Yahtzee! Game Board
Yahtzee! Game Board

Here’s a question I’ve been curious about for ages and would like to ask those into retro-computing and/or older folks as myself: How many of you have a BASICA version of the Yahtzee game in your collection? How many of you have this specific one (pictured and linked)? I’m really curious to know how far it was distributed!

Here’s the back story:

In the second trimester of my high school’s Advanced Graphic Arts class (Junior year, Fall 1983 / Winter 1984), we got an IBM 5150 PC (with IBM PC-DOS 1.1) installed in the classroom for typesetting. While it beat setting type by hand, if you ever had the experience of working with a typesetter, you know how difficult and slow it was to type in text for brochures, flyers, game rosters, news articles, and stories and then having to fix errors (spelling, grammatical, wrong font, or point size). The IBM helped with the typing because text could be saved, edited, and resent over the serial port with the added bonus of the school newspaper and literature magazine submitting their stories on floppies to us.

Compugraphics CompuWriter phototypesetter
Compugraphics CompuWriter phototypesetter

It wasn’t until the next school year though, Vocational Graphic Arts, a two-hour class for all three trimesters, that I really got to play with the 5150 which got upgraded to a dual-floppy 5160 and PC-DOS 2.1. Two IBM PCjr’s with color monitors – one had a Microsoft green-eyed mouse – were also added to the classroom.

Somewhere along the way, a pair of floppy disks appeared. One had an executable chess game (it cheated) and the other with four BASICA games, one of which was Yahtzee. Mr. Sams (the teacher) and us played Yahtzee all the time, until one day when the floppy disk slipped down between the wall and the countertop. There was no possibility of retrieval and it’s probably still there to this day.

Thankfully, I had printed out the code listings for all four games a few weeks prior and being the only person in the class who even knew what BASIC was, Mr. Sams tasked me with getting the games back. He missed his Yahtzee! He also had a suggestion for me…

So, I spent the next few days of class time (or weeks since I didn’t have a computer at home) typing in the source code. I also added a bit of color to the Othello and Yahtzee games, a “NO – NO – BEAVER – – TRY AGAIN” error message to Yahtzee and, per Mr. Sams’ request, a cheat to the Yahtzee game so he could beat Trent.

Skip forward four years and I’m teaching an introductory course to programming with Pascal at the local community college and one of my students asked if I could help him after-hours. So, one night I drove out to Panther Lake, met him and his wife, and went over the issues he was having.

Afterwards, I’m getting ready to leave when he says he wants to show me this Yahtzee game program. He starts it up and I grow suspicious as the recognizable instruction text displays followed by the game board. I sit down and purposely trigger the error message – “NO – NO – BEAVER – – TRY AGAIN” – and then the cheat. I then break and look at the source code and sure enough, there’s my name! Someone from my high school had made a copy of the game floppy and it was now out in the wild! One of the coolest experiences in my programming career, ever!

(Interestingly enough, I met my former student again at karaoke some twenty years later.)

So, if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading and as I wrote already, I’m really, really curious to see how far in the wild my co-creation made it.

~ by bwsd on August 13, 2022.

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