A Trip Down Memory Lane

Dr Dobbs and Adven-80

Nothing beats virus-related-boredom like a trip down memory lane. This morning I got an email from Japan – specifically from game journalist Koji Fukuyama.

Now, I get stuff in the mail all the time and I’m VERY wary of people asking questions out of the blue, not relating to the blog – as there are SO MANY scammers out there. – But in this case, Koji was writing about Japan’s first “Adventure” game “Omotesando Adventure” made at the end of 1982 and how it relates to one of the earliest “Adventure” development systems from the same time – specifically my own publication in “Dr Dobbs Journal of Calasthenics and Orthodonis” which eventually became abbreviated to “Dr Dobbs”. The article was, rather unimaginately, called “Adven-80” (marketing was never my strong point). That’s my code on the front cover you see in the Dr Dobbs photo above.

Clearly by his questions, the writer had done his background checking – just as I thought the entire world had forgotten all about my early pre-Internet-age efforts, along comes someone who wants to write all about it. Well better now while I’m still alive, I guess 🙂 The photos here show a tiny bit of my history for perspective…the earliest reference to my published projects I could find was in “Practical Electronics” from 1979. On the right below, as well as continuing to run businesses I became on od the talking heads when it came to British small businesses as I took on the role of IT director of the UK’s FSB.

Scargill history

If you are bored, there’s more here, here and here about Adven-80.. Oh and the ZIP file of my source code for the same might fill a few bored moments.. or not. Hard to believe how we managed a world without computer graphics – and no, I’d rather not go back, thank you. Before “Advan-80” I’d had success with “Creative Computing in the USA – a little something I called “Fantasia”. Not a lot of info exists about that but here’s the “transfer of copyright” agreement I signed.

That early success pushed me on to create my first company Quantech (briefly called “Edify” – an off-the-shelf name), soon to be joined by Aidan Ruff – here we are back in 1989 with one of our first products – “SoftSpeak” – PC speech before there was PC speech hardware. I’m at the back. Eventually I decided the hair wasn’t worth the effort – that took off years 🙂


Apart from Covid-19, Boris and Trump (in that order), I am more than happy with living in the 21st century, so this dip into the past will definitely be a one-off, probably to the relief of younger subscribers.


14 thoughts on “A Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. I know I’m asking about things from forty years ago, so it’s understandable if there are no clear answers available, but I figure there’s no harm in asking anyway…

    I’m planning to start a blog on game creation systems within the next year or so, and am in the process of researching some early systems so I have a bit of a headstart and have some of the groundwork done before I launch the blog. Having just found out about Fantasia, the BASIC adventure system you submitted to Creative Computing, I wanted to find out more about it, and in particular I wanted to find the article in the magazine.

    All the issues of Creative Computing are, as it turns out, available on archive.org. But I’ve searched through every issue from 1981 (and from 1982 and late 1980 as well, just in case) and can’t find the article anywhere—nor anything else with your byline. (You are mentioned in the June 1980 issue, but only for submitting a correction to code that had appeared in an earlier issue.) Do you by chance know what issue it appeared in? Or do you know for sure it did appear; is it possible that after paying you for it and having you sign the contract Creative Computing for some reason never actually ran the article? Or might they have run it somewhere else than in their flagship magazine? (I did try to look for other publications by the company around that time, but couldn’t find anything relevant. Or perhaps there was a special issue of the magazine during that time that isn’t included in the archive.org collection?)

    If your article can’t be found in Creative Computing for whatever reason, I don’t suppose you still have a copy of it that you’d be willing to share? Even if the magazine didn’t end up running it (or ran it somewhere I’m now unable to find), I’d still be interested in covering it on my blog. (I know this long after the fact this is a long shot, though.)

    1. Hi Tim

      I used to read both of these for years – I also had quite a bit of stuff published in the various magazones over the years – starting with Practical Electronics and the likes, then moving more to mags covering software as time went on. My interest in home control started wth Byte’s Steve Ciarcia’s Circuit Cellar and I think it was Dr Dobbs that got me into SmallTalk, though Creative Computing was talking about “Actor” languages long before they became a thing. Oh, nearly forgot I wrote my own Forth interpreter called SPIL, though I don’t think I ever got around to making a big deal about it. All good fun though.

      I learned a lot from messing with FORTH…

      2 4 * 5 + .

      That lot comes to 13… if you want to have a play in seconds – I just found this.. something to fill in a little time at home perhaps?


      Try my above example and hit RUN.

      And about the same time, I biought Sinclair’s reverse Polish calculator – I’m on a roll now, check this out..


      I also had the Sinclair Executive – I just checked how much those things cost!!

        1. At the time, the Sinclair stuff seemed wonderful – and compared to who were then the big boys and girls, expecially in the UK, his stuff was very affordable. I owned the MK14, ZX80, ZX81 then the Spectrum as well as his scientific and executive calculators.

          The joys of discovering “reverse polish” math not to mention “Psst is loading”, Jet-Set Willy, Manic Miner, Pirate Adventure (Scott and Alexis Adams – Parrot eats a cracker), Fairlight… we’ll ignore Sinclair’s use of reject transistors (probably from Bi-Pre-Pak) – his hardware had more innovation than anything Alan Michael Sugar Trading ever had. But I digress.

          A couple of years ago, a stroke got me and people often ask how my memory is doing – as you can tell, all the important stuff is crystal clear 🙂

          1. Still have my original HP15C. IMHO, the best calculator ever made! Reverse polish, fully scientific, programmable, ‘shirt pocket’ size’, large capacitor across the p/s to allow memory to be retained while changing batteries….you’ll have to extract it from my clawing fingers as they put the lid on! 🙂

      1. Oh, I remember Circuit Cellar ok, though I have never been all that much in the electronics hardware hobby world.
        Forth never grabbed me but Smalltalk, well that got its hooks in and I’ve made a living from it for almost my entire life now. I started in the very early 80’s, got involved in the ARM world before they even announced it (which meant they were able to announce with my version of Smalltalk as a launch language) and since then I’ve worked amongst other things on something like 5 generations of proto-iPad, all Smalltalk on ARM. In three different countries even!
        There is even a connection to this blog – a few years ago I did an MQTT client for the Squeak Smalltalk system (www.squeak.org) to work with a Pi based weather station. As it happens the code was used to be part of the Scottish Power grid management system, which in a strange turn, means it helps run a fair bit of the American power grid. Didn’t make a penny off that part though 🙁

        1. Well, Tim, now you’ve got me going… Smalltalk indeed fired me up for a while, I had no idea it is still going. Amazing. I started my programming life in SC/MP machine code, which nearly put me off for life (the chip didn’t even have a proper stack).

          I then migrated through 8085 assembly to Z80 assembly, onto PBasic (I seem to think that was Sinclair Spectrum Basic?), Bill Gate’s 5K Basic on the “Nascom 1” and then to Cromemco 32K “Structured” Basic on the first IBM PCs, not to mention a brief diversion into Pascal on the TRS-80.

          I’d have stayed in that “Basic” comfort zone had it not been for a local businessman who convinced me I should use a “proper” language which took me to mastering C (via K&R’s book which he gave me) and that opened the floodgates to having a dabble with Fortran, Smalltalk, Forth, APL, PL/M and others.. but I always came back to C and variants, that is until I discovered Node-Red at which point I pretty much had to tackle Javascript and today I’m at home with NodeJS, mostly for entertainment, but struggling with new code beats the pants off passively watching TV (or as a cartoon in “Creative Computing” once put it “TV -a vast cultural wasteland”) – especially when one has helpful collaborators on the blog.

          1. Since we all (well, except for those of us that work at home anyway) seem to be stuck indoors, maybe you could take a moment to hit http://www.squeak.org and take a look at it as an ‘intersted virgin’. It’s hard to get a fresh view on things and I strongly suspect we have missed out important info for new folk.
            You *should* of course find a welcoming site with plenty of guidance, easy pointers to simple downloads and helpful doc. Criticisms of where we’ve failed might even prompt us ot improve things.
            You’ll find that Smalltalk has moved quite a bit from the 80s. Apart from anything else a Pi 4 runs it about 1 million times faster than the Xerox PARC Dorado machines that we all fantasied about back then; for less money than the daily cost of the electricty to run a Dorado (they were monster power hogs)

            1. As a first time viewer, I’m concerned for a moment as “Morphic framework sounds like it might be quite involved. Still after looking at the home page for a couple of minutes I’m attracted enough to wonder if this whole thing would work on a Raspberry Pi and wondering if what advantages Smalltalk today might have (or not) over Javascript (nodeJS) or C or Python in home control software.

              I hate case sensitivity in C and elsewhere as a one-time BASIC fan (IF I USE CAPITALS in this conversation it still means the same thing) and I hate the strict spacing requirements of Python and the Ability of C to kill everything my making a trivial mistake. So, I’m wondering if I’d like Smalltalk MORE – or LESS 😊

              And now, I’ll look beyond the front page… over 30 years since I last looked at Smalltalk I guess?

              AND It seems that below, you’ve answered one of my questions already..


              1. Well, Morphic is simply a replacement for the original MVC; it has many brilliant aspects and a few that can drive you insane. The flexibilty it offers is amazing though. And for the most part you just use the relevant classes and don’t have to care.
                Squeak on a Pi is a Most Excellent Thing; not least because RPF paid me a decent amount of money to make it so in order to suport rebuilding Scratch so it would be usable on the original Pi models. MIT claimed it was impossible and that nobody could possibly make it more than twice as fast due to their unmatchable skills (seriously!) so it took me a whole week to double performance and anonther couple to double it again. Eventually it got about 30x faster just by doing decent software engineering. On a Pi4/4 is is seriously fast.
                One thing we have rather left behind over the years is running on tiny machines; in the old days 1Mb was a big workstation and we could live in less but now… well a big Squeak development image might need 100MB to live in comfortably. Mind you, that has all the developer tools including the only good debugger anyone ever wrote, web services, editors, source management, a bunch of games and on and on.
                But I’m afraid case sensitivity is part of the syntax. We use camelcase and interstitial parameters, ie `42 greatestCommonDivisorWith: 7` rather than `42 greatest_common_divisor_with: 7` or `myDictionary at: #fred put: ’23 Sidings Lane’`. I find that so much more readable than the nonsense of `dictionary_update(#fred, ’23 Sidings Lane’);`. And of course the tools in a proper live-programming system can be so much more helpful.
                Come to the light side!

  2. Just had a quick read of your background – very interesting, especially to find another Nascom user!

    Hope that you and the family are keeping well

  3. That look quite complicated, not to play, but to design the adventure itself. But it looks also pretty flexible.
    I’ve programmed a similar text adventure system, but completely written in BASIC (MBASIC or GWBASIC, not a newer dialect). My program differs considerably in the design itself, because it’s not a list with chained points, instead, a map with coords and with objects (which can even be removed from the map), also I implemented to eat and drink something (if you don’t, you will die sooner or later).
    You can find the source code in my blog (see website link).

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