viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-06-28]

Someone patented an Atari raster effect!

I'm currently working on some Atari VCS demo effects. I was googling for certain technical specs and I found this:

"Process for displaying a plurality of objects on a video screen", United States Patent 4623147

So, basically, someone, at some point of time, patented the programming technique that makes the Atari VCS 2600 display more sprites per scanline than the video chip officially allows. For some reason, this feels like blasphemy to me, just as if someone had patented DYCP, FLI or sideborder removal on the Commodore 64.

So, what's the deal? I know about silly software patents, such as the one about using exclusive-OR for drawing a cursor. I'm also aware that many demos, especially PC ones, are quite likely to break several patents (both silly and non-silly), and I don't really care about this. There are also many software patents that have much more real potential of being harmful than any of these. So, what's the thing that makes me feel really furious about an obscure VCS raster trick patent?

Perhaps it has something to do with the sense of someone invading your zone, that is, someone "stealing" the highly platform-specific tricks you might very well discover and use some day. Or perhaps it's about the attempt of limiting the freedom of coding on a platform where absolutely everything is considered to be allowed. Or it may just be some feeling about the "holiness" and "purity" of 8-bit platforms. I really can't tell.

But anyway, software patents suck. And many of them suck far more than this one. I was just amazed how this particular patent made me react so strongly.