Electronic Memory Space-Lane

Trade Wars 2002, image courtesy PC World

Here’s a little tidbit for you young’uns who might be tuning into this little blog o’ mine.

Did you know that there were online games before the Internet existed?

When I was a lad (old man joke, oh crumbs there goes the hip, we’re walking, we’re walking) there were these little dial-up places called Bulletin Board Systems, or BBSs. This was long before anything resembling DSL existed, to say nothing of cable or fiber optics running into people’s homes. So one would dial into the BBS’ on-site modem (and if you only had one phone line, someone would need the phone ten seconds after you try dialing) and look at postings of news, jobs and whatnot. BBS setups also had something called ‘doors’.

A ‘door’ was less a physical portal and more the launching point for an on-line game. Of the many that got started back in the late 80s, one in particular not only stands out in my mind but is also played to this day: Trade Wars.

Last year PC World called it one of the greatest PC games ever. I’m hard-pressed to disagree. With simple text displays and ASCII art, Trade Wars would unashamedly eat up hours of my time, with commodities trading, space combat and interaction with other players. You know, the sort of thing that happens in EVE Online but without having to mine asteroids (at least not that I remember). The fact that this sort of game structure has survived into the graphical MMOG era not just as EVE but also as online and hosted versions of the old Trade Wars engine itself is a testament to the longevity and appeal of its simplicity. It doesn’t get much simpler than “Buy stuff for cheap, shoot anybody trying to shoot you, sell stuff for profit, 40 goto 10”.

I might look into finding a way for Blue Ink Alchemy to play host for a Trade Wars game of its own.

If people would be interested in playing, that is.


  1. I used to run a BBS.

    I loved Trade Wars 2002.

    Loved it.

    Baby want.

    — c.

  2. God damn, sign me up!

  3. Buddy of mine hosted this not too long ago…but had to take it down. We had a lot of fun with it, though our server was a small crowd. Having sunk many hours into TW2002, I would love to have another crack at it. So count me in if you host…

    PS – Ambrosia had a game called Escape Velocity. One of the iterations is available for PC, but the original was Mac-only. Either way, it was a similar principal with a storyline…high recommend that for anyone (even today)

  4. Never played it, but would love to give it a shot.

  5. I used to run a BBS also, and played on all our local Tradewars games. Hello old memories. Thanks for the reminder πŸ™‚

  6. Jennifer Pannulla

    April 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Wow I remember playing a few RPG games on a friends BBS way back in the mid nineties. I also remember having a lot of fun πŸ™‚

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