Coding Horror

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The Best of Creative Computing

In the process of researching a few recent blog entries, I found the amazing Atari Archives. The title is a little misleading; it isn't completely Atari specific. The archives contain incredible page-by-page high resolution images of many classic computer books, including The Best of Creative Computing, volume 1 (1976) and volume 2 (1977).

Creative Computing was the original D.I.Y. computer enthusiast 'zine, full of irreverent articles and BASIC program listings for classic text mode games like Hunt The Wumpus, Eliza, and Super Star Trek. In the 70's, computing was almost an alternative culture, as evinced by the R. Crumb art on the rear cover of Volume 2.

The Best of Creative Computing, Volume 1 cover   best_of_creative_computing_volume_two_cover.png

I had so much fun browsing the archives that I wanted a copy of these classics for myself. Surprisingly, there are a handful of used copies available on Amazon, and I was able to purchase both Volume 1 and Volume 2 in excellent condition.

I never read Creative Computing magazine. However, the best BASIC game listings were culled by the editor, David Ahl*, and republished as Basic Computer Games (1978) and More Basic Computer Games (1979). I owned well-worn copies of both. While much more staid and commercial than the magazine, the program listings in these books were illustrated with some distinctive and downright weird illustrations. Here's one for the Man-Eating Rabbit game:

illustration from Man-Eating Rabit BASIC game listing

I spent god knows how many hours typing game listings from these books into the Apple //c, Coleco Adam, and TI 99/4a. It's probably part of the reason why I'm a programmer today. It's also the reason why I'll never type code in from a printed page ever, ever again. Ever! If you want to experience the gameplay gold yourself, a friend of mine actually converted the Hunt the Wumpus 2 game to C# as a lark.

Good times.

* David Ahl is also the original author of Minesweeper in 1973. Go figure. Here's a 2003 interview with David if you're curious what he's been up to more recently. His comments on what Creative Computing would look like today remind me a lot of the current blog culture!

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: