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January 29, 2012 12:02 AM   Subscribe

First PC game, DONKEY.BAS, comes to iPhone and iPad.

DONKEY.bas, discussed previously on metafilter,was a computer game written in 1981 and included with early versions of the PC-DOS operating system distributed with the original IBM PC. The history of this weird little program is covered in a 2001 TechEd keynote by Gates himself. The game, written in 1981 consists of less than 150 lines of BASIC.
posted by Ad hominem (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"A very historic moment in Microsoft's history. A bunch of asses in your way, and crashing is pretty much inevitable. My, how things of changed!"
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:09 AM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm holding out for In Search For The Most Amazing Thing.
posted by blueberry at 12:18 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


posted by iotic at 12:31 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

The new version is by Johnny Ixe; I’d love to think that’s a pseudonym for William H. Gates III.

Or a cypher for Johnny Ive, where h=0, "nn"="n", and X=V. Or did I miss the joke?
posted by sourwookie at 12:33 AM on January 29, 2012

I think Johnny Ixe is a real guy, he a somewhat prolific iOS developer. Would be funny if Jony Ive or Bill Gates had a little side business cranking out iOS apps though.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:45 AM on January 29, 2012

Oh, this takes me back to high school days, goofing in the computer lab...

Thanks, Ad hominem!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 AM on January 29, 2012

This is properly licensed, right? Bill has a history of getting cranky when you take his BASIC and he doesn't get his cut.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:03 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Modern PC gaming of course honors this milestone in game design by having "press X to not hit donkey" QuickTime Events interspersed throughout the game.
posted by Artw at 6:31 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is Paperboy on IOS but no Rampage and no Zaxxon. Not sure if BASIC, but definately Atari 800 with MS DOS. Clearly I remember the BASIC cartridge.
posted by joecacti at 7:02 AM on January 29, 2012

It's as if the Star Wars Christmas Special was a program, and George Lucas had a sense of humor about it.
posted by localroger at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2012


Just jailbreak your iDevice, then emulate a go go.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:56 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heh, Cyan background. Someone at IBM was on crack when they picked the original CGA pallet: You could black, cyan, magenta or white. That's 2/3 of the colors in CMYK -- which is great if you have a subtractive color space like for printing printing, but pretty terrible for monitors.

As a result all early DOS games were pretty ugly. There was a way to get more colors out of it, but it took a while to figure out and didn't work in text mode, I think.
posted by delmoi at 8:01 AM on January 29, 2012

Possibly inspired by the wild burros of Oatman, Arizona? (along Route 66)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:14 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

delmoi: You could also forego Cyan Magenta White and Black and choose instead, Red Green, Yellow and Black.
posted by smcameron at 8:30 AM on January 29, 2012

The CGA pallette was chosen by physics. CRT monitors are RGB devices, so all primitive video drivers work by manipulating the intensities of those additive colors. IBM chose to devote 4 bits to the final pallette, a subset of which could be used on the screen at one time; three of those bits control individual electron guns, and the fourth adds brightness to all of them. Nobody chose the colors, the available colors are what emerge from that bit slicing scheme.
posted by localroger at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

As an aside, there is a pretty good version of this for android called "elephant" by sizogee. identical except for the protagonist being an elephant instead of a donkey.
posted by jaymzjulian at 10:01 AM on January 29, 2012

Wikipedia: List of 8-bit computer hardware palettes

The main difference was that systems like the Apple-][ and C-64 used a color generator that was inherently based on the luma/chroma colorspace used by TVs (YPbPr) because those systems were designed to use televisions already owned by the owner. The CGI adapter of the original IBM PC used colors that were generated in the pure RGB space, because it was designed to use a computer monitor with RGB inputs instead of a television with luma/chroma. That meant it had an especially harsh palette compared to contemporary systems.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I missed out on the CGA palette. I was playing games on a Commodore 64 at the time. I'm so sad.
posted by Splunge at 12:58 PM on January 29, 2012

This game (along with Nibbles.bas and Money.bas [holy crap menus!!1]) arguably determined my entire career up to this point. Discovering subroutines and blitting and basic trig blew my adolescent mind.
posted by spiderskull at 1:20 PM on January 29, 2012

Wait, I just realized I confused DONKEY.BAS with GORILLAS.BAS
posted by spiderskull at 1:21 PM on January 29, 2012

Early CGA cards also had a wonderful anomaly due to using single-ported video RAM, which meant that if the CPU and the video generator got in a fight over RAM access the CPU won and the video would show black streaks. Avoiding those streaks required polling a video register to see when the beam was being retraced and doing all screen access then. And you had to POLL, because unlike the C64 there was no video interrupt.

Never wrote code for that monster, and glad of it.
posted by localroger at 2:11 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, we definitely need a fully accurate iPhone port of GORILLAS.BAS, ideally with asynchronous multiplayer over the internet. Nothing like a bit of phenomenal anachronism to really spruce up an old QBASIC game!
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:12 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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