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A page about GWBASIC Games & Other Programs


Back in the 1980s when personal computers were really getting started, it wasn't the Big Two, Microsoft and Mac; there was a whole slew of personal computers being marketed--IBM, Apple, Texas Instruments, Commodore, Atari, etc.--and each one had its own dialect of BASIC.  Yes, back then these early computers all came with the BASIC programming language built-in or as an add-on. Over time BASIC became less important as the average user tended to run, rather than write, programs--and as programmers increasingly moved to more sophisticated languages.

GWBASIC is the successor to IBM's BASICA.  The original IBM PC shipped with three versions of BASIC: Cassette, Disk, and Advanced (aka BASICA).  Cassette BASIC came on the computer ROM, so if you turned on the machine with no disk in the drive (yes, the OS ran from floppy), you got the version that accessed data from cassettes instead of disk.  Advanced BASIC included more commands than Disk BASIC, including PLAY [music] and [draw] CIRCLE.  These versions of BASIC were dependent on the IBM PC ROM, so they won't work on modern computers.  GWBASIC is free of that limitation, and will run on most any DOS or Windows machine, or in DOSBox on a Linux machine.

KindlyRat has some great GWBASIC resources available on his site.  Below is a collection of games and other programs written in BASICA that also run on GWBASIC.  Some are programs I wrote myself; a whole bunch are type-in programs from David Ahl's Basic Computer Games series of books, and a few are from other sources.  Enjoy!

As far as I know, there are no copyright issues involved with using any of these programs.  Of course mine are available to any and all, free of charge.  Just don't try to take credit for them. ;-)  Several from the Basic Computer Games series do have some modifications, as the books themselves suggested people do.  Some of the changes I made were to correct typos and grammatical errors (e.g., to change "You have been over run" to "You have been overrun" in line 1960 of Dukedom).  Many of them won't accept "y" or "n" as an answer, and instead require you to type "YES" or "NO"; I thought that was stupid and made them accept "y" for Yes and assume a No if you hit Enter without typing a response.  And I typed some in mixed case instead of the all-uppercase of the first two books.  I also seem to recall adding a few changes to make some of them more realistic and/or less predictable.

If you're unfamiliar with GWBASIC, here are the basics (har):
  • Download GWBASIC and the program(s) you want (or all of them), and unzip them to a folder on your hard drive.
  • Windows: Double-click on GWBASIC.exe to open the interpreter.
     Linux: Run GWBASIC in DOSBox to open the interpreter.
  • Press F3 or type load" (with the quotation mark), followed by the name of the file you want to run (you can leave off the .bas extension and end quote), and hit Enter.
  • Press F2, or type run and hit Enter.
  • To change directories, type chdir" followed by the directory name, and press Enter (again, you can leave off the end quote).
  • To see what files are in the current location (equivalent of dir /w or ls), enter files.
  • To quit a program you can press Ctrl-C, but Ctrl-Scroll Lock is more effective.
  • To clear the screen at any time, enter cls.
  • When you're all done, enter system to close the interpreter.
  (Note: GWBASIC commands are not case-sensitive.)

Download GWBASIC (60kb)

Bypass the individual downloads and download all the programs at once (1.75mb)

 Programs I Created
  • Map of your territory (and the surrounding fiefs) in ''Manor'' Manor (1986) - This is probably my magnum opus of BASIC programs.  It's a land-management game, inspired by Dukedom but supposed to be much more historically accurate.  Looking back on it I realize I got some things wrong and should have done some more serious research on medieval England--but all things considered, I think I did fairly well.  You play the role of an earl in 14th-century England, surrounded by fiefs of varying power.  Each of your neighbors holds a different rank of nobility, with corresponding size and power: the baron is the smallest and weakest, the viscount's less so, the earl is about your strength, the marquis is stronger, and the duke is biggest and baddest of them all.  The game has a rating system that I never did succeed in tweaking to my satisfaction--but it does work, and one of the things I really liked was that you get more points for taking land from a stronger rival.  Also keep in mind that when you take land from an opponent, it makes them a bit more likely to take up arms against you in the future (in proportion to the amount of land taken).  Likewise when someone's taken land from you, they're more tempted to come back later for seconds.  Oh, and you will eventually die of old age, so no immortality in this game.
          I should offer some pointers on playing the game.  At 12 acres/person, a group (Peasants, Serfs, Nobles) achieves some real self-sufficiency.  They can plant plenty of grain for themselves, and leave enough fallow for their land to improve slowly.  Too little land (under 8/person or so, I think) and in an effort to feed their families, they will leave too little fallow, and the land's fertility deteriorates.  Unfortunately you can't always achieve this throughout your manor without conquest or massive population depletion, and if you do manage it, your population tends to increase due to the availability of food, so ample land is a temporary thing.  If you can gather at least 100 or so acres in your demesne (personal estate), you can support yourself without taxing your Peasants or Nobles at all, which makes them happy and improves their health, all things being equal.  (This is one of the few areas where the game isn't very well balanced; I probably should have corrected this oversight.)  If you get a message saying that a group is malnourished but you aren't offered the chance to feed them (and you have grain available), that means the malnourishment is minimal.  If either the Peasants or Serfs decide to rise up against you, the other group will rise up as well, even if it's quite happy.  The Nobles will band together to protect you, though, unless they're very upset with you.  When you're about to go to war, if the Nobles complain there aren't enough Peasants, they will fight less well (this makes it less effective to just knight all your Peasants).  If you're invaded, you're asked whether to retreat to the castle.  Holing up in the castle improves the chances of winning, but reduces the amount of your opponent's land you can take if you win.  Also, should you incur debts, you will pay interest on them.
          One issue you're likely to run into if you play for a while is that the game seems to hang sometimes right after a war.  It probably hasn't, in fact.  Following a war, the game updates the map to reflect the change in land ownership (X conquered N acres from Y).  It uses, I think, a fairly inefficient method--selecting a square at random, checking to see if that square is on the border between the two manors, and if so, changing its ownership.  This was a simple way to ensure that it would work anywhere on the map, even if the borders got pretty distorted, and it avoided making changes starting from the top right or some other recognizable pattern.  The trouble is that it can sometimes take a while to find a square that's along the border.  It also happens in rare cases that two formerly neighboring manors have lost their common border, so it won't be able to find qualifying squares in any case.  Similarly, there's a rare bug that I never did track down, where one manor will attack another that it never has bordered: the Baron (on the left) attacking the Earl (on the right), for instance.  To make sure the game does move on at some point, I added a timer that will eventually make it stop looking for squares and proceed with the game; it times out after a minute or two, I think.  (Unfortunately I think there are also some rare instances where this part of the game really does hang, but I've never been able to verify it.)
  • QuadrantQuadrant (1984) - An old-style text Star Trek game: destroy all the Klingons before they take over the Federation.  This game was heavily influenced by Video Trek 88, Super Star Trek, Apple Trek, and--especially for things like the menu options--Seabattle, oddly enough.  When asked for number of Starbases and Klingons, hit Enter for a random number.  Coordinates in the game are given as y,x rather than x,y (a misunderstanding on my part when I first wrote the game--when I realized I had them backward, it would have been a real pain to correct it).  Your Warp and Impulse engines can each be used to travel either within or between quadrants--it's just that Warp is awkward within quadrants, and Impulse is very slow between them.  Higher speeds use more power but take less time.  Higher shield strengths give you better protection but consume much more power.  Also, the Klingons are somewhat more powerful than they tended to be in other text-based Trek games; in particular, they also fire torpedoes (something Quadrant shares with Apple Trek).
  • Struggle for the Continent (1991) - A Risk-like game for 2 or more players.  This is meant to simulate World War I, more or less.  Different countries' armies have different combat strengths; the strongest are German and Swiss, the weakest Russian.  Also, each country has a maximum number of troops that it can mobilize--once you've reached your max, you'd better hope your opponent is almost out or that your allies still have some left.  Of course, there's always the possibility of drawing neutrals into the war.  The map is based on the 1914 borders, and on the battle lines that were drawn as troops advanced and retreated.  Unfortunately the graphics available in GWBASIC are crude, so the map can be very difficult to make out.  To help with that, I've included a scanned copy of the map I used when I originally designed this as a board game.  Also, the directions that the arrow keys move you don't always seem to make sense: there were times when, say, there were four places you could go to the north, and there are only three keys at the top of the keypad, so I had to make do.  So you may find there are times when pushing the right arrow actually moves you northeast, and so forth.
  • An Aspect of Statistics An Aspect of Statistics (ca. 1987-88) - I took a semester of statistics in college--the only math class I've actively enjoyed, largely because it felt like something I could really use.  And indeed I did: I used it to write this program.  You input binomial data (x,y) and it will tell you the mean, median, standard deviation, the formula for the best-fitting line, and will even draw a crude scatter diagram showing the best-fitting line.  For those not familiar with statistics, the best-fitting line gives you some predictive power; assuming your data forms something like a line, you can use this equation to get an idea what to expect y to be, given x.  For instance, you could chart gas prices over time and use the best-fitting line to estimate what the price will be a year from now.  In grad school, one of my more self-absorbed professors (not to mention any names) wrote in his comments on one of my papers, "Learn some statistics!"--which was ironic, considering the scatter diagrams in my paper had been generated by this statistics program I wrote.  Harrumph.
  • Flashcards (1991) - As the name suggests, a program that does flash cards.  It lets you enter questions and answers, and save them to disk, then use the program to quiz yourself.  This helped get me through some of my college finals.
  • ''Trek'' Trek (mid-1980s) - An adaptation of FASA's Star Trek III Starship Combat Role Playing Game, but done on a square instead of a hex grid.  This is a turn-based ship-to-ship combat sim.  FASA's system allows any number of ships to interact, though to make it (much) simpler to program, my implementation is limited to one-on-one combat.  Every three turns you allocate your available power to movement, weapons, and shields (Press * to set a shield to full power).  Different ships have more or less efficient shields and movement ratios, more or less accurate beam weapons, and more or less accurate and powerful torpedoes.  You can fly Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Gorn, Orion, and even Tholian ships.  You can also input your own vessel.  This was a big hit on my dorm floor in 1988, 'till the guys found better games to play--like Macintosh Risk.
          The Tholian ship was my invention; I created it based on what little was known about Tholians back then.  I originally called its beam weapon the "Easer", which was supposed to mean an energy beam comparable to phasers, but I should have thought of a less dopey name for it.  In April 2009, I stumbled on an unofficial (but apparently well-developed) site, Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator, dedicated to maintaining and expanding the old FASA game.  I see the folks there have given the Tholians' beam weapon a name: Phaser.  Unexciting, I suppose, but that's as close to official as I've seen anywhere on the Web, so I've updated this game to reflect the new name.
          Incidentally, if you're interested in seeing how the original form of this game works, I've digitized my copy of the original manual.
          Here's a downloadable copy.
  • ''Farkle'' Farkle (1997) - This is an implentation of an old dice game that we used to play with my grandfather, Olley Cote, at least as far back as the 1970s.  (It's apparently an old folk game which has since been marketed commercially.)  This was a family favorite for years, then after his death people stopped playing it, and I later had to reconstruct the rules from memory.  Here are the basics: you roll six dice and look for ones that are worth points.  A 1 is worth 100; a 5 is worth 50; a combination of three is worth a hundred times the number: so three fours are worth 400 points, etc.  Three ones, however, are worth 1000, and a roll of 12345 is worth 1500 points.  You set aside the dice you want to keep and can roll again to collect more points--of course, if at any time your roll isn't worth anything, you've "farkled" and get nothing.  Also, you have to pull out at least one die per roll, so you can never roll more than five times per turn.  The goal is to be the first to reach 5000 points, and you need 500 points in one hand in order to get on the board.  Until you get on the board, your scores don't count; so even if you roll 450, you get nothing for that turn if you're not on the board yet.  I've always felt that was excessive--when I'm playing the game in real life I tend to ignore the requirement to get on the board.  Unfortunately though, I didn't write that option into the game and now it's more trouble than it's worth to go back and add it.

 Programs From Other Sources
  • Periodic Table Elements - Periodic Table of the Elements (by a friend in high school, Rodney Elin).  He wrote it for the Apple II+, which had a 40-character display, so his table was displayed sideways.  Adapting it to the IBM PC, which had an 80-character display, I was able to put it right-side up.  It's quite a bit out of date: we're up to 118 elements, and all those through 111 have names now.  Also when I wrote this, the names of elements 104 and 105 weren't yet firmly established; the US and USSR each had a different preferred name for each, and I chose the Soviet name for 104 and the American one for 105.  Looks now like they're both wrong.  A good source for more information on the current Periodic Table is WebElements.  Also (and embarrassingly now), the comments for each element is taken from an old old Star Trek fan book, possibly The Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual.
  • Launch (ca. 1984-85) - Design a rocket and launch it into orbit.  I typed this in from a computer magazine that a friend lent me.  Strangely, but probably for simplicity, it doesn't have you actually establish an orbit, which would require getting enough horizontal speed to balance the pull of gravity.  Instead it just assumes that once you reach 400 miles up (about twice the height of the ISS today), you're in orbit.  The physics in the game are algebra-based (physics is usually calculus-based), but didn't work--possibly it was written for a different dialect of BASIC, or maybe I goofed big-time when typing them in.  However, as it happened, in Fall 1987 I took a course in introductory algebra-based physics, and used what I learned to rewrite the calculations, so the game works now.  But if you're interested in doing more than just launching a rocket, you might want to check out Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space.
  • The Devil's Dungeon (mid 1980s) - Typed in from a copy of Stimulating Simulations by C.W. Engel).  The book came in different flavors for different types of computers; the one I used was for the Apple, which seems a little hard to find today.  Here's a link to the Commodore 64 version and one to a text copy of the Vic version (remember the Vic20?), or you can download a PDF of the Atari version directly from here.
          According to the game intro: The Devil's Dungeon
     
          For many years now you have heard rumors of large quantities of gold hidden in a maze of caves whose connecting passageways lead deep beneath the earth of an occasionally active volcano.  The stories tell of monsters and demons who roam through the caves, poisonous gas, tremors from the volcano, and one man who returned from these perils alive and named the caves The Devil's Dungeon.
          After much searching, you have located the wealthy, solitary man who survived a journey through the dungeon; and he has agreed to see you.  Although now very old and in poor health, he tells you everything he can remember about the dungeon.
     
          Briefly, you have two attributes, speed and strength.  You need both to defeat monsters, or just speed to run from them.  Whenever to move from room to room, you lose 1 point of speed and strength per dungeon level (2 of each at level 2, etc.).  You'll gain experience with time, which you can trade for speed and strength in room #1 at any dungeon level.  Also in room #1 you can escape the dungeon.  Many rooms have dropoffs which you can take to the next level down, and you can use the magic wand you carry to create dropoffs.  Poisonous gas will sap your strength, while demons will reduce your speed and steal some of your gold.  It's recommended to map the dungeon level you're on, though tremors can block passageways and open others.  Read the game's entry in the book (in the Atari version, p. 89-91, or 99-101 in the PDF) for details.
     
     In Room #1 Trade experience for strength & speed 0
     End your adventure99
     In any other room  Move to another roomRoom #
     Fight monster0
     Use a dropoff any negative # 
     Use your magic wand99
     In any room List rooms visited88

 From the Basic Computer Games Series
 Basic Computer Games (1978)  (Download as PDF)
  • Civil War Civil War (1968) - A US Civil War simulator.  Pretty standard fare for back then--all you hardcore tactical gamers, don't get excited.  You select a battle to fight, and choose one of four very basic strategies for a battle:
      1 Artillery Attack
      2 Frontal Attack / fortification against same
      3 Flanking Maneuvers / fortification against same
      4 Encirclement / Falling Back
    Then you dedicate resources to it, and hope you made the right decisions.  For one or two players (single-player always plays the Confederacy).
  • Fur Trader - The book says it best: "You are the leader of a French fur trading expedition in 1776 leaving the Ontario area to sell furs and get supplies for the next year.  You have a choice of three forts at which you may trade.  The cost of supplies and the amount you receive for your furs will depend upon the fort you choose.  You also specify what types of furs that you want to trade."  It's a very simple simulation: basically you choose the fort you want to choose at, the numbers of different types of pelts, and the game rolls dice to determine what happens; there isn't much skill or planning involved.
    • An interesting bit of historical accuracy to this is that the Iroquois were traditionally the implacable enemies of the French, from the early days of Québec--since the French had sided with their arch-enemy, the Huron.  You can certainly see why a French trading party would be in peril crossing Iroquois country.
  • Lunar - One of three lunar landing simulators featured in the book.
  • Poker - Play draw poker against the computer.  To fold, bet 0.  To check, bet .5.
  • Stock Market - Play the stock market.  Enter a positive number to buy, a negative number to sell, or 0 to do no trading. Stock Market
  • Super Star Trek (1972-3) - This is a classic old-school Star Trek game.  The original Star Trek games involved an 8x8 galaxy grid; the object of the game is to destroy all the Klingon Battle Cruisers before they overrun the Federation.  This type of game first appeared in the late '60s on university mainframes.  Some of the really early ones didn't even display on a screen--the computer printed it out on paper!  A vestige of that is the line in the introduction that tells you to turn on the TTY (Teletype machine).  Note that commands have to be typed in ALL CAPS.  The symbols in the game are:
    <*> The Enterprise   +K+ Klingon Ship   >!< Starbase   * Star     (Wikipedia article)
  • Super Star Trek
 More Basic Computer Games (1979)  (Download as PDF)
  • Man-Eating Rabbit - Of course I had to try this one out.  It's apparently a Monty Python reference (remember the Cave of Caerbannog?)--though I never made the connection.  Thanks Christopher for pointing it out!
    "In this game you are in a pit with a man-eating rabbit.  The center of the pit, appropriately enough, is at 0,0 and it has a radius of 10.  On each move, you can move in any one of eight different angles, 0, 45, 90, 135, etc.  Unlike you, the rabbit can take more than one hop on a move.  The object of the game is to avoid the rabbit for ten moves.  If you do this successfully you'll be released and set free.  We're not sure what race of people on what planet dreamed up this diabolical sport, but we've found that it's extremely difficult to get away from the rabbit in more than about one out of ten games.  You may, therefore, want to improve the odds somewhat by limiting the number of moves the rabbit can make on each turn to one or two."
  • Pinball - A text-based pinball game.  Why not?
  • Seabattle Seabattle - An excellent old-style game, on a par with Super Star Trek.  You pilot a submarine in an area filled with enemy ships and sea monsters.  Destroy all the enemy ships without being sunk by a ship, eaten by a sea monster, or running into a mine.  You can destroy ships with torpedoes, Polaris missiles, or by sabotage (sending scuba divers to attach explosives to the ships' hulls).  Sea monsters are harmed only by missiles.  I eventually got good at the game and found it too easy, so I added a Skill Level that increases or decreases the number of enemy ships.  Decimals (e.g., .5, .8, 1.2, 1.5, etc.) are fine.  To play the game as originally written, use Skill Level 1.  The symbols are:
    (X) You   \S/ Enemy Ship   -#- Sea Monster   $ Mine   * Land   !H! Your Headquarters   · Sonar malfunction, or waves if above 50'
  • Twonky (1977) - "The computer will set up a 15x15 playing field in which you are randomly located.  Also inside the field is an objective square, 30 blocked squares (walls), 22 relocation squares, and 1 super special new maze square, and, of course, the Twonky (which is no relation to a creme-filled cupcake).  To win a game, you must reach the objective square before the Twonky gets you, by moving one square at a time, forward, backward, right or left.  Unfortunately, you are hindered by several things:
    RELOCATION squares, when moved on, cause you to be randomly transported to another position in the maze.
    WALLS; you can't move into these squares, and lose your turn when you hit one.
    SUPER-MAZE SQUARE; essentially an instant loss, since when you move here a completely new maze is set up.
    TWONKY; after every move, the Twonky moves toward you.  (He is impervious to all traps, even walls.)  When he gets too close to you (2 or fewer squares), you lose.  However, you are equipped with a de-materializing ray gun.  You have the option of using this on your turn.  If you hit the Twonky he de-materializes and then re-materializes on a different square of the maze to resume his quest after you....  When shooting at the Twonky, you do not have a shot if the distance he is from you is not an integer."
  • A squashed dodecahedron Wumpus (1972) - Written by a guy who tired of the standard 10x10 grid that other games of the time were based on.  Get the Wumpus before it gets you, in a cave shaped like a squashed dodecahedron filled with pits and bats, armed with a crooked arrow that can turn corners.  This one has become a classic and seems to have a bit of a cult following.  (Wikipedia article)
     The Wumpus
 Big Computer Games (1984)  (Download as PDF)
  • Dukedom Dukedom (1974-1980) - A much more involved land-management simulation than Hammurabi, set in a fantasy medieval kingdom.  You're one of a number of Dukes under the High King.  The goal is to survive whatever life throws at you, and eventually defeat the High King and take his throne.  Measurements are in metric, which feels incongruous for a medieval game, but realistically, modern English measurements aren't really period either.  When you decide how much to feed your people, 14HL per person will adequately feed everyone; 13HL will cause some hunger and weaken your people, and 12HL or below will cause some starvation.  (Numbers of 100 or above are assumed to mean total grain to the people instead of per person.)  Leave some land unplanted to let it recover its fertility.  The High King will try to antagonize you into fighting if you conquer a rival dukedom.  Always try to hire lots of mercenaries for war.  The manual has a Historical Waiver blurb, which actually misses most of the game's historical inaccuracies--there were so many that I chose to write my own medieval land-management game (see Manor above).  It's also too easy once you figure out the key to winning the game; still, it can be fun to play now and then.
  • Star Merchant Star Merchant (1981) - It's the 29th century, and mankind has spread to nine other solar systems.  Travel from star to star, buying and selling goods to turn a profit.  Your operating costs include crew salary; as you become more successful your crew will go on strike and you have to negotiate a new, higher, pay rate.  I've found the game is fun and playable for a long time with luck and skill, but crew payment demands will eventually put you out of business, since your cargo capacities, and the prices of goods, are limited.  Oddly, the book says that the game was recently changed to add a two-player option.  It also says that there are pirates in interstellar space that can "exploit a loophole in the law of relativity", slipping onboard and stealing all your cargo in the blink of an eye--and that before leaving starport you'll be asked if you want to buy piracy insurance.  Neither the pirates nor multiplayer occurs in this game, so I imagine what was published in the book was the pre-update version.  Personally I'm glad--I like the game without the space pirates.
  • Monster Combat (1981) - "a game in which you wander around a forest and encounter various monsters.  Your objective is to win as much treasure from each encounter as possible and, of course, not get killed in the process."  You're placed randomly in a forest ten squares in size, each square split into 10x10.  Symbols are: T Tree   - Path   I Wall   ^ Inn   M Enchanted Castle   0 You
    Monster Combat
    Enchanted castles "usually contain items of great value".  Inns allow you to recover your strength; of course, you have to pay to stay at an inn.  The monsters you can encounter, in order of difficulty, are: Goblin, Minotaur, Cyclops, Zombie, Giant, Harpy, Griffin, Chimera, Dragon, Wyvern, Basilisk.
  • Presidential Campaign (1980) - Run for President!  Why not?  I don't mind being hated by half the country and never being able to take a pee again without the Secret Service watching. ;-)  You've won your party's primary at the start of the game.  The country is divided into six regions: New England, the upper midwest & middle Atlantic states, the South, the Great Plains states, the Southwest, and the northwest & west-coast states.  You make a few choices about issues etc. and decide where to campaign and how to distribute your war chest.  At the end, you watch as the Electoral College votes are cast.  I updated the game to reflect the distribution of electoral votes in 2000; if you want to play the game using the 1990 census, use this version.
 Basic Computer Adventures (1986)  (Download as ZIP)
    It seems that David Ahl published another book, this one in the year I graduated from high school (and mostly stopped programming in BASIC), and I never learned about it until March 2011.  This book is available online along with copies of the games themselves already typed in.  I've put the book together in Word doc format, and wrapped it up with the actual programs, in one zip file you can download.  The games in this book are as follows:
    • Marco Polo
    • Westward Ho! (a version of Oregon Trail)
    • The Longest Automobile Race
    • The Orient Express
    • Amelia Earhart's Around-the-World Flight
    • Tour de France
    • Appalachian Trail
    • Subway Scavenger
    • Hong Kong Hustle
    • Voyage to Neptune
    Unfortunately the entry on Earhart tells a fictional story of her disappearance.  Purported explanations have been many, of course, and at least this one doesn't involve alien abduction.  Still, the book recounts speculation that she and her navigator were captured by the Japanese and died in a prison camp.  The story is far-fetched (especially since no records of it turned up after WWII), and as it happens, current research suggests they landed on the atoll of Nikumaroro (Gardner Island) and died there of dehydration, poison shellfish, starvation, or possibly exposure.  My only real issue with this book is that it tells the story as if it were an established historical fact, rather than one of several possibilities.


Music program DOS 1.1 Samples (1983) - When my parents bought an IBM PC back in September 1982, at first we used MS-DOS 1.05, but shortly afterward we upgraded to MS-DOS 1.1.  The big thing about 1.1 was that it supported using both sides of the floppy--which doubled the size of your 5¼" disk from 160kb to 320kb!  For those who aren't familiar with the period, what people used to do was cut a notch in the other side of the floppy (often with a paper-hole punch), and then you could insert the disk upside down and access the other side.  High-tech.  Users of the Apple II were familiar with this procedure.

The BASIC disk that shipped with DOS 1.1 came with some sample BASIC programs.  (That's where my occasional handle "dos11basic" comes from.)  It occurred to me that it might make a nifty curiosity to include them here; they run well on GWBASIC and I'm sure Microsoft wouldn't be upset with me sharing them.  So what are these samples?  For the most part they're very simple grapical displays with beeps and boops, or basic utilities like mortgage calculators.  There is also an interesting music demo and even a very simple (one might even say lame) game where you try to avoid running over a donkey.  That game, DONKEY.BAS, is one of the programs known to have been written by Bill Gates himself, though not alone.  The easiest way to check these out is to unzip them somewhere, and from within GWBASIC, run SAMPLES.BAS.  There's one other program, not in SAMPLES, that's a very old communications program for use with early modems.  It defaults to 300 baud and has you dial the number manually, rather than dialing a number you type in--which should give you an idea how antiquated it is.  Yep--early modems didn't dial for you; you had to pick up and dial, then hang up to transfer control to the modem...or something like that.  I've never connected with COMM.BAS, since we didn't have a modem at the time.


Video Trek 88 Video Trek 88 (1982) - An old-style Star Trek game by Windmill Software.  All the commands are single-character and the game runs largely in real time, making it one of the fasted-paced of this type of game.  I got this for Christmas one year (1982 or 83), and spent many hours playing it.  It was an impressive game back then, especially considering it ran on machines (like ours) that didn't have graphics cards and could only handle text.  It was advanced for its time, and made the most of what you could do with text graphics.  Inside the linked zip file is a guide to help you get started playing it.

Note: The copy available on this site is modified to run in GWBASIC.  It also includes a number of spelling/grammar corrections; for instance, the original game misspelled Tholian as "Tholean".


Apple Trek Apple Trek (1979) - This game wasn't written in GWBASIC, but in the old Integer BASIC for the Apple II.  I remember playing this a couple times at my friend Rod Elin's place.  The funny thing is that I recall the Klingons were called "Klarnons" (no doubt for copyright reasons)--but on the copy I found online years later, they're called Klingons.  I don't know if they were originally Klarnons or Klingons, so I can't say if this is the older or newer version.  Anyway it's one of those old-style Star Trek games like Video Trek, though it had a different look to it because the short-range scanner had black letters on a green background, rather than the other way around.  For moving, firing torpedoes, and firing phasers manually, directions use a standard 360° starting on the right-hand side--but it's easier to let the computer target and fire automatically.

The cool thing I remember about this game was that when someone fired torpedoes, you got to watch them (as a "#") travel from the ship to its target.  I know, I know, but back in the 80s that was really cool.  Also, and I thought this was the coolest part of the game: if you were right between two Klingon ships and set course to move aside, that would often trick one of them into shooting a torpedo at the other.  That was so gratifying to watch!  (In fact that's the first thing you want to do when you enter a hostile quadrant--go into the computer and tell it to navigate to another location, so you can get out of the way of enemy torpedoes.)  Anyhow, if you want to try this old classic, you can play it in Windows using the AppleWin emulator (you'll see white instead of green, but it should otherwise be just like the real thing).  For Linux users, AppleWin seems to run well in Wine.  For both operating systems, unzip the AppleWin folder to where you want it, and run Applewin.exe.  Load the AppleTrek.do disk image, click the Apple-symbol button to run it, and enjoy the text graphics.  (Reference in Apple2history.org)

By the way, if you should find yourself playing with old Apple II disk images sometime, you'll want to know some simple commands for Apple BASIC--it's different from GWBASIC, which came from IBM BASIC (so the blurb near the top won't help you in AppleWin).


The following aren't actually BASIC games, but they're old favorites I'd like to include just the same.


MacRisk MacRisk (1986) - One of the best--yet simplest--computer implementations of Risk that I've seen.  When I transferred to UC back in 1988, it wasn't like today where everyone has a laptop and a smartphone.  Back then, a student was lucky to have a desktop computer of any kind.  Of those who did, some (like me) had IBM clones running DOS; most of the rest had Apples of some kind.  The Apple IIc (a portable of sorts), IIe, and IIgs were fairly common, but the students with the most advanced computers had early Macintoshes with monochrome graphics and no hard drive.  One of the guys on my floor had one and a copy of MacRisk.  When no one had anything particular to do (such as studying, or launching water balloons at the dorm opposite us), we'd often gather for a game of Risk--hotseat, which is the only multiplayer option on this old game.

This is a straightforward and very faithful adaptation of the board game to a computer setting.  To make it easier to see at a glance, it shows the number of armies in each area minus one--so if you have only one in a given territory (meaning you can't attack from there) it doesn't show a number there; that's helpful on this little screen.  The game has six players, which can be any combination of human and computer players.  The computer players can be set as aggressive, defensive, and berserk.  Aggressive is how most humans would play, calculating conquests in such a way they can shore up their defenses at the end of the turn.  Berserk computers simply attack as long as they can.  Defensive computers are a different breed--they'll sit tight and leave everyone else alone, but if someone takes one of their territories they'll stop at nothing to reclaim it, plowing through however many opponents it takes to get there.  Unfortunately the game's AI is weak; playing even against five aggressive computers is a walk in the park.  An unusual but very challenging game can be set up however by facing off against four or five defensive computers.  It's almost impossible to win against five; I usually give up in the end with depleted armies, heavily outnumbered by all my neighbors who will simply reclaim anything I do manage to take.  Still it is possible to win such a scenario, and it's always fun to bait the computers into attacking one another.

If you'd like to play this game, you're in luck thanks to Richard Loxley, who's prepared us a handy folder containing a Mac emulator, a Mac Plus ROM, and a bootable disk image containing MacRisk.  To play it in Windows or Linux (yes it runs in Wine), double-click on Mini vMac.exe.  Then click on File, Open Disk Image, and double-click on riskboot.dsk.  That will boot the computer with a disk image which includes the MacRisk game.  Open MacRisk and enjoy!  The folder also inludes a MacRisk.gif file you can use to put an icon on your Desktop if you like.


NetTrek NetTrek (1987+) - After college in the early 90s, my roommate (one of the guys who'd had a Mac back in the dorms) had a friend who used to bring his Mac over from time to time.  We'd set them up at the kitchen table and connect them via AppleTalk, then we'd take turns blowing each other up in a Star Trek game based on Alto Trek--which I think was the grandfather to Netrek (not to be confused with this game, NetTrek).  NetTrek was eventually done up in color, but the version I found was with the old monochrome graphics, which was what I was looking for anyway to stroke my nostalgia feathers.  As far as I know the only multiplayer mode it offers is network--via AppleTalk--so I guess your only option today is single-player: not as much fun, but better than nothing.

You can play a Federation, Klingon, or Romulan ship; Gorn ships exist but are available only to computer players for some reason.  Romulans and Klingons can cloak.  Klingons have weak phasers but more torpedoes, while Romulans have stronger phasers but fewer torps.  Federation ships seem to be in the middle, with moderate phasers and torpedoes.  The object of the game, besides blowing the sh*t out of your opponents, is to deploy a base in all 8 star clusters, which is harder than it sounds since you lose any deployed bases if your ship is destroyed.  You get another ship, but have to start deployments all over again.  Also moving between star clusters is tricky because you have to get up lots of speed (turning the Velocity indicator at the top white) and be traveling in just the right direction in order to jump to another cluster.  Additionally it's trickier to control the ship in an emulator since you're missing the Mac's Command button.  Shift and Alt seem to fill in for it, but I haven't worked it all out yet.  Be careful when firing phasers; the game won't stop you from depleting all your energy before it can be regenerated, so you can destroy yourself without even being hit.

To play the game, you'll need a Mac emulator and ROM and a bootable disk image.  The image I have for NetTrek isn't bootable but my MacRisk image is, so follow the instructions above short of running MacRisk--then do File, Open Disk Image, and double-click on NetTrek.dsk and run the game.  As with MacRisk, the folder includes a NetTrek.gif file you can use to put an icon on your Desktop if you feel so inclined.



Cool Links   (I'd call them "hot links", but that doesn't really work.)

Coffee Email me with comments or questions
BARIS Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space -- Another excellent old game: Be the first to put a man on the Moon
Master of Orion Master of Orion -- An excellent series of old & new games: Manage an interstellar empire
Machiavelli: the Prince Machiavelli: the Prince and the Merchant Prince games: Explore, trade, and backstab your way to the top in medieval Venice
Penguin Check out my trip to Antarctica!
Bearn My trip to Europe, complete with a French barbecue