SLOT MACHINE

WIN BIG (OR LOSE YOUR SHIRT) AT THE TRS-80 CASINO

BY HARRY MCCRACKEN

Below is a playable version of my TRS-80 slot machine game--which I cleverly named "Slot Machine." Give it a try if you like, and see if you can make a virtual windfall.



I'm not positive when I wrote this, but at the earliest, I began it at some point in 1978, and I'd be surprised if I wasn't done with it before 1979 was over. That would mean I was around fourteen or fifteen, and I have vague memories that I hadn't yet entered high school.

As far as I know, I'd never seen a slot machine in person at the time, so I'm mildly surprised that my game--though hardly an authentic simulation--bears some vague resemblance to the real thing. It was certainly a reasonable project to tackle, since it was somewhat ambitious graphically--by the standards of games written by kids in the late 1970s!--but could be accomplished in Level II BASIC.

After I wrote it, I thought it was good enough to share--I seem to remember my father being impressed, at least. So I uploaded it to a local FORUM-80 bulletin board system in the Boston area. Its sysop liked it, too. Whether it then got shared to other BBSes, I don't recall. But I'm glad that uploaded it, because more than 30 years later, when I was writing about the TRS-80, it dawned on me that there was some chance the game had survived even though I hadn't bothered to keep a copy.

I contacted TRS-80 preservationist extraordinaire Ira Goldklang, proprietor of the excellent TRS-80 Revived site, and he quickly responded with a copy of my game, which was indeed part of his vast repository. Using a TRS-80 emulator on my MacBook, I played it again for the first time since shortly after I'd finished programming it.

In 2014, I wrote a little bit about my game as part of a very long TIME.com article on the fiftieth anniverary of BASIC. And in 2021, when I relaunched ARCTIC ADVENTURE, a game I wrote a little after the slot machine, I realized that if I merged the code for the two programs I could insert my slot machine into the adventure as a mini-game. That was too ridiculous an idea to resist, so I did.

The ARCTIC ADVENTURE version of the slot game has a few changes. Rather than getting to specify how much money you brought with you, you're comped $25. You can only bet $1 a pull rather than $1, $5, or $10, and I took out a jackpot feature. I put in a guide to winning combinations--the original game didn't expain that--and tweaked the odds to make the machine loose enough that you usually don't have to play too long to make a nice profit. Most of these changes stem from the fact that you need a certain amount of winnings to help you complete the adventure, so I wanted some control over how much dough the machine might spit out.

The version of the slot game on this page is the original. It's completely unremarkable, and I'm putting it here more for the record than out of any expectation that anyone is going to give it more than a few spins. But I'm glad it exists--programming the TRS-80 was a big part of my life back then, and most of the software I wrote is long gone. If BBSes were still a thing, I'd upload it to one all over again, but this webpage will have to do.

Harry McCracken, September 2021

Slot Machine is copyright (c) 1979-2021 Harry McCracken