Following on from my attempt at a 3d model of the Atari 2600, in which I had spent some time looking at the console’s gameplay and graphics, I happened across a felicitous piece of software.

Atari FontMaker does as you’d likely expect; it gives you the default character map and allows you to make changes to individual glyphs, creating a custom typeface or a pallette for artwork – perhaps both! It looks as if you can even export your maps in a file that the Atari can use, though with bad memories of BASIC on the Spectrum coming back, I haven’t been compelled to try that just yet. Fortunately, you can export as images, and the program gives you a view to lay down your marks. Above and below is a very quick modification of the default set, with the view above and map below:


Then came some attempts at making larger display faces from configurations of characters:




Then, moving on and trying to create some scenery. Sharp lines led me in an urban, industrial direction.


The format and amount of letter spaces meant that a nighttime city skyline was quite fun to put together, even before implementing colour.

Atarimaker-trianglesI’m sure someone with a more creative and patient mind could whip up some lovely patterns in this software, because that’s one thing even the primitive visuals can’t scupper completely. This has a seafront amusement arcade look about it. It makes you wonder what Sonic’s Casino Night Zone might have looked like on the Atari…

I then tried to be a tad more ambitious, putting together a mountainous landscape replete with birds. This required pretty much the whole set to be tweaked, as can be seen below; the first is how the piece would look under the default set:

Atarimaker-mountainsPerhaps a few too many clouds, but nevertheless it’s probably one of the stronger experiments here.

Atarimaker-sonicSpeaking of Sonic earlier, the above was inspired by his 8-bit outings in the Green Hill Zone – not inspired enough to actually feature him, apparently! It is very green, though, you have to give me that.

I returned to lettering, but geared toward a more stylised finish. A simple start; I quite like its brashness, not sure about the colour:



The shard-like nature of the above experiment gave me the obvious idea:


As I said, the obvious progression. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a Crystal Maze game on the Atari. I wonder how it might have looked, had there been…


…probably better than that!


Well, if you think Channel 4’s catch-up service is slow today…! This was a must, really, as a throwback to my BASIC exploits of university, wherein I attempted to make a Channel 4 ident that could run on the ZX Spectrum. The greater colour capabilities here meant that the logo came out looking much more impressive.

And, to finish, Mr. Babbage from Family Fortunes and various motorways. Perfect for this format.

Atarimaker-mrbabbageThis was a heap of fun for me, as you might be able to gather by the sheer amount of stuff! It’s always interesting to go back and see what you can squeeze out of technology thought long out of date, attempting to turn the restrictions to your advantage. I think you’re more often than not pleasantly surprised, if not amazed. There is surely much more that can be created with just this program.

Thanks to MatoSimi for putting it together – if you’re interested in trying this for yourself, you can find it here. Have fun.

  1. Excellent 🤗 I may criticise those kids for being buried in their smartphones but was I really all that different in spending my youth programming the Speccy ?
    I actually had a game published so perhaps I was on a creative journey even back then. Hadn’t thought about that until now.
    I’ve still got my rubber keyed Spectrum, died long ago but it’s one of the few sentimental items of my life that I’m not going to part with 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      Thanks so much, Steve. Yes, generations probably aren’t so different after all; we work with what we have. You were just doing this before it was ‘cool’! 😉 Congratulations on getting your game published – that’s amazing. I wonder if it’s available online? The Spectrum’s limitations have to speak to your creativity, and certainly there were plenty of quirky games made.

      Aw, you have the right idea – keep it ❤ I don't think my brother has ever forgiven dad for binning his Spectrum and Mega Drive!


      • Nah, I’ve looked. It was on one of those compilation tapes, 4 games on 1 tape (yeah, big success) and doesn’t help that the publisher changed the name of it. It was a couple of cowboys shooting at each other, hiding behind rocks and the occasional tumbleweed rolling across getting in the way.

        The payment for it was actually the first money I ever earned, even before my paper round 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        That’s a shame, I wanted to give it a go! Impressive stuff nonetheless, and I’m happy to have brought back some memories. You’ve got me hunting out and discovering Speccy games again, so cheers for that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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