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Saturday, 11 February 2017

How it all Started - the Early Games

Around 1984 I created my first Bashing Simulator as a board game that involved chasing Class 40's for haulage around a map of Northern England.  Simply called "The Bashing Game" it made an appearance on a couple of railtours, but the sheer size of the game board (made up of about 20 sheets of laminated A4 paper spread out on a table) did make it somewhat unwieldy.  Players would take turns throwing a dice, and moving their counter along the rail routes on the board.  At the same time, they would also move a Class 40-hauled 'train' on a route determined by card selection.  Players had to position themselves at a station due to be called at by the train, in order to board the train and score points.  There were other features (such as 'railtour' cards) which added some variety to the game.

My first encounter with the world of computer programming was when I undertook a week of work experience at a computer shop in Preston town centre.  It sold the Commodore PET, meaning I could start to teach myself BASIC, the programming language that shipped with these machines.

It was Commodore the released the very successful C16 and C64 machines, which although they were aimed at the fledgeling computer gaming market, were also shipped with BASIC.  The first railway computer games were also being developed, and I dived into the source code for RTC Penzance to see how it all worked.  You can still play this game today on a PC thanks to a free emulator.

I bought my first PC in about 1989; an Amstrad 2086 D.  (The link shows the 2086-S, which was the single drive version of mine - the 'D' stood for 'Dual' as it had 2 3.5 inch floppy disk drives).  Hard Drives were way beyond my budget at that time, but you could run Windows V2 using the two drives.  Not that I ever really bothered with Windows at that time - I was happy just tapping around in DOS, the command line operating system that shipped with PCs in those days. I remember buying my first hard disk drive for that machine, which weighed in at a whopping 20Mb, for 100 Quid - quite an investment in 1989 prices.  Nowadays (2017), you can buy a 2Tb drive for less than that, which is about 50,000 times bigger.

Around that time, a Class 25 bashing acquaintance, Alan Baylis, developed a game called "Rail Rover", which ran on DOS PCs, and was probably the first computer bashing game.  It was based on roughly the same area as "The Bashing Game", but this creation included the 1980 Summer Saturday timetable, and psuedo-ramdom loco allocations.  If any of you have ever played this game, you will see where many of the features of the modern "Hellfire" came from.  I still have V6.03 of this game on a 3.5 floppy, but have no idea if it even runs, as I haven't owned a PC with a floppy disk drive for many years!

To be continued...

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