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When I was 14 or thereabouts, I formed an uncomfortable relationship with the local newsagent. I delivered newspapers for them for about 8 quid a week battling extreme weather conditions while riding a Grifter bike and spent my profits on Star Wars figures. This was about the time of Return/Revenge of the Jedi and the Ewoks that were blocked out on the back of the figure card so George Fatbeard could unleash a kiddy friendly marketing campaign on the back of those damned teddy bears. Anyway, one day the shopkeeper had a new box of delights, computer games for 2 quid. Or more accurately, games for £1.99. Mastertronic games in particular, but not solely those as there were other publishers of cheap pabulum, one in particular (who I’ve just found out was called Atlantis Software Limited) produced a game called Mosquito.

This was in no way a complex piece of software, but it was important to me in that it was the first one I figured out how to modify the running code. We had 3 televisions at home, one in the living room that was for general TV, one black and white with rotary dial for my use and one in the back room for other usages. I was sometimes allowed to use the back room TV for gaming, and it had a fault that meant that anything with execssive black on screen caused the screen to roll in a fashion similar to displaying NTSC on PAL native hardware. While trying to get Mosquito to work, I somehow found that the game could be paused and the in memory code could be rewritten. Kind of like the way you could run an IDE in debug mode. I learned that I could then poke the address (36879) corresponding to the border colour of the game and force this into light blue instead which would allow me to play the game on the back room TV without rolling screen.

It wasn’t a particularly great game, a kind of Lock & Chase knock-off but the empowerment I found from fixing this bug this lead me into the areas of computing that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and probably helped direct my career as it was. I’ve found a tape image of the game on the internet, and there is a screen capture of it below. I can’t seem to figure out the joystick settings though, so haven’t been able to play it so far. It seems to have borrowed some sound effects from Defender, although that might have been the limitations of the sound chip on board as I’m pretty sure the Vic didn’t support samples. Not only that, but with only 3.5 Kb of addressable memory it’s kind of tricky to find space to place them. I think the first sample used in a videogame was in Ghostbusters for the C64/Spectrum, a supposed rendition of “He slimed me” came out sounding more like “He’s floon loo”.

Anyhow, enough reminiscing about videogames for now.

The Scientist – The Exorcist

The Scientist – The Bee : It was listening to this earlier that had me thinking about insects. Well, this and the massive insects that lurk outside of my home now that I live somewhere more rural than I used to. I don’t think I had ever seen a fly with distinct feet before.

Buy Mosquito for the Vic 20 on ebay.

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