Saturday, 18 February 2017

The first game of the IBM PC was a Flappy Bird with a donkey created by Bill Gates (and you can play it)

The first game of the IBM PC was a Flappy Bird with a donkey created by Bill Gates (and you can play it)

Methodical, ambitious ... and since leaving the first line at Microsoft, committed. The adjectives associated with the person of Bill Gates are usually not discreet. However, the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men today is not usual to see his image associated with the facet of programmer . And yet it was. And very curiously a long and hot night of 1980 when he wanted to avoid running over a donkey would become the first game scheduled for an IBM PC . By Bill Gates himself. And it was very bad. Do you want to try it?

A donkey to demonstrate the potential of BASIC
1980 was a good year for the PC. In November of that year a small company called Microsoft reached an agreement with the giant IBM to take charge of the future operating system of its equipment. The IBM PC was just born with a starting balance for Microsoft of $ 430,000, 75,000 of which corresponded to consulting and testing around programming languages ​​such as FORTRAN or COBOL for the future DOS.

One of the first tasks for Gates was BASIC as the central axis. IBM asked Microsoft to show them "its" version of the language along with a series of simple games. Among them was DONKEY.BAS, a game that would later be released on all IBM PCs. We can consider it as the first game scheduled for PC.

With that task on his to-do list, he was about to get down to business. And so it turned out. DONKEY.BAS was the fruit of a hot night in which, against a prototype of the IBM PC and in a tiny room, Bill Gates himself and Neil Konzen devised in those hours what they defined then as a very exciting fact in the Story that they were beginning to write (as would count in a TechED of the own Bill Gates 2001 )

A very bad Flappy Bird: in that all agree
The DONKEY.BAS that came out of that room was on every IBM PC that went on sale with DOS. Even in that they bought at Apple to check the state of development of the competition. And in Cupertino they were very clear from the beginning: that development was the worst of a series of games that did not excite anyone in Apple.

In the company, according to Andy Hertzfeld, one of the first Apple workers at that time who had the opportunity to see it working on the IBM PC, what most generated comments was the fact that among the developers of that nefarious game was Neither more nor less than one of the creators of Microsoft.

Bill Gates himself, laughing, admitted that the game was too basic. But he used it at that TechEd conference where he commemorated 10 years of Visual Basic as an example of what language had evolved in those 20 years that separated the original version of "his first game for PC" and a 3D evolution that showed In that event.

If you want to play it, you can do it
In DONKEY.BAS the objective is very simple: ** if you hit the donkey, he adds a point. If you avoid it, add the player **. As we are avoiding donkeys, the player drives higher up the screen, leaving less time to react. But at no time is there more than one donkey on the screen. The control is exclusively with the space bar to change lanes.

At the graphic level DONKEY.BAS took advantage of all the possibilities of the original IBM PC, with four possible colors. And all its code occupies only 131 lines.

If you feel like trying it, you're in luck. There is a version that you can play in your browser thanks to Scratch , but there is also the game for iPhone ( costs 99 cents ) or even Apple Watch.

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