Memories of childhood

I was born in 1976, in the early days of the home computer revolution. As a small child, I was amazed by computers like the Luxor ABC-80, my father had one at his workplace, or the Commodore VIC-20 that a friend of mine had. Computers back then cost a fortune, but in 1982, my father imported a Sinclar ZX-81 kit from the U.K. through a friend who was visiting. Having an education in TV repair and working as a teacher in consumer electronics in upper secondary school, assembling the kit into a working computer was simple, and it was much cheaper than buying it pre-assembled. The machine came with a wooping 1 (one) kilobyte of RAM, and that included the memory needed to display the screen, so the first programs I wrote were fairly small. The first attempts (I was five years old, remember) were mainly a couple of PRINT to display som graphics gibberish and a SCROLL to scroll the screen, and then repeat that. The user manual was of course in English, so I could only enter the examples and try them out.

We had a cassette with a few games on it that worked with 1K mode, though (he later did get a 4K RAM expansion, which he hacked into a 16K RAM expansion by stacking RAM chips and some clever cabling), but I wanted to write my own games. I wasn’t very good at that, but a local (OK, half an hour drive, but still) shop started getting some books with computer games in them. I bought the two I found that they published. Stridsspel and Rymdspel, which were translations of some U.K. titles with BASIC games for several computers at once. I have lost my copy of Rymdspel, but I still do have Striddspel:

Book: Stridsspel - för VIC, PET, SPECTRUM, ZX81, BBC TRS-80 OCH APPLE
Stridsspel från Brombergs bokförlag

I loved these games so much that I tended to port them to new computers and languages as I went along. When I set up a web page when starting at the university back in 1995, I even made web versions of two of the games, Iceberg and Space Mines. I wrote them in C, which I was learning then, creating them as CGI programs. Since this was before web pages could store cookies and convey state back and forth, they store their entire state in CGI parameters, run a single iteration and output a new web page that create the next step.

As I said, I lost one of the books several years ago, and I am still sad about that. I have never seen them in any second-hand bookstores, and web searches for them had come up blank. One reason is because I have never known the titles of the original English editions, it was never given in any of the books I have from the series (I also have the titles Bättre BASIC and Maskinkod och assembler). But today I made a breakthrough, I found a similar title archived at Internet Archive, Creepy computer games, and it had the listed the original titles of the two books I had: Computer Battlegames and Computer Spacegames. I guess I could have guessed those, the Swedish titles are just simple translations.

Book: Computer Battlegames. FOR C64, VIC20, APPLE, TRS80, ELECTRON, BBC, SPECTRUM & ZX81

Searching for those titles led me to the publisher’s website, where they actually have the titles available as PDFs for download. Oh, the joy! Comparing the editions, I see that they are a few minor changes, the English original has the ZX81 version as the base, whereas the Swedish one has the “PET” version as standard. The English version does have Commodore 64 versions of the programs, which the Swedish one doesn’t, perhaps it is a later edition. My copy of the Swedish edition of Battlegames does have an insert with some errata, and modifications of the games for Spectravideo SV-318 and SV-328 that the original does not have. I didn’t have that for the Spacegames book.

I never did try to convert the “graphic” programs from the VIC-20 version into Commodore 64. I will have to have a go at the version from the English on-line edition. I’ll try to feed the listing into bastext and see if I can get anything useful out of that.

Ah, the memories!