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Farewell Morten Kirkegaard

28 Nov 2019

Sadly, the release of MAME 0.216 coincided with the passing of contributor Morten Shearman Kirkegaard. Regular contributor and former project coordinator David “Haze” Haywood writes:

I just wanted to write a brief thank you to Morten Kirkegaard who passed away earlier today, at 12:45 on Wednesday 27th November 2019 after a drawn-out battle with cancer.

While I never knew Morten personally outside of contact on IRC and e-mails, he was a key part of the two-man Danish team, also featuring Peter Wilhelmsen, who together overcame some of the toughest challenges emulation faced in the time they worked together.

Even knowing his own chances of survival were low, his interest in both technical challenges, and the retro scene was such that he made the choice to pour his remaining time and money into doing something that would outlast the days he had remaining, and make a long-term difference.

That he did, with magnificent results. The DS5002FP-protected Gaelco games for example could only be dumped thanks to the work he put in – a path full of setbacks, boards suiciding, and even once a working setup was found there was still a high risk each time. To put things into perspective, prior to Morten and Peter taking on the challenge, it was one that most people had already written off as simply impossible.

As for the games themselves, thanks to Morten’s work we’re fortunate enough to have dumps of all the known ones. This includes the rare Goldart, which I regret not being able to finalize the emulation of while he was still around to see it. Still, Morten did understand the challenges involved, and the part of the that task could only be done with him present was complete, so he excitedly continued to work on other things.

His final contributions included working with Peter on dumping the Air Blaster plug-and-play TV game. Even in a severely weakened state, he opted to take it home for a weekend and work well into the night on finding a dumping solution that worked, debugging the FPGA-based dumper and tangle of wires until he had a dump we were satisfied with. In what can only be considered an act of complete selflessness he pushed past the pain barrier, making light of his rapidly declining and severely debilitating condition.

Between that, other contributions included fathoming the Gunpey Arcade compression scheme, and likewise doing the same for Sega’s Decathlete (and I hope we can finish off that work for the Print Club games using the same type of chip), as well as work on more obscure titles such as Hoei’s Future Flash, the Gamate handheld, and many other important pieces of work.

As a person, he always came across as incredibly skilled and self-motivated, but still humble and happy just to see things progress – a rare mix that made him a joy to work with. If at any point I wasn’t convinced by the results of something being presented to me, I only had to say so and he would take another look.

In the end, he didn’t win his own battle, but he certainly achieved his goal of keeping other things alive for as long as people still have an interest in them.

I know Peter was a lot closer to Morten, considering him a good friend, and so has been hit hard by this, regardless of how expected it was. But even as a distant colleague in another country, I can honestly say his presence will be missed both on a personal and technical level.

Thank you for everything.

Goodbye Morten, and thank you for all your contributions. We’ll all miss you and mourn your loss.