Nowadays, if you want to play a new video game you have to shell out $ 60 online or in the store. In the late 70's and 80's you could just turn on the radio to get a brand new video game on your computer. Do you remember? 80's videogames from the radio!
Downloading video games from the radio might seem like a fairly advanced ability before wi-fi, but thanks to the way the first computers were designed, it was commonplace.
Videogame from the radio: how was it possible?
Let's take a step back in the 70s. The fantastic world of 70's arcade videogames (tear!). Atari was furious, the electronic game was progressively cleared through customs, and from the bars it approached the houses. In 1977, the world's first PCs with a microprocessor were launched. They were theApple II (my dad bought it practically immediately and with huge economic sacrifice), PET Commodore and TRS-80.
All these machines had one thing in common: they used audio cassettes for archiving.
Hard drives were still quite expensive at the time, and everyone had access to cheap audio cassettes at the time.
Early computer designers actually pushed cassette storage as it aided rapid PC adoption. As PCs became more common, so did the emergence of their use as video game machines.
During the 80s, engineers from NOS, a Dutch television organization, came up with something amazing: radio games.
Since computer programs and video games were stored on audio cassettes, this meant that their data could be easily transmitted via radio. They started taking programs and video games and setting up broadcasts where people could "download" the games onto their personal computers.
The transmitted audio was reminiscent of starting a dial-up modem. In the video below you can hear a trace (indeed, from the video you could also download the game on our PC!)
Video game radio programs
The NOS started a specific radio show for the transmission of game data called "Hobbyscoop“, And it became incredibly popular. The company even created a standard cassette format called BASICODE to ensure computer compatibility.
Eventually, the broadcasting of games through computers was so popular that radio shows emerged around the world. The right path to an arcade seemed to go through the XNUMX's radios.
The 80's broadcasts flocked. A Yugoslav station called “Ventilator 202” broadcast 150 programs between 1983 and 1986. It became a practical way of sharing computer programs, educational tools, encyclopedias and even flight simulators.
The radio speaker Zoran Modli he informed the technicians of Radio Belgrade that in the minutes of the broadcast they would only hear "hisses and growls". A disconcerting statement for anyone who had no knowledge of what was going on.
A 40 × 80 pixel “poster”
Vintage premise: The first video game broadcast on the radio comes from Radio West in the UK. A 40-by-80-pixel black-and-white image of Charlie's Angels star Cheryl Ladd.
Joe Tozer, the host of the show, said of that event: “The evening was quite exciting. I had written the Cheryl Ladd graphic code myself, as it was small and could easily be encoded for both the BBC and the ZX81 Micros, and it seemed really amazing to have images broadcast over the radio. I think we did a couple of unannounced test broadcasts, and surprisingly we found that it worked better in AM than in FM. The night the recorded program came out everything worked out fine. And here she is on the screen: Cheryl Ladd in glorious 40 × 80 pixel black and white Teletext style. "
From that event a show called “Datarama” was born, which made video game broadcasts on the radio regular.
How did it happen?
To transmit digital data, the sound must be modulated using different techniques such as ASK - Amplitude Shift Keying, PSK - phase shift keying or QAM - Quadrature amplitude modulation. I will not go into what each of these techniques entails, I can say that they simply take the data in a format and translate it into data that can be transmitted on public radio.
When he finished transferring video games from the radio
This futuristic and intriguing process of transferring video games from the radio eventually ended in the late 80s, when 16-bit computing became commonplace. Goodbye 80's radio electronic games. The processors for these computers were much faster and therefore required much more storage capacity, 250 times more than previous computers. This meant that archiving to cassettes was no longer possible and manufacturers would begin using floppy disks and hard disks for computer mass storage.
As the transmission of video games over radio waves died out, the main wireless data transmissions also stopped.