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The Almost Complete History of Retrogames
Demondriver03

You would be forgiven for skipping past this feature. Since the retrogames site first started there has been a Ďhistory of RGí section, and it has always been one of the lowest viewed pages. Unsurprisingly, it didnít really warrant copying into the new format site, but then I needed to find something to replace it. The answer? , a re-written history of Retrogames feature!

The history of Retrogames is really the history of me, Jason Moore, iím the guilty one. Itís me who built this site, me who writes the rants, me who doesnít update it often enough, and me who writes about me in the third person to make out itís not all about me. Confused? Well, let me take you back to where it all started. A cold Christmas in 1978.

My cousin had received a Tomy Demon Driver for Christmas, not only that, but as his parents were seperated, heíd also received a radio controlled camper van. I was green with envy, and predictably, only managed to snatch occasional moments playing it while the camper van received his attention. The less I could play the game, the more I wanted it. My affection for electronic games had begun.

The following year brought my first electronic game, the Mattel Gravity, then a Parker Merlin, MB Simon, leading to an MB Microvision, a machine I still cherish as the godfather of the Gameboy. One of the best early gaming experiences of the time was the arrival of a Binatone MK6 TV Game into the family home. My parents were amused with it for a while, but me and my Brother loved it. A few months later, me and my brother woke with amazement to find while we were sleeping a second hand black and white TV and the Binatone had been set up for us to keep in our room. Two player simultaneous gameplay had become a daily activity. Soon I had saved up for a better TV game, the Tandy TV Scoreboard, which included a driving paddle controller. In the end, I became so good at jumping the little motorbike on the ramps, I could still climb the levels even when the row of buses ended off of the screen.

Electronic gaming dominated my life until the early 1980s, iíd played on the Atari VCS at friendís houses, but had never even seen a computer until my teacher brought a ZX81 into school. We were encouraged to fiddle with it, and I quickly picked up how to write simple programs in basic.

I was desperate to obtain my own computer, but with no birthday or Christmas on the horizon, I had to work for my Dad every Saturday, earning just £3 per week. Months later, iíd saved just over £40, and excitedly discovered a ZX81 for sale in the local paper. After much parental ear bending I bought the computer. It didnít include a 16k ram-pack, but the seller said he had expanded the memory inside the machine from 1k to 3k. I thought this was great news, but after several days of typing in games from Sinclair programs magazine, I couldnít even get 1k games to enter properly.

Utterly frustrated, a friendís Dad, also into the ZX81, said he would take a look at it. He took it apart and did some checks on it, only to discover instead of 3k, the memory had been severely damaged, and it only had around a third of a K left.

I was devisitated, the computer was less than useless, and iíd worked so hard raising the money to buy it. Thankfully my parents, while not very well off, made things right again. The next day they went off to WHSmiths, and surprised me by bringing back a brand new ZX81. I was thrilled, even when I was told iíd still have to go back to work every Saturday to pay off how much it had cost. Five months later, I was back in the black, and could start saving for the Ram-Pack.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ZX81, both writing my own games, and spending hours on the available games from the likes of New Generation and Quicksilva. It was at the end of 1982 when I first saw the ZX Spectrum running

Binatone0202
Tandy102
Tandy202
zx8102

at a friends house. Even now, I canít believe how thrilled and excited I was by the first two games I saw, Derby Day and Jackpot by CRL. Both are very simplistic games written in basic, but I can still recall describing their amazing graphics to my family. Thankfully Christmas would bring me my own Spectrum 48k. It was a year of desperate Spectrum shortages, and after some hard selling from the sales assistant, my Mum narrowly avoided buying an Oric-1 instead. Phew! Those early to mid-eighties years were very exciting in terms of computers and gaming. I realise now I was actually really lucky to be around then. You canít compare the childhood playground battles of the Megadrive/Snes era to what we had. I had friends with Commodore 64s, Dragon 32s, BBCs, Atari computers and even a good friend with a Multitech MPF2 and games from Taiwan. While consoles like the Colecovision and Atari 7800 were in the shops, my interest in console gaming at that time had dwindled, but with one exception.

Vectrex03
Mpf20202

Above: The unusual Multitech MPF2 has two keyboards, one built into the main body of the machine, and one on a stretchy phone cable. Itís a cheaper version of the Apple 2, so thereís plenty of compatible software.

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The MB Vectrex (MB for us in the UK) had more in common with an arcade machine than a humble 8-bit computer back then. Iíll always remember, our local John Lewis department store in 1983, had a crowd of around thirty kids all desperate to play it. I could barely get close, just the occasional glimpse of Minestorm, and the amazing sound at full volume was enough to persuade me I needed one.

Unfortunately it was not my Birthday next, it was my Brotherís, and he too coveted the Vectrex. Thereís one thing worse than not having something you really want, and thatís when your brother has it, and he knows you want it, and he wonít even let you have a sniff!! He built up a large library of games, and became an expert at most of them. Eventually he tired of it, and in a weakened state I managed to strike a deal, swapping it for some pile of stuff he didnít even want, and a little bit of cash. That Vectrex is still in my collection today, complete with original box and vinyl carry case. It still gives me that rush of excitement when I turn it on.

The mid eighties though were dominated with the Spectrum, I hoarded games. Like many school boy gamers back then, I traded games with friends, copied them onto tapes, created huge game compilations on TDK SA90s. A network of Spectrum gamers spread across my town, set off on your bike in the afternoon, swap games with friends at the doorstep and come home with a whole stash of new things to play. The local games shop became a meeting place for avid players. Itís easy to forget, but back then there were no release dates to look forward to. Magically new games would just appear in the games shop. Crash may have reviewed a title months before it made it into the shops, or even not review it until months after youíd already bought it. Today youíd think that was a messy way for the games industry to do business, but it made every visit to the game shop special, and an almost daily event.

 
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