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The REAL Story On Why Space Cadet Pinball Was Removed (ft. Windows on Itanium)

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SmallWins
SmallWins
19 Sep 2021

Space Cadet Pinball was a game that shipped from Windows NT and the Windows 95 Plus back before it was suddenly removed without noticed from Windows Vista. For many years, there was nothing but speculation on why this beloved game was removed, until a post by Raymond Chen set the record straight. His post, available at https://devblogs.microsoft.com..../oldnewthing/2012121 stated that the game was removed due to incompatibilities with 64-bit Windows.

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Chapter Marks:
00:00 - Intro
01:30 - Windows XP x64 Exploration
03:10 - Pinball On Windows XP 64-Bit Edition
05:38 - The Intel Itanium Architecture Plus Unexpected Findings
07:20 - The HP zx6000 Itanium Powered Workstaion
08:57 - Windows XP 2003 Edition
11:11 - Investigating the IA64 Pinball Crash
12:48 - An Unexpected Finding
14:30 - Floating Point Precision Investigations And Explainations
18:18 - Investigating How Pinball Got Fixed
20:16 - Windows Longhorn Build 4051
22:54 - Build 4051 on Itanium
24:11 - Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-Based Machines
25:25 - Post-Reset Longhorn, Vista and Pinball
27:20 - Final Conclusions
28:45 - Close Out

However, what if were to tell you that I had multiple 64-bit versions of Space Cadet Pinball which worked just fine. That might get your attention, right? Well, it all started with Michael MJD did a video featuring a pre-release version of Windows XP x64 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzsh6MM1xVk), which showed PInball just working fine. This immediately caught my attention and made me look a bit deeper. It made me realize that Raymond was likely talking the original 64-bit Windows port to Itanium. That might have been a show stopper for this project, except for the fact that I actually have Itanium hardware, specifically an HP zx6000.

After taking a look at the Windows for Itanium CDs, I was surprised to find a 64-bit version of Pinball hiding among the files. This lead to an EPIC project to revive my zx6000, install Windows, and investigate further. This would lead to me setting up WInDBG to investigate system crashes, and uncovering a working version of Pinball for Itanium, and spurring a much longer investigation that would take me across multiple versions of development versions.

I began tracking the history and changes of PInball from its early NT days, through XP, and the Longhorn project, determining what did and din't change, as well spending perhaps an unhealthy amount of time with a disassembler. This lead me to find an issue with floating point precision, and lead us to taking a side trip into Minecraft and issues with how the floating point numbers break down. It also showed what happened when you impose 64-bit precision on a binary that isn't expect ing.

After verifying part of Raymond Chen's story, I looking into Longhorn build 4051, to discover that PInball had not only remained in many post-XP versions, but even the post reset builds of Windws Longhorn. It was there where I finally found reasons why I suspect PInball was removed, and it has to do with the revamped games shipped with Windows Vista.

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#retrocomputing #itanium #spacecadetpinball

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