Friday, September 11, 2009

Memories of IT - could computing be fun?

The time periods covered in the previous posts overlap in some cases, so the PC did not just appear in a poof of smoke where I was working, totally unexpected. Lets pause and talk about computing for fun.

I am guessing the first CRT most people of a certain age used was on a video arcade game. Before that, there was pinball and other physical games like baseball (machine pitched a ball and you hit it with a bat in the same way as pinball flippers.) I played these games in many places as a youngster. A bowling alley on a Lake Huron beach comes to mind, and a few trips to the UK where I saw games where you dropped a coin on top of a whole lot of other coins in the hope it would be the one that tips that whole pile of coins into a slot that delivered them to you; my first exposure to gambling, I suppose; And there was skee-ball, trying to win coupons to cash in for cheap toys/trinkets. ( I mentioned earlier about playing Adventure on a teletype at university, but was really only available to students of the time.)

Then the first CRT-based game(s) appear. Was it Pong? Wikipedia would tell us, I guess. What I remember from the 80's was the arcade in the mall next to the office where I first worked, and it had about 20 machines lined up. Here is where I first learned that my eye-hand coordination skills were average or worse. All these games were based around scoring a level of points to get free games (taken from pinball I suppose) or move to the next level. I could get a free game or two, but would crash and burn not long after that point. Some of my-coworkers could play a game for hours on one quarter. They also set up tournaments for co-workers, which I did not enter.

The main game I recall of this period was the first Star Wars game. It was a first-person flyer-shooter, you were Luke in your fighter attacking the Deathstar; you started by battling Imperial fighters, then to the surface to get past tower cannons, and if you survived to that point, you flew into the trench to shoot the bomb down the hole while Darth Vader tried to shoot you down.

If you succeeded, you would start all over again at an increased difficulty level. I recall I managed to get through the first level and into the next, but never farther. Then a guy I worked with would step up and go thru 3 or 4 or 5 levels, and might just walk away before losing, because lunch hour was over. I felt SO inadequate as a game-playing male.

(This reminds me that at this point, really eccentric characters were still something you could be working with --- at the company, they were programming whizzes or knew stuff nobody else knew; so long hair or dread-locks was OK, plus guys in weird suits with fedoras, and more, and they were all great game players; but they all moved on at some point, maybe to develop games.)

Any way, the graphics on the game were neon lines on a black background., simple but effective for a game set in space. The soundtrack was the familiar movie score, with clips of things like Obi-Wan saying "Luke, use the force!". It was fun, I played it a lot, but not once did I walk away because my lunch was over...

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About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.