Tekken 3

The attitude era of Tekken

Taking place several years after Tekken 2 and featured several new characters and a few from the previous instalment. Tekken 3 introduces several new gameplay mechanics that take advantage of the 3D fighting environment, with the ability to sidestep

Versions

Like earlier installments, Tekken 3 was released to arcades first in 1996, then ported to the PlayStation in 1998

Arcade

The arcade version ran on an upgraded PlayStation based board, known as Namco System 12 which featured a higher clocked processor (48MHz vs 33Mhz) and slightly more VRAM (2MB vs 1MB) This game Tekken 3 had the ability to run at a higher polygon count allowing for more detailed characters, along with its background stages to me more detailed thanks to the increased VRAM. This gives a 3D-like effect to the background, and you can see them being more vibrant, especially on Howoarg’s stage. On King’s stage, there is a helicopter that does not show up in the console released, and on Xiayou’s stage, a moving carousel can be seen.
Sound is provided by the Namco C352, accompanied by the Hitachi H8 3002 processor. A unique feature of the sound is that the background music progress depending on the current round your character is on, reach round 2, and the sound changes to another verse/segment, round 3 and another segment plays before looping back to the start segment for round 4 onwards. This all depends if you have configured the game to have 3 or more rounds, by default Tekken 3 is set for two rounds (A third is possible if the opponent wins).

At the start, there are only a few characters playable, with the rest being locked/hidden. Namco implemented a time-based unlock that would unlock characters depending on the amount of time the arcade machine was left on. Thankfully there is a MAME cheat to unlock all characters instantly, so you don’t need to leave the emulator running. Also, all hidden characters share the same background music, due to how uncommon they are and the limited ROM storage, whilst the PlayStation port gives them their own unique music as part of the arranged soundtrack.


The arcade release would later be ported to the PS2, as part of a bonus feature of Tekken 5, This one retains all the graphic enhancements from the System 12 version.
The original Japanese arcade release had Jun as her own character, with her own portrait panel. But her character model uses Nina’s and has Jin’s move set. She will appear in the attract screen character usage statistics once you have completed arcade mode as her. Sake is another unused character but this one is more incomplete. Later arcade releases remove her and Sake as playable characters, and they do not appear at all in any home console release.

PlayStation

Compared to other Tekken arcade to console releases, Tekken 3 required some conversion time as the home console was a lot more contained compared to the arcade version. One notable difference was the change in the stage background, opting for a more flat box-like look compared to the detailed arcade background, The character models also went to a polygon diet and a minor reduction in resolution to keep the game running at 60fps.
However Namco made up for it with the added content, with a newly arranged soundtrack that remixes samples from the arcade original soundtrack, plus each unlockable character has their own background audio track.

Tekken Force is a new game mode that puts you in a beat-em-up environment. Your character has to progress through a series of stages (4 in total). Each stage has a boss character which will be one of the playable Tekken characters before they face Heiachi at the final stage.


Additional game modes include team battle mode, time attack mode, and a movie/music player that can playback ending movies for unlocked characters, and also supports Tekken 2 and the original Tekken if an unlocked save file is found.

Tekken 3 remains one of my favorite fighting games and is a joy to go back and play every now and then, for both the arcade and home versions. Whilst I still enjoy the modern Tekken games, they seem to be a bit too heavy and take a while to load and to get into a game. Tekken 6’s load times were horrible, even after installing it to an SSD.

Quick Comparison

X-Squad

One of the PS2 launch titles, try doing this on a Dreamcast

A third person sort of FPS where you shoot stuff. The main plot of the game is set in the year 2037, terrorists have taken over a military base and it’s up to the X-Squad to restore it, following the failure of the previous W-Squad mentioned in the game.

The game is similar in concept to SOCOM and Ghost Recon where you can issue squad commands to your teammates, typically 3 members. These are fairly basic as you can only command them to be oppressive or stealth/defensive.

The game UI, screams early 2000 era design and is where you can manage your inventory. At the end of each level you will earn points depending on the difficulty the level was completed at. You can use these to purchase new weapons, ammunition, shields and gadgets to help complete the next level. You can also find pickups, like leftover ammunition when you kill an enemy to keep your character going.

You can also manage your teammates inventories, and can juggle weapons, health kits between them.

The Squad

John Ash Connors: The main character and the only character you can control. Only 26 years old and has grey/silver hair.

Maya Esteves: One of your teammates who is with you the most, has a tendency to get shot and run out of health, which requires you to constantly transfer health packs to keep her in the game

Judd: A large son of a bitch, standing 6ft 8 and weighing 250 pounds. For his height he appears out of scale since compared to his squad mates, appearing only slightly taller.

Melinda Swanson: Not one for conversation from going by the cutscenes, both her and Judd will occasionally go and do their own thing mid-mission, leaving you stuck with Maya

Colonel Clifford: You encounter this geezer midway through level 4 and he becomes a teammate for the rest of levels 4 and 5. Although his health indicator is set on yellow, he cannot die thankfully, but he ain’t a good shooter.

Dr. Biana: Not a direct squadmate but you encounter her often. Walks around with a briefcase and talks about some Medusa project

As mentioned, Your squadmates can be ordered around to some extent, by giving them commands. You can choose for them to be offensive where they will attack when they come into contact with enemies, or defence/stealth where they will only shoot when attacked.
Each member has a limited amount of weight they can handle, which affects the number of weapons they can carry, with Judd being able to carry the most. It’s best to leave the heavy weapons with him.

The game gives off a very Unreal Tournament / Perfect Dark-like vibe when you look at the level design and the electronic/techno-inspired background music. The main characters also look like UT player models. Considering UT came out one year before this game did (1999), you can see they were influenced by it.

Levels

There are 9 levels in total

Most levels consist of you going from one area to another, in order to get to the end. Many have areas blocked off and require you to find a switch in order to unlock the door/lasers in order to progress through, some of which are located on the exact opposite of the level.

A Switch, you will encounter this often


The design of the levels isn’t very diverse, with you running around an underground tunnel/area. There seem to be no areas set outside

  • Level 1: Set in a waste disposal facility, a pleasant start to the game and an introduction to the game mechanics.
  • Level 2: Has nice chilled music to listen to as you explore the level which is nice since it starts off in a sewer and ends in a waste disposal unit.
  • Level 3: This one gets frustrating, since you are stuck in an ugly maze-like environment, it’s easy to get confused due to how similar the corridors look, with the only major difference being the floor colour. It took me half an hour to find all the switches needed to progress. There’s no end boss but you do have to free the prisoners at the end.
  • Level 4: Set in an abandoned tramway, here you meet the cornel and his side chick for the first time. The objective here is to escort the two of them to the lab using the tram tunnels. The end boss of this level is a horde of guards, so make sure you have plenty of ammo and health kits.
  • Level 5: We battle our way in a laboratory, this time we are missing Judd, who has been replaced with Clifford
  • Level 6: More of the same, it’s set in some sort of a recreation area, although it looks just the same as the other areas. Boss level is set again a large tank, of which your teammates will be incapacitated almost immediately.
  • Level 7: There are a few areas where you will be ambushed and will have enemies firing from all sides, thankfully there are spaces where you can take cover, although try telling your AI teammates that.
  • Level 8: This one was a bit awkward as some corridors are a bit tight, and some are set near ledges where you can fall to your death. You simply walk around the map flipping switches until you unlock the least door. There is one switch that is placed in an awkward spot, where your character can easily fall through and die. There’s no jump button so you have to run over the gap and hope for the best. The end boss is brutal, you get ambushed by four enemies that will continuously respawn even if you kill them, and Simpson who is equipped with an overpowered weapon.
  • Level 9: This is where the game shits itself. At the start, you have to contend with enemies that are triple shields, and a good amount of ammo is wasted just having to deal with these. Then you have a boss battle with a large chopper, which will fire heat-seeking missiles repeatedly. At this point the game becomes a glitch fest, in one instance I got landed with a Game Over screen even though my character was still moving and my health bar still have some life it in, Other times my character was alive but the camera had glitched out to an overhead view and was unable to shoot.

I’d say the game was rushed towards the later levels since there are quite a few glitches. Even in the ending cutscene on Youtube they had issues animating the mouth of the characters

Misc Notes

The game only supports 4:3 output, no widescreen here.

From browsing the games disc, Internally the game seems to compress most files into multiple BZP archives, this includes the levels and the opening movies themselves. I have not found a way to decompress these files, and its likely an internal format that EA/Square use.

Links

EA X-Squad Homepage

R.I.P

IBM Thinkpad X41

One of the last generation of Thinkpad laptops branded as IBM before Lenovo was introduced. Let’s take a look at what software was included with a typical IBM Thinkpad install.

Desktop after a fresh install, complete with an IBM custom wallpaper and a link to the Access IBM for the OEM Link.

Access IBM

A program that goes through the features of the ThinkPad and allows easy access to common functions that Windows does not typically cover. It also has links to various support topics and articles, acting as an electronic alternative to the bundled documentation.

A shortcut to Access IBM appears in the Windows Help & Support center.

IBM Update Connector

Checks for driver updates and any new versions of bundles software. In a domain environment you can also set up your own IBM update server where approved and tested updates can be distributed, instead of downloading from IBM directly.

Battery MaxiMizer Wizard

Helps monitor the battery health and how to get the best battery life.

ThinkVantage Technologies

Shows off the different features of your ThinkPad like the rescue and recovery software to recover any missing or corrupted files. The active protection system with shuts off the hard drive when a fall is detected, possibly a sensor is embedded into the laptop to allow it to detect this.

SONIC Expresslabeler

Adobe Reader

Appears to be present but not completely installed by default. Opening it for the first time reveals some sort of unarchiver. Also a look at an interactive wallpaper also provided by IBM, which displays a graphical view of the hard drive and its space used, and the calendar which shows the correct date (But not any schedules or reminders). There’s also a section for email, but I have yet to get this to show anything, possibly only works with Outlook Express.

InterVideo WinDVD

DVD playback software for the included DVD drive, this does not function in the virtual machine as it complains about the lack of copy protection. Even Windows Media Player had issues playing a DVD.

InterVideo WinDVD Creator

You can create and burn your own DVD video discs, intended for use for home movies (Through I wonder if DVD-rip torrents could be imported and burnt in this way). here we can create and manipulate the DVD home menu using its own design and navigation. Alternatively, a static slideshow can be created using photos captured from a digital camera.

IBM (Sonic) RecordNow!

A popular CD recording utility I’ve seen bundled on various laptops from this era (Toshiba A60). You can burn a regular ISO image or an audio or MP3 CD. Sonic would later be acquired by Roxio and would be integrated into their products.

Norton Antivirus / Internet Security

Typical virus protection of the year, Norton AntiVirus was bundled with various IBM products. Norton has the ability to scan and detect any virus embedded in email applications, providing you use an email client that Norton supports (Like Microsoft Outlook)

I’m surprised it even allowed a version this old to be activated, I doubt it would perform well against modern malware.

Desktop Themes

Two desktop themes come included, which feature their own sounds, desktop icons and wallpaper. Both will use the Luna silver theme

Wallpaper

Three wallpapers are included, with the second one being a dynamic active desktop wallpaper mentioned earlier.

Screensavers

A few screensavers that show off and advertise the features of the laptop.

Control Panel

Various control panel applets that have been preinstalled by IBM

IBM Active Protection: controls the freefall hard drive protection

ThinkPad Configuration: Supposed to change various options for your Thinkpad

Misc

The Simpsons Wrestling

It was the blurst of Simpsons games…

Poor Homer

A simple wrestling game inspired by the attitude era of WWE (or WWF), although the wrestling mechanic is implemented loosely. Matches are set in the giant ring set in various locations across Springfield, complete with their own theme tune music. background characters can be heard and will react to attacks you and your opponent will make.
Pinning is very basic and is how you win a match, you can pin everywhere and there is no way to block or reverse attacks. As such it’s not as complex as the WWE wrestling games.

Main menu

There are a few campaign options that are unlocked sequentially, these are a series of matches that you must play to unlock new characters and to complete the game.

The VS/Exhibition mode is greyed out and needs a second controller to be plugged in to be selectable.

Gameplay

The type of attacks that can be done is determined by the energy/stamina bar, which depletes when you execute a move.

Strike: done by pressing the Square button, deals a basic strike attack. When you have a 4 hit combo you can knock your opponent to the ground
Long Range / Alt Attack: Done by pressing the Triangle button, your character will typically throw or shoot a weapon.
Special: Done using the circle button, this takes a lot of energy but deals a lot of damage, or will unleash a series of uninterruptable attacks on your opponent.

Taunt: Knocking out an opponent gives you one taunt letter, collecting all five allows you to taunt your opponent which will stunt them and gives you temporally invulnerability.

Other/Combo attacks

Grappling is possible by pressing L1 when you are next to an opponent, you can then execute a grapple move.

The Cross button will allow your character to jump, and they can combine an attack using the Square, Triangle, or Circle buttons

Lastly, you can also attack using the ropes, which allows your character to execute unique moves, simply run into the ropes and press the desired attack button.

Charicters

  • Barney: The town drunk, fights with a glass full of beer and belches toxic gas that will reduce your health
  • Krustry: Throws creme pies and can summon a huge hammer as an attack.
  • Willie: Can set traps like a beartrap, a rake or garden scissors,
  • Apu: Likes to use the jump attack, a lot. Will sometimes throw his trademark squishee. Special attacks seems to be him having some sort of seizure.
  • Homer: Has a basic attack and can deploy bowling balls that roll throughout the ring, has special attat that will transform into a larger sized Homer who will deal more damage
  • Marge: Can deploy Maggie who will hold opponents to slow then down, marge can then wack em with her frying pan or headbutt them with her hair
  • Bart: Special attack is him rolling on a skateboard, can also fire using his
  • Lisa: Plays a saxophone that when done correctly, will stun the opponent character, must have a full energy bar to do this.
  • Moe: Has very fast attacks and can throw flaming Moe’s, which resolt in fire for a few seconds
  • Frink: Pretty strong character, can deploy random objects like a homing rocket, an exploding robot or an exploding mine
  • Bumblebee Man: Ok but has a fucking annoying pet chuwaw dog that will bite your charicter
  • Flanders: This is the character that breaks the game, most of his attacks are ok except for one where lighting bolds strike your character, draining your health unless you keep moving. His throw attacks are flying bibles which circle round the ring until they hit your character (I’ve heard of bible bashing but homing bibles takes it to another level). And to top it off he gets an extra life as when you try to pin him, he will resurrect back to life. Really don’t know what they were thinking with Flanders here. The only way to beat him is through luck.
  • Smithers: Another overpowered character, but is more fair than Flanders. Smithers can only be played in single player and has his own stage. Mr Burns will throw what appears to be radioactive mini-nukes into the ring which only affect your charicter, Smithers does not take any damage. Perhaps prolonged exposure has made him immune to the effects?
  • Kang & Kodos: The space aliens who have their own stage, these charicters are quite large and occupy a lot of space in the ring

Conclusion

As a wrestling game is a poor title, since it very liberally uses the wrestling genre, there are no ring-outs. Really if you’re looking for a good wrestling game, your not gonna get it with The Simpsons, and why would you expect anything more? Calling it one of the worst games ever is misleading, as there is fun to be had here, and what the game lacks in graphics it makes up with its soundtrack.
But for what it is, a Simpsons game is pretty ok, and worth a play if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. And it’s a lot more fun in Vs mode rather than single player, which can get mundane after a few minutes.


Also, why did we only get one Simpsons game on the PlayStation? (Technically two, Simpsons Bowling was an arcade game running on PS1 based hardware) Both were at the prime in the late 90s so you’d think we get a few games on the PlayStation, instead, titles like Virtual Springfield ended up exclusive on PC platforms like Windows and MacOS.

Ridge Racer Revolution

The follow-up to the PlayStation launch classic

Ridge Raver Revolution builds upon the original Ridge Racer game, set with a new course being added with a few variations. All three tracks are similar in how they start, but branch out into different directions and are named by the difficulty of the track itself (Novice, Advanced, Expert).

As with the first game, there is support for the NeGcon controller, so make sure to enable it in your emulator if you wish to take advantage of analogue steering.

Race Modes

Race: Normal racing mode, race 3 laps around the track and finish in 1st place for each one.
Time Trial: Same as Race mode but you have no opponents, the objective is to get the fastest lap time for each track. I’ve always found these modes boarding and don’t really play these much. Completing these modes will unlock a new car.
Free: You can run as many courses as you like. When you reach 99 laps, the lap counter display will stay fixed at 99 laps.

In terms of gameplay, it’s very similar to the original game, with the same graphics style and mostly the same drifting mechanics. Therefore you could consider this as a standalone expansion pack of sorts.

The soundtrack is the exact same as Ridge Racer 2 was released for the arcade, however, Ridge Racer 2 featured only the original arcade tracks, not the ones featured in Revolution.

Secrets

Spinning Point: When selecting time trial, hold down the X and Square buttons and select Start (Note: Not the Start button on the controller, the option on the screen), then when playing the track, Spinning Point will appear where you can spin and the game will score you based on how well you spun the car. This only functions in time trial mode and the scores are not saved.


Pocket Racer: A hidden mode that is enabled when you beat the Galaga mini game without wasting a shot. This mode would later spawn into an arcade spinoff that was released in Japan arcades only as Pocket Racer.


Mirror Tracks: to play in mirror mode for every track, at the start of the game accelerate forward slightly but turn around 180 degrees, then drive into the barrier at over 66MPH and the track will be in mirror mode, along with all the road signs.
Zoom In/Out: When in third-person view, pause the game and then press either the L1 or R1 buttons to zoom in or out respectively. You can then resume the game with the new viewpoint.


Title Screen: The spotlight can be manipulated by holding both the L1 & R1 buttons, then using the d-pad to move the spotlight.

Two Player Link

Revolution included a new two-player link that allows for two players to race each other through the use of two consoles, two copies of the game and two displays. This is not the same as the split-screen modes in the later installments of Ridge Racers, with only one player per console.
A link cable is required to connect both consoles together using the serial port located on the original PlayStation models. The smaller Psone branded consoles lack this port and cannot make use of the two-player modes, but can still play the single-player modes.

You can replicate the two-player mode using the NO$PSX emulator, or PCSX. PCSX was troublesome to work within Windows as starting the emulator as a client would just cause it to crash. Under Linux we have some luck but when we are able to re-establish a link, the performance is horrendous with both games running at around 2FPS. Possibly due to both emulators trying to run in sync with each other. I tried running both in a VM, running in a LAN segment but the performance was still the same.

The original Ridge Racer tracks can be played in this mode, as this functionality was missing from the first game.

Conclusion

The game feels like what Ridge Racer should have been when it was ported to the PlayStation. Presumably a lot of content was shifted to Revolution in order to meet the launch deadline since the original Ridge Racer only featured one track with two variations.

One of the main criticism of the original Ridge Race port was its lack of content featuring only 1.5 tracks (the second being an expansion to the original) and around 12 cars, which limited replay value. Here Namco has tried to add as much content whilst still making the game accessible, however I question why certain modes are hidden behind key combinations instead of being directly accessible.

Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties

3DO’s killer Rom-com

Before we had Heavy Rain or Until Dawn, Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties was a pioneer in the interactive storytelling genre. I guess you could say it was ahead of it’s time.

Story

The game treats you to a opening FMV, followed by the publishers logo, showing off the swirl effects. The game then gives you the option to view the opening sequences or to just skip to the first decision, which saves having to go through the introduction clips.

John’s mother, Certified MILF

One thing you will notice about the voice acting is how finished or unpolished it is, with background noise and microphone artifacts able to be heard. This is very noticeable on the voices that play when selecting an option.

The goal of the game is to get John and Jane together.

Left: Emma, the woman John’s mother wants him to marry, Right: Jane’s father with the butler from Tomb Raider

Parking Lot: The first major decision come up and it is at this point we are introduced to the game narrator. You are given a choice of three options, either John makes the first move, Jane makes the first move or neither of them make the first move.

Picking the third option results in a really long cut-scene slideshow between several other characters, which also makes little sense. I’m not sure if these characters are canon, since they wouldn’t appear in the other two options, or will they ever appear in the game again.

The game then ends and you are promoted to choose another option, as this seems to be the one incorrect option.

The Job Interview: Jane is in the middle of a job interview and you are given a choice on how to proceed, either she gets the job, she gets turned down for the position, or Thresher can take advantage of the situation

The third option is when the game become a Harvey Weinstein simulation, and offers Jane the position if she agrees to take her clothes off. This leads to another decision where she can either agree to do it, or she declines

Picking the first option results in her stripping off, before she smacks Thrasher and runs. Here a chase scene starts with Thrasher armed with a weapon (There’s no gameplay, just still images. This would have been a great opportunity for a mini-game) Jane runs outside back in the parking lot.

If you chose the second option, she will strip off and the game will end

The Chase: Once outside, another decision you will have to make. John can either case after Jane, or he can distract Thresher from her. Choosing the first option results in a long case scene.

The second option results in Thresher flirting with John, and the two end in a relationship leaving Jane standing on her own, possibly becomes a nun to tie in with the other ending?

The chase takes place all around Hollywood, and concludes in an vacant office building where Thresher give Jane an offer. Here another decision is to be made.

The first option has Jane choose Thresher, leaving John on his own.

The second option results in John and Jane getting together, meanwhile Thresher hooks up with Yoko Ono

The Ending: The final decision lets you choose the ending, you only have two possible choices. The normal Hollywood style ending or something completely different where Jane becomes a nun.

Windows Version

The game experience was ported to the Microsoft Windows platform, and was designed for Windows 3.x series of operating systems, This made use of the MPC (Multimedia PC Standard) and requires a 4x CD-ROM drive, a compatible soundcard and a capable video card. Compared to the 3DO version, some effects are missing like the zoom in/out whilst John is on the phone to his mother. This is possibly due to the PC’s of the era not being able to pull off the effect.

The game will run OK in PCem or 86Box, using a 486 (Or 386 running at 40Mhz). The game is simply displaying bitmapped images with a WAV file playing in background, no JPEG compression, possibly to reduce CPU and decompression times.

Specifications:

The game runs the same as it would on the 3DO, but it lacks the opening FMV video of Jane at the start of the game. Aside from that it’s mostly accurate. You can actually browse the games images from the File Explorer/Manager and open them outside of the game.

There is no installer, the program just runs straight from the CD-ROM drive.

Also remember to disable your screensaver, as it will appear whilst in the game.

Full Motion Video?

Most of the game is presented using still images, with the occasional zoom/scaling effect being added. One possibility was the game was still in the prototype stage, which would explain why the still images look like key frames (but does not explain the wacky filters that are used), and the game was just released without encoding the video.

Another possibility being the game running out of space on the disc, the BIN/CUE image is over 500Mb with the still images, and would have been larger had they used actual FMV. Also remember that even though the 3DO was capable of full PAL/NTSC resolution video, it was limited to MJPEG-like video (The exact Codec would vary depending on the game being used), with MPEG1 support only offered as part of an external addon (This predated MPEG2 which was used for DVD and DVB digital TV)

A third possible theory was due to the multiple decisions possible in the game, it was have been preferable to use still images than having to re shoot multiple scenes for each decision in order to save on production costs. Instead they could alter the images and record different voice lines which was much cheaper. This make no sense for the opening and introduction sequences, since that will always be the same.

I’m also curious if this game was ever ported to other platforms besides the 3DO and Windows. The Sega CD would have been a good candidate.

One of the possible endings

Sony VAIO PCV-RD620G

A mid-2003 desktop PC that functions as a media center of sorts, and features dual optical drives (CD burner with a DVD reader) and remote control with an IR receiver. Some models featured an analog TV tuner and a dial-up modem fitted to one of the PCI slots.

VAIO Style

Recovery Wizard

Our VAIO journey starts with the Recovery Wizard, which takes us through the formatting process.

Remarkably it looks like a Windows 2000 environment.

Post Install

The Sony-branded OOBE, which presents the opportunity to register with Sony and Microsoft.

Norton Internet Security comes bundled with the laptop which provides virus protection for a year since it is activated, along with a firewall. Norton also integrates itself into Internet Explorer, providing popup protection. It also appears within Windows Explorer itself.

After the first bootup, we are prompted to insert one of the VAIO recovery disks, these are tied to the machine and will not work inside a virtual environment, and rely on different copy protection

Interesting, Norton seems to be able to pickup and download a few updates, considering this product is nearing 20 years old that’s quite impressive. But I doubt these cover the latest virus definitions, Norton possibly still operates the server that holds these aged definition updates.

There are a few programs missing since the final part of the recovery wizard specifically checks that you are running on a Sony VAIO PC. I wonder if this checks for the exact model, or if there is just the Sony string in the BIOS, would this work for other Sony models?

SonicStage

SonicStage was the software used to manage and playback Sony’s ATARC format audio, which was their own property audio format that was initially used on the first MiniDisc models, and was later used for their Walkman digital music players. ATARC was more efficient than MP2 and MP3 at higher bitrates but compared less with AAC or WMA. ATARC was also only supported on Sony products, and even then not all of their electronics supported it, Sony Ericsson phones in Europe had no support for ATRAC, and neither did the first PlayStation or the PlayStation 2, with the PS3 introducing support for the codec.

SonicStage was very similar to iTunes in concept and acted as a way to play purchased songs from Sony’s CONNECT store. As these files were protected by DRM, an account and correct authorization was required to playback the songs purchased by the user. SonicStage could also sync and transfer songs to supported Walkman players, and only Walkman players.

This was during a dark period of time where record companies insisted that much purchases online had to be digitally protected using some form of DRM, which meant purchasing music from one vendor would mean you could only play that track on software or a device that the vendor had support for. This meant music purchased from iTunes could not be played back on a Walkman or a Microsoft PlaysForSure device without burning it to a CD, then reimporting it as MP3 or whichever format the program and device supported, basically the analog hole.

Was it any wonder people turned to piracy?

DRM free music stores later came about, and many vendors eventually started offering DRM free downloads for their songs and all was well. Then the music industry went one step further and insisted streaming was the next best thing, meaning you no longer owned or had direct access to music, instead of being steamed from the cloud for a monthly fee.

As for Sony, the CONNECT store closed down in 2008, and Sonic Stage was discontinued and replaced a few years later with MediaGo, which was mainly intended for the Sony PSP but could work with compatible Walkman devices. Sony would later try again in the music market with Quircity, a streaming playroom before being rebranded to PlayStation Music, and then been killed off in favor of Spotify on the PS4.

For a company that has its own major record label, Sony does suck with online music services.

Screensavers & Wallpapers

Theirs a VAIO screensaver bundled which is a bunch of stock photos taken with a few transition effect applied, with stock music being placed in the background.

You can of course customize it with your own photos, or memes if that is more your thing.

Various backgrounds, these would blend in with the laptop design and supported a variety of resolutions (whilst the internal LCD would use its optimal resolution, Sony provided different wallpaper resolution’s in the event you connect an external monitor.

PrintStudio

Appears to be a creative photo editing application where you can import photos from a digital camera (maybe a Sony CyberShot camera) and apply effects or add clip-art to them. You then have the option of printing these out or attaching them as an email. you can also create greeting cards with this, so it acts similar to Microsoft Publisher in a way,

Netscape browser version 6, a popular alternative browser (Didn’t Microsoft discourage OEM’s from doing this? Sony clearly didn’t give a fuck)

Moodlogic

I think this is some sort of last.fm service from before its time, where it will organize and find similar artists depending on the ones currently in your library, whilst organizing your current music collection. This no longer works and requires a connection to a server that is long since defunct. It sort of similar to Apple Genius playlists.

Memory Stick Formater

Formats a Sony Memory Stick, nuff said. Not sure why you can’t do this in Windows Explorer, possibly due to Magic Gate encryption?

Quicken 2004

Software that Sony loved to bundle with their VAIO systems, is some sort of account and spending management software.

AOL

An advert for AOL, looks a bit basic for 2003 standards.

Help & Support

Sony’s help center branding

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Windows Chicago OSR2 (Build 1078)

Microsoft continued to upgrade the Windows 95 codebase in response to new technologies emerging from OEMs. OSR2 introduces FAT32 support, 1394 (But not USB) support and better support for MMX and P6 based processors.

Like previous releases this was only distributed to prebuilt OEM systems and was never sold at retail

The Windows desktop, slightly modified post instillation. The release notes is place on the desktop by default and gives an update on what has changed in this build. On a fresh build it pretty much resembles stock Windows 95 with its teal background, but you can change it to any background you prefer.

System information window

Soundcard Install

After using a few SoundBlaster and Windows sound system cards I’d thought id try the Gravis Ultrasound for a change, since this is emulated in PCem

This isn’t specific to this build of Windows 95 but I thought I’d cover it anyway but there were a few issues getting the driver installed

Even after a seemly successful install there are still errors that crop up upon boot. In the end I had to supplement the sound card with a SoundBlaster 2.0 for MIDI output.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 3, this one comes with an italic background style, which was dropped in Internet Explorer 4. The icon on the desktop appears as ‘The Internet’ rather than Internet Explorer with the logo we all know.

Internet Mail and News

Internet Mail: Very similar to Outlook Express, a basic email client for use with an email service typically provided by an internet service provider

Internet News: Used to access newsgroups which were common back then. Sadly I wasn’t successful in getting it to connect to a modern newsgroup.

DriveSpace 3

An upgrade from the previous version of DriveSpace, which is a disk compression program that compacts files on your hard drive to save disk space, at the expense of processing power.

Once compression has completed, the system will reboot back into Windows. A new drive letter will be created, with C being the compressed mounted volume, and H being the actual drive itself.

Software

The Windows 95 Plus pack can be installed without any issues and grants full support of themes along with the additional utilities. Some of which are redundant as updated versions are provided in OSR2.

AOL

Opera – Whilst the browser wars were raging on between Netscape and Internet Explorer, Opera was busy doing its own thing albeit being a shareware/trialware browser

Ability Office – An alternative Office suite for Windows which has full compatibility with the Microsoft Office file formats

Adobe Reader – utility to view PDF format files, typically bundled with software that has its documentation in PDF format. I always liked the art style Adobe using in the splash and help screens, something nice to look at whilst the program loaded.

WinZip – Windows 95 explorer had no ability to open or create ZIP files from explorer itself, so a third party utility is required. The 16bit version is shown here, a 32bit version exists for Windows 95.

Macromedia Flash: Create and distribute flash animations and includes a web browser plugin for Netscape.

I get that feeling

Norton AntiVirus 2.0.1: Version 2 was adapted for Windows 95 and contains a virus checker, virus definitions database with a list of all virus the program can detect along with information. LiveUpdate allows virus definitions to be updated over the internet using a modem or a LAN connection. A version also exists for Windows NT

mIRC – A popular IRC client (Internet Relay Chat, Discord without the bloat), sadly no longer connects on modern servers

Doom95 – Microsoft’s port of the popular Doom game for the Windows 95, making use of DirectX and being a full Win32 application rather than being DOS based, developed with Gabe Newell who was working for Microsoft at the time

Fury3 – Flight simulation game developed by Terminal Reality and published by Microsoft as part of their Microsoft Home series of titles

PCem Specifications

Motherboard: Packard Bell PB410A

Processor: Cx5x86/133

Memory: 64MB – the maximum this motherboard can address

Video: Onboard Video (Video 7/Headland?)

Sound: Gravis Ultrasound

Mouse: Microsoft Intellimouse PS/2

Network: Novell NE2000

IBM ThinkPad 390E

Thinkpads were pretty nice laptops, especially during the late 90s when they pioneered various emerging technologies that were yet to be common. Let’s take a look at a typical OS install that would have shipped with a Thinkpad.

The installer requires the hard disk to be at last initialised, that means having a partition table ready and a partition created. The recovery disk included the FDISK program to create this if its not been done so, and supports the creation of FAT32 partitions.

Once ready, you can start the recovery process, which will inflate the required files. In total this will consume around 600MB of disk space

Initially, this was attempted in VMWare and whilst the first part of the install worked very well, we ran into a few issues. Since our host CPU is over 2.1GHz, we ran into a protection error and were unable to continue without modifying the OS. A patch exists and can be installed.
This isn’t a problem in Windows 98SE or Windows ME, but this image contains the first edition of Windows 98 which does have this bug.
However at some point the install bricked itself, getting a few errors about missing VXD files, which could be related to the patch above.

Since VM software has issues running these older operating systems, it’s better to use 86Box instead.

86Box

86Box has a few IBM machines emulated, but none from the Pentium II era. Although in theory, we can use any capable motherboard to run the OS, I wanted to use an IBM based machine to better fit the profile however 86Box only has a handful of IBM systems:
IBM Valuepoint 60: Has a shit BIOS that only detects a hard drive up to 504MB, the restore image along consume 600MB and we cannot boot from an external SCSI drive
IBM PS/ValuePoint 433DX/Si: BIOS is also wack and complains about a config error no matter what combination of hardware I throw at it. Seems to work with larger hard drives but does not boot from a CD-ROM so I had to use Plop boot loader. Whilst I was able to complete the restore and was able to boot into Windows and complete the hardware detection somewhat, after another reboot the system would no longer boot up, giving a non-system disk error
IBM PC 330: I couldn’t even get this shit to POST

Overall 86Box didn’t have much going for it in the IBM department for later generation PCs so I ended up using the VirtualPC 2007 based system, which worked easily and was able to boot from CD.

Post Install

When running on completely different hardware you will encounter this hardware detection section, as Windows tries to detect and install various drivers for the motherboard and components used. On the actual ThinkPad system, you will just be taken to the desktop.

This typically takes around 10 minutes to complete, be warned that if you try this on VMWare you will have endless prompts regarding PCI-PCI bridges since VMWare likes to have a lot of these.

Software

The Welcome to Windows screen has been customized by IBM to some extent, as the ThinkPad itself can be seen in the background. I’ve never seen this done by an OEM for Windows 98.

ThinkPad on the Net

A utility to help you sign on for an internet service provider. If you already have one the program will attempt to test the internet connection, but this will fail since the servers are no longer active, the program simply thinks you don’t have an internet connection.
It’s also possible this only works for dial-up connections which were popular at the time, and requires a modem.

Product Registration

Presents the opportunity to register your product by answering several questions about you and your life story, along with what you intend to do and what accessories you intend to purchase. This was the good old days when telemetry wasn’t embedded into the OS, so this was the only way to provide feedback to the OEM. Registering your products will reward you with bonus screensavers.

Screensavers

Think 1: The Thinkpad logo flashes around the screen whilst a red dot (TrackPoint) spins around
Think 2: Similar to think1 but has an animated image of the laptop itself
Saw: Simulates a saw cutting pieces from your desktop, along with a loud saw sound that scared the shit out of me. There is an option to disable the sound thankfully
Wreck: A wrecking ball appears and smashes against your desktop background, along with smashing sounds.
Window Washer: A Window Washed slides down the screen, taking vertical black stripes from your desktop background
Gumballs: A bunch of coloured circles appears on the screen
Snore: A floating bed with a guy sleeping in it
Ice Cleaner: An Ice cleaner of sorts appears
Shuttle Launch: A Shuttle appears and moves on the screen

Wallpapers

There are plenty of wallpapers included, supporting both 800×600 and 1024×768 resolutions.

PC Doctor

A diagnostic program of sorts, which performs a variety of tests. This included the CPU, video card and various devices connected to the system. Very interesting considering we are running in an emulated system.

Shockingly it has failed, although we are emulating a Pentium II, seems the Math coprocessors has issues returning incorrect results.

Let’s give the memory a test…

Looks like it passed, Now for the video

Is it me or can you see watergate…

The Graphics card is an S3 ViRGE (325), This isn’t the graphics card that shipped with the system

The sound test plays a few MIDI and Wave samples

The system Information area gives us details information on the various elements of the system. However here its possible to hard freeze the system

Norton AntiVirus

Included antivirus software that can detect and remove viruses. This version lets you browse through the various virus definitions to see what they do and what parts or side effects they can cause.
A Liveupdate feature was available but is no longer functional will return a server error.

IBM Update Connector

Checks for various updates for applications and utilities that came in bundles with your IBM system.

ThinkPad Configuration

A utility that lets you change settings and enable/disable different components of the system. You can configure settings for the sound, game port and TrackPoint itself. These are settings that are typically exclusive to the ThinkPad itself and may not be covered by the Windows settings.

ConfigSafe EZ

Acts like an early form of system restore, which will back up critical system files which can be restored should the need arise.

Snapshots can be taken on a schedule, either daily, weekly, monthly or every time Windows boots up. Files are saved to a CSX image file and total to 1.46MB, which seems to go over the floppy drive limit

IBM HomePage Creator

This takes you to an online page, presumably where you can create an account and sign up for a web hosting service

Shutting Down

Shutting down the system brings up a Norton AntiVirus screen that kinda looks like a BSOD. This just does a quick virus scan before shutdown and lasts for a few seconds, possibly does a boot sector scan to ensure nothing has tampered with the bootloader.

Windows NT 3.51 (Build 854)

An updated release of Microsoft’s fledging new kernel, released in 1995.

Install: Attempt 1

First I tried installing it the normal way, inserting a floppy disk and booting from it and have the CD-ROM mounted. First hurdle was towards the end, where the installer complained about not detecting a valid partition, despite the hard disk being detected by the BIOS, and was recognized by FDISK on the Windows 95 boot disk

So I formatted the disk using FDISK on the 95 boot disk, making sure it was FAT16 (Using the FDISK /FPRMT switch) but to no success. It’s weird since it detects the CD-ROM ATAMP drive, but no hard disk

Install: Attempt 2

After a quick search I was advised to use a LOCK command to allow full access to the drive, even though the work LOCK signified you restricting the drive?

To do this I had to use the Windows 95 boot disk to get to a DOS prompt with CD-ROM drivers enabled. Then ran the command below

lock c:
d:\i386\winnt /b

This started copying the file (slowly) to the hard disk which then instructed me to reboot the system. Unfortunately this did nothing as the BIOS could not find anywhere to boot from. It seems this method neglects to install a bootloader

A program crashing in NT 3.51

Install: Attempt 3

After swearing relentlessly , I coped an existing VHD that had MS-DOS 6.0 installed and decided to use that as a base to install NT on, which thankfully had working CD-ROM drivers. Then from the DOS prompt I ran the CD-ROM installer . This copied files in the same manor as attempt two, and upon reboot had added another entry to the bootloader. I guess it only adds to the bootloader rather than create its own?

Either way after selecting the NT option, setup resumed install and gave options for the install.

Another reboot later and we are in the graphical installer, which is where t could customize our NT installation and where we can configure its networking settings.

What I learnt:

  • The lock command only works for MS-DOS 7 and 8 which were integrated with Windows 95 and 98 respectively,
  • NT 3.51 requires a DOS or Win 3.11 install, or assumes the PC already has this installed? Or maybe this is a quirk of the installer disk I was using
  • Maybe this copy is an upgrade copy, or early NT versions were designed to dual boot with DOS. That makes sense since this OS will still in a primitive stage and was probably not designed for regular use at the time.
  • Use the WINNT /B switch to stop the CD-ROM setup from creating blank floppy disks. It insists on creating three blank floppy’s and will not progress until these have been made.

Shortly after getting everything up and running, the OS decided to commit seppuku and would refuse to boot, ultimately crashing the emulator completely. Even VGA mode was unable to fix it. Possibly this build has issue running in this configuration.

PCem config

Motherboard: Elonex PC-425X

Processor: Intel i486DX4

Video: Cirrus Logic GD-5429

Audio: Windows Sound System