Dollars to Donuts

It’s hard for me to remember the first game I played on a personal computer. Arguably, “Dancing Demon” by Leo Christopherson, for the TRS-80 Model I might qualify; that would have been in 1979. I don’t recall there being a lot of actual gameplay there, but I remember thinking it was very, very cool. On the heels of that would have been various text adventure games – Zork, certainly, among others – that I played while camped out at the local Radio Shack. Later in 1979, I remember seeing (and becoming addicted to) George Blank’s Santa Paravia and Fiumaccio, a game that is still fun and playable on modern platforms, even today. This game is, ironically, the precursor to many of today’s “God games.” Such as Civilization IV.

[NORAD](/weblog/images/articles/NORAD- big.gif)


The first game I played on a computer that I actually owned was, if I recall correctly, NORAD for the Apple ][. That would have been in 1982. It was pirated, of course. I’d send a tenner to the authors of it, but I can’t, because I don’t know who wrote it, and apparently neither does anyone else. If you know, please leave a comment and clue me in.

NORAD was a simple game. At its heart, it was a variant of Atari’s classic Missile Command, but it had a style all of its own, a style that was pure home computer. You didn’t just have three missile bases, you had ten, numbered 1 through 0, one for each city you were protecting. Cities could take several nukes before they were completely destroyed. To launch an anti- ballistic missile, you typed the number corresponding to the base you wanted. You could steer the missile, up to a point, with the arrow keys. And when you hit the space bar, the missile exploded, hopefully taking out the incoming enemy ICBM with it.

The audio in the game was masterful for 1983. Everything was scratchy and irritating, fingernails-on-a-blackboard, static and razor wire. The action was frenetic and the scenario devastating. It was, and still is, the perfect home computer arcade game. I spent many hours saying “Just one more game” over NORAD. In the end, isn’t that one of the signs of a great game?

Incidentally, I never once had it lock up or crash. Welcome to PC gaming.

If you have an Apple ][ emulator (find one here, for Windows, or here, for MacOS), you can [download and play NORAD tod ay]( pub/apple_II/images/games/action/norad.dsk.gz). Try it out and let me know what you think.