Bombs ¬ROMs

bombs not roms

works opening by andrew ho
Photo by Andrew Ho

Photos by John Bruneau

Bombs ¬ROMs first made its debut as part of Works / San José's celebrated grand reopening exhibition, re:group.

My relationship with the 80s

Bombs ¬ROMs is based on my conflicting feelings toward the 80s. '¬' is scientific negation, pronounced 'not'. My art is influenced heavily by video game nostalgia. Yet I have, up until now, blissfully ignored the political climate of the era in which my nostalgia is rooted.  The 1980s were a time of extreme patriotism and nationalism in the US. The Cold War mindset of touting, "USA #1!" that was so embraced in the Regan Era now comes a cross as loaded, symbolism with dubious substance.

It is this mindset however that continues to live on in those heroes of the 80s, the classic arcade world record holders. For many of them, arcade gaming is still is about keeping USA on top of the high score list. As an avid consumer of the retro gaming paradigm, I feel it is important to acknowledge how strongly nationalism is embedded in that culture.  Thus this piece has become my war on terror era critique on myself. Bombs ¬ROMs is an attempt reconcile my own feelings of love and nostalgia for 80s video game culture with the political era in which it blossomed.


Bombs ¬ROMs was created using two Atari 2600 ROMs. The 'USA' Bombs and the exploding city background were each created in Batari Basic. Batari Basic is a coding language based on Basic which enables one to write and compile their own Atari 2600 ROMs. These two ROMs we then loaded in jit.atari2600 a library for Max/MSP/Jitter that functions as an Atari 2600 emulator. jit.atari2600 allows for emulation of hardware circuit bending. The Atari ROMs had I programmed were manipulated as such in order to create the skewed results. For the installation a video loop was recoded of the outcome and burned to DVD. There is something to be said about the feeling of warping ones own creations.

The Why of Frye

The '¬' in the title is a reference to the notorious Pac-Man port for the Atari 2600. This version of Pac-Man, programmed by Tod Frye is widely blamed as being partially responsible for the video game crash of 1983. The story goes, someone at Atari wrote "Why Frye?" on the side of the company's Pac-Man arcade machine. Tod Frye then used scientific notation by putting a line over "Why", making it read "Why NOT Fry?"


Bombs ¬ROMs was exhibited at Works/San Jos as part of re:group. This member's exhibition ran from August 1st through September 12th of 2008. The re:group exhibition hailed the grand reopening for Works/San Jos. More information about the show, including images, can be found here.

John Bruneau 2023