8 bits of 8-bit

8-bit is one of those phenomena that has left a lasting impression on my life. It was all the rage when I was young, with consoles and computers being programmed with it, and music videos on MTV being designed because of it. The games were always so fun to play, with simple goals set out and endless hours of fun had. Like on my old Gameboy, I had clocked over 500 hours of playtime on Pokémon Red and Gold, that is around 1.1% of my childhood spent on 8-bit Pokémon alone. I’d say including all the other games I played, it comes in at around 3.5% or 1750 hours… Now I feel since this was such a big piece of my young life and that it has seeped its way back into modern times, here are 8 bits of 8-bit to feast your nerd brains upon!

1. Atari 8-bit computers

So I found out about this lovely piece of 8-bit history only very recently. I was walking around college trying to find a quite place to try do a very overdue electronics assignment and ended up in the computer science building starting into historical bric-a-brac of computers. And there nestled there on one of the dusty shelves was a lovely Atari 800. So what I can remember of the little blurb that I was given beneath this artefact was something along the lines of… “this machine was produced in the 1980’s and sold in the region of 4 million units in total. It was marketed as a family and gaming computer. It was the first consumer computer with coprocessor chips used in it. The Atari 800 contained a massive (for the time) 48 kilobyte ram to accommodate the high-resolution graphics” In addition I did a bit of research and found out one or two very fun things: The games and applications were installed via cassette tape, at the time the machine cost $1000, which in todays current rate works out to be about $3570, and finally before the computer was released to the public it was named Colleen after an attractive secretary working for the Atari Corporation. Because of this lovely history this little gem gets a mention!

Atari 800 with floppy drive and printer…What a sight!

2. Move your feet by Junior Senior

This next piece of 8-bit memorabilia comes from MTV. I was around the age of 12/13 in my friend Brian’s house and on came this very catchy song on in the background. But it wasn’t really the actual song that caught my attention but the very 8-bit video that went along with it. Move your feet, what a song and even more so what a video. A great example of 8-bit animation.

3. Rymdredlage – 8-Bit Trip

This is another video that is based around the art of 8-bit, however the twist is that this is done with thousands of Lego pieces and through stop motion animation. This is an impressive feat, as the music video of just under 4 minutes took over 1500 hours just to film. A true testament to how some just love their 8-bit. It includes references to old Mario and Street Fighter Games and then just general 8-bit animation. The best I can do is let the video promote itself.

4. Gameboy (Mario and Pokemon)

This section you already know something of, as I have declared at the start of this post my slightly alarming statistics of my childhood gaming times. I received my first Gameboy at the age of 7 for my birthday, it was the Yellow and I even remember going to the shop and the bundle of the Gameboy and two games costing £150 (I also remembering feeling guilty at this age for something costing so much and promising my mum I would pay some of it back to her!). So the two games I am going to concentrate on are that of Mario and Pokémon. The Mario game was my first play obsession, I remember because the original game has no save function, so you had to play it in a constant run in order to try complete it.

On the left we have the first Poké-battle you get to have in the game and on the right is some classic Mario

Next we had Pokémon. It is another one of those lovely pieces of 8-bit history where 8-bit caused the beginning of a movement. The games were what came first and then the Television series, which is rare as the TV series usually spins off into a game, but this was such a successful franchise that it didn’t take the usual order. For anyone who lived, or is still living in a cupboard the games objective is to train little animals of sorts (Pokémon) that have special abilities and fight them against each other. The more training and successes in battle you have the more levels your Pokémon gain, maxing at level 100, until you became the best Pokémon master in the game. This was one of those games that was uncontested for most of my childhood. You could see children in the playground at lunch time in school crowding around the one kid who had brought in a Gameboy to show off their latest catch, or going over to each others houses just so you could sit and chat about the difficult of the next gym leader (like the bosses of most games). You could teach your Pokémon a variety of different moves depending on the type; water Pokémon could learn surf of water cannon, flying could learn fly or dive attack. The game had such variety looking back it is no wonder how it did so well and how I clocked up so much game time playing it.

5. 8-Bit Theater

This is an online comic that I was introduced to during the summer of 2007. It follows the adventures of an intrepid group of explorers on varieties of quests. The comic is done in an 8-bit style of drawing and this adds some nostalgic humour to the whole thing. In total the comic had 1224 issues (each issue is only one page long) and one non-8-bit epilogue to round it all up. I have left a link for the first issue of the comic below and do enjoy if you so wish to undertake its reading!

8-Bit Theater

6. Kraftwork – Electric Café (Chipset {8-bit} remake)

Chipset music came to fashion in the 1980’s and then died down for a bit, with a revival in the naughties. It is created using the sound card components in various computer gaming systems, such as Gameboys or Sega Mega Drives. Of late the use of emulators has also taken off to give that sawtooth waveform sound so unique to 8-bit. This culture of music has begun to make its way into mainstream with some of the prominent 8-bit artists being asked to remix more popular music. Below is the song Electric Café from the 2007 album 8-Bit Operators, where Kraftwerk songs were remade in 8-bit style by popular 8-bit artists. The maker of this track was the artist Neotericz.

7. What really is 8-bit

This is going to be the slightly humdrum section where I touch upon what 8-bit actually is, so just bear with for a few lines. And do correct me if I have gotten any of this section wrong! 8-bit is a computing term to which the internal processing is based on an 8-bit integer system, that is each set of data in the computer can be represented in 8 spaces. In an 8-bit system there can be 2 or 256 different possible values entered into the system. This limits the resolution and colour variety on this systems. In comparison a 64-bit system can hold 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 different possible values.

8. 8-bit art 

And now we come to the end of our little 8-bit adventure, finishing up with the scene of 8-bit art. This is just incorporating day-to-day objects with pieces of 8 bit animation thrown in or even just a framed piece of an 8 bit character. It can be as simple as having a tie in the style of 8-bit or having each level of an office block in the theme of the classic Donkey-Kong game! Here is a link for some great example of 8-bit art: “8-bit Art”

8-bit water pouring out onto the ground!

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