It wasn’t until 1988 that I got my first home computer, the Atari 65XE. I was less than 8 years old at the time, and the system was phenomenal. Not only was it a great home computer, it also came with an extensive library of games that could be loaded through a cartridge, or through a cassette drive.
We didn’t have LAN parties back then. No one had predicted anything of that sort at that time, at least no one my age. Traditional computer networks were extremely expensive, and a modem was a geek’s dream. Our gaming parties were constituted by getting together at a friend’s place and playing almost every game we had in our arsenal. We could spend entire evenings, or even days just playing against or with each other. Games were a lot simple back then.
So simple that even my parents enjoyed playing games on the weekends! The four of us would regularly gather around the Atari, and spend hours competing with each other in a game of River Raid or Pac-Man. I probably had around 50 different games, and the best thing was that my parents were always more excited than me when it came to buying new games or software.
Another allure of the Atari Home Computer was the fact that it wasn’t just a gaming console. It was a full fledged computer in the sense that it came with RAM (64K!), ROM, and a BASIC interpreter. This meant that I could type in my own programs and save them on an acoustic cassette. This was phenomenal. I learned to write programs in the BASIC language all by myself at the age of 8! In fact, I might still have some of them lying around at home. Too bad, the Atari doesn’t work any more. The last time I played River Raid on it was in 1995.
Portable video gaming at that time was mostly little LCD screen based battery operated handhelds. Again, I had almost a dozen, if not more, different video games from Casio and Nintendo. They were good to play while on the way to school, going on long drives, or when the class got boring 😉
The best thing in portable video gaming was definitely the Casio game watches. At one time, they were so pervasive that almost every kid in school wore one.
I was looking around on eBay when I realized that most of these video games and watches are collector’s items these days with a lot of the ones I have fetching close to $100 each. I still have all my video games and watches with me, so I wonder how long before they start fetching really good prices. At that point, I could truly go out and say that I have an antique collection!
I love my childood. I was able to learn everything much earlier than other kids my age, and had access to the best things out there. And, now I am old.