Space Cadet Pinball has a special place in the hearts of many Windows enthusiasts. A customer used their support contract to ask how to change among the three levels of play in Space Cadet Pinball. My proudest achievement of Windows XP was fixing the game so it didn’t consume 100% CPU. People keep asking if it can be brought back.
One point of contention is over my claim that I removed Pinball from Windows because I couldn’t get the 64-bit version to work. Retrocomputing enthusiast NCommander even undertook a Zapruder-level analysis of all of the 64-bit versions of Windows he could find to prove or disprove my story.
I was amazed at the level of thoroughness (and the fortitude it required to get those Itanium systems up and running, much less debug them), but there’s one version of 64-bit Windows that NCommander didn’t try out, and that’s the one that’s relevant to the story.
This story and investigation into Space Cadet Pinball is wild. At this point we seem to have a pretty complete picture of its entire history, but it too some serious digging to get there.
Some months ago I watched the video by the Microsoft programmer “Dave’s Garage” who did the Windows port from the original Maxis Full Tilt Pinball. (I forget if it was a DOS or Amiga or other port and I’m not watching it again to find out.) It looks like “NCommander” is a wet behind the ears trying to earn some rep with a reaction video. He claims to have done it first which can be true but he published last. “NCommander” also gets a bit argumentative in his own comments about who is telling the whole truth. He’s yet another one with too much testosterone between his ears.
The short version is according to Dave the game would need a complete rewrite from the original ported code which wasn’t practically possible and he explains why. The code is “great but write once” code full of programming magic to get it to work. It’s not a task which was worth the effort which is why Raymond Chen gave up. Could they have done it? Yes but it hit the “inverse square law” very fast and rewriting the project would have been a big project in its own right.
Dave also has a few videos with some very good comments on coding (and portability) which people on this blog would benefit from watching if they weren’t too busy waving their “male privilege” around like a badge.