[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Choose Your Own Adventure

April 7th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Choose Your Own Adventure #39: Supercomputer - Front CoverFront cover of Supercomputer by Edward Packard (1984)

While looking through some old boxes a few weeks ago, I stumbled across my brother’s large collection of vintage Choose Your Own Adventure books. These books, as a series, were very popular in the early 1980s. Bantam published over 180 different Adventures from 1979 to 1998.

Each Choose Your Own Adventure book is similar to an adventure computer game. You read a few pages, and then you’re faced with different paths that your character can take:

If you free Danny from the barn even though Uncle Grog might catch you, turn to page 23.
If you give up and throw your SuperTorch in the hay, turn to page 40.

The outcome of the story depends on your choices, and every book contains multiple endings.

One book in my brother’s set stood out from the rest: Supercomputer, by Edward Packard (1984). It’s an interesting artifact of the popular conception of computers at the time, echoing common 1980s fantasy themes involving 500 lb. CRT-display machines achieving sentience, starting a nuclear war, or simply doing all your homework.

Choose Your Own Adventure #39: Supercomputer - Back CoverBack cover of Supercomputer by Edward Packard (1984)

The plot of Supercomputer centers on an extremely intelligent computer called the Genecomp AI 32. Your particular unit is named Conrad. Whether Conrad helps you solve crimes or brings the Army to your door is up to you. Overall, Supercomputer, like most of the CYOA books, is a fun read for both kids and adults that enjoy fantastic nostalgia. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

“I like Choose Your Own Adventure books because they’re full of surprises. I can’t wait to read more.”
–Cary Romanos, age 12

[Cue Reading Rainbow Theme Song]

Discussion topic of the week: Approximately what year do you think computers will take over the world?

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18 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Choose Your Own Adventure”

  1. Jim Ulrich Says:


  2. Layne Says:

    Never……the human mind will continue to evolve faster than the computer. It may be that machines eventually perform quite a bit of the day to day goings on, but there will always be humans pulling the strings.


  3. Layne Says:

    Oh, and I always loved Choose Your Own Adventure books…..I need to go through mom’s attic to see what I might have stashed away up there.


  4. apronk Says:

    I loved these books, I got them from the Bookmobile all the time.

    The only specific story I remember though, was about this diamond thing I could put on the front of my bike to go super fast or something like that.

    I totally cheated when I read them and if I saw that I was going to die or whatever I’d go back to the page I came from and choose the better decision. Some of those bad endings seemed to come out of nowhere.

  5. Troy Says:

    I loved these books too. I noticed that the local library has a pretty good collection – I will introduce my kids to them when they are a little older. I loved these and the Zork books, and the Dungeons and Dragons series, and the Lone Wolf series…………If I found a box full at a yard sale I would not be able to resist.

  6. Kitsunexus Says:

    DUDE REDWOLF, HOLY CRAP MAN! I used to check this book out ALL THE TIME AT THE LIBRARY!! I always wanted that super computer.

    Can you make a PDF please?

  7. Chris Hunt Says:

    Ah, I remember reading the UK incarnations of those kinds of books, stuff like the “Fighting Fantasy” books. Curiously I relied on my brother’s collection too!

    The genre is still alive and kicking, and throwing up such curiosities as this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Being-Elizabeth-Bennet-Create-Adventure/dp/184354606X

  8. apronk Says:

    Wow, Jane Austen adventures, who’d a thunk it?

    Now I see the possibilities…I want my BSG adventures!

    “You have just been confronted by a super hot member of the opposite sex. This person may or may not be a cylon.

    If you choose to shoot the person, go to page 75.

    If you choose to have incredibly wild sex with the person, go to page 98.”

  9. Geoff V. Says:

    Side note: we are already at the point were reliance on computers and their programming can wipe out entire cities and regions. Remember the last NYC blackout? Imagine an errant line of code that could release a dam, or add the wrong chemical to our water supply.

  10. Benj Edwards Says:

    That’s right Geoff. In fact, just one errant line of code could wipe out this entire website. Although cyborgs already run this webserver, so I guess it will be safe. But will our children?

  11. Zoyous Says:

    Shouldn’t the computer’s name be something more like… C.O.N.R.A.D.?

    I enjoyed the Choose Your Own Adventure books, too. But apronk is right. You’d get the disastrous endings without any warning, really. It wasn’t like there were clues that you could pick up on to help guide you.

    Later on, the same writers developed a series for older readers that did have clues in the back, and were more based on science. I remember one involving dinosaurs that required you to know what eras different species lived in.

    The most complex books of this type that I got were a four-book series by Steve Jackson Games called Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! They involved a spellbook if you chose to have a sorceror character (you could alternately be a warrior), and dice rolls. The later editions had the spell book included in the back of each volume, and I think they all had random dice configurations printed on the pages so you could “roll the dice” by flipping to a random page.

  12. Geoff V. Says:

    and that’s why I’m glad I am covered by Old Glory Robot Insurance.

  13. Akira Says:

    I LOVED this book as a kid.
    I still have a copy 🙂

  14. james Says:

    man i loved those books back in gradeschool. those were the reason i spent my free time in the library. 🙂

  15. EllisGL Says:

    I love the Choose your own Adventure books when I was growing up. I don’t remember this one thou.

  16. Cody Says:

    I always loved Fighting Fantasy; but choose your own adventure was pretty good too. The stories were a little cooler and I often cheated at FF stuff anyway.

  17. Mason Says:

    I always remembered the CYOA book Your Code Name is Jonah. You were a Secret Service Agent. I forgot what the mission was, but you were similar to James Bond.

  18. Mofie Says:

    I loved this book! This was the only one i had, though, except for the cyoa series goosebumps did. I would love to get supercomputer again though, can’t remember half the endings!

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