Technology-LiveI am Dona Bailey, former Atari programmer of arcade Centipede, Unix programmer, Linux teacher, Adobe CS teacher, Rhetoric and Writing university professor, lifelong learner, big reader. I'm here to answer any questions. AMA!
Feb 16th 2017 by dcbailey • 17 Questions • 163 Points
Recently retired NFL cheerleader here! Aside from all home games, I was lucky enough to cheer in 2 Super Bowls as well. Now, I work as an engineer.
Disclaimer: I won't disclose the organization I worked for in order to provide the most authentic responses to your questions.
EDIT: Thank you to everyone for your questions and comments! You all have been amazing! Cheers :)
Welcome! Of of the cool things I love to read about with early programming, especially on the Atari, is the clever "hacks" that had to be done to get around issues of limited memory, cpu cycles, etc.
What's the hack/workaround that you're most proud of? Do you think these creative solutions are a lost art now?
That was really insightful! Followup question, whats the biggest single "OMG, this feels like a wild dream" moment you experienced while working in the role of cheerleader or ambassador for the team?
Hi! I worked in the coin-op part of Atari from 1980 to 1982, so my experience was in arcade games. I needed a ton of help from programmers around me who had much more experience and training than I had, in order for me to be able to program Centipede and make it look different from other video games at the time. I had to be taught every hack and workaround that was used in Centipede. The problems were the ones you listed--limited memory, limited cycle time, and so on. It took determination on my part to learn to work with Atari's great custom hardware and with the 6502 microprocessor in order to realize the visual effects I wanted for Centipede.
Maybe I'm most proud of what I call "happy accidents." One of those happy accidents was needing a trackball for a control since I was terrible with buttons, which had been used in the past. A second thing that was an accident, but turned out well, was the discovery of a differently tweaked color palette, which I think gave the game an edge in the long run.
I don't know if creative solutions in video games these days are accidents! Have you heard anyone talk about accidental discoveries that make a current game better? Interesting question...
There are so many moments! One that really stands out is a championship game I cheered at. It was the last few minutes of the game and we knew we were going to win and go to the super bowl. The entire crowd started chanting "SUPER BOWL". You hear so much about all the negative things in this world it's refreshing and surreal to see an entire community of people pull together and rejoice!
Hi, Dona! First of all, thank you for doing this AMA!
I think it is inspiring that you changed directions in terms of career in a "nontraditional" form.
What type of advice would you give to others that are seeking to change up their current career path?
I think you're never too old to reinvent yourself. Try to get experience in the new field you're interested in before making a commitment to a change you're considering. For example, I taught faculty members in the Cal State system for a long time while I was working in Academic Computing at Cal State LA. I was certain I would enjoy teaching as a faculty member in a university setting due to that experience. After you commit to a change, be sure to get the proper training and education for your new field. It's never too late in life to be a good student.
Sorry, no can do. Maybe after I finalize my retirement . Don't want to get blacklisted from the league for exposing their secrets.