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He got a stiffy for Cabbage Patch Kids
May 5, 2008 7:38 PM   Subscribe

A most legendary find. Alex Handy likes to collect old video games. A few weeks at ago at a flea market, he bought what he thought were some old ColecoVision EPROMs for $2 each, got them home, and realized that some of them could contain the never published Cabbage Patch Kids Atari 2600 game. If the data on the chips had survived, it would be an unprecedented discovery. A friend helped him dump the ROMs, which you can download for free from Alex. Identifying the other games was an adventure in itself.

There's an epilogue. Also, Matt Reichert reviewed all ten versions of the Cabbage Patch Kids 2600 game.
posted by bugmuncher (37 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
again?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:44 PM on May 5, 2008


Hey, Dragon-80 is Dragon's Lair! (Not Dragonslayer.) I used to play that game on the Commodore 64.

Cool story.
posted by painquale at 7:49 PM on May 5, 2008


Wow, an unreleased Atari 2600 game.

Although I know on one level that's pretty neat to discover, on most other levels I'm thinking that it's on par with discovering a whole box of never-played, mint in-the-box 8-tracks.
posted by yhbc at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Although I know on one level that's pretty neat to discover, on most other levels I'm thinking that it's on par with discovering a whole box of never-played, mint in-the-box 8-tracks.

Your point?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2008


Shit, you mean they're valuable to somebody, too?!?

Okay, I give up. The point, though, was that if they were never played by anybody back when the Atari 2600 was the pinnacle of video game technology, there's not even a nostalgia factor to lead anyone to want to play them now.
posted by yhbc at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2008


I really like the idea that high-end technology of the time, and specifically something that counts as an artistic as well as a consumer electronic object, can end up being a flea market find that means something to someone.

It's not in the same league, of course, but remember: someone, somewhere cleaned out many an old painter's studio thinking "these are just old unfinished paintings" and in doing so lost or destroyed paintings that would be considered priceless today were they still around.
posted by davejay at 8:39 PM on May 5, 2008


May I be the second to say: what
posted by mwhybark at 8:40 PM on May 5, 2008


Rosebud.
posted by Dizzy at 8:49 PM on May 5, 2008


Sure, they're not as fun as today's games. But that doesn't mean they're not an achievement in their own right. Nostalgia notwithstanding, reading the DadHacker Blog has made me come to think of these early game systems as a kind of sonnet. Compared to, say, a novel, a sonnet is so restricted -- could any sonnet be as good as a novel? The limitations which define the sonnet's form force poets to achieve things they wouldn't otherwise, and I think maybe it's the same with these early game platforms.

Yeah, they're not as playable as the simplest Flash game today, but they have a beauty all their own.
posted by sdodd at 8:50 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shit, you mean they're valuable to somebody, too?!?

You bet.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:52 PM on May 5, 2008


It's a bit more like finding The Norman Dolph Velvet Underground acetate than a box full of 8-tracks. Only, uh, that it's about the Cabbage Patch Kids. The fact that it was unreleased makes it desireable, not that anyone has any nostalgia for the game.
posted by zsazsa at 8:57 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


yhbc writes "Although I know on one level that's pretty neat to discover, on most other levels I'm thinking that it's on par with discovering a whole box of never-played, mint in-the-box 8-tracks."

It's not that the games are unplayed, it's that they were never public. It's more like finding a mainstream extinct band's album that was previously unreleased.
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had seen the first link, and thought it was pretty cool, but the this post tells the rest of the story. Nicely done!

When I was little, maybe 7 or 8, my dad soldered a chip socket onto the top of our SEARS TELE-GAMES SYSTEM**, one you can plug a little naked ePROM into rather than the store-bought cartridges. Once or twice a year, a friend of his would send us a bunch of chips, like 15 or 20, loaded up with a game on each one. We kids just went nuts playing all those games.**** By the time we got tired of them, we'd get another shipment and start all over with the new games.

Smart guy, my dad. Did I ever tell you about the IBM electric typewriter he interfaced to work as a printer for our TRS-80? This was before the dot-matrix. Why, I recall...


** YOU SEE, SEARS SIMPLY REBADGED THE ATARI 2600 AS THEIR OWN AND RELABELED ALL THE ATARI VIDEO GAMES WITH DIFFERENT NAMES AND ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. atari games were always lowercase.

*** Most of the Atari 2600 games were under 4kB in size. We had 2k and 4k chips they came burned on. With modern games sometime getting to be several GB in size, it's amazing what early game developers were able to do in that little bit (nyuk! nyuk!) of space.

**** ...which was probably my first introduction to software piracy, now that I think of it. Way to taint a cherished memory, brain.

posted by LordSludge at 9:07 PM on May 5, 2008 [11 favorites]


maybe "most legendary" is overstating it a little bit but it's still kind of cool.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 9:10 PM on May 5, 2008


Wow, after reading the post about the Norman Dolph acetate, maybe I should have waited for Alex to put one up on eBay before posting this. I don't know that he will, but if he does, I bet he could get a few thousand dollars per chip.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:13 PM on May 5, 2008


I don't care at all about the game, but I do admire the hardcore nerditude it takes for that guy to spot those things and know not only what they were, but what they might possibly contain. How many people are even aware that the game existed but was never released?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2008


I'm surprised anything on the 2600 went unreleased--that system's demise was caused by a flood of craptacular licensed games.
posted by aerotive at 9:31 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I worked with a guy who was an absolute Atari freak. Atari was all he wanted to talk about. On one level I was creeped out but then I became interested. Hell, I played enough Atari to have a place in my heart for it; Just never to the extreme level he had. He was even porting the old SwordQuest game that was only partially released/completed. To me, it looked like shit but to him it was the Holy Grail. I remember one day he came into work and told me about some old tape backups he'd gotten from a friend of a friend who worked at Atari. It was all the internal email from the period just before Atari was sold. He had somehow managed to extract all of the email correspondence and paste it into a Word doc. It was as if he'd discovered the Lost Testament. I got caught up in his excitement, I have to admit. I was cool getting a peek inside the history of gaming.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not only was I cool, "it" was cool.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:33 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did I ever tell you about the IBM electric typewriter he interfaced to work as a printer for our TRS-80?

A Selectric? With the typer-ball dealy? Is your father the Messiah?

posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2008


Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese writes "I don't care at all about the game, but I do admire the hardcore nerditude it takes for that guy to spot those things and know not only what they were, but what they might possibly contain. How many people are even aware that the game existed but was never released?"

There are many communities of emulator/ROM hobbyists, and of course the Atari 2600 is the grandaddy platform of that whole scene. I find playing the games in an emulator fun in a nostalgic way, and some of them still are quite playable, but the finding and cataloging of the games and trivia is done by people who are a bit obsessive, like comic book collectors or baseball stat freaks. But this is a good thing to have these sort of people involved, because it means all these obscure and arcane bits of knowledge and programming are available or made available when found.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:45 PM on May 5, 2008


I've lived five minutes' walk from the Laney College flea market for years and have never actually gone -- who would have thought I'd actually regret it?

(Having said that: As software archaeology goes, it's not as significant a find as the Dolph acetate...that's serious holy grail stuff. This is more like finding some unreleased tapes from the Metal Machine Music sessions.)
posted by Lazlo at 9:48 PM on May 5, 2008


Did I ever tell you about the IBM electric typewriter he interfaced to work as a printer for our TRS-80?

posted by LordSludge at 11:07 PM on May 5

Mr. Sludge, you do go on!
posted by gc at 10:13 PM on May 5, 2008


Shit. Stories like this always remind me that I really shouldn't have thrown out the prototype Atari Game Brain console and cartridges I picked up at an electronics surplus store in San Jose many years ago. Currently, only three consoles are known to exist.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 10:32 PM on May 5, 2008


...it would be an unprecedented discovery...

Cool. Right up there with a Grand Unified Theory, a cure for AIDS and the Ark of the Covenant.
posted by rhymer at 1:39 AM on May 6, 2008


Speaking of legendary finds, one of my old posts (if you didn't see it before), about the greatest collection of comic books ever found, and bought for virtually nothing.
posted by banishedimmortal at 4:36 AM on May 6, 2008


Not only was I cool, "it" was cool.
KevinSkomsvold


Hey, you'll always be cool in my book.
posted by Floydd at 7:22 AM on May 6, 2008


Sys Rq: A Selectric? With the typer-ball dealy? Is your father the Messiah?

Yep, one of these bad boys. And he not only fabbed up the circuit board himself, he wrote the freakin PRINT DRIVER himself -- using Assembly language or maybe it was straight up hex machine code. Anyhow, the whole thing worked great!

I mean, my hacked XBox is cool and all, but that shit was hardcore!

posted by LordSludge at 7:36 AM on May 6, 2008


Right up there with a Grand Unified Theory, a cure for AIDS and the Ark of the Covenant.

Now why on Earth would I care about a silly "Ark"??
posted by LordSludge at 7:38 AM on May 6, 2008


LordSludge: I think his point was that as long as there is human suffering or eternal mysteries left to unravel, people shouldn't have hobbies.

I didn't think it was a very good point, either.
posted by absalom at 7:51 AM on May 6, 2008


That wasn't quite my point either. But thank you, nonetheless.
posted by rhymer at 7:58 AM on May 6, 2008


One of my old bosses was a former Atari employee/dev guy. He was working on a controller that you strapped to your head. The concept, if I'm remembering correctly, was that you'd be able to control the game with your brainwaves. It never made it to market. I believe he still had the prototype which he promised to bring in a show my other Atari bud.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2008


Compared to, say, a novel, a sonnet is so restricted -- could any sonnet be as good as a novel?

There are sonnets better than novels and vice versa.
posted by ersatz at 11:02 AM on May 6, 2008


I've lived five minutes' walk from the Laney College flea market for years and have never actually gone -- who would have thought I'd actually regret it?


I live five minutes from it as well, yet I've never gone because I'd hate to see all the CD's stolen out of my car two years ago sitting on someone's blanket. Not because they were stolen, but because no one would have bought them.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:14 AM on May 6, 2008


I had the instructions for that Selectric conversion and was quite ready to do one myself back in the day, but I could never scare up a Selectric to convert. The key to it was you only needed about 8 solenoids; each key generated a set of motion commands for the ball which got encoded in the motion of some slider bars. By actuating the slider bars with solenoids and then actuating the print hammer, you could manually control things with just a few I/O lines.

In those days print drivers didn't have to do much, mainly just an ASCII to Selectric-code lookup table and some settling delays for the solenoids.
posted by localroger at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2008


rhymer: Sorry, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to contribute an actual point instead of just contributing noise and snark. I won't make that mistake again.
posted by absalom at 8:39 AM on May 7, 2008


I probably should let sleeping dogs lie, but I feel like I've had words put in my mouth...

My point is not to rebut rhymer as absalom implied -- rather, it's more that "significant" or "important" is in the eyes of the beholder.

Personally, I'm not a Velvet Underground fan, just not my thing, so I couldn't care less about some lost V.U. recording. I certainly don't see it as a Big Deal. (The Lost Dream Theater Sessions.. anybody? anybody? exactly.) Even discovery of the Ark', while certainly of historical value (and tremendous religious value to a whole bunch of, IMO, silly deluded people), even that is less relevant to my life than some undiscovered Atari cartridges. This, in my book, is Pure Awesome.

Cure for AIDS and/or Grand Unified Theory? Of course you would have my full attention. But the Ark'? Fairy tale fodder. Meh.
posted by LordSludge at 1:59 PM on May 8, 2008


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