krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Seeing a bit of attention paid to "old computers" from an unexpected but notable direction did get me thinking of the home computer games I'd actually played when I was young (instead of managing to get around to them years later), and which of them might be called "personal standouts." I thought of the Pole Position imitation I would load and then twiddle the TV's tint knob until the blue "artifact colour" of the backgrounds changed to "green grass" (although the Radio Shack Color Computer 2 could start up with its blue and red artifact colours switched, which made for a different experience again), of the "first-person perspective maze" our disk had gone bad for unfortunately early on so that long years later it became one of my most notable pushes towards getting emulator programs working, and of several illustrated adventures, some easier to play all the way through than others. After remembering those and other Color Computer games, though, all of a sudden I reminded myself that before it my family had started out with a TRS-80 Model I. Even with its low-resolution black-and-white graphics (converted to black-and-green with a thick piece of green plastic foam-taped to the converted RCA surplus TV that served as its official monitor), we had some games for it. Two of them that came to mind right away were the Berzerk imitation "Robot Attack" and a "swoop a spaceship over an enemy base and through a cavern" game from a "software every month" cassette magazine, both of which I'd got working on emulators in recent years. That double revival, though, had also got me thinking of a third game stuck in my mind but which I hadn't been able to find in these latter days...

I suppose far more people saw Star Wars in 1977 then bought TRS-80s, Apple IIs, and Commodore PETs that same year when those preassembled microcomputers first went on sale, but that might have kept open a certain space to not worry too much about intellectual property rights. Just a few years later, we had a TRS-80 game we called "X-Wing Fighter," one programmed in BASIC but adaptable for that reason by my father to use the modified Atari joystick we had for our computer. I'd played the game enough a lot of specifics still seemed ready to mind as I began getting back to other TRS-80 games, and when I read through a scanned run of old magazines with antique software ads in them and saw an "X-Wing" game by "Rev. George Blank," I was convinced I'd just recognized the original author. However, the "X-Wing" game in a considerable list of TRS-80 programs was by a different author, and I did jump to the conclusion we'd had an "earlier version." The only sure way to find the program I'd played seemed to retrieve our own copy. Just cleaning up my family home's spare bedroom to the point where I could pull the Model I out of the closet it had been stashed in for twenty-five years and counting was a daunting thought, though. Reassembling the computer, seeing if it would even still power up, and then loading the program to "CSAVE" it again but with the cassette cable's audio-out jack plugged into a much more modern computer (I'd heard some emulators could load audio files) or just transcribing the listing off the monitor (however much longer that would take) seemed easier to contemplate, but all of that depended on if there was even anything on the magnetic tapes after so long.

In that frustrated mood I started searching to see if there was any information on the game anywhere, and turned up an entry that at first glance just something of a cruel tease. On a closer reading of it, though, I began to wonder if the game just might have been recorded in the software source under a different name. There was indeed an entry by the name "Star Pilot," and once I had the file copied to an emulator disk image with an utility I have working under "Wine," I was able to start up an emulator itself (also using "Wine") and see it matched quite a few of my old impressions, starting with screens of briefing that included "The X-wing fighter is a small one or two passenger rocket that is, quite frankly, obsolete." Getting used to the keyboard controls again (just about every key set your side-to-side speed to a different value) took a bit of work, though, and I was "shot down by Darth Vader" before I managed to score the crucial torpedo hit (without having to fly down a trench; there was only so much that could be fit into the TRS-80's 16K of memory.) I can suppose that, having managed to win the game again all these years later, I might not be about to repeat the experience as often as I even get around to certain other TRS-80 games, but it was nice in its own way to scratch a small item off an obscure list.

 photo x-wing1_zpsxcbmxcz8.png
 photo x-wing2_zpsvvi7hftd.png
 photo x-wing3_zpsyueuawin.png
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