Resurrecting Star Trek, the 1969 Text Adventure game for the Sigma 7

Star_Trek_text_game.png

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]

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23 Responses to Resurrecting Star Trek, the 1969 Text Adventure game for the Sigma 7

  1. frankiez says:

    Wow! Retrogaming is a never ending source of surprises and unexpected treasures!

    @ ENOCHREWT:

    Last year, in an italian magazine, we published the first type your BASIC GAME in the last 20 years (almost in Italy)…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I remember this game!

    I spent HOURS at the University of Alaska playing this game on the Dec Writers at the college. Later I played the Apple ][ version.

    Brings back a whole lot of memories.

  3. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @ Foetusnail:

    OFF MY LAWN!! OFF!!

  4. technogeek says:

    #7: Your mistake was waiting until the late 80’s to play it. In the mid-70’s, when we were lucky to get an ASR33 and a 300-baud modem, it was pretty cool. I seem to remember figuring out how to program a bulky (and balky) desktop calculator specifically so we could use it as a “weapons computer” to assist with calculating angles and energy levels.

    How is it Star Trek? Sectors, quadrants, warp vs. impulse engines, and a whole bunch of other terminology inspired by the show. Close enough.

    Actually, I’d like to make one point here: We were running this thing on a PDP-10 which had — I think — a grand total of 32KB (not MB) of RAM, and timesharing it with a goodly number of other users. Later, I used a similar machine with a “moby memory” unit (which I think added a grand total of 100KB), which was serving a larger and more demanding community. It’s amazing how much more you can do with a machine when you don’t demand that it spend half its time driving a GUI, and when the folks programming it actually care about wasted cycles. Faster machines have driven down the cost of software by letting the industry release sloppier (and thus easier-to-develop) software… which is not necessarily a bad trade-off, but one that ought to be explicitly recognized and periodically reconsidered.

  5. FoetusNail says:

    This site is constantly posting something that reminds me of this game; never thought I would ever see this again. We played the Apple IIe version. We spent hours slogging away at the coolest thing since the moon landing, waiting for the results and daydreaming about how cool it would be to move and shoot at the same time. No way, that would be impossible.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I remember playing this game on my parents Sanyo MBC-550.

  7. Stefan Jones says:

    Those BASIC code listings were a great way to learn. I had big stacks of magazines full of listings, as well as the Creative Computing game books. Gave them all away years ago.

    Some of the Creative Computing books are online.

  8. FoetusNail says:

    Ross, you’re a hoot! Thanks.

  9. Halloween Jack says:

    I’m having a little difficulty understanding why people would be disappointed. Did they really expect to see something that looked exactly like the viewscreen on the bridge of the Enterprise? And maybe their keyboards would turn into Mr Sulu’s console?

  10. John Brownlee says:

    Halloween Jack, if you played this game in the late 80s, as I did, downloading it from a BBS, you probably expected some kind of 8 bit graphics.

  11. jitrobug says:

    OMG!

    I played the HP version of this.

    I still associate the symbol for a british pound with the word “Lubach” – because those were the bad guys (klingons) in the “un-star-trekked” version of the game, and they were represented with it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I worked as a Field Service Engineer for Xerox in ’75 on Sigma computers. When things were really slow this is what we would play. I never thought I would see this again.

  13. davidhbolton says:

    There are three conversions (with source code) of a Tiny Trek (Tiny Basic source code for that is included) into C, C++ and C# at Star Trek conversion

    David Bolton

  14. darkray77 says:

    for those wanting to waste the rest of the afternoon …

    http://almy.us/sst.html

  15. estnyc says:

    I remember playing this in the early Seventies on a teletype at Skidmore College hooked into the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. Those were the days. You spoiled kids with your “monitors.”

    You’d make a move, wait, wait, and then the teletype would slowly print out the results of your move, and the new position. I once played until I was one damn move away from winning, with yards and yards of yellow teletype paper strewn about me, when the game went into an infinite loop and was killed. I think that was the last time I ever played it, so great was my disappointment.

  16. FoetusNail says:

    I really mean this in the best way possible: you all are great. These all sound like the new version of when I was a kid… How things have changed. Long gone are the stories of walking ten miles uphill both ways in the snow; now it’s playing “WUMPUS on a KIM 1 hobby computer with only a row of seven segment LED alphanumerics for a display you had to hand enter the HEX code into memory.” I truly love this place.

  17. caseyd says:

    geez, I used to hitch-hike from nowhere to Geneseo NY to sneak into the computer labs and play the APL version of this. (APL! on Selectrics!) I decided that I had to learn APL to hack this up, and before I knew it I got lost in Sundance books looking for the only APL book in existence and I… I… urp. this was what, 1975?

    The never-seen lab rats kept the 7 or 8 user accounts on a chalkboard in the front of the room.

    They never asked what a high school kid was doing there.

  18. chrisrosa says:

    Funny…I just recently got the Apple ][ version working in an emulator. http://flickr.com/photos/chrisr/2700049628/

  19. Enochrewt says:

    I hadn’t thought about typing games in BASIC from a book for a long time. What a great memory, 6 hours of typing for a 5 minutes of dissapointing gameplay.

  20. edgore says:

    Many, many Saturdays were spent at the Lawrence Hall of Science on a rented teletype playing this game. Thank you for the memory!

  21. GaryG says:

    Typing in BASIC programs wasn’t too bad, it was us Sinclair babies who *really* suffered, bashing in page upon page of hex from Your Computer that promptly crashed the moment you ran it.

    Happy days.

    :)

  22. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    To play WUMPUS on a KIM 1 hobby computer with only a row of seven segment LED alphanumerics for a display you had to hand enter the HEX code into memory. Make a mistake? Find it and start over from there.
    I’m sort of glad I gave away my 1970s hobby microcomputers because if I hadn’t I’d be tempted t oget them out for old time’s sake and I remember how maddening their limitations were.

  23. Enochrewt says:

    #3: Cool for nostaliga’s sake, but I don’t think I’ll data entry another BASIC program in in my life ;)

    #7: Yeah, exactly. These were the times of Elevator Action, Lode Runner, and Karate Champ. Text-based graphics were on their way out. I’ll still play some Rogue though for fun.

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