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Jim Leonard

Jim Leonard

MobyGames co-founder, demoscene developer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jim Leonard, although I've been known as Trixter for nearly three decades in various circles, such as the demoscene. I've played a part in many vintage hardware and software preservation activities, such as co-founding MobyGames, consulting museums on how to archive electronic entertainment, and working with private collectors on how to rescue and preserve the digitial bits in their collection. I bang on old hardware, both figuratively and literally.

When I'm not trying to save the history of the early days of IBM PC gaming, I code demoscene productions in assembler. I've shown how it's possible to play video on an old PC not once but twice, and my most recent accomplishment is being part of a team that won the "oldskool" competition at Europe's largest demoparty.

I've also been interested in desktop digital video production since the early 1990s, when postage-stamp multimedia was considered state of the art. I perform a lot of videotape and LaserDisc rescue using a variety of TBCs, scan converters, and video processors.

A few years ago, I combined all these passions into a video series documenting some of the demoscene's "greatest hits", with commentary from the people who created them.

What hardware do you use?

My daily driver is a custom-built Core i7-920 assembled in 2008, currently retrofitted with a GTX 970 to assist in video production. (And for playing games, naturally.) But the proper tools of my trade are vintage systems, such as the Apple II, C64, Amiga, and of course the original IBM PC. I have roughly 30 vintage systems that I rotate in and out of use as needed, with various methods of connecting them to the modern world to transfer bits back and forth. (And for playing games, naturally.)

And what software?

Desktop runs Windows 7, because I roll a lot of my own video utilities using AviSynth. I edit video using Premiere Pro, and OpenCL-assisted-x264 handles video encoding.

For programming my demoscene productions, I usually design and prototype in DOSBox, then copy to the real metal for testing and refinement. In that space, I've been using the same set of tools for over 25 years: Turbo Pascal, Turbo Assembler, Turbo Debugger.. and whatever WordStar-compatible editor that happens to be lying around on the hard drive.

What would be your dream setup?

As someone who is on the leading edge of the trailing edge, every old computer I use is already my dream setup. But a better Windows machine (12 cores, SSD array) wouldn't hurt, nor would a 3-panel display.