Over at The Code Project, Michael Birken dissects the code of a game that generated a few minutes of disillusionment and a few hours of Klingon xenocide in my youth: the first ever Star Trek game.
Two years after the original series was canceled in 1969, high school senior Mike Mayfield was busy keeping the Star Trek universe alive by feeding punched paper tape into a Sigma 7 in an effort to bring the crew of the Enterprise and the Klingon Empire to life on a 10 character-per-second teletype terminal. Soon after Mike ported his game to HP BASIC, it entered the public domain. From there, early computer enthusiasts enhanced and rewrote the game for every flavor of mini and microcomputer BASIC imaginable and beyond.
I remember encountering versions of the game back in the early 80s when I was a little kid trying to learn BASIC on my IBM PCjr. Back then, computer books and magazines distributed programs in printed form. Meaning, you had to type them in to play the games. It was a pain in the ass, but the process encouraged you to tinker. It motivated you to learn to code and to tweak or even improve the programs you were entering in.
Every BASIC game book that I picked up contained some version of the Star Trek game. I recall loading it up a few times, but each time I ended up staring at the screen in utter confusion. “How the heck is this Star Trek?” I remember thinking. I couldn’t figure out how to play it.
It was only by delving into the source code that Birken managed to discover the game’s obtuse charms. He’s managed to port the game to C#, which you can download and take for a spin, if you’d like.
Star Trek 1971 Text Game [Code Project]