Archive for the 'Personal Computers' Category

Commodore Power/Play #6 (1983): ‘Are You An Adventurer?’

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The Scott Adams mentioned in the article wrote the first adventure game for the PC, Adventureland (1978), and went on to found Adventure International. Here’s how Diane LeBold, who started Power/Play in 1982, describes the game genre.

If you’ve never played an adventure game, you may be a little mystified by all this. So let me backtrack a bit. First, adventures, unlike most of the games you are probably used to playing, are not… graphic wonders. In fact, all you see on your screen are words… True, Scott Adams and others have developed graphic adventures, which provide pictures as well as words. They’re great fun. To be frank, however, I prefer creating the pictures in my head… the pictures I create in my mind are uniquely personal, mysteriously intimate. Someone else’s interpretation is almost always something of a disappointment to me.

As you respond to the words on your screen you are led, piece by piece, into a small, self contained three-dimensional world.

Some day some genius programmer could create a game that’s so believable you may have a hard time separating it from the real world…

It’s interesting that she talks about graphics getting in the way of the gaming experience as early as 1983. In a 2012 post I compared old school box art to old school games and talked about how “There’s no longer a need to use the imagination to fill in the gaps left by all those 8-bit games.” Greg at Lefty Limbo expanded on the idea in a post called Filling in the Blanks (a much neater phrase). The same point was made in a Verge article published over a year after my original post, and the author used almost exactly the same language: “Because of her [Atari cover artist Susan Jaeckel] painting on the cover of the box, you knew that you were actually venturing through a hedge maze with three huge dragons lurking inside. It filled in the gaps left by the game’s rudimentary graphics…”)

I have some early press photos of Scott Adams I’ll post a little later. If you want to read more about adventure games, Gaming After 40 has hundreds of smart, comprehensive reviews and walkthroughs, along with other cool stuff related to golden age gaming.

You can read full issues of Commodore Power/Play magazine at the Internet Archive.

Kid Playing with Apple II, 1981

Apple II 1981

What makes this kid so special that he gets to screw around with the computer while all the other students are stuck with “normal classroom activities”? I think the computer is an Apple II Plus, released in 1979.

Driftwood Elementary School is in Hollywood, Florida.

Computer Labs, 1980 – 1982: The TRS-80

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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 1980

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Saint Mary’s Academy, 1982. (Photo: Nancy Leigh Williams)

That’s the TRS-80 model I in the first shot, released in 1977. The kids in the second shot are working on a model III, released in 1980.

(First image via UWEC Archives/Flickr)

Notes from a Time Capsule, 1983

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I sense a theme in these 6th grade student statements from the 1982-1983 school year, summed up nicely by Navin Joneja: “The movie Tron is a perfect example of how computers might take over the world.”

The capsule was sealed in 1983 and released in 2006. The photos are via Mike Bouchard, who was in the class that wrote the notes.


Blip #5 (June, 1983): ‘Technology + Tradition = Summer Fun’

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Blip was Marvel’s short-lived—seven issues only—foray into the video game world. It was colorful but silly, printed on comic stock and marketed to younger kids.

Page two talks about the development of Atari’s E.T., and refers to TRON (the movie) as a “flop.” Ripping every gamer’s favorite flick was probably not a good idea.

The activity on pages 12 and 13 is representative of the entire run. Kids of every age would have found it condescending.

Pages 14 and 16 are about computer camp, one of my favorite subjects. I wrote about the Atari camp here. I love the robot on the lawn chair, even though it’s a clunky (pun intended) metaphor.

And, if you weren’t feeling old enough already, how about the “News Blips” on page 23?

The most amazing feature of the Concept 100 is its satellite hookup. That’s right—this car will actually have a computer that is tuned in to a satellite orbiting in space. What good is this? One big advantage is tracking. If you ever get lost, just order up a map and the satellite will find your car…

Read the whole issue, and the whole run, at

Only Nerds GOTO Computer Camp (1979)

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A computer day camp in Chicago, December, 1979. PCs on display include the Apple II, the TRS-80, and the TI-99/4. The latter was brand new at the time. There’s another one I can’t identify to the right of the kid raising his hand. It looks a little like a Commodore PET.

Note the Garfield notebook in the first shot, and the BASIC code in the second. The kid typing the code (you can read all of it starting with line 95) is wearing an Izod sweater.

Terrific all-around coverage of an early lab and the kids who got to use it.

(Photos via eBay seller Historical Images)

Electronic Games #22 (December, 1983): ‘Players Guide to Microcomputers’, Discs of Tron

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Interesting that Coleco’s Adam, which I’d totally forgotten about, comes in ahead of Apple and the TRS-80. The first computer I got was my beloved Atari 800. That was about 1983. The first “family” computer we got was an IBM PS/2 in ’87 or ’88. My parents got a substantial discount through my high school. By that time, I had realized that learning how to program and “hack” was hard work, and the games for IBM were pretty lousy. My attention had shifted to Nintendo and my electric guitar—and girls.

Below is a quick, fun review of my favorite video game ever, Discs of Tron, from the same issue. Read the whole magazine at





Kid Working on Commodore 64, 1987

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October 18, 1987. (Photo: Lyn Alweis/Denver Post)

Did his parents lock him in the basement, or what? At least he’s got his fish to keep him company.

That little keyboard appears to be a Casio VL-Tone clone. The only thing I can make out on the CompuCamp diskette is the Denver area code, 303.

Atari Computer Demonstration Center, Circa 1980

Atari Center 1980

Everything points to 1980 except for Pac-Man, which came out for the 400/800 in 1982. Atari’s probably cheating a little. I don’t see a Pac-Man box. In fact, the only game boxes I see are Super Breakout and Kingdom. The screenshots on both sides of the TV fall under different headings. I think the one in the middle is “entertainment.”

I don’t remember seeing the display. It’s possible I blocked it out—there’s no way I would’ve been able to push my way to the front of the line for a chance to play. The big kids ruled the demo units. And by big kids I don’t mean the well-dressed, well-mannered couple in the ad.

The image is from James Vaughan, who has some of the coolest sets on Flickr, including one called Retro Tech.

British Kids Using Computers, 1980 – 1981

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Slatyford Comprehensive School, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

All of the photos shown here are from The Mirror/Daily Mirror archives and collected by Us Vs Th3m. Click the link to see more.

The first one shows the lads on a Video Genie, known as the Dick Smith (of Dick Smith Electronics) System 80 in Australia and New Zealand, where it was important as an alternative to the scarce and largely unaffordable TRS-80. It appeared briefly in North America as the PMC-80.

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Longbenton High School, Newcastle, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

The Research Machines 380Z was developed and produced in Oxford for the education market starting in 1977. It was succeeded in 1981 by the Link 480Z, although the 380Z continued to be produced until 1985.

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Benfield Road High School, 1980. Photo: The Mirror

Another 380Z (the CPU is under the TV). The aloof pose of the young lady on the right reminds me of the young lady in this photo. Not everyone found the new technology thrilling, or even interesting.

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Space Invaders World Championship, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

Okay, so the kids aren’t really “computing,” but it’s a beautiful shot. The description identifies the scene as the “National Space Invaders Championship” of 1981, but that event, probably the most famous video game tournament in history, took place in late 1980, and it was exclusive to the U.S. (The Golden Age Arcade Historian talks about it here.) The Space Invaders World Championship was held in 1981.




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