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Introductions, History & Dysentery



A Brief History


I wrote my first code when I was seven or eight.  That was hand translated Z80 opcodes on a NASCOM 1.  I was utterly captivated from the moment my first “program” (a few dozen bytes) showed output; LEDs counting in binary.  Since then, I’ve written and shipped code in every major language, for every significant platform, and on everything from tiny embedded micro-controllers to super computers.


Yet it is the Atari 8-bit series that holds my heart and my fondest computing memories.


The first computer of my own was an Atari 800.


(This was in the UK, where I’m from originally, today I live in the US.  This will, no doubt, become relevant in later posts.)


I’ve written a lot of 8-bit code, though 40+ years ago now, and I’m sure that’s a big part of the bond, fascination, and nostalgia.  So, while I’ve long-since had a fascination with retro-computing/gaming, across many platforms, my focus – especially here - is the Atari 8-bit world.  


This Blog


I’ve a long list of things I want to do on/for the Atari 8-bit platform, some hardware, some software.  Some are interrelated, such as re-learning low-level Atari 8-bit coding and creating some games I’ve wanted to write.  In fact, the title of this blog (keep reading) was inspired by the first of those.  Along the way, I’ll intersperse the setup/evolution of my dev environment, systems, have posts on the tools I’ll create to make things easier (I’ve already done some).  Thus, I figured I’d take a stab at doing a series of overlapping/related posts on those various projects.


If there’s interest, I’ll keep at it; if not … I’ll just post the end-results in appropriate forum threads.


For several of the projects, like the one below, community input would be most useful and welcome.


Why “Press START to Die of Dysentery”?


No doubt a result of a recent, concentrated, bout of retro-computing/gaming, I dreamt I started writing an “epic”, or what I thought was “epic”, Atari 8-bit port of the 1985 Apple II version of “The Oregon Trail”.  In my dream, it looked … amazing.  Essentially it used every trick and feature described in De-Re Atari (I almost had that memorized as a child), Compute’s Books of Atari Graphics Volumes 1 & 2, and other resources I do not currently recall.


In fact, it used so many low-level features and tricks that, when I had finished with the title and travel screen, I had no more energy and didn’t implement the game beyond a nicely scrolling prompt …


 “Press [START] to die of dysentery”.




It’s made me chuckle ever since … to the point I had to explain what was going on to my wife.  Who, to her credit, at least remembered the original game.  And it’s been stuck in my head ever since ... so that’s the first game-project I plan to tackle … the details of which are for another post …



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