Retrochallenge Update

With the deadline looming ambitions have been somewhat scaled back.  Instead of attempting to finish the entire game it’s very much going to be a Silent Running (Part 1.)  The process has reminded me of my school exam days where I would race through the exam in around a quarter of the allotted time and then spend the rest of the time writing out the original scribble in a more legible form.  As I learn more elegant ways of doing things I have to spend time going back and updating the code.

However much of it remains inelegant, there’s one problem that I can’t seem to resolve which involves monitors I had intended to place in various locations that could be examined to reveal the current locations of the ships drones, Huey, Dewey and Louie, I’ve had to abandon this for now as it was taking up too much time.  As an aside, I’d forgotten how quickly the hours pass when engaged in a task like this.

Of the several kludges I have resorted to, possibly the most Heath Robinson is using the Take and Drop routines to have the Drones follow the player character, in the process modifying the parser to say ‘You are carrying or being followed by’ in place of the standard ‘You are carrying,’ Ouch!  Using ‘drop’ to have someone stop following is pretty poor but I’m confident given a bit more time I’ll crack that one.

Of the ideas that I’d mapped out in my mind I would guess I’m going to achieve about a quarter of what I’d hoped.  The goal therefore of the first instalment will be to make it to the next area of the Valley Forge.

One thing all this time in front of the computer has allowed me to do is catch up on old Retrobits podcasts which I can’t recommend highly enough, great stuff Earl.

Guybrush Threepwood in CGA

No progress on the Silent Running adventure for a couple of days.  I got bogged down in trying to resolve a particular issue, realised it was time to walk away and come back fresh which hopefully I’ll do today or tomorrow.

Instead I’ve been messing around with the Equity, trying to understand what it’s capable of.  My first experience with a PC as opposed to machines such as the Amiga and Commodore 64 was a Pentium 90 based machine with Windows 3.1, so the pre Pentium days passed me by.

I’ve been trying to compile the code I have written so far with the Equity with no luck as yet.  As a point of interest the code compiles on a Core 2 Quad essentially instantaneously.  On a Pentium 166 it takes a few seconds.  On the Equity it’s taking around 4 minutes before failing on a specific library issue.  I need to try the Minform library I mentioned in an earlier post next.

I also wanted to see what games would run on the Equity and found an early version of a Secret of Monkey Island demo which loads and runs.  I was never really aware of the limited graphics abilities of the early PC’s having been spoilt by the abilities of the Amiga and its custom chips, it’s pretty basic stuff as I’m discovering.

The Equity has two option slots, one is currently occupied by the hard drive controller card and I believe the only other card produced specifically for the option slots by Epson was a modem card.  Somewhat bizarrely one just came up on Ebay, unused, and new in the box so I snapped that up (only bidder) and it’s on its way.

Monkey Island Demo

Epson Equity LT

I’ve been trying to settle on one platform for the development of my Retrochallenge Winter Warmup project, a text adventure for my (and other) CP/M based Epson PX-8.  Not that long ago I acquired an Epson Equity LT laptop circa 1989.

The unit itself is in remarkable condition cosmetically and runs quite happily when booted into DOS using the internal 3.5″ floppy drive.  However when originally attempting to format the internal hard drive the format would progress normally to about cylinder 158 or so whereupon it would slow to a snail’s pace taken roughly 20 minutes per cylinder from thereon.

Given that I don’t really need 20MB of disk space for my project I got the unit out again and used fdisk to create a DOS partition that only used the first 156 cylinders or around 4-5 MB of the drive.  The format progressed successfully and I installed MS DOS 3.2 from the original Epson disk that came with the unit.

I have a fondness for Epson design from this era and I think it’s a great looking unit.  The screen is pretty good and I like the keyboard.  The main specifications are:-

CPU – NEC V30 (μPD70116) CMOS microprocessor, compatible with Intel 8086 runing at the same speed as the 8086 but 10% – 30% faster. (DIP switch on front on unit allows switching between 4.77 & 10mhz speed)

RAM – 640k

Floppy Drive – μPD765A controller supporting four 360Kbyte or 720Kbyte 3.5″ disks.

Hard Disk – JVC JD-3824R RLL type, 21.44 Mbytes 95mm diam.

Option Slots – Two 8bit expansion slots (Modem on the way from US)

Graphics – Built in LCD and RGB output for external monitor CGA standard up to 8 grey levels.

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