Thursday, April 24, 2008

Long Lost Game Chips

I made a find at the flea market that has made me something of a celebrity in the world of video gaming. I found a handful of chips at a shop stall that seem to contain some long-lost Colecovision and Atari 2600 game code. As a game collector, this was the find of a lifetime. As a lover of free and open technology, this was a chance to give something to the world as well. There is, in fact, a great deal of interest out there in finding and playing games that were never published.

But this whole affair has confronted me with an age-old dilemma: profit versus philanthropy. The moment I mentioned my find on a popular Atari forum, people came out of the woodwork to wage a holy war over this lost prototype videogame.

“Copy the code, print up cartridges and sell them!” said some.

“Copy the code and release it for free on the Internet!” said others.

“Send me the chips, I'll dump the info for you, promise!” said even others still.

It's a tough thing to decide. If I were to simply sell these chips off to the highest bidder, I might make a quick bundle of cash. Not what I'm after. If I were to print new cartridges based on these chips, and sell them as collectors' items, I might get sued by the owners of the intellectual property behind these games (some appear to be games based on movies).

It's not an easy decision for me at all. But right now, I'm far more concerned with another problem relating to these chips: how the hell do I get the data off of them?

They're all EPROMs, and I have found someone local to dump the info off them. But some of these are on console sleds; circuit boards made to be stuffed into a game console. For those, I'm afraid I might damage something when I try to pull the EPROMs out for individual reading.

In some ways, this discovery has been almost more of a curse than a blessing...

No, wait. I take that back. I wouldn't trade these in for anything else in the world. I'll find out what's on them this weekend, so I'll update here to let everyone know what was on them.

-- Alex Handy

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