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Bang – An Atari 2600 VCS Demo (xayax.net)
49 points by apaprocki on Oct 4, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 16 comments

Reminds me of this prediction from longbets.org: “A machine capable of passing the Turing Test will be made in 2075 using only hardware that was available in 2005.”


My favorite thought experiment is building telephone and radio in Ancient Egypt, sometime ~1000 BC.

Silver / zinc batteries can work an acetic acid, easily distillable from vinegar. With some luck, alkaline batteries are also doable (IDK if Egypt had any sources of manganese). With some effort, sulfuric acid can be produced, allowing lead-based batteries. Two of the three are rechargeable, but having the acid and zinc as consumables is also OK.

Copper wire is perfectly doable; copper was produced in mass quantities, drawing it through a ceramic die should do the trick. Producing cheaper brass (copper + zinc) is also not a problem.

For magnets, we'll need some iron. It can either be produced from ore, or taken (as an alloy with nickel) from meteorites that Egyptians also found. We don't need much.

Insulation can be made from canvas and oil (like oil painting, but without the picture). Wood can be the non-conducting construction material instead of plastic.

With this, we can easily build telegraph and telephone. With some high-voltage coils, we can build a radio transmitter capable of Morse code transmission. This all would look like pure magic and would have immense military value.

Note that it would take nothing extraordinary technologically: most things are readily available, no need to build machines to build machines, etc. It would only take a much larger body of knowledge about the world.

Also see http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolipile

Imagine steam powered Roman legions... It could have happened.

yes! Speed isn't a barrier, it just runs slower. But people can't consider ridiculously slow algorithms (nor expt/iterate them).

this doesn't address RAM/store limitations though.

What's interesting about the above thought is it supposes that what have the technology now, we just lack the technique. You might disagree, but what you wrote paved over the essence of the parent.

I see what you mean. I'd read through the comments at the linked page, and I'd forgotten that the linking comment here on HN didn't include those debates.

Especially, whether you can pack in a human's worth of knowledge into a 2005 HDD (of course you can if you have huge numbers of them, but seems against the spirit of the idea).

And, the estimates of human neural complexity. It's possible that the human brain isn't very efficient at intelligence alone - there's many survival functions and the historical path evolution happened to take. (as harder evidence, I also read of a guy with almost no brain, just a few millimeters coating the skull, who had normal college IQ...)

But I was really adding my own tangent, a thought I had long ago: assuming intelligence can be simulated by an algorithm, it can be done now, because of turing machine equivalence (provided we have sufficient memory). If it used too much memory, it seems likely we could still run a cut-down version, or some aspect of it. [BTW: Arguably, if a mathematical model of consciousness exists, with variations for personality, knowledge, present state of mind etc, all of them are virtually conscious and feeling at all times - just frozen in stasis at the moment].

Historically, one barrier to new algorithms is that practical people just don't entertain algorithms that are computationally infeasibile on present hardware. But when hardware is fast enough, they are more willing to. Perhaps the ability to experiment and iterate quickly is also helpful.

"Only legal opcodes were used in this demo" - Great! Some information on 'illegal' opcodes for the 6502 CPU: http://www.pagetable.com/?p=39 http://www.oxyron.de/html/opcodes02.html

Also related - Ctrix's Guitari https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8e7g8kJIlo

He will give a Talk [0] at Hackover 2014[1]on how he did the Demo and explains some of the tricks he used. The talk will be recorded and maybe even streamed (for those of you who are interested)

[0] https://hackover.de/fahrplan/events/6046.html [1] https://hackover.de/

I saw a lot of SLI and mixed modes. I'm guessing the helix animation was done with sprites (full screen height). But there are a lot of things that just seemed beyond what's possible on that platform. No idea how the Coca-cola logo was done (sprites moving together? but how the curves?), or how any of this was so smooth and fluid. Simply mind-blowing.. especially on a 2600, which IIRC have less capabilities than even a XL/XE (POKEY/ANTIC/etc).

The 2600 had a 1D display buffer. You would rewrite the contents of that buffer at the end of every scanline to actually get a 2D image. Game logic would usually only run during flyback.

(Yes, that's why atari chess did not show the board while thinking, and why if there was a bug you'd get a 1D horizontal image all over the screen)

It's been on my bucket list a long time; making a demo for one of my 70-80s systems and running it on the actual hardware. Won't be a 2600 (although I have some very old working ones). This kind of things inspires me to get cracking on that.

I really like the references to the German sci-fi cult classic "Space Patrol" at the end of the demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AvjMHs7U7I

Never seen Space Patrol, so missed that, but I liked the references to the Amiga, C64 and the game Impossible Mission... http://www.ohgizmo.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/impossible...

Great demo. Working with the Atari 2600 is extreme. It only has enough memory to hold one row of pixels. So at every scanline it would need to compute the gameplay and on-screen elements on its 8bit 1.19Mhz CPU and 128 bytes of RAM. Insane!

jaw dropping incredible. i've never seen any body pull off that much on the 2600. respect!

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