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Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: January 10th, 2016, 3:09 pm
by scotland
Since my friend Sut has been back in the forums of late (yeah), I thought I would bump this thread about the parallel way to play video games in the 1980s - the 8 bit family computers. I decided to spend my holiday money on retro instead of modern with acquiring a Commodore VIC-20. This is an early 8 bit computer, although not Commodore's first. Its got a 6502 in it. Its was the first computer to ever sell 1 million units. From what I've read, despite being relatively versatile, it was essentially a video game console for most of the million families that bought it.

I did not have a VIC 20 back in the day, although some friends did. I'm trying to figure it all out bit by bit (and byte by byte), but I hope to have some fun with it. RAM expansion seems to be a requirement...I guess some programmers were so inefficient they need more than 5K of RAM (of which only 3.5k is available). Silly RAM hogs, as if 3.5k weren't enough for any game...

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: January 10th, 2016, 3:42 pm
by Sut
The Vic 20 !
Never seen one in the flesh and they were on their last legs when I got into gaming (it was a three leg battle between the C64, Speccy and Amstrad CPC). But I can vaguely remember some Vic 20 coverage please keep us upto date with your discoveries. I presume the BASIC is similar to the C64 basic ?

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: February 10th, 2016, 2:36 pm
by scotland
VideoGameCritic wrote: The TI99 was the first computer I ever used (at a friend's house) and I immediately fell in love with programming after writing code to print my name to the screen over and over.

Those early computers seemed as distinct as consoles back in the day. It really mattered which you invested in, and you became attached to them. Computers became far more uniform with the dominance of the IBM PC, and we are seeing something similar happen with consoles today. Opinions vary on whether that is a good thing or not.

We often remember the first time we fell in love, which might have happened at a friend's house. :o Ahem, I mean, our first computer experience of course. Traditionally, the first thing we learned to program was like this:

10 PRINT "Hello, World. My name is Dave"
20 GOTO 10

A think a part of us thought the endless loop would cause the computer to start smoking or saying "Error Error Sterilize", or that's what Captain Kirk always taught me to expect anyway.

While a computer 'bug' is a mistake of programming grammar, I wonder how many of us caught the programming 'bug' to write programs from these machines. Certainly high schools in the US teach Computer Science today, but they have to spread out and teach everything from how to use the Internet, to PowerPoint, to Web Design. In the 1980s, programming was the practical extent of high school computer science. Architecture was too technical, so instead we learned about flow charting, and debugging and problem solving using different programming languages. That and how to create ASCII art of the Pink Panther on the line printers...

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: February 14th, 2016, 2:36 pm
by VideoGameCritic
I remember a few of the games I wrote myself in the 1980s (in BASIC).

Ghostbusters - simple ghost shooter

Ninja - side-scroller with multiple screens and sprite graphics. When you beat the ninja on the bridge he fell into the water and splashed.

Dark Tower - text-based RPG

When I got my Atari ST I started in a really ambitious baseball game which even had a batter/catcher screen. Atari BASIC proved too slow however and I lost interest.

Needless to say I would KILL to get my hands on those old games. It would be like being a time warp. Alas, I gave that stuff away to Goodwill which is typically what people did back then when they got an upgraded computer. *sigh"

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: February 14th, 2016, 3:11 pm
by scotland
VideoGameCritic wrote:I remember a few of the games I wrote myself in the 1980s (in BASIC)...Atari BASIC proved too slow however and I lost interest. Needless to say I would KILL to get my hands on those old games. It would be like being a time warp.


Those games sound cool. "You find yourself on a path in a forest. There is a sign . <read sign> The sign says "Go north, foolish mortal, to the Dark Tower. <north>"

Maybe somewhere out there is still that atari disk with your old games on it. In this internet age, stuff you don't want surviving does. Except for the Nixon tapes, it used to be the opposite problem.

Since BASIC is an interpreted language (slow), they did have compilers to help, but it still wasn't like writing in assembly.

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: March 4th, 2016, 12:40 pm
by scotland
Just for fun, a quick book review associated with the 8 bit home computers

Micro Adventures: Scholastic Books 1984

All our communications from Earth are still garbled. The alien signals we're intercepting are getting stronger, which undoubtedly means they're getting closer. Our weaponry is still out, and now we have only 30 hours before the space station self destructs...and we've been out of toilet paper for the past week.

And thus you are thrown into one of the many adventures of Orion, Computer Expert for ACT.

In the early 80s, kids typing in programs from books and magazines into their 8 bit micro computers (hence "micro adventures") was pretty common. From that interest, came this line of Scholastic books taking you from deep space to the mysterious lost city in the jungle and beyond.

In these Micro Adventures, you are actually a middle school boy, who's a part time agent in something like the Mission:Impossible team. You have a GI Joe kinda code name, and are the team's programming expert. The books have different authors, so the styles differ between books a bit, but they are all easy 4th grade reads. Two things stand out. First, the level of violence is unexpectedly high, and second, you have to type in small programs during reading and use the results.

A book whose crises involve things like sweating adults looking on anxiously while a middle school kid tries to quickly debug a program before death overtakes them all has some odd geeky merit. Speed debugging. Oh, and the toilet paper thing actually turned out to be relevant to the plot. Chekhov's TP, I guess.

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: March 9th, 2016, 9:45 pm
by SilvaHaloOne
Quick background… I’m a 35 year old American… by the time I’m old enough to start remembering things, we had an NES and an IBM PC clone of some sort and my Dad was very adamant that there would be no gaming on the PC… that’s what the Nintendo was for… and since most of my friends also had an NES, I COMPLETELY missed out on several generations of this segment of the gaming world. In fact, I don’t even think I knew of its existence until well into my college years. I finally picked up an 800XL a couple of years back and have been hooked since then. Now I’m rocking it with a 1050 and a 1010 and have also picked up a Vic-20. Aside from the games, which are awesome, the other thing that is fascinating to me is to finally have the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of how home computers worked before I was old enough to have my own memories of, say… booting in to dos and starting a word processing program on a 5 ¼ floppy in the late 80’s… from then on I managed to stay pretty current in the as far as computing and gaming goes.

I took a collecting hiatus last year and right now, I’m finishing up some Sega stuff before I move on to something else… but I know my next move in terms of vintage computing is going to be a C-128.

Cheers and thanks for listening.

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: March 10th, 2016, 4:44 am
by scotland
The 80s had a lot of variety in hardware and interests. The keyboard and the write/save capabilities could allow different things, including different game genres but also non gaming activities, like music and graphics, to thrive. Tapes and floppies opened the doors to hobbyist to create and share.

The micro computer books and magazines were such that video games were one topic among many, coupled with topics such as understanding the how games are made, about the hardware, about computers in general, and writing and understanding assembly or BASIC. I think a lot of 80s kids with microcomputers were as much hobbyists as well as gamers, and wanted to know what was going on under the plastic.

I got a VIC 20 myself not so long ago. While short lived, and no hardware sprites, its a fun and capable system nonetheless. I picked up some RAM expansion and a VICMON cart, but really have a lot to learn about it. What are your impressions?

Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: March 10th, 2016, 8:28 pm
by SilvaHaloOne
That sounds awesome and under different circumstances I’m sure I would have immersed myself in the micro-computing culture of the time. The great thing is that, for the most part, the people who were in to it back in the day seem to be pretty willing to talk to new-timers about it… they seem glad to get new people interested in it. There is a local vintage computing club that meets quarterly and those guys are still enthusiastic about what they are doing and how much they can get out of the old hardware.

I have to admit that I have not spent much time or money on the Vic-20 yet. I have Pac-Man, Centipede, Avenger and a couple of others. I didn’t realize that the Vic-20 could not do hardware sprites… knowing that I would say I’m surprised that Pac-Man and Centipede run as well as they do. One of my co-workers tells me that if he ever finds his old stash, he will give me a cassette recorder and make a copy of the Choplifter clone he tried to create for the system.

I’m confused about the RAM expansion too. So are there cartridge games that might need some sort of RAM expansion, or does that only pertain to some of the cassette/disk games? I’m pretty sure mine just has whatever stock memory that came with the system…


Re: The 8-bit Home Computer Users Thread

Posted: March 10th, 2016, 9:24 pm
by scotland
The RAM expansion for the VIC 20 is a mess. Stock RAM is tiny, and there are several RAM expansions, but they are not necessarily compatible. An 8k expansion may not allow you to play a game needing a 3k expansion due to what addresses the game uses. Cartridge games are not an issue, this is for other media. Modern homebrews are really amazing, given the limitations. There are also modern hardware alternatives, such as a single cart with selectable RAM and other ways to load media.