Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tribute to video games - Part 3 Freedom, Nintendo, and the Intel 386

Words could not describe how tremendous I felt after my last final of my last class of my last semester in college. I was giddy with joy. It was like a heavy load I had been struggling under for the previous 2 years had just been lifted. I truly heard choirs of angels singing the hallelujah chorus as I walked down the steps outside the building. Had I not been a quiet, shy, unassuming young man, I probably would have let out a rousing "Dukes of Hazard" YEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAW!!!!!

I was truly on top of the world. Only 2 other events could have eclipsed that moment. 1.) when I became a Christian at a Resurrection Band concert in Jamestown and 2.) my wedding to the most beautiful, precious woman that ever graced this terrestrial ball. Absolutely everything was going my way. I had a job waiting for me with the Bank of ND when I got done with school so I didn't have to worry about unemployment. I was moving back to the city I grew up in and loved. We were moving from our shoebox apartment to a 2, not a 1, bedroom apartment in which the kitchen, dining, and living areas were all separate, walled-off rooms. It was like moving to a palace. At that time, at least, we were debt free. No small achievement considering I had just finished college. I never had to make a student loan payment. We're not debt free now, of course, but that's beside the point.

It took me a little while to make the transition from a full-time student with two part-time jobs to a full-time employee who only worked 5 days a week. It was weird to come home at 5:30 and not have to do anything. It would be another 6 years before we had children. I hadn't started teaching night classes yet. Don't even get me started on the weekends. 2 whole entire days in a row without any school work or paid work to perform?

What was a guy to do? I had heard a lot about the Nintendo Entertainment System but up until then, I didn't have the time or the willingness to spend money on such a diversion. However, every time I heard an advertisement for this little unit it brought back very fond memories playing the old Atari and Telstar systems. It seemed with all these leisure moments I was suddenly blessed with, the time was ripe to once again indulge my fondness for video games.

I was hooked the first night I brought it home and ripped off the shrink wrap. This was my first introduction to the world of Mario Brothers. Two cartoon plumbers who have all sorts of crazy adventures. I still have the system to this day. It's been replaced once. I started having problems with the unit and foolishly assumed it was the box and bought a used system on eBay for $50, only to find out that it wasn't the box, but the AC power adapter that was defective, something you can get at Radio Shack for about $7. To add insult to injury, I couldn't even resell or use my original because I destroyed it opening it up to see how it worked. (You have to understand I was under the assumption it was already broken so what more harm could I do?) Ah well, lesson learned. It took my son a week after I had replaced it to bust off the door where you insert the game cartridges. Since you can still play with a "door less" unit I haven't bothered to replace it. I now keep it under lock and key and the children are forbidden to go near it except under VERY close supervision by yours truly. They've got their own games. This one is mine.

I had to get Tetris, of course. What I liked about this was at the end of the game there was an animation of a rocket launching. The size of the rocket was dependent on how high your score was. If your score was too low you got this puny little stick-pin that you had to squint to even see on the screen. The rockets increased in size and design with your final score. My highlight occurred when I maxed out and got this larger-than-life space shuttle at the end with a magnificent blast-off. I think I did give a "Dukes of Hazard" yell at that point.

My favorite game, though, was Super Mario Brothers 3. It had everything I love about video games. Running, jumping, flying, swimming, shooting, puzzles, obstacles, and don't forget rescuing the little princess at the end. It takes roughly 12 hours to play, start to finish, if you go through all the levels and all the worlds without taking any shortcuts or cheats. I still remember the first time I defeated the evil Bowser (angry crocodile-type guy) and rescued the princess. To this day it is my favorite game among all the Nintendo systems past and present.

After 6 years, the time came to finally replace my Apple IIc computer. One of the loan officers at the Bank of ND asked me if I knew anyone interested in buying a cheap computer. Hello? pick me please. It turned out my co-worker's younger brother was in college earning some pocket money by building computers for people. He had built an Intel 386 (the highest processor at that time) system for someone who changed their mind and didn't want it. He was willing to sell it to me at cost so he could get it off his hands. What a deal! So it was with just a little regret I said goodbye to my time with Apple computers and hello to DOS and Windows 3.1. I did manage to sell my Apple to St. Joe's school in Mandan so I felt pretty good about making a little money and postponing the computer's trip to the landfill for a few more years. The school was pretty happy about their end of the deal as well. I take care of my things and the screen, printer, external disk drive and computer were still in excellent condition and I sold it to them for what I thought was a very reasonable price.

Another world of video gaming was suddenly open to me. My favorite on the 386 system was Jet Fighter 2. I had played with some flight simulators before but the graphics were horrible. (yes, even more horrible than this) and the planes were cumbersome and very hard to fly. This game had all my favorite jets. The F-16, F-14, F-15, F/A-18, and the YF-23. You could take-off and land from runways or aircraft carriers and choose from dogfighting or bombing missions (or both). It wasn't enough to simply take out the targets. You then had to make it back to base alive. It was a great little game.

I had that computer another 6 years until about the time we had our first child. A girl! Talk about another life changing experience. But that's another blog. I had such good luck with the "home-built" computer I started looking at these again when my 386 started showing it's age. Fortunately, a family friend was in the computer building business and not only gave me a generous "family" discount. Basically, I got by with just paying for parts again. He also gave me another generous discount by taking my old system and its antiquated Epson Dot Matrix printer in trade. I use computers like cars, I drive them until I really don't have any choice but to replace them. The 486 systems had come and gone and I was still getting by with my 386. Now it was the dawn of the age of Pentium. So my next PC was a Pentium 100 with Windows 95! So long DOS.

Unfortunately, it must also be goodbye dear readers. I'm really trying hard not to make these too long. It's also been my experience that not everyone is overly excited about video games, and find the topic to be quite boring, so I don't want to torture these people too badly. More to come...


Steve at Random said...

Randy, I was just the opposite of you. As you embraced technology, I have tried my best to live without it. I bought my first computer when I was 41. My pastor had to help me buy it because I knew nothing about them (just the same as I know about cars, by the way). I bought my second when I was 47 and I think you helped us buy it. The boys have had Nintendo systems and everything else up to the Xbox 360. My wife is threatening to buy a Wii, but so far, the stores have not had any to sell. I have, however, lived through records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and DVDs. I'm still waiting for Smell-a-vision. Can you imagine watching Cheers and smelling the stale beer, or Seinfeld and smelling the steam rising from the streets of New York? Also, I took note of how you described Deanna. I may have to use that sometime with my wife if I really get into hot water. Thanks for the great descriptors.

randymeiss said...

Funny thing about wives, if you give them love and affection they are much more agreeable to letting you indulge your hobbies. Even the ones they don't understand. Maybe my next blog will be about relationships. We've had our ups and downs but there is no one else I'd ever want to share them with.

Steve at Random said...'s hard to explain but my love for my Belinda is deeper now than 22 years ago when we were married. I think that occurs because of the many magical and tragical experiences we have shared. I await the blog regarding marriage. I wouldn't no where to start or stop.

In living with dad, who was married for 62 years, I can tell you that it doesn't matter how long you live with someone you love, it's never long enough. If he sees a picture of my mother, it's always followed by a quiet vow, "I miss you honey."

Steve at Random said...

Yeah, I see I goofed up on "no". Should have been "know"...but I also wanted to share an adage I learned from a Bismarck mother of 12 children. "The greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother." I think that is one of the truest and smartest statements I have ever heard.

randymeiss said...

As Randy Travis sings, "Forever and ever, amen." Deeper love after 22 years shouldn't be hard to explain at all. I feel exactly the same way after my 20 years with Deanna. It's the way it's supposed to be. Here's to many more years of wedded bliss for both of us my friend!

DVD said...

Are your spouses reading this. Because I can just hear both of them going "Awwwww"

BismarckMandanBlog said...

In the late 80s and early 90s I hid out at a ski resort in the Rockies and snowboarded for a living. Before I left Bismarck, I caved in and bought a Nintendo. I played it a fair amount, but never fell in love with it like I did other systems. In fact, I had far better things to do, living at a ski resort!

I've always had this knack for technical things, an intuition of sorts. I can grab a remote, keyboard, or control panel and start figuring out the mindset behind it pretty quickly. Only recently have I started to realize what a blessing it is! Hopefully it passes along to my boys.