My 40-Year-Old Computer Programs

My first computer was a TRS-80 Color Computer that my parents bought for me at Radio Shack in 1981. I was in ninth grade, which was my last year of junior high. I was fortunate that my parents were willing to invest $650 in a computer that I could hook up to the 13″ color television in my bedroom. That’s equivalent to over $2,000 in inflation-adjusted 2023 dollars.

The computer only had 32 kilobytes of memory. To put that in perspective, a single photo on a smartphone in 2023 would consume about 150 times that amount of memory. Zoinks!

My desktop computer 40 years later has 500,000 times more memory, uses 64-bit rather than 8-bit data units, and has four microprocessor cores which collectively process over 1,500 times more instructions per second than that first computer could manage.

Programs were initially stored and retrieved using an audio cassette recorder, which basically recorded or played back a modem signal. But after I invested countless hours learning to program in Extended Color BASIC, my parents invested another $1,000 to purchase two floppy disk drives for my computer, which would be almost $3,000 in 2023.

I played some video games on it and collaborated with my best friend, Jeff, on writing a couple of games of our own in BASIC. But the real investment of time was a total of 15 Star Trek programs I wrote, some on my own and others with Jeff, from 1982 through 1984.

I had been a huge Star Trek fan since 1974, and two Star Trek movies book-ended our high school years — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984. Those and the original Star Trek television series inspired several of the programs in which we honed our skills to create little space battles, ship plans, and the like.

It was all quite primitive, given that even at its best, the computer could only produce black-and-white 256×192 pixel images or four-color images at 128×192 pixels. My current desktop computer monitor’s resolution is 13 times wider, 7.5 times taller, and can display over 16 million colors.

I upgraded to a newer model of the Color Computer in 1983, and moved on to an entirely different and incompatible computer in 1985, as documented here. But before I got rid of my last Color Computer, I hooked it up to a videocassette recorder and ran the 15 Star Trek programs to preserve their output.

Jeff passed away in 2018, my father passed in 2022, and my mother has moved to Bartlesville. So I’ve been saying goodbye to my hometown of Oklahoma City. My way of processing that has been a series of posts. I’ve written about my old schools, three posts on my old neighborhood (1st, 2nd, 3rd), and posts about the Mexican food, pizzas, and hamburger joints of my youth. Now I’m documenting one of my youthful hobbies.

I’ve digitized the old videotape, adding commentary and showing how we programmed the computer, designed the graphics, and honed our skills. It’s almost an hour long and quite esoteric, so I know very few folks will actually watch it. But I’m glad to have made it. Goodbye, OKC. So long, Jeff, and thanks for all the fun.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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