Also my lunar lander usually crashed

boutell went to a vintage computing shindig of some kind and met David H. Ahl. Ahl had a magazine called Creative Computing which I started reading in junior high school in 1977. That’s where I learned that eventually all the computers in the world would be hyperlinked (via Ted Nelson), that anyone could program a computer, and that computers were a hell of a lot of FUN.

I took the computer class in junior high, which meant that I was left in the computer room with a couple of other nerds and we messed around. If we wrote a program that did something, we got A’s. Otherwise we got B’s and were ignored.

We used a teletype hooked up by acoustic coupler to the school district’s PDP-10 minicomputer. There were very few things you could do on this system, which included: writing BASIC programs; playing Lunar Lander; playing chess; and playing Super Star Trek.

The last of these was an obsession. I wasted miles of the district’s newsprint chasing Klingons around. I wasn’t a fan of the TV show, so my friends had to explain to me what it all meant at first, but after that.. to the stars! Star Trek was on the system, which was fortunate because the paper tape roll for it was about three inches across and we were all scared to unfasten it and run it through the reader. We saved our own programs on the punched paper tape too.

Later on my friend Dan Coble got a Radio Shack home computer, the original one. For $500 he had a box that hooked up to his TV, had 4k of memory, and saved to cassette instead of paper tape. And from then the explosion happened.

Ahl’s magazine and books were a huge influence on me, mostly because I got the DIY bug and was comfortable with computers very early, before PCs. Creative Computing had ads for the kit computers like the Altair, and programs in basic, and news about the exciting world of older nerds who were doing cool stuff. And it was the games that got me hooked both on the computer experience and on programming. So I was delighted to see that to this day there is a port of Super Star Trek available so that I can chase Klingons around on my 1.67 GHz PowerPC laptop instead of the school district’s minicomputer and teletype.

4 thoughts on “Also my lunar lander usually crashed

    1. you feel cold air
      Yes, that was another classic from that time. I typed in Wumpus in its entirety in BASIC and played it often.

  1. Amazing. I never realized that the guy who did Creative Computing had the same initials as I do. Huh. I bet I’ve still got a few of those lying around my parent’s apartment…

  2. I wasted miles of the district’s newsprint chasing Klingons around.
    SIRS THAT IS A <a href=

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