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Voyage to Atari in the 21st Century (Part II: 8-bit Adventures)



When I started graduate school it was the mid-1980s. Though most of my analysis and writing were on an Amdahl mainframe (with the VDU in a closet) I saw an add for a Sinclair ZX81. I managed to put a little of my little away and it became the centerpiece of my bachelor apartment. I got a 32K memorex memory module and a rubber keyboard overlay and started to explore. I came to know about memory maps, screen memory and even a basic complier. And I wrote the first draft of my first published simulation, togetehr with a friend. He had a brother with an early IBM that we ultimately used to finish - but everything was new and exciting. Video arcades were plentiful off campus and early evenings were filled with Centipede and Tempest before we went back to work. When I was home for Christmas my ZX81 was stolen, but my supervisor purchased a Timex 2048 and let me borrow it to continue my "tinkering". Type-in programs were a favorite, low cost, passtime for s student with limited funds.


When I finished my MSc I moved home for a year while waiting for my PhD supervisor to return from sabbitical. I secired contract work translating FORTRAN graphics for use on IBM XTs. At the same time, my father retired but wanted to continue writing at home. Rather than a typewriter, I convinced him to get an Atari 130XE, 1050 disk drive, and a 1027 printer. I helped him get used to it the application programs (Atari Writer Plus, Syncalc, and others) as well as checkers. I remember him telling me that the Atari was not very "sporting", since games like that were always more social for him and the stronger player was expected to "teach" the weaker one, not just beat them. We enjoyed many father-son evenings in the basement. I didn't know that it would be our last full year together - but I am greatful for the time we had.Together, we joined the Nova Scotia Atari Computer User Group where I shared my type-in of SpeedCalc and was given lots of advice in return, including a photocopy of De Re Atari. Unfortunately, I couldn't explore the Atari fully in my limited time between degrees, but I remember the openness of the group and many of their recommendations. When it came time to move on to my Ph.D. I got my own 130XE and used it for the first years as a terminal to the mainframe, as well as many hours playing Silent Service. Eventually I moved on to the "PC" world for the applications I required, and both of our 130XEs were eventually rehomed. I hope that they were appreciated, but I always missed them and the shared moments that they enabled.


I subsequent years I kept my interest alive through emulation. I have emulated versions of all of the computers that I have owned in a "virtual museum": Logix-600 (in Python), ZX81, Atari 130XE, and PCs. But when I saw that I could get a 576NUC+ with Fujinet the old bug came back with a vengence. So here I am, finally working through Atari Roots, and planning to explore Atari Logo and Forth. Naturally, the many BASICs and internet access has made the old new again for me just like many of you. I am impressed with the responses to my posts and feel a little bit of the old NSACUG days online. I am looking forward to learning and contributing when I can. If you made it this far, thank you for your attention. Feel free to ask questions and I'll see you on the forums.


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