I wrote this a while ago, while clearing out the study… while the study is now empty, there is now another room in the house currently stuff full of enough digital artefacts to make a silicone Tutankhamen envious.
A long long time ago… in at study filled with cool old computer gear…
With the imminent arrival of a new baby my home study is being squeezed. A digital excavation of my study uncovered a digital ghost hiding on a 3.5″ floppy disk.
Where once I had a whole room to myself I will now only have half a room, the other half being dedicated to a spare bed for visitors. The resulting clear out of old gadgets and gizmos and prompted a rush of old memories. Plunging me back into memories from school, and then ripping me back in to the present day.
The lunch time battle
In the school lunch hour’s battle between the shiny 16bit computers of the Atari ST and the Amiga 500 I was an outsider. The main ammunition in these battles was not the computers themselves; it was the game reviews in the two major magazines of the time, ST Format and Amiga Format. My 16 bit computer owning friends would bring in their magazines and the review comparisons would start over lunch time. The arguments of which version of a game was better would kick off at the top of the hour, and comparisons would be made over which game port made best use of a systems graphics and sound capabilities. These arguments could start on a Monday and go on until at least Friday, before renewing the next month when the new editions of ST and Amiga format were published.
As one of those who still had an 8 bit home computer I would admire the games and graphics from a distance, until one Christmas when my parents went all out and bought me a PC. My initial trip to the local computer game shop revealed rows and rows of games for the ST and Amiga and a small half a shelve of games for the PC. I’d picked up a few games, some of them really bad. I was telling my one my Atari ST owning school mates this when he told me that PC Format had been released. A PC magazine with game reviews! – I was hooked.
At the back of the cupboard I pulled out a shoebox packed to the gills with old 3.5″ floppy disks. Before I throw out the only machine in the room which can read floppy disks I thought it best to go through them. Nestling in the middle of the bunch were some old PC Format cover magazines. Including issue 8, from 1992. The featured game of the issue was Titus the Fox. I had to check it out.
Starting up the game, I was struck by the ghost. A hand reached out from 1991 and grabbed me. I was presented by the following message:
YOU ARE STILL PLAYING MOKTAR IN 2008 !!PROGRAMMED IN 1991 ON AT .286 12MHZ.. . . ENJOY MOKTAR ADVENTURE !!
It’s 2013, and I’m running a game from 1991. The forward looking developer of the game, Eric Zmiro had sent me a message.
NB: MOKTAR was the name for the original French language version of the game, it was renamed before launch in the English speaking markets.
Running old DOS games is possible on modern computers, but it isn’t easy. Especially with my setup. The only computer in the house with a floppy drive is an old Pentium 75 machine with 16 megs of RAM. Tiny by today’s standards, but more than enough for a game writing on a 286!. My machine boots into a FreeBSD installation I once placed on it back in 2004. It only supports serial port mice (and I don’t have one I do, it was just hidden under all the other old junk). So to get the cover disk working I had to do the following:
- Take a copy of the disk using the free BSD machine
- Copy the “copy” to a more modern machine
- Install DosBox
- Mount the directory location of the “copy”
- And then launch the game!
Yup, it took a while to get the game up and running – that might explain why while I now have an empty study, my newly arrived son’s bed room is new full of old computer gear.
It’s not my video – but I can recommend watching it, it’s a lot easier than trying to resurrect the game..