MAME/Arcade, Pt III

  • by Gitabushi

Here’s a good tutorial for the emulation part:

 

You can be very picky about your joystick and buttons. If you played arcades in the US in the 80s, you are most likely familiar with the feel of Happ devices.  If you want to get really good at playing the games (and why else would you be playing the games, except to get better?), then you should know that Happ prioritized durability over precision. Happ joysticks sometimes overcorrect when you release them (due to strong springs and heavy sticks), and you have to push them farther to get them to register the movement.  Happ buttons are concave and need to be pressed farther to register the push.  Japanese-style joysticks tend to feel looser (and so feel cheaper), but register your movement more quickly and don’t move as far. That makes them more nimble and more responsive.  Japanese-style buttons are concave, and register with lighter touch.  If you are playing a game where rapid presses are necessary for a better rate of fire, you want Japanese style.

And once you decide whether you want US-style or Japanese-style, you can decide to go name-brand or cheaper copy.

I’m going with the cheaper copy.  I figure if they wear out, I can always upgrade on replacement. Or the cheaper might be good enough, so why waste money on quality I’m not experienced enough to perceive.

Now, I’m still exploring what I want, and how I’m going to arrange it.  At this point, I know I want build a control board that can hook up to any TV.  This is more than partially because my wife opposes having an arcade cabinet.  But there are still things I don’t know about how the games will play, configuring the controllers, etc., so my current play is to buy a full set of controllers and temporarily install them in a cardboard box to test out locations. If it all works for the games I want to play, and once I’m satisfied with the location, I’ll build my box.

To that end, here’s the set I’m going to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y47VDNS/?coliid=IRP3DVG12453D&colid=MQRQ4OPOI1FC&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

EG Starts gets good reviews, overall, even though this set is not yet reviewed. It is a Japanese-style copy. The buttons light up, which is cool, and will help if I play in the dark. It includes the joystick/button circuit board, so that’s one less thing you have to buy, and one less thing to figure out (good instructions are included).  Moreover, if you have LED buttons, you often have to be careful of the positive/negative input, but this one avoids that problem with a simpler installation that avoids having to worry about positive/negative poles.

Once I try them out, I’ll provide my review here.

So at this point, here’s what I have or have on the way:

Display (whatever TV I want to use)
Roms
All controller inputs (including player number and coin inputs)
MAME software

Now, I say I have MAME software, but what I’ve done is tried out the games I want to play on MAME32.  I have MAME33, as well, but I wasn’t able to immediately load up roms with it. Now, MAME32 is for Windows, and I’m going to use a Raspberry Pi 3B for my “brain”, which means Linux, which means the MAME32 won’t work.  However, many of the MAME32 roms will work with the Linux emulator MAME4ALL, running under RetroPie.  If not, I’ll figure out how to put a Windows XP OS on the Raspberry Pi 3B and use MAME32.

Instructions on how to install a Windows OS onto a Raspberry Pi 3B can be found in links here:

https://www.techrepublic.com/article/classic-windows-on-a-35-computer-how-to-fire-up-windows-3-1-95-98-and-xp-on-your-raspberry-pi/

I do happen to have an old computer I got at a garage sale that runs Windows XP. I bought it to be able to play old DOS games, but haven’t gotten around to installing them yet.  I should be able to get a disk image from that and install, if necessary.

But we’ll go the Linux and MAME4ALL route first.

So the input connects with an HDMI cable attached to the HDMI output of the Raspberry Pi 3B. The controllers connect to the included circuit board using pin connectors, and then those boards connect to the Raspberry Pi 3B via USB connectors.  The Raspberry Pi 3B has a mini-SD card slot, and I will download and install RetroPie (operating system) and MAME4ALL (program), plus all the Roms (program plug-ins) of the games I want to play onto the mini-SD card.

I’m having a hard time finding out exactly how big RetroPie is, but there is widespread agreement that 32GB is enough to install RetroPie, several emulators, and up to about 10,000 roms.  That should be plenty.

I have a bunch of 32GB mini SD cards sitting around.  I have no need to have 10000 games loaded onto one card, so  I’ll probably have one 32GB card with all my favorites, and a second 32GB card with games I want to try out to see if I want to move up to my favorites card.  That should prevent being confused by the number of choices on my main card.

Here’s a great description of how to get that up and running:

https://howchoo.com/g/n2qyzdk5zdm/build-your-own-raspberry-pi-retro-gaming-rig

And here’s another take on the same issue:

Retro Gaming on Raspberry Pi: Understanding ROMs, RetroPie, Recalbox, and More

So at this point, all I need to do is decide on a Raspberry Pi.  I’ll probably go with the Raspberry Pi 3B, as I said, but I’m open to the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Wish me luck!

MAME/Arcade Project, Update 1

  • by Gitabushi

Okay, I’ve found where you can get the Pi Zero for $5. You have to go direct to dealers:

Raspberry Pi Zero

It seems like the best place for a power supply is still Amazon, at $8 for one with an on/off switch:

https://www.amazon.com/MUZOCT-Supply-Charger-Adapter-Raspberry/dp/B073JDFML5/ref=sr_1_15?crid=2PS7AK932JKAH&keywords=2.5a+power+supply+micro+usb&qid=1572536937&sprefix=2.5A+power+supply%2Caps%2C634&sr=8-15

You want the on/off switch, or else you can only reset by yanking the power cord out of the socket, and that’s very bad for computers.

The power supplies from the dealers are either more expensive than $8, or lack the on/off aspect, or both.

Also, note that you need the hdmi adapter and you have to solder a header on to use a pHat, but it looks like for an Arcade system, you don’t have to worry about that.

https://www.digikey.com/en/maker/blogs/2018/the-top-10-hats-and-phats-for-raspberry-pi

 

Still, you start adding in all the necessary extras, and the zero might not be worth its reduced cost.  I’ll find out or figure it out and get back to you.

MAME/Arcade Project

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve learned so much over the last 4 days, it’s hard to know where to begin.

And that’s why it can be so difficult to get started.  There are so many people who have tutorials and advice and input into how to build your own home arcade/retro emulator system, that it can be difficult to know what to retain of what you want.

I’m going to try to sum it all up, and make this a one-stop shop for if you want to develop a home Arcade or Retro home gaming system.

Basically, deciding to develop a home arcade/retro gaming system is pretty much a series of binary choices (or near binary):

  • Do you want to buy something virtually ready to go out of the box, or build your own?
  • Do you want to build an arcade cabinet, or build a controller box that you can plug into any TV?
  • Do you want the original game controller configuration, or are you willing to adapt to a standard set of controls?
  • Do you want to just play Arcade games, or do you want retro games like NES, SNES, GameBoy and Sega?  Or both?

I basically want to play a few set games:

Joust (1 joystick, 1 button per player, 2 player)
Karate Champ (2 joysticks per player, 2 player)
Dig Dug (1 joystick, 1 button per player, 1 player (because if you have 2 players, they play in a series, not simultaneously…although the game had 2 buttons with simultaneous function, I guess for Left and Right handed players)
Gauntlet (1 joystick, 2 buttons per player, 4 player)
Street Fighter 2 (1 joystick, 6 buttons per player, 2 player)

There are things you could do to accomodate all that.  You could make a 4 player control panel, with a joystick and 6 buttons for each player, and then if you loaded a game that needed less, just disable input of the unneeded buttons and joysticks.  That would mean that Karate Champ would be played by using the joysticks of 2 players and ignoring all the buttons.

It’s doable, even the use of the joysticks of two different players for Karate Champ, because it shouldn’t really matter if they are widespread.  It depends on how much of the arcade nostalgia experience you want to have.

That’s kind of the first non-binary question: how important is it to you to have the full arcade experience?  It leads to the first sorta-binary question:

Do you want an arcade cabinet, or just to play the games?

Because if you just want to play the games, like Joust, you can get an emulator that will work on your computer, and use your keyboard buttons…and even assign the keyboard buttons as you wish for convenience, so two can play using the same keyboard.

You can even set up Karate Champ to use keyboard keys, because the joysticks really are just a way to input “up/down/right/left” signals. Easy to do with keys.

When you do a game emulator the roms accept keyboard inputs to control what you do in the game.  So when you buy all your joysticks and buttons and trackballs and spinners, the first thing you do is attack all those inputs into a circuit board, which then outputs all the signals to the computer. Which is either your PC, a Raspberry Pi, or some proprietary circuit board/processor in the retro machine you bought.  Right now, most of the retro machines on Amazon.com use Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi.

So, really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to inputs.

If you want to play Joust, Street Fighter, Centipede, Gauntlet, and Tempest, you can build 5 different machines, each with their own Raspberry Pi or PC “brains”, and each with a separate set of controls.

Or you could build one arcade cabinet with different control panels that you could swap out (and there is enough space in the cabinet you could make a carpet-lined storage spot for each board). In this case, there is one screen and one brain. Each control module would have its input controls (joysticks, buttons, spinner, etc.) and the input circuit board.  It’s output would be a USB that you would plug into the “brain” (probably a Raspberry Pi).  You’d save the cost of the multiple screens, multiple sound systems, and multiple cabinets.  This might be the cheapest choice to get a complete set of accurate control panels for ALL the games.  And you could start with one control module that can play a set number of games, and then add as you get bored or want to invest more money.  Even the 2-joystick system for Karate Champ is shared with Robotron and SmashTV (among others).  Add a single button, and you can ignore a joystick and play Joust and Dig Dug and Donkey Kong…and anything in the Pac Man series, even without the button.

Something like this:

ILTMS-Arcade-Preview-2

Plans for this can be purchased for $20.  I’d want to do something slightly different, because I’d want to drop in the control modules…the 4-player gauntlet would be about 4 feet tall, and would have to go into the back part.  The Karate Champ and Joust control modules could go in the front, probably.  It would make the wife happier to have all the modules have a dedicated, hidden storage location.

Or you could build individual boxes, each with its own brain, and the output would be an HDMI cable that you plug into the TV.  This is the most flexible.  You could bring a box over to your friend’s house to play.  You could bring a smaller one on vacation. Something like this: https://howchoo.com/g/zjm4zwzjzgi/pi-retrobox-build-your-own-diy-raspberry-pi-arcade-joystick   Obviously, that one wouldn’t work for Joust or Missile Command.  And it wouldn’t work for Gauntlet unless you made 4 of them…which, since the Raspberry Pi has 4 USB inputs, would probably actually work.

A Raspberry Pi itself (if you want to really build your own from scratch) costs around $35.  But don’t let that fool you.  You also need a power supply.You’ll probably need some heat sinks (to prevent overheating…there are some programs that will stress the system, more on this later). You might want a power-off switch.  Depending on your application, you might want a case.

This is the cheapest I’ve found, might be enough for an arcade system, but you’ll still need to add an on/off switch. https://www.amazon.com/Vilros-Raspberry-Clear-Power-Supply/dp/B01D92SSX6/ref=sr_1_15?keywords=raspberry+pi+kit&qid=1572532632&sr=8-15

This includes the on/off switch, but also includes a case you won’t need if your Pi will stay in the arcade cabinet, or inside your controller module: https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Starter-Premium-Black/dp/B07BCC8PK7/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=raspberry+pi+3+kit&qid=1572533055&sr=8-4

You could get a Raspberry Pi 4, which has additional capabilities, but now we are up to over $60, which adds a bunch of costs if you want to put a Pi into each controller box (for the non-cabinet solution): https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Basic-Kit-2GB/dp/B07TYK4RL8/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=raspberry+pi+4+kit&qid=1572533377&sr=8-4

But, to be honest, all you *really* need is a Raspberry Pi Zero.  Remember that the goal is achieve the computing power for 30 year old arcades and home consoles.  That’s not difficult, and the Zero meets or exceeds it. The only problem you’re going to have trying to use a Raspberry Pi Zero for emulation is if you try to do 32-bit games, which is the N64, PS1, and Sega Saturn era. Basically, if you can give up on 3D games and just stick to 2D, the Raspberry Pi Zero is enough.

Supposedly, you can get a Zero for just $5.  Amazon doesn’t have that, tho, because you need a bunch of stuff to make it work, and they helpfully sell it all to you in a kit. Here’s one, the cheapest I have found so far for one that includes a power supply, at $26: https://www.amazon.com/Vilros-Raspberry-Starter-Power-Premium/dp/B0748MPQT4/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=raspberry+pi+kit&qid=1572532632&sr=8-7

So, basically, if you decide to use multiple brains for each set of games, you are adding about $25 if you use the Zero.  Maybe you less if you find a non-WiFi equipped version somewhere else, and buy your power supplies and other peripherals in bundles?  Dunno.

What I’ve decided to do is buy enough equipment to set up a controller module with its own brain, and see how I like it before I decide to build an arcade cabinet or not.

What I’ll do is buy one Raspberry Pi Zero, 4 joysticks, and 8 buttons.  Then I will take a cardboard box and install the controls in the box. I’ll reinforce it somewhat, and then play the games on it.  That gives me the chance to adjust the locations of the controls to see what kind of spacing works best, without having put that much work into it.  It will allow me to easily adjust the controller-to-USB-board arrangements, to see how easy it would be to modularize the inputs…so could I have a module of 6 buttons that I can swap out with a joystick or with 2 buttons, so that I can switch between Gauntlet, Street Fighter, Joust, and Karate Champ configurations?  Or will it work to just have one big board with 4 joysticks and 6 buttons for each joystick, and just disable the inputs that aren’t needed for each game (using two different players’ joysticks and no buttons at all for Joust)?

After a few weeks of experience, I’ll be able to tell if I just miss standing in front of an arcade, or if having to use widespread joysticks annoys me for Joust or if the 4 unused Street Fighter buttons annoy me for Gauntlet, or 5 unused buttons annoy me for Dig Dug.

I think this is where I’m leaning, however: one big board that has all those options.  Hopefully the unused buttons or stations won’t annoy me. Because that will really provide the maximum number of games without having to change anything.  And if I enjoy it playing it on a regular TV, that just saves me the hassle of trying to build something like this:

 

Here’s a good link for everything that goes into making a controller panel:

How to make a Raspberry Pi arcade (with NO programming)

Now that I’ve made my decision, and hopefully helped you get closer to making your decision, future installments will detail my actual buying and building process, including which controllers I’ve chosen, and why.

 

The Left Seeks One Thing: Power

  • by Gitabushi

There are always different ways to look at things.  You can look at things from a different angle or from a different paradigm.

Take the human body. A doctor learns many things about you by looking in your ears, throat, eyes, taking your blood pressure, blood sample, etc.

Or he could do a CAT scan or MRI.

Or he could consider your health from a system perspective: endocrine system, nervous system, vascular system, etc.

Or he could cut you into 1″ slices and learn from that perspective, but that’s usually only done to cadavers, in my experience.

So to understand the Left and how it acts in the US, there are different ways to look at it and attempt to understand it.

I could say “them”, but the Left does aspire to Borg-like levels of collectiveness.  And they do act as a group in a manner different than on the individual level, and I think it is useful, at times, to treat the Left as one entity.

So I can say that the Left is dened by its committed and earnest belief that everything in the world is Rule or Be Ruled, and they intend to Rule you.

I could note that the Left doesn’t believe in democracy at all, despite talking about it all the time, because to them, democracy is just a tool to get what they want.  This doesn’t contradict that they fervently want to enact a Rule or Be Ruled paradigm everywhere, it’s just a different aspect.

I could also say, as I do in the title, that “the Left seeks one thing: Power” and still be fully accurate.

Or I could point out what they want the power *for*.

The motivation for the Left wanting power is they want the power to avoid unwanted consequences and, whenever and where-ever possible, shift all negative consequences onto their enemies…which is anyone that doesn’t join their hive-mind collective.

See, the Left doesn’t like consequences, accountability, or democracy.  So they set up the CFPB to exist and act outside of federal control.  That way, their loyal Leftist CFPB director could punish capitalism, reduce freedom, and fund Leftist activities without any way a pesky GOP POTUS or Congress could do anything to even slow it down, much less stop it.  It is a travesty that it even existed this long, and it is a travesty that it isn’t a slam dunk the SCOTUS will strike this anti-democratic institution down.

The Left doesn’t want accountability for when its leaders engage in unethical or illegal behavior, but exploits its claims of love for democracy to protect its potential POTUS nominees.  Because Trump is automatically wrong and anything he does automatically violates norms and is impeachable, and the only thing that ever needs to be done is to figure out how to characterize his statements or actions in a way that proves his perfidy, even if it is exactly like what every other POTUS has done in office going back several decades.

We really need to crush the Left, because they are going over the Cliffs of Insanity and taking the nation with them.

maxresdefault

 

Bands with Multiple Lead Singers

  • by Gitabushi

After going through Survivor’s discography (and mostly liking it), I have continued to explore other Jim Peterik bands.  I do not recommend World Stage, but I generally don’t like recordings of live performances, and that’s what World Stage seems to be.  But I digress.

I have started listening to Pride of Lions, and just like World Stage, it features Jim Peterik sharing lead vocal duties with someone else who has a higher voice.

Jim Peterik was the lead singer of the Ides of March, so that’s his voice you hear on “Vehicle.” When he formed Survivor with Frankie Sullivan, the intent was he would share lead singer duties with Dave Bickler, but Frankie put a stop to that fairly quickly. Still, it’s Jim’s vocals on “Love Has Got Me” (which sounds like it was a hit song you never actually heard of, but it never charted).

 

The singer-with-a-higher-voice in Pride of Lions is Toby Hitchcock, who quite often sounds like Dennis DeYoung of Styx.

Which made me think:

Styx was fairly unusual in that it had multiple lead singers, and all had major radio hits.  Most of the time, like Survivor, the band coalesces around a main front man, the face and voice of the band.  To the point that people don’t realize that, say, J. Geils was the guitarist, not the lead singer.

styx

That made me think: what other bands had multiple lead singers?

Roger Taylor and Brian May both sang some lead on Queen Albums.  Roger Taylor sang “I’m in Love With My Car,” which was a fan favorite, but wasn’t really a charted hit. Freddie Mercury was the lead singer for that band.

I’d heard a story that Hall and Oates started when Oates was leading a band and getting heckled by someone in the audience. Oates said, “If you think you can do better, come up and do it.” And it was Hall, and he did, and he became the main lead singer. That doesn’t appear to be a true story, but I still like it. In any case, Hall was the front man. Oates still sang a song or two occasionally, but Hall was the face of the band.

Yes was always led by Jon Anderson, but when Trevor Rabin joined, he started sharing some of the lead duties.

Genesis was Peter Gabriel,until he left, and then Phil Collins became the lead singer.

So all these kind of apply, but none really have the “Multiple lead singers, each getting their own hit song opportunities.”

the cars

The first band I thought of that fit the bill was The Cars.  Rik Ocasek was the main lead singer, but Ben Orr sang “Just What I Needed” and “Drive” and shared lead singing duties with Rik in General.

Then I thought of Triumph, which had Rik Emmett singing most of the lead, but the drummer sang quite a bit, too.  Just Rik had most of the more famous songs, I think.

Heart sort of fits the bill. Both Ann and Nancy Wilson had big hits, but Nancy didn’t really do much lead singing before the huge hit “These Dreams”.  She followed it with “There’s the Girl”, but Ann was still the main lead singer. In fact, their vocal styles were so similar, unless you saw who the singer was in the video, you might not have realized it wasn’t Ann.

Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship had a number of lead singers, I guess, but they were mostly sequentially, until Grace Slick shared lead singing duties with Mickey Thomas in Starship. Not sure how much that counts.

None of these bands share lead singing duties to the level of Styx, however.  The Cars come the closest, perhaps.

Then I thought of Night Ranger.  Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades. They shared lead singing duties quite a bit. Pick a song you like from Night Ranger, and it has about an equal chance to be sung by Kelly as by Jack.

Then:

chicagoband-56aaebcd5f9b58b7d0091924

Chicago fits. Peter Cetera was the known lead singer, but keyboardist Robert Lamm sang lead on a bunch of songs (like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?”, and in my research, I found out guitarist Terry Kath sang lead on “Color My World” and “Make Me Smile” two of my favorites).

Then I thought of a band that exceeds what Styx did with 3 lead singers:

kiss

Kiss.

Sure, Paul Stanley sang most of the songs, but Gene Simmons sang quite a bit of lead, too. And while those two are the nucleus of the band, they sought out both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss because they could sing lead. And Criss sang lead on their mega-hit “Beth.”

And then I thought of the band that had the ultimate mix of lead singers:

Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER

The Eagles.

Don Henley. Glenn Frey. Don Felder. Joe Walsh (“Life in the Fast Lane”). Timothy B. Schmidt (“I Can’t Tell You Why”). Randy Meisner (“Take it to the Limit”). Bernie Leadon.

Every single one of them (members at different times) have lead singing credits for the band.  The only one that didn’t have a huge hit for the band is Bernie Leadon.

What did we learn from this?

I think the casual fan wants to associate a band with a lead singer, someone who is the face of the band, and a consistent voice. Also, if the lead singer has nothing else to do but sing, they will be more jealous of the lead singing duties. The bands who were most successful in sharing the lead singing duties were those where the lead singers were also major instrumentalists, who contributed to the band’s success with their songwriting and instrumental skills, regardless of whether they were singing any specific song.

The Eagles, Kiss, Chicago, and Styx. In pretty much that order.

Who did I miss? What other bands had success with multiple, simultaneous lead singers?

 

 

Science Fiction Topic: Longevity and Maturity

  • by Gitabushi

The other day I shared that I think the Left, and particularly the US Left, are politically children.  This isn’t a political post…I bring it up as an introduction: I identify them as immature because they are only concerned with some power giving them what they want, without costs or trade-offs.

This is from my assumption that with maturity comes wisdom. Chesterton’s Fence is a good example of how a mature mindset plays out in real life. The more times you’ve been around the sun, the more times you’ve seen well-meaning policy changes founder on reality, due to unintended consequences or short-term thinking. After all, we haven’t needed this fence within the last 10 years or so of memory in the person wanting to tear it down…it is only the aged that realize the fence was established to prevent or ameliorate a once-every-twenty-years event.

barbwire fence on wheat field
Photo by JACK REDGATE on Pexels.com

Game of Thrones includes the warnings of wisdom in its repeated reminder that “Winter is coming.” Most of the people battling for power and control had lived their whole lives in one of Westeros’ sometimes decades-long summers.

We are creatures of experience, and we doubt our parents. We consider them moribund, hopelessly behind the times, and clueless about the way the world works now.  This is one of the themes of Generation Ships, or even of interstellar colonies in which civilization collapse: the parents have stories of Old Earth, and the Old Ways, and technology, but the children consider them fairy tales and society devolves to a lower level of civilization in ignorance.

So there is a a good story topic, if you want: We haven’t had a new Generation Ship story in generations, I don’t think. Except instead of writing how children dismiss the stories of their parents and civilization devolves, you could write a story of what the on-ship society does to prevent the devolution of technology and civilization. Instead of what goes wrong in a cautionary tale, explore the obstacles and propose solutions. There is still a good story in the drama of overcoming obstacles to retain civilization, and of the people who live through it.

The reason I have been thinking about “generation” ships, however, is because the pace of counter-aging research appears to be picking up. I think this is because Moore’s Law means computing power has advanced to the point that we can actually begin to control for all the variables in the aging process. We can actually track the degradation of cell functioning, and how the decline of one cell, or one tissue, or one system, impacts and affects others.  The human body is so complex, and so the aging process is so complex, it makes sense that the computing power of 10 years ago might still be inadequate.

In any case, there are reports that some researchers are already conducting trials on counter-aging of pets, like dogs.  Researchers already have a better grasp of how telomere length impacts aging, and the problems of artificially lengthening the telomeres. We have enough modern data to know how exercise and learning help preserve and retain youthful health so that fewer years are spent in mental and physical decline…this is important, because with lifespan extension, you want an increase in enjoyable years, not an increase in years spent in a nursing home, or attached to a machine.  Even a few years ago, researchers discovered that you can extend both life and functional youth by at least a decade with just a combination of two substances that clear out senescent cells, which prevent aging damage to nearby cells.  Of the two substances, one is cheap (you can get sufficient quantities by eating a spoonful of capers every day), and the other is rare enough to cost $50k/dose (which I think is every month).  Obviously, the goal is to reduce the cost of the second substance to a realistic number. And even aside from that, there is some compelling evidence that simply getting transfusions of young blood can help delay aging…but I’m not sure if it can actually reverse it (can it cause hair gone gray to begin to recolor?  Doubtful.)

As I like to say, I originally thought that aging, and thus most disease (which if often aging-related, as body systems that prevent disease break down), and even natural death would be fully solved in my grandchildren’s lifetime.  Then I began to think my children might have a shot at it. Now I believe that if I keep myself in good shape, staying as mentally and physically young as I can, they will conquer aging in my lifetime.

I *hope* it will end up as the ability to select the age you you want (and I would probably choose late 30s…just before presbyopia set in), but even if it just ends up at only being able to slow aging to the point that we have extra decades, I have made it my goal to live to age 130, with enough health and vigor to enjoy it.

grayscale photography of man sitting on wheelchair
Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato on Pexels.com

But what would that do to society?

Tolkien’s elves live for centuries. He then posited a lower birth rate, or else elves would have choked the world with their numbers, and I think that is probably correct.

Larry Niven had boosterspice in his stories, and it was the key to one of his plots, in that a woman was concealing her advanced age as part of a scam, and had to “pretend” to trip…Niven assumed that with age and experience would come grace that would arise from greater experience on how to avoid things like tripping.  [shrug]. I guess I can understand that, from the standpoint that kids are clumsy…we even call teenagers or young adults coltish, in that they aren’t yet accustomed to new height after a growth spurt.

Some vampire stories certainly try to display the increased knowledge vampires have from centuries of experience on the earth.

But for the most part, I am not really impressed with the maturity shown by most of the long lifespan individuals in most science fiction stories.

This is a problem for writers: how do you write beyond yourself? Can you only write at your own intelligence?  Meaning, how can you write a genius character if you aren’t a genius yourself?  I think this is easier than it sounds: most of intelligence is speed.  The more intelligent you are, the fewer repetitions you need to learn and understand something, the more quickly you learn when and where you can take mental shortcuts, etc.  Intelligence doesn’t always mean insight that leads to wisdom. So you can write a brilliant character merely by thinking things through, and having the character able to make leaps of logic or grasp things immediately, that other people would need more time to get.

But maturity….that’s another problem.

Some maturity issues are easy to see and understand. Obviously, children want immediate gratification, so you can write a mature character by having them delay gratification, see the long view.

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I know I’ve matured quite a bit since age 25. But I also think I’ve matured quite a bit in just the last few years. I understand so many more things about my wife, about relationships, and about male/female differences in just the last five years, and I’m over 50.  So what insights will I have when I’m closing in on 100?  Can I imagine those?

One aspect of maturity is because you’ve seen it all before, you have more patience in frustrating situations. On the other hand, with age comes an “I’m too old for this crap.” impatience.  I’d argue the first is mature, the second is merely advanced age immaturity, but that’s an aspect worth considering more deeply yourself.  But I do think if we had leaders with three centuries of experience, there would be an increased willingness to let things play out on their own, to not see urgency in most crises, because intervention too often makes things worse.

The vampire stories posit that with age comes an understand of human nature that makes it easier to manipulate people.  That might be true.

But I’d counter an inability to remember immature mindsets seems to come along often with maturity. The adults cannot remember the angst and worries of youth. The elderly don’t have the interest in keeping up with fashion, and trends, and fashionable thinking. It is possible to keep tabs on modern thought, but is it possible to do so well enough to be master manipulators?  Without seeming out of touch?  I’m not sure.

In any case, this is the science fiction topic you could tackle: if/when humans no longer *must* die (although accident, murder, suicide, and some illnesses will still result in death), how does it change society? Do people suicide when they get bored? Do we finally have the longevity to make terraforming Mars and colonization of interstellar systems possible (imagine a “generation ship” that takes two centuries to reach a Alpha Centauri, crewed/populated with people who fully expect to make the return trip within their lifetime). Do the aged withdraw from society as they grow bored with the immaturity of the young? Does the birth rate plummet?  Or does colonization of the moon, Mars, Jupiter’s moons, and interstellar systems create enough room that we have a population explosion? Do the elderly ensconce themselves as leaders, guiding all of society with their greater knowledge?  Do the young now chafe at the reduced chance of earning key roles, since no one ages out of a prominent position anymore?  Or do they win key positions in corporations and government due to youthful exuberance and innovation?

If nothing in society changes except for everyone alive suddenly having a realistic chance to live for 500 years or more, what happens?  There are a hundred different story possibilities to explore right there.

Go do it. I want to read some good stories that explore this issue, that will help us be prepared for it when it eventually happens.