1977 Greats #07 – SHOOTING STARS

SHOOTING STARSYear:  1977
Platform:  APPLE II (Computer)
Developer:   Programma Intl. ?
Genre:   Puzzle

The early days of Apple software are a wild wild west of ownership, distribution and marketing.  It’s pretty difficult to tell who wrote what and when, in-part because there was really no distribution channel, or standard way to sell software.  In the age of early computing, discovery was the driving force.  People just wanted to see what could be done with these new machines, so individual programmers would write software and trade it around with other hobbyists.

So what the heck is SHOOTING STARS, and why would it be on this list?  To explain we have to go back to the ALTAIR computer.  The Altair was basically the first mass-produced “kit” computer that a hobbyist could purchase and assemble at home.  For the first time, you didn’t have to build something from scratch, just assemble the various parts, test it, turn it on, and figure out what you broke.

BYTE-SStarsAs soon as the ALTAIR was making inroads into a brand-new home computing marketplace, people started wondering what they could do with it.  One of the earliest games was a little puzzler that had you trying to turn off the LED lights on the front of the ALTAIR (being that monitors were not yet standard features).  The concept behind that game was very similar to SHOOTING STARS… where turning off one light has a toggle effect on a set number of other lights.  It was a brilliant use of a very limited feature set at the time.

As video monitors became more standard (and desired) the SHOOTING STARS program was written as a type of showcase for computing abilities.  Willard I Nico programmed his Scelbi 8H, and then released his program as a type-in game in BYTE’s May 1976 magazine.

Not sure exactly who wrote the APPLE II version, but because of the challenge of using any old computers today… the APPLE II is about as close to the old computers as I can realistically get.

But why is this particular game on the list?  First of all, it’s simply a fun puzzle game.  The Apple II version is an easy-to-use implementation with color and instructions.  When I found this on an old game disk, I was actually excited to finally play a game I had only read about in the annals of computing history (as they say).  It took me awhile, but I was able to beat it… and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.  It’s fun, it has history, and I think one of the best uses of early computing was puzzle games with graphics.  This is one of those particularly that I felt should be pointed out as a link to the past, and as a great example of a game that still remains fun to this day.

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