(Back) into The Valley
Remembering a BASIC coding classic from 1982
Forgotten Tech I first explored The Valley late in 1982. My method of entry: a Research Machines 380Z. I loved it and didn't want to leave.
But the school lunch period ended at 1.30 and the computer room was locked then, so I had to wait a day or two until I could get time on the RM again.
The Valley had been hacked onto the 380Z by a guy called Roy Walker. In a rare moment of schoolboy honesty, he admitted he'd keyed it in from a listing in a magazine. The publication was Computing Today, which had run an article - bylined only 'HB' and 'RM' - in April that year centred on a modular sword-and-sorcery "real-time adventure with graphics" designed to not only be entertaining to play but also to be used as a programming teaching aid.
"The published listing was developed and tested on a 32K Commodore Pet but will, if all non-essential spaces and REMs are removed, run in 16K," the authors promised.
"The best way to implement the program on your system is to key it in one module at a time following the notes," we were advised. "As each block is completed, SAVE it on tape before adding the next; 16K is a lot of program to lose if you make a mistake!"
Hard drive users - they don't know they're born...
CT published follow-up articles during the following months, mostly centred on adapting the code for other machines. The May 1982 issue, for example, featured writer Peter Green detailing a TRS-80 version. In the August 1982 number, Andrew Bain offered notes on coding The Valley for the Sharp MZ-80K. A year after the initial listing, readers' additions - extra spells and conversion hints - were being published en masse.
The original Valley was written for the Commodore Pet, but Roy had tweaked it into RM's dialect of Basic. I asked if I could borrow the listing to recode it for Microsoft Colour Basic - what my Dragon 32 used - but Roy told me to piss off.
A friend, Iain, was more lucky. He too had a Dragon and, after he'd borrowed the listing from Roy for an evening or two, I had a photocopy of the Pet code. Iain was no coder, but he knew I was and wanted to play the game on his own machine, so it made sense for him to get me the listing.
I can't recall how long the conversion took. Not long, I think. The hard bit was working out what the addresses that codes were Poke'd into the Pet's memory map represented. I made some guesses and seemed to get it right.
Next page: Sample Code
I feel Old, (but not as old as soom).
I remember keying in BASIC on an old Commodore 16+4, pages and pages of code from the manual to teach you how to code.
I also remember crying at my computer to myself after hours of typing a certain program and nothing happening.
At least I don't do that at work whn my code fails, I leave the room first.
Time for a quote
"...the teaching of BASIC should be rated as a criminal offence: it mutilates the mind beyond recovery." - Edsger Dijkstra
Never done me any harm etc.
Well... Apart from finding out at the age of 8, upon typing the fateful RUN [Enter] after inputting my first ever listing (the one for a version of Breakout supplied in the manual for the ZX Spectrum +3) that said listing was broken. I think that did do irreversible harm of the sort that played on my clearly genetic desire to fix anything that's broken and suckered me into coming back for that kind of punishment day in, day out, for the rest of my life. I often wonder whether the people responsible for that manual did it deliberately. Either way they changed the course of my life.
Aaaah .... memories.
I remember doing a 'conversion' of The Valley on the Commodore 64 around 1983/84, whilst another friend of mine did it for the Spectrum - writing it for the Speccy posed a few problems but the net result was a very faithful conversion.
Because the original code was for the PET, the C64 conversion wasn't *that* difficult even if it did take a bloody age to type in. Heady days indeed, and could well be the reason why I love rogue-like games even now.
Thanks for the links too .... it's *very* tempting to download the source and re-jig The Valley in Java or Perl :-)
I was on the other side
A little later than The Valley I worked for the magazine group which published Computing Today. My job was to test the games readers had sent in and prepare the listings to go into the magazines. I spent hours on the phone to people who'd typed them in and couldn't get them to work. People who didn't know the difference between a "(" and a "<" - well they are both brackets.
I suspect calls from people who'd typed in The Valley helped me get the job as Technical Editor there.
That brings back some memories! Thank you.