back to article Entrants called for 80s-era games coding contest

Want to program like it's 1989 - or even earlier? Swindon's Museum of Computing is holding its first 80s-themed games coding contest this saturday. Gridrunner Despite its name, the Bedroom Programming Challenge is no nod to post-coital coding or a showcase for the latest in teledildonics but harks back to a time when " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    6 quid with free pizza and cola?

    As much as I can eat/drink? I'm in. You can keep the programming competition though.

  2. Victor Ludorum

    That's all very well, but...

    Are they coding on /actual/ 80s machines, or VM/emulators?

    And you only get four hours ('no experience needed') to write a killer game?


    (Teech coz it reminds me of my 80s Computer Science teacher...)

    1. Joefish

      Their own material does suggest to me..

      ...that the last thing they're expecting is for an actual competent 8-bit developer to turn up.

      1. Annihilator Silver badge


        They're looking for anyone of any ability to turn up - those who struggle will be helped by "experts"

        Though probably not much point in entering the compo if Jeff Minter or the Oliver Twins turn up...

    2. bettername

      Better be real hardware...

      ...and not a VM because trying to code Basic on a Speccy without the keyboard modifers printed on the keyboard will be impossible! All I can remember was J = "load" and that's not much use...

      I'll bring my own C60 tape, ta.

      1. Joefish

        Err - Have you tried it lately?

        First off, learn assembly.

        Second, even back in the 80s code shops were using cross-platform tools as it's all too easy to crash the target machine. A cross assembler and an emulator will save you an awful lot of hassle.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Cross Platform Tools

          Indeed. Tatung Einstien's were quite common (as used by Matthew Smith). I think I heard one of the Pickford Brothers say they used Einstiens at Binary Design.

          The Oliver Twins used to develop their games on a Amstrad CPC 6128 with the target machine being the Spectrum. They had a friend build an interface cable so they could take advantage of the MAXAM assembler ROM available for the CPC. This combined with the CPC's disk drive meant they could code efficiently and crashing the Spectrum didn't matter.

          By the 1990's IBM PC's were often used.

          1. bitmap animal

            Re Cross Platform Tools

            In the mid 80's quite a few people used TRS80's for editing and assembly then a link to the Spectrum – can't remember the details of the link now though. Imagine used some form of Unix machines for development, again time has erased the name from my memory. I do remember later on for Atari ST and Amiga the best solution was SNASM. That used a bespoke interface to a PC where all the editing, assembly and debugging was done. It was a very very nice piece of kit and they guys who made it were great.

            SNASM also had interfaces for the Megadrive and some other consoles.

            Happy old days.

      2. bitmap animal
        Thumb Up

        re Better be real hardware... @ 15:33

        I went to the National Computer Museum at Bletchley Park recently with the kids and amazed them by writing a little BASIC program on the Spectrum they had there. It almost all came flooding back to me. I'd forgotton how slow it was at just printing to the screen - much faster than the ZX81 next to it though! How times have changed.

        Off the top of my head I suspect they may be using a mobile phone game framework and built a click & drag interface over that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They ought to award extra points for entries that run *only* on real hardware, not on an emulator (by exploiting secret opcodes or other machine quirks)

  3. IndianaJ


    Was getting all excited about carving up some 6502 assembler again when I noticed the 'no programming experience' bit.....

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      Sorry buddy its Z80 or nothing as far as I'm concerned

      6502 was just an old hold over from the prehistoric ages (1975) of computing

      ahhhhh multiple 16 bit registers and and a decent interrupt handling mode

      1. heyrick Silver badge


        The Z80 might have been decent, and had nice 16 bit ops built in, but cycle for cycle, the 6502 got it done faster.

    2. Penfold42

      Hand assembly

      A9 00

      8D 20 D0

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Smudger 1


        F0 FE

  4. Steve Evans


    I'll dust off my beeb... Has anyone got any 5.25" floppies I can use, I think mine aren't as reliable as they once were!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Have they got an Econet of Beebs?....

    I wanna play network Tron again!

    I might even have the code somewhere....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ABC's of gaming news

    In 2009 I got to meet the Oliver twins (creators of the Dizzy games), Jon Hare (sensi soccer) and the guy who created Jet Set Willy (Matthew Smith).

    They're all genius minds and totally bonkers, with the Oliver twins being the nuttiest of the lot! It's such a shame the UK gaming industry is really suffering right now, if I had a decent amount of cash behind me I'd try to set up a sort of angel fund/incubator system that gave people a chance to set up their own gaming companies in an attempt to boost the number of studios bringing out their own IP.

  7. Zot

    4 hours?

    Because it's old timer stuff then they think it's easy.

    If they're using old hardware as well, then they'll need to use an interrupt to change the colour palette halfway in the screen for more colours and trigger a VSYNC at the bottom to draw those hand coding the sprite drawing code efficiently of course - but do I have to delete it first or just print spaces around it, and what happens if it goes over the background, hmm then I'll have to XOR the pixels on....etc....etc... now on to the sound, what do you mean I can't use samples!...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hungry Horace....

    Horace Goes Skiing

    Horace and the spiders.

    Horace was cool.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So.... who's going?

    Who is the target audience here? 8pm to midnight, on a Saturday night in Swindon, wearing pyjamas, suggests that it's for kids. Presumably there'll be lots of dads who have dragged along their ungrateful offspring, under the pretext that it's just for the kids, when really they're there for themselves.

  10. Sonny Jim
    Thumb Up


    Really glad to see stuff like this, remember back in the day when the UK was pumping out microcomputer after microcomputer (Speccy, BBC B, Tandy, Amiga, Archimedes et al) whilst the rest of the world was trying to catch up.

    Oh well, at least we gave the world ARM before it all went tits up :-)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Awesome? Really?

      "when the UK was pumping out microcomputer after microcomputer (Speccy, BBC B, Tandy, Amiga, Archimedes et"

      There were indeed many British home computer manufactures over the period implied by your list but I'm pretty sure that Tandy Radio Shack and Commodore where not in that list.

  11. Jim 59


    "anybody with a talent for programming could write cool games in their bedroom and become a millionaire"

    I was a whizz with Basic as were others. But the assembly language needed for proper action games was in a different class. Those were written on large purpose built systems then cross compiled for the target, I believe, not something we had access to in our bedrooms.

    Those example games are early 80s not 1989.

    1. LuMan

      Not necessarily so...

      Large, purpose-built systems, you say? Perhaps, for big programming houses, but a lot of game dev in the 80s was initiated from bedrooms. Even our scrubby lot at our local comp started to mess about with both 6502 and Z80 in the mid-80s. Most schoolboys knew the code for a hex inputter and any Speccy or C=64 user who hadn't heard of RANDOMIZE USR XXXXX or SYS xxxxxx was thrown to the art department!

      Check some of the later type-ins from Sinclair user and the like. You'll see all manner of machine-code-based programs that have been written by bedroom coders (but not mine, 'cos they didn't publish it, that gits!).

  12. Pahhh

    I'd be scared to fire up my machine

    Got my old and trusted BBC Model B in the attic.

    Problem what the shelf life of those EPROMS. I suspect.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    80Micro One Liner competition

    I remember the US based 80 Micro magazine (for TRS-80 computers) running a comp challenging readers to write a game in BASIC in one line of code. No assembler allowed.

    It was handy to number your line as line 0 while remembering that GOTO without a line number would go to line 0, that you didn't need spaces between BASIC commands and other text and that once you reached the max line length you could then EDIT 0 and the BASIC commands would be tokenised down to one byte, giving you a more space in your line.

    A quick google finds one remarkably similar to my entry. That's probably why I didn't win. :-)

    There were much better games on the winners rostrum at the time.

    Not so sure this is the type of thing the current competition is all about though, but at least you could manage it inside the time limit.

    Pirate flag because in those days I had a dual tape deck. Arrrrrr.

    1. LuMan
      Thumb Up

      @John Brown (no body)

      Just had a look at this at it's BRILL. We wrote a similar thing on my mate's Vic-20 which had 'gates' (symbolised by the <> symbols) and a skier (pi symbol). Gates would print from the bottom, thus autoscrolling up the screen. If you miss a gate, game over. Took about 20 lines of code... wonder if I can shrink it down...

  14. ChrisC


    I know this country was a bit prolific in churning out computers back in the 80's, but we can't claim responsibility for *all* of them... Mind you, given how quirky, far ahead of the competition, and poorly treated by upper management the Amiga was, perhaps it's understandable you'd mistake it for a product of the UK.

  15. Victor Ludorum

    One thing no=one seems to have noticed

    There's a lot of comments above about cross-compiling etc.

    The bedroom coders of the 80s didn't have the luxury of bigger faster (note I didn't say better!) platforms to code on, they HAD to code on the target platform...

    Reminds me of typing in the program listings from C&VG, then spending four hours trying to find the typing errors.


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Cross compiling

      They could cross compile fairly easily especially from the CPC to the Spectrum as they had the same CPU: From

      "When the Spectrum turned up with its rubbery keys and infuriating code input rules it was all too much. We wanted to be able to continue writing games on our Amstrad but produce them for the Spectrum as well so we called on a couple of friends - David Jones* & Ivan Link to create a cable to link the two machines. This enabled us to write Spectrum games on our Amstrad."

      They used MAXAM on the Amstrad CPC IIRC. And yes at this time they were still working in their bedroom!

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