Lost Treasures

July 27, 2015

Episode 3: U-Boat

U-Boat: Interview with Mark Vittek


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U-Boat was created in a day when software distribution was done through computer magazines and the user had to type the program into their computer themselves.  U-Boat was created by Mark Vittek in 1981 on the VIC-20.  This week we spend some time with Mark to learn more about his experience with U-Boat and where that eventually took him in the gaming industry.  You may even recognize some of the games Mark has worked on in the past.


oday we are looking at what is likely the most obscure Lost Treasure to date. In 1983, computer stores were few and far between and the world wide web was just a mere dream. So software distribution wasn’t as easy or plentiful as it is today. One of the most innovative ways to distribute software was using a traditional method – the magazine. That’s right, software was shipped with magazines that already had an existing distribution network – the news stand. The only problem? This software was distributed on paper and you had to actually type the program in. This could take some time, and was prone to errors and problems, but if you got everything right – just right – you were rewarded with some new software. At $2.50 an issue, Compute! magazine contained many type-in programs across many platforms so it was a real bargain if you did the labour.

In the November 1983 issue of Compute!, one of the largest computer publications of the time, there was a little type-in program called “U-Boat” by Mark Vittek. It was originally written for the Commodore VIC-20 and Compute! also provided a Commodore 64 version. If you take a look on YouTube to watch the gameplay, you will notice that it looks quite a bit like the arcade game Sea Wolf, an inspiration that Mark identified in an interview. It’s not quite the same, however and for me personally this game holds a special place in my heart. My father was a U.S. Marine and he just loved this game. Understand, he was not a video game player and yet he spent many hours playing U-Boat. This and Mahjonng were the only games he ever played and so I will forever remember this game and is truly a lost treasure.

At its core, U-Boat is a good game. It’s fast and responsive and fun for a game written on some rather underpowered hardware. I played many hours of this game myself over time. If you like Sea Wolf, you will likely enjoy this game too as it draws its inspiration from the arcade title without copying it. In fact, for me, I like it better.

The only problem is trying to find this game to play! You will have to download a ROM from the internet and likely use a VIC-20 emulator to run it (unless you have the hardware) but it will be worth it!

Watch Gaming History 101‘s archived stream of U-Boat right here!

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About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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