For a budding computer hobbyist, it was the thing to have after you got your first computer. It had a keyboard, a printer that served for all output, and even a means of input and storage, a paper tape reader and punch.
If you got one, for the steep price of about $1000, and then put it together, not a small feat, what you got was a big blue box with lights on the front. If you did your homework correctly, those lights did the right things, and after carefully reading the manual, and inputting several byte instructions, painstakingly flipping each bit of the byte, 8 bits, then hitting enter for each byte, you could actually get the machine to do something sensible with the lights on the front.
The beast was commanded to count on the lights. In binary of course. Next, a lit bit was walked across each of the front panel lights in turn, marquee style. Finally, the game "shoot the duck" was entered, which rotated a light across the row of lights. The object was to hit the switch under it at just the right time, and turn the light off. Miss and you just created another light. Get all the lights out, and, well, you ran out of interesting things to do rapidly.
Now, with an ASR-33 clanking away next to the blue box, and that Basic tape, probably borrowed from a friend, you were ready to sign on.
The teletype stops.
The end of the tape falls on the floor.
The machine hammers out a sign-on. Microsoft Basic 1.2. Ready. Ready ! The machine talks ! Those who were there know. It was time for a beer, to show the wife, to cheer. That goddam box spoke to me in English. Now I understand.....
The period of time for Classic Basic, as I define it was short, from about 1976 to 1980 at the latest. For a brief time, and the last time for quite a while, home computers were unified in simplicity. You had Basic. It printed and accepted lines in "teletype mode", which is to say a line at a time, resembling a typewriter.
Many programs were passed back and forth then, typed in from magazines, punched in from paper tape, read in from cassette tapes, or from a new, odd device called a "floppy disk". Passed from hand to hand, copied without a care, even from the writers of the programs themselves.
And most of them were games.
 To be fair, the "golden age" of simple line oriented basic started in 1964, with the Dartmouth timeshare system, and continued though minicomputer Basics. In fact, some of the microcomputer Basic games here are recodes of games running on those systems.
These elementary Basic programs are still perhaps the only collection of programs that can honestly be said to run on any computer, anywhere. This property alone makes a museum collection worthwhile.
Original Basic programs from this time are hard to find now, even on the Internet. The media on which they were kept was either lost, destroyed, or more likely, simply belonged to an obsolete computer or media type that was thrown out at the end of its life. The magazines that published them are gone, interest in them has waned.
Perhaps most destructive of all, when advanced graphics began to become common on computers such as the Apple, a lot of them were "converted" to run specifically on those computers. This made the game more interesting by adding graphics, but was the death warrant to the source, as when that computer died, so did the specially modified source for it.
Many of the games were reinvented over and over. Lunar Lander had several versions, later becoming a full graphical game. Artillery was also a popular graphics game. Many early programs were inspiration for later, more complex games. The gaming empire that became Quake started as a humble Apple computer game named "Castle Wolfenstein". And of course, the ultimate irony is that the Microsoft Basic that ran many of these games started an empire of unimaginable wealth.
Now since these are way out of print, this might not have helped me a couple years back. However, we live in Internet time, and the Internet has enabled me to find books that I would never have been able to find formerly. Within days I had a copy of it.
The intent was to scan it in and OCR it (convert it automatically to computer readable text). Unfortunately, the programs in the book had been reproduced from listings made on a dot matrix printer, and attempts to OCR it yielded nothing but garbage. However, I was able to obtain a collection of the programs in a archive file meant for CP/M users (probally for Microsoft Basic-80). In this collection I found most every file accounted for. I also found that the games have been modified from the original book form. Some of the modifications were useful, such as printing out instructions for how to play the game, that only appeared in the original book. Some were not so useful, such as printing control characters here and there.
Acting as a computer historian, I "unmodified" the games to create the original games as they appeared in the book.
The Creative computing library serves several important goals for the purposes of the Classic Basic Games page. First, I can verify that these games were original from 1978, the time the collection was published. Second, the original author, David H. Ahl, did research back then as to "who wrote what" program, research that would be hard to reproduce today. Thus, hopefully, the programs are titled with the proper authors.
Readers will note that the "More Basic Computer Games", the sequel to the collection, does not appear here. I have the book, but I have not found more than a very few of the programs in computer source form. I am still looking for the games, or a better OCR program to convert the book form to computer form.
The Creative Computing collection was received from helpful people on the net, and those sources restored to original condition as referenced to the original book. Because the collection was restored from modified sources, it is still possible to find errors or differences from the original program. These are being corrected as I find them.
I have tried to stay as close to the original, as determined by the book, as possible. In some cases, this results in errors that were in the original program being left in. Occasionally, it was necessary to fix errors in the source because the programs would not even load, such as missing quotes, which many Basics will not allow. Some of these might have been printing errors, some may have been original program errors.
The original book is available online:
And on Amazon:
At the time of this writing, it has 17 copies available, starting at 41 cents, so it is reasonable any way you want it.
In some of the games, it helps decidedly to have the original description from the book, which has details the program does not.
On most of these games, you are going to want to keep the CAPS LOCK key on. Most of them were created on terminals without lower case, and expect responses from the terminal in upper case.
|Creative Computing collection||This is a .ZIP file of all the games below|
|Modified Creative Computing collection||Collection with changes made to run under GW-Basic and QBASIC.|
|Aceyducy||Acey Ducey card game.|
|Animal||Guess the animal.|
|Awari||African stone board game.|
|Bagels||Numbers guessing game.|
|Banner||Draw a banner.|
|Basketball||Basketball game simulation.|
|Battle Of The Numbers||Number strategy game.|
|Battle||Battleship board strategy game.|
|Blackjack||The card game 21, Vegas style.|
|Bombardment||Bomb the hidden player positions.|
|Bombs Away||Bomb run simulator.|
|Bounce||Plot the bouncing ball.|
|Bug||Draw the bug before the computer does (like Hangman).|
|Bullseye||Dart board simulator.|
|Bunny||Draw a playboy bunny, not PC.|
|Buzzword||Generate buzzwords for your next meeting.|
|Calendar||Generate calendars (gads !! a useful program !).|
|Change||Calculates correct change for item.|
|Checkers||Checkers, yes, the board game.|
|Chemist||Play with a chemical formula (game).|
|Chomp||Find the cookie game.|
|Civilwar||Civil War reenactment simulation. This game is missing.|
|Craps||Dice game simulation.|
|Cube||Board game on the face of a cube.|
|Depth charge||Bomb the submarine.|
|Diamond||Prints diamond patterns.|
|Dice||Simulate rolling dice and show probabilities.|
|Digits||Guess the next digit.|
|Even Wins||Even number of objects wins. Like NIM.|
|Even Wins #2||Another version|
|Flip Flop||Change X's to O's..|
|Football #2||Another version.|
|Fur Trader||Fur trading simulation.|
|Gomoko||Oriental board game (GO).|
|Guess||Guess the number.|
|Gunner||Hit the target.|
|Hangman||Guess the word, or else...|
|Hello||Conversational (AI) simulator.|
|Hexapawn||Board game simulation.|
|Hi-lo||Money guessing game.|
|Hi I-Q||The famous, very annoying, board game.|
|Horserace||Horse racing simulation.|
|Hurkle||Hunt the hurkle on a grid.|
|Kinema||Answer a kinetics question.|
|King||Another kingdom simulation.|
|Letter||Guess the letter.|
|Life For Two||Life as two player game.|
|Literature Quiz||Child's book quiz.|
|Love||Print in "love" font.|
|Lunar LEM rocket||Simulate a lunar landing.|
|Lunar LEM Rocket #2||Simulate a lunar landing, another version.|
|Lunar LEN rocket #3||Simulate a lunar landing, yet another version.|
|Master Mind||Crack a code.|
|Math Dice||Math game using dice.|
|Mugwump||Find the mugwump on a grid (why never a cube ? four dimensional ? N dimensional ?).|
|Name||Does amusing things with your name.|
|Nicomachus||Computer guesses what number you are thinking of (no, I'm not kidding).|
|Nim||Move the stones game.|
|Number||Guess the number (yes, again).|
|One Check||Solitaire checkers.|
|Orbit||Shoot a spaceship in orbit.|
|Pizza||Deliver pizzas to a small town (I could not make this up).|
|Poetry||Yep, generate random poetry.|
|Poker||The classic card game.|
|Queen||Game on chessboard with queens only.|
|Reverse||Reverse a numbered list.|
|Rock, Scissors, Paper||Yes, it is.|
|Roulette||Roulette wheel simulator (leaves breaking both your legs up to your imagination).|
|Russian Roulette||Yes, that. Sick.|
|Sine Wave||Draw sine waves.|
|Slalom||Simulate skiing downhill.|
|Slots||The one armed bandito.|
|Splat||Parachute on various worlds of the solar system (a classic !!!).|
|Stars||Simulates the formation of stars from primordial material in the universe.
Kidding. Its another guess the number game !!!!
|Stock Market||Stock market simulation (leaves the house repossession to your imagination).|
|Super Star Trek||Star Trek, The TV show. This program is missing from the collection.|
|Synonym||Synonym knowledge test (you needed this, right ?).|
|Target||Another shoot the target game.|
|3-D Plot||Plots curves of any function.|
|3-D Tic-Tac-Toe||Tic Tac toe, but more confusing.|
|Tic Tac Toe||Yep. Lots of tie games.|
|Tic Tac Toe #2||Another version.|
|Tower||Towers of Hanoi, a stacking puzzle.|
|Train||Generate time-speed-distance problems.|
|Trap||Yep! Another guess the number game !|
|23 Matches||Takeaway matches game.|
|War||The card game. Yes, it takes forever, how did you know ?|
|Weekday||Interesting facts about a date.|
|Word||Guess the word !|
Changes made to library from book form for GW-Basic and QBasic
After dealing with these programs for quite some time, I decided to wrap up the various fixes into a "modified" form for GW-Basic and QBasic use. These are the most popular in-use versions, and QBasic is (unfortunately) the last Microsoft Basic that can really run these programs.
The list of changes made are in the gqgames.zip folder above, as "changes.txt". The changes made are more in the nature of "cleanups". They fix tricks that took advantage of quirks in the original Microsoft Basic. As a result, the new versions should run on all Microsoft Basic versions, including the original.
There are a few (four at this writing) programs that were still found not to function, these are listed in the changes.txt file. They simply required more time and work than I have available at present.
The versions in this library were tried (admittedly not extensively) and found to work on both GW-Basic and QBasic.
The original creative computer games from the book are in a separate library, and were kept as much original as I could manage. They'll remain that way for historical purposes.
All of the programs here are made to run on Microsoft Basic for microcomputers, so if you want to run them without modification, you are going to need one of the original versions of Microsoft basic.
The first versions of Microsoft Basic were loaded by paper tape, the Microsoft 4k and 8k (referring to memory size) Basics. Later, Mbasic-80 became the standard Microsoft Basic running under CP/M. All of these versions can still be run using CP/M or Altair simulators.
When the IBM-PC came out, Microsoft created BASICA, which was tied to the early IBM-PC roms, and cannot be run on modern machines, followed by GW-BASIC.
If you wish to simulate the original versions, see:
However, this is a non-trivial task for moderate to expert computer users. The most difficult task is moving the Basic source files to within the simulated disc.
GW-BASIC has excellent backward compatibility with the early Microsoft Basic versions. It behaves as an extended version of those early Basics. Best of all, it is freely available, and still runs in a DOS box on the most advanced Windows (XP, Vista) that are available. You can find it right here:
You can find an online manual for GW-BASIC at:
Note that there are still programs in the collection that will not run on GW-BASIC, see the notes above.
The next version of Microsoft Basic was QBASIC, which "replaced" GW-BASIC. QBASIC is not "exactly" upwards compatible with GW-BASIC, but apparently it is compatible enough. I have been able to run all of the programs in the collection on QBASIC, so the difference between GW-BASIC and QBASIC does not affect them, aside from where I have noted.
You can download Qbasic, for free, from Microsoft:
The next version of Microsoft Basic was Visual Basic. Visual Basic is not compatible with GW-Basic nor QBASIC. It really isn't a traditional basic at all. You will not be able to run these programs on Visual Basic without extreme modification, very likely a complete rewrite.
There are lots of other Basic implementations floating around the network, but you are going to find that compatibility between different Basics was never a strong suit of the language.
I am sure there is a Basic out there that is compatible with the original microcomputer Basics. Unfortunately, that would take some work to find such a Basic. My searches on the Internet have mainly turned up a series of Basics implementations that are more interested in adding graphics or objects to Basic than in backward compatibility. This is one (of the many reasons) I don't personally program in Basic anymore.
If you want to find such a Basic, I recommend you search for one that advertises good compatability with GW-BASIC or QBASIC.
By the way, I tried BASCOM, which is a companion compiler to GW-BASIC, but it failed on many or most of the programs here.
How did I get started collecting these programs ? Well......
I write programming language interpreters and compilers for fun. The first language processors I wrote, a compiler and an interpreter, were written for Basic, back when most of my code was written in assembly language. Because of the simplicity of Basic, it is usually possible to write a "tiny Basic", a stripped down version of Basic, in a day or so. Writing such a Basic in various languages has been a pastime for me, and is an important benchmark of a new language for me (perhaps the subject of another web page).
Because the machines that ran my earlier Basics became obsolete, I decided that I wished to have a Basic implementation written in my chosen high level language, Pascal, and slowly grew a Basic implementation in my spare time from a tiny basic in the 1980s to the very not-so-tiny IP Basic today (this is a large Basic interpreter that I work on from time to time. It is not finished nor avialable).
I needed some test material to verify that it worked correctly. Well, Basics vary a lot, especially in the details of graphics and sound, so what I needed were some very simple programs that did not do any advanced I/O. It occurred to me that the old basic programs I used to play with when I first started using a computer 20 odd years ago were perfect for that purpose, and so I set out to find some.
After having a great difficulty finding more than a sparse few, it occurred to me that finding these programs would be a lot easier if I placed the results of my search up for general viewing and download, sort of a "stone soup" idea that would get programs to come to me. In typical Internet fashion, this has worked pretty well.
So did I in fact start programming in the garage with an 8800 and a teletype ? Weeeellllllll........
The famous article in Popular Electronics about the Mits 8800 appeared just before I graduated high school in Los Angeles. I read it backwards and forwards, it did not have a lot of information. I later realized that some of the information was wrong, and still later it came out that the computer in the article was a fake, a mockup, even though the 8800 was later a real product.
The truth is that in 1975, getting into computers was a several thousand dollar proposition, and I simply could not afford it. Instead, I learned the basics (pun intended) of computers at the disk drive maker Micropolis. I liked it so much, and still could not afford a "real" computer, that I did what a few hardy (or perhaps insane) people did, and cobbled up an S-100 system from a combination of kits, my own designed boards, scrounged parts and jury rigs. In fact, until 1987, I never owned a computer that was not a collection of parts that I designed or made, including the operating system. On the other hand, because I worked for a disk drive maker, I never really used paper tape or cassette tape extensively, so I missed the "joys" of having to start up my computer that way.
Later, I did in fact get an 8800 and an ASR-33 teletype, in the early 1980's. By then they were being sold cheap. I finally had the system everyone started the whole thing with. The ASR-33 was a little to big to keep around, but I still have the 8800. I hear they are valuable now, but to me, having one sitting up there on the shelf is priceless.
In 1987 I got tired of being incompatible with everyone else, and put together a PC, yes, again from parts. In fact, aside from the two notebook computers I own, I have never purchased a preassembled computer, because all I do is upgrade parts of my existing ones. I have three computers in various parts of the house used by various members of the family, making five in total, with an 8 address TCP/IP lan running the whole show.