| ||"There is always something 'before the beginning', just as there is always something 'after the end'. Put another way, everything is 'all middle'."
R. Pope, Creativity: Theory, history, practice (Routledge, 2005)
A Timeline of Jongware
- ...-1984: Never gave a rat's ass about computers (though I remember being thouroughly impressed by my dad's electronic calculator). Looked at Commodores and Sinclairs in the store, and a friend showed me how to print my name a zillion times. Duh. I could do that with pen and paper, if I wanted to! However, a schoolmate had an Atari game console and we played Space Invaders until we puked. But real games could be found in the arcades; my all-time favourite was Gyruss, the only reason I ever skipped school.
- 1984: Got meself a proper job after finishing school and getting more than a few hints from my parents (I took a long vacation). Another guy showed up new on that same day, and boy! was he a bithead! Ranted all day about his computers until I gave in and bought a fifth hand Texas Instruments TI99/4A off of him. Never bothered to buy the Extended Basic cartridge, started programming 'games' nevertheless. ('Games' because they sucked big time. Imagine your first fruit machine game. Mine was worse.)
- 1985: My parents gave me a Sinclair Spectrum! Not the rubber key job, it had a slick black keyboard with all the proper keys in the right places. Started programming in Spectrum Basic, started using a Basic-to assembler compiler, learned Z80 assembler by optimizing this code. Experimented with microdrives and light pen, but never got used to those. Got a copy of Elite, never played it much; favourites (up to now) were Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond's isometric games Batman (re-incarnated for the PC, Google to find it!) and Head over Heels. Created an isometric game engine, but it was dead slow, more the likes of Alien 8 and Knight Lore. The enormous map of Doomdarks Revenge stunned me; I was delighted to see a PC clone for it a coupl'a years ago! Played a few graphic adventures such as Knight Tyme and action games such as Cobra. Friends all had Commodores, but the Spectrum had a better screen rez! Hah!
- 1986: Upgraded to a Spectrum 128. Not a lot of added value, actually. The plings and ploings of the music chip were a novelty, and it introduced me to the pitfalls of memory swapping. Glider Rider was a nice game, though very difficult. Had a loads of fun with Zub; my favourite was still the old Sir Fred.
- Also 1986: Got an upgrade at work too; the PC network needed a new supervisor. The jump from Spectrum to XTs and a single AT wasn't spectacular, but had a lot of fun chasing the boss's secretary in the freebie Novell Netware network maze game. Now what was it called?
- 1988(ish): My parents gave me an Atari ST 520. It had a disk drive! It had a mouse! It had a GUI! It had proper music! It had a lot of colours! It had very good games! Last week during an 80s Radio Retro I suddenly heard Bomb the Bass's Megablast, and that brought back vivid memories of Xenon II. Learned all about ST Basic (god that sucked), GfA Basic (a lot better!), the Mac rip-off of its VDI/GDI system called GEM/AES, and Motorola 68000 assembler. Played Frontier:Elite 2, though it wasn't that good on an ST. Favourites at the time were Xenon II (of course) and the first game to frighten me: Dungeon Master. Looking left, nothing there. Looking right: Aaaarrrgghh! A giant scorpion and a wasp!
- Around that same time an Apple Macintosh was introduced at work, together with a LaserWriter. Had a lot of fun copying Mac applications to disassemble at home, and talking to the LaserWriter in interactive mode. Learned a lot about PostScript that way; a project of that time on the Atari was a full fledged PostScript interpreter in GfA Basic, only thing lacking was proper graphics.
- Probably 1989: Yeah somewhere around that time I was a total bithead myself (hah). Bought a second-hand Acorn Archimedes A3000 for a lot of money (about a 1000 Euros, not counting Euro inflation). Simply because it was rated "the best home computer available" at that time. But it never caught on in my home country, so I only had the free games which came with it, and that did not include ArcElite (dubbed "the best game" at that time). Learned its strange version of Basic, used the in-built vector mathematics to draw my very first 3D object (it was a Stealth fighter model). Learned ARM assembler, and was so impressed by that I wrote an ARM disassembler years later for Windows (I call it DisArm...). Wrote a Julia set program in ARM assembler which almost ran real-time; played Lemmings and wrote a desktop program which had the hapless beasties walk over (and drop off) the edges of the windows (I also wrote a Windows version <grin> but it's not that good). Experimented with POV and C but, lacking a hard disk, got tired of disk switching. I still have that computer somewhere, but haven't used it for years now.
- Somewhere around 1990: One of the things that did come with the Arch was a PC emulator. It ran just a tad faster than the XTs at work, and my little brother gave me a copy of Borlands Turbo C, which ran smoothly. So at last I started programming in a sensible language, and for PCs. One of the first complete programs I wrote was a utility called
dor. It featured the Jongware brand for the first time, and was a replacement of the totally useless
dir command. Its best version sorted files not only by name but also by number (unprecedented until XP came around!), and could read the root directory of a Mac diskette! Used it for ages myself; whenever I have to use a command prompt I still type 'dor' on occasion. Learned Intel assembler with debug, and even wrote some small programs using that. Played The Secret of Monkey Island at work to its finish.
- Must have been 1991: Finally bought a '486 PC. It had a Tseng ET4000 video card, so I learned how to use different memory banks for every odd K or so of display. Favourite PC games from that time on were (and are) Bullfrog's Syndicate, Settlers 2 and 3, Dune II, Frontier:Elite 2, Warcraft 2, Command & Conquer, and Doom. Played those last two on the network at work, had a good time once thrashing the son of my boss with Doom! Got the DOS version of Borland C, wrote a complete time-keeping application for work, which was used for years and years. Got Watcom C and started writing big programs at last, though still for DOS only. Arcade favourite of the time: Operation Wolf!
- Pretty sure it was 1992: The Internet leaked through to the firm I worked for, an' Bossman wanna Web page cuz everyone had one. So I learned how to write HTML, not using Arachnid or GoLive((C),(R), whatever) or something but slugging it out with Notepad. Still my fav method of creating web pages; ever since my webwork proudly features the tag <meta name="Generator" content="All By Hand(TM)" />. I really should've registered that one as a trademark!
- Just about every year since then: various upgrades, and occasionally a brand new PC. Bought a second-hand VR helmet (and got motion sickness playing Quake). I still have it but its interface card is an ISA... I still brag about owning one, though. It even came with a programmer's kit, and so I could take a look in the Carmageddon levels, cunningly extracted from the game by yours truly. Finally got over my fear for Windows, started programming with Borland CBuilder and Visual Studio 5. Started using DirectX, still don't like it much though. My current IDE is Visual Studio, but I use mainly the free Borland CPP 5.5, which is great value for no money at all!
- Ever since I discovered how to read a Spectrum tape without starting the program I've been tinkering with data formats; it has been a hobby since (some might say 'obsession'). Personal highlights are: the rooms from the Spectrum version of Batman (loads of fun seeing them on a PC); the WordPerfect 5.x and 6.x native file formats (to use at work); graphics of Dune II, graphics and maps from Doom, Pyro Studio's Commandos, Westwood's Command & Conquer, and Blue Byte's Settlers III; a 99.9% perfect Z80 emulator (it actually runs a couple of Spectrum games, another version of the code runs arcade 1942!); graphics of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. Three-D graphics for Warcraft III (without using Direct3D); 3D models and maps of Quake (did the models in DOS ages ago, featuring per-frame interpolated vertices!) and Westwood's Renegade; maps and graphics of the original Bullfrog game Syndicate (these look very nice in first-person 3D; had a lot of fun creating that); about 90% of the 3D format of the objects in Frontier:Elite 2 and Frontier:First Encounters. For FE2 I once had a program which could display about everything in wireframe 3D, 640x480 high-colour, but I overwrote the source code with a program to draw lissajous curves!
|Syndicate in sprite mode||Now that's better!||Even added real doors...|
|Another project :)||Dungeon Master map|
| ||wish I had that one 15 years ago!|
Two Vorpal blades to be collected
- I do not only take games apart into itty little bits, every now and then I get interested into something else (computer-wise, that is). A rather useful program is the ASCII utility SpellCheck. Start it, select "Load list" to load any ASCII word list (an English word list is provided in the zip; it will remember the last list used), then drag any text or HTML file on it. It will spell check the file and optionally output it as <name>.checked.<extension> (yes I know, the list box is thrashed; it still should work, though!). Various options are provided, try them one by one.
- Every couple of years I seem to return to the Elite games. First time was ages ago, checking out the GRF file format and bitmap graphics; around 2001 I first got a grip on the 3D graphics; around 2003 a first attempt at the star map was made. And here I am back at it again!
-- Jongware [April 2005]