David Ahl's name was everywhere during the hobbyist era of personal computers in the late '70s and early '80s. He edited Creative Computing and wrote more than a dozen computer books, including the million-selling Basic Computer Games.

On his Web site, Ahl is selling early computer books, video game magazines, and other stuff.

He's also a great source of information. For years, I've been looking for a book called People's Book of Computer Games that supposedly contains Star Traders, a BASIC game considered to be the first version of TradeWars, one of the most popular BBS games.

When I asked Ahl about this book and Star Traders, he responded:

As far as I know, the game Star Traders originally appeared in People's Computer Company (a newspaper/magazine) published by P.C.C. (an alternative education computer center) in Menlo Park, CA. (It's a bit confusing that the physical storefront computer center and the newspaper both had the same name.) The game also appeared in What to Do After You Hit Return subtitled "PCC's first book of computer games." PCC was a rather egalitarian organization, hence credit was only rarely given to the authors of the various games they published and there is no author credit affixed to Star Traders. So it could have been written by any one of the 40-50 people cited in the acknowledgements of the book. The game, written in "standard" HP Basic, is a monster and, unusual for the time (1973) has both a set-up module and a main playing module. Also unusual for the time, it had the capability of saving the playing data (1) from one session to the next and (2) for different users who logged onto other nodes of the timesharing system. It was this that allowed it to be a multi-player game with games often lasting a matter of weeks or months. The book had some interesting suggestions and ideas for extending and modifying the game to make it more interesting and longer lasting; I believe that over the years many (or most) of these have been implemented.

Ahl also had a copy of the book for sale, which I bought. I'll be publishing an article here about Star Traders for the benefit of the old-school BBS geeks who share my interest in TradeWars history.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

Funny, I just rediscovered the David Ahl books in my library after having moved. In particular I've been looking through Basic Computer Games and More Basic Computer Games. And since you mention BBSes, I've been playing with Synchronet BBS (http://www.synchro.net) and DOSEMU on Linux.

Been idly thinking lately about what it would take to turn all of those old games from those books into games for my Synchro telnet BBS, and if anyone would be nostalgic enough to be interested in playing them :)


 

Star Traders was written by Dave Kaufman. He published a description of the game in People's Computer Company, volume 2, number 3, January 1974. PCC sold a paper tape containing the code.


 

Thanks for the information about this classic. I have managed to get the game ported to TRS-80 Micro Color Basic. Here is a video of it running: youtu.be


 

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