Burger Becky's Out Of This World

February 10th, 2020 2:21 PM
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Six years after I backed its Kickstarter, and four years after the final product was due, I received the documentary GIRLS GAME: Women Who Game (originally entitled No Princess in the Castle). The film features interviews with women gamers and game developers about their experiences and passions.

GIRLS GAME features a few names that will be familiar to Apple II users: Jeri Ellsworth and Rebecca Heineman. Jeri has been a KansasFest attendee, a Juiced.GS cover story, and a guest on my Polygamer podcast. Alas, the topic of her Apple II origins and passions did not come up in the documentary.

Fortunately, Burger Becky ensured our favorite retrocomputer was represented. Toward the very end of the film, she holds up two games from her impressive résumé, declaring "They said it couldn't be done!". The movie offers little context to that statement, but it's not hard for us to figure it out.

Burger Becky holding up two game boxes
The games in question are Out of This World and The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate. It's no wonder they said Out of This World couldn't be done: when Jess Johnson asked Becky what her greatest achievement was, she cited this game.

That’s a tough call, since I’ve done so many projects in my career so far. I think I’d have to say was the evil MOD I had to do to get Out Of This World for the SNES to copy backgrounds quickly. Since Interplay wouldn’t pay for a SuperFX chip, I found a way to do it with static RAM on the cart and DMA which got me a great frame rate. Interplay wouldn’t pay for the static RAM either, so I ended up using Fast ROM and a MVN instruction. Interplay wouldn’t pay for a 3.6 MHz ROM either. So, frustrated, I shoved my block move code into the DMA registers and use it as RAM running at 3.6 MHz. It worked. I got fast block moves on slow cartridges and made a game using polygons working on a 65816 with pure software rendering.

This impressive feat could be worth a documentary of its own. In the meantime, thanks for working it into this film, Becky!

Jeri Ellsworth of Tilt Five

October 14th, 2019 8:51 AM
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Sometimes, Apple II users have ambitions bigger than their humble retrocomputers. Steve Chiang went to work at Zynga and Warner Bros. Richard Garriott flew into space.

And now, Jeri Ellsworth is setting out to redefine reality with Tilt Five.

Jeri's mixed reality rig is impressive in its own right. But it's all the cooler due to Jeri being an Apple II rockstar, too… Well, maybe more Commodore 64.

But she was a cover story for Juiced.GS, too!

Jeri Ellsworth on cover of Juiced.GS

Doug Cuff's interview with Jeri opens:

She's a self-confessed hardware nerd, and she has a mission. She wants to rebuild one of the most popular and beloved microcomputers of the 1980s: the Commodore 64.

On the way, she's going to be a big help to the Apple II. But even if she wasn't, you would still want to pay homage to Jeri Ellsworth.

When she was 16, Jeri Ellsworth was playing with her Commodore 64, and she wanted it to have more colors. (Just as with the Apple II, people mentally dismissed the C-64 long before production stopped. The last C-64 rolled off the production line in 1992.)

By the time she had explored the idea of improving on the C-64's hardware, Jeri wanted to create a C-64 on a single chip. She liked the idea of a C-64 palmtop. And she was still being driven by forces that most of us can understand: she wanted to play all her old games, and at the same time, she wanted them to have better graphics.

Jeri is also an alumna of KansasFest, Vintage Computer Festival East, and the JoCoCruise, at all of which our paths have crossed.

Tilt Five's Kickstarter was the latest opportunity for me to intersect with Jeri, as her project was a perfect fit for my monthly gaming podcast, Polygamer. Our hour-long chat (with a few opening and closing remarks about the Apple II) aired last week.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Jeri. It was also completely unsurprising to discovery she is as much an ambitious yet humble geek as ever. I didn't feel like I was talking to someone who had outgrown the Apple II; rather, it was two old friends picking up right where we left off.

Jeri asked that I not air the video of us singing karaoke. In truth, no such video exists —  but there is video of her beating me badly at arm wrestling. So really, even if I did have any dirt on Jeri, I'd be highly incentivized to keep it to myself!

Jeri Ellsworth, TWiT

April 18th, 2011 11:29 AM
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KansasFest is by its nature attended by eclectic and fascinating people, without exception. But one of the most memorable people I've met in my years at the annual Apple II convention has been Jeri Ellsworth.

Jeri made her Apple II debut at KansasFest 2003, sufficiently impressing the then-editor of Juiced.GS enough with her homebrew hardware to earn her a cover story a few months later. She attended KFest again in 2004, when she and I were assigned to be roommates, inspiring her to decorate our door with the infamous Furbfish. (It was a pittance compared to the strangeness she brought into my home a week earlier, when we attended VCF East 2.0 with Ryan Suenaga, Andy Molloy, and Kelvin Sherlock.) At the last minute, she made her final KansasFest appearance in 2006, provoking a karaoke battle.

Roller Jeri at KansasFest 2006.Jeri's interests have always been diverse, from computer shops to roller derby and race cars. She had her own Web series, The Fat Man and Circuit Girl, for more than a year; nowadays, her passion is pinball. Running in so many circles has earned her plenty of attention; she is, aside from Bill Martens, the only currently active Apple II user I know to have her own Wikipedia page.

Most recently, Jeri appeared on an hour-long episode of Triangulation, a subsidiary of Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast. The show was recorded on Jan 20, published on Feb 2, and mentioned on the KansasFest list by Dean Nichols on Apr 1. Notable segments include how her youth shaped her aspirations and passions, and the C64 DTV computer-in-a-joystick.

Unfortunately, she doesn't get in a word about her Apple II history — in fact, there's nary a single reference to the computer in the entire episode. I'm hoping this is not indicative of her future involvement in the community. I have done my best to lure her back to KanasFest, including by promising a private tour of the Electric Theatre retro arcade, scheduled to open in nearby Independence, Missouri, later this year.

KansasFest is filled with colorful people, and I hope Jeri will again bring her distinctive hue to the event.