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8 May 1997

It may come as some surprise that, in my youth, I spent a bit of time in the arcades. Although I always preferred pinball games, I paid attention (and quarters) to the video games as well. So, I grew up on Asteroids, Missle Command, and Star Castle. Later on I liked Moon Patrol, Pole Position, and Star Wars.

Pole Position was cool since it had digitized voice and was pretty easy to play. It spawned a bunch of other first-person driving games (which have now culminated in what can only be called racing simulators).

There were a couple of key "features" in these old driving games. First off, hills were these funny discontinuities which cars vanished into and then just sort of popped into existence again before they hit you. Secondly, there was always some sort of backdrop. No matter how long you drove, or how far you turned, and even circuits which had to turn 180 degrees, the mountains were always in the distance. It always sort of irritated me.

Of course, the mountains weren't really "there." They were just a pretty backdrop which they scrolled left and right a bit whenever you turned. (I think I remember playing some really old "Night Driver"-ish arcade game where they didn't move it at all.) There wasn't any real need to have a realistic, complete cylinder of a backdrop to pan across.

At least, that's what I always thought.

But when you drive around Silicon Valley, it's exactly like playing Pole Position: the mountains are always in front of you. No matter which way you're going, the mountains are there. It's disorienting. Was Pole Position written in Silicon Valley?

This may also explain why everyone drives fast out here.

"Prepare to Qualify... beep, beep, beep, BEEEEEEP!"


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