I'm gaining a new understanding of just how much work goes into one screen of a good fourth-gen platform game. And I was stupid enough to promise four screens. What a sucker I is.
I remember playing Flashback on my Genesis when it came out and thinking "god, it can't get any better than this, can it?" The animation was smooth as silk, the backgrounds were lush and alive (the limitations of a 64-color palette are much more evident in emulation on a nice monitor; on a cheap 13" TV, things sorta blended together to the game's benefit). And the cut-scenes were much more fully-animated than the usual fare of the day (very flat-looking, so they were probably RLE compressed -- I say that with the benefit of present knowledge; when I was a kid it was just mind-blowing how they fit all that on a cartridge). It was all pretty exciting for my twelve-year-old brain. Still is, actually.
I'm trying to keep my current project under 32 colors per screen, but not for any great reason. It seems like an interesting limitation to work with, so I'm working with it, and luckily, so far, it's not proving to be much a of hindrance.
I was looking through some old magazines today and got to thinking about the printers I was seeing in the pages. All those poor, forgotten bits of engineering, condemned to be landfill, with no collectors, no users-groups, no restoration efforts. Printers, more than any other computer peripheral, are hardly missed once their service life has ended and they've left the home or office for an extended stay on the junk-heap.
Daisy-wheel printers in particular, and their type-wheels, seem like they'd be a natural item for collectors to go after, but my Googling didn't locate any sites dedicated to them. Are they such a pain to repair and restore that no-one bothers with 'em? I've considered on more than one occasion getting a hold of an Atari 1027 (to match my 800XL), but the word on the web is that the print-wheels are all sorta falling apart, and spares are nonexistent. And maybe that's the whole problem. Computers, with their minimum of moving parts, usually don't need much beyond a good cleaning to be restored (unless we're going back more than three decades, in which case things get more complicated in inverse proportion to computing speeds of the day). Printers, like cars, need spare parts, and if the part isn't available, which is almost a certainty for anything that either was not intended for the enterprise market or is more than three years old, then that means you've got to fabricate it yourself. That's a serious investment of time for an item that, unlike a car, you probably wouldn't consider a thing of beauty. And the utility of a working, outdated, printer is pretty minimal as well. Although the utility of a working Commodore PET is pretty minimal, too, so that clearly isn't a high priority for the collector-types.
So this got me daydreaming about designing a large-format printer (very large) that was robust, easily serviceable, and built, like an old car, to be functionally useful for as long as someone's willing to change the oil. The trouble with printers is that they do everything on such a small scale that human hands are useless in the repair of their printing parts; even on printers with lousy printing resolution. Who's going to fix a pin on a dot-matrix printer's head? Nobody outside of Santa's workshop, for sure. So what about a printer that prints at, say, 4dpi? One quarter-inch for the smallest printing part seems entirely within the realm of human handiwork, doesn't it? And the ink-feed or ribbon or whatever mechanism was employed for carrying pigment would be large enough that you wouldn't need to worry about special, high-priced inks. You could use... anything. House paint, India ink, mud. Whatever.
Sure, you wouldn't use it to print your resume (at 4dpi, a black-and-white screen-capture of my desktop would be 29 feet wide), but for large prints on cloth for outdoor display, you might have something. Or big gallery prints of low-res computer artwork: Mega Man, in his original NES appearance, would print under eight inches across, and an entire Mega Man screen would be a modest 5-foot-4.
Writing this blog resulted in me writing a quick ActionScript project that simulated the creation of variously-sized canvases at various slow printing speeds (complete with ticky-tick noises). This turned into a gradient printing program, which then resulted in me reading about random number generators on Wikipedia.
Oh, tangential thought; how I love thee.