When I was in seventh grade in Salem, Oregon, one unit in our Life Science class involved playing a game programmed in AppleSoft Basic, about managing a large colony on an alien planet. It was completely text based and ran on a classroom Apple IIe. Each turn the player—as planetary manager—was allowed to take ten actions, drawn from a list of about twenty or twenty-five possible. We had printouts, describing each of the possible actions in a line or two and entered which ones we wanted to use by number. Then the game would produce a report, stating which ten actions had been taken (sometimes described rather differently than on the printed information sheet) and the results, including the planetary environment score (out of 100, starting at 90), the size of the planetary economy (starting at 10 BUX), and the population (starting at 100 million).

There were lots of problems to be dealt with. Environmental ones were particularly pressing, and the game started with 10 massive waste sites to be cleaned up. Another environmental action was installing scrubbers and other devices to clean up exhausted from burning fossil fuels (described in game as "the Wright plan"). There was also a alien plague affecting the colonists, inhibiting population growth, and you could expend actions on the search for a cure. The economic actions I remember best were focused on a material that was produced on the planet; you could either ramp up production or do research into new uses for the substance (one of the possible results of the latter being the discovery that it could be used as an oven cleaner).

At the end of each turn, you would get a number of warnings, stating that "The Council is concerned..." about various problems that were bedeviling the colonists. These included:

  • the plague, until enough resources were expended to find a cure
  • environmental quality, if the planetary environment score fell too low
  • economic problems, if the planetary income was less than 1 BUX per ten million inhabitants.

If there were too many problems, you would be fired by the Council, and the game would end. If you made it ten turns (representing ten years, I think), the game would end, and it would give you a score.

We didn't play all at once. The class was divided into groups of each group of three or four students, and each group got to plan and play one turn per day. So there must have been a system for logging in and having it load up the progress so far from a floppy disc; however, I don't recall how the login worked.

They had been using the program since at least the early 1980s, based on what I heard from older students. It wasn't written by any of the teachers at the school, but I don't know where they got it. The teacher's manual for setting up and overseeing the game was printed on photocopied sheets, either very cheaply bound together or in a three-ring binder. I don't recall whether in included the actual source code, but I know that the teachers sometimes tinkered with the scoring by directly editing the BASIC code.

Does anybody know what this program was, who wrote it, or how it was distributed?

  • 1
    Is it some variation of Hamurabi? It isn't space themed, but it had 10 rounds, plagues, economic management, etc., and seems to have inspired several similar games in the late 70s/early 80s.
    – Giter
    Commented May 16 at 3:55
  • Had a look here? I wonder if it was from one of the trade magazines of the time, such as Nibble Magazine.
    – bob1
    Commented May 16 at 5:02
  • Weird question, but did it have a line in there along the lines of "The peasants are revolting! But maybe if they took a bath..."?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 16 at 5:06
  • @Giter Thinking back, it was almost certainly partially inspired by Hamurabi, and I think I even noticed that at the time (although I had since forgotten).
    – Buzz
    Commented May 16 at 16:58


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