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Playing Old Games With Modern Devices

Feb 10, 2008
One of the most famous names in the gaming world, Atari, changed the face of the gaming industry and introduced what is an ingenious piece of engineering for its time. Atari had created the first coin operated Pong electronic arcade machine in 1972, bringing in modern gaming technology, popularizing computer games and putting arcade games on the map. Pong along with Pac-Man and Space Invaders became an addictive electronic entertainment and is the influence of computer consoles today.

Prior to the coin operated machines, arcade games were in the form of basic mechanical machines, mainly accessible in amusement parks during the 1920's. These were very basic pinball games, shooting galleries and ball toss games. It is thought to have been one of the major influences of the electronic arcade machine of the seventies. The arcade machines were emulated through basic CPU units and it was not until the early eighties that saw a change in graphics of each game, when the FPGA was used and re-used by gaming experts, to play older games from home.

FPGA (field programmable gate arrays) are controllable programmable devices that can be used to function in any specific way. They are an excellent source of vector emulation for arcade games and were used to play older games on modern machines. Pong was originally a blocky black and white image, whereas Pac-man, Ladybug and Space Invaders were more demanding in terms of colour, resolution and images - each of which were not possible to play on home PCs without a little tweaking with a modern programmable device.

Hardcore professional gamers had worked hard on creating their own arcade game versions using FPGA circuit boards, and playing the games at home. However, this was not until much later in the nineties onwards, as the programmable devices used in arcade games today work in a different way to what was used emulate games the eighties and consumed more power than the standard devices today. Modern programming devices are in use mainly to recreate old games and to act as an excellent for games emulation, whereas the programming devices used in arcade machines in the eighties were merely to act as a solution to minor graphical issues.

Pac-Man was used from a Z80 CPU, which was very popular for its time. Pac-Man had a dedicated hardware installed for video sprites (two/three dimensional images/animation integrated into a larger scene), however, the Z80 CPU was not powerful enough to draw up all of the sprites so a new device was needed to resolve this issue.

Those intending to play old arcade games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong or even Galaxians need to research for a suitable FPGA device, as well as understanding how to install the vendor onto the machine. Some purchased devices come with a batch file to install, so a separate file will not need to be downloaded from the web. Other emulating programmes such as MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) made it possible to preserve the antiquated arcade games on the modern PC, however unlike FPGA's they are subject of much controversy due to copyright violation issues.
About the Author
Anna Stenning is an expert on FPGA and arcade gaming. For more information on modern programmable devices visit http://www.actel.com/
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