Monday, December 17, 2012

The Electric Eye

I was reading through old issues of the Dragon when I came across a regular column of the magazine originally written in 1980. "The Electric Eye" written by Mark Herro every month, focused on the nascent computer hobby market. This was the era of Vic 20, Commodore 64, TRS80, Apple IIe and each of these early computer systems would implement a version of BASIC.

It is truly a journey back in time to read "The Electric Eye" and read advice on putting money down to get a disk drive that costs $300 and that most home systems will come with 4K, 8K, 12K, 16K memory. A single image from any random google search will probably be 10x the size of the total memory available on the computer from 1980. The image to the right, for example, is 38K in size (nearly double the entire memory size of a Vic 20 computer).

Later columns actually have programs printed out on the magazines pages that a reader could type out in their own home system. These programs are small little utilities that can aid a player or game master with simple tasks, such as; keep track of monsters, generate random treasure, generate shops in a town, create a list of name, and similar routines.

One such program caught my eye, because it is very similar to the "Tunnel of Adventure" I implemented to find out what monsters and treasure would be found while tunneling through a set of rooms in Labyrinth Lord. Mark Herro wrote a wandering monster generator way, way back in 1980. And if you are looking to relive what computers were like in 1980, then you are in luck.

I had to rework Mark's original program to work with Applesoft Basic. I suspect his original version ran on Altair Basic which had slightly different syntax. But below is actual working BASIC programming language you can now run in your very own BASIC interpreter through the magic of the Internet.

Joshua Bell has written a Javascript version of BASIC to run in the browser. Simply copy and paste the code below and put it in the interpreter located here.

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