Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cover to Cover: Adventure International Spring 1981 Catalog (pp. 33-back cover)

At last we come to the end of Adventure International's Spring 1981 catalog of software and products for early home computers. I'm going to cram these last four pages from Scott Adams' company into a single post, so without further ado...

Page 33 captures Adventure International's official Limited Warranty and purchasing details, along with an ad for The Alternate Source, a TRS-80 magazine:

I actually had the opportunity to visit the Adventure International Computer Center back in the day during a family trip to Disney World -- it was my first experience of a computer store that was not Radio Shack, and at age 13 it was extremely cool to see all these products I'd only seen in the catalog actually hanging on the walls in all their poly-bagged glory.  And the company had its own BBS as well, the Adventure Forum-80, which I never had the chance to try out.

The Alternate Source was an early home computing magazine, and the promotional bonus Wizard's Castle was apparently a text adventure/RPG hybrid written in BASIC that appeared on a number of platforms after originating on the obscure Exidy Sorcerer.  The best information I can find online indicates that only 18 or 19 issues of the magazine were published between 1980 and 1984, and that it was bi-monthly rather than monthly, so a twelve-issue subscription starting in 1981 would probably have just about covered the rest of its life.

Page 34 is another third-party ad, from Software Shack, a company that would probably have run into the same problems as Computer Shack did later on:

What's most interesting about Software Shack is that, while its full-page ad provides few specifics on products or pricing, it was running a FORUM-80 BBS that provided an online catalog and ordering system over modem -- a genuine forerunner to today's largely Web-based software market, aside from the fact that any software ordered would still be delivered on physical media.

Page 35 gets back to one last round of Adventure International products, all utilities of the sort that were very handy in the early days but most of which would hardly qualify as stand-alone products today:

BOSS was an enhancement package for the TRS-80's built in Microsoft BASIC interpreter; IRV a keyboard macro processor; and D.I.M. II a diskette catalog/index utility.  PECA was a niche product (even by 1981 standards) aimed at engineers and hobbyists designing circuit boards or other electronic projects, allowing the user to model the design and calculating the power flow through up to 20 combined components, if I'm reading the ad copy right.  E-Z Sounds was a utility by James Talley (Kid-Venture) providing routines BASIC programmers could call upon to provide sounds in TRS-80 projects -- the system did not officially have sound output per Radio Shack's design, but enterprising programmers figured out how to modulate the system's cassette audio output to produce sound effects, even digitized speech.  And Lance Micklus' ST80-UC was a standby for many early modem users, emulating the classic ST-80 smart terminal for use with academic and commercial mainframe systems.

At last, we have reached the catalog's back cover -- does anyone still have a "WHIZ" T-Shirt?

I also note that the entertainment software industry seems too young to be suffering a "HOT FLASH" in 1981, but it's just a last-minute announcement that the pre-Broderbund edition of Galactic Empire we saw back on page 20 is now available for the Atari home computers.  It's a reminder that these publications were still cut-and-pasted together by doing actual, physical cutting and pasting of printed typeset material and pictures.  The Macintosh and Adobe Pagemaker were still several years away.

And with that, we are done with one of the thickest vintage catalogs in my collection.  Scott Adams pioneered adventure gaming on microcomputers, and he also saw the potential in the home computing industry.  His company was one of the many that perished during the mid-80s industry crash, due at that time to business factors rather than any incipient demise of text adventure games per se -- that would take several more years.  But in 1981 Adventure International was just getting started and had an ambitious lineup of products for sale.

I hope you've all enjoyed this little trip down nostalgia lane.  I have no idea what we're going to be looking at next, but I'd better get cracking!

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