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Sundog
14th August 2003, 09:20 AM
Home computers just aren't any fun any more. They're just an appliance we use to communicate, work, and play games with.

Here we are with hardware a zillion times more powerful than we had in the eighties, when I would spend most of my free time exploring the computer, and the last thing in the world I want to do any more after I go home from my programming job is sit in front of a computer, for any reason.

I wonder if this is inevitable. Probably the same thing happened in radio, stereos, and other technologies: there was a "golden era" of exploration and excitement and then a commoditization that ended up producing just another consumer product.

It's hard to even explain to younger folks WHY it was fun. It was a different time, everything was new, ANYBODY could become a hit software author. I did myself! One of my programs I wrote, marketed and supported all by myself netted me over $70,000. Things like that just don't happen any more.

I know Linux pretty well, but that just doesn't do it for me either. I have absolutely no temptation to sit down and "play" with my Linux machine. It's just another tool.

Excuse the rant, I'm just nostalgic for the days when it was actually FUN to play with computers.

Anyone have any good stories of the Old Days?

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 09:35 AM
Originally posted by Sundog
Anyone have any good stories of the Old Days? Back in the late 80's/early 90's, I wrote a series of DOS shareware/freeware games which, while they didn't make me a lot of money, got me letters from all over the world, were written up (and included) in some fun books.

It was a greay feeling, knowing that there were people all over the world having fun with software that I had written.

To this day, I get the occasional email/snailmail asking "Are you the Bob Lancaster that wrote this game I love?"

It's a nice feeling.

Sundog
14th August 2003, 09:41 AM
Originally posted by RSLancastr
Back in the late 80's/early 90's, I wrote a series of DOS shareware/freeware games which, while they didn't make me a lot of money, got me letters from all over the world, were written up (and included) in some fun books.

It was a greay feeling, knowing that there were people all over the world having fun with software that I had written.

To this day, I get the occasional email/snailmail asking "Are you the Bob Lancaster that wrote this game I love?"

It's a nice feeling.

Name names! We're entitled to brag a little.

I've mentioned before that I wrote the Skyline BBS system for the Amiga, which included the very first online graphics protocol and authoring system, Skypix. Combine the "hobby-ability" of running a BBS in the first place, with actual graphics, with a way to write "plug-ins" for the board that used these graphics for games etc., and you had a system that MANY people told me was their ENTIRE hobby. It was amazing to me that many Skyline sysops virtually LIVED in front of the screen, tweaking their BBS's. There were some real works of art produced too.

Like you, I feel very good knowing that something I did brought a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people.

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 09:50 AM
Originally posted by Sundog
Name names! We're entitled to brag a little.They were known collectively as the "MicroLink Games", as I named them after the MicroLink PCUG, of which I was a member.

The games were:

MicroLink Yaht
MicroLink Shut The Box
MicroLink Loyd
MicroLink Otra
MicroLink Push Your Luck
MicroLink Crux

A couple of years aog, a guy started a website devoted to the kind of games I wrote, and asked if I would write an article about my experiences writing the game. The article can be found here:

http://www.textmodegames.com/articles/microlnk.html

Edited to add:

I never wandered into the Amiga world, but your BBS sounds cool. Graphics on PCs really bit the big one back then, and the Amiga was, of course, a graphics monster.

shanek
14th August 2003, 10:52 AM
The most fun of the old computer world was the BBSes, all but gone in this age of the internet, online forums, and web pages. I really miss that.

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 10:59 AM
Originally posted by shanek
The most fun of the old computer world was the BBSes, all but gone in this age of the internet, online forums, and web pages. I really miss that. Do you remember when BBSs started "networking" their email? Nightly, they would zip and send various Forum traffic to hub BBSs, then download those from other BBSs.

You could post in a local BBS, and the message could be answered by someone from an entirely different BBS! Wow! :)

I think that the trouble is, computers are no longer new to us.

I would imagine that people just now being exposed to computers think that they are as fun as all get-out, and in ten years will be moaning about how computers are no longer fun.

roger
14th August 2003, 11:23 AM
Originally posted by RSLancastr
I would imagine that people just now being exposed to computers think that they are as fun as all get-out, and in ten years will be moaning about how computers are no longer fun. Ya, I was wondering about that implication in the original post. I don't have kids in my life, but do y-10 year olds find computers to be nothing more than a everyday tool?

I wish I had had the WWW when I was a kid. I endlessly thirsted for knowledge, which a small town library and a TV that received 2 stations did little to slacken.

Dymanic
14th August 2003, 12:10 PM
Originally posted by Sundog

Here we are with hardware a zillion times more powerful than we had in the eighties, when I would spend most of my free time exploring the computer, and the last thing in the world I want to do any more after I go home from my programming job is sit in front of a computer, for any reason.
Maybe you're just suffering a bit of burnout.

It's like cars. Some guys love to fiddle with them by the hour, and spend weekends tinkering and talking about tinkering, etc. -- they're fascinated by the machinery. For me, that has limited entertainment value. I'm more interested in the places I might go using the car as a vehicle. I can work on cars, but will do so only when forced by necessity; I've done most of my best mechanic work when broken down on the side of the road.

Home computers just aren't any fun any more. They're just an appliance we use to communicate, work, and play games with.
To me, 'fun' and 'interesting' go hand in hand. The programs you are paid to write, the problems they are designed to solve, do you find them interesting? If not, does that mean that there are no interesting problems left to solve? Is logic still interesting?

The power of today's machines make accessible places that would be tough to reach with an 8086. Interesting places. Fun places. Not necessarily profitable places, though. The need to earn a living is inconvenient and limiting. Maybe you're like a poet who's forced to write ad jingles in order to pay the rent. Doesn't mean poetry is dead.

The 'golden era' phenomenon you describe might be illustrated by the gold rush in California in the 1800's. The big nuggets lying exposed in the streambeds were all picked off by those who arrived first on the scene, each nugget carrying the promise of countless others just like it in streams yet unexplored. The word spread quickly, and soon the whole countryside was overrun with hopefuls. Some of them did strike it big, but most found it harder work than they had expected. And it got harder every day. The ratio of tons of dirt moved to ounces of gold extracted goes up quickly when you have that many people working. (It is still possible to find gold in the foothills of California, and a dedicated enthusiast might pan out enough gold in a day to make it an attractive alternative to collecting aluminum cans -- barely). So when that point of diminishing returns was reached, most of the placer miners went home. Some geologists have speculated that perhaps only twenty percent of the gold within fifty feet of the surface have ever been extracted. After that, nearly all the mining was done using equipment and techniques which required wherewithal that could only be mustered by big outfits. They washed mountainsides away, they tunneled miles under the earth.

Unfortunately, a lot of the most interesting unexplored terrain may not be the most profitable. Having money can be fun and interesting, but earning it usually isn't (which makes good logical sense if you think about it -- if it's that much fun, usually you have to pay them).

I see programming -- even in it's most mundane, commercial form -- as cognitive science. You simply cannot get a machine to do your thinking for you without learning about the way you think.

It may not be readily apparent when viewed from the perspective of our fun-driven, commodity-focused society, but these machines are more than toys, and more than tools; they are extensions of our brains. Over time, the impact they will have on our culture and our thinking will be as pronounced as the impacts of language; of writing. Language allows thoughts to be passed from brain to brain; writing allows us to work with vastly more information than our brains can hold at one time; computers multiply these capabilities exponentially. Whether or not it's all fun and games, we're in for one hell of a ride.

Sundog
14th August 2003, 12:29 PM
Lots of good comments. Focusing my thinking, I think what I really mean is that I miss the pioneering spirit. Once that's gone, I sort of lose interest.

Part of it is of course that I've commoditized myself by joining a corporation with a team of programmers instead of doing my own thing. The problems I solve in the daytime are not very interesting to me; I never thought I would be able to do routine DP-style programming without going crazy, but it pays the mortgage. People like jj who get to write truly cool stuff are fewer and further between than us hacks who design a newer and faster sales reporting system.

And part of it may be sheer burnout, but there are other lifelong activities that I haven't tired of yet. ;)

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 12:39 PM
Originally posted by Sundog
And part of it may be sheer burnout, but there are other lifelong activities that I haven't tired of yet. ;) We won't worry about you until you start a "Sex Just Isn't Fun Anymore" thread.

Ed
14th August 2003, 01:06 PM
Originally posted by Sundog

Anyone have any good stories of the Old Days?

For my first company I wrote all the software (we did marketing analysis). Every time a new chip came out we could gauge the increase in productivity. We had to do handshaking protocols ... very fun. Our first purchase was a compaq 386/33 and a lazerjet printer cost $10k. Our first BIG Disk was 500 meg and cost 5K (still have it, big as a shoe box.

Yup, remember going to a computer show in NY, opposite the Garden it was. They had a sorta carosel like thingie, backed up yer data on them VHS cassettes ... used a powerful lot of 'em. Think it was a Meg per tape. Yup.. Some young feller (sorta crazed lookin' he was) was sellin' somethig called "Winchester" disks ... could store a lot. Only problem was you had to hard wire 'em to yer maching. Scuze me, gotta pee..........

Ah, that's better. Where wuz I? Oh yeah.

Remember when they came up with somethin' called reeemoovible media, none of that tape crap, disks they wuz and big hombres too...big as a personal pizza .. kids don't believe me when I tell 'em, think I'm teeched in the head. Little snot noses watta they know ...

Color printing? Sure tell me how you break a nail connecting a plug and play device ... I remember when if you wanted color you used an x-y plotter ... took a bit 'o time, fact is I still got a job running from '91. First HP's weren't a damn site better though.

zzzzz......!!!!! Wazzat? OH still here are ya ... wait a minute, gotta pee ......

Sundog
14th August 2003, 01:23 PM
Originally posted by RSLancastr
Do you remember when BBSs started "networking" their email? Nightly, they would zip and send various Forum traffic to hub BBSs, then download those from other BBSs.


FIDONET. Yes, that was quite a challenge making Skyline FIDO compatible! Worth it though.

Sundog
14th August 2003, 01:42 PM
Originally posted by Ed

zzzzz......!!!!! Wazzat? OH still here are ya ... wait a minute, gotta pee ......

Yeah, that's about how old I feel too. :D

My very first computer was a Timex with 4K of memory and a tiny little Basic interpreter. But the cool thing about it was, using that Basic you could write a Z80 assembler, and then 4K is all the room in the world. I knew several kinds of assembler before I learned any other languages other than Basic. That's the benefit, if any, to starting with a really tiny machine!

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 01:55 PM
Originally posted by Sundog
FIDONET. Yes, that was quite a challenge making Skyline FIDO compatible! Worth it though. There was FIDO, and then at least one other that I recall.

I was the moderator for several (I think it was) Fido threads, including Pascal Programming, Religion, and a few others. Loooong ago, on an XT far, far away...

Rat
14th August 2003, 04:15 PM
Well I've only been pc using since 286. Before that, I used various 8-bit platforms.

I got on the net before pretty much anyone I know. I remember before IE. It wasn't much better. There was a sense of community that doesn't exist in very many places now. But, to me, it still exists here, and in similar places. The grass is always greener, and B!FF has always been around, only here he's called Genghis, and he has not the sense of humour.

I fully understand the missing of the writing assembler, and writing the BASIC for the Spectrum, or Timex 2000 as I think it was in US. But you couldn't have expected that to last. In the same way I don't write x86 assembly now, I don't expect car enthustiasts to turn cam shafts, or cast engine blocks. It's a different world. Get used to it.

In short, I find it as enjoyable as I always have; and I look forward to the future. As there is no other way to look to the future.

Cheers,
Rat.

SteveW
14th August 2003, 04:24 PM
The one thing I miss the most is the D&D games that were around in the 80's and 90's. The best one was called "Legends of Future Past." It was all text, great game play, lots of creative, really good roleplayers. I spent countless hours on that game.

Now, roleplaying games are hack and slash, no stories and a bunch of 15 year olds shouting at each other.

Its pitiful that it has declined to this level.

Rat
14th August 2003, 04:34 PM
And didn't many of us dream when playing 8-bit Elite that it would be rewritten to be truly multiplayer, so that every ship you saw was a real person? It's now a reality. How many are playing?

I used to love text adventures, but they were, in retrospect, so limited that you needed to play them long enough to know what questions and answers they wanted. Now we have virtually unlimited memory, but how many text adventures are there? I'd love to play them, but they never answer the questions they ask. Though, from memory, the programmers always came up with smart answers for four-letter-word-including questions.

Green green grass of some.

Cheers,
B!FF.

Tmeto Mituko
14th August 2003, 05:10 PM
Me using laptop working traveling helping me.


лл

RSLancastr
14th August 2003, 05:13 PM
Originally posted by Tmeto Mituko
Me using laptop working traveling helping me.You didn't finish your Haiku! :)

magicflute
14th August 2003, 05:41 PM
What a small world!! Sundog, I am the guy that bought the rights to Skyline BBS from you. I kept it updated for a while. Then developed it into Omnilink BBS which kept Skipix but added my own protocol Omnipix. Unfortunately, the WWW took off and people began to loose interest in BBSs. We were successful in getting it on the internet, but never generated enough earning to keep developing it. It stopped being fun.
:(

a_unique_person
15th August 2003, 06:12 AM
Originally posted by ratcomp1974
Well I've only been pc using since 286. Before that, I used various 8-bit platforms.

I got on the net before pretty much anyone I know. I remember before IE. It wasn't much better. There was a sense of community that doesn't exist in very many places now. But, to me, it still exists here, and in similar places. The grass is always greener, and B!FF has always been around, only here he's called Genghis, and he has not the sense of humour.

I fully understand the missing of the writing assembler, and writing the BASIC for the Spectrum, or Timex 2000 as I think it was in US. But you couldn't have expected that to last. In the same way I don't write x86 assembly now, I don't expect car enthustiasts to turn cam shafts, or cast engine blocks. It's a different world. Get used to it.

In short, I find it as enjoyable as I always have; and I look forward to the future. As there is no other way to look to the future.

Cheers,
Rat.

Hang on, you seem to be implying by your tag that you were born in 1974. That was about the time that 4 bit then 8 bit chips were first being made.

a_unique_person
15th August 2003, 06:15 AM
Actually, for some stupid reason, I have tried to hook up SAPDB to php so that it can run PHPBB2. I was inspired to attempt this act of lunacy because monkey boy was complaining about mysql not being up to the job of running this board.

The strange things is, I think I just about have it working.

Now was that a waste of time or not?

Apart from that, the day of the computer hero going out there and writing an application and making a gazillion dollars is well and truly over.

We are all just wage slaves now.

Sundog
15th August 2003, 07:18 AM
Originally posted by magicflute
What a small world!! Sundog, I am the guy that bought the rights to Skyline BBS from you. I kept it updated for a while. Then developed it into Omnilink BBS which kept Skipix but added my own protocol Omnipix. Unfortunately, the WWW took off and people began to loose interest in BBSs. We were successful in getting it on the internet, but never generated enough earning to keep developing it. It stopped being fun.
:(

:eek: :D

Small world indeed!

I keep having people even now come up to me and say "Did you ever think about how much Skypix was like what we call web browsers now?" No, buddy, it never occurred to me. :D

That was a fun time. Great to hear from you!

shanek
15th August 2003, 09:03 AM
Man, I LOVED programming in SkyLine! If anything, it was actually more advanced than the Web in many ways. I had a few freebie games out there that I had written. I wrote a SkyLine version of MasterMind, and one called Boat Wars, which was like battleship except you threw beer cans, Cheetos, etc.

The really cool thing was how it could completely take over the BBS if you wanted it to... :D A friend of mine and I wrote a game called Global Thermonuclear Politics which we ran on The Whale Zoo/Oblique Strategies BBS in Greensboro. Ostensibly, it was a Trade Wars typs of game, but you actually had to keep an economy going, and what we didn't tell people was that the Computer was a player, too...

So you're the mind behind it, SunDog? Man, I can't thank you enough! That was so much fun...

Sundog
15th August 2003, 09:05 AM
Whoa, another happy Skyline sysop!!! :D

I'm having way too good a day now.

shanek
15th August 2003, 09:08 AM
I wasn't actually the Sysop. She was a gal by the name of Lynne...a very demented sort, in a good way. She loved playing the game, but thought she could hack it.

I wrote the game deliberately to be hacked...there was even a part where you could get to the command line of the computer player (no documentation, natch). She thought she could just edit the easy-to-figure-out player files but didn't know I'd put in a hash routine to detect exactly that and the computer would retaliate...Man, that was fun.

Sundog
15th August 2003, 09:10 AM
Originally posted by shanek
I wasn't actually the Sysop. She was a gal by the name of Lynne...a very demented sort, in a good way. She loved playing the game, but thought she could hack it.

I wrote the game deliberately to be hacked...there was even a part where you could get to the command line of the computer player (no documentation, natch). She thought she could just edit the easy-to-figure-out player files but didn't know I'd put in a hash routine to detect exactly that and the computer would retaliate...Man, that was fun.

No way! The Lynne who wrote a Skyline version of Murder Mansion? She used to call me every few weeks. I think she was in fact one of the beta tester group.

I stand by my premise. Those days were just FAR MORE FUN.

Sundog
15th August 2003, 09:36 AM
Originally posted by shanek
Man, I LOVED programming in SkyLine! If anything, it was actually more advanced than the Web in many ways....

So you're the mind behind it, SunDog? Man, I can't thank you enough! That was so much fun...

We did quite a few things first:

First use of geometric drawing commands over a modem; first use of sound files over a modem; first integration of a mouse into the online environment, except for the Mac's teleFinder; first integration of bitmapped graphics online ANYWHERE; first "authoring" program (SkyPaint); first use of a still-picture format to produce animation, ala animated GIFs. All things that later became common.

Skyline sysops were FANATICS. When my middle child was born people sent cards. One person even sent a dress for her. Imagine finding that sense of community surrounding a piece of software now.

Yes indeed, that was one of the most fun things I ever did, and definitely one of the most rewarding.

Sundog
15th August 2003, 10:09 AM
Originally posted by ratcomp1974

Green green grass of some.

Cheers,
B!FF.

I can see why you'd say that, but it sounds like you're more on the "consuming" end than the "creating" end. What drew me to computers was the seemingly endless possibilities of creation. I just don't see that as an attraction anymore. That was what was "fun" for me. It's all just apps and games now, and apps and games always bored me.

I think maybe you can see why my personal grass WAS greener then. :D

shanek
15th August 2003, 10:17 AM
Originally posted by Sundog
No way! The Lynne who wrote a Skyline version of Murder Mansion?

The same!

I stand by my premise. Those days were just FAR MORE FUN.

I agree. :D

Sundog
15th August 2003, 10:35 AM
Originally posted by shanek


The same!


By all means tell her "hi" if you are still in touch. She was a fun gal and absolutely devoted to Skyline.

Papa Jay Miner himself used Skyline for his personal BBS. Man, did he ever crawl all over me whenever he found bugs! :D Like having Shakespeare correct your grammar.

Chris Haynes
15th August 2003, 11:04 AM
Ah yes... the old days!!!

Where the fellow I started to go out with (and have been married to for over 20 years) had been a ham-radio enthusiest. Except he was only interested in the equipment, he didn't like conversations with strangers (especially since the dialog was on the order of "How high am I'm hitting you?"... a reference to the signal strength).

Then his ham-radio magazine went from "73", to "Computing 73"... and then the first Byte magazine came out. Back when it was interesting (we have the first 10 years of Byte sitting in boxes in our basement).

He started to collect computer parts... for 3 years I stumbled over a box of 'puter parts to go to bed in our teeny tiny apartment. He was so excited when he came home from a electronics surplus store with a keyboard 'board' and a bag of keys to build a keyboard. He used one of my glass baking pans to etch a board... then he wire-wrapped a few. Plus he spent hours nicking out the access holes from a bare box.

He used to have to get lab time at school at odd hours. I went once with him to write a lab report in the EE lounge at 2am. That was when the night custodian came through singing "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" very LOUDLY!!.

Then he graduated in 1980 and refused to even interview with Microsoft because he wanted to do HARDWARE... not software. sigh ... now he does software. (but knowing what happened to MS employees in the early years, we may not have stayed married).

Once upon a time he played online "Illuminati" and some other game over an early MCI modem.

Now we have a house with 5 functioning computers... spare parts for a few others floating around. There is a network cable snaking down the hallway from the den to the kitchen (the house is wired, but getting it hooked up is a "round-to-it", and he is also waiting for a new version of WiFi for that one... though 3 of the machines are linked with wireless). I just threw out some 5 1/4" floppy software I found (we only tossed out the programs stored on IBM cards 13 years ago... at least they went into paper recycle).

Ah yes... the good ol' days.

Soapy Sam
16th August 2003, 08:15 PM
Hey. Think yourself lucky.

When sex, drink and music is no fun any more, you know it's time to quit.:eek:

gnome
17th August 2003, 09:51 AM
Originally posted by shanek
The most fun of the old computer world was the BBSes, all but gone in this age of the internet, online forums, and web pages. I really miss that.

I was a BBS maniac before I found the Internet...

Ever play TradeWars and The Pit?

magicflute
11th January 2004, 06:20 PM
Since I am chess player, I loved the Chess game you wrote in Arexx, Sundog. I worked on it quite a bit more and got it to check illegal moves, also to work as real time multiplayer game. Before you knew it, half the users on my board where chess players! That certainly was way before the Internet multiplayer games of today. Also the interactive tour of you house was very cute.

asthmatic camel
12th January 2004, 10:36 AM
Great thread Sundog ! I suspect that you are a little jaded having apparently spent a large percentage of your life involved with computers and programming.

Until two years ago I had had no exposure to the world of computing since I left school around (cough) twenty years ago, other than using dedicated systems when working for a major UK bank. For obvious reasons, no-one but the very well paid boffins employed to write and maintain them, was allowed any real access other than entering the occasional password and DES key. To be honest, the idea of coming home from a day spent in front of a computer used purely as a tool in order to sit in front of another was anathema.

Now, approaching middle age (cough), I find computers a whole heap of fun. The shear amount of information available over the internet is astonishing and the capacity of the equipment is something that never ceases to amaze me. My brief foray into the guts of the business involved a ZX80 and BASIC; You guys who were instrumental in bringing such powerful tools to their present level have, and deserve, my great respect.

More power to your elbows.

Regards

AC :) (Edited for rubbish keyboard skills)

Sundog
12th January 2004, 03:00 PM
Originally posted by magicflute
Since I am chess player, I loved the Chess game you wrote in Arexx, Sundog. I worked on it quite a bit more and got it to check illegal moves, also to work as real time multiplayer game. Before you knew it, half the users on my board where chess players! That certainly was way before the Internet multiplayer games of today. Also the interactive tour of you house was very cute.


Wow! Thanks very much. I can't tell you how fulfilling it is to know that I created something that gave so many people so much fun. Thanks for responding.

El Greco
12th January 2004, 03:17 PM
Why do you guys miss assembler ? There's always MASM32... in fact, this is what I program in. It's alive and kicking, lots of people in the forums. Sure, using APIs is not the same thing as using interrupts but you can still be creative enough :)

Sundog
12th January 2004, 03:20 PM
While I'm passing though here I should mention that I've discovered something that promises to put the fun back into programming for me personally: AVR MICROCONTROLLERS. SkepticScott and I have discussed it in Paltalk, boy are they fun.

To see a robot I built with them and a stack of AOL tins, check out my new website (and say howdy in my guestbook):

www.gadjit.com/aolbot.html

So far besides robots and blinky-lights I have a tiny device that can take sound input, run a Fourier transform on it, discern the tones in the signal and send them out as MIDI events. Cool stuff!

For info on AVR's check out www.avrfreaks.com.

I guess I'm not QUITE burned out yet after all! ;)