Hacking the Game, Old School: Electronic Quarterback

Gather around now and let Grandpa tell you about how we used to hack games back in the day. It was way back in 1978 and my best friend, Fred, and I used to play Electronic Quarterback, a simple handheld electronic game that was the craze for many.

Anyway, Fred used to beat me all the time and I couldn’t figure out how he did it until he revealed his “hack”.

Basically, the players on the screen were represented by glowing LED “dashes”. There was one for the quarterback and two others that blocked for the quarterback.

When one of your blockers came in contact with the opposing side, they both would disappear, leaving the quarterback unprotected to be tackled by the remaining players. The goal was to gain yards by maneuvering your player past the others or by passing to your receiver.

Here was Fred’s “hack”: I don’t know how he discovered this, but when all of your blockers were wiped out, all you had to do was switch the “kick/pass” toggle up to “kick” and repeatedly click the down arrow and slowly, from the top of the screen, an extra blocker would appear!

When done enough times, you could eventually wipe the screen of all opponents and cruise to the touchdown!

Electronics and computers intrigued both Fred and I. We both decided early on to become either electronics technicians or computer programmers.

Fred eventually ran a computer repair shop with another friend. I got into repairing radios and televisions, which led to me working in a studio as a sound technician/engineer.

The studio used many Excel spreadsheets to not only track projects, but also to mark the “timecode” or program location points where a narrator would start/stop speaking. This would assist when performing remixes for other languages, etc. We also used Lotus Notes extensively in the day to day operations.

Excel and Lotus Notes exposed me to their respective scripting languages which allowed the creation of custom applications and automating many tasks. I had already become the electronics technician, but now I started to see the emerging programmer in me.

Honestly, I stretched the limits of Lotus Notes (later known as Lotus Domino) to the point where my boss wanted me to do nothing but develop Lotus Notes applications. I decided to purchase some computer based training materials and became a Certified Lotus Notes Developer.

I later left the recording studio scene and became an independent contractor, developing Lotus Notes applications.

Before going independent, one company I worked for paid for any additional training that their programmers needed. Java programming was up and coming, so I eventually moved on from scripting languages to the world of object oriented programming.

This old school “hacking” of an electronic game made a lasting impression on Fred and I. Even though I never really went the route of a true “computer hacker”, I’ve done many hack jobs in my day 🙂

I’ve had to learn most of everything I know from from books, websites, and good people. I attended a vocational/technical high school.

We had about three periods a day (around 2 hours or so) dedicated to our field of choice, whether it was Radio/TV Electronics, Automotive Repair, Carpentry, Residential Electrical, or Nurses Aide, etc.

If you paid attention and took your course seriously, upon graduating high school, you could land an apprentice position. Our school even assisted graduates in finding work and that’s how I ended up in a Radio/TV repair shop.

OK, I see that Grandpa put you to sleep again with one of his long-winded stories – I’ll try not to ramble on so much next time when I tell you about what helped me to stay organized while building this mobile unlock website!

Grandpa Henry

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