Saturday, May 29, 2010

And By 'Fantastic', We Mean 'Sheer Fantasy'

I have wondered about this product for decades now, but as far as my research can determine, Protecto Enterprizes' (Fantastic!!) VIC-20 Game Loader never actually saw the light of day. 

It was advertised in Electronic Games and Popular Mechanics, and purportedly allowed Atari 2600 games to run on the popular Commodore VIC-20 home computer:

Other than these ads, furious Googling produces no record of the device ever having actually existed, and it seems unlikely to have worked as advertised.

The idea seems fishy on the face of it -- the Atari 2600 used a 6507 CPU, while the VIC-20 ran on a 6502 running at a slightly slower speed, so there's no way even hardware-assisted emulation could have done the job properly.  The Game Loader would have to have been a mini-2600 built into an add-on, similar to the Colecovision and Atari 5200 VCS "adapters."  But the ad further promises that loaded games will feature "fantastic VIC-20 sound and graphics," and the system's display hardware was also radically different from that of the 2600.  Any such enhancement would have required considerable interpretation and modification of the 2600 code, far beyond what any modern emulator has tried to pull off.

I suspect the Game Loader was like the automobile paint, which if fading memory serves was also advertised in Popular Mechanics around the same time, that purported to shield vehicles from police radar.  The technology did not exist and was highly infeasible, but consumer protection authorities discovered that the product had been advertised by a clueless promoter in the hope of drumming up enough orders to... and I may misquote, but this is how I remember it... "hire a scientist to develop the paint."

I also note that Protecto Enterprizes sounds more like a home security firm with a couple of soldering irons in the back room than a full-blown technology company, though they were an official Commodore dealer.  I suspect someone in the marketing department thought this would be a great idea and figured if Coleco could do it, so could Protecto Enterprizes, without understanding what was actually involved.

I have no facts to back this theory up, but there's one dead giveaway -- computer geeks usually watch enough Star Trek to avoid misspelling Enterprise.

1 comment:

  1. That's funny, I recently did a very similar post on the "Cardapter" which reportedly did the same thing as the Game Loader and was apparently just as non-existent. I saw this ad in an old edition of Power Play and started searching for it like you did only to realize that I was fooled again!