Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A few years ago I picked up a Commodore Vic-20 off of ebay for $20. Such was my first computer when I was 11, and I really programmed the snot out of mine. This one I planned to be Elias's first computer too. Every now and then we put the box on the floor and he takes all the components out and we talk about what they are.

The other day I decided to actually fire the thing up, which required one trip to Radio Shack for a part they don't make anymore that hooks to the inputs which aren't on TV's anymore. The guy at Radio Shack said the Vic-20 had been his first computer too, but then he got a Commodore 64, and those were his "gaming glory days." Whatever! Eventually I also got a C-64, but I seem to be the only guy who didn't just play games on these things, I did much much more programming.

On the Vic-20 I made a flight combat game, an Indiana Jones'-inspired multi-level game, and I got to where I could write a spaceship game in three (or was it four?) lines of BASIC on any Vic-20 on display at any mall. On the C-64 I learned assembly language and wrote the graphic engine for an Ultima-style game, but didn't write the game itself. I think I wrote a C-64 version of Jupiter Lander too, which had been a cool game on the Vic-20. But my ultimate project was installing a second sound chip in a C-64 and then writing a drum machine app with an assembly-language execution engine. Then I'd program in some Jesus and Mary Chain drums and play along with my electric guitar. I don't imagine anyone is possibly still reading this (least of all my wife), but if you are I hope it is now obvious just how cool I was as a teenager.

Anywho, it turned out that with a $1.99 part from Radio Shack we were in business. Except that as soon as I tried to plug it in, the connector broke, so I had to rummage around for a soldering iron, thus the crazy wires in this picture. The funniest thing was how Dahlia wanted to press the buttons too and watch what happened on the screen. She would bounce from one side of Elias to the other, trying to strain and get a few key pokes in. Elias figured out how to clear the Vic-20 screen off and put a number '5' right where he wanted it.

After the kids went to bed, I plugged in the Jupiter Lander cartridge. Check out that awesome high score! Okay I think this may be the most pathetic blog post I've written, although there's a lot of competition.

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