Monday, March 23, 2009

Old School

I remembered this curious device the other night while I was trying to go to sleep. I used to sit in the back of the car on long trips and make animations on this thing. It couldn't really replace the Flip-Book Madness that killed the majority of the paper pads that found their way into my parent's house, but it was pretty fun. It got me thinking about how I ended up in this crazy business and why I do things the way I do now.

I think I started painting on the computer in, well... certainly the early '80's. We used to have an Atari computer. No, that's not an Atari 2600.

It was frickin' Atari Computer.

Yeah, so, that was the life of a young nerd. I used to program my own games in Basic. Most were Zork-style text games, but I remember doing some reeeealy crude graphics on a Road Warrior-style car shooter. The cars were big green cubes. So were their bullets.

A few years later I graduated to Deluxe Paint where I spent a week trying to reproduce a tiger photograph down to the pixel. I'm sure today it would probably hilarious and make an excellent T-shirt.

Deluxe Paint (Or "Dpaint" as the people on the BBS used to call it. See how old I am?) was responsible for my very first paying art gig for a little (or it was back then) studio called Epic. I remember painstakingly placing individual pixels until deciding that finally someone might decide that what I'd made sort-of resembled a hulking mutant in a test tube.

Before college ended, I worked on a game being produced for Epic that never saw the light of day due to some silly squabbling between the producers and unfinished sound code. The game was to be the first full-screen animated game on the PC. Meaning cinematic-style animation, though still composed of too-few pixels to be really believable. Vector-based. Sort of a proto-Flash. For two years I dragged pixellated lines around until they formed shapes that I prayed would be interpreted as a cartoony superhero. And it actually came out pretty good, as I recall.

Photoshop didn't enter the picture until after I moved to L.A., and I remember being really resistant to it at first. I'm not even sure when that changed.

I'm not sure where I was going with this trip down Memory Lane, but... hey look! I posted in my own blog!


Anonymous Matt D. said...

I'm reminded of this:

8:23 PM  
Blogger Jason Miskimins said...

YES!!!!! THE ANIMATOR!!!! I remember that thing! I had totally forgotten about until I saw this blog post...the memories are coming back - as a kid I made many pixelated stick-man animations on that thing...haha.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Milo said...

Wow! That's so funny! I had one of these things too. No the Atari computer ours was an Apple IIGS. I also had my first job in CA pushing pixels at a company called Sierra animating on a game called Leisure Suit Larry. Finally, I also worked in Dpaint when i was in art school after taking a night class in Computer graphics 101 at the Kubert school and I can remember my first picture was a drawing of Jessica rabbit nude. I know I'm a pig... and yet I couldn't help myself. :-)
Anyway, we have a lot more in common that I knew! Small world eh?

1:25 PM  
Blogger Christopher L. Jones said...

It's funny how we can remember the strangest things when we are trying to sleep. I remember the majority of the things that happened to me when I was younger when I try to sleep, which is most of the day so, I recall things a lot.

3:44 PM  
Blogger kitsune+LSV said...

ok. wow! i've never even seen those machines. but if it was one of the things that shape you into the brilliant man you are today then all i can say is, "Send one to me!"

4:27 AM  
Blogger Maxwell Atoms said...

Haha, Make! I remember covertly playing Leisure Suit Larry as a kid when my parents weren't at home. I guess I was afraid they'd be disappointed to see me picking up digital chicks with pixel-boobs. :)

I'll definitely have to check out the new Sketchbook Pro. If there's one thing I still haven't been able to do with Photoshop, it's find a decent bloody pencil!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Mike Milo said...

Yeah man, Leisure Suit Larry was the first digital porn!
As for SBP, it rocks! If you're interested in being part of the beta team for Sketchbook Pro let me know... I've been working with Autodesk for the last 3 years on prototypes. Let me know...

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Matt D. said...

Didn't Ohio Art also make the Magna-Doodle?

3:34 PM  
Blogger remking said...

I still have that same Atari and a 6" floppy drive somewhere in my garage. I think I still have some kind of plug in drawing pad in that same box. The monitor was my TV set. I used to do news letter for a magic club on that Atari and print it on a dot matrix printer. The one page letter took about 15 or 20 minutes to boot up.

1:12 AM  
Blogger JamiSings said...

Epic wouldn't happen to be Epic Megagames, would it? Makers of ZZT, Jill Of The Jungle, Jax Jackrabbit, and Castle Of The Winds? I used to spend hours playing ZZT because it reminded me of an easy version of Rogue. (I never could beat Rogue but I could beat ZZT!)

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Lance Byrd said...

Hello Maxwell Atoms,
You Don't Know Me But I'm A Big Fan Of Ur Shows, "Billy & Mandy" And "Evil Con Carne".

Lance "BigTyme" Byrd's The Name.
I Didn't Know How To Contact You, So I'm Using The Comments.

Anyway, I Wanted To Show You My T-Shirt Shop. One Of The Shirts I Made & Selling Is Based On Ur Movie, UNDERFIST.
I'm A Really Big Fan Of Underfist, & I Wanted To Show My Shirt.

8:17 AM  
Blogger pixiebee said...

I want one now

1:35 PM  
Blogger laz said...

yeah, nerd talk! My first digital art was done on my dad's Apple Macintosh in the 80's, but I didn't do digital animation until Mario Paint in the 90's. I remember BBSes fondly. ANSI graphics, door games and 2400 baud modems.. I used to play with this thing called ZZT, that Epic released back in the early 90's. That's what I used to make my first games! It's neat that you worked with them back then, but too bad your game wasn't released. What was it called? Maybe it's floating out there in the internet somewhere..

2:18 AM  
Anonymous Tiger said...

Oh God. I'm not that old, But I do remember my father taking me to computermuseums when I was supposed to be in school.My first computer was the Toshiba T6600C. I was born in '94 and pressed funny looking buttons before I knew what they even meant. The Toshiba now has Windows 2000 on it (yes, I managed to install it on that thing) and works fine. Not as fine as those brand new superfast stuff, but fine.

1:36 AM  
Blogger Maxwell Atoms said...

It was for Epic Megagames through a company in Canada called "Square Wheel". I tried to dig up some info in it, but it seems to have vanished into the ether...

10:53 AM  
Blogger KirkH. said...

Hey, Maxwell. Are you planning to see Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen? I am! Plus Megan Fox is in it and I have a really really big crush on her.

Ps.Can nobody comment on that last sentence please?

7:48 AM  
Blogger KirkH. said...

I would very much appreciate it if any Transformers fans on this site(Including Mr. Atoms if he's a fan too) to visit my blog,

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Matt D. said...

Out of curiosity, what are your favorite current shows and/or cartoons? Or you could say all-time faves. Whatever keeps your skiff afloat.

10:18 PM  
Blogger CaseyBug said...

My mind was just blown.

Miss ya duuuude!


10:06 PM  
Blogger JigglyPuffPuff said...

I guess we have the same age, but the only one I got to use was logo writter, was kinda funny but wo a mouse and having to write coordenates was a pain in the...

I just googled some pics of LS Larry, now are 3d versions but the ones old I got to see seemed pretty cool, specially for back then.

btw, like two weeks ago I played billy and mandy for GBA, was cool and the animations were very good, but the gameplay was aweful cause was slow and when you got hit it took ages for the recover; I guess the problem is that the gameplay was developed "for children", I got to the mandy part and leave it there.
what do you think of it anyway? billy with a hammer and mandy recalling meteors were pretty cool btw.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Maxwell Atoms said...


I didn't have anything to do with the GBA game, really. I was only involved with the Playstation/Wii version. The Wii version doesn't take much advantage of the Wiimote, but it's still fun.

@Matt D.:

I loved just about everything when I grew up, from the Smurfs to the Ewoks to Dungeons & Dragons to Galaxy High to Pac Man. These days I'm a little more discerning, but not much.

I like Chowder and Flapjack (maybe I'm biased). Just about every other cartoon I can think of is in its last season or so or has already left the air. Spongebob is almost done (again) I think, Fosters is done, the Simpsons and King of the Hill are going. Honestly I'm just hoping there are still some cartoons to watch in the next few years. Probably won't be on "Cartoon" Network, though, huh?

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Matt Dimitroff said...

I remember liking the Snorks more than the Smurfs. Had no idea SpongeBob was finally winding down; Haven't kept up with it. Flapjack is an amazing piece of art. Very few of the shows on Adult Swim are enjoyable, the Venture Brothers being the epitome of enjoyment for me.

Do you watch any live-action, like Heroes?

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

has your life gotten really boring ):{0

11:12 AM  
Blogger KirkH. said...

I like Beavis and Butthead.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Aderis said...

Hmmm..I don't know if you remember me. I'm guessing you deleted your myspace. I deleted tired of the nasty things I'd find on my computer. Haven't had problems since..hehe

So are you playing World of Warcraft again? Wotlk is nice. Me and my boyfriend still play. My warlock and rogue are level 80 now. You'll never believe what I got from the trading card game! (A rare card worth $80 on Ebay.) It's a disco ball that plays goblin disco music! It's so funny! I always take it to raids for fun. I wish I could send you game screen shots but for some reason I am not able to post them here..

7:33 AM  
Blogger Maxwell Atoms said...

I remember you, Aderis! I saw the screens on your profile here, and it's good to see people are still kickin' it for the Horde. Hope you're doing well.

No time for WoW these days for me(so, no, my life is not boring). No time for any games lately, really. Just lots of work in the hope of eventually getting paid.

I haven't been watching much TV lately either. The occasional Man -vs- Wild or movie, but nothing noteworthy. I did watch Heroes up through the end of this season, but I'm constantly toying with dropping it. Most people make me feel a little ashamed of myself for sticking it out this far, but at least the end of the season was interesting...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mike Milo said...

I love Man Vs. Wild as well but these days I'm boycotting it...I hear Bear Gryllis has a new CN show... and it's Live Action!
I like Les Stroud better anyway.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Holly Kim Almaguer said...

Hey Maxwell,
Found an AWSOME store in Pasadena, thought you might like. Sorry I don't have your e-mail (unrelated to this post).

11:41 AM  
Blogger JigglyPuffPuff said...

good to hear you werent involved in the gba game, cause that gameplay was no good...
I play emulations in me pc, so I havent have a change to play the wii version, although Ive seen the cover, one day...

the day I see the final chapter of spongebob Im going to cry. (with billy and mandy, since underfist "just started", Im still thinking Im gonna see more in the future; I know, I know... ).

imo, simpsons has tons of same old stuff just to finish the episode, its very boring sometimes, anyway Im still watching, and since the animation changed to be like in the movie, seems lot better.

again imo, king of the hill, well, I used to like it but last season lost me, was very boring.

the few Beavis and Butthead I have seen were very funny (eating nachos outside the convinient store as graduation reception "ah, just like me" :P

since I watch tons of anime something came to me mind...

-have you seen "live action" of animes? for those who dont know its actors instead of cartoons (which imo are aweful), how would you feel about a live action of billy and mandy? (I dont think there are good enough actors).

-have any of you seen doujins (fan made comics, some of them with nude stuff... :X ) of Billy and Mandy?
I dont like most of them cause the drawings are all messed up, but now and then you find a good one.

ah, the other day I was with a girlfriend, and she drank a lot of soda so later she was kinda burping, so wo thinking I told her "colonel mayor cheese dont make you burp, you silly" I laft me ass off, but she had no idea what I was talking about, neither knows english, so she got mad but I didnt care, its her fault for not watching cartoons :P

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Matt D. said...

I will always stay devoted to Heroes, even though I don't foresee it lasting more than 5 seasons. It's the only tv series I watch religiously.

And Man vs. Wild is also most excellent.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Retro Corgi said...

yeah i defiantly hate how cartoon network is not cartoons anymore its like WTF. I knew something must have been messed up when your cartoons disappeared, all the stuff from 2005 and earlier on CN was amazing shit! now all i can stands is Superjail LOL and i have to stay up real late i mean erm early for that XD

9:36 AM  
Blogger potato farm girl said...

I had the Animator from Ohio art too! It was also a great way to spend time while stuck in my Dad's truck, the dumb thing still works! So awesome! It still has a frog animation on it! Warm fuzzy memories!

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