Archive for the 'Regular Features' Category

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Zork

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Personal Software Infocom Zork advertisement - 1981A scene from "Zork: Brick Collector"

This is it, folks: an early ad (maybe the first) for the original commercial release of Zork, the famous Infocom text adventure, published by Personal Software ca. 1980 for the TRS-80 Model I and III home computers.

(This site has some wonderful background history on this release.)

I love the artwork featured in this ad. It is excised from the full cover art for the Personal Software version, which captures a great deal of the majesty and wonder of the seminal adventure title — plus a hefty dose of out-of-place machismo.

The mere mention of Zork takes me back to the mid-1980s when my older brother delved into the Great Underground Empire with the aid of photocopied maps and worn out InvisiClues on our family's Atari 800. Warm, fuzzy memories. Of course, by then, Infocom published the title directly.

[ From Byte, February 1981, p.31]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite text adventure game of all time? (Modern ones count.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Get Your Start in Color Computing with the TRS-80 MC-10

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Radio Shack TRS-80 MC-10 micro color computer catalog page - 1984SMALL ENOUGH TO FIT IN A DINOSAUR SHOE

I've owned a TRS-80 MC-10 since at least 1996 (according to this photo), so it holds a nostalgic place in my collection. It's a really neat little machine despite its limitations (chief among those problems? Tiny chiclet keyboard). But Radio Shack designed this machine as a low-cost entry-level PC for the home, so most of of those issues can easily be overlooked.

The MC-10′s price at the time of this catalog printing had slipped to just $79 (about $178 today when adjusted for inflation). For comparison, the Apple IIc (a far more sophisticated machine, but typical for a home PC at the time) retailed for $1295 upon its introduction that same year (that's a whopping $3,688 today). Price wise, that's similar to the difference between buying a low-end Windows 8 tablet and a Mac Pro. The technological difference was not nearly that dramatic, however.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the MC-10 is that you can now download software for it over the Internet in the form of audio files and load them into the MC-10 via its cassette port. Check out this site for an awesome array of homebrew MC-10 games.

[ From 1984 Radio Shack TRS-80 Catalog (RSC-11), p.59]

Discussion Topic of the Week: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could only use a TRS-80 MC-10 or a Sinclair ZX81, which would you pick?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy Lemmings

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Psygnosis Ocean Lemmings for Game Boy advertisement - 1993Biggest Lemming I Ever Seen

My brother received the IBM PC port of Lemmings as a gift (probably for Christmas) in the early 1990s. It made a distinct impression in my young mind, with its vivid VGA graphics, a playful MIDI soundtrack, and charismatic little creatures that you could bid to do your every whim.

I have never played the Game Boy version, but this ad caught my eye.

When I wrote a feature about the most ported games of all time for 1UP.com back in 2007, Lemmings featured prominently with ports to 28 systems up to that point in time. What can I say — Lemmings is a classic.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.48]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the best Lemmings-like or Lemmings clone game? (Other than Lemmings, of course — The Humans and Baldies come to mind.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Datachem Sexu-Cation

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Datachem Sexu-Cation Sex education software - 1987Outsource your sex educations needs to Datachem

"Mommy, where do babies come from?"

"Well, after a wild night of CTRL-ALT-DELETE, your father hit my CTRL-C then pressed CTRL-V, and nine months later, you came out from LPT1."

[ From Family and Home Office Computing, November 1987, p.92]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played any sex-related computer games? (Or heck, even educational software.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Blip: Marvel's Video Game Magazine

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Marvel Blip The Video Games Magazine Debut Issue #1 Comic Book Cover Matthew Laborteaux - February 1983Marvel should turn this into a movie

In 1983, comic book giant Marvel experimented with publishing a video game magazine called Blip. Here is the cover of the premiere issue, which features Little House on the Prairie star Matthew Laborteaux.

Wikipedia says this about Laborteaux, who was apparently a dedicated video game fan:

Laborteaux is a skilled video game player. In October 1981 he finished in tenth place for Centipede at the Atari, Inc. world championships, and in April 1982 became the United States Pac-Man champion at a People-sponsored tournament, with a score of 1,200,000.

Celebrities are people too.

Regarding the magazine itself: Blip retained the size, shape, weight, and thickness of a typical 1980s Marvel comic book. It was even printed on the same type of paper, likely using the same presses Marvel used for its superhero books at the time.

I haven't thumbed through this magazine in years — it's currently in storage — but I remember being sadly underwhelmed by its content when I bought this copy off eBay about a decade ago. I recall thinking that the printing technology did not reproduce photos very well, which did not lend itself to splashy, colorful video game ads or screenshots. Perhaps partly because of this, the mag only lasted seven issues.

The Internet Archive currently hosts scans of all seven issues of Blip.

[ From Blip, February 1983, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever read any comics (strips or books) based on video games? What are your favorites?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Microsoft Multiplan

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Microsoft Multiplan Apple II advertisement  - Personal Computing - 1983Leeloo Dallas Multiplan

[ From Personal Computing, October 1983, p.160 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the first electronic spreadsheet program you ever used?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] MicroProse Gunship

Monday, April 6th, 2015

MicroProse Gunship Commodore 64 advertisement  - Compute's Gazette - 1988The Ultimate Helicopter Eclipse Simulator

[ From Compute's Gazette for Commodore, December 1988, p.7 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Other than Civilization, what is the best MicroProse title of the 1980s and 1990s?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Apple II SwyftCard

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Jef Raskin Steve Wozniak Information Appliance Swyft Card SwyftCard Apple II advertisement  - Personal Computing - March 1986Paid for by SwyftCard Veterans for Truth

From the land of exotic Apple II accessories comes the Information Appliance SwyftCard, a plug-in peripheral card that gave the Apple IIe a built-in suite of ROM-based productivity tools, all unified around a novel scroll-based [PDF] user environment called SWYFT.

SWYFT was the brainchild of former Apple employee Jef Raskin, who originally spearheaded the Macintosh project. After disagreements with Steve Jobs over the direction of that project, Raskin left Apple and founded Information Appliance, Inc. (consequently, Jobs took the Mac project in a completely new direction).

The SwyftCard originated as an Apple IIe-based prototype for a dedicated machine centered around Raskin's SWYFT environment, but it proved so effective and compelling that it became its own product. The dedicated concept would later emerge as the Canon Cat in 1987.

SwyftCards are very rare (I've never seen one in person over 20 years of collecting Apple II hardware), so Apple enthusiast Mike Willegal has provided instructions for building your own. Pretty neat!

P.S. I emailed this ad to Steve Wozniak (who is featured in the ad) and he said, "Cool reminder!"

[ From Personal Computing, March 1986, p.163 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Jef Raskin vs. Steve Jobs: Who do you identify with the most?

[ Fuzzy Memory ] Amstrad CPC Adventure Game

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Fuzzy MemoryEvery once and a while, I receive emails from people looking for a certain game, electronic toy, or computer from their distant past. I then pass it on to intrepid VC&G readers to crack the case.

The Clues

Marko writes:

I need help identifying adventure game for Amstrad CPC. I remember playing the game in the late 80′s (possibly '88 - '89, but the game itself could be older). I didn’t play it much though, possibly due to difficulty, but I do remember that I liked "mystery" feeling about the game.

Now for what I remember (and hopefully all this is correct). It is a text based (possibly had list of options / actions to select) and the story revolves around a group of people (possibly family?) being shipwrecked / having an accident at sea due to a storm. The game begins with telling the story about the incident. Now this is the part that I could be wrong about, but I think the player is tasked with either finding the people that were on the ship or finding about their history. Again, it is possible that that group of people is a family and possibly player’s ancestors.

In terms of graphics, game had black background, and I remember a lot of red colour / shades of red being used for drawings. At the beginning of the game, when the story is being told, I remember a picture of the ship which was drawn in red pen / outline.

This is all I can remember, I know its not much, and hopefully most of the facts above are correct - my memory of this game is very very hazy.

If your readers could possibly help with identifying the game in question, I would be really grateful - would love to try it again in an emulator.

Kind regards,
Marko

The Search Begins

It's up to you to find the object of Marko's fuzzy memory. Post any thoughts or suggestions in the comments section below. Marko will be monitoring the comments, so if you need to clarify something with him, ask away. Good luck!

Have a memory of a computer, video game, computer software, or electronic toy you need help identifying? Send me an email describing your memories in detail. Hopefully, the collective genius of the VC&G readership can help solve your mystery.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] HI-RES ADVENTURE #4: Ulysses and the Golden Fleece

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Sierra On-Line Systems Ulysses and the Golden Fleece HI-RES ADVENTURE #4 Adventure Game Apple II Atari 800 advertisement  - Compute - June 1982HI-RES ADVENTURE #4

[ From Compute!, June 1982, p.15 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite static-screen graphical adventure game of all time?