My First Computer – A Trip Down Memory Lane

I’ve owned a computer since I was nine years old. That means that I’ve owned computers for… a lot a years. Anyhow, the first computer that I cajoled my lower middle class income parents to buy me at an enormous expense to them was the Coleco Adam. This computer was by far one of the least successful home computers of the early 80’s era.

The Adam was a souped up Colecovision. Since home computers of the 80’s were basically the same hardware as video game consoles with more memory and writable storage media, companies like Coleco and Atari went full balls into the expanding PC marketplace without any hesitation. As we are well aware today, this didn’t work out so well, but while it was going on kids like me got to play with souped up video game systems that you could program.

I remember the day that I got my Adam. I was in the third grade, I came home from school, walked into my room and there on the floor was a huge box with all the awesome Coleco styling that said “ADAM COMPUTER.” I was so freaking excited, this thing came with a CPU that had a tape drive and could play Colecovision carts, a giant printer that was actually a computerized typewriter, a keyboard, and two of the weird Coleco joysticks that had keypads on them.

If you wanted to write any programs you had to boot the basic interpreter with the basic tape that came with the system. This was one of three software titles that I had for my Adam, the other two were Buck Rogers and the planet of Zoom, and Dragons Lair. Not a lot of software, lucky for me the typewriter style printer was as loud as a machine gun to make up for the lack of software.

In addition to all the other features, the Adam computer was humongous and required a desk all its own. My parents sprung for this desk and I used it all the way through high school, so I guess they got their money’s worth. I super wish I had a photo to share of this Adam setup, you kids would not believe the scale of this thing.

While it wasn’t the best or the brightest computer ever, it was MY computer and so I loved it. I learned my first programming concepts on it, I played awesome games, I imagined the future with that Adam. I feel like we (me included), take the miracles of the information age for granted at this point. I mean I say and think things like: “This high definition video is taking way too long to download/play on my phone.” At times when I have these twenty-first century problems that at one point I used to wait for like five minutes while basic booted up so I could write a program that asked me for my name and then output the text string: How are you today Gabe?

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Game of the Week: Moria – Best Graphics Ever

Moria, it’s not pretty, but depth… it has depth. You know how you’re mommy told you that you don’t have to be the best looking kid at prom because you’re special? My mom didn’t say that either, but if I was Moria she would have. Moria is special.

Moria is special because it’s deep, way deep, not deep like graphics simulations that simulate the physics of leaves blowing in the wind, but it’s deep like a good book… No, scratch that, a GREAT book.

Moria is an RPG, to be exact it’s a dungeon crawler. I consider dungeon crawlers to be RPG games because you play a character that has stats and fight things and collect treasure and need to eat… Moria has a lot of options, and because it was created in the early 80’s for Unix systems it’s for text game nerds like me.

See, I like a good text game or a game where you and everything else is represented by primitive squares, because this creates the best graphics of all… The graphics of the imagination. And my imagination has way better graphics than any NVIDIA chipset can simulate because, well, it’s my imagination. And I bet your imagination is pretty good too.

That’s why I picked Moria as the Sunday game of the week, because it sparks the imagination and so has the best graphics available that use the same chipset you use when you read a book, your brain.

Maybe this game isn’t for everyone, to be honest the first time I played this game was back in the early 90’s when the Internet was fresh and new and mine was a command line through a service called Netcom. This is one of the first games I ever downloaded on the Internet. The description said it was an adventure RPG with endless dungeons. I was imagining some sort of Doomlike game with 90’s graphics and 3D stuff and all that. I should have realized that the limited bandwidth that allowed for game downloads would not accommodate anything with graphics (my computer had a 117 Mb (Megabyte) hard drive and I was using a 14.4 modem.

I was a touch disappointed when I booted Moria up and all I got was some lines of text. But as I read the lines of text I realized that this was basically D&D in a text based world, and being a huge fan of the Ultima series, I gave this ugly duckling a go. Needless to say I love the game to this day and you probably will too if you give it a chance. Do I sound like your mom on prom night talking about the date you didn’t want to go with, but were forced to because he/she was the son/daughter of your dad’s boss? I have a wild imagination and that’s why Moria has the best graphics ever.

Get Moria

The Oregon Trail Hand held

The Oregon Trail was as much of a pioneer in computer game history as the American pioneers that it seeks to simulate. Back in 1986 when I convinced my parents to go into debt to buy me a Commodore 64, one of the selling points I used was that the computer came with an educational game. That game was MECC Expeditions, and in that collection of  educational games was Oregon Trail. I played the crap out of it as a kid, but since I’m a Gen X’er and not a late Millennial, I never played the more full featured version that has recently been released as a relatively low cost handheld and is exclusively available at Target Stores.

That for sure didn’t stop me from buying one the very moment I discovered it in the Target toy section on a routine mission to buy deodorant–Target has cheap deodorant.  As soon as I saw this thing there on the shelf I grabbed it without a thought as to how much it might cost, and as I was hurtling toward the self checkout I calculated that as long as it was priced below say $50, I would purchase it.

Turns out it was a downright affordable $25! and I don’t regret the purchase at all, not one bit, it was worth every penny. Now I realize I must sound like a shill for Target with all this gushing moisture I’m dripping about this little toy, but I’ve honestly been waiting for someone to make something like this for years and I actually check the toy shelves at places like Target to see what the handheld situation is a few times a year. This year was a jackpot!

Like I said, I have been waiting for someone to make something like this for a while. A single game handheld that’s payable, color, adventure or rpg oriented, and easy for me to buy. Oregon Trail handheld fits the bill finally!

It’s a good little game. It plays well, you can save, you can turn down or off the sound, and it’s in full color. I’m getting a little older (Gen X), so the type is just a little too small for me but let’s be honest, that is a very “small” problem… get it? I crack myself up.

I’m sure the hardware hacking community is going to have a field day with this thing and hack the @#$% out of it. In fact I’ve already watched a Youtube video where a guy named Ben Heck takes it apart and puts it into a smaller box–he also hacks it by reading and writing to the eeprom. Personally I like the slightly bulky retro inspired box they put it in (the on switch is supposed to look like a floppy disk).

In conclusion, this Oregon Trail handheld is totally awesome. If you like crap like this you should go and buy it. Perhaps if this thing is a hit it will encourage more devices like it–I’d love to see an Ultima IV handheld (C64 version) … Did you hear that Target?