Old school bytes

The first computer I owned was a Sinclair Z-80 (with whole 16 kB RAM) when I was in school. I probably still have its petrified remains in a cardboard box somewhere in the house with other junk I can’t bring myself to chuck away or bother to access in my last three decades. Somewhere down the line I had an Atari. My first hands-on PC was in 1987-88. There weren’t any hard disks in those days. One floppy (5.25 inch with 264 kB storage) held the operating system and had to be booted with every time I logged on.
Nature's fly-catcherI still remember my first game on the Z-80. It came on audio cassette and you had to play the tape in a regular tape recorder with a cable attached between its headphone jack and the Z-80. If you pulled out the jack and listened to the audio, it wasn’t unlike the tone from early dial-up modems when they negotiated their connections. The game was an airplane simulator written in BASIC. There were no encrypted EXE files – you could just hit the break key and the listing for the whole program would scroll down the screen (a normal NTSC TV).
Z-80’s graphics were pretty intense for its time. Considering we were accustomed to board games or Pong variants, watching dials and maps change in real-time across my screen was amazing. There wasn’t a separate keyboard attached to this model, just a thin film tactile QWERTY embedded on top of its casing. Since it was difficult to type on this for any length of time, its designers had embedded each BASIC command as a function on each of its keys. All you had to do was punch the ‘function’ key and the corresponding key for the command you wanted and the whole word would be written out on the screen with one button. Convenient.
old hard-disc's mother boardThis was around the time the movie ‘Wargames’ (with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy) came out and my gaming screen used to remind me so much of in-movie visual effects that, in my mind alone of course, playing computer games made it all the more worthwhile. I remember spending weeks playing that game till the tape finally wore out and I had to try other games.
With Atari it was different; it was a gaming machine from my youth. From Asteroids to Space Invaders, Atari offered entertainment that remained unchallenged for almost a decade. I have forgotten most of their names but it bugs me that those wonderful concepts have vanished from today’s games. They were fun and they were challenging. Chips Challenge, though it came much later, is far more fulfilling than any Doom clone kids play today. But in all honesty, those games were as much about the age as they were about concept and technology. Bell-bottoms looked cool in the 60’s but no matter how hard people try to bring them back in fashion today, they look more comical than tastefully retro.
Originally, I started this post with the intention of talking about Prince of Persia games which I recently played after almost 25 years. But as I often do, I seem to have side-tracked so much that it’s not possible to pick up the remaining space for my original plan. I guess I’ll talk about PoP in my next entry. At least I won’t have to come up with a topic for next time.

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