I have a bad habit of collecting video game memorabilia, and new games, and then letting it sit for a while before I get around to testing it or playing it. This weekend saw a collision of two items that were put on the back-burner…and one of them didn’t survive!
Case in point: a shiny new Starpath Supercharger for the Atari 2600. For those not familiar with it, the Supercharger was a huge honkin’ thing you plugged into an Atari’s cartridge slot, with a headphone cable dangling out of it. The Supercharger is sort of like a co-processor that boosts the graphics and sound abilities of the machine (which, let’s face it, wouldn’t take much). Since it’s eating up the cartridge slot, the headphone jack connects to a tape player, and the games for the Supercharger are loaded from cassette (this was 1983 or so, don’t forget, though I remember that I already had disk drives on my screamin’ fast mighty 64K Franklin Ace 1000 computer).
Exhibit B: a Texas Instruments “data cassette” player that I got from the great haul of TI gadgetry right before Christmas ’04. Haven’t touched it ’till now…and found out it doesn’t work. There were leaky batteries in there that had corroded their way right out of the battery compartment…ouch! So that baby’s going to the curb.
So how was I going to get the data from the tape to the Supercharger? I stood right in front of the Atari for about 15 minutes, thinking up all kinds of maddeningly convoluted ways to accomplish this task. Methods that would require a quarter mile of wiring.
And then I realized that, three shelves above the Atari, if I stood straight up, I was staring right into the controls of the cassette deck that I use maybe about once a month or so to make a tape to listen to in the car.
Oops. Funny thing is, I had to be staring at that tape deck for that entire time before it hit me. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten so used to my own cheap-ass, Rube-Goldberg way of hooking my gear up that I’ve forgotten that Simple Is Good.
But not so fast – there was no way the dangly short headphone cable from the Supercharger was going to reach three shelves up. I grabbed a short RCA cable and enough adapters and barrels to clobber someone to death with, and created…Frankencable.
Fun Facts: Frankencable = large headphone jack-to-RCA adapter + 1 foot RCA cable + large headphone jack-to-RCA adapter + large headphone to small headphone adapter + small headphone “barrel” (female both ends) + Supercharger cable.
After all this, I thought, this game better knock my socks off. Well, the Supercharger adds a heap of processing power to the 2600, improving its graphics and sound considerably – the one Supercharger game I have brings its A-game up to the level of a poorly coded VIC-20 game! 😆 I need to track down a copy of Escape From The Mindmaster or Stella Gets A New Brain or something.
This concludes the story of Frankencable. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry, already in progress.