Star Trek games were among the first computer games, joined by such classics as Guess the Number, Towers of Hanoi, and Hunt the Wumpus, versions of Star Trek combat simulations ran on everything from mainframes to microcomputers by the 1980’s.
Retrocomputing is all the rage these days. The expensive computers of yesteryear now run better than the originals did as emulators on new hardware. It suddenly occurred to me, pondering this one day, that I had written a piece of computer gaming history and that I could share it with all of you! Here is C-Trek, the first version of Color Computer Star Trek for the Tandy Color Computer.
The History of Computer Star Trek
Remember back in the 1950’s when everything was cooler if you stuck the word “atomic” in front of it? Today that catch-word is “quantum”. Everything is better if it’s quantum something. In the 1970’s and 80’s, that word was “computer”, and everything was cooler if it had that word in front. There were all sorts of tabletop games in those days, and Pong was still pretty new. To differentiate between tabletop games and electronic ones, you’d use the word “computer”.
The first version of Computer Star Trek was a text based game written by Mike Mayfield for the SDS Sigma 7 mainframe computer in 1971. His idea was to create a game that could be played on a printing terminal. He ported it to the HP 2000C minicomputer a year later, and it was included in Hewlett-Packard’s public domain software catalog the following year.
From there it was picked up from there by David H. Ahl, who ported it with Mary Cole to BASIC-PLUS and published the source code in the Digital Equipment Corporation Edu newsletter. It was republished with other computer games in his best-selling 101 BASIC Computer Games book. Bob Leedom then expanded the game in 1974 into Super Star Trek, which was later printed by Ahl in BASIC Computer Games, the first million-selling computer book.
Then Came the Radio Shack Color Computer
And that’s where I found it. In 1980, I had just bought myself a Tandy Color Computer (also known as the Radio Shack Color Computer, or “CoCo” for short), and had expanded its memory to a whopping 16k. I had already played a version of Super Star Trek on a mainframe via a modem link from the convention floor of a sci-fi convention in 1975, and knew I had to write my own port for my wonderful new machine. C-Trek was the result. The game didn’t have Romulans with cloaking devices as other more advanced versions of the game did, but it did allow players to fly a simulated Enterprise around the galaxy that could suffer battle damage, that could be repaired at the expense of precious energy stores. It was also the first ever version of Computer Star Trek on any platform to feature animated photon torpedos. You didn’t have to plot the trajectory on a graph based on coordinate readouts from the terminal – you could see them for yourself!
The game was written in Microsoft Color BASIC, and sold to Spectral Associates, and would be my first entry into the gaming industry, a role I had for about eleven years, and it opened the door to me working on such classics as Fairytale Adventure II and Turner Interactive’s Dinotopia, custom location based entertainment games for the Metreon in San Francisco and Odaiba, Japan, as well as the only commercially licensed (and finished) Babylon 5 computer game, published through Sound Source Interactive. (Of the game, J. Michael Strazcinsky said, and I’m quoting here to the best of my recollection, “I really should have paid a lot closer attention to the game licensing for this.” He was right, of course. My little Galaxians-style shooter was pretty dreadful.)
The same year my version of Color Computer Star Trek was released, there were two more entries in the field, released mere weeks after mine, including two titles, Color Trek, and Galactic Trek. After the first year of sales, Spectral asked me to change the ship and alien names to avoid controversy with Paramount’s licensing division, but in those days Paramount had no interest at all in making commercial Star Trek computer games, so C-Trek flew completely under the radar.
Fun fact: the game was coded on a 16k system, using Color BASIC – which did not include a line editor! If you wanted to make a change to a line of code, you had to meticulously retype the entire line, every time. Talk about tedious!
Watch the video to learn how to download and play this unusual bit of Star Trek and computer game history.
Here’s the Game – Completely Free!
Want to play the game for yourself? You can, and all you need is in the zip file. Download the zip file containing everything you need here., and follow the instructions in the video above to get started.
All the commands are three letter commands. If you type something it doesn’t recognize, C-Trek will respond by giving you a help screen.
Have fun saving the galaxy!
This video was created when SCIFI.radio was still called Krypton Radio. Otherwise, everything else in the video is correct.
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President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of SCIFI.radio. Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur – all geek.