NaPoWriMo Day 17

Today’s challenge carries more than a hint of nostalgia: I was asked to write a poem that features forgotten technology. My brother (older than me by 11 months) owned one of the first computer games available in the UK: it was a little box that plugged into the TV monitor and the game consisted of a little dot that represented a ball and a slightly bigger mark that represented a player or a bat, depending on which game you had chosen. Ping pong had the smallest ‘bat’ – a dot roughly twice as big as the ball; or there was tennis, played with a larger ‘bat’; or squash – where two players took turns to hit the ‘ball’ at a line halfway down the screen (there was no middle line for ping pong or tennis); or squash practice, which was just you hitting the ‘ball’ at the central line yourself. Football (or soccer, for anyone American who may be reading this) was the same as tennis – except you had lines at each end of the screen representing the ‘goals’. At the time, we thought this was the height of technology, yet in real terms, all we were doing was simply watching a dot being pinged from one side of the screen to the other.

Fifty Years Apart

Sophisticated graphics

roll across the screen – a

whole story played out

in virtual reality.

Bip! Bip! Bip!

A tiny bat and

even smaller ball

ping across the screen –

the minuscule cursor

denoting whether

the game is

tennis, football or squash.

You approach your

rival, your sword swinging and

your moves already predetermined

by a joystick.

Bip! Bip! Bip!

The dot skitters across

the screen, and you wonder if,

one day, computer games like this

will still exist.

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