Arctic Blast 2019: Flashback

Well, hello there!

If you are reading this blog for my exploits in training for the Marine Corps Marathon here’s a down and dirty About Me:

  1. I’m 48 y/o black male, living and working in Patuxent River, MD
  2. Four time Marine Corps Marathon finisher (2014/2015/2016/2018) plus a trail marathon in 2016 (never again).
  3. Type 2 diabetic, which is the ulterior reason I started training for the MCM
  4. I was inspired to run the MCM after hanging out with former Marine friends after they finished the 2013 MCM. Long story short, there is a before/after Facebook post of me. The “before” picture was taken the day I visited them after the run, the “after” picture was taken in 2015.
  5. I missed the 2017 MCM due to financial and personal reasons, so I re-started the blog for 2018. I tracked the last 100 days before the MCM, with a couple of “aftermath” posts.
  6. Yes I plan to run in 2019. I will start conditioning in first week of February, start running in March, then start full-on training in May. I am hoping to get at least one full marathon and two half marathons before the MCM in October.
  7. If you are a first time marathoner, looking for running motivation, or you’re “just looking,” I have a fairly decent (if not substantial archive. I started the blog in 2014 to keep myself honest about my training, but I have been better at fulfilling my training than blogging.


I am currently in “off-season” mode as I type this. I bought a bicycle before the Christmas holiday and use that to get to and from work. It’s mostly because I am between cars but also to start getting me back in shape.

It is also Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday weekend. Patuxent River for 6 inches of snow last Sunday, and most of it has melted already. We are supposed to be getting an arctic blast this weekend. Does it mean more snow, or will it just be cold as the Dickens? Not sure. So, with no running on the calendar, too cold to go outside, and no car, I’m just gonna blog about a hobby I would like to get back in to…classic video gaming.


Waaay back in the 80s I owned an Atari 2600 Video Computer System. I got one for Christmas in 1985 and held on to it through my Marine Corps years. I collected about 100~125 cartridges for the system and eventually bought the slimline 2600 Jr. and the backwards compatible 7800.

Long story short, I lost my old 2600 carts, and as much as I would love to get back into classic gaming, I’m not sure I want to go through the time and expense of getting back the whole 2600 library (Amazon can only do so much). Right now, I have tow options.

Option 1: The Newfangled Atari VCS. This is a brand spanking new Atari system that is being built by a company bearing the Atari name and currently being funded by an IndegGoGo campaign. One one hand, I  like the slick advertisements and marketing campaign, and I am tempted to say SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. The prospect of playing the entireAtari 2600 library out of the box (or via online) is tempting. On the other hand, the YouTube community has raised some red flags…enough for me to suggest a potential rip-off.

Here’s what I’m gonna do for Option 1. The release “date” is slated for July 2019. There are three holidays between July and November. My first benchmark will be July 4th; if I don’t see the systems that have been paid for released by then, I will wait until Labor Day (September). If there is no output during the seven day period before and after Labor Day Weekend, I will give it until Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day. If the Atari VCS is not on the street by then, I will regard it as vaporware and the $300 or so I was going to spend on hardware and peripherals will go to Christmas presents and charity

Option 2: The Atari Flashback X. 2019 will mark the tenth year of this iteration of their Atari 2600 console with 100-plus built in games. The Flashback 9, and its Gold edition, were released late fall of 2018. The big plusses? The Nintendo-produced, 8-bit, and more arcade-accurate versions of Space Invaders and Frogger. An SD card slot  in which you can download a ROM with over 1000 ROMs of classic Atari 2600 software, thus completing your 2600 collection in one file swoop. The big minus? No controller support for paddles, the driving controller, or any third party controllers like track-balls, and the potential for non functioning software.

If the Atari VCS turns out to be a pipe dream, I will settle for the much cheaper Flashback X  (or Flashback 10, if AtGames names it as such. I think Flashback X is cooler, but I digress). Aside from fixing the obvious controller issues, I believe the current in-house software for the Flashback 9 needs a serious tech refresh. Not all of the 2600 software listed for the Flashback has aged well. Here are my Top Five Flashback Game Tech Refreshes:

  1. Star Ship and Space War: Yuck. In the first two years of the 2600 life cycle, Atari discontinued about a half-dozen titles because the looked and played like digital doo-doo on a stick. Between Atari, Activision, Imagic and the rest of the third-party software houses, there are a dozen space shooters that could fill the void.
  2. The Swordquest series: Without the Atari-sponsored contest that was cancelled due to the impending Video Game Crash of 1984, plus the last of the four games that was never released, there are just three substandard adventure games clogging up space in the Flashback hard drive. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Riddle of the Sphinx. Dragonstomper. Boom; problem solved. NEXT!
  3. Tutankham: Parker Brothers, the famed board-gaming house, got into the Atari third party market and produced arcade conversions and games based on the popular licenses of the day (Star Wars and G.I.Joe for example). They should have left this version of the arcade game in the actual tomb of King Tut. Meanwhile, Montezuma’s Revenge, a much better game from PB, is left on the shelf? Really?
  4. Home Run and Realsports or Super Baseball: HR was just a big-ass green sandlot, and Atari’s upgrades for America’s pastime left much to be desired. Super was only a graphical upgrade to RS. M-Network’s Super Challenge Baseball could use a digital upgrade to a one-player option, and Pete Rose Baseball by Absolute would be a step up, at least in graphics.
  5. Desert Falcon: A bad conversion from a 7800 game with serious issues. Look: if you REALLY want Zaxxon for the 2600 (and not Sega’s electronic turd of a home version), there’s a really good looking home-brew called Space Fury. You’re welcome.

I could be here until midnight picking through the Flashback 9 set list, but that would mean lots of hyperlinking, and i think this is my longest blog post EVER…and it’s not anything about running. If you are interetsed Atari Age, Atari, and the previously hyperlinked Video Game Critic are my personal go-to sources of info on classic Atari software.

Provided that AtGames addresses the controller issue and makes the SD card option available, this may all be a moot point. Yes, I know it is SERIOUSLY geeky as hell, and no it’s not about running. However, it’s really cold out, I’m bored, I miss blogging, and I just picked up a new follower a few days ago, so i thought i’d take some time to post something.


Have you played Atari today?

Song of the Day: Aside from old video games, I am also something of a music lover. As standard procedure on the blogs, I would post a video or two from YouTube for a particular song. There is no particular theme, it is just what i happen to be listening to that day…or just whatever I pulled out of my ancient CD rack which I just did right now.

I pulled out Faith No More’s Who Cares A Lot? Greatest Hits album. An excellent band from the 90s although their history shows how surprising they didn’t kill each other while they were playing/recording/touring together after seventeen years. Anyhow, today’s SOTD are “We Care A Lot,” “Midlife Crisis” and “Stripsearch.”

Sometime in my blogging past, these songs may or may not have been mentioned, and I’m too damn lazy to look it up right now. I hyper-linked the songs to their YouTube videos. Trust me on this…just trust me.

See y’all tomorrow.



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