- Series: Platform Studies
- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; 2nd ptg edition (January 9, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 026201257X
- ISBN-13: 978-0262012577
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (Platform Studies) Hardcover – January 9, 2009
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Racing the Beam doesn't spare the technical details, but is always accessible and compelling. Downright thrilling at times, in fact, a sort of The Right Stuff of video game development.―Darren Zenko, thestar.com (Toronto Star)
Montfort & Bogost raise the bar on anyone wishing to talk meaningfully about computer culture. Not only must we interpret these machines, we must first know how they work―and yes, sometimes this means knowing assembly code. From chip to controller, the authors lead us with ease through the Atari '2600' Video Computer System, one of the most emblematic devices in recent mass culture.―Alexander Galloway, Associate Professor of Culture and Communication, New York University, and author of Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Endorsement)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
After reading this book -- a book I plan to read cover-to-cover again, to refresh my memory -- I gained incredible respect for what 2600 programmers were (and still are) capable of eeking out of the machine. Coming from the relative luxurious comfort of the 8-bit computer, with a real framebuffer, character/tile graphics, etc., it's amazing that games like Pitfall! exist at all, let alone are fast, fun, and highly playable!
If you're interested in retrocomputing or retrogaming, computer & video game history, or just enjoy learning about how technology works, this book is a must.
Of particular interest (to myself) were the hardware design choices made that confound and make you cringe by today's standards. 'Racing the Beam' gives you the insight to understand these choices by providing the financial limits, competitive landscape, design goals, and technological context present at Atari's release. It is still hard to believe that developing back then was more than just heavy hardware and software constraints (128 *bytes of RAM* and this review is well over 1500 bytes)... The developers were often a one-man team juggling programming, art direction, UX/UI, screenwriting, sound design, and project management while devising logic tricks for precious source compression. No physics APIs or game platform builder or asset store to save the day, oops, I meant deadline. This is real insight on the Pioneering spirit.
There is a whole chapter dedicated to Adventure. Very cool! Would be a good primer for those eagerly waiting to read Warren Robinett's Annotated Adventure. Yars Revenge (my favorite) and Pitfall is in there too. This was my first taste of a platform studies book and I look forward to picking up I Am Error: The Nintendo Family Computer / Entertainment System Platform (Platform Studies) despite never owning an NES.
One of the book's problems is that the authors try to make the book seem timely by trying to force connections between its vintage software biopics and such breathtakingly unrelated modern titles as World Of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It's almost like the publisher was feeling nervous that nobody of college age could relate to such early games, which is a shame given that the stories are all fascinating in their own right. And on the hardware side, while the Apple II and C-64 get brief nods why are no comparisons drawn between the Atari VCS and Jay Miner's later designs incl. the Atari 400, 800 and Amiga? And what were the specs of the Mattel Intellivision anyway, seeing as how it gets mentioned so often as the VCS's main rival?
Any reader old enough to remember this hardware as a wood-grain box is probably going to have a few comments bordering on the personal, but let's keep things short. Am I the only person wondering why the rather staid VCS game "Adventure" got such over-the-top respect while Exidy's more refined (and clearly related) 1981 arcade game "Venture" goes unmentioned? How was Video Chess able to perform move lookahead with nearly no stack? And why was the story behind the most important sidescroller ever to be ported, Defender, ignored almost entirely?
That said, I loved very minute spent reading this and look forward to seeing more from the "Platform Studies" series. And I bet you will too. Only next time around - more pictures!