A trip down 8-bit memory lane.

I’ve just started to sort out my computer, console,  emulator and rom collections (I’m planning to setup a master retro gaming PC this weekend) and was just thinking about all the old computers & consoles we owned and the  games we used to play way back when. First up are the 8-bits.

My earliest recollection of our first home console was a Binatone TV Master. I remember using the light gun to shoot the white block that bounced around the  TV screen. The two player ‘Pong’ was also a firm favorite.

binatone_tv-master-4-plus-2_2

Our second console was the Atari 2600 ‘woody’. We didn’t own that many games for it as I recall the cartridges they were very expensive at the time – about £45 .

‘Combat’ was my favorite game, mainly because it was an amalgamation of 20 odd games in one cartridge and kept me and my brothers happy all Saturday morning.

empirestrikesbackI remember, begging Santa for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ – I never got it 😦

Early 8-bit computers were becoming increasingly popular and thanks to a school friend’s parent’s, who owned a computer shop, I had almost unlimited access to them all. We used to spend every night after school and weekends at the shop and became so knowledgeable of the computers and games that we were often drafted in as salesmen. Our reward, free computer games !!

Our first ‘proper’ computer was a Commodore Plus 4.  I think my parents brought it based on the educational titles available, me I just wanted to shoot things!

This was the first computer I  dabble with programming BASIC.  I recall many hours hunched over the keyboard entering line by line of code…and then days hunting out Syntax errors. Me and my older brother used to take it in shifts to write text based adventure games that were popular at the time.

commodore_plus4Happy memories with my 1st Computer.

By the mid/late eighties, schoolyards would be segregated into three main groups depending on what computer you owned. These were the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC-464 and Commodore C64 groups – I was in the latter group.  On the release of a new game, heated debates would follow about  which system said game looked better on. To this day I’ll still  argue until the cows come home that the C64 was by far the best, although astetically the bread bin design was horrible and the keyboard wasn’t the best for typing.

commodore_c64_hr_2sWe recieved ours one Christmas morning, it wasn’t brand new but came with three huge boxes containing 100’s of game cassettes.

I remember having three paper rounds so I’d have enough pocket money to buy the latest release from Ocean or Imagine every Saturday morning.

Some of my favorite games were –

california_gamesCalifornian Games

blue_maxBlue Max

leaderboardLeaderboard (broke my space bar with this one)

bubble_bobbleBubble Bobble – Can’t get that tune outta my head.

arkanoidArkanoid – Brilliant !

As well as  an extensive range of software titles, I owned quite a few Action replay cartridges for peek/poking game cheats – I also used the infamous ‘DIY’ reset button method with a bent paper clip. One cartridge which was particularly fun was the Currah Speech synthesizer. It allowed me to incorporate speech into some the text adventure games…..and when, parents weren’t around, getting it to swear alot:-P

currah-speech-64

I think one of the most useful pieces of hardware I had for the C64 was a replacement datasette unit called a ‘Load It’. It was virtually identical to the Commodore tape desk but contained a thumbscrew and LED lights enabling you to tweak the tape heads to optimum read levels. As a result, it was like Christmas morning again with lots of games I could never get to work would now load perfectly.

I still own most of my C64 gear which is stored in my parents loft. I really must pop up one day and have a dig around. I’m sure my ‘custom’ Quickshot II joystick is still up there – I modified it to give myself a ‘competitive’ edge on joystick waggling sports games 😛

quickshot-ii

In the late eighties, Sega released the Sega Master System and at the time offered the best looking arcade quality coin-op conversions. I saved up enough money to buy the basic package which came with one game – Hang-On.

segaThe cartridges were so expensive and ranged from £50-£75 which was way out my price range. Fortunately, as the console became popular  to compete with Nintendo’s NES,  prices dropped enough for me to acquire a small selection. Trading in the schoolyards was the best way to gain new games and I remember getting three new titles for trading Outrun (which i regretted later).

Of the few titles I did own, my favorites were-

after-burnerAfterburner

enduro_racer_arcadeEnduro Racer

outrunOutrun – At the time, the best home conversion!

My older sister owned a Nintendo NES which, at the time, I didn’t think much to (this was before Mario III) Going back via emulation a few years ago shows how great this little box of tricks was. At one stage I was thinking about attempting the NES PC project –

nes-pcNES – PC http://www.lofi-gaming.org.uk/nespc/index.php

The only other 8-bit Nintendo systems I owned was a Nintedeo Gameboy. Both my younger brother and I received one each for Christmas in the early Nineties and played 2-up Tetris via the link cable. Beside Tetris, my other favorites were Double Dragon, Nintendo Golf and Mario Bros.

16-bit trip…. TBC

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2 responses to “A trip down 8-bit memory lane.

  1. Things just seemed so much more fun with these old machines. I think for me I like the fact that they were all completely different, so you were actually excited when something new came out. Now everything is standardized, so we get more done, but at what cost?

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