Somehow This International Scout Image Relates To An Air BnB And Atari: Cold Start

Cs Airbbscout

Today’s Cold Start is a bit late because Matt and I are on West Coast Time, the result of being out in Los Angeles for the LA Auto Show and, more importantly, our Auto Show Party with the Big Barrow of Shrimp. The image and car I chose for the Cold Start is sort of inspired by the Airbnb we’re staying in around Pasadena, not too close to the show because David is a cheapskate. When I saw the place, I thought “damn, this looks like the administrative office of a state park.” But when I went inside I realized that it in fact looked just like the administrative office for a state park. Because it does. Because it was some sort of office, and all that’s been done to change that is swap some desks for beds. It’s weird. I can’t prove it was a state park office, but the building just feels like thatwhich is why I picked a forestry-service International Scout for the car.

Here, look what this place is like on the inside:

Cs Airbb

This is an office. It feels, looks, and smells like an office. The lighting is office-awful, as in your options are buzzy flickery-sickly overhead fluorescent lighting or pitch blackness. The bathroom’s lights are on a motion sensor, too. The kitchen area is so much a break room I expected to open the fridge and find tupperware with moldy casserole in it labeled CHERYL’S DO NOT TOUCH.

Anyway, it’s home for the next few days while we cover the show. Maybe it’ll feel better when I make us all flapjacks on the copier.

Oh! The Atari part! Right! So, because the Scout was a Forestry Service car, I wanted to put it in a forest-y background, so I took this opportunity to show something I’ve always felt deserves more recognition: The Atari 2600 E.T. game’s background graphics. Specifically, these background graphics:

Et 2

As you may know, E.T. is considered one of the worst Atari games ever made, a colossal letdown and fuckup to such a degree that there’s landfills full of the cartridges. And, sure, the game isn’t good. But, it’s not all bad. I think Howard Scott Warshaw’s (the game’s desgner) graphics are really quite lovely, especially given the limitations of the system, and this forest background I think is genuinely one of the best seen on a 2600 bar none.

The background layer of what the 2600 could draw on screen, called the playfield, was even more limited than the foreground, moving graphics. The pixels were all four normal pixels wide, so you’re drawing with dashes, and you can only use 22 of them per scanline, which is only halfway across the screen, so the other half had to be either duplicated or mirrored. That’s a lot of restrictions.

Sure, fancy programming can work around a lot of this, but most games just dealt with the limitations, like this forest did, but still, somehow, it looks so good. It feels like a forest. It’s a repeating pattern of dark and light green trees, and it works. It even feels like an evergreen forest. I respect it so much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my pants out of the filing cabinet. Under P for pants or did I do T for trousers?


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21 Responses

  1. “Maybe it’ll feel better when I made us all flapjacks on the copier.”

    Looks like you’ve got more to deal with than just a time zone issue. There must be some rift in the continuum as well.

  2. Gonna have to strongly agree with you about ET’s graphics. That forest screen always gave me a real sense of being lost in dense woods, so it totally worked. Also I was also crazy impressed with the opening screen which had a picture of ET on it that seemed way more detailed than the 2600 was capable of producing. I remember looking at it as a kid and thinking “Why can’t we have those graphics in the rest of the game?”

    Alas, I’m pretty sure that any other graphic capability they could have squeezed into that little cartridge got blown on Atari’s staff coke budget.

  3. Huh. That IS supposed to be a forest, isn’t it? I never got that. I always thought it was an open field (maybe one that was mowed like an MLB ballpark where you get different lines and patterns in the grass). I was even more frustrated when ET would fall into those invisible pits that were impossible for him to escape from because it’s just an open field! How is the pit invisible?!

  4. I live in AirBnbs full time and have yet to see one like that pop up in my feed. What strange filters were used to find that place? I am in California this month but near Santa Cruz, so a bit to far a away to join the festivities this weekend. California is expensive so instead of a full house we have a cottage a nice 1 bedroom cottage out in the redwoods. Gives the dog a place to run around a bit.

    I fully support more (any) tuned adverts so the AT staff can enjoy better accommodation.

  5. My parents couldn’t afford to get my sibling and I an NES or even a Sega Master System like many other kids got, so they got us an Atari 7800. Most of the games we had were new old stock 2600 games, including E.T., because most retailers in our area (Pittsburgh) didn’t carry very many new 7800 games (which showed the console’s technical inferiority compared to Nintendo and Sega all too well, but that’s what happens when you pull a product that was designed for an earlier market out of mothballs to compete with newer products instead of spending the time/money to develop something new).

    We knew it wasn’t the best game ever, but we had enough fun with it once we started playing on the setting without scientists carrying you away or FBI agents stealing your health powerups. We even thought the title screen’s chiptune rendition of John Williams’ theme was pretty impressive and you could tell a great deal of care was put into the artwork and packaging. It wasn’t until much later when I started using the internet that I learned just how much everyone else hated it, and it was a little bit jarring.

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