When I was a child, I liked nothing more than to visit the local library to borrow certain books. There were two kinds of book I would borrow again and again: the Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own- adventure books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone; and the Usborne Write Your Own computer game books.
Several of the Fighting Fantasy books are still in print even now, and they are still a lot of fun to play through for some retro gaming goodness. The Usborne books have become hard to track down however; with the result being that they are now quite pricy to get your hands on. That’s a shame.
A few years ago, Usborne recognised that people are still interested in their old books but, of course, programming and computers have moved on a lot since the Eighties. BASIC isn’t something people tend to learn how to program anymore, which I personally find quite sad because it’s a great introduction to coding – and every child should have the pleasure of learning how to make their computer swear with the good old My First Program of:
10 PRINT “Bum!”If you didn’t try this at least once when you were a kid, you missed out.
20 GOTO 10
The “bum program” won’t keep you entertained for very long (unless you are really easily pleased) but the Usborne books would. They weren’t just the code for a computer game printed out in book form, they were guides that taught you how to program. The books lead you through how the game was written, and why it was written the way it was. They taught the basics of game loops; data processing; and how to take input from the player then turn it into something the computer can understand – and more.
Basically, they were a game and a solid grounding in programming, in one book. I loved them; and I would regularly hire them out so I could re-read the guides on how each part of the program was supposed to work.
But, as I said, BASIC isn’t taught as much any more; and most computers don’t even come with a BASIC program installed on them any more. So the books aren’t worth re-printing from a publisher’s point of view. Usborne certainly seems to know the nostalgic value of what they have however, since they have made all their old computer programming books available for download on their website – for free.
Click here to revisit these brilliant books. They are definitely worth your time!