The First Computer Game I Ever Played

Not an arcade video game.  I think I played Pong first.

But an actual, sit down at the terminal, computer game.

It was Star Trek.

A friend’s dad had to go into the office one weekend and brought us along to show us the game that somebody had put on the accounting computer.  He left us to poke at it while he went off and did his work.  A clear waste of government resources back in an age when most people didn’t really know what a video game was, outside of Pong and Tank, and where the idea of a computer game probably would not have occurred to them.

It was a very simple game.  You were tasked to clear out the galaxy of hostile elements with a limited set of resources.

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

It was a pivotal moment in my life.  We were entranced.

I am sure the fact that it was called Star Trek, and represented the Enterprise fighting Klingons helped.  Star Trek was a big deal at the time, which was at least a year before Star Wars.  Maybe two.  It also pre-dated my Atari 2600.

We had such a good time with the game that my friend and I ended up creating a board game version of it so we could play at home.  We were engrossed.  It was the first in a series of games we created by piecing together the mechanics we discovered from other games.  Our home version got more complex over time.

It also got us to go out with horded allowance money to buy games like Star Fleet Battles as time went on, both to play them and to see how they dealt with spaceship combat.  There was even a foray in to naval miniatures rules and the like.  It was a heady time.

Anyway, I bring this up because over at The Register, the have a short piece up about the history of the original Star Trek game as part of the Antique Code Show series.

12 thoughts on “The First Computer Game I Ever Played

  1. Gripper

    Heh! I remember playing this, it was an awesome game at the time, and yes did the same buying SFB with all the different races etc! Was good times!!

    Also I am trying to remember if Star Trek was first or Telengard? I remember playing that or Temple of Apshai on the TRS-80 with the tape drive!

    Good memories – thanks for rekindling!


  2. Budnacho

    Dude, Oh.My.God.

    I remember that game. There was another version for building large fleets for combat. Between that and Oregon Trail in 5th Grade on the good-ol Greenbar typewriter Comp…I was hooked on games forever.

    But then of course, I did have the first home version for Pong in the late 70’s as well..God I’m old.

    But I tell you, all the kids today that missed this phase truly missed out on some great great titles and awesome times with their friends huddled around a 12″ green-screen monitor in the local public library on a rainy Sat afternoon…good times…


  3. NoAstronomer

    I remember playing this in my first year in college.The we found a version that could calculate the optimal photon torpedo bearing down to three decimals. Which, of course, took most of the fun out of it.

    It wasn’t the first computer game I played though, That was something on the TRS-80 for which I typed the code in. I don’t remember those games. I do remember Star Trek – because I played it with friends.



  4. Telwyn

    I had completely forgotten about this game! SFB was an awesome tabletop game as well, although I had a preference for Starfire as it handled large fleet engagements more easily.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Kevin Brill – This is one of those things where I cannot put an exact date on it, but I know it exists between certain events. It is post-parental divorce but before Atari 2600, so could be in quite a range of dates between 1975 and 1977, which would pre-date any Apple II experiences of mine.

    The Apple II doesn’t show up in my timeline until 78-79, when Apple gave my middle school some machines (they were practically next door) and I played a game that I remember as something like Dragon Maze, but of which I can find no written record. It was a maze, you were a square, you moved through the maze avoiding another square, that was a dragon which would eat you on contact. It loaded from a cassette tape. But I might be mixing mental images of that with the Atari 2600 game Adventure.

    I remember Lemonade Stand, as it was on the Apple IIs that were in our computer lab in high school, along with Artillery and a few other semi-educational games. That went into half of the typing lab, where Potshot and I took typing together back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    And then Governor Beige unleashed the medfly helicopters, and the malathion spray rendered the dinsaurs, and most of the medflies, extinct. Or something. All I can recall solidly is getting sprayed on Mary Avenue during one of their north-south passes across the county. But the memories, like the references in this comment, are present, if confusing.


  6. Knug

    Typing in BASIC games into the TRS-80 (Model 1, thank you) and later wrestling with the tape recorder to get the program back were good (bad) times. Imagine, getting games where you could tinker with how they work!

    And figuring out how to make new ones. Learning how geniuses like Scott Adams (the programmer) was able to fit a text parser and all that stuff into a BASIC program, but hide all the logic into a data file that was hard to read to figure out how to win. Once we figured out the system, it was an epiphany.

    Adding armies, floods, and competing Cities to Hamurabi (intentionally misspelled, just like the original) to push the game concept.

    Those were good years.


  7. Anonymous

    I loved that game. I once wrote a version from scratch in BASIC on a friend’s CPM system in a day, just to see if I could. Thanks for the memories.


  8. Krel

    This kind of discussion always brings back tons of memories for me, too. We got a Trash–80 Color Computer when I was six, in 1977. The first game I can actually remember playing on it, although I am sure it wasn’t the very first, was Realm of Nauga. Knug, I remember fighting with the cassette recorder too. :)


  9. Pasduil

    I played the Star Trek game on a DEC-10 minicomputer. My school had access to it via a teletype – glorified electric typewriter – and a dial-up modem that worked at 300bps I think. Or was it 64bps at first? Must have been the mid to late 70s.

    Not sure if it was Star Trek or Chess that I first played on a computer, I played them both on the DEC-10.

    It was before all those new fangled VDUs, TRS-80s and such hit the scene.


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