Something got me thinking about Compute! magazine the other day and the role it played in my early computing life.

In the late 1980s my family had an Atari 800 XL home computer which had a slot for game cartridges but also had a full keyboard and was similar in ability to the famed Commodore 64. We mostly just played games on it, but it was a personal computer and not a game console. It was later replaced with the awesome (for the time) Amiga 500 but we were an Atari family for a long time before then.

Issues of Compute! had source code (usually Basic, I think) for games and other small programs that would work on all of the most popular home computers of the era, including our Atari, and my family would spend time entering them in line by line into the Atari. The source code was mostly just gibberish to us at the time so it was usually a two person job… one person reading the code out loud and the other person typing it in. It would usually take my parents and I several days to a week or more to do one of them. The programs usually ran and worked at the end but sometimes had small glitches due to typos on our part. When they didn’t run at all it was pretty heart breaking. The games were never awesome, but it was still very gratifying to see the result of our efforts and it was painful to end up staring at useless text. Towards the end of that era of my computing life I started trying to change random bits of our working code to see what would happen, too. I didn’t know then what role computer software would play in my future life, of course.

The cover of the issue here mentions a hands-on look at the Amiga 500 so it seemed like an especially fitting one to go along with this little trot down memory lane.

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