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The Memories of Z80 Past: Zaxxon and Future Spy (nicole.express)
89 points by zdw 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

Our local news agent used to have a single arcade machine outside the door when I was growing up in the early eighties. They started with a defender machine, fantastic game but really difficult and not super popular. That was replaced with with Galaga for a brief period, then Zaxxon.

None of us really got used to Zaxxon. Defender was hard but learnable, galaga is an exercise in memory which was hard but you didn't feel like it was unlearnable. Zaxxon seemed arbitrarily difficult, especially the janky collision detection.

The local kids got their galaga machine back when we complained to the news agent.

Zaxxon seemed like the most sophisticated, futuristic game, and fiendishly difficult to play. I never lasted more than a few 10s of seconds. It was a brutal temptress.

Agree 1,000%. I much preferred Xevious as a fun and playable game. Zaxxon was just too dang hard!

Wow, I'd forgotten about Xevious, and I loved that game.

Once the odd perspective clicked for me, Zaxxon wasn't bad and there was a 'pattern'. I enjoyed Xevious a lot more though.

oh wow.

Watching my 13 yr old son Play with his Oculus Quest 2 while reading a throwback article like that... I feel sad that he'll never have the same sort of 8 bit gaming experience that I had, yet jealous that my childhood didn't include the amazing immersive experience he's getting.

What wonders will his kids get to experience...?

Probably a lot cooler gear... But perhaps not feel as incredible as the 8-bit stuff felt back in the day. Kids nowadays were born with tablets, LCD TVs, mobile phones and photorealistic games, so the changes they observe during their childhood are largely incremental. VR glasses are cool, but with more primitive graphics than regular games.

The videogame experience that started in the 80s was a revolution in electronics, not an incremental change. That felt like Aliens had come to Earth to give us something coming from the future, it was a paradigm shift. My kid looks at his Playstation with excitement, but I've never seen the absolute awe that struck me back in the 80s when I first saw, for instance, Dragon's Lair... Or even, somewhat later, the NES, which the brought Arcades home.

Dragon’s Lair was really impressive first time you saw it, the local arcade had to stack another TV on top of the cabinet so the crowd could watch the gameplay. A week later there were several regulars who could play the game through which was also a spectacle. It was a few months before you could walk in and play it freely. The arcade owner must have made a mint - I believe it was the first game I played that cost fifty cents.

It is unfortunate that neither the laserdiscs nor their players have held up well - none of the arcade museums I visit have a functioning cabinet - but the emulators work and there is a version for iOS that plays well also.

The Asheville Pinball Museum's Dragon's Lair worked last time I was there.


Awesome! Next time you have a long weekend check out:

American Classic Arcade Museum 579 Endicott St N, Laconia, NH 03246

They have a ton of stuff from the 80s, some earlier and later, working computer space in original cabinet. Plan 6-8 hours to play everything.

I remember spending 40 minutes loading Zaxxon on my Atari 800 on a cassette drive (only to have it crash half the time half way through the load).

How times have changed.

On my C64, my cassette drive was super sensitive and some games wouldn't load. Fortunately, my neighbour was an electrical engineer and he came up with a solution.

He modded the cassette drive so that I could plug a headphone. From there, I would adjust the reading tape using a screw while trying to maximize the signal I was hearing. In some instances, it still didn't work so we had to use his oscilloscope.

Tape remains the "ideal" backup solution amongst some diehard sysadmins I know!

1951-1968 Early Computer Magnetic Tape Units- History IBM, UNIVAC, RCA, AMPEX


Of course now its like, "On my PS5, games load while I sleep...". And no one gets trained to debug with oscilloscopes, unfortunately.

Regarding Ikegami, I could have sworn they developed one of the great NES titles: Commando. And now I can't help thinking how cool it would be to have an isometric version of of that top scroller. Digging deeper there are some interesting NES-era games in isometric style: Isolated Warrior, Solstice, etc ;)

Tape remains popular among those who write cyber insurance, and also apparently among those who've been hit with ransomware.

Ah yes azimuth... there was a program for that as well for the c64 in which the lines were straight after you aligned the heads with the screw driver... fun times..... saving the games with Turbo made it much better .. instead of 30 minutes it would take 3 minutes to load the game

And I also never made it past level one on Zaxxon either....

See also a bit here https://sqlservercode.blogspot.com/2016/11/what-was-first-co...

I had a 400 and I envied the dual cartridge slots and usable keyboard on the 800 so bad.

That second cartridge slot was key when one of them was occupied by Basic!

Those are some super clear screenshots 0_0

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