Sunday, June 27, 2010

Québarium @ ADAMcon #22

On Saturday the 19th of June 2010 we set off early in the morning to go to the annual ADAMcon (this is the 22th Coleco ADAM convention this year) being held at the Chateau Neuf in Laval (Québec) just a 30 minutes drive from Montréal (Québec).  We arrived there at around 10am to meet a small but rather very devoted fans of everything related to Coleco ADAM and Coleco Vision.

And for people wondering what is this obscure system here is a photo of it running followed by a link to Wikiepedia (it had potential, but plagued with serious hardware issue, stiff competition in the home computer market with the like of Commodore, Apple, Atari, it was short lived).

You might wonder why our presence to such a convention, well everyone at Québarium love retro/classing gaming/computing, even too of us (Intruder_qc & TronicSynth) have been collecting 8-bit/16-bit machine for many years (maybe we should make a post about our retro collection).  Then also TronicSynth first computer was a Coleco ADAM where he first learn about Smart Basic and both him and F-Cycles also got a Coleco Vision as their first game console.  You can already see why we were interested in going there, but even more after F-Cycles made the software for TronicSynth clock that was inspired by the Coleco Vision and that we secured a spot in the ADAMcon #22 schedule to present it!

Once arrived we set up our gears (latpops, video camera), but we arrived a bit late for the first presentation of the morning which was about the ADAM sd card reader (which act like multiple drives and let you stores multiples disks).  Quite amazing what people can pull off from old hardware.

Its seems then that we were scheduled to present next, which was to present our Coleco Vision inspired clock.  Which also have a quite interesting story behind it as only F-Cycles knew about it as he work on it secretly... ;-).  The original clock (based on a old laptop) was built originally by TronicSynth last year and F-Cycles was supposed to make software for it, but then TronicSynth was more quick and decided to put a pong clock screen saver.  Then just a few month ago F-Cycles had ideas to redo the software for it and get something more interesting for TronicSynth to watch while looking at the time on the clock (its also after F-Cycles start to ponder on how to make games in a very short time in let say a week, more about this topic in a later blog).  When he gave back the clock, it was more like a standard clock with some scroll showing some message, it was only after a few days that finally the hidden Coleco Vision game remake shown up and it was B.C.'s Quest for Tires...

But to complete this project F-Cycles had to spent countless time inside a Coleco emulator to get the different graphics component (sprites, background, font).

You might think that he got it more easy when it was time to develop the game reimplementation?  Nope as he decide to go old school! Using notepad as his full fledged editor, a DOS emulator and an outdated assembler compiler (circa 1992).  Did I just say assembler as in assembly/machine language? Yes I just did and its the truth, the whole thing was coded in pure assembly to get very compact code, more about this below.

And then of course why stop there? How about adding more complexity to the development ;-).  As F-Cycles wanted to totally bypass the OS, he went for low-level implementation... and implement a CD boot loader that will directly boot and load the software clock in memory.  But they were a catch everything needed to be tiny tiny like less then 4k.  Hence the assembly route and tools that he needed to wrote/used to achieve that goal (let just say some compression was involved to fit everything).

In the end of his project that was supposedly been done in 7 days (only working on evening & week-end) took him 10 days (still only evening & week-end).  But it does include a level, basic AI (yes its the computer playing itself the game), scoring and of course the actual clock.  We have let it run during the entire day at the convention so people can go see the time and watch the game unfold :-).

And for the curious people that would like to either install this software or just look at the binary F-Cycles have put online the ISO files of his bootable CD (this should run on any  X86 hardware from 386 days and above) you can get it here : B.C.'s Quest for Tires.

We were very pleased about the reception our presentation got, F-Cycles have also kept the crowd entertain with some of the anecdote during the development of this project.  Also this convention have let us to meet other indie developer that have a passion about the Coleco hardware.  First we met Daniel Bienvenue which is a well known Coleco Vision indie game developer (we highly recommend that you check his YouTube channel newcoleco to see some of his creations, he even put his games on real cartridge with label) who also happen to be the organizer of this year ADAM convention its also thanks to him that we were able to present our Coleco Vision inspired clock.  We also had a chance to talk with Luc Miron of Team Pixelboy which is publishing Coleco Vision game (you can check his website to see his latest projects), he was there to present is next project called BasicVision which is a language+IDE to make Coleco Vision game which look promising.  And had the chance to meet Dale Wick of Teamsushi another long time veteran on the Coleco scene who gave some tutorial on how to make game on the Coleco Vision, he also shown us some his homebrew game he made on the PSP and PC.

In summary, we were quite pleased on how this event turn out, we really enjoy our day at the ADAMcon #22.  Hope they will be more retro gaming/computing convention in the "La Belle Province" as we say here!  Thanks again to Daniel and the rest of the ADAM communities to have make such a fun event (you can check other photos we took at the even in our flickr).

For the complete Coleco Vision inspired clock presentation done by F-Cycles you can watch the following videos.


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  2. Very nice article! Hum.. the final version loader+clock program take about 8 kb. I still have some routine which are not called anymore has the clock use to dim at night but end up being hard to read.

  3. Ohhh sorry about that, I was sure the program was still under 4kb as you mentioned during your presentation, and hey 8kb is still considered tiny ;-).