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Hellbent

WANTED: ancient amber monochrome monitor!

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You know.. the ones from the 80s before color monitors were born. I want to play Pango, Aldo's Adventure, Paratroopers, Bouncing Babies and Beast in all their golden glory! If you have an old monochrome monitor, let me know! (or 286/386 computer system for that matter... that'd be really ideal)

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You're out of luck: I happen to have such a monitor (amber CGA monitor, pretty lightweight and sleek!) but I'm living in Greece :-(

I also have an XT with a NEC V20 CPU and 512 KB of RAM and a 30 MB HD to go with it, but again, too far.

A 286/386 is well beyond the specs of those games, there you can go wild and even try VGA games :-p

BTW, can't you just play them in DOSBOX and pretend that you were a spoiled rich kid back in the 80s and one of the few lucky bastards having a color CGA monitor? ;-)

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Well, I might come to Greece one day. My Grandmother is Greek (although she lives in America) but my mother has traveled there a couple times and if I ever do my Eurotour I will probably go! If so I'll look you up :P

The problem with Dos Box with these old games is they display in CGA graphics with pink and cyan colors... ewwwww.. I want monochrome amber the way I played them as a kid and really the way they look best.

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Hellbent said:

The problem with Dos Box with these old games is they display in CGA graphics with pink and cyan colors... ewwwww.. I want monochrome amber the way I played them as a kid and really the way they look best.


But that's how they actually looked on a color CGA monitor back then, if someone had the money to burn on it. The palettes were admittedly awful, especially compared to other 4-color systems (the Amstrad CPC had a 4-color mode but a far better choice of colors).

CGA basically had a Black/White/Cyan/Magenta and a Black/Red/Green/Yellow palette. A few other combinations were possible, but rarer. As for it looking better...well, on monochrome monitors you couldn't e.g. tell the switches in Rick Dangerous, and text games looked like crap, while you could have 16 whooping colors. Too bad that CGA color monitors were ridiculously expensive.

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Try running Dosbox with the "machine = hercules" config setting and a sheet of amber/brown tinted film taped to the front of the monitor.

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I think my dad has an amber monitor. He might also have the old 8088 to go along with it.

Why don't you check eBay?

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That would be a feature suggestion for DOS Box I think. Custom palettes for emulated CGA mode.

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I used to have an amber monochrome monitor when I was a kid. Had it hooked up to my Nintendo. My parents hardly ever let me use the living room TV to play video games. I still remember getting excited when they'd actually let me play my games in color. Heck, I even remember once renting Dr. Mario for the sole purpose of having an excuse to hook it up to the color TV, because you can't tell the pills or the germs apart in monochrome.

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$115 on ebay! wah-you-kidding-me?

Greyghost: what exactly does hercules do? Was that an old graphics card? I might try the amber tint suggestion-good idea.

Bucket: I just realized I have no way of using an old computer. How would I get the software onto it? I doubt an 8088 has a 3.5" floppy drive. I also wonder what it would take to hook up an old monochrome monitor to my modern graphics card.

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Gez said:
That would be a feature suggestion for DOS Box I think. Custom palettes for emulated CGA mode.

If it doesn't allow green and amber for Hercules (at least), then it should...

I have a composite green-phosphored monochrome monitor intended to be driven by a Tandy 1000 or CGA card, as well as two or three amber ones with TTY input driven by a Hercules or MDA adapter. Apparently the amber colour was supposed to be better on the eyes, but I preferred the green one (despite its lower resolution). The amber ones were also susceptible to phosphor burn-in, as they have the standard screen of the word processor my dad used at his office etched into them (screensavers don't help while you're typing).

One of the computers had (or has, it's in pieces in my basement but should still work) an ATI Graphics Solution in it. This was a pretty nifty card that was essentially a CGA and a Hercules card, and could drive RGB, composite and TTY monitors in all modes. It also had extended 320x200x16, 640x200x4 and 640x200x16 modes, but unfortunately they were incompatible with similar PCjr/Tandy and EGA modes...

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Hellbent said:

$115 on ebay! wah-you-kidding-me?


They are not exactly being produced a dozen a dime since two decades. The real challenge is finding one that actually works though. I had three so far die on me.

Hellbent said:

Greyghost: what exactly does hercules do? Was that an old graphics card? I might try the amber tint suggestion-good idea.


It was a competing graphics adapter, with high-res (for the time) monochrome graphics (it didn't even have color text). I think it can be used with the same monitors as CGA, but it's a losing proposition: most games even back in the day didn't support Hercules natively, and you had to run an emulation TSR program called SIMCGA that emulated a CGA card on the Hercules. Worked with many but not all games, and of course you had all the issues associated with using a TSR: less memory, some CPU overhead, etc. plus it emulated CGA colors with a simplistic pixel dithering.

GreyGhost said:

Try running Dosbox with the "machine = hercules" config setting and a sheet of amber/brown tinted film taped to the front of the monitor.


Using SIMCGA with that would be extreeeme ;-)

What's with Amber monitors anyway? I had seen an equal number of amber, green, and the occasional white monitor too.

Hellbent said:

I just realized I have no way of using an old computer. How would I get the software onto it? I doubt an 8088 has a 3.5" floppy drive. I also wonder what it would take to hook up an old monochrome monitor to my modern graphics card.


A 3.5" drive may work, with DD disks. A friend of mine had one hooked up at his XT, but it only worked single-sided (max 360 KB per disk). It may be a bit tricky to format DD disks with XP (720 KB) but it can be done. Once you get some software on the XT, you can then use serial and parallel ports and some comms software to transfer stuff more easily. That is, assuming you have a suitable HD. If you are lucky, the controller may even work with 1.44 MB disks, which are superb for most XT games except for a few "big" titles. Keep in mind that in those computers, the HD and floppy controllers are separate ISA expansion cards.

I had 5.25" drives and disks to spare, so I split large software with ARJ (at the time) and decompressed it on the XT (I had a 30 MB HD though, and could even boot from there).

Hellbent said:

I also wonder what it would take to hook up an old monochrome monitor to my modern graphics card.


Don't bother, unless you're a die-hard electronics DIY fan: the signal voltages are too different, and signal amplitudes/rates/frequencies would have to be limited to avoid frying the thing. It may be possible however to connect an older computer to a general purpose RGB monitor (including VGA ones) or even a SCART TV by building a relatively simpler adapter.

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Some of those olde monitors have really weird cables. Stuff that looks more like a cable hookup or an RCA cable. My dad might still have his. I saw it sitting on a cabinet in his lab a few years ago. It's honestly not worth bothering if you don't have a computer to drive it. If you did you'd probably have to put a 5.25" floppy drive in a newer computer to copy software. Easily doable.

I once saw a green monitor that could also switch to purple. It was a curious thing.

All the games you mentioned were designed to have colours other than amber. Perhaps you should play them as they were meant to look.

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Aliotroph? said:

Some of those olde monitors have really weird cables. Stuff that looks more like a cable hookup or an RCA cable.


I once had a green monitor with a standard RCA input, which was used with an old XT. Turned out that it was driven solely by a mysterious "pin 7" on the CGA output, as a few CGA cards had a (monochrome) composite output on that pin. By fucking up with the RGB signals I even got it to display shades of green (wow!). Probably you had seen a similar setup. However it lost sync every now and then.

Aliotroph? said:

I once saw a green monitor that could also switch to purple. It was a curious thing.


Almost all of these monochrome monitors also had an "invert" switch that swapped bright/dark. What you describe sounds more like a color monitor hardwired to display monochrome green or invert to purple (blue and red). Weird, still. Sounds like an electronic hack-job :-p

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Heh, never thought of that. Kind of obvious when put that way. Not sure what good that button is in most cases on a colour monitor. I suspect that computer didn't have a colour graphics card in it. That setup was years after XTs were common and the monitor looked like it had been brought from somewhere else even though it was a similar age.

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Aliotroph? said:

All the games you mentioned were designed to have colours other than amber. Perhaps you should play them as they were meant to look.

Hmm.. true, plus the one game I was thinking of, Pango, looks fine in color. Now I just need to figure out how to get it to run at normal speeed....! Moslo is buggy. :( slowing down using dosbox works okay in that the gamespeed is right, but the keystrokes are all delayed... making the game unplayable.

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