The last quarter. That time of the year when I normally feel nostalgic, and when I tend to revisit what I have accomplished during the year that is ending.
The reason for feeling nostalgia is quite simple: my birthday is coming (and another year is going to be added to my age), the end of the year is also coming at steady speed, a list of new purposes and wishes for 2016 is being prepared…, sum all things together and you will realise that is almost impossible not to feel slightly blue. Just slightly, not big drama, actually.
This year, however, I decided to do something fun to partially remove my “grief”.
I started to think. What I was doing 25-30 years ago? How I was spending my time when I was a kid?
One of the things I was doing for sure was playing video games, but which ones?
Can I find them nowadays? Can I play them nowadays? I started my quest stirring every single corner of my memory.
And this is what I remember:
Like all the childs from the late 70s and 80s, I started playing portable games like the ones displayed in the following photo:
I remember playing those small machines on the street, surrounded with friends.
Playing then was a social thing, we wore our portable games to a public street, we sat on the landings of any stairway, and shared out little devices with other kids, so all of us, the whole neighborhood ended playing all the available games. Such is my case.
The photo was obtained in a retro game exhibition that was being hold in Matadero Madrid some years ago, and I know for certain that I have played all the games above, but I remember with particular affection “Popeye” (it used cleverly mirrors to add deep to the graphics) and “Don King Kong II”.
So my first video games were those portable machines. We called them “maquinitas” back those days.
Later, my father bought us a ZX Spectrum 48k, and that was a totally different history. Te games that I remember more vivid on the ZX are:
Turbo Esprit: Turbo Esprit was the first game I played on the Spectrum.
My first contact with the tiny personal computer as an entertainment platform.
Turbo Espirit was a driving game, one where the city felt actually real. It was an amazing game for me, and I cannot remember the amount of hours I spent on board of that Lotus car, but certainly were far too many hours spent there.
It was, for me, almost like driving at the age of ten: felt amazing and taught me how to read a map, and also taught me than, in other countries, they drove on the left side.
It was one of my favourite games and I really enjoyed.
Almost at the same time I remember we played Jet Pack, a game where an astronaut had to rebuild his rocket so he can return back to home.
It was nice, but not as much as Turbo Esprit, and definitively not as much as the following two: Saboteur and Saboteur II
Those Saboteur games were awesome. In the games you played the role of an spy dressed in ninja customs. I really loved them, mostly because the ambient they were able to create with the dogs, the guards, the explosives and even an helicopter. Clearly ahead of its time. Is amazing to realise that they achieved all that using only the tiny 48k of memory that came with the computer.
More games that I remember playing myself on the Spectrum were: Head over Heels, Match Day II, Cauldron II, Bruce Lee, Commando, Decathlon, Enduro Racer, Exploding Fist, Game Over, Hyper Sports, International Karate +, and so on.
What has been a surprise for me when doing this exercise of memory, is that there is a really interesting history to be told here. The history of young programmers, in Europe, that embraced a new media (personal computers) and started to create something from scratch. They were basically self taught. They were “the 8 bits magicians”
Names like Jon Ritman, Chris Stamper and many, many others.
You can watch their history here: From bedroom to billions
Speaking about myself, lately an Amstrad PC1512 arrived to my life, so I moved to the 16 bits territory, but that is a history for another post.