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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!


#58. I still have my Amiga computer, but I finally gave up my Commodore 64.

Yes, I was a nerd. I like to think that I’ve reformed, and am now fully integrated into ‘cool’ society. I like to think a lot of things…


So, elsewhere, I’ve claimed to have shunned computers until I was in grad school. But this is not true in the strictest of senses. True, I had nothing to do with computers that had any practical purpose. But I did love my games. Oh, yes.

I’ll tell you how far back the fascination goes (and therefore how old I am, in the process): the first game I had on my C64 was on cassette. That’s right, magnetic tape, just like the old folks used to play music with. You may have seen these ‘cassette tapes’, in your grandpa’s collections or your local museum. Well, I not only used them for my Men at Work fix, but I also played games with ’em. Slow, ponderous, creaky, buggy games, but still — games! Or one game, anyway. Some Dungeons and Dragons type of dealie. It was slow going, with all the tape changing and reading and rewinding to a certain spot and loading… the damned thing was on five cassettes. I never had the patience to finish it.

So hail the day that floppy disks came into play! The games were still slow and ponderous by today’s standards (though no buggier; could we get a little QA for these things, please?), but at least they didn’t take forever and a week to load. These were the big floppies, too. (Mmmmmmm… big floppies… nnnggggghhhh…) The five-and-a-quarter inch kind. (Please, no penis jokes, folks. They were all told at the time, over and over, ad nauseum. Thank you for your cooperation.) Anyway, you may have seen these flappy little monstrosities, in your elderly aunt’s personal effects, or in an antiques store. They were an improvement, of course. But a game of any complexity took up seventeen disks; they just had no capacity to speak of.

And so, the three-and-a-half inch disk came to the rescue. (Remember what we talked about, folks. We’ve heard all the jokes before, all right? Keep the line moving, now.) More compact, but with more space, these little babies put the fun into gaming. I’m honestly not sure whether I ever got a drive for these for my Commodore. But it’s the only peripheral the old Amiga had, other than the joystick, naturally. Of course, with more space, the game designers just ratched up the intensity, and made cooler and cooler games. Games which again took up seventeen disks, but now those disks were jam-packed with programs. Oh, the fun we had back in the day. Why, you can even still see these disks today, at your grandma’s yard sales and at time capsule recovery ceremonies.

But eventually, the disk was passed up by the CD-ROM. The data from hundreds of floppies could fit on one CD, and so they went the way of the dinosaur, and dodo birds, and Chevy Chase. But I still have my old Amiga somewhere, with all the classic games. They’re all there — Psi-5 Trading Company, Countdown to Shutdown, Pirates, Impossible Mission, Elite, HardBall, 4th and Inches, Law of the West, Defender of the Crown, Populous, Lemmings, Roadwar 2000, Stunt Car Racer, Space Taxi, and a hundred others.

(And before you comment, yes —

1. I know some of those are C64 games. But I don’t remember exactly which. The old memory’s not what it used to be.

B. My friend worked at an Amiga-centric game rental store. So we had access to just about everything. Real ‘kid in a candy store’ stuff.)

Of course, all those old disks are worthless now. Not that some of the games aren’t still entertaining, mind you. But now there are a half-dozen Amiga emulators out there that you can download for free, and at least as many for the C64. Most of the games are in the public domain now (at least, that’s what I let myself believe…), so they can be downloaded and played in the emulator on any PC in the world. (And when I say ‘any’ PC, that’s almost literally true these days. The average Pentium II from five years ago or so would hold thousands of Amiga’s-worth of data, and still have plenty of juice and room left to surf the web and diddle around in Excel. (Not Word, of course. Fuckin’ memory hog…)

But the old games were puny little things compared to today’s opuses (opi?) of light and color, full-motion video and true-to-life captured dialogue. Technologically speaking, they’re backwards, crude, and laughable. Still, some of them are damned fun to play, not to mention nostalgic.

I actually don’t have an emulator now, but for a while, I did, and I was fifteen again, playing all the old classics in a little window-within-Windows. It was great. And actually, I think I deleted it because I wasn’t getting anything else done. Damned addictive, it is. I’ll probably grab another one one day, to try reliving the past glory of my gaming heritage. So, if I don’t write anything here for a couple of weeks, you’ll know what happened. I’m sailing the seas in search of swashbuckling adventure, or trying to prevent a core meltdown. Again. And this time, I’m gonna get it right. That damned game has been kicking my ass for twenty years or more. It’s my turn, dammit!

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