Forty Years, Forty Posts #19

I got my first personal computer for my fifteenth birthday. It was a Commodore 64. I’d already programmed my brother’s Vic 20 more than he ever did, and was ready to move on to bigger and better things. I had it hooked up to a small television set in my room and had a tape drive to save my work. It took ordinary audio tapes.

I programmed in BASIC, which I’d learned from Mr. Weller at ACS back in Monrovia. I was used to the Apple IIe, which was top-of-the-line for the time, and had to readjust my sights a little for the modest 64, but what it was good at was games. Commodore had a feature they called “sprites,” which were little programmable characters you could design. It was a step towards object oriented programming, since instead of just thinking linearly (as BASIC code did), you could give each Sprite its own behaviors then just set them free and let them interact.

I made a horse race by making six horse sprites who would decide randomly how fast to go for each leg of the race. All I had to do was recycle the same code (in those days, it meant retyping… the brilliance of “cut” and “paste” was available only on the Apple Macintosh, which had just debuted with much fanfare). I made slot machines, too, and a dice game. I thought I’d bundle them up and sell them as a Casino Pack for the Commodore 64, since the magazines were filled with stories about enterprising teenagers who’d made small fortunes, but I never made it very far.

In college I decided not to pursue computer science as a major, choosing journalism instead, then changing majors to English. I thought of computers as a nice hobby, but was sure the job market would dry up. I guess that lack of vision shows how ill-suited I was to the market, although here, 20+ years later, I’m a technologist by day-job, and still make games from time to time.

My most recent ventures were baseball-themed games for a sadly defunct Twins blog. Here is the highlight of that series.

3 thoughts on “Forty Years, Forty Posts #19

  1. My first (and for years, only) computer had one of those audio tape drives. I lost interest when I wrote (by copying the BASIC program from the manual) a program that made a one-octave piano out of the keyboard. Unfortunately, the program was so long I couldn’t save it on one tape, and I lost an entire afternoon’s typing. Thankfully my later experiences with computers were better.

  2. I guess that’s why it was on my mind too! I read this post while I was delirious from Nyquil, I think, but it must have lodged in my brain.

    I hated typing out those long programs and discovering I’d made a mistake . . . so arduous!

  3. A friend had a Commodore 64, and brought it to my house once. It was my first exposure to computers – and I was not interested – in fact, I remember telling him that it creeped me out! He hooked it up to the tv and showed me a baseball game of some sort – but I just did not like the idea of computers – I thought they would become evil, taking over the world.

    Well, they may have taken over the world, but only with our ecouragement. And they aren’t too evil (yet?)😉 – and I have 2 Macs and love love love them. My first computer was a Tandy 1000, and I remember the long DOS strings to get the printer to change font. Ah, we are so spoiled now!

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