Category Archives: retro

My Gaming Timeline Part 3 – The Voltmace Database (the very early 80’s)

If there is one thing that 5 years of blogging has done for me, in the context of the nostalgia exercise that I call Those We Left Behind, is that, with the power of Google, it puts flesh on the bones of memory. The Beige Box console with the Big Orange Buttons is a good case in point. For years and years finding the truth about this anomaly of console gaming has proven to be as elusive as trying to catch smoke. Well, elusive until I channeled my google-fu and after several variations on phrases like ‘retro console beige box big orange buttons’ and ‘clone console beige box space invaders’, I hit the jackpot.

What I was looking for, was the wonderfully cumbersome and completely unattractive sounding

‘Voltmace Database Game Computer’

You can speculate on the reason for the name ‘Voltmace’. Maybe the founders of the Company were Mr Volt and Mr Mace. Maybe just welding 2 masculine and arbitrary words together was the truth. I give no speculation on the application of the word ‘Database’ other than ‘Voltmace’ maybe thought the word was sufficient computer jargon to blind the customer with Science. What we have here, is a name that would not have passed muster at any other time than in the time this console was born, and we can all be thankful that that time has passed. Though if ordering online was available in the early 80’s, the people in ‘Electronic’ shops would have been spared the duty of trying to flog Entertainment / ‘Educational’ Hardware with the words ‘Database’ and ‘Voltmace’ in it.

I digress, as this moment of revelation, when I could finally put the name to one of my earliest games consoles, was a sweet victory. I quickly uncovered screenshots of games I had forgotten I had played with my Brother. I remembered the primitive and not-quite-polished gameplay. I was reminded of the fact that the Space Invaders clone that was the highlight of Christmas 1981 did not seem to have half as many Invaders as the Taito Original, and they did not form proper lines of attack.

The fact is, the Voltmace was my first true Games Console, a Beige Box with Big Orange Buttons that had a slot on top for Games Cartridges roughly the same size as the Sega Master System Cartridges. It had all the clones of the popular arcade games of the day, and clones of all the popular Atari 2600 games. The Boxing game was a real treat, especially when you were battering your opponent and its dull electronic farts of submission were accompanied by a stark apostrophe above his head, like he had no idea why he was there;

We got good value for money out of the Air Sea Battle clone, until the arrival of the most-awaited game in the whole Voltmace library, or the whole Voltmace ‘Databse’, if you will. The Space Invaders clone, despite its shortcomings, was SPACE INVADERS IN YOUR LIVING ROOM. And that was enough. The Breakout clone was always a winner – it had Mass Appeal. Even Ted Rogers on 3-2-1 had people playing the thing as part of the Quiz Show (and that was more exciting than waiting to find out if the finalists ended up with Dusty Bin. The Circus clone was a real bugger, as the little people you flung carelessly through the air with amazing speed were so little that actually getting them back on the greasy see-saw that slipped around at the bottom of the screen was akin to hitting that Exhaust Port down an armoured trench on a certain floating Battle Station by only using one shot and the ‘Force’, completely without Navigational and Targeting devices.

The Voltmace Database only plays a small part in my Gaming Timeline, but it was my first Console. Its games never really hit the heights, have not been fondly remembered, but that horrible Beige Box was my first. Thank you, Voltmace. Thank you for the days.

Links!!! – feeling geeky? The Specs, for your amusement, are here. – this was one details a whole family of these consoles, with nice pictures! – this is a truly wonderful piece, a love letter to this forgotten piece of early Console History. With great pictures!

Atari 2600 label maker – more ways to waste time in a constructive, kind of creative way (2008)

My good grief! The fun that can be had with this fantastic site hosted app;

Easy as HTML to get started, but I get the feeling some of us will not be content until we have done all the pictures in the world as the stars of their own Atari 2600 packaging. Well, for starters, here is one I did earlier;

But not only that, you can update the packaging to reflect the early to mid eighties style revamp;

The website find of the year! Expect this blog to clog up with an alternate reality of Atari console fodder.

Morecambe and Wise Atari advert for Christmas 1982

Just to get you into the Christmas Spirit – and seeing as we are in dire financial times and all that – I think that the Atari 2600 could be a viable alternative to the Wii this Christmas. Of primary interest is the price – observe the listing below as a guide;

Then, just show your kids this advert from a long time ago (1982)and they will understand everything – like the Wii, the 2600 is about playing with friends and family, a communal exxperience. Like the Wii, the Atari games are not so much about the cutting edge in Graphics technologies – rather than that, and better than that, it is about pure playability (who can deny Pac-Man (albeit not the Atari version) is a true gaming classic and deserves its status as such?). Finally, the 2600 is a discreet, charming addition to any household, unlike the monolithic PS3 and Xbox 360. Anyway, here is Morecambe and Wise to seal the deal;

and if you want to see a non-Christmas advert with Morecambe & Wise, an Atari console, Ernie Wise gamely playing the legendary ball-breaker that is Defender, and Eric Morecombe taking the opportunity to cop off with a woman on the sofa, then have a look below;

Finally, for no other reason than that I like it, here is a flyer for Defender, the timeless and still hard-as-nails shooter from Williams (so many buttons!!)

Flyer was sourced from here;

Link – a fantastic Atari 2600 resource

and this is just…….genius. Words nearly fail me;