This month has been quite poor in terms of games, but I did find some really interesting pieces of hardware and the last two I’ve purchased have been a big strikes of luck.
A few months ago I subscribed to a Facebook group where every week they list 2-3 old computers, most of times Commodore stuff, like the old C64 or Amigas and, less frequently Atari ST and other 8bit or 16bit systems. They prepare a sheet with numbers from 1 to 90 and who wants to try and win the lottery buys a number (the prices are usually from 0,50€ to 2€ for the most valuable items) and when all 90 number are taken we wait for the italian lottery (“Lotto”) to check the first number drawn. I’ve always been super-unlucky with these kind of things but they put on sale a good piece so I’ve chosen a number out of the 50-ish left to choose (I’ve actually asked my mum and she gave me a random number).
Well, it turned out that my number 41 has been drawn and for the small sum of 1,70€ I’ve won an MSX2 computer, namely a Philips VG-8235 🙂
I’m super happy about this prize, especially because it’s one of the first time if not the first time in my life that I win something at the lottery. Plus this is a rather pricey computer and it is not super easy to find in working condition. Unfortunately I still don’t have any kind of software to test it but I’ve seen some videos and screenshots of the computer actually running some games and I trust the seller since he’s running the facebook group since years and I’ve never read a negative feedback about him.
This MSX2 is a really fascinating machine and it will be a good companion for my Philips VG-8020, the most common MSX machine that can be found in Italy. The interesting fact is that even this computer was an unexpected discovery giving the fact that I’ve found it in a container full of old and dirty stuff last year (you can read about it here).
Even though at the moment I don’t have any software for this computer I’m glad I can finally use again some 3,5″ floppy disk since this machine accepts disks, cartridges and cassette tapes of course when connected to a recorder. It is not in perfect shape, but giving the fact that I almost have it for free I can’t really complain…
Dutchmen were lucky to have a huge company like Philips in their country as they have been graced with many sought after machines, like most MSX computers and the CD-i. Unfortunately most of them are obscure and/or unlucky systems but it’s always good to have them.
The second item I’ve bought it’s a rather obscure console that is almost 40 years old.
I have to digress a bit about it. All of the retro games and retro console hype that is growing bigger and bigger this decade always refers to console released in the 80s, let’s say from the 8-bit era an on: it’s like the consoles history started with the NES.
But the NES is part of the third generation of consoles and before it there were other two generations, the first that includes Atari’s PONG and all the PONG clones and the second that includes, for example, the Atari 2600 and the first cartridge-based consoles. Most of these systems are really obscure and hard to find, especially those of the 1st generation, because every company was trying to ride the wave of the success of PONG and build their own system. Probably out there there are dozens of consoles you won’t even find info about online or in specialized books. Just to give you an idea of what the “retro” movement is losing behind, is thought that several hundreds of consoles of 1st and 2nd generation have been released in a period that goes from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. Of course they are pieces of hardware very rudimental and not something you’ll be dying for, even because most of them can play PONG or PONG clones, but they’re a big chunk of history of home entertaining that is seriously endangered and deserves to be protected the same way we protect endangered animal species.
If you’ve followed my scrappy rambling up to here (compliments!) now it’s time to discover what this fuss was all about: I’ve bought from a german seller an Interton VC-4000.
This system is software-compatible with one of the systems I’ve discussed about last year, the 1292 Advanced Video Programmable System, one of the first european 2nd generation console. As it frequently happened back then, a single console, or better a single “concept” of console was produced by dozens of different brands all around the world and in most of cases the different consoles were cross compatibles. Sometimes instead they originated some sort of “sub-families” 100% cross compatilble with one another and not fully compatible with the other sub-families, mainly because of the shape of the cartridges. However it was technically possible to use games designed for a console into another one by just slightly modifying the hardware. The Interton VC-4000 falls under this second kind of systems and has a cross compatibility with other memberf of its sub-family (Grundig Super Play Computer 4000, Palson CX-3000 Data Bass System and Aureac Tele Computer) and not fully compatible with the rest of the 1292 family (that includes not less than 20 specimens).
It’s a cartridge-based console and came with 2 games out of the 40 ever released for it, a generic Paddle Games compilation and the ubiquitous Tank Battle. The console is in perfect condition and only has a small crack in the front but nothing extreme.
This second purchase made me realize that probably it’s time for (yes, another!) a column regarding these forgotten consoles. I know, I’ve started tons of columns (how many? 2000???) but I’ll try to concentrate on this one because there’s a lot of stuff to talk about and it could be an interesting starting point to extend the “retro” hype to older consoles.
I hope I haven’t killed you with an overload of musings/ramblings and I hope you’ll stay tuned for the next purchases!