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Gold Digger – my first computer game

Photograph of the cassette box and the cassette for the Gold Digger game for the BBC Micro

Sometime back in about 1991 or so, I got my first computer, an Acorn BBC Microcomputer. The only software supplied with it was the Welcome package and, possibly, the Acornsoft View word processor. Not long after I got it, my father checked in the local Software+Plus shop and found, in a reduced items basket, what was quite possibly the last BBC Micro game that they ever sold – Gold Digger by Firebird.

As was common for 80s home computer software, the game came on cassette tape; a copy on floppy disc would not have loaded any faster since my computer had come with a disc drive but no floppy controller or disc filing system software! Cassette data was read at 1200 baud (thanks David Hunt) and still took around three minutes to load despite games generally only being 10–16 kB in size.

Gold Digger title screen Gold Digger game in progress

It is a pretty simple game, but being our first computer game, it had almost everyone at home addicted, although it didn’t have the hold on us that Tetris later had. As the screenshot suggests, you tunnel through the earth collecting gold nuggets, while avoiding the misers. If you lead misers under rocks, the rocks fall on them and crush them, giving you extra points and getting the misers out the way for a moment. Of course, rocks will crush you too, and misers respawn at the top left after the die. The misers each have different AI and movement abilities, so you have to use different tactics to avoid them and to lead them into being crushed. The red miser, for example, is likely to die if you weave in and out of a column of rocks with it hot on your tail, but the yellow one prefers to line up with you vertically and make a sideways dash, so you can lure it by sitting under a rock and ducking out under it just before it hits you.

Between us, my sister and I had names for all the misers we’d encountered. In order of appearance:

Supermiser Can move diagonally; good at chasing you
Hamburger Looked like a hamburger to us; very dopy but catches you unawares
Joker Reminded us of the Joker in Batman
Octomiser Looked like an octopus; could move through solid earth, where it takes on a second, blue form

Supermiser and Hamburger can both be seen in the cassette cover photograph, as well as the white spinney-rotatey thing that represents you. After Octomiser comes a round, cyan critter that looks like a ball of ice with a baby face. We have yet to choose a name for it.

Gold Digger was one of the few games that played music while you loaded it from cassette; in this case, it was Melvyn Wright’s BBC Micro rendition of My Darling Clementine; I find this loading music to be a charming tune, and have posted a copy of it below for you to download and enjoy.

Interestingly enough, over ten years on I still have my original Gold Digger cassette, although I no longer have my original computer (but merely another one of the same model). If I ever play Gold Digger now, however, I go for the copy that someone succeeded in getting onto floppy disc (by circumventing the copy protection). You can also play the game under emulation: a copy of the game is posted below for download.

Download

The loading music is taken from the Stairway to Hell Acorn retro computing site, in their sound+music section. If you can tolerate pure square wave music, there is more where it came from.