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Videogame history project successfully emulates CRT on LCD

See old games how they were meant to look

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We thought fuzzy images went out with cathode ray tube monitors, but a team of boffins at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an app that mimics the visual characteristics of CRTs on today crisp, pixel-perfect LCD screens.

And it's all been done in the interest of historical research, specifically the evolution of videogames.

According to GIT Associate Professor Ian Bogost, emulation software is all very well at allowing modern historians to examine old videogames, but they don't give you the true feel of playing an arcade game or 8-bit computer programme, all of which were orginally displayed on CRTs, either monitors or TVs.

More to the point, many of them were written to take advantage of the quirks of CRT display technology.

To change that, GIT coders Edward Booth, Michael Cook, Justin Dobbs, Will Rowland and Prince Yang took the open souces Atari VCS 2600 emulator Stella and tweaked the graphics routines to emulate phosphor glow, colour bleed and the noise associated with hooking a CRT up to a source through an radio-frequency modulator.

Georgia Institute of Technology CRT emulation

Georgia Institute of Technology's CRT emulation in action
Click for full-size image

Pics posted by Bogost on the GIT website show how well the team managed to recreate the look of CRT on LCD, but he said you really appreciate the difference when you play the games.

Oldsters will be able to relive youths misspent in arcade halls, while younger players will get to game the way their dads did. Researchers into videogame history will be able to see games how they would have appeared when released.

Bogost said the five coders were working with the Stella development team to get their modifications incorporated into the emulator's official release. You can download Stella here.

We're anticipating the code being incorporated into a future Blu-ray Disc playback app to allow the latest HD movies to be viewed in VHS-o-Vision. ®

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