What’s in an arcade machine.

Lets take a look at what is actually inside Computer Space. This game is often listed as having no ram, rom, or processor. This is only one third true. It would have been too expensive to use a microprocessor. Instead they relied on TTL chips to provide the game logic using logic gates. They are easy to understand. Each gate has one output, it can only be 5 volts or 0 volts. I would normally call 0 volts ground, but it is not completely accurate here. Because the chips weren’t perfect, the 0 volts, could actually be as high as 1.5 volts. This is why they used 0 volts and five. Even if each output was the 1.5 volts from what it should be there is a large margin of error in the middle, so we can be completely sure of the result. 1.5 to 3.5 would be the range in the middle that would indicate an invalid output. But was important so that we can be sure that we never mistake a high for a low or a low for a high. Today’s chips are so much better that many processors actually run at 1.8 volts. If the output is supposed to be 5 volts, it’s referred to as a high or 1. And if the output is supposed to be 0 volts, it’s referred to as a low or 0.
Logic gates come in several varieties. AND, OR, NAND, NOT, and XOR are the most common. An AND gate would have a least 2 inputs if all of the inputs were the high then the output would be high. An OR gate has at least two inputs, if any of the inputs are high, it will be high. A NOT gate only has one input, and it’s output is the opposite of the input, such as a high input gets a low output. A NAND gate is an AND gate and a NOT gate put together. Such that if all the inputs are high you get a low output, otherwise you get a high output. An XOR gate has at least two inputs, and is similar to an OR gate, however unlike an OR gate if all the inputs are high, then the output is low. This is also called an exclusive OR gate.
OK, so now we have gates. What can we do with these things. Actually a lot, your computer is made up of just these, when look at it close enough. He used these to essentially build a single purpose computer. It wasn’t fast, but it did what was needed for the game to run. These gates can only deal with high’s and low’s or 1’s and 0’s. We need to shift our thinking to using binary instead of decimal. The highest number we can count to is really 9, in decimal. But when we reach nine, we do a couple of tricks. The first is to reset the number to zero, and second we add a number to the front of the zero. We start it at 1, then when we count past nine again we repeat. The number goes to zero, and the number to the left gets a 1 added to it and becomes 2. At 99, the we do the same thing, going to zero, we move to the number on the left, we must set this to zero as well. Then the next number on the left become 1. In binary this works exactly the same except we can only count to 1. Zero plus one is one, one plus one is ten. See it’s pretty easy, the 1 is the maximum number, so it went to zero, and then we put a one in front of it, which makes it 10 in binary, or 2 decimal. Binary math is very important, because our logic gates only can handle 1 and 0. Using logic gates and binary math, we can manipulate number quickly and easily. Next week we’ll continue with Computer Space.

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Happy Video Game Day

Today is Video Game Day. Who would of thought they would make a holiday for video games. This is a holiday right up my alley.  Actually there seems to be two different video game days, might as well celebrate both.  How many of you know what the first commercial video game was? It wasn’t Pong. It was computer space, by atari before it was atari. It was a partnership between Nolan Bushnell’s Syzergy, and Nutting Associates.

In November 1971 the world’s first commercial arcade game was released. And for 25 cents you could wage pixelated battle against an electronic foe. This was the year the first general purpose CPU was produced, the 4004. Which cost thousands of dollars. This year also saw the first single chip calculater.  The Busicom Junior calculator, with 12 digits and 4 funcitons. It’s processor had 2,100 transistors in 360 gates plus 160 flip-flops.  This pocket sized calculator sold for 395, which wasn’t bad for a calculator back then. It was the first that could actually fit in a pocket.

Computer Space was a one player game where you controlled a space ship and tried to destroy two flying saucers.   The flying saucers were always aligned vertically. It lasted for 90 seconds, and could be extended if your score exceeded the machine’s score. The two player version came out maybe 2 years later. You controlled your missle once fired. So you could curve it, if the saucer was moving.  However the AI player, could not change the trajectory of it’s missle.  This was not a succesfully game, Nolan made only 250 dollars from this venture. 1500 games were made, with only 1000 sold. I haven’t been able to find the price for the Computer Space machine, however Pong, which came out 2 years later cost 500 to make, and sold for 1200, so it was probably around the same amount.

Have you ever wondered how a video game works?  Over the next couple weeks we will delve into this game.  Although it is a simple machine, it still has alot to offer.  The method used to interface the screen is identical to every other game system.  See you next week when we look under the hood at Computer Space.

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Which eggs to get?

Which color egg is better? If its easter, the white ones, they can be dyed better. There’s very little difference in the eggs. The most popular breed of layer in the U.S. is the Leghorn which produces white eggs. Rhode Island Reds, Orphington, and plymouth rock, are among the most popular birds after Leghorns, these all produce Brown and reddish eggs. The Ameraucana and Araucana breeds of chickens both produce pink, green and blue eggs.
It’s best not to wash the eggs until the last moment. Water seeps through the egg shell, and can crack the egg. This would allow salmonella and other bacteria to get into the egg. Eggs left out on the counter can only last a week. However eggs can last up to 2 months if properly refrigerated . The age of an egg can be determined by the texture of the white. As eggs age both the white and yolk become more liquidy the older they get. A fresh egg will have the white stand tall, when removed from the shell. An older egg’s white, well spread much wider and not retain it’s shape. Commercial eggs are between 1 week to 45 days old when purchased at the store.
Must eggs be cooked? If an egg has salmonella, this is only practical way to kill it in most recipes. However even if a chicken infected with salmonella, it doesn’t always produce eggs that are infected. Only 1 egg in 200,000 is infected, currently in the United States. However the CDC said that in 1997 tainted eggs caused 90 deaths, and 200,000 illnesses. So salmonella is something that should be considered when preparing your eggs. Cooking also makes the egg more digestible, which means it allows you to get more calories from the egg. Heating the egg alters some of the cholesterol in the yolk. The cholesterol oxidizes, which many Nutritionists consider to be more dangerous than regular cholesterol. Recently the amount of cholesterol in eggs has been reduced to 185mg. It used to be 216 mg. This negates some of the advantage that home raised eggs once had. This is probably because of better feed and conditions.
According to motherearthnews.com, home raised eggs, can have cholesterol as low as 115mg, but on average it’s about 158mg. The amount of cholesterol in your diet may have a fairly limited impact on your blood cholesterol levels. Your liver provides up to 6 times more cholesterol than you ingest. Some recent studies suggest that cholesterol in foods, has little affect upon your cholesterol levels. Diets high in saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol, but a large egg yolk contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat. In fact, there is actually more healthy monounsaturated fats in an egg yolk than saturated fat.
Should you eat the yolk. The yolk has almost all of the nutritional value. Half the protein is in the yolk. All the fat is in yolk. It also contains all of the choline, approximately half of the recommended daily intake. Some studies suggest when dieting that eating the yolk can help weight loss. The egg white though has little value for weight loss, and very few nutrients. The egg white is composed of protein and water. All of the egg’s vitamin A, D, and E are in the egg yolk. The egg is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Here is a list of all the vitamins and nutrients in an egg, Choline,Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Vitamin E, Selenium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium.
So which eggs should you buy? For total value, the cheapest eggs at the store can’t be beat. I wouldn’t recommend organic eggs in general they are significantly more expensive with little additional value for that cost. If you have a soy allergy obviously you need to get soy free eggs. If the treatment of chickens is important to you, only buy from small local farms. If you want to maximize Omega 3’s the local farm is you best choice. The most nutritious eggs, are from your local small farmer. Whichever egg you buy it will probably be delicious, and nearly identical to all the other eggs. If you only eat the egg whites, it makes no difference which eggs you get because almost all the nutrition of an egg is in the yolk. However I would suggest if your only going to eat one part of the egg make it the yolk, the white is empty calories, with the yolk having all the real value.

By the way, scientists have determined the egg came first.

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What’s in an egg?

What do chickens eat? Practically anything they get near. They will devour just about any vegetation, down to the ground. If too many chickens are in one area, they will kill all the vegetation quickly. A chicken can clear a square foot of vegetation in a day. I would estimate without additional food, they would need at least 100 square feet, per chicken, for exclusivly pasture fed chickens. Chickens are not vegetarians. I’m not sure what the advantage of vegetarien fed chickens is. They love to eat bugs. Which actually makes a better egg. As a child I would throw grasshoppers to the chickens, which would cause a football game of sorts. With each chicken stealing the grasshopper from the previous one, and running as fast as it could. A typical farm feeds their chickens layer pellets, which cost about 12 dollars for 40 pounds. This can be supplemented by many things. Such as the left overs after harvesting, or even table scraps. One of the primary factors for organic eggs costing more is that the feed is more expesive, 19 dollars for a 40 pound bag. Chickens require about 4 lbs of feed to make a dozen eggs. This would make feed costs about 1.20 for regular eggs, and 1.92 for organic. Commercial egg producers buy the feed in bulk, resulting in large savings. However as you can see selling eggs is a low profit margin business. This is why eggs at the farmers market are so much higher.
The color of yolk is determined almost exclusivly by diet. Pasture fed chickens have very deep orange colored yolks. Grain fed chickens produce a light pale yellow yolk. The deeper orange the more xanthophylls in their diet. These act like a dye to color the yolk, so that the more plants a chicken eats the more deeply colored the yolk. Omega 3 enhanced eggs, are simply chicken fed with grains containing omega 3’s usually fish oil, flaxseed, and soy. Chickens are cannibals they well eat other chickens, especially a dead one. Any chicken that dies must be quickly removed to prevent the others from cannibalising it. Organic feed has little affect on egg quality. Most home farm raised chicken have grain and pasture land. Another potential factor for feed is soy free. Why is this important? Because eggs from a chicken which consumes soy, will contain the allergens from soy. So anyonewith a soy allergy would be at risk from eating those eggs. Next week we’ll finish this article.

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What about eggs?

Eggs in the U.S. are available at practically every store that sells food. Farmers markets will almost always have eggs, and many farmers will sell their eggs roadside. At the store there are a number of different types of eggs. Organic, Non Organic, Pastured, Free Range, Cage Free, Omega 3 enhanced, soy free, vegetarian fed. Do any of these things make a difference? If you buy the least expensive eggs, there is a chance that they are the same as the organic eggs. Some egg farms, will sell organic eggs labeled as non organic. This is simply because if they run low on non organic eggs, it’s better to sell them for less than to not have enough for their contract. Organic eggs, come from chickens are fed organic food. Organic chickens also don’t recieve medications. However chickens are rarely vaccinated or medicated anyway. Chickens usually only recieve medication when sick, which removes their organic status. Both Organic and non-organic chickens on egg farms live their lives in very small cages. This allows the eggs to be clean when layed, and makes it easy to gather them. Chickens are very easy to keep. Food, water, and light is all that’s needed to get eggs. When light levels get low, many hens well not lay. All commercial egg farms have artifical lighting to supplement natural lighting. A hen lays one egg a day. For maximum egg production, 18 hours of light is used.
Chickens are not picky. This is why commercial battery farms work. Chickens will stand in one spot and lay eggs, just as easily as if they had moving room. A dog crate would be a perfect chicken house for someone starting out with 2 or 3 hens. Chickens will tend to stay close to food and water. At night they will usually return to their nest boxes. But during the day they will wander far in search of bugs. Which in the city means accross roads into neighbors yards, and in country into the woods into some animal’s mouth. So some fencing is crucial to chicken survival. Remember the chicken has a pea sized brain, making it often forget to look both ways before crossing the road. Cage free, means that a chicken lives in a large cage, but probably at least gets to stand on firm ground. Free range means it has some minimal access to outside. Chickens create vitamin D, by exposure to sunlight just like we do. So the more sunlight a chicken recieves, the more vitamin D will be in the egg. I’ll continue next week with more info on eggs.

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Superman OTR

If you’ve read earlier posts, you are probably aware that I’ve started listening to old radio programs. A number of them are quite good. I’m now onto the adventures of superman. It’s interesting listening to these. Superman was a little different. In the beginning there are no super powered enemies. One of his biggest adversaries is the yellow mask, whom I don’t think even made it to the comics. This guy was a thief, smuggler and murderer, but was an ordinary man. He also wasn’t as much of a boy scout. He allowed people to die, and showed little remorse for villains that perished. He kept superman secret from everyone. He ridiculed people for believing in a flying man, a super man. Eventually he admitted that superman was real, when aboard a clipper ship.
He was also smarter. Not as smart as batman perhaps. These stories are all detective stories. He tried not to use his superman abilities unless absolutely necessary. He was a capable detective, finding the evil doers. He never used his complete abilities. This maybe because his only powers then were strength, speed, enhanced eyesight, durability, and flight. He didn’t have x-ray vision, because he complained he couldn’t see through things. He didn’t seem to use super breath to put out fires.
In some ways I prefer the older less powerful superman, but you can make your own mind up.
Here is a link to superman otr on archive.org superman otr

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Sour Dough

Sour Dough is the oldest type of leavened bread. It’s been made since at least 1500bc. The earliest record of yeast breads is by the Egyptians. When a loaf of bread was made, a small piece was saved. The next day when they made their bread, they added the previous day’s piece to the dough. And they continued this everyday. This was their starter, it contained a combination of yeast, and bacteria. The yeast and bacteria grew when introduced to the dough. The yeast in the bread provides the lifting power, by creating bubbles of carbon dioxide, while the bacteria provides the sourness, and increased the acidity which slows yeast growth. The Sour Dough recipe below is a san francisco style sour dough. Technically any bread made with a starter is a sour dough, and will have a slight tanginess to it. This type of breadmaking was popular up until about the last 100 years. In the wild west, the cook always had started and guarded it carefully. If something happened to it, they would be unable to make bread for almost a week. Sour Dough breads were very popular with the miners in California, when prospecting for gold. When prospectors went to the Yukon, they brought sour dough starter with them. A starter is pretty easy to keep alive. If feed at least once a week, and not kept too hot. Even if it becomes frozen, once thawed will be just fine. Starters can live indefinitly, some bakers say their starters are over a 150 years old.

Starter Recipe
1 cup water
1 cup flour
1 tsp yogurt with live culture
a pinch of yeast

This recipe is cheating, but always works. The traditional way is listed below. Mix the ingredients in a jar. This should be kept warm. Each day add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. When the jar gets too full, throw away half of it. Do this for about 4 days. Then you can feed the starter every 3 days. The jar can now be sealed with a lid with holes.

Starter Recipe B
1 cup water
1 cup flour

Mix the flour and water in a jar, and set by a slightly open window. This should be kept warm. Each day add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. When the jar gets too full, throw away half of it. Do this for about 4 days. Then you can feed the starter every 3 days. The jar can now be moved away from the window, and a lid with holes can be placed on it.

Sour Dough Recipe
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup starter at room temp
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp barley malt

Mix all ingredients together.
Then in a mixer using a dough hook, mix at low to med for 8 minutes.
When the dough sticks to the hook and starts climbing turn up the the speed to knock it back down, then turn the speed back down.
Place dough in a greased bowl with a wet cloth covering it, for 8 hours. Then remove dough and kneed a few times to get rid of larger air bubbles. Return to bowl with damp towel, and let rise another 2 hours.
Place dough into large dutch oven for another 2 hours, covered again with the cloth. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the top of the bread a few times with a sharp knife, this allows the bread to rise more, because the crust is a little drier and won’t allow as much expansion. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough with water. Put the dutch oven lid back on. Place into oven.
After 15 minutes remove the lid. Turn off the oven, the bread will bake the rest of the way without additional heat. The bread should be done in about 20 more minutes. Don’t open the oven door, look through the glass to see if done. If the oven door is opened too much heat will escape, and you may need to turn the oven back on. After top is golden brown remove from oven. Let sit 30 minutes, before cutting. You have to wait 30 minutes or your bread won’t have time to make a proper crumb. Crumb is what the inside of the bread is called.

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Early Bread

Bread is a staple of man’s diet in most of the world, and has been since its invention. People have been making bread for 30,000 years at least. This is a long time before the first ovens were made. These breads were made on heated stones. This was the only way to make bread for the first 25,000 years of bread making. Grains and grain sprouts were mashed together with water to make a thick paste. This paste was placed on the hot stone and cooked. You would have something like a tortilla, or a johnny cake. The importance of bread can’t be understated. It’s used for gifts to god. Breaking of bread together is a sign of friendship. A euphemism for money, in English speaking parts of the world. A food that can last for several days, from stores of grains, that can be kept all winter long. These breads or cakes as they are sometimes called, are very simple. Only a few ingredients and they are almost always stone fried. They were also all unleavened.

When the settlers first arrived in the Americas this is one of the first foods they were introduced to. Journey Cakes could be stored for several days, and could easily be packed to go with you.

Recipe Johnny Cake

1 cup white cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
Bacon drippings (some type of grease for frying)

Stir the salt, water with the cornmeal vigorously, until combined. Let this sit for 10 minutes.
Grease a hot skillet.
Place 1/4 cup onto skillet, press down until about 3/4 inch thick.
After about 5 minutes, when golden brown flip, and brown the other side.
Serve as you would pancakes, or as a side by placing meat and gravy over them.

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OTR X Minus 1

I’ve only recently realized the amount of stuff that’s public domain. On archive.org you can find all sorts of music, radio shows, comics, books, and even movies. From the 50’s there was X minus 1, it was a great radio show. I downloaded and listened to every episode. One thing that you notice while listening, is the style of science fiction. The first season, has very dark science fiction, aliens are bad, the world is on the brink of destruction. But after the first season there is a very noticible shift in style. The world is suddenly a bright happy place, the stories have a twing of silliness. Researching the show I found out the cause of this shift. The first season was a remake of an older show called Dimension X. Then the later episodes were the more modern 60’s style sci-fi. I prefered the first season, it seemed a little too silly later. But the show is great and highly recommended. I’m going to continue looking through the archive for more old radio shows. I’ll keep you all posted. Thanks for reading. Below is the first episode of the show, enjoy.
Moon be Still and Bright

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Bought an Atari 7800

I’ve played videogames, since I was little. I’ve always been fascinated with them. I played my 2600 until about 94. Then put it away for about 10 years. When I was a kid I remember when my 2600 broke, and my dad took me to the game store. They had both the 7800 and 2600. The 7800 was 100, and the 2600 was 50. So I got the 2600, and wireless controllers. Looking back, I should have gotten the 7800. We ended up returning the wireless joysticks, they were terrible, and got mario bros instead. For a while I had been thinking of picking up a 7800. Months ago, me and my wife were at walmart on black friday. We plan bf every year and camp out, at the stores. We went to walmart in the morning, after a couple other stores. I was walking to the toys section. When I overheard someone on another aisle, say they had a 7800 they wanted to sell. I ran around the corner, and asked the two employees, they said another person had said it who just walked away. So I ran around the corner and found her. She told me she had a 7800, that she got as a child. It had about 50 games, and a couple controllers. I gave her my number, and she put it in her phone memory. I didn’t take hers. I found my wife in a little bit, and told her I gave a girl my number. Which of course, elicited a not very friendly look on her face. I told her about the girl selling the atari. We went home, I expected a call the next day or so, she had she needed to unpack it. After about a week, I gave up, and began kicking myself for not taking down her info. I never expected to hear from her again. I kept thinking about the atari. Even in December I was annoyed with myself, for not getting her number, I went to the walmart a few times, but never ran across her. I looked on ebay a few times, almost buying one. Then about 3 weeks ago in April, I got a text that asked if I was still interested. I said sure how much did she want. She replied back 50, but I was busy and didn’t get back to her for about an hour. She texting me again, saying am I still interested, and she’d take 40. I said, when can I pick it up. The next day I drove to her place, and picked it up. There were about 40 2600 games, and a dozen 7800, with about 4 controllers.

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