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Remember type-ins?

An article on type-in programs just showed up on Wikipedia. Ah, memories. There was a time when the programs listed in the back of a magazine were at least as important as the editorial content.I mentioned to the initial author of the article that type-ins became a bit of a bragging right. Soon after meeting someone else who subscribed to the same magazines as you, you’d ask about the longest program they’d ever typed in. I’m pretty sure in my case the longest would have been SpeedScript 128, which was a word processor published in 1987 or 1988. Another candidate is Crossroads, which was a 2D shoot-’em-up (and a really good one at that) published in 1987, but I may have bribed my sister into helping me type parts of that monstrosity in. You’d get cross-eyed after a while after looking at those pages of hexadecimal code.

The longest type-in I ever saw was a game called Vampyre Hunter, a combination text/graphics adventure game published by Compute!’s Gazette around 1986. I honestly don’t remember how long it was, but I remember it being huge. And I know someone who actually typed the whole thing in, all by himself. Naturally, I copied his rather than type it in myself. As I recall, he hadn’t typed in Crossroads, so it was a fair trade.

I still think Gazette had the best type-ins, even though its editorial content could at times be pretty weak. RUN had better editorial content, and RUN was the one to reveal the previously unknown graphics capabilities of the Commodore 128’s VDC chip, and Ahoy! was the first to show how to eliminate the VIC-II’s side and bottom borders and put graphics there, but Gazette had more type-ins, and certainly more games, which of course was mostly what interested me in the 1980s.

They’re completely impractical today, and even if they were I wouldn’t be willing to dedicate the time to keying in code, but I still fondly remembering the days of looking forward to the next issue and what goodies it would bring, and while typing in the programs wasn’t necessarily the most enjoyable thing to do, it did give a sense of accomplishment (and a curiosity about what that code actually meant) and I spent hours playing the games, or modifying them. And I used SpeedScript 128 to write the first thing I ever published for money, so that was a pretty good return on the investment.

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8 thoughts on “Remember type-ins?”

  1. Sure do – but mine were DEC Basic programs, pre-1980 and pre-PC. And my eyes were certainly a lot better then. Even with glasses now, I’d never try to do it. Thank goodness for optical scanners and internet downloads!!

  2. Dave,
    I remember even earlier type-ins. I typed in a complier for the Timex-Sinclair TX-1000. I had the 16K RAM module, so that worked. So many "PEEK"’s and "POKE"’s


    1. Ah, yes, I remember checking out books of type-ins for Timexes from the library and trying to get the programs to run on my Commodore. Without a Timex memory map, I could only get the simplest ones to run.

  3. I’m not suprised. The Timex was based on the Z80 CPU. A whole different command set from the Motorola chip set in the C-64, 128. If a program didn.t have any PEEKs or POKEs, you could generally translate the BASIC program between the two.

  4. Man… this is how I learned how to code. Either you debugged the typos/misprints yourself, or you waited a month for the corrections… 🙂

    1. Wow. Yep, I remember your name. I still think Vampyre Hunter and Crossroads probably are the two greatest C-64/128 type-ins of all time.

      I guess we get more things done with our computers now than we did back in those days, but the C64/128 actually did what the manufacturer said they would do, plus lots of things the manufacturer said they wouldn’t do. Today we’re happy when a system does more than half the things the manufacturer says it will do.

      I miss those days.

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