Oregon Trail

Oh noes!

I had just found out that the Oregon Trail game is a LOT older than the Apple II version that infested schools in the 1980’s and gave us the infamous broken axle. As a matter of fact it was first written for the HP 2100, in BASIC.

Yes the computer was the size of a wagon!

There is a most excellent blog, The Digital Antiquarian that goes over the restoration of this old gem.  Even better they managed to get it loaded up onto a timesharing image, on the internet so you can play it! (it’s been since taken offline. sorry).

You can download the source here/mirror, along with a revised 1978 version.

Directions from the site:

1. Telnet to mickey.ath.cx. (Telnet, mind you. None of that newfangled SSH!)
2. Slowly alternate CTL-J and CTL-M until you see a “PLEASE LOG IN” message.
3. Enter “HEL-T001,HP2000,1″. Without the quotes, of course — and note that those are zeroes. Oh, and the system isn’t case-sensitive, but for the authentic experience you might want to have your caps lock on.
4. Enter “GET-OREGON” to load the 1975 version, “GET-ORE2″ to load the 1978 version.
5. “LIST” the program if you like, or just “RUN” it.

You can download a working disk for the SIMH HP-2100 emulator(mirrorhere/mirror.  This comes pre-loaded with the 1978 version.

HP-2100 menu
HP-2100 menu

Select option J and away you go.

It seems easier then I recall as a kid, not to mention I won the first time I played it!


Duke 3d & the Build engine

Well I was looking at some stuff on old games, and naturally everyone always did love Duke Nukem 3D!

Now what is really cool, is that that the guy behind the build engine, Ken Silverman released the source to the ‘build’ engine, but also some of the builds of build as it progressed.

Ken is a big fan of QuickBasic, so to compile his earliest version, you’ll need QuickBasic 4.5, or the QBasic that came with MS-DOS 5.0 and above.

Download picrot4.bas, and run it through basic, and you’ll get this:

Qbasic 'Build'
Qbasic ‘Build’

Under some emulators (Virtual PC) you’ll get a corrupted screen at first, hit any of the arrow keys, and it’ll redraw the screen into what it should look like. Considering the 8kb of basic code includes the engine, and the map it’s pretty snazzy!

You can find the timeline, and other versions of the build engine as it progressed on Ken’s web page.

As the engine improved, and was ported into C, it only got better! Then it was sold and licensed out, which gave rise to great games like 3D Realms Duke Nukem!

Notice the similarities?
Notice the similarities?

After the build engine went open, 3D realms followed up, in releasing their extensive modifications to build which can be found here.

In the off chance you don’t have the game, you can still get the shareware version of it from 3D Realms here, and of course the full version on Good Old Games for $5.99 USD.

With the release of Build & Duke 3D, it’s only natural that they shed their humble MS-DOS beginnings and found their way onto Windows as full Win32 applications taking advantage of the hardware. Thanks to the work of Ken & Jonathon. You can find the results on Jonathon Fowler’s page here.

I suppose later I’ll have to see if it’ll build with the win64 tools… It’s be neat for a 64bit version of Duke!

Bywater basic

bwbasic and life.bas
bwbasic and life.bas

Well I forget what it was I was looking for, but I came across this great site, all about Vintage BASIC, and some various GAMES!

Now back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s BASIC was quite different then it is in it’s current Microsoft incarnation as Visual Basic .NET. But not all that surprising is that Microsoft was a popular BASIC distributor to the microcomputers of the time, supplying BASIC for Commodore, among others, wikipedia has a great list of all the variants of their 8 bit rommable basic.

Back in college a friend was just a little obsessed with basic (he probably still is) and he was all happy as hell to have found this little interpreter written in C, that we could run on the RS/6000 called Bywater BASIC.

Now while vintage-basic has this basic interpreter written in Haskell to run the programs, I thought I’d see if I could get some to run on Bywater.

First was picking a version, and building it. I found that version of 2.5 was the easiest to build on my NeXT, and with a minor amount of hacking, even windows.. bwbasic needs a BIG stack… so 16bit stuff is out, but I guess it doesn’t matter as they had Quick Basic, and the old MS basic so this would be redundant.

Anyways out of the examples I chose the life program, and with a few changes it’ll run on QuickBASIC as a test, and bwbasic 2.5

9 X1=1: Y1=1: X2=24: Y2=70
10 DIM A(24,70),B$(24)
20 C=1
30 INPUT B$(C)
40 IF B$(C)="DONE" THEN B$(C)="": GOTO 80
50 IF LEFT$(B$(C),1)="." THEN
B$(C)=" "+RIGHT$(B$(C),LEN(B$(C))-1)
60 C=C+1
70 GOTO 30
80 C=C-1: L=0
90 FOR X=1 TO C-1
100 IF LEN(B$(X))>L THEN L=LEN(B$(X))
110 NEXT X
120 X1=11-C/2
130 Y1=33-L/2
140 FOR X=1 TO C
150 FOR Y=1 TO LEN(B$(X))
160 IF MID$(B$(X),Y,1)<>" " THEN A(X1+X,Y1+Y)=1:P=P+1
170 NEXT Y
180 NEXT X
215 X3=24:Y3=70:X4=1: Y4=1: P=0
220 G=G+1
225 FOR X=1 TO X1-1:
230 FOR X=X1 TO X2
250 FOR Y=Y1 TO Y2
253 IF A(X,Y)=2 THEN A(X,Y)=0:GOTO 270
256 IF A(X,Y)=3 THEN A(X,Y)=1:GOTO 261
260 IF A(X,Y)<>1 THEN 270
261 PRINT TAB(Y);"*";
262 IF X<X3 THEN X3=X
264 IF X>X4 THEN X4=X
266 IF Y<Y3 THEN Y3=Y
268 IF Y>Y4 THEN Y4=Y
270 NEXT Y
290 NEXT X
295 FOR X=X2+1 TO 24:
299 X1=X3: X2=X4: Y1=Y3: Y2=Y4
301 IF X1<3 THEN X1=3:I9=-1
303 IF X2>22 THEN X2=22:I9=-1
305 IF Y1<3 THEN Y1=3:I9=-1
307 IF Y2>68 THEN Y2=68:I9=-1
309 P=0
500 FOR X=X1-1 TO X2+1
510 FOR Y=Y1-1 TO Y2+1
520 C=0
530 FOR I=X-1 TO X+1
540 FOR J=Y-1 TO Y+1
550 IF A(I,J)=1 OR A(I,J)=2 THEN C=C+1
560 NEXT J
570 NEXT I
580 IF A(X,Y)=0 THEN 610
590 IF C<3 OR C>4 THEN A(X,Y)=2: GOTO 600
595 P=P+1
600 GOTO 620
610 IF C=3 THEN A(X,Y)=3:P=P+1
620 NEXT Y
630 NEXT X
635 X1=X1-1:Y1=Y1-1:X2=X2+1:Y2=Y2+1
640 GOTO 210
650 END

You just type in some stuff as a starting pattern, then type in “DONE” on it’s own on a single line, and it’ll animate the sequence…

I should also add that the history of Bywater basic is kind of interesting it was started by Verda Spell, the grandmother of Ted Campbell who released it into the public domain.

From the original documentation:

Her (Verda’s) programming efforts were cut
tragically short when she was thrown from a Beaumont to Port
Arthur commuter train in the summer of 1986. I found the source
code to bwBASIC on a single-density Osborne diskette in her knitting
bag and eventually managed to have it all copied over to a PC
diskette. I have revised it slightly prior to this release.

NeXTSTEP audio & mod files…

Well I’ve been looking for a way to get some audio out of Quake for NeXTSTEP… and it’s incredibly complicated. I found some ‘smallish’ program for the m68k black hardware that is a MOD player, modPlayer 2.5 which also included source!

However, for me I can’t run it as the monitor to my cube is busted… But I was able to compile it to verify the source ‘works’. I then built it on my white box (P4 2.4Ghz 1GB of ram, and a real soundblaster 16!) and, after removing the reference to the decrunch routine it produced.. noise, and lots of it. But I did feel like I was getting *somewhere*.

I figure the main reason it’s exploding is that the m68k port uses the same CPU as the Amiga for these MOD files, so no doubt there is some bit flipping needed to go from big endian to little endian, but I know *nothing* about the MOD format.. So after a quick google search on basic mod players, I found qmod, a module player written in Quick Basic!!

So I looked around for a copy of Quick Basic 4.5, and tried to build the program, and it was all crash & burn.

At work we have a copy of PDS, the Professional Development System, also known as Basic 7.1 .. This thing is still useful, it will target OS/2 so you can write these massive programs (and run them under Windows 2000). So I figured I could use that to get the thing to build.. And I ran into the same errors about overflows, and all kinds of crap.

So the next thing to try was a copy of Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS that I got from ebay a while back.. I made images of the disks, which was fun, installed the thing to get.. the exact same errors. But I have to say VB for DOS was cool in that the output window can be in a windows (although text one) and you can trace and see at the same time… If only this was on store shelves in 1992!!!!

Anyways after looking at the command line options for VB for dos, I spotted this…

/Ah Enable huge dynamic arrays

I was surprised! So it would seem the answer was in the compiler, not the nice interface.. I just has ‘assumed’ that the interface would provide all the options.. Not so.

So I re-extracted the qmod source as I’d hopelessly altered it, then ‘fixed’ the one line that prevented compilation…

DEF SEG = VARSEG(mixarea(0))

I just removed that line, and ran the compiler & linker.. and it runs!

C:\TEMP>bc /Ah /O qmod.bas

Microsoft (R) Visual Basic (TM) for MS-DOS (R)
Compiler – Professional Edition Version 1.00
Copyright (C) 1982-1992 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Object Filename [qmod.obj]:

Source Listing [nul.lst]:

42555 Bytes Available
33278 Bytes Free

0 Warning Error(s)
0 Severe Error(s)

C:\TEMP>link qmod.obj

Microsoft (R) Segmented Executable Linker Version 5.31.009 Jul 13 1992
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1984-1992. All rights reserved.

Run File [qmod.exe]:
List File [nul.map]:
Libraries [.lib];
Definitions File [nul.def]:


Now this program does require a sound blaster card, and it also requires the blaster environment variable set properly… So for Virtual PC it’s simply


Then run qmod and the supplied mod file, and away it goes!

Qmod under Virtual PC
Qmod under Virtual PC

And I have to say it’s really cool to listen to this thing work, only using peek/poke (ok it’s inp/out in the new syntax…) but it’s playing the soundblaster, and it sounds GREAT.

So going back to PDS & Quick Basic 4.5 they all support the /Ah flag.. So it’ll build on any of them.

So for those who aren’t inclined to play compiler games, here is a pre-built version of Qmod, and it includes a mod file.

Now for those of you who don’t have Virtual PC, or not running on Windows, the program will run on DOSBox as well!

I just found I had to tweak the cpu config a little to make it run.. This is my CPU block in the configuration file.


Now when you launch DOSBox, it’ll pick some low cpu cycle number and stay there when you launch qmod.. And it’s too low so it’ll sound horrible. So hitting CTRL+F12 will increase the cycles. Set it to 25000, and it’ll run fine. If you set it too high, CTRL+F11 will bring it down. DOSBox already sets the blaster environment variable for you, so it should ‘just work’.

From there I’d recommend sites like Amiga Music Preservation, or Mod Archive. Qmod can play quite a few of the files with the MOD extension, but not all.. But it’s a great small example program.

As luck would have it, my whitebox is having some weird boot issue, so I can’t go any further on this… But I figure I’d share this much with the world…