Sep 212015

Back in my misguided youth, I spent a couple of years developing game programs for the Commodore 64.

It all started in 1982, when a friend of mine and I dropped by at the office of a newly formed company, Novotrade. We heard somewhere that these folks have a new personal computer in their possession, one with a whopping 64 kilobytes of random access memory (an almost unheard-of amount at the time), and they are looking for programmers.

It was all true. The Commodore 64 was there and they were indeed looking for talented programmers. Thus we got to meet Ferenc Szatmári (a physicist-inventor who later on had a profound influence on my life) and others, who explained the deal: Novotrade was about to enter into a business relationship with a British company, the idea being that Hungarian programmers will be writing game software for Commmodore’s brand new personal computer. As part of this arrangement, a prototype Commodore 64 (of West German manufacture, with serial number 000002) was already there, available for us to study.

As it is well known, the Commodore 64 went on to become one of the most successful personal computers of all time. Our games did not fare that well; truth to tell, they weren’t that great. The games we ended up developing were “chosen by committee,” so to speak, from game ideas sent in by the public in response to a Novotrade-managed contest. Still… we were proud of introducing some rather novel programming techniques. Specifically, highly efficient graphic algorithms were developed by two of our teammates, Imre Kováts and Márton Sághegyi, which allowed us to create 3D-ish full screen animations like a moving horizon or a floating iceberg.

Floating iceberg? Yes… one of our games was called Arctic Shipwreck, and it required the player to balance an iceberg by moving a friendly mammoth around while trying to avoid stepping on some poor survivors of a shipwreck… until rescue arrived. Oh, and there was a rather nasty bird of prey, too, that occasionally came and plucked a survivor for lunch.

Not very entertaining, to be honest. Yet for some reason, this game remains much liked by the dwindling community of Commodore 64 enthusiasts. Most recently, it was featured in a nice German-language article on; the author of that article, Boris Kretzinger, also interviewed me via e-mail for C64 Scene, an electronic magazine published in the form of Commodore 64 disk images (!).

 Posted by at 6:55 pm