Repton

More than thirty years ago I bought my first computer. I’d have liked to have got a BBC Model B but they cost £400 and I just didn’t have that kind of money. So instead I got the Beeb’s baby brother, the Acorn Electron which was slower and simpler but had a price tag of a mere £200.

If we remember those times we’ll remember that what you got for your money was just a computer. It had no display screen. Your family TV had to double up as your screen. And the computer had no mass storage device (disc drive). You had to acquire a portable cassette tape player for that. Disc drives came a bit later to the home computer. Hard discs for storing everything came way later.

Games were immediately available. The first we had was a ladders and levels game called Felix in the Factory. It was great fun. The whole family enjoyed playing it.

Programmers got cleverer and found ways to make the hopelessly limited memory and the lack of speed actually do more. In 1985 the game Repton was released. As was common at that time it was designed by a kid. Tim Tyler, the game’s writer was just 15. It was an ‘eat the dots’ game but with puzzle solving along the way. It was a hit with games players straight away and I understand the most recent version was released for the iphone in 2010.

Of course, the old Electron computer has long since been confined to the loft along with all its accessories. When the use of the family telly was proving a problem an extra £200 was forked out on a colour monitor and over the years two sizes of floppy disc drives were added. It was cumbersome but it all worked.

What I have more readily available from the era is a Repton mug.

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There we see Repton – who was a friendly, cheery little character, pushing a boulder out of the way to enable him to gather up the gold.

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This mug, we can see, celebrated Repton 3 – the first game spawned sequels. All were marketed by ‘Superior Software’ and it has to be said that by and large that company did very well in coming up with classy games.

These days with megabytes and gigabytes proving inadequate, youngsters would find it hard to believe what could be done on a machine which had just 32 kilobytes of available memory. You had to be a class programmer in those days.

So, memories of near 30 years ago stream back, courtesy of this mug.

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