Lost Memory, fun with MS-DOS
My party in 256 color VGA!

Lost Memory, fun with MS-DOS

Travel back in time with me to the mid 1980s a time before the wonder that is Direct X. If your computer has the hardware and processor speed displayed on the box it is installed and will play automatically for computer games….

In 1985 my parents got a computer, a 286 IBM clone. I was overjoyed I could finally play a mysterious game I had heard kids talk about in elementary school, King’s Quest. I finally played the game a year later. I was a kid I did not care that the graphics were 4 color CGA. I did not know anyone who had a better computer. That game was awesome, played it for hours, yet could never defeat the game, a witch always killed me or I forgot to find an item so I could not complete the game.

I thought to myself, graphics can’t get better than this, as I tried in vain to beat King’s Quest and in 1987, Space Quest. Then in 1989 in junior high I went to a friend’s house, Nick who had a commodore 64, “Man I wish the IBM had such great games as Mail Order Monsters, and others” I thought to myself. I was impressed with the graphics, (more than 4 colors!) and the sound on the C64 was light years beyond the beeps and bops of my internal sound card heard through a PC speaker.

In 1990 I went to my friend Adam’s house and he showed me Kings Quest IV. “You mean there is a game with great sound and more than 4 colors on an IBM computer” I told him. He said yes. When I saw the game, I had to borrow it from him and play it on my home computer. He came over to my house and that is when disaster struck.

The bane of my existence
The bane of my existence

Adam and I tried to install the game without success. We kept getting error messages, not enough memory. We had to get this working. He asked if he could change the autoexec.bat file and config.sys file on the hard drive. Me being a dumb kid, who thought he knew everything about computers because I could run games that met the requirements of my computer, I said sure, go ahead. He tried in vain to allocate more memory on my parent’s ancient system to get the game to work and somehow the computer stopped working. He reset the computer, and then we got some weird error message, but the computer was not working as it had before. I told him he better leave.

My parents as you can imagine, were not pleased, they banned Adam from using the computer when he was over, and I was grounded for a while, as my parents had to go to a computer repair shop and fix the damage that I let my “friend” do to “their computer” just to get a “stupid game to work”.

Years later I finally got my own personal computer a Pentium with a CD-Rom drive and Windows 95. I had moved on to CD-Rom games and from adventure games to RPG games and sports games. One of my fondest memories of that time was when I finally got my favorite RPG to work, Wizardry 7, on my computer. After hours changing my config.sys file on my hard drive by using the game manual’s recommendations, I finally took a 3.5 floppy disk and created a boot disk for the game. And it finally worked, MIDI sound and 256 color VGA graphics. I finally had 591 kilobytes out of 640 kilobytes of RAM available to play the game! I then played the game for several hours before going on to something else.

My party in 256 color VGA!
My party in 256 color VGA!

Whenever I want to play the old DOS computer games from my childhood, I just go to Good Old Games, spend a few bucks, to download the games and play them on my computer, without having to worry about dreaded memory management because the “experts” have taken care of it.

I’m off to kill some Kilrathi, Wing Commander II is the best ever!


I love retro video games and soccer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. You really captured the challenges of gaming in the early days of computers. Nothing was worse than bringing home a disk only to realize it wasn’t going to work on your machine (even if the box said it probably would).

  2. Thank You. I always felt like I was the King of the World when I was able to get 591K allocated out of 640k to run VGA graphics in 1992. The same went for getting my single speed CD-ROM drive to work also, doing config.sys tricks and loading the cd drive into upper memory. It was sometimes a hair pulling experience!
    The worst experience I had was trying to Wing Commander III working on my old dilapidated computer. The guy at the store when I returned the game just told me to buy a new computer! Yes, thanks I did not have at that time an extra three grand lying around to buy one of the new shiny Pentiums, that would not come until later.
    That fact still did not stop me from drooling over the new games featured in Computer Gaming World in high school.

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