In 1981 I discovered the arcade game Defender and my life would change forever. Before Defender I was a casual video game player. After Defender I became a fanatic, plopping quarters into every arcade game I could find. It sparked my love for video games and computers. I put a lot of quarters into Defender and I longed to be able to play it at home.
So one day in 1983 I found myself searching through the budget bin at Sears in the local mall. It was chock full of discontinued hand-held and table top games such as Frogger , Super Cobra, and… could it be? DEFENDER??? I’d found a handheld Defender game! It had no box and no battery covers, and it was a little bit scuffed, but it was mine! Scrounging around the bin I found two more Defenders in worse condition but they had the battery covers, so I popped them off and snapped them onto my unit. I think I paid about $13 US dollars for it.
Once I got it home I gleefully inserted 4 C batteries and started gaming. Amazingly, the machine played a respectable version of Defender. The game had all the controls of the arcade version, substituting two buttons for the bi-directional joystick, and even included a skill switch to make the game harder or easier to play. The VFD (vacuum fluorescent display for you geeks) was bright and colorful. The sound was delightful. Coolest of all, though, was the speed control. This was a knob that you could use to dial in the game speed. It was essentially an infinitely adjustable skill level control. Set the skill switch to 2, crank the speed knob all the way up, and you’ve got an INSANE version of Defender.
Because I had some money left over, I also bought the Super Cobra.
Sadly, just as I was writing this article my Defender took a one-way trip to the great budget bin in the sky. The Super Cobra still works, though. Good times.