The news that Texas Instruments is adding color to its ubiquitous graphing calculators brought streaming back a torrent of gaming memories. What Dan Rubinstein never realized as he struggled to communicate to me the principles of trigonometry was that I was engaged in the management of a large-scale drug empire on the very device on which I was supposed to be calculating cosines. I refer, of course, to Drugwars!, the immortal strategy management game in which you take advantage of enormous fluctuations in the price of controlled substances in New York City in order to make millions.
Drugwars! was only one of a clutch of unbelievably addictive games built for the simple little pocket computers, most notably, Snake, but also including Space Invaders and some surprinsingly sophisticated role-playing games.
Games were only one of the sundry subversions one could commit on a TI, not least of which was the spelling of the word “BOOBIES” in numerals, and the representation of the phallus in the provided symbols. Something about gaming on an educational device that your parents had to buy you, though, felt downright criminal, and in the best way.
So here’s to the games that supressed my grade point average, and may the slackers of the future have color distractions of such excellence.