Retrochallenge, Retrochallenge 2016/01

Retrochallenge 2016/01: Post 1

(This is part one of the chronicle of my Retrochallenge 2016/01 submission, which is to port some classic Star Trek text games to the Mattel Aquarius. To jump to the beginning, go here.)

Let’s Play the HP Time Shared BASIC Version of STTR1

I recorded a “Let’s Play” video of an abbreviated session of STTR1, enough to exercise all of the commands at least once. This was very, very late night recording – my mental acuteness was the opposite of acute.

How/Where to Run the Original STTR1

In preparation for my Retrochallenge, I spent some time in December trying to learn about STTR1 and how to play the original game. Well, I assume the “original” original game, which ran on an SDS Sigma 7 computer is lost to us and now resides in bit heaven. But the HP Time Shared BASIC port survived because of its inclusion in HP’s User-Contributed Library and the success of the HP2000 Family. In the end, I found at least three options for playing the HP version of STTR1:

  1. Locate and restore (2) HP2000 Series computers. One unit is needed for multiplexing terminals and one to run Access/Time Shared BASIC. And don’t forget tape drives or paper tape readers. And the media (magnetic and/or paper tapes). So – this option is impossible.
  2. Download, compile, configure, and run the SimH simulator. If you haven’t heard of SimH, it is to minicomputers what MESS is to microcomputers – only difficult. I did, in fact, have success with this route after several weeks of trying and would like to document my setup and perhaps share some configuration files. But that is a lower priority at the moment. If I fail to document this, I did find everything I needed, (though not in any single, tidy package) at the HP2000 Yahoo Group but you’ll need to join the group to gain access to the necessary files.
  3. Telnet to an already-running instance of a simh simulator. There are two such machines available at the time of this writing due to the generosity of the HP2000 Yahoo Group members :
    mickey.publicvm.com
    hp2000.brighton.ac.uk

The “Too Long, Didn’t Watch” Version

So, assuming these machines are still listening when you read this, the telnet option is the most straight-forward way to try out STTR1.

To Launch STTR1:

  1. Launch a terminal, such as the classic ‘xterm‘, that won’t be confused by the HP’s strange End-of-Line characters.
  2. Do this:
    telnet mickey.publicvm.com or hp2000.brighton.ac.uk
    CTRL+m,CTRL+j
    HELLO-T001,HP2000,1
    GROUPS
    EXECUTE-*STTR1

For your convenience, the instructions for STTR1 have been pulled from the original source and reformatted in my previous post.

To Quit STTR1:

  1. Use Command 7,2
  2. Enter a long string at prompt for using the calculator. This causes a string overflow and breaks out of the program.
  3. BYE

These machines have many other early text games including 1975 version of Oregon Trail. When looking at the list of programs in the output of GROUPS, the programs with a “C” attribute are semi-compiled and may need to be started using the command EXE-*progname, otherwise you should be able to use EXE-progname.

Up Next

Due to incompatibilities between HP’s BASIC and the version of MS BASIC found on the Aquarius, I’m forced to climb into the head of a teenage programmer from 1972.

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Retrochallenge, Retrochallenge 2016/01

STTR1 Instructions

Overview

Here are the instructions for the 1972 Star Trek text game as found(*) in STTR1’s BASIC listing.

(*) Modified from strictly upper case

SYMBOL DESCRIPTION
<*> Enterprise
+++ Klingon
>!< Starbase
* Star

Command 0 = Warp Engine Control

‘Course’ is a  circular numerical vector arrangement as shown. Integer and real values may be used. Therefore course 1.5 is half way between 1 and 2.

    4     3     2
      \   ^   /
        \ ^ /
  5 ------------- 1
        / ^ \
      /   ^   \
    6     7     8

     C O U R S E

A vector of 9 is undefined, but values may approach 9.

One ‘warp factor’ is the size of one quadrant. Therefore to get from quadrant 6,5 to 5,5 you would use course 3, warp factor 1.


Command 1 = Short Range Sensor Scan

Prints the quadrant you are currently in, including stars, Klingons, starbases, and the Enterprise; along with other pertinate information.


Command 2 = Long Range Sensor Scan

Shows conditions in space for one quadrant on each side of the Enterprise in the middle of the scan. The scan is coded in the form XXX, where the units digit is the number of stars, the tens digit is the number of starbases, and the hundreds digit is the number of Klingons.


Command 3 = Phaser Control

Allows you to destroy the Klingons by hitting him with suitably large numbers of energy units to deplete his shield power. Keep in mind that when you shoot at him, he gonna do it to you too.


Command  4 = Photon Torpedo Control

Course is the same as used in Warp Engine Control. If you hit the Klingon, he is destroyed and cannot fire back at you. If you miss, he will shoot his phasers at you.

Note: The Library Computer (Command 7) has an option to compute torpedo trajectory for you (Option 2).


Command 5 = Shield Control

Defines number of energy units to be assigned to shields. Energy is taken from the total ship’s energy.


Command 6 = Damage Control Report

Gives state of repairs of all devices. A state of repair less than zero shows that the device is temporarily damaged.


Command 7 = Library Computer

The library computer contains the three options:

Option 0 = Cumulative Galactic Record

Shows computer memory of the results of all previous long range sensor scans.

Option 1 = Status Report

Shows number of Klingons, stardates, and starbases left.

Option 2 = Photon Torpedo Data

Gives trajectory and distance between the Enterprise and all Klingons in your quadrant.

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.