About Area536

After not writing any content here for years, I decided to repurpose this domain to document and blog about my lingering retro computing hobby. I purposefully say ‘computing’ and not just ‘gaming’ here because computers have always been about more than just games to me.

I started using computers at the ripe old age of 3. Tradition has it that I was at a birthday celebration with my parents at our neighbours’ house at the time. If I remember correctly, our neighbour’s birthday was at the 11th of November and the year would have been 1981 to make it fit with me being 3 years old.

It was a celebration for adults, and I was bored out of my wits. That’s when the grownups decided to plant the nagging toddler in front of the PC with a game of Paratrooper. I still remember that experience as it was very profound to me, even though I had no idea what to do.

Some years later our neighbour’s computer became our computer for a while. I must have been around 10 years old by that time and my father put an entirely age-appropriate game of Leisure Suit Larry in front of me.

I later learned that I was controlling one of gaming history’s most deplorable characters on a fruitless quest for happiness. I’m not sure if I ever got him to actually leave Lefty’s bar in those days, but Larry had me hooked on computers.

Larry in front of Lefty’s bar, screenshot from the Apple Macintosh version.

The rest, as they say, is history. It would be some time yet before I got my very own second hand Commodore 64 (my parents weren’t exactly rich), and I kept on pestering our neighbour for PC-time. All the while devouring magazines and books on anything related to computers. Taught myself how to program Commodore BASIC, a bit of Assembler and was quickly disappointed by the PC’s lack of on-board development environment but games kept me busy until OS/2 and later FreeBSD made its appearance on our family 486DX2. The latter was quite a shock to the rest of the household I’m sure but it put me on track to become the IT professional I am today.

MiSTer

Looking back on four decades of computer history, I was thrilled to learn about the availability of the MiSTer Project. A single reprogrammable chip can simulate a whole slew of ancient systems in actual hardware, essentially replicating them quirks and all but with modern controls. Sure the setup is expensive, but worth it to me. Suddenly all the crazy platforms I drooled over in the magazines of yesteryear became available to me at the touch of a button.

The MiSTer brings with it dozens of so-called ‘cores’, simulated hardware platforms. But the ones I’m most interested in are actual computers. There’s of course my trusty old Commodore 64, but also its successor the Amiga, Atari ST, and a DOS PC from around 1994 before Windows 95 ruthlessly ended the golden age of computing diversity.

On this site I’ll be taking trips down memory lane, documenting how to use these cores in a millennial-proof way. The tech of the eighties was truly amazing, diverse and improved with leaps and bounds year over year. Who know, maybe you’ll learn something. And even if you don’t, I know at least I will!