You Know When You’ve Been Tango-ed

My friend Samwise and I are both enthusiastic users of the GNU/Linux operating system and also enormous fans of the incredible range of retro computing emulators produced by the brilliant Tom Walker.

Tom (left) and Samwise (right)
Photo courtesy regregex

There’s seemingly nothing that Tom isn’t able write an emulator for. He’s written emulators for everything from the humble Acorn Electron to the StrongARM-ed Risc PC with Spectrums, Amstrads, Beebs, Archimedes and much else in between.

Elkulator, running on Fedora 14

So it wasn’t altogether surprising when, last month, Sam asked if I could create some icons for his desktop he could use with Tom’s emulators.

Superior’s EGO:Repton4, running on RPCEmu

Sam is a KDE desktop power user, whereas I’ve always been a GNOME numpty. Fortunately for us starving scribblers and colourers in there is a project that aims to standardise all free software desktops and ensure we can create icons once that look good on all of them. The project is called the freedesktop project and the part concerning icons is called Tango.

There are numerous tutorials on the web that explain how to create Tango icons in both Inkscape and The GIMP.

The first icon I tried to create in Tango format was the three dimensional RISC OS era Acorn logo, to use with Arculator. Below, you can see the real Acorn logo on the left, and the “Tango”-ed version on the right.

More Tango-ed than Judith Chalmers

As you can see, the Tango version looks rather cartoonish – and the colours are rather muted and pastel. And the direction of the light source has been changed. This was all done deliberately and in order to follow the Tango guidelines.

Sam was happy with this icon and asked if I could create icons for all of the Acorn-related emulators. And that’s when sticking to the rules started to get a bit of a pain. For Tango icons, each icon should be a distinctive shape in order to help those with poor eyesight and each icon should also contain a metaphor as to the icon’s purpose.

However, for the emulators all that we really needed was a square icon with a logo that told you at a glance what computer you were using so the guidelines rather went out the window. The Tango colours were also very restrictive as far as what I could use so I just threw caution to the wind and did what I felt!

Here’s the Elkulator icon:

I really like the background grid, which was the trademark of the Acorn Electron.

Here’s the B-Em icon:

And here’s the RPCEm icon:

I also created some Archimedes artwork – here’s the Archimedes logo I created as an SVG file in Inkscape:

Click to enlarge.

Here it is “Tango”-ed!

And here are the full set of icons I created for Sam:

Click to enlarge

In future, when I have more time, I’ll create proper Tango themed icons for all of these emulators. I spent about two minutes on each of the icons above and it shows! This will require me to actually draw the systems being emulated and make sure that I’ve got a different shaped outline for each one.

So I’ll probably return to this topic when I’ve done some decent, real, Tango icons!

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