Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It Came From the Potato Festival! August Yard Sale Finds

It's been a while since I updated, hasn't it? Let's fix that.

Last weekend was the potato festival, when our humble midwestern town celebrates the tuber that keeps America plump and its own economy healthy. When I was growing up, the festival was a wonderland of carnival rides, flea markets, and even a makeshift arcade set up under a tent. However, as the years went by, the festival limited its ambitious. A couple of years ago, it was limited to a rodeo, a few T-shirt vendors, and trucks selling the usual assortment of artery-clogging junk food. 

Apart from an admittedly impressive fireworks display, this year wasn't much more exciting. However, there's one thing you can always count on from the potato festival... dozens of yard sales. There's something about this time of year that gets people eager to clean their homes of unwanted junk. And when that happens, you'd better believe I'm there, ready to take those unloved items off their hands. You know what they say about one man's trash!

Run awaaaay!
(picture courtesy of Amazon.com)
Unfortunately, my first find was trashed for a reason. Remember ten years ago, when palm-sized television games by Radica and Jakks Pacific were all the rage? That fad lasted all of ten minutes, and the gadgets now regularly surface at garage sales for a dollar or less. Some of these TV games are surprisingly entertaining, but this early model, featuring five of Namco's greatest arcade hits, isn't one of them. 

Its conversions of Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Rally X, Bosconian, and Galaxian are dreadfully flawed, with imperfect graphics and simplistic sound effects. I get the sinking feeling that the games are running on the Famicom-on-a-chip that was all too frequent in the cheaper TV games units. The ports aren't any worse than the ones on an actual Nintendo Entertainment System (in the case of Pac-Man, it's hard to imagine how that would be possible...), but the five games nevertheless fall far short of the arcade perfection players must have been expecting. Bosconian in particular was eviscerated by the decision to set the radar over the playfield and a diamond gate inside the joystick that makes it impossible to move diagonally. You won't be hearing your co-pilot shout "Blast awwlf!" either, but after all I've told you, you probably guessed that already. If you haven't already graduated to one of the Namco Museum collections, the much more faithful TV Games unit starring Ms. Pac-Man is a better bet.

Pardon the dust!
Things got better the next day... a whole lot better. I stumbled across a sale with a handful of high-tech equipment, including this desktop computer for a tantalizing price. A quad-core processor, four gigs of RAM, a one terabyte hard drive, and the much beloved Windows 7 operating system, all for thirty bucks? How could a guy possibly pass up a deal like that?

It's actually not that hard when you don't have the cash. So I haggled with the seller and weaseled them down to twenty dollars. After a quick trip to the grocery store to wrangle the money out of my dwindling bank account, I had my prize... a computer with definite potential as a Steam machine. It may not be bleeding-edge technology, but believe me, for the price I ain't complaining.

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