ZX81 Computer


Showcasing monthly programs, a retro look at my my first computer., Page 3
Computact is March’s ZX81 Program

Ah, spring time. As winter melts away, the weather goes haywire and it’s time to enjoy the bouts of sunshine, rain and the occasional thunderstorm of hail. Perhaps it’s fitting that in the middle of this meteorological mayhem that Computact came back to life. An outwardly simple landing game that is almost impossible to play. No matter, it demonstrates some interesting use of ZX81 BASIC as March’s Program of the month.

Posted Mar 22, 2016 by Steven 7 min read

February’s Program: Telaport

Digging through my listings, I struggled deciding what to offer for February. The first one I found was an adventure text game. Too close to last month's program, I decided against it for now. Further down in the stack, I found a code breaking program, but after entering it in I realized it needed work. The next program I pulled out, a graphic game called Teleport—ignore that spelling for now—ended up being just right.

Posted Feb 27, 2016 by Steven 5 min read

January’s Program: Star Probe

Wow, 2016 and I'm still digging programs out of my stack of print outs. Kicking off the new year, I'm grabbing a story based program. I wrote Star Probe, our program of the month, in the style of a Chose Your Own Adventure book—and yes, I actually owned most of them. Although you can only enter numbers, Star Probe is actually an example of interactive fiction. Though not as advanced as an Infocom game, Star Probe delivers an interesting, if short, story to the player. Before I spoil where I drew my inspiration, go play it. It will only take a few minutes. Just try to ignore the horrible grammar and spelling of a 14-year-old.

Posted Jan 26, 2016 by Steven 5 min read

December’s Program: Monkey Maze

Time to close out the year with another classic remaking. Back in 1983, I decided to try my hand at recreating Nintendo’s fan favorite: Donkey Kong. My version, cryptically called Monkey Maze, is December’s Program of the Month. Not quite as complex as the original, my version has only a single board that you can navigate around using the ZX81 cursor keys (5,6,7 and 8 which map to left, down, up and right). It plays pretty well. Go give it a try, and avoid the barrels, if you can.

Posted Dec 29, 2015 by Steven 3 min read

November’s Program: Dragon’s Lair

One of my favorite video games as a kid was a rather unlikely one. It wasn’t the coolest graphics or excellent control. It was about story and animation. It was, of course, Dragon’s Lair. The odd laser disc game by famed animator Don Bluth.

Posted Nov 29, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

October’s Program: The Haunting

It is Halloween and October’s Program of the Month is right on time. When I pulled the listing for The Haunting from my stack I knew it would be perfect. Although short, I knew I’d be challenged as this program of the month requires something I hadn’t needed before. That something was sound.

Posted Oct 31, 2015 by Steven 4 min read

September’s Program: Input Two

To my surprise, I was thumbing through my old printouts and discover that I actually wrote an Input Two program. I covered Input One as March’s Program of the Month. For September, however, it is Input Two’s opportunity to shine.

Posted Sep 20, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

Encoding Update

Well, encoding issue is fixed. Sort of. After digging around I found that the routines in my CMS are forcing the use of ISO-8859-1 which makes it difficult to easily convert to UTF-8. It isn’t impossible, but it isn't what I want to work on right now. I’m saving that exercise for another day.

Posted Aug 25, 2015 by Steven 1 min read

A Lesson in Encoding

I’m currently working on a responsive HTML5 template for my website. As much as I like the old one, it is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Five years of life is a pretty good run, but it is time to get with the modern world full of mobile devices and tablets. Unfortunately, I’ve run into a bit of a pickle.

Posted Aug 23, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

August’s Program: Canyon Raider

While reading through my old programming notebook last month, I wondered about using them on my website. From my earliest programming days, the notebook has a number of programs that never made it to my stack of printouts. Canyon Raider, August’s program of the month, is one of those programs.

Posted Aug 22, 2015 by Steven 3 min read

July’s Program: A Story

July’s program is indicative of the BASIC programs you’d find in early programming manuals. Most books start out with pretty basic commands such as PRINT and INPUT. A Story mimics these early programs in a creative way. Similar to Mad Libs, you answer a series of questions and the program, well, tells you a story.

Posted Jul 23, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

June’s Program: Fly

Fly is a simple program that, in the end, is both baffling and intriguing. Looking at first like a simple shooter, it acts very differently then one and, if you don’t know the rules, will make you crazy. Once you do know how to play, though, Fly becomes simple and repetitive. Our Program of the Month shouldn’t be in this place, but it is.

Posted Jun 28, 2015 by Steven 5 min read

May’s Program: WIZERDRY

Okay, you may be wondering why there is a picture of an Apple II on a ZX81 site? I’ll start by saying that it’s been a pretty busy May with lots of travel for both business and vacation. The picture is from the Smithsonian and it actually does relate to May’s program of the month, Wizerdry. Yep, I spelled that wrong. I'll chalk it up to being young. Can you guess the tie yet?

Posted May 31, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

April’s Program: RMS

Are there any D&D folks in the audience? Come on, you know who you are. Past or present doesn’t matter, just if you know what I’m talking about. Why, you ask? Because RMS, April’s program of the month, will use your ZX81 to build monsters. Any fledgling DM could then use these creatures in their latest campaign. Elves and humans will cringe at your originality and cruelty.

Posted Apr 29, 2015 by Steven 4 min read

March’s Program: Input One

Input One, March’s program of the month, is a great example of the kind of simple and brute force programming of the 1980s. This was a time when computers had little memory and their users had to use simple BASIC programming to get things done. The alternative was to buy a cassette tape of programs that took minutes to load even short programs, assuming they loaded at all. For the rest of us, we either typed them in or wrote little programs like this.

Posted Mar 29, 2015 by Steven 3 min read

February’s Program: Math Bash

At the one level, you can sum up most programs into three big groups: business, gaming, or educational. Most of my programs fit into one of these base categories. The standouts are generally the animation or demo programs that really have no distinct genre. Even those, however, I can lump into one of the big three without much effort. There are times when these categories get blurred and a program can fit into two or more categories. This month’s program is one of those.

Posted Feb 22, 2015 by Steven 5 min read

January’s Program: Comp. Talk

Mixing things up a bit, I thought I’d start off the new year without a game program. Instead, January’s program is Computer Talk, or Comp. Talk for short. Comp. Talk is one of several educational programs I wrote for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. Perhaps it was just the thing to do back in then. Many computer books, especially those that taught programming, had a mix of program genres. Whatever the reason, I wrote Comp. Talk as a way for the ZX81 computer to introduce itself and show a bit of what it could do.

Posted Jan 24, 2015 by Steven 2 min read

December’s Program: V Water Battle

As 2014 comes to a close, I wanted to end the year with an original program of the month. For December, that program is V Water Battle, an action game from 1984. For some reason, the title screen I created said designed instead of wrote but I did both. I was an odd duck in 1984. You use the “Z” and “.” keys to move. Use the “M” key to fire. The goal is to stop the ships from stealing the water. Miss them or get shot and its game over. Of course, they steal the water after each wave anyway to make it harder. Given that I haven’t beat it yet, the game is more difficult than it would seem. Let me know if you do!

Posted Dec 29, 2014 by Steven 3 min read

November’s Program: Maze Craze

Hope everyone in the US had a great Turkey Day (Thanksgiving) and are now enjoying the last weekend of November. I’m busy with NaNoWriMo, and a bit behind. So I give you another program from my original ZX81 site, but not yet featured here. November’s program is the month is Maze Craze. It’s not hard, but you might need to graph out the maze if you get stuck. There are actually two mazes. Can you beat them both?

Posted Nov 29, 2014 by Steven 2 min read

October’s Program: NA

Whoa, there are still almost two weeks left in the month and I have October’s program done and waiting for you. Yep, you heard right. This month is a short one called NA. The program is an action game that requires you to use “N” and “A” to try to stop a runner. The letters have significance as you use them to stop the runner. However, there is a twist, miss and the program changes the letter needed. Sounds easy right? Guess what, I still haven’t beaten it. Can you?

Posted Oct 21, 2014 by Steven 2 min read

September’s Programs: Photon ’85 and ’98

Well, the month is over and life has taken over and delayed my program of the month. For the tail end of September, I offer two programs: Photon and Photon 98. Wait, what? Yep, you heard right. I’m offering two programs this month. Sort of.  Actually they are very similar. Photon is the original program from 1985, and Photon 98 is a minor remake that cleans things up a bit.

Posted Sep 30, 2014 by Steven 2 min read

August’s Program: Cave War

August’s program is Cave War, a later program from 1985. It starts out similar to Hit Man, basically a scrolling dodge the wall game. But there is more to it than that. Once you get to the end of the tunnel, you find yourself in a cave and need to blast away at a wall to continue on. Oh, and if you hit the same spot twice, it resets. Can you make it out of the cave alive? Use “Z” and “.” to dodge the walls and “X” to blast away the ground. Good luck!

Posted Aug 24, 2014 by Steven 4 min read

July’s Program: Block £ Spear

Sorry, still no Joust. It’s not where I want it and I’ve spent July working on my novel instead. That isn't to say that I’m going to leave July without a program of the month. Instead I’ve pulled from my original site to bring you one of my favorite programs, Block £ Spear. In this game you'll find yourself at the wrong end of a knight’s spear. Fortunately, you have a shield and can easily deflect the spear by using the “Z” and “.” keys to raise or lower your shield. Sounds easy? You might be surprised.

Posted Jul 23, 2014 by Steven 3 min read

June’s Program: Monster Maker

Okay I haven’t finished my remake of Joust yet, nor did I want to wait until the last week of the month to get an article out. Instead, I offer you Monster Maker as June’s monthly program. It’s pretty straight forward and anti-climatic against the power of today’s programs. Once you load it, enter in five numbers and type your monster’s name. That’s it. The program will then display a nicely formatted monster description based on your input.

Posted Jun 08, 2014 by Steven 3 min read

May’s Program: Joust

I actually started working on May’s program of the month, Joust, about three weeks ago. My goal was to update the program to a faster and more fluid MCODER version. Sadly, things haven’t gone so well. Pressed for time, I will leave you instead with my original take on this popular arcade from the 80s.

Posted May 28, 2014 by Steven 5 min read