trader - Man Page

a game of interstellar trading


trader [--no-color|--no-colour] [--max-turn=NUM] [GAME]
trader [-h|--help] [-V|--version]


Star Traders is a simple game of interstellar trading, where the objective is to create companies, buy and sell shares, borrow and repay money, in order to become the wealthiest player (the winner).



If GAME is specified as a number between 1 and 9 (inclusive), load and continue playing that game.  If GAME is not specified, start a new game.

--no-color,  --no-colour

Don't use colour for displaying the text in the game.  Use this option for a “retro-computing” look (as shown in the Examples below).


Set the number of turns in the game to NUM.  In this version of Star Traders, NUM must be greater or equal to 10.  If this option is not specified, the default is 50 turns.

-h,  --help

Show a summary of command-line options and exit.

-V,  --version

Display version information about the program, then exit.

Exit Status


Star Traders finished without any errors.


Star Traders encountered an unrecoverable problem or error; a diagnostic message will be written to standard error in this case.


You can start a new game by running Star Traders without any command line options:


Once the game starts, you will be asked to enter the number of people playing.  From one to eight people can play (although, in this version, they will all have to share the one keyboard and screen!).  After entering the names of the players, you will have the opportunity to read instructions on how to play the game.  Do so—and good luck in the game!

If you would like to continue a previously-saved game, simply specify that game number on the command line.  For example, the following starts game 4, if it was previously saved:

trader 4

If you are running under the X Window System, you might like to start the game in a dedicated xterm(1) window (typed all on one line):

xterm -g 80x24 -fa Mono -fs 18 -bg black -fg white -bc +sb +fbx -e trader &

If you would like a full “retro-computing” green-screen experience, try (again, typed all on one line):

xterm -g 80x24 -fa Mono -fs 18 -bg '#181818' -fg '#2CAB00' -bc +sb +bdc +fbx -xrm 'XTerm*colorBD: #41FF00' -e trader --no-colour &

Or, if you prefer the old amber screens of yesteryear:

xterm -g 80x24 -fa Mono -fs 18 -bg '#101010' -fg '#AB7A00' -bc +sb +bdc +fbx -xrm 'XTerm*colorBD: #FFB700' -e trader --no-colour &



If XDG_DATA_HOME is set to an absolute pathname (that is, a path that starts with “/”), Star Traders will use that directory, with a subdirectory trader, to store game files.  If this environment variable is not set or does not start with “/”, ~/.local/share/trader will be used instead, where “~” represents your home directory, as contained in the HOME environment variable.


Star Traders uses the Curses library for displaying text on the screen. As such, it will access these two environment variables if the underlying Curses library does so (see, for example, the ENVIRONMENT section in the ncurses(3) manual page for in-depth details).  It requires a text console or window of at least 80×24 in size.

LANG,  LC_ALL, etc.

This version of Star Traders has full support for locales and will use appropriate settings.  In particular, messages will be displayed using LC_MESSAGES and LANGUAGE (if Star Traders has been translated into that language).  In addition, numeric quantities will be displayed using LC_NUMERIC and monetary quantities will use LC_MONETARY.  See the locale(7) or setlocale(3) manual pages for more details on locale settings.


If set, Star Traders will use this path as the base with which to locate its message catalogs instead of the compiled-in path; the relevant files should be located in language-code subdirectories (such as en_AU), in LC_MESSAGES sub-subdirectories.



Star Traders stores saved game files in the .local/share/trader subdirectory in your home directory (unless overridden by the XDG_DATA_HOME environment variable).  N is a number between 1 and 9 inclusive.  The game file is scrambled to prevent you or others from casually cheating!


If the ~/.trader directory exists, game files will be read from and saved to this location instead.  This is for compatibility with versions of Star Traders prior to version 7.15.


None yet known...


Your comments, suggestions, corrections and enhancements are always warmly welcomed!  Please send these to:


John Zaitseff,
The ZAP Group Australia,
Unit 6, 116 Woodburn Road,
Berala, NSW, 2141,






The original (and very primitive) Star Traders game was written by S. J. Singer in 1984 using Altair Basic.  This was modified for Microsoft Basic (MBASIC) running under the CP/M-80 operating system by John Zaitseff and released on 7th March, 1988.

Star Traders was then completely rewritten in 1990 for the Australian-designed 8-bit MicroBee computer running CP/M-80 on a Zilog Z80 processor, using Turbo Pascal 3.01a.  Essentially, only the name of the game and some of the ideas were retained in this version.  Version 4.1 of Star Traders was released on 1st August, 1991.

In 1992, it was recompiled for the NEC Advanced Personal Computer (with 8-inch floppy drives!) running CP/M-86 on an 8086 processor, using Turbo Pascal 2.0.  This version had colour added to it in the form of ANSI escape sequences; version 4.4 was released on 2nd August, 1993.

The next version came in 1993, when the program was recompiled to run on IBM-compatible machines running MS-DOS and ANSI.SYS.  Turbo Pascal 6.0 was used for this.  The ANSI escape sequences were slightly different under MS-DOS than under the NEC, in that the NEC supported a number of extra character attributes.  In other words, the MS-DOS version looked worse than the one running under CP/M-86!

Star Traders was recompiled again in 1994 for IBM-compatible machines with VGA/EGA/CGA video graphics adapters.  The output routines were recoded to use a “windowed” look.  Borland Pascal 7.0 was used for this purpose, along with a number of text window manipulation modules.  Version 5.4 was released on 1st June, 1994.

In 1995, Star Traders was completely rewritten for the 16-bit Microsoft Windows 3.1 graphical environment.  Microsoft Visual Basic 3.0 was used for this purpose.  Although completely rewritten, the original algorithms were reused from previous versions.  Version 6.0 of the game was released on 15th September, 1995.

Star Traders was then to languish until almost 16 years later... when the game was rewritten once again, this time in the C programming language. Version 7.0 was released on 25th July, 2011 for Unix-like operating systems such as Linux, with subsequent releases to add features and correct bugs.  Now you, too, can run this small piece of computing history!

See Also

Star Traders home page


3rd August, 2022 Unix-like systems