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Its all in the pixels…

Computer art back in the 1980’s was a lot different then the million-colour, scanner/wacom tools that we have today. Every pixel had to be drawn, and in many a case, this was via cursor keys on the computer itself.

There was no shading – the number of colours were limited (and on the ZX Spectrum, you had blocks of colour in 8×8 pixels at a time – no per-pixel colour at all), and the solution was the use of thicker solid areas of pixels to create light or shadow areas. A checkboard dither pattern was also used to simulate the shading effects back then.

It was a load of fun – I enjoyed spending a couple of days sketching pixel-by-pixel in Melbourne Draw on my ZX Spectrum. I drew everything from game sprites to images from photo’s and Iron Maiden album covers this way.

This image was a series of characters drawn by hand from B&W photographs in a small “Star Trek Compendium” book. I was planning to use these to develop a Star Trek game – and having these “drawings” of the main characters was inspired by the artwork I’d seen in a magazine for an Atari ST game “Star Trek, the rebel universe”.

I loved the nicely drawn character heads in the game… But my game never got developed… Though these graphics still exist.

Today I still enjoy sketching and creating art, though I’m now doing it with a Wacom and not cursor keys and individual pixels.


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Melanie Swalwell

This is just beautiful Kevin. Thanks so much for sharing it. Was this image done with Melbourne Draw? Do you have any more of your graphics? I’d love to see them if so!
cheers, Melanie


Kevin Phillips

Thanks Melanie – yes, I have some other artwork… But I also have a tonne of artwork for “game designs” and sprites my brother drew. He was never a game programmer, but a great creative person.

Of course, while I designed so much stuff, most of it is just that… Ideas… and not much actual finished game. One day, I’m almost tempted to try writing them and recycling the artwork to create a retro collection… 🙂

I’ve posted up a PDF of this for the NZFA collections here, but for anybody curious…

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-yNJZpBnrutTHU4U3BaaHlJRDA/edit?usp=sharing


Kevin Phillips

I did manage to restore a few more files hidden on some partially labelled cassettes with a couple more Star Trek images. One was a collection of additional graphics for the game I had plans on developing…

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-yNJZpBnrutUVU2cXpwWTBLdFE/edit?usp=sharing

The other, well, its obvious at some stage I got bored and decided to change the images to “Star Trip”… 🙂

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-yNJZpBnrutTHdRYWphemJ0eTQ/edit?usp=sharing

Its great to find out just how well cassettes retain their data! After 30+ years, I am successfully digitising old personal cassettes with around 1% fails here and there… I don’t think any of the 5.25″ or 3.5″ floppies I’ve had for less time (well, still around 20 years old or so) have ever worked…

So, add a plus-one for the 80’s and cassette storage mediums!


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