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Science makes it known,
Early Computer Gaming - Classic Star Trek
This page is a tidbit of history of early
computer games, ASCII graphics, and HP3000s. Classic Star Trek is
an example of a pre-PC
computer game without complex graphics and GUIs. Computer gaming
has been around as nearly as long as computers, well before
PCs. Its commonly believed that the age of computers and
computer gaming began with the PC. Not so.
Minicomputers were developed after mainframes and before PCs (the
PC was called a microcomputer) - PDP-8
(the first minicomputer, first shipped in 1965), PDP-11, DEC VAX,
HP1000, HP2000, HP3000,
and others. And then there were the computer
games - Adventure, a text-based game of cave exploration, dwarfs,
and treasure, written in FORTRAN (and executed on the HP3000), ported
to C for the PC; Star Trek, which used ASCII graphics; and many others.
Classic Star Trek, like many early computer games, used ASCII graphics to present its output to the player. ASCII graphics was the solution to present graphical output using common text-based VDT or teletype terminals. What allowed ASCII graphics to work so well is that all characters use the same spacing (fixed-pitched font).
In the full screenshot's lower portion is a short range sensor scan. On the lower left, the area between the dashed lines represents a two-dimensional view of one quadrant of space; this representation uses ASCII graphics. On the lower right is a status summary. In the upper left is a legend of what each ASCII graphic symbol group represents (not in original version; added for this port). A random number generator is used to generate Stars, Klingon ships, and Federation Starbases for each quadrant.
The game goal is to save the Federation from the Klingons. The game cycle is 1 output event to 1 input event based. The game presents to the player a scenario (output event) as above, and the player then responds with a command (input event). Available commands are:
COMMAND 0 = WARP ENGINE CONTROL COMMAND 1 = SHORT RANGE SENSOR SCAN COMMAND 2 = LONG RANGE SENSOR SCAN COMMAND 3 = PHASER CONTROL COMMAND 4 = PHOTON TORPEDO CONTROL COMMAND 5 = SHIELD CONTROL COMMAND 6 = DAMAGE CONTROL REPORT COMMAND 7 = LIBRARY COMPUTER COMMAND 8 = ABORT MISSIONIf a command requires additional information, Classic Star Trek will request it. The game then processes the command, and present the results to the user.
The PC port of Classic Star Trek runs within a MS-DOS box (Win9x) or a Command Line (WinXP). The Classic Star Trek download consist of 3 Basic interpreter files (BASIC.COM, BASICA.COM, and BASICA.EXE), 7 Basic source files (STTR1.BAS, STTR2.BAS, STTR3.BAS, STTR4.BAS, STTR5.BAS, STTR6.BAS and STTR7.BAS), and a Batch file (STGWB.BAT). As much of the 'flavor' of the original has been retained as possible (including the Bell, or ctrl-G) with one more exception - colored text foreground has been used.
To those whose experience with computers began with PCs running Win9x, Basic Classic Star Trek will seem incredibly primitive. But an experienced computer gamer of that time could spend hours in front of the terminal playing. And not because of slow response times! It was a case of taking then current technology and using it for fun and games. For people who enjoyed working with computers and were Star Trek fans, it was an intersection of two enjoyable activities.
1. See WinXP Command Prompt Path about changing the long file name of the WinXP Command Prompt path to its short file name equivalent.
2. While short file names work on Win7, the Basic Interpretter will not. It does execute in a VMware Player 6.0.3 running Win98SE guest operating system as shown below. Files (including stgwb.zip) can be transferred between host and guest operating system using Drag 'n Drop. The Win98SE guest O/S will need a PKUNZIP utility to unzip stgwb.zip.
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