The Last Screen

The first screen is The Factory Gates. It’s 8:30am at The Chip Factory. Time to get to work.

One of the first, and most difficult, games to really hook me was Hewson’s Technician Ted. A platformer that, like many games of its time, clearly owed more than a passing debt to Jet Set Willy. Just y’know, harder.

When I think of Technician Ted, I think mainly of two things. Firstly, Thursday nights where my dad’s friend would come round and we’d sit there, load Tech Ted up and play it together for hours on end. Through practice, we’d both gotten quite adept at the game and were able to help each other move from room to room and task to task. The game required you to complete 27 of these tasks before 5:30pm. Whilst the tasks themselves were a matter of hitting two objects in order, actually doing that was quite a problem because…

Secondly, Technician Ted was a tremendously hard game even by the standards of the time. Part of the reason myself and my dad’s friend played it for so long was entirely because it was so bastard hard. The rooms were fiendish in their design, requiring a sort of knowledge of animation frames usually only reserved for fighting games in these modern times. How many frames to leap a gap, what position an enemy should be in, what animation frame the enemy should be on. It was, and still is, a tremendously brutal game.

And unfair.

Whilst a great deal of the game is learnable with ease, the task order is never explained. After the first few tasks you’re left to have a look around to find the next one to complete. Amd just getting round is also bastard hard. To compensate the game does provide you with a lot of chances to avoid a game over situation.

Unfortunately, some tasks drain your chances if you’re not fast enough. It’s a game of constant, never-ending pressure and pixel perfect platforming skills. Nowadays, I’d barely have time for it and my tastes have moved on somewhat. In 1985, it was one of the best things I’d played.

It was, shut your face, the Dark Souls of platformers before anyone had even thought of making Dark Souls exist. Not that it’d work out so hot on a 48k Spectrum anyway but hush.

But y’know, plenty of games were hard and unfair in 1985. It’s hardly the most prestigious badge of honour to award a game and hardly the most interesting talking point though Technician Ted was a monstrous bastard variant of hard.

I never finished Technician Ted at the time. I’m not even sure it’s possible without some sort of absurd superhuman ability that I don’t possess. So I’d never really saw the last few screens.

Ok, that’s not entirely true because I’d have seen them in Crash magazine or wherever, despite us hand mapping the game as we went along I’d read magazines cover to cover, pore over maps, tips and just about everything printed about games. Just I’d never clocked them, understood them though. Never realised.

You see, Technician Ted is a game where you turn up for work and have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing. Only your mate will tell you some of what to do but even he doesn’t really know where everything is. Which is odd, right? You’d think someone would know something.

The end of Technician Ted, you have to leave the factory after clocking off. So once again, make your way to the factory gates. This time, however, you’re heading in the other direction, out of the gates then on to collect your pay.

So you walk out through the picket line to the last screen stepping underneath a union’s flag as you do.

To get paid outside the factory gates by a man waving cash around.

No wonder nobody will tell you anything. No wonder nobody knows where things are or what to do. You’re a strikebreaker, a scab.

120 quid. Cash in hand. For a days work. Not bad for 1986, if you can live with your conscience.

No wonder Ted could afford a holiday in Spain for his next outing.