Guest article: Caitlin remembers

BBC MicroLast week Tired Old Hack got all sentimental, kicking off with my article ‘I remember‘, in which I shared some of my childhood gaming memories in a manner designed to aim directly at your delicate heartstrings and give them a bloody good tugging.

This then spawned ‘You remember‘, a follow-up article in which I invited readers to share their own memories, which it turns out were similarly lovely and awww-inspiring (see what I did there?).

We aren’t quite done with the nostalgia though. One reader, my lovely chum Caitlin, didn’t just deliver a few paragraphs of memories: she dumped an entire bastard Word document in my inbox.

Normally I’d guiltily cut something like that down to a more manageable size and hope the writer in question didn’t notice (they always do), but as luck would have it I bloody loved Caitlin’s article, so I’ve asked her if it was okay to publish the whole thing in its entirety on the site, all illustrated and that.

Here, then, is the first ever guest article on Tired Old Hack: a lot earlier than I expect to be posting one, but hopefully you’ll agree it’s worth it.

Caitlin (@WantonItalics)
Caitlin (@WantonItalics)

Guest writer: Caitlin (@WantonItalics)

I remember getting a second hand BBC Model B when I was nine. It was already an old platform by the time I got my hands on it, but that just meant it came with tons of games to get into.

I remember never getting anywhere in the text-based Lord Of The Rings game: no matter what direction I went in, the Black Riders would come. On one unprecedented occasion, I found a mithril shirt and got to the stone giants.

Far more interesting was the discovery I made whilst playing Sam. I was carrying nothing, Merry had pumpkin, Pippin had some matches and Frodo, obviously, had the ring. In a fit of pique over the fact Merry wouldn’t give me any more pumpkin, I typed:

> “Kill Merry”
> One swift blow to the skull, and he is dead.

Whaaat? Does that mean I can get his pumpkin?

> “Eat pumpkin”
> You eat the pumpkin

Hey, how come Sam got nothing, eh? Was it because he’s just a lowly gardener? Hmmm… that means I can have matches if I want to…

The Lord Of The Rings: Game One
The Lord Of The Rings: Game One (DOS version)

> “Kill Pippin”
> One swift blow to the skull, and he is dead.
> “Take matches”
> You take the matches

Yaaaassss! Wait. I could have MORE than just matches if I wanted…

> “Kill Frodo”
> One swift blow to the skull and he is dead.
> “Take ring”
> You take the ring

MY PRECIOUS. This was getting out of control. I needed to end it.

> “Kill Sam”
> You attempt to cleave the skull, but twist out of the way at the last second.

Clearly I was at a stalemate. I decided to start from disk two instead, in an attempt to cheat the system:

The Lord Of The Rings: Game One (C64 version)
The Lord Of The Rings: Game One (C64 version)

> “Load disk 2”
> It’s dark in here

No worries, I’ve got matches. I killed for those matches.

> “Strike match”
> You don’t have any matches. It’s dark in here.

Crap, it doesn’t remember my Shire murder spree. Maybe I can just walk around blind:

>”Go North”
>It’s dark in here.


I told this story at a work night out where I didn’t have masses in common with my colleagues. They laughed, but I kinda got blank faces back. I thought I’d misjudged the situation.

Then, one colleague’s husband whispered some magic words: “Draw sword. Because the blade glows, so you can see in the dark.”

I love how games can unexpectedly bring people together.

I remember spending the summer using BASIC and programming a stick man to run across the screen and making a tiny rocket launch… though I’m not sure I knew how to stop it.

Ah, the joys of programming in BASIC
Ah, the joys of programming in BASIC

I also programmed a quiz that asked you your name and age. If you were my age and Caitlin, it told you you were great. If you said you were my brothers/sister and their age, it said you were rubbish. If you said you were my brothers/sister and you were my age, it called you a liar. Not exactly dripping with finesse, but I’d only spent two whole days typing out BASIC code to get that result. I had earned being told I was great.

I remember discovering early computer porn that the previous owner had forgotten to ditch before selling the BBC to us. ‘Gerard’s Disk’ was full of pixellated women from the mid-shoulders up, silently pouting and making eyes at you on a five-second loop, which repeated about three times before moving on to the next beauty. A proto-Vine, if you will.

I remember playing Monopoly with two computer players, because you could scam them out of all their money in your first turn as long as you left them with £1. Rich Uncle Pennybags would be proud. And he’d probably have enough money to make all that nasty business I was involved in at the Shire go away, too.

The BBC Micro wasn't too graphically impressive, so this is what the board looked like in its version of Monopoly.
The BBC Micro wasn’t too graphically impressive, so this is what the board looked like in its version of Monopoly.

I remember every password to Granny’s Garden, and being flabbergasted when AhChoo reappeared and sneezed his head off in the castle close to the end. I also remember feeling really smug for realising that in Fruity Freddie, if you tried to collect the nectar from the flowers too soon, that’s what made the gardener come out of his house to chase you.

I remember getting the fright of my life when that chicken in the cage in the corner in Chuckie Egg came out to get you on Level 9. I honestly don’t think a game has surprised me so much since.

My uncle was right into technology, so visiting my cousins was always an exciting trip into games and consoles I didn’t normally have access to.

I remember turning the sound up loud on the Alien game on the Commodore VIC-20 to scare my cousin because he didn’t like it. I also liked to wait until he’d timed jumps perfectly on Donkey Kong before flicking autofire on on my joystick so he fell off the edge. Then we went to make mushroom vol-au-vents. He must have loved my visits.

Donkey Kong (VIC-20 version)
Donkey Kong (VIC-20 version)

I also remember Wizkid, Rainbow Islands, Parasol Stars and Rodland, as well as playing Snow Brothers in the arcade at a bowling alley, which was infinitely more enjoyable than being rubbish at bowling, even with those buffer things in the gutters.

I remember getting a PC and opening up a whole new world of point ‘n’ click adventure games, and figuring out bits with my cousins on the phone when we were all stuck.

I remember not being able to figure out the logic for the very last bit of the Discworld game for about three months, and in that time discovering that there was one item in my inventory that if I looked at it, Rincewind was clearly not voiced by Eric Idle to describe it. I cannot, however, remember accurately how many times Eric Idle told me “that doesn’t work” when trying every item in my inventory with every other item in my inventory. Again.

My husband Gav and I still quote bits of that game to each other occasionally, when appropriate. Particularly “Get out of my pockets!” in the style of the hairdresser whom you had to distract by speaking to him about the milkmaid he loved before you could use the pickpocket to steal the metal curler in his pocket for the dragon detector you were making.

Day Of The Tentacle
Day Of The Tentacle

I remember Day Of The Tentacle, and particularly loving Laverne: I think I still want to be her, on some level.

Finding a hamster and being unable to flush it through the time travel toilets, so having to freeze it to pick it up in the future. Defrosting it, only to have a soggy hamster that didn’t want to do anything for you. Placing tons of quarters into a tumble dryer in the present, to shrink a jumper for the hamster in the future to wear, creating a toastie hamster.

Having to retrieve the hamster using a vacuum cleaner that was only in the basement because you stuck a flyer for vacuum cleaners in the suggestions box in the past when they were drawing up the constitution, transforming him into a dusty hamster.

Entering a Mummy with horse’s teeth and spaghetti for hair into a humans contest in a future ruled by tentacles. I’m really going to miss non-Star wars Lucas Arts games.

Some memories from the start of my console era:

I remember how hard that Jafar snake was in Aladdin on the Master System. I remember Sonic The Hedgehog on Master System being the first console game I ever completed on a console, and I remember Alex Kidd. I also remember being incredibly frustrated and disappointed by Bubsy The Bobcat on SNES.

Bubsy The Bobcat - "Disappointed"
Bubsy The Bobcat – “Disappointed”

I remember changing the lyrics to Blur’s ‘Tender’ while playing Super Mario Kart on the SNES as Toad. I’d sing: “Tender as the Toad / The Toad that’s on the road…”. This led to me screaming “DON’T TOUCH ME, I’M TENDER” at my siblings when I had no coins as I tried to complete the Star Cup.

I remember being terrified playing Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts, and having to play with the music off. I remember saying: “You turned me into naked, and you turned me into bones and you turned me into the sea” every time my armour fell off then I died.

I remember risking my marriage by playing Kuri Kuri Mix with Gav on PS2 (“You’re supposed move the log on your side first so I can get further on MY side!” “I TRIED, OK?” etc). And I remember rebuilding my marriage by playing Escape From Monkey Island on PS2 together and figuring out all the correct phrases for Monkey Kombat.

I remember a lot more than this, but I’d imagine you’re incredibly bored by now, so I’ll remember to stop.

Follow Caitlin on Twitter @WantonItalics

One comment

  1. Excellent piece – I can see guest ‘I Remember’ pieces becoming a regular thing. I particularly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings bit, enough for me to think about obtaining a perfectly legal copy to play on totally not my phone.

    The Tired Old Hack empire is growing faster than I expected…

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