the sound was barely audible and the trackball squeaked.

I managed to open it despite not having keys. (Thank God for DejaNews!) There was a pair of keys inside. After going to the trouble of printing out the switch settings, I discovered upon putting the back cover back in place there was a sheet with the switch setting stapled to the inside. D'oh!

It also showed me where the volume control is. Cranking it up revealed one speaker doesn't work, but I'm sure I can fix that later. I still can't believe I finally get to join VAPS! 8)

[Sadly, I was forced to sell the Missile Command about six years later when money was tight. VAPS is the Video Arcade Preservation Society. It was a group of people owning arcade video games at home. They established a web site in the early days of the Internet. Being able to join it seemed like a big and unattainable honor at the time. —11 June 2009]