Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Walk Down Memory Lane

For some reason, this morning was different than the others. At first, I could not figure out what it was - no matter how much I tried. It struck me when I reached the lab - I wanted to play Carmen Sandiego ! For those of you that don't know this game, there's always Wikipedia. Suffice it to say, this was one of the coolest games that I played on the old PC-XTs when I was over in my mother's office once in a while. Trying to catch thieves that stole the most interesting things (the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome was one) was pretty cool. I think that was the biggest motivation for me to show any interest in the otherwise (seemingly) dull world of geography. You see, the whole point of the game was to follow the thief's tracks around the world (hence the name - Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego ?) The clues were of a geographical nature and you, the gumshoe, had to figure out which country was next on the list.

So, now that I have given you a little introduction, let me outline the steps I had to take to find and run this game. The fact that complicated things a little bit was that my laptop is an Apple Powerbook G4. So, the first thing I had to do was to find a DOS emulator - which was pretty easy. DOSBox is an open-sourced and extremely efficient emulator that was available as a prepackaged binary for Mac OS X. Once that was installed, I searched for the actual game and found a deluxe version of the same somewhere in the google wild. Getting it up and running was extremely simple and within 5 minutes, I was hot on the heels of Carmen, as the screenshots below will tell you. Needless to say, work was set aside and time was wasted.

The DOSBox emulator in action

Where are you, Carmen ?

Getting my next case details on the videophone from the Chief !

Of course, my hankering for nostalgia did not stop there. I was looking at another list of oldies online and found that they had Turbo Pascal 5.5 listed !! I could not believe my eyes. This was the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that I had grown up with and written my first programs in. There was no way I could pass that up ! So, 10 minutes later, there I was, writing a Pascal program and reveling in the warmth of one of the best structural programming languages around. Borland had added object orientation to the language with the release of this version of Turbo Pascal and that was where I got introduced to OOP. I had forgotten how cool Pascal used to be:

1) Parts of the original MacOS were written in Pascal and Motorola 68000 assembly language
2) The most frequent high-level language used for development in the early Mac community was Pascal.
3) In addition, the popular typesetting system TeX was written by Donald E. Knuth in WEB, a variant of Pascal designed for literate programming.

Without further ado, I reveal to you - the programming interface of my adolescence (I swear, I still remember the keyboard shortcuts !!)

Borland Turbo Pascal 5.5 running on DOSBOX