|Ned Batchelder : Blog | Code | Text | Site|
General computer corporation
» Home : Blog : April 2004
One thing I didn't mention in my recent post about the Atari 2600 is that I once worked for a company that made games for the 2600. General Computer was started by some MIT guys who figured out how to hack a Missle Command game to give it more features. Then they did the same thing for Pac-Man, creating Ms. Pac-Man.
I worked for them in the summer of 1982, while I was in college. By that time Atari had realized they would do better hiring them than suing them. General Computer was making original arcade games like Food Fight, and porting existing arcade games to the home machines like the 2600. General Computer is still in business, though they long ago moved from video games to Macintosh peripherals, and thence to printers: GCC Printers Corporate History.
For a college kid who liked writing software and playing video games, it was a cool place to work. For one thing, there was a room full of arcade machines. The compilers of the day were not that fast, so when it was time to compile the latest code changes, you had time for a game or two.
When you don't have to pay to play the games, you can find things out other people can't. For example, one of the machines was Dig-Dug (GCC did the 2600 Dig-Dug port). As you moved up the levels of Dig-Dug, the monsters would move faster and faster. But when you got to level 128, the monsters would move extremely slowly. They had probably used a byte to represent the speed of the monsters, and added two for every level, and the speed wrapped around to zero!