The human brain and nervous system are one of the most complex entities ever created by nature, evolution, God or whomsoever you wish to call the creator. I like to think of an individual's motor reflex aptitude as a measure of the time it takes the brain to respond to output from any physical sensory organ whether it be the human eye, the ear, or nervous system, (as in touch, hot or cold sensation, or someone just tackled me as in football game).

Those individuals who excel at physical sports invariably have high motor reflex aptitude. To respond slowly equals lose the game in baseball, basketball, tennis, skeet shooting, or whatever, except for possibly weight lifting or swimming, etc. where muscle condition and training seems to prevail over motor reflexes.

Can your computer measure a user's motor reflex aptitude? I believe that the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no as a lot depends on the manual dexterity of the user. Some individuals with high manual dexterity can respond much more quickly via the computer's keyboard to visual input from the computer's video display than those individuals with low manual dexterity.

The following pages outline an approach that uses the computer to calculate the decline in motor response time as the user's blood alcohol level increases. It is interesting in that it is totally independent of manual dexterity. IF you are being bored by this discussion just select [BACK] and return to my main homepage or [BOOKMARKS] to go elsewhere.


After forty years of having two or three bourbon and sodas before dinner every evening I am certainly not a prohibitionist or teetotaler. Nevertheless, back in 1977 I wrote a program on my then new Radio Shack TRS-80 model 1 microcomputer called, "Bob's Alcoholimeter" and entered it in a contest being run by a computer newsletter. Much to my surprise I received a $50. check for winning the runner up prize in the contest and my tiny program was printed in the newsletter a few months later.

What it did was to measure the response time of a user on the TRS-80 to a randomly placed small target on the video display. The user using the up, down, left and right arrow keys had to move the cursor over the target which then sent a LOUD audio beep. The program started by storing its clock's time in minutes and seconds, and displayed the target. The user then moved the cursor as quickly as possible over the target. When the cursor was over the target, the program emitted a loud beep from the tiny computer's speaker. The taraget was then erased and a new target randomly displayed on the video display and the cursor moved to the center. This sequence was repeated eight times and then the total elapsed time displayed in seconds. The user then wrote down the elapsed time on a scorecard shown below that was purloined from our local golf club.

A 1977 Radio TRS-80 Model 1 with an expansion interface & 3 disk drives added in 1978 is illustrated below with the cursor in the center of the video display and a simulated target.

I modified the TRS-80's keyboard so that the up and down arrows were on the left and the right and left arrows were on the right as shown below. As such one or two hands could play the game. Hunt and peck typists made no never mind as it was the difference between each drink's time that really counted. The modified keyboard is illustrated below.

We had a cocktail party most every Sunday evening after the sailboat races were over at our home at Chautauqua Lake, New York. Everyone who wanted to play the Alcoholimeter game was given as many trials as they wished before drinking their first cocktail and their best times written down on their scorecard. After they finished their first drink, they again ran the program and their score recorded. Most sailors are not drunks in any sense of the word, but many could be called moderately heavy drinkers. Some ran the program after their third drink, their fourth drink, and a few after their fifth strong drink.

The results were entirely predictable. After only one drink, scores did not change at all. After two drinks only a slight increase in elapsed time. After three drinks, another increase in time. After four drinks, a large increase in time in most cases. After five drinks a significant increase in time and we made sure this sailor's wife drove him home. A HAPPY time was had by all participants.

This program totally dismayed those users who proclaimed that they "could hold their liquor" without any impairment whatsoever. The amount of booze consumed after two strong drinks invariably ran their reaction - response - motor reflex elapsed time almost up the logarithmic ladder.

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