back to article (Back) into The Valley

I first explored The Valley late in 1982. My method of entry: a Research Machines 380Z. I loved it and didn't want to leave. But the school lunch period ended at 1.30 and the computer room was locked then, so I had to wait a day or two until I could get time on the RM again. The Valley - CT Cover The Valley had been hacked …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Lee Dowling Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Those were the days

    Love the code... the "goto a random line depending on the value of this variable" statements are fabulous, kinda like a BASIC pointer... genius. Laugh all you want, things like that got the job done and built a gaming industry, and did so in only 16Kb and without enough processing power to even *justify* use of loops and procedures.

    There's nothing quite like typing in a BASIC listing. And that's coming from someone who still owns the complete set of INPUT, which was a BASIC-listing (and assembler) magazine published in weekly parts that covered Dragon/Tandy, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and a host of other machines, all with the same code for the same programs.

    Ah, the joys of early programming. If only there'd been a bit easier way to get those listings into the computer, some sort of barcode or something - much preferable to typing in thousands of lines of statements and then just getting errors that you couldn't track down.

  2. Ed Courtenay

    Let's Do The Time Warp (Again)...

    Damn, this takes me back; I remember having a copy of that exact issue... Ahhh, the heady days of type-in listings!

  3. David Webb

    Fond memories

    Ah yeah, I remember way back yonder typing in the code in the back of speccy mags for games like breakout, hours spent typing in line after line of code and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I still can't remember the difference between a peek and a poke.

    Wheres the "I'm an old codger" icon?

  4. Cazzo Enorme

    Great article

    In an amusing bit of synchronicity, one of the mailing lists I'm on has just featured a thread about an old adventure game for a minicomputer. Not only did a number of people recall the name of the specific variant of the game that the original poster had been looking for, but a few posted links to ports for different minicomputers and Unix operating systems.

  5. Tom Cook

    War stories on Friday afternoon?

    Where's to BOFH when you need him? Or even just a decent claw hammer...

  6. Jim 59
    Thumb Up

    Dragon 32

    Cool article. I seem to remember lengthy Dragon type-ins written by two brothers called "Brains". I think it was in Dragon User magazine, or Your Computer. A diary app comes to mind, typed in by me while Dad dictated. We loved it.

    I recall "hacking" some graphics library on the school's RM 380z to make some sort of analogue clock. I missed The Valley, as my game love was given to Wintersoft's "Ring of Darkness", an awesome game for the Dragon. You had to flip the casette over half way through, and it saved your character to another tape.

    Count yourself lucky with the PCW8256! My Final year Engineering project was word processed on a CPC464 (Protext), and would not even fit on one (3 inch) disk. At least your 8256 had 2 drives.

  7. Jim 59

    @Lee Dowling

    "If only there'd been a bit easier way to get those listings into the computer"- who remebers the Chipshop on Radio 4, and their audio broadasted BASICODE listings ? You record the noise, then play the casette into your computer. Never worked for me.

  8. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: (Back) into The Valley

    No, and neither did those programs that came free on flexidisks with magazines.

    I never managed to get a decent recording from those when use on my old man's music centre.

  9. It'sa Mea... Mario
    Thumb Up

    My nan had a Dragon..

    .. And it's clone of Donkey Kong is indeed feindish, compared to the arcade version it seems.

    Another fav played on the Dragon was Chuckie Egg, I hunted out the windows binary of the BBC version of that again recently to play again.

    Most of my 'type from magazine BASIC' games would have been on the Acorn Electron and then we would often have to wait for the corrections printed in the next months issue (port to other versions of BASIC? I could just about fix the odd ' Missing " ' type error and that was about it at that age / level of understanding).

    Don't think I ever played The Valley though...

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    You 'basic' types had it lucky...

    Those of us with the Microtan had to type in hex listings...

  12. Ian Ferguson

    Oh dear lord, the GOTOs

    The horror...

    Funny though, I remember more BASIC from my school days than I do French.

  13. James Howat

    ZX81 Poster Programs

    Had this one for the ZX81 - my dad spent a long time with the hexadecimal assembler codes, and I still don't think we ever got it working perfectly. At the time I had no idea it even existed for other platforms until I uncovered some of my dad's old Computing Today magazines with adverts...

    That game had such an influence on me, and I think the poster did too....

  14. Geoffrey Summerhayes

    Thanks to this article I've developed precognition!

    I predict a late night coding session in my near future.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Re: ZX81 Poster Programs

    Mmmm yes, nice bit of side-boob there!

  16. Steve X

    Ah yes...

    A few years before that I remember asking (in the columns of Practical Computing, I think) about a game I'd heard of, called "Adventure". A kind reader called Jack Pike (I didn't know who he was then!) sent me the paper tapes, which I still have somewhere. All in FORTRAN IV.

    Designed to run in 40K, I shoehorned it into the 25K that was the undergrad max, by moving all the in-core (yes, core :) ) messages into a keyed direct-access file.

    The glee when I first got it running. YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING. Word started to spread...

    Glee not tarnished when the head of the Uni computer centre summoned me to his office a few weeks later, dropped an inch-thick pile of fanfold paper in front of me (the source) and asked why 90% of billable computer time that month was down to one single program...

    I have vastly more computing power available to me now, and far larger programs to work on, but none of it's as much fun as it was back then.

  17. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Yay for the Dragon!

    Brought a tear to my eye reading that Ken Kalish interview.

    I once typed a game in from Dragon User which was 100% machine code, entered as hex, with no CRCs or anything. I got my brother to read the hex out while I typed it in. It took several hours, and the bloody thing never did work.

  18. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    I remember this!

    The only copy of CT I ever bought, almost a year before I even had a computer of my own to try it on. I always planned to either type this in on the school's PET or port it to my Speccy, but there were so many funky control codes/character graphics to figure out that I couldn't be bothered in the end. Of course there was no WWW in those days for finding a nice lookup table of the control codes, either (e.g. )

    I think I eventually threw out the magazine, but like the author of this piece, discovered the Valley memorial site a few months ago.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    been looking for a 380Z for some time

    where are they all?

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      In the school broom cupboard?

      Those 380Zs were built like brick shithouses - I daresay they'd still run OK if you found any in the school store cupboard and blew the dust off. I remember ours had a dinky little squarish mono monitor - those "hi-res" graphics were amazing...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code

    "Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware

    Re: (Back) into The Valley #

    Posted Friday 27th November 2009 15:02 GMT

    No, and neither did those programs that came free on flexidisks with magazines.

    I never managed to get a decent recording from those when use on my old man's music centre.


    well theres your problem right there Tony, you used the music center's internal (dual?) tape recorder instead of plugiing in the old cheap portable/mobile LOL binatone philips or whatever tape recorder pluged into the headphone socket....

    i remember it so well as though it were yesturday :)

    the joys of Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code( the very first IT acronym i ever learned and its stuck there forever Now :) )

  21. Anonymous Coward

    One bloody typo ...

    I remember following one such guide, I don't remember the game exactly since after hours (over several days) of typing in the BASIC line by line I apparently introduced errors that made it unplayable. I spent further hours trying to spot the mistakes but eventually I gave up and went outside to play instead. I didn't show any interest in programming again until I was much older by which time BASIC was a distant memory, thankfully. I don't look back on those days with any sense of nostalgia, 'computers' back then were bloody awful devices.

  22. James Marten

    Obscure language alert

    There wasn't anything running a decent enough BASIC at Uni when this came out. So me and a friend converted the whole thing to BCPL, running on a PDP-11 with a VT100 terminal. I still have the listing - it just needs scanning and OCRing before starting to search for something that will run BCPL today.

  23. JeeBee
    Thumb Up

    Hurrah for proper computer mags

    Ah, typing in your own BASIC programmes - I used to do this a lot as a child, typing in from CWTA and ACU on my CPC 464. I'd imagine the game to be amazing, and then be let down slightly by something blocky and unlike games, but it taught me a lot and I'm here now, programming still, sadly only business apps.

    Maybe time to make an Android version of The Valley eh? Never played it myself, but there's always a connection to your first large type in.

    Hmm: Download The Valley complete BASIC listing here (15.6MB)... only a 1000x bulk-up for the modern age.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    My favourite game from that era was Nightmare Park

    Anyone else remember the najjers and blabbers and Clarence the egotistical gorilla? Heh, that was loads of fun.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    such memories, brilliant times.

    that is all.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, fond memories of my first adventures in computer animation

    namely 6000-line ASCII-block FOR .... NEXT loop constructions on the Dragon32 my father bought for some undefined business purpose, complete with sound effects, not least among them my cry of anguish when mum unplugged it to put her fucking rollers on to warm up...

  27. Sysgod

    Yep, remember it all...many times over.

    But lately I've been throwing the past out. Time to move on. Creative Computing magazine is long gone. Basic 2.6 on the DEC VAX long gone. VT100 terminals long gone. I do still have my TRS-80 Model I (with expansion interface, of course--got tired of trying to squeeze programs into 4k). Keep it in my office to show others just how ancient I am. What a downer these memories.

  28. jake Silver badge

    For a blast down memory lane ...

    Slackware 13.0 contains at least a few old text-only games. Pull up a terminal, and try typing "adventure", "trek" or "wump" ... I have no idea if these old BSD standards are included in any other distribution, and was kind of surprised to still find them in Slackware (I haven't actually played a computer game in probably three decades ...). Eyeballing /usr/games, they are binaries, not scripts ... I assume the source is available, if anyone cares.

  29. Liam Proven Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Oh my yes!

    The Valley was a particular personal fave of mine. Spent ages playing it on the original PET and later on my Spectrum. There was even a commercial version for the Speccy at one point...

    ... which really was taking the Michael. I bought it anyway. Same game, but line-drawn pixel graphics instead of UDG characters. Appalling rip-off. :-)

    I've been looking for the source for years - many thanks for the link & a splendid article!

    & to "Sysgod" & the Anonymous Coward: if you look back on your own youth without pleasure or nostalgia - don't blame the machines, blame yourself for not making your life better, you miserable buggers.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Ah, those WERE the days

    OK, so for those who aren't getting long in the tooth, here's a bit more background! I'm Henry Budgett, but back then I was the Editor of CT, and there were originally four in the programming team for the Valley: myself, Peter Freebrey, Peter Green and Ron Harris. The two Peter's did the clever stuff, I did the stuff round the edges and all the conversion into what we called Universal BASIC plus the article and Ron essentially project managed as he was the Publisher.

    We never really imagined that the thing would take off in the way that it did - it was the spark that launched the whole of CT's software operation that I moved onto after the magazine passed into Peter Green's hands. Somewhere I have every single copy I ever worked on from Issue 1 - if they haven't turned to dust!

    The whole story would take far too long to unravel as much time (and beer) has passed since those heady days in Charing Cross Road. Three of us, Ron has long disappeared, still occasionally meet for a Rulers of Light reunion dinner but it's a mark of our passing youth that the old Pizza Express in Soho no longer hears the standard order for pizza of choice plus two toppings for starters (served with bottle of wine per person) followed by a second round of pizza and then pudding, coffees and brandy... Try that now and it would be call for three ambulances!

    1. Simon Rockman

      I was on the other side

      A little later than The Valley I worked for the magazine group which published Computing Today. My job was to test the games readers had sent in and prepare the listings to go into the magazines. I spent hours on the phone to people who'd typed them in and couldn't get them to work. People who didn't know the difference between a "(" and a "<" - well they are both brackets.

      I suspect calls from people who'd typed in The Valley helped me get the job as Technical Editor there.


  31. jake Silver badge


    "VT100 terminals long gone."

    They are? My small cluster of vaxen are going to haunt your dreams until you absolve yourself by winning at wumpus and printing out an ASCII art Snoopy.

    Mind you, my text terminals are mostly IBM 3151s with Model M keyboards, and Wyse50s. I always configure a serial port with a tty hanging off it, when the OS allows me to ... Even this laptop's docking station's serial port has a 3151 hanging off it. You never know when having a login prompt will be handy. It's also handy as an error console. And strangely, in this world of high-speed printing, I still find tractor-feed printouts useful for debugging, occasionally ... The long, continuous sheet allows me to spot patterns faster than anything else. YMMV.

    People poo-poo the serial port (thanks, Apple!), but it's a useful bit of kit. I still have an Anderson Jacobson modem plugged into a ComDesign serial multiplexer, which in turn allows me to connect to any of my major equipment even when I don't have a proper Internet connection and have to use dial-up. Slow? Yes, by modern standards ... but I only use that in an emergency, mostly for debugging, which tends to be text-only ... and hands-up all of you who can read faster than 19.2K, never mind 56K. It also means I can connect to any of the gear down in my machine room from a single terminal up here in my office.

    I tend to do most of my typing using vi on ModelM keyboards (documentation, contracts, longer posts to ElReg). Why? Because IMO, a better keyboard was never made, at least not for touch-typing ... and after 30-odd years, my fingers know vi better than any other editor. Once written, I'll paste it into a more modern program for formatting and/or printing, as needed.

    One of the reasons I don't buy into Apple's version of Mach+BSD is the lack of serial port on Apple gear ... It's not that I'm a neo-luddite (ok, maybe I am), but I see no real reason to spend a couple of orders of magnitude more money to get the same capabilities I have today with my so-called "obsolete" technology.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @Yay for the Dragon!

    Indeed. From typing in listings to running (the original and best) OS9 unix-like multitasking O/S (on a single user terminal with the system crackling along at 0.89MHz.. I got a hard disk hooked up to my dragon - £100 for the conversion, and another tpn for the 10Mb hard drive - ooh the power!

  33. TRT Silver badge


    That brings back some memories! Thank you.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Aaaah .... memories.

    I remember doing a 'conversion' of The Valley on the Commodore 64 around 1983/84, whilst another friend of mine did it for the Spectrum - writing it for the Speccy posed a few problems but the net result was a very faithful conversion.

    Because the original code was for the PET, the C64 conversion wasn't *that* difficult even if it did take a bloody age to type in. Heady days indeed, and could well be the reason why I love rogue-like games even now.

    Thanks for the links too .... it's *very* tempting to download the source and re-jig The Valley in Java or Perl :-)

  35. blackworx

    Time for a quote

    "...the teaching of BASIC should be rated as a criminal offence: it mutilates the mind beyond recovery." - Edsger Dijkstra

    Never done me any harm etc.

    Well... Apart from finding out at the age of 8, upon typing the fateful RUN [Enter] after inputting my first ever listing (the one for a version of Breakout supplied in the manual for the ZX Spectrum +3) that said listing was broken. I think that did do irreversible harm of the sort that played on my clearly genetic desire to fix anything that's broken and suckered me into coming back for that kind of punishment day in, day out, for the rest of my life. I often wonder whether the people responsible for that manual did it deliberately. Either way they changed the course of my life.

This topic is closed for new posts.