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Wednesday, July 21

Take a trip back...to the future.

From a comment in a post below, Saborlas reminded me that it's nice to remember the "classics." That brought back a slew of memories of great old games from the ancient times of computers. Well not the "ancient" times of the 60 or 70s (and way after the computer stone ages of the 40s, 50s - or the Jurassic Era of the late 1800s - sorry Charles Babbage), more likely the medieval times of the 80s.
Back then, B.I. (Before Internet) there was the ARPANET and Intra-nets. Huge computers taking up whole rooms with fantastic (and expensive) computing power adorned the basements of many Universities and businesses.
The majority of these had a "network" of slave or client terminals attached by very expensive cabling. At the ends of these cables were the precursors of today's P.C.s. They were the T.U.s or Terminal Units. Usually they were simply typewriters with computer electronics built in so you could connect with the main terminal or Master Control Unit which most times was a PDP-8 or 11 and later a VAX! Praise be to DEC!
Many of these were connected to other computers in other towns or parts of towns, other businesses and universities and even other states by telephone and the connection was made at the unheard of speed of 300 Baud!(Up from 110 Baud!) A 30K program took 30 to 45 minutes to download at that speed and 30K was a huge program!
Of course, the VAX was used for business and scientific calculations only! Woe unto any techie who used it for anything else. Right!
In the wee hours of the night when the bosses were sound asleep or out partying, the guys in the lab suits decided they needed a little distraction.
The VAX could handle more than a few tasks at once and if those weren't all busy, well, why not use that extra power to entertain oneself? And we did.
Tic Tac Toe was a staple but soon became tiresome. Some genius decided to create a world within the VAX complete with kings, serfs, castles, dragons and of course...war! Empire was born. Possibly the great grandaddy of today's RPGs. Maybe not the absolute first but maybe the most popular.
Playing then was somewhat different. A program was on the VAX and to access it from a T.U. you entered a password much as today, but the output was on paper!
The popular Unit at the time was the DEC LA 36 (Digital Equipment Corporation Dot Matrix Line Printer). It was a printer and Terminal Unit in one, capable of printing data at the aforementioned 300 baud. Superfast! /s
We would access the VAX and the "game" would print on "wide" greenbar paper. After reading the scenario, we would enter our reply, response or anything else we planned to do for world domination. Then hit "Return" and the data would be stored on the VAX to be read and answered by any other player. And so it went, back and forth until enemies were vanquished or the game had to be hidden! These iterations became quite extensive for the time and filled many sleepless hours while the VAX merrily plugged away running its other prescribed programs.
And since the game was password protected, the suits never got the idea, at least until some "white coats" turned traitor for cash or...favors! I think they became the Republicans of today!
Anyway, that got me thinking of the old games we played. Empire, Spacewars, Colossal Cave, Zork, Mech Warrior in addition to the later video games of Atari, Intellivision, Coleco, Commodore and Apple were just a few of the many of the day. There were LOTS!

So how many do you remember? And what were your favorites?

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