Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why 'Dragon Quest 64'?

As a way of paying homage to the history and players that set me on the life-long path of Computer Science I chose to take two key players from my journey and simply mash their names together.

Commodore 64 (C-64)

While I didn't know it at the time, the year 1984 really set the stage for the rest of my life.  The Commodore 64 was routinely portrayed on television time and time again and it's allure simply captivated me.  At $595, available at K-Mart, alas it seemed out of reach for this simple townie.  It's less sexy and less expensive sister, the VIC-20 however was a bit more approachable for this young lad.

I remember saving my pennies from a campaign of precision lawn mowing for months across our entire town until the day was reached that I had enough to execute my purchase.  Armed with a carefully counted wad of bills I persuaded my folks to drive me to K-Mart for my triumphant purchase.  As I clutched my prize in my skinny little fingers, my father talked to the sales associate about the C-64 and asked me "Why don't you get this one?", to which I replied "I don't have enough to afford it.".  My father, after a brief discussion with my mother said they'd borrow me the remainder of the money.  To this day, I'm not confident I've ever sufficiently repaid them as this purchase set the course for the majority of my adult career.

It likely will come as a surprise to many younger folks, but at the verge of the PC revolution computers like the C-64 didn't come armed with hard-drives, floppy-drives or persistent storage of any kind.  That, my friend, was an accessory and frankly one that I couldn't afford for the better part of a year in the form of a 2nd hand C-64 datasette.  Until that time, there was no means of saving anything.  Every time you turned off your computer you lost everything.  Painful intellectual torture, but the repetition nearly tattooed the syntax of Commodore BASIC into my young impressionable mind.

Daily, I'd flip the small gray power button on my electronic friend and be greeted by the far too familiar system prompt and I'd tap away at the keyboard down my next journey down geekhood.

Dragon Quest

My newly acquired debt and a depleted piggy bank left me little options for exploring the secrets of this electronic beauty.  If I wanted this thing to do interesting things, I'd have to program it.  Enter 'Run' magazine.

A good friend of mine had a father that worked at a magazine distributor which allowed him access to a near never-ending supply of magazines free of charge.  While Playboy's were the most highly sought after prize, he had access to nearly every magazine distributed in the city including copies of 'Run Magazine'.  In the days that predated the Internet and a town without a library, this opened the tech knowledge door for this broke trailer-park kid at a price I could afford *free*.

Run magazine was marketed to C-64 users, mostly hobbyists, and offered source code listings for programs submitted by other users.  These programs could simply be typed in by other users, opening a new knowledge stream for this small-town boy.  The 1st program listing I painstakingly entered was a program listing called 'Dragon Quest' from issue #5.  I recently learned as part of this posting that the program was authored and submitted by a gentleman (Tom Meixner) who lived ~50 miles from where I live today; small world.

Those days back in 1984 put me on the path I continue to walk today and I figured it an appropriate recognition for a personal technical blog.

Cheers for now.