Friday 12 August 2011


The IBM PC is 30 today. Forget those riots, the troubles in the financial world or whether Bert and Ernie should be wed in holy matrimony, chicks dig the celebration of outdated computer hardware, and Blog Squirrel is built to please the ladies.

And here's a pathetic attempt at marking the occasion, though marking the occasion at all could be considered pretty pathetic. DONKEY, one of the first ever PC games, if not the first. Just the thing you want to see after a nearly a fortnight of silence.

Donkey isn't amazingly obscure, nor is it a game that can be talked about in great detail. It was bundled with early versions of Microsoft Advanced BASIC as an Easter egg of sorts, and is about as simple as gaming could possibly come.

You, the player, are in charge of a deadly vehicle. It slowly travels up the playfield, glued to one of the two endless lanes of traffic that lie in front of it. Along the road, there are donkeys, and the player needs to avoid them by switching lane. Get to the top of the screen and you win a point. Crash, and the donkeys get one. You'll also explode. The cycle then repeats endlessly.

And after just a couple of paragraphs, that, friends, is Donkey in its entirety. It only uses one key, it only needs a four colour CGA graphics card and sound is completely optional. It's not a pretty game, nor is it particularly solid in design, but it's also three decades old. We had riots on the streets of London then too.

Little can be learned from Donkey, but it's still a novelty item. From what I can see, the only other games to grace the system that year were two text adventure games and a chess simulator, so you're looking at hardcore action packed fun for all the family... provided that family were willing to spend $1565 USD on a computer built for business use.

It stands as the beginning of PC gaming. Your keyboards, with their scroll locks and break keys, owe their lives to the IBM PC, and though perhaps Donkey played no role in the evolution of modern games... it runs at the correct speed in DOSBox. Lots of later games don't.

1 comment:

  1. Fun fact about DONKEY.BAS - one of the two programmers was none other than good ol' Bill Gates himself.