Retrochallenge, Retrochallenge 2016/01

Retrochallenge 2016/01: Prologue

Aquarius_Space_Key
…the final frontier

Goal: Star Trek for the Aquarius

My Retrochallenge for 2016/01 is to correct an error in the space-time continuum and bring several versions of the not-as-ubiquitous-as-I’ve-been-led-to-believe classic Star Trek text game to the Mattel Electronics/Radofin Aquarius (a machine that can confidently claim to have been retro since inception). The target platform is an Aquarius with 16K RAM running Martin v.d. Steenoven’s BootLoader BASIC v2.1.

Todo:

  1. Port Mike Mayfield’s STTR1 (1972) from HP 2000 Time Share BASIC
  2. Port Leedom & Ahl’s Super Star Trek (1975) from Microsoft BASIC
  3. Modify Super Star Trek to take advantage of features of the Aquarius

Along the way I hope to learn more about the history of the game (something that had already passed me by before I got my Atari 400 in 1983) and more about the Aquarius (my first, though sorely neglected, retro-as-a-hobby computer).

The Star Trek Text Game

Through the late sixties, versions of Star Trek-themed computer games bubbled up in academic computer labs such as Carnegie Mellon and Berkley. However it was high school student Mike Mayfield’s 1972 version that would define the genre. Originally played on a teletype terminal connected to an SDS Sigma 7 computer, he later ported the program to HP2000C Time Shared BASIC  in exchange for computer time. From there it was distributed on HP’s official Contributed Software tape library (named as STTR1) exposing it to a much greater audience.

The game was re-implemented and extended on disparate platforms in the years before the micro computer revolution. One of which was David H. Ahl & Mary Cole’s SPACWR found in Ahl’s 101 BASIC Computer Games, a book printed in 1973-75 by Digital Equipment Corporation. Another was Robert C. Leedom’s Super Star Trek that, as publisher of Creative Computing, Ahl included in the magazine’s May-June 1975 issue. The program listing was reprinted in other books and magazine compendiums around 1978, just as micros were becoming easily accessible. Having been ported to Microsoft BASIC, Super Star Trek pollinated to most of the micro computers of the era since that flavor had become the de facto standard.

Once microcomputers became sophisticated enough to incorporate color graphics the game lost its appeal. Atari’s Star Raiders exemplifies this transition from text to video games. At its core, it’s still a Star Trek style game with a quadrant-style map and emphasis on resource management. But now included arcade sequences to settle the battles.

Unfortunately for the Mattel Aquarius, it entered the market after the wave of Star Trek games had come and gone. And lacked the graphical prowess to compete with other home computers.

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