The History of Graphics in Video Games

A five part look at the history of graphics capabilities of video games. I remember when Star Fox and Pilotwings came out for Super Nintendo and I thought. “That’s it. It won’t get better than this.”

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This Paragraph Should Be At The Beginning Of Every Book

Use strong words to communicate your ideas. There will always be caveats and one-off counter examples. But putting those things in your writing or speaking simply confuses the message.

Getting Real

This is from a book called Getting Real. It totally changed the way I thought about the world.

They cleverly disguised it as a book about software development, but it’s ideas have changed almost every part of my life.

Halfway though reading the book, I had to stop bookmarking pages because I realized I was bookmarking every page.

Also recommended by the author – Rework

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Everything is Not for Everyone

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Hitting Publish Again

So, here is the third time I’m committing to writing this blog.

It used to be called MakeCoolShit in 2009 or so. Then, I renamed it to in 2011. Both times, I started posting a lot and then… Nothing.

I just stopped. More on why I stopped in another post (I hope).

Recently, I got the bug to start writing here again. And, of course, I needed a new design. Maybe I should switch to Squarespace? Maybe I should update this WordPress and clean it up? I wanted to change the CSS and make the line spacing on this site a bit more open. Maybe make the typeface larger?

While I was messing around with all this stuff last night, I had to tell myself to stop and think about why I was doing all this work. The last two times I committed to this project, it faded out. What will be different this time? Why was I futzing around with font sizes and icons again? This isn’t why I wanted to restart this project.

I realized, that I had to start actually writing. Tweaking the design or renaming the site didn’t do shit.

So, here I am writing.

I’m going to try and give myself permission to share more thoughts again. I will try to hit the Publish button more often and to not worry about making every post better.

Here we go, I think.

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Digital Pinball Machine Final Build And Specs

It’s been almost three years since I started building a digital pinball machine. in 2011 I started getting really into pinball. But, I couldn’t really have a “Real” pinball machine in my apartment because of the noise. So, I decided to start building a digital version out of a custom PC, some virtual pinball software called Visual Pinball.

These digital pinball emulators really worked well and all the games that I played as a High-School and College kid were available in their original form. I could build ONE cabinet, download all the files, and have ALL the games I ever played in one box. Cool!

I started doing research online and seeing other videos and photos of how other people have built their machines. I even tried some other builds at the Chicago Pinball Expo. I asked a lot a questions and did a lot of research before building my own rig. Learning how to maneuver through Microsoft Windows was probably the most challenging part. I haven’t touched Windows in over 15 years so it was pretty tedious for me to learn to do even simple things like install the software and batch rename files.

More Than I Needed

I chose the parts I did for the best speed and quality. I have tried other digital pinball machines and they all had problems I didn’t want on my machine. Some had a lot of lag between hitting the buttons and seeing the flipper flip on screen. Others had put cheap TVs in their game that led to poor brightness when viewing from the side. If I was going to build a machine, I wanted it to be the best, brightest and fastest.

Some of the hardware used could have be scaled back, but I wanted to be sure this was as good as possible even if I had to spend a few extra hundred bucks. Here are some decisions I made to make this machine different from the other Digital Pinball Machines i tired.

Here are a few decisions I made that I think helped make the final machine much faster and better looking.

SSD Drive: This was an expensive but easy choose. the SSD Drive boots into the interface MUCH faster than a normal drive. When you launch a game, it only takes a few seconds to load. Ive seen this take over thirty seconds on slower machines.

Two NVIDIA GeForce 560 Video Cards: It’s a bit overkill, but I wanted two fast cards for displaying all the graphics. The main playfield TV is the only one that needs this much graphics power, but I wanted to have matching cards for future versions of Visual Pinball just incase they incorporate higher graphics for the back glass or DMD area.

3D TV: I chose a 3D tv not for it’s 3D capability, but because 3D TVs have brighter output and better viewing angles. This is important for this type of installation because we will be looking at the TV at at angle not typical of a normal TV. I also wanted an extra high quality monitor because we would be standing so close to the TV compared to usual TV watching.

After I got all the hardware together and working, it was time to build a cabinet for it all to go in. Honestly, I was going to try and build it myself. But I just got too busy at work. So, I called on VirtuaPin to build a custom cabinet. I have seen their builds before and I knew they had experience in all this stuff. I dropped off all the TVs and other hardware and they did the rest. The final cabinet was delivered to my office all ready to boot and play.

Here is an itemized list of everything used in the final build.

Monitor Hardware

Main Monitor 40″ Samsung 3D TV
Backglass Monitor Hanz-G 16×10 27 inch.
LED DMD with PinDMD Controller Board and 5v PSU

Computer Specs

Sabertooth P67 Motherboard
Crucial M4 128GB SSD
Intel i7 3.4 2600K Quad Core
4GB Ram
Logitech Wireless Keyboard
Logitech Wireless Mouse
1 NVIDIA GeForce 560 TI
1 NVIDIA GeForce 560
DMD Screen
Seasonic 760W Power Supply

Custom Cabinet by VirtuaPin

Finished Cabinet with all parts, glass, pre-wired, and backbox elements installed
Widebody – Finished – Trimmed
Ultimate Cab-Builder’s Button Kit
Terminal Block
Speaker Panel
Widebody Apron
Playfield Glass
Tempered Backglass
Power Strip with Autoswitching
2x120W Pyle® Pro Stereo Power Amplifier
PYLE PLW10BL 10-Inch 600 Watt Subwoofer
2xCooler Master 120mm Computer Case Fans with Chrome Guards
Custom Lockdown Bar
Pinball Hardware Pack Including real pinball buttons, trim, door and legs.


Windows 7 Profesional
DMD Align
Visual Pinball

It was a really fun project to work on. But, i’m glad it’s all finished and working well now instead of a ball of wires. having it all cleaned up in one box is way more fun. :) If you have any questions about it, hit me up in the comments.

UPDATE: Some people on twitter were asking how much it all cost. There were so manny small trips to MicroCenter that I don’t have EVERY receipt, but the final cost is somewhere between $5800 – $6100.

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