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]