Video filmed by Sam Machkovech, edited by Jennifer Hahn

Everything old was new again at October’s annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo, which overtook the city’s major convention center for two full days of arcade play, retro tournaments, and presentations from some of gaming’s biggest legends.

If you’ve never attended a retro-themed expo—as opposed to more modern gaming expos such as PAX—it can be a little harder to come away with something to describe at length, but not for lack of content. Retro gaming shows feel both enormous and small because they distill down to a seemingly endless number of micro-niches. Love the Atari Jaguar console? You and maybe 50 other people will find a few booths full of merch and rarities to make your heart swell. How about old light gun games? You’ll find a range of gun-mounted arcade games that you can play without a single quarter, from later-gen gems like Area 51 to early delights like Cheyenne.

Maybe you want to purchase every issue of Nintendo Power magazine that you fell behind on as an early ’90s fanboy, or compete against children of the ’70s in Atari Combat, or see original Atari and Activision console game developers talk about squeezing every last pixel out of the 2600′s hardware, or pick up a ton of colorful artwork based on classic characters.

(The above video also includes footage of the final combatants in one of the weekend’s two Tetris competitions. One of them revolved around the NES version of the game, but we at Ars didn’t qualify for that one; instead, we played in a Tetris Ultimate tournament, revolving around that game’s 2014 PlayStation 4 version, and placed eight out of 16.)

Looking for old games, guitar controllers, or magazines? The Portland Retro Gaming Expo had you covered.

All of those elements were in play at the PGRX—along with flasks shaped like Nintendo cartridges, custom ROMs slapped into old, working cartridges so you can play “new” games on old systems, brand-new indie games, and much more—so we present to you a smattering of video and photos, along with a breakdown of the show’s keynote panel, hosted by Pong inventor Al Alcorn.

Wait, what? Who is Zippy the Porcupine? And why’s this for the Atari 2600?

“Young people struggle to understand how to make anything without code”

Al Alcorn knows that he’s not necessarily the founder of home video gaming, but he’s pretty close. Alcorn was the third-ever employee of Atari, then known as the oddly named Syzygy Engineering.

The man who built Pong pretty much from scratch spoke at a panel that, like most of the content at the PGRX, was a recap of already known history and minutiae, seeing as how the history of Atari’s rise and fall has been documented at length in recent years.

Mostly, Alcorn rehashed a few classic bygone Pong stories, including the intriguing fact that the home version of Pong was essentially a middle-finger reaction to Nolan Bushnell’s insistence that it be made. “Making a home Pong would require a custom chip, and I couldn’t make a custom chip, but Nolan wouldn’t stop,” Alcorn told the Portland crowd, before saying that Bushnell “had the attention span of a golden retriever.”

Pong creator Al Alcorn signs a home version of the game for a fan at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo.

He also presented some funny rarities, particularly a letter exchange between himself and Bushnell about the creation of the Pong home version in which a single Alcorn question was answered by the all-caps word “NO” in Bushnell’s handwriting, and a photo of the original home Pong prototype that was demonstrated to Sears, Roebuck and Co. executives in the ’70s. There was also the utterly surreal experience of watching Al Alcorn watch his own appearance on 2006′s Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.

Listing image by Sam Machkovech

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