My Computing History : Part 3

In the last part of this series we were still using our old Twinhead Superset 590 for playing MS-DOS games. It was roughly 1996 when Dad went about replacing the now quite old 386sx with a new machine. The machine we got was a Cyrix 6×86 166PR with 16Mb of RAM and Windows 95b. Even though it wasn’t the fastest machine you could get it was a massive upgrade for us.

Long Shot!

Gaming wise there was quite a bit of catching up to do, the old 386sx hadn’t been up to playing recent games for really quite a long time. So the new machine was our first chance to play games like Doom. The machine had come with a sampler CD which had a number of Demos on it, one of which being the shareware version of Doom. Instead of running in DOS this one had the Doom95 executable which allowed us to play in higher resolutions, although this distorted the aspect ratio of the game.

Doom got me pretty well hooked and I played the hell out of the shareware episode. But it wasn’t the only game that got me hooked, the demo for Mechwarrior 2 also grabbed my attention, even though there were only a few Mech’s and missions to play it was an amazing game to play. Especially coming from DOS games that could run on a 386sx.

We started getting some commercial games for it as well, mostly strategy games such as Command and Conquer, Age of Empires and Civilization II. This happened partly because my older brother had left home and gone to university, so games were more available to him. The Cyrix machine held up pretty well to be honest playing most of them fairly well. The main limiting factor was the small amount of RAM which meant some games caused the hard disk to thrash quite a bit.

With all this new interesting stuff you’d think we would have abandoned the old DOS games and machine. However that didn’t happen at all, we kept playing and using the old 386sx for quite a while until Dad bought us an “upgrade” to it in the form of a Reply Corp. 486 25Mhz. The 386sx was seven years old when it finally got retired, I used laplink software to transfer all our old games and software to the “new” machine in bulk.

Turbo Pascal 6 about Screen
Turbo Pascal 6 about Screen

It was on this old PC that I continued creating software, it was my mathematics teacher that first gave me a copy of Turbo Pascal 6.0 with a couple of sample programs that he had written himself. Being a compiler and having features like pointers (a foreign concept for a basic programmer) I wasn’t really prepared for making anything larger yet.

One of the first projects I made was a rudimentary menu program. The Reply machine came with almost nothing on the hard disk, with basically the bare essentials from a windows 95 DOS boot disk which was almost nothing. The old Dosshell wouldn’t work on the newer DOS and Dad really needed a menu program to make using the machine easier.

So I made a simple text-based menu program. It worked with a pair of batch files which would call each other, one which the menu would modify and the other to restart the menu when the selected program was done. It was a bit convoluted, and in hindsight there was a better solution, but it worked well for us for quite some time.

I also made a couple of text mode games which were ports of earlier basic games, and a simple pong like game with the graph unit mostly just to learn about pascal. However I still made a few significant projects in QBasic.

War game screen
War game screen

Probably the largest project I ever took on in QBasic was simply called War. If you read the last part you’d know that Civilization was particularly popular in our house, but one thing it couldn’t do was any kind of multiplayer.

War was developed as a very simplified strategy game. There was no technologies or anything like that, you simply had cities which could produce units with which to fight the other players. The units were similar to those from the late game in Civilization, and you could play it hotseat style between 3 players.

I made some variations on it, such as one focusing on ocean based warfare with ships and another that you could play against the computer. It really needs some UI polish to make it more playable however.

In my later years if high school I didn’t have as much time for coding, so generally I spent much of my spare time studying in the hopes of getting to University, which is where the next part will begin.

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