Armada Chronology

The "Chronology" from Ernst Cline's Armada is a list of retro video games and movies compiled by the protagonist's lost father and offered as circumstantial evidence of a vast government-entertainment complex conspiracy to covertly prepare and train the populace to fight in a coming alien invasion. To me it's a great way to learn about computer game history and revisit the latter part of the 20th century.

I'm adding links and thoughts (marked with [TD]) as I work my way through this abridged version. (There are some fictional or impractical entries in the original.) I went ahead and added check marks next to the Star Wars entries even though it's out of order because ... seriously. Post your own experiences in the comments below.


 "1962—Spacewar!is the first digital video game. [TD] It was programmed on a PDP-1, which you can play in an in-browser emulator here or here. Bonus points for reading the discussion of the source code. There was a Spacewar gamer tournament covered by Rolling Stone in 1972.

 "1966—Star Trek premieres on NBC TV (airs from 9/8/66– 6/3/69)." [TD] Not being a die hard Trekkie (although we did faithfully watch Voyager in grad school), I'd never seen the first episode - or some call it the second because there was a previously unaired pilot which showed up in 1988. About the only episode that was memorable to me is the awful "The Trouble with Tribbles." You can find the original series (also remastered in HD) on a couple of different streaming services. I might just subject the kids to this.

 "1968—2001: A Space Odyssey" movie released in theaters: [TD] The memorable theme song is actually the opening movement of Richard Strauss' 1896 composition Also sprach Zarathustra. If you can't stand to sit through the movie, at least listen to the first 1:40 of this performance.

"1971—Computer Space" is the first coin-operated arcade video game. [TD] Read Ed Fries' tale of fixing a Computer Space console. It's a great look at how the oldest arcade games were made.

 "1972—Star Trek Text Game" is a "BASIC program for early home computers." [TD] Originally written in HP BASIC, there are other ports. The most well known for home computers is probably Super Star Trek in 101 BASIC Games. I feel like I typed in my share of BASIC programs from that book during my childhood, although never this program. There are many variants to be found in your favorite search engine. I found this one by Prof. Tom Almy from Oregon Tech to be interesting because of the back story.

"1975—Interceptor" by Taito is a "combat flight sim with 1st person perspective." [TD] This game was an early discrete logic (no software) game and is listed as undocumented due to missing schematics and circuit boards. There was a sighting of a maching in the UK. The page at the undumped wiki has links to the marketing flyer and a laser disc video showing the game play (starts at 2:11). There is a very brief mention in this video on arcade games of 1976. I wrote a BASIC 10-Liner game based on Interceptor for the 2017 competition.

1975—Panther on the PLATO network.

"1976—Starship 1" is "earliest FPS space combat videogame." [TD] By Atari, this is a raster graphics game running on a 6502. A nice write up here has a scan of a review article from 1977. It is playable on MAME. Here's one for sale!

☑ "1977—Star Wars is released on 5/25/77." I collected the action figures. My great grandmother completed my set one year for Christmas. (Well, I suppose she sent money to my parents who knew what to buy - buy why ruin the magic.) I think there are several buried in the backyard of my childhood home.

"1977—Close Encounters released."

"1977—Atari 2600 video computer system released,...ships with the game COMBAT!"

"1977—Starhawk. First of many videogames inspired by Star Wars." [TD] This is vector graphics game - you are in a ship that is flying over a endless rolling scene reminiscent of the Death Star trench run. You move the targeting reticle with the joystick and shoot the enemy ships. The creator Tim Skelly worked at Cinematronics. The manual is over at and is marked copyright 1979, although various online sources cite '77, '78 and '79 as the release date for the game. If it was 1977, it would have been a rapid development given Star Wars' release date of that May. David Thiel did the sound for Starhawk - he did an interview on the Antic podcast.

 "1977—Ender’s Game short story." [TD] I listened to the novel several years ago and just recently read the short story. I like the young-boy-must-overcome-insurmountable-odds theme.l however, the story is also brutal. If you're reading this, you've probably read it. If not, it's a must.

"1978—Space Invaders"

☑ "1979—Tail Gunner, Asteroids, Galaxian, and Starfire all released." [TD] I bought an Atari 5200 and Trakball. The first game I played on the 5200 was Galaxian - great fun with the trackball! Asteroids was my favorite Atari 400 game growing up. Recently, I played nonstop on a Boston shuttle on my handheld 2600 - rolled the score a couple times. Great game.

"1979—Star Raiders—released for Atari 400/800."

"1980—Empire Strikes Back released in movie theaters." [TD] I remember my grandparents taking me to see this one. The best script of the entire series. "Laugh it up fuzzball." "Nerfherder." The patrilineal Vadar rumor was true!

"1980—Battlezone by Atari—first realistic tank simulator game."

 "1982—E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial out grosses Star Wars." [TD] I just watched this for the first time since I saw it in the theater - that must be 33 or 34 years because I saw it in the dollar theater. I didn't remember the beginning. I'm not sure if wasn't memorable or if I was late in 1982. Today, I am struck by how simple the scenery is in the opening act. There is also very little development of the sci-fi part of the story: no discussion of the radio ET needs to build, where ET is from, why ET is there. There is one funny scene where ET sees a kid dressed as Yoda on Halloween and wants to talk to him. Funny Star Wars references. Unlike Star Wars, the ET story is much more boy is lonely, boy makes friend, friend has to leave. Perhaps that's why it out-grossed it.

☑ "1982—The Thing, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. [TD] "Khaaaaaaaaaan!"

☑ "1983—Return of the Jedi." [TD] Three years felt like forever waiting for this final installation of the trilogy.

"1983—Starmaster—space combat simulator for the Atari 2600."

"1983—Star Wars: The Arcade Game by Atari & Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator by Sega—cabinets simulate cockpit."

"1984—Elite—released on 9/20/84"

"1984—2010: The Year We Make Contact—sequel to 2001"

"1984—The Last Starfighter released on 7/13."

 "1985—Explorers, Enemy Mine" [TD] I subjected my middle schoolers to Explorers. When I saw it at about the same age, I thought the PC special effects were very cool, but were way too advanced for the poor Apple IIc they used. Maybe if it'd been an Atari...

☑ "1985—Ender’s Game (novel) published—same premise as ’77 short story." [TD] A must-read although the sequels are little out there.

☑ "1986—Iron Eagle, Aliens, Flight of the Navigator, Invaders from Mars." Wish I had the some of that 99 minutes of my life back watching the remake of the 1953 classic.

"1987—The Hidden, Predator"

"1988—Alien Nation, They Live"

"1989—The Abyss"

"1989—MechWarrior released"

"1990—Wing Commander released by Origin Systems"

"1991—Wing Commander II"

"1993—Star Wars Rebel Assault, XWing, Privateer, Doom"

"1993—The X-Files" premieres.

"1994—Star Wars: TIE Fighter, Wing Commander III, Doom II"

"1994—The Puppet Masters, Stargate"

"1995—Absolute Zero, Shockwave, Wing Commander IV"

"1996—Star Trek: First Contact, Independence Day"

 "1997—Men in Black, Starship Troopers, Contact" [TD] Gotta love Will Smith. Starship Troopers is fantastic satire.

"1997—Independence Day videogame tie-in released"

"1997—X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter"

"1998—Dark City, The Faculty, Lost in Space"

"1998—Wing Commander Secret Ops, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade"

"1999—Star Wars: Episode I." [TD] Really?

☑ "1999—Galaxy Quest." [TD] Just watched it again for the first time in years. Forgot how great the cast is.

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