Retro Computing

I’m a second generation programmer, which is a bit odd given my age, but my Dad was one of the types who bought the kit and built his first computer. So even as a very young child I had access to computer systems, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that the light went on and I “got it”.

The first system I got to spend any time programming on was a TI-99/4A – not having a tape drive, my Dad and I would hack up a game in basic over a weekend and just leave the thing on. I remember losing hours of work to the reset key combo (right shift + one of the number keys, left shift got you the symbol you wanted.. duh).

My first computer was the Commodore 64 – it was ~$700 of my own hard earned money for the main CPU + floppy drive. This is the machine I learned assembly language on. Being a pack rat, I’ve still got it rotting in a box in the basement along with a big stack of 170k floppies.

Knowing assembly opened the door to ‘demo’ programming, this mostly consisted of tight sequences exploiting the quirks in the video chip. We’d “borrow” the music from a game or another demo not having any music skills ourselves. Graphics were similarly lifted, or painfully hand-crafted. There were various groups I was part of, often the same folk in the group just under yet another cool sounding name.

One stuck out as particularly successful in my mind: Screaming Euphoria. I think we only made one actual demo release as this group – and sadly I had misplaced the demo (or re-used the diskette for something else) and thought it was lost in time. Enter the internet – and thanks to folk who are much bigger C64 fanatics than I am, you can download the “Disconnect” farewell demo, and get an emulator (I used VICE) to view it.


Pretty cool for a little 8bit machine. Amazing what could be accomplished with so little. Frightening how many cycles we waste today. I’m glad to have found a bit of my programming past again, maybe I can finally ditch that C64 in my basement.

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