The first computer my family owned was the Timex/Sinclair 1000. It had 2K of RAM, 4K of ROM, and a tape-player drive. I played chess with it a few times. I would make my move, press “play” on the tape drive, and come back in an hour to see what the computer had done. The Sinclair ended up in the attic very quickly.
Then came the Atari 2600 and “Space Invaders”, “Asteroids”, and “Circus Circus”. These were games that had no ending. You simply kept playing to beat your previous best score. The graphics for these games consisted of big blocks sort of in the shape of stick figures and things, there was rarely more than two colors displayed on the screen.
The Apple IIe was the next thing my father brought home. It had arrow keys and a “cursor”. I wrote my first program on this computer:
10 PRINT “Ryan is Cool.”
20 GOTO 10
I later wrote a simple roleplaying game adventure that was text-based.
~~~~ Represented water.
^^^^ for mountains.
YYYY for trees.
I created a little world for a single character (X) to wander around.
These were the days of text-based adventure games like Infocom’s “Zork” and “Leather Goddesses of Phobos”.
Then I got my own Commodore 64/128. The Apple was a much faster computer, but the Commodore had better graphics. It was also cheaper to buy accessories for the Commodore, like booster cartridges, joysticks, and modems. With my 300 baud modem, I was turned onto the world of Bulletin Board Systems and Computer Piracy. : )
The Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) were the precursor to the internet. System’s Operators (Sysops) would setup a host computer that would answer the phone when computers would call. Their computer would then log you into their BBS and you would have a limited amount of time to either post messages, chat with the sysop, play games, or trade files.
Trading files took up most of my time online. Bytes of data were used as currency to deal with different sysops. You uploaded a file to a BBS and received credits for each byte of data. You could then spend those credits downloading files from their computer. I amassed a huge game collection for my Commodore this way.
I began renting games from a local gameshop and cracking them to trade to the local BBSes. My biggest claim to fame was cracking EAO’s “Mule” using a sector editor I found in the software “Happy Hacker 2.0”. Not a spectacular feat, but I received props from the notorious “Legion of Doom” for it. Of course, back then they gave props to anyone and everyone.
The Commodore BBSes faded away and were slowly replaced by IBM systems. Lacking the funds to upgrade my system, I dropped out of computers aside from playing with the IBM’s at my highschool until I got to college. In college, I reentered the BBS scene, but things were changing. The BBSes were teaming up to create a network of computers across country. Suddenly I was exchanging messages with users in California. It was interesting at first, but quickly became overwhelming. My posts were lost in stacks of hundreds. The personal nature of the BBSes was being lost, but this was only the beginning.
The final death toll for the BBSes was the Internet. Suddenly we had the entire world at our fingertips. These were the early days of the internet, when sites did not have images and Yahoo was simply a list of links. It was about to go mainstream as the entire world prepared to go online and geeks like myself have struggled to stay on top of its ever-changing playing field ever since.