Nostalgia overload: Back in the 80s…

Luna Park, Melbourne. Mr Moon is under restorationI was telling the kids about the days when arcade games were ubiquitous.

When we lived in Pine Avenue, Elwood in the early 80s, the local milkbar on Ormond Road had a Donkey Kong Junior machine, for instance.

But a short bus ride away in St Kilda was video game heaven. For starters, Luna Park (which in Melbourne was and is free to enter; unlike Sydney, you only pay for the rides), had a shed full of video games next to the Ghost Train.

In there I remember pumping my 20 cent coins into machines playing Donkey Kong, Popeye, Frogger, Elevator Action and Space Invaders. The latter was black and white, but with a colour overlay to give it a multi-coloured background.

A short walk down Carlisle Street was a laundromat with a Moon Patrol machine. The laundromat is still there, but these days shares the premises with solarium. Sign of the times?

Laundromat in Carlisle Street, St Kilda

Moon Patrol in the laundromat was great fun, for two reasons: firstly the machine was not in great demand, so there was rarely a queue. (The etiquette in those days was that if you wanted to play the machine next, you’d put your 20 cent coin on it; there was usually a spot where the screen met the console where a coin could be placed and it wouldn’t roll away.)

Secondly, it was one of the earliest games which would allow you to continue playing after losing all your lives, by putting in another coin. While I wasn’t the world’s best Moon Patrol player by any means, this meant that for 40-60 cents I could play right through the course (which went from A to Z), whereupon it would go back to the start, but with extra difficulty. Great fun.

Further down Carlisle Street, at the corner of Barkly Street, was a takeaway place with a Galaga machine. The takeaway place (or its descendant) still appears to be on the same corner. On my trip home from school in year 7 and 8, I’d often change from the tram to the bus at this spot, and play Galaga while I waited.

Carlisle/Barkly Streets, St Kilda

Other highlights around that part of St Kilda for a teenage geek included the computer shop on Barkly Street between which sold clone disk drives for the Commodore 64 (the Skai 64 drive, which I had, but which seems to have virtually faded into obscurity) and the two local newsagents on Acland Street, which sold all my favourite imported computer magazines, such as Commodore User, Compute’s Gazzette, Zzap 64! and later (when I switched allegiences from the Commodore 64 to a BBC Micro) Acorn User and The Micro User. Later when these publications got less mainstream, I ended up having to go into McGills (also now defunct) in the city to get them.

Further afield were Timezone in the City (apparently there are still a few of these around) and of course the Fun Factory in South Yarra (likely to be redeveloped in the not-too-distant future), where I sometimes played after school once I’d gone to Melbourne High… not to mention that one year rollerskating (also at the Fun Factory) was offered as a sport. I recall they had Joust, Gauntlet (great with four players), Gyruss and Dragon’s Lair (never my favourite).

There was also a place in Balaclava next to the railway bridge which, I recall, was called Sam’s Amusements. Mostly pool tables I think. They may well have had arcade games in there, but it looked way too scary, and I never went in there.

You may have worked out by now that I’m enormously nostalgic for the video games of this period. As it turns out, there’s a place in South Melbourne that sells multi-game versions of the old arcade games, in pretty authentic-looking cabinets, and there are others around Australia where you can buy them from about $1200 upwards. One day, maybe.

In the mean time, there’s always MAME.

Three brief PT things

Yearly: Beat the price rise

Just bought my new Yearly ticket via PTUA Commuter Club. It’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive, but it means I’ll beat the March 12th price rise.

PTUA Commuter Club Yearly plus membership: Z1 = $1090 (order by end of Feb; payment must clear by March 3rd). Will go up about 3% after that.

365 day Myki Pass (Yearly Metcards are no longer on sale): Z1 = $1170 until March 11th, $1202.50 after.

12 x 30 day Myki Passes: Z1 = $1332 (if bought after the March 12th price rise; Metcard prices are almost identical).

Myki gates at Melbourne Central

From what I’ve seen the new gates at Parliament and Melbourne Central work well most of the time, but when I went past, one was out of service (with a red light) and another was being problematic.

And at the end of the video you’ll see two fare evaders follow a lady through. There were no staff watching, so they appeared to get away with it.

First impressions after playing the free demo version of Cities In Motion

Cities In MotionQuite slow even on my recentish PC.

Very nice graphics. A few options to adjust settings, but nothing seems to really speed it up. Demo works on my PC’s 256Mb video card despite the system requirements claiming it needs 512Mb.

Clearly a lot of scope in the simulator for playing with different options, setting up routes etc.

Just a teensy bit clunky in some ways, eg having to lay dual tram track everywhere, and having to end all (tram/bus) routes in a loop.

Can’t see a way to create bus/tram lanes. My buses kept getting stuck in bad traffic.

Not totally convinced it’s a big leap forward over the old Traffic Giant game, but it’s only $20 to buy (online; don’t know about retail), and obviously is still under development, with an active user community/forum.

A bit of fun for any transit geek. Provided I can verify the full game will run on my PC, I’ll buy it.

(Some demo download sites require signup/membership — this one doesn’t)

The toy of the movie of the game

Spotted in K-Mart: Lego Prince of Persia.

Prince of Persia Lego

So let me get this straight… this is the toy of the movie of the video game.

I wonder if there’ll be (as there was with Star Wars and others) a Lego video game of it. That would be the game of the toy of the movie of the game.

(I remember playing the original Prince of Persia game in my uni days. Despite being a fan of the platform genre, I don’t think I’ve played any of the sequels. The Wikipedia article notes the author got the distinctive animation done by video-taping his younger brother, and links to one of the original videos. Very cool.)

Retro trains

Melbourne’s Comeng trains date back to the early 1980s, about the same time us Gen-Xers were cutting our video game teeth with Donkey Kong and Space Invaders.
Retro trains

(Original unmodified pic)

There’s certainly other things of the 80s around the place on the train network, for instance this sign on a now unused gate at Caulfield Station. (Since then we’ve had a new Met logo, then Bayside Trains, then M>Train, Connex, now Metro.)
Caulfield station gate

Something else Retro Metro have done that harks back to days of yore is to put staff back on busy platforms. While I was surprised to see Sydney rail staff waving a flag a few years ago, here they’ve been given high-tech looking paddle devices (the other side has LEDs that stand out to the train driver).
Parliament station