CMU students make a dazzling demo for the 30-year-old Vectrex

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Members of Carnegie Mellon University's computer club have somehow managed to not only obtain a working GCE Vectrex, but create an incredible 64K audiovisual demo on the obscure, 30-year old game console.

The Vectrex occupies a fascinating place in computer and video game history. Unlike other early game consoles, it came with a built-in CRT monitor that eschews the usual pixel-based video output for a vector graphics display that uses phosphorescent materials like those in the original Asteroids arcade cabinet. The systems tend to have poor shelf life as a result, and the few video game preservationists who own them, like Alex Handy of the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment in Oakland, usually maintain a strict hands-off policy.

Students at CMU's Computer Club obviously don't see much reason for preservation if it stops them from creating demos like the one above, which recently won first place at PixelJam, a demo competition taking place at Ohio arts and technology conference Notacon. Since no compositional software exists for the system, esteemed chip musician C-Jeff composed and ported over the music from a ZX Spectrum, which has the same sound chip as the Vectrex. They then ran the resulting audio through a preamp to eliminate the harsh buzzing sound that gets mixed into the signal due to the machine's screen. The tripod camcorder recording doesn't quite fully capture the cathode rays' hypnotic glow, but since the console has no video outputs it's the closest you're going to get without owning one of these rare machines.

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