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Computers And I

I have been playing computer games since around 1981 or 1982 (excluding a much earlier encounter with "Oregon Trail" and "Star Trek" on a TRS-80 as well as some exposure to a Commodore PET). Starting on a VIC-20, I went through several C-64s until I got happily stuck with an Amiga 1000 in 1986 which I eventually abandoned for IBM compatibles in 1993 (shame, I know... but I still keep an A2000 around). On the VIC-20 I started programming in BASIC right away before I even had any games for it, after all this was what a computer was for in those days, right? I even got the 16KB (yes, Kilobyte...) memory expansion cartridge! Screaming! The gaming thing really took off with the C-64 and I started spending more time typing in and hoarding software than writing my own. The only 6502 assembly I ever wrote was a loader for a Charlie's Angels slide show, the highly pixelated images having been grabbed from video freeze frames with an early digitizer capable of 4 colors in 'Koala Paint' format.
My programming on the Amiga eventually lead to the publication of an AmigaBASIC geography game called PIONEER in a COMPUTE! book. Shortly after, C programming really took off and magazines stopped buying and publishing BASIC listings from hobbyists. The era of design teams with entire groups working on different aspects of a product and cranking out ever more sophisticated code pretty much killed the market for what an individual could achieve (exceptions having made history though). I missed jumping on the assembly and C bandwagon and eventually became a corporate mainframe programmer. The one-man design eventually celebrated a comeback with the popularity of shareware.
It's nostalgic and amazing to think how far software has come. Who'd write an address book database or a gas/mileage tracker line by line anymore. Instead we whip things out with an MS Access wizard or our spreadsheet software or drag and drop something together with a visual language package.

My most recent rig is a Dell Dimension XPS B1000r (1GHz Pentium III) running Windows 98 SE with 256MB of RDRAM, a 75GB EIDE hard drive, 64MB DDR NVidia geForce 4xAGP video card, Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! Value Digital sound card, Altec Lansing THX ADA885 Dolby Surround speaker system, Dell P1110 21" Trinitron monitor, Samsung 12x Max Variable DVD ROM drive with TV decoder card, 3Com 56k Internal PCI Voice/Fax modem, Canon BJC-7000 printer, Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 6300Cse scanner, Seagate Hornet 20 10/20GB Travan-5 tape backup, IBM Office Pro 700VA UPS.

My previous system, aging but still in use, is a Dell Dimension XPS D266 running Windows 95 with 64MB RAM and a Seagate 4GB SCSI HD, STB Velocity 4400 16MB AGP video card (replacing a Velocity 128 4MB AGP card), Creative Labs Sound Blaster AWE64 Sound Card, Dell D1226H 19" Monitor, NEC 12/24X SCSI CD-ROM Reader, US Robotics 33.6/56k Internal Voice/Fax Modem, Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 500C Printer, Canon IX-4015 Scanner, Conner CTT8000 4/8GB Travan-4 Tape Backup, APC 600VA UPS.

My even older system, still in operation also, is a Micron Millennia P120 PCI running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with 24MB RAM and a Conner 2GB SCSI HD, Diamond Stealth 64 Video VRAM 4MB Video Card, Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 Sound Card, MAG Innovision 17" Monitor, Plextor 6X SCSI CD-ROM Reader, ZyXEL Omni 288S Modem, Colorado Memory Systems Jumbo 1400 Tape Backup.

As of February 2000 I am also a proud owner of a Commodore C-64 and two 1541 disk drives again (under $100 on EBay...). The impetus was the discovery of all my old software, books and accessories in my parents' attic over Christmas. Man, it's been something like 16 years since my prime with that box. My first ever BASIC programs, the PEEKs and POKEs, the Zero Page! I remember it well. And all the games! Funny to find my highscore entries in Epyx Summer and Winter Games and to think of how awe-inspiring those graphics were back then. And the technical manuals and books, as if they wanted you to actually know the ins and outs of the machine including how the thing is wired... The disk notcher to make the untested flipsides of the 5.25" floppies writeable, the home-burnt Turbo Load EPROM, the Simon's Basic cartridge...
Back then, of course, after I had gotten a taste of the Amiga I wouldn't have wanted to touch a C-64 with a ten foot pole. But considering how ahead of its time the Amiga was, the C-64 is definitely the more nostalgic trip.

Professionally, I work as a SAS consultant/programmer, preferably on Sun UNIX platforms where I also do a lot of shell scripting. Before SAS I've had a brief encounter with PL/I and after that used to support MICS (MVS Integrated Control System) and RACF on an IBM MVS platform.

Currently, I work as a Production Control Analyst in the Credit Card Services division of a large corporation, supporting back office and help desk related administration and reporting programming tasks and putting ad-hoc procedures into a scheduled production environment while also being sort of a jack-of-all-trades for all kinds of tasks at hand. I'm also doing some Web design from home on the side. My resume is available online.


PC Software Favorites

I have created special pages for these favorite games and one about Quicken users.

Go to my 'Need For Speed' Page Go to my 'Pinball Simulations' Pages Go to my 'Links 386 Pro Golf' Page Go to my 'Quicken' Humor Page

Visit the Pinball Simulation Page and read reviews of many of today's pinball games. See my best times for Need For Speed and my high scores for Crystal Caliburn and Loony Labyrinth Pinball. Download replays and saved games for Links 386 Pro Golf and Need For Speed.

These are some software favorites of mine with related links:

  • Links 386 Pro (Access Software)
    I never played real-life golf in my life nor do I plan to pick it up anytime soon. Yet this by now superseded golf game stands the test of time. I love the feeling of being out in the green and accumulating stats and saving shots and replayable games for others to see. My main motivation to play this game comes from the life-time stats that are kept for each player and course. That's all it takes along with a flawless design, interface and all the features one could want. The link goes to my shot and replay download page.
  • Map'n'Go (DeLorme)
    Maps have come a long way and I love it - mapping out road trips and looking over the country in the comfort of my own home.
  • Need For Speed (Electronic Arts)
    Incredibly motivating balance between simulation and arcade car racing with high attention to detail in both gameplay and features. They just got it right and thought of it all. After year and a half I still find myself beating previous best times and discovering new things. The selection of closed-circuit and open-road tracks is refreshing and the replay and best-time saving features promote variety and competition. I find myself constantly challenged without outgrowing the game or getting frustrated with the complexity of mastering controls and skills. The link leads to my own page about NFS.
  • Norton Commander (Symantec)
    God, I mean, DOS might be dead but Norton Commander is still one of the programs I use most often. I simply cannot do without it and anybody using graphical file managers should be shot anyway... There now even is a Windows 95 version which isn't quite evident on Symantec's site unless you go to the product updates section.
  • Railroad Tycoon (MicroProse)
    I originally listed this game under classics because it's fairly old, I played it back on the Amiga first and got the Deluxe version for PCs later. Well, I still play it. It's an intriguing concept and a well balanced simulation by Sid Meier. What motivates me is not just the construction and management of a railroad empire but more so the childhood fascination of playing with model train kits and the sensation of gazing over a map and imagining to travel to the cities and places. Just like with Civilization, I never managed to master the higher skill levels. It seems to go from "manageable with common sense" to "I don't know what I am doing wrong" without much in between. That slight frustration aside, this game still stands out.

Though not really a favorite game I've created a public domain set of 10 levels with an ancient history theme for Sierra On-Line's LODE RUNNER: THE LEGEND RETURN (DOS CD-ROM). You may download my Lode Runner "Ancient Levels" as a 6K ZIP file.


Classic Software Favorites

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Series - SSI, Amiga/PC
  • Beach Head/Beach Head II - Access Software, C-64
  • Bruce Lee - Datasoft, C-64
  • Cineware Series - Cineware, Amiga
  • Dallas Quest - Datasoft, C-64
  • 'Leather Goddesses Of Phobos' by Infocom - Box Design
  • DeLuxe Paint - Electronic Arts, Amiga
  • F-19 Stealth Fighter - MicroProse, Amiga
  • Hack - Amiga public domain
  • H.E.R.O. - Activision/Softworks, C-64
  • Impossible Mission - Epyx, C-64
  • Infocom Text Adventures - Infocom, C-64/Amiga
  • Matrix - Jeff Minter, Llama Software (?), C-64
  • Pharaoh's Curse - Synapse Software, C-64
  • Raid Over Moscow - Access Software, C-64
  • Seven Cities Of Gold - Electronic Arts, C-64
  • Spindizzy - Electric Dreams, C-64
  • Summer Games - Epyx, C-64
  • Wizard Of Wor - (?), C-64

'Impossible Mission' by Epyx - Final Screen (C-64)'The Dallas Quest' by DataSoft - Opening Screen (C-64)
Impossible Mission
Final Screen (C-64)
The Dallas Quest
Opening Screen (C-64)

Support the computer gaming mag that has integrity and a clue: Computer Gaming World

Computer Books

How about some fascinating, interesting and recommended not-too-technical computer reading? Some of the books I read that long ago I hardly recall what they were about. Based on what I do remember, the covers are roughly arranged from left to right in order of preference.

Hackers by Steven Levy
Steven Levy:
The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll
Cliff Stoll:
The Cuckoo's Egg
The Soul Of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder
Tracy Kidder:
The Soul Of A New Machine
The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks
Frederick P. Brooks:
The Mythical Man-Month
Programming As If People Mattered by Nathaniel Borenstein
Nathaniel Borenstein:
Programming As If People Mattered
Woz: The Prodigal Son Of Silicon Valley by Doug Garr
Doug Garr:
Woz: The Prodigal Son Of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley Fever by Judith K. Larsen
Judith K. Larsen:
Silicon Valley Fever
The New Alchemists by Dirk Hanson
Dirk Hanson:
The New Alchemists
Engines Of The Mind by Joel Shurkin
Joel Shurkin:
Engines Of The Mind
Charged Bodies by Thomas Mahon
Thomas Mahon:
Charged Bodies
Computer Power And Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum
Joseph Weizenbaum:
Computer Power And
Human Reason
The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
Scott Adams:
The Dilbert Principle

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Last updated Oct 13, 2002 by Martin Mathis, e-mail