DOS and Turbo Pascal Nostalgia

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Recently I made an "archaeological" discovery, I found an old game that I have written almost 20 years ago in DOS. This is one of the first programs that I have written, and it is also one of the most beautiful ones that I have ever written. The computer can also play against a human and it uses Artificial Intelligence (MiniMax algorithm with alpha and beta pruning). I have written it during the summer holidays of 1995 (in about 3 months). The code of this game is now on GitHub: https://github.com/dashohoxha/reversi

I had already studied Computer Science for two years in the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Tirana, Albania. During the first year we learned lots of algorithms and data structures (and a lot of maths of course), but we did very little programming practice. We didn't have personal computers at home and the resources of the university were very limited. There was a VAX VMS miniframe donated by a German university and a room of black-and-white terminals (actually the colors were black and green or black and yellow, or something like this). So, we never had enough time to practice as much as we wanted, and we mostly wrote our programs with paper and pencil, simulating the computer in our heads.

During the second year a PC lab of about 10-20 computers was installed in the university (again with some foreign help and donations) and we started to write our programs in DOS with Turbo Pascal. But again we couldn't get enough time to practice programming as much as we wanted and to write the great programs that we wished. We also didn't have any good books about programming, there was no internet around yet, and the quality of lectures was lacking. We mostly learned by trying things ourselves and by helping each-other. The older students were helpful to us and we were always eager to help any younger students.

After the second year I got a scholarship for studying in Turkey. Since I couldn't speak neither English nor Turkish at that time, I had to spend the first year in the preparatory school, learning Turkish and English. At the end of this year I had managed to save enough money to by an i386 PC (or maybe it was i486, I am not sure). So, when I went back home for the summer holidays, I had a PC with me, which I could use as much as I wanted, day and night, without any limits or constraints.

I hadn't written any serious programs yet, just small things and I was not sure how useful my knowledge was. So, I decided to do something challenging, just to test out myself and to learn new things. I decided to write a game and further more I would try to make the computer play the game. I had never seen a computer before going to university, I didn't know exactly what it was like, but my opinion about it was that it is an electronic machine that does intelligent things. This is why I loved computer science and this is why I wished to study it. So, I wanted to do something intelligent, something clever. Later I got a bit disappointed from the "intelligence" of the computers and from the artificial intelligence, but the computer science was still beautiful.

I had an old textbook of algorithms and data structures, which included also the minimax algorithm and its modifications for alpha and beta pruning. The quality of the book was poor, it had typing mistakes, the algorithm was iterative (not recursive) and difficult to understand. However I worked hard and managed to understand and to implement it correctly.

I spent lots of time for this program but I didn't mind sitting many hours in front of the computer. From my two first years at the university of Tirana I had developed a feeling of never having enough time to practice, so now that I had my own computer I was trying to take advantage of it as much as possible.

I don't know whether it can run on Windows, but it can run on Linux with the help of dosbox:

sudo apt-get install dosbox
dosbox LP.EXE

It can also be possible to compile it with Free Pascal, but I haven't tried it yet. Maybe one day I will try to rewrite this game in JavaScript or Ruby or some other modern language. Or maybe somebody else might help me for it.

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