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The story of how I, a retired 45+ year resident of Tokyo, Japan from Johnstown PA, got into game development with Unity 3D, and why my slogan is: "35+ years of coding and only one game to show for it."

Theron Huffman, Blogger

December 22, 2014

6 Min Read

The Birth of The Octagon (Part 2 of who knows how many parts) [Part 1 here


Well, since circumstances prevented me from learning about computers via formal means I decided that I would learn as much as I could on my own. But the problem was I didn't know where to start nor what I really wanted to learn. I wasn't aware of the difference between hardware and software. I didn't even know what software was. So I set out to learn what I needed to learn by visiting all the nearby electronics stores and questioning the salesmen about the pasocons on the shelves. The salesmen explained what software was - it was the instructions that those kids were typing into the computer that day I had my first run-in with computing. I learned that a pasocon was nothing without software and that software didn't have to be typed in, it could be loaded from a cassette tape or from a floppy disk.


Out of the NEC, Hitachi, and Fujitsu pasocon sitting on the shelves, The salesmen usually recommended the NEC '98 as it was the most affordable and most popular among the fast-growing computer hobbyists. ('Geek' wasn't used to describe such people in those days.) So I decided to buy a NEC which was about 80,000 yen or, in those days, about 350-400 dollars. The problem was that the user manual and programming how-tos were only in Japanese. There was nothing in English. Although I had studied Japanese and could read a little, one look at the Japanese user manual changed my mind about buying a Japanese computer.


Now what to do? I got a Byte magazine from the international section of the Kinokunia book store in Shinjuku and learned that the popular pasocons from the USA and Great Briton were Apple, Commodore, Atari, and Sinclar. Apples were too expensive even in the USA. The Sinclar seemed like a toy, so I decided I wanted a Commodore Pet or an Atari. But I couldn't find anywhere to buy either of those in Japan. As far as an Apple, well, there sure were no Apple Stores here in those days, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Of course I could have ordered a pasocon from overseas but what if it arrived broken? And the postage was very expensive too. There was no Amazon.


Anyway, my continued search led me to one shop in Ochanomizu, near the world famous (now, not then) Akihabara geek/nerd/otaku electronics district of Tokyo. That shop was named Computer Luv and it was the only place in all of Japan that sold Apple Computers. (There might have been one other shop in Osaka). Computer Luv was a nice modern shop with a lot of equipment for serious computer hobbyists but it wasn't an official Apple dealer. They just imported Apples and sold them at quite a premium, which put them way out of my reach. The price for a 48Kb Apple II+ with no floppy drive was about 400,000 yen (about 1800-2000 dollars). My monthy salary was 250,000-300,000 yen which left me in a 10,0000-20,000 yen hole every month which I perpetually owed my girlfriend (now wife).


I was almost ready to give up on buying a computer when one night, looking out of the bus window on the final leg of my 1.5 hour commute home from work, I noticed an "Apple Computer" sign in front of a small office bulding. I wondered what such a small nondescript shop, near my home in Tachikawa to boot, had to do with Apple computers. I went there the very next morning.


Falcom was the name of the small 2nd-floor shop (Nihon Falcom is now a big company still located in Tachikawa http://www.falcom.com) and it was run and staffed by early-day Japanese geeks who were on the forefront of game development for Japanese pasocons. They made quite a few well-known Japanese Adventure games. And they just happened to import, sell, and support Apple computers. Also they just happened to have my 1st computer - a refurbished Apple II+ with 48kb of memory.


The owner of the shop preached the marvels of this computer. He told me that the Apple with a 5.25" floppy drive gave a computing experience that was unsurpassed. Compared to using a cassette drive, a floppy drive allowed programs to be loaded almost instantly. I could have the Apple and the floppy drive for 300,000 yen with a 6-month warranty. 100,000 yen cheaper than a new, non-floppy drive Apple from Computer Luv. I also discovered Softalk magazine which that shop was selling.


I bought that magazine!

And I wanted that Apple!


Now I just had to figure how to get the 300,000 yen?


More to come later...

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