The Wild Spread of “Drug Wars,” From Your Computer to Your Phone

It is the late 1990s, sixth period. You sit in the back of the classroom listening to a droning Algebra II lesson while you joke with your school-issued TI-82 graphics calculator. The only math you’re actually learning is that cocaine costs more than acid, and heroin can be quite profitable on Coney Island.

Before everyone had cell phones, millions of teenagers across the country have discovered it Drug wars, a simple game about buying and selling drugs in every neighborhood in New York City evading the Hardass Office (yes, that’s its name) and its deputies, thugs, or anyone else who tried to stop it. provides chemical smuggling to hungry customers. You have 30 days to buy low and sell high to earn as many as possible, or at least enough to repay the loan.

Next year Drug wars he will be 40 years old. In that time it has evolved from a DOS game to a calculator game, a web browser game, and — more recently — a smartphone app, sometimes known as Dope Wars in contrast.

“The number of ports in the game always amazes me,” says John E. Dell, the game’s original author, in an interview with WIRED.

Dell wrote the first version of Drug wars on a TRS-80 for its second class of computer. He said he had recently played a game at his friend’s house that involved buying and selling goods at fluctuating prices. Dell said he couldn’t remember which game, but what it might have been tycoon. He decided to adapt that style of play to one where the products included ludes, speed, weed, acid, heroin and cocaine.

The Dell professor melancholy gave him an A on the assignment.

“I can clearly remember him putting a frustrated face on the paper,” Dell said. “They didn’t like the subject.”

Dell would then rewrite the game into DOS and load it into a bulletin board (BBS) system, which was how computer users in the 80s communicated, shared files, or played online games.

After high school, Dell forgot about the game and enrolled at the United States Naval Academy, studying computer science while beginning a military career.

Drug wars it has continued to evolve as it has been reprogrammed into an actual BBS game. It was also adapted to the first editions of Windows, but it was in the late 80s and early 90s, when computers were often reserved for the rich and / or nerdy.

Drug wars it went really viral (at a time before the word was used to describe everything but not pathogens) when it appeared on a TI-82 graphics calculator — the same device that could be found in any advanced math class of the high school in the 1990s and 2000s.

Jonathan Maier rewrote Drug wars on his graphics calculator in 1993. Maier, then a high school sophomore, shared the game with his friends with a homemade cable that allowed him to connect his graphics calculator to his computer. From there he shared with his friends, and then throughout the school.

“I knew it was a success when I walked out of math class and saw the teacher playing it alone on the arm showing the calculator screen on the projector,” Maier said in an email.

Maier explained that he was attracted to the game, like many of his peers, because of the prohibited nature of the drug content at the time. It didn’t hurt that the simplicity of the game was easy to understand even for the most casual gamers.

“All the credit has to go to the original developer to come up with the original game design in the DOS version,” Maier said, referring to Dell. “I’ve brought in a lot of other things and even done a few games for myself, but none of them have gone viral.”

Maier was a mechanical engineering student at Georgia Tech when he learned that one of his former high school classmates had modified his original program, added his name to it, and uploaded it to one of the company’s primitive sharing sites. leaves that existed in the late 1990s.

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