“space acid poisoning …”

Thanks to users sbadger and lurkio on the stardot forum, I’ve been reunited the original BBC BASIC one-liner that begat 2d Star Dodge/Stardodger: Asterisk Tracker!

Asterisk Tracker

It was published in the December 1984 edition of BEEBUG Magazine (vol. 3, issue 7; page 9) and is credited to N. Silver.

It’s impossibly short:

1L=0:REP.L=L+3:MO.4:DR.1279,0:DR.1279,452:MOVE1279,572:DR.1279,1023:DR.0,1023:F.I=1TOL:V.31,RND(32)+5,RND(31),42,30:N.:P.(L-3)/3:X=0:Y=512:REP.PL.69,X,Y:X=X+4:Y=Y-(INKEY-74+.5)*8:U.PO.X,Y)=1ORX=1280:U.X<1280:V.7:REP.U.INKEY-99:RUN

It makes extensive use of BBC BASIC’s abbreviations, and the writeup even warns

… Here the programs are extensively abbreviated so that the line will fit into Basic’s keyboard buffer. Because of this, you cannot edit a LISTed version, and so, to allow for errors, it is best to spool out a copy of the text to tape/disc initially. This can be achieved as follows:

*SPOOL PROGRAM
type in program
*SPOOL

The program unwinds to something much more understandable:


   10 L=0
   20 REPEAT
   25   L=L+3
   30   MODE 4
   40   DRAW 1279,0
   50   DRAW 1279,452
   60   MOVE 1279,572
   70   DRAW 1279,1023
   80   DRAW 0,1023
   90   FOR I=1 T OL
  100     VDU 31,RND(32)+5,RND(31),42,30
  110   NEXT
  120   PRINT (L-3)/3
  130   X=0
  140   Y=512
  150   REPEAT
  155     PLOT 69,X,Y
  160     X=X+4
  170     Y=Y-(INKEY(-74)+.5)*8
  180   UNTIL POINT(X,Y)=1 OR X=1280
  190 UNTIL X<1280
  200 VDU 7
  210 REPEAT UNTIL INKEY(-99)
  220 RUN

The instructions are typical of the day:

The first game (called ‘Asterisk Tracker’) is a very simple game in which you have to guide a ‘snake’ across the screen, whilst avoiding the stars. As the game progresses, more and more stars will be displayed, and the ease of the game rapidly disappears. The Return key guides the ‘snake’ upwards, but it moves down if Return is not pressed. Aim your ‘snake’ for the gap in the wall, and don’t touch any objects as this causes instant death from space acid poisoning!

Um, yeah, N. Silver, whatevs …

It’s pretty amazing that three type-ins could fit on a page: especially when you consider that the BEEBUG magazine was A5!

beebug vol 3 issue 7 page 9

If you want to play it (and who wouldn’t? We wasted days on this game) you can either run this Asterisk Tracker alone in the browser: Asterisk Tracker, or lurkio has combined them into one, and put them here: Beebug One-Line Games (Asterisk Tracker, a Truffle Hunt clone, and a treasure hunt).

I just wish Graeme Smith were still with us to play this.

cosmic coincidence

Three consecutive space songs in today’s helping of the automatic podcast:

  • The Lovely Universe — Circulatory System
  • See The Constellation — They Might Be Giants
  • Kelly, Watch the Stars! — Air

That’s the thing about randomness – we see patterns that are of no import.

all the stars came crashing down

Saw the Decemberists at the awful barn that is the Kool Haus last night. The place was fairly busy, but not full. A scalper offered me a derisory price for a spare ticket, so I don’t think they sold out.
They were pretty good; great in parts, kind of tired and meh in others. Naughty Chris Funk lit up on stage; that’ll mean a fine for the venue. That’ll teach him not to play banjo on stage.
Sensitive wee Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts supported. He was good enough for me to buy the CD.