Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bundling: A Time-Honored Tradition

No, I'm not talking about the Amish courtship tradition, also known as Gee, Dad!  It's Temptation!

Bundling a bunch of older games into a discount compilation at a low, low price to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the back catalog is nothing new.  Back in 1985, home computer software publisher Spectral Associates tossed thirty of its early titles into a $29.95 discount package:

Most of these were simple action, card and board games, written in BASIC to a magazine type-in standard -- no doubt they weren't selling tremendously well when this catalog was produced, so the $8-to-$21 original price had become a moot point.  I don't think Tiny Calc is even a game -- I believe it was designed to turn your expensive TRS-80 Color Computer into a pocket calculator. 

UPDATE:  tfernando's comment below raised a worthwhile and inspired further investigation.  Tiny Calc was slightly more powerful than I had assumed -- it could function as an adding machine OR as a pocket calculator!

Looking at thirty 1985 US dollars (or thirty-four on disk) for this TREASURY PAC of thirty low-budget games, compared to ten to twenty dollars today for a collection of quality coin-op arcade games from the same era...

It just makes one realize how kind the passage of time can be to gamers' wallets.


  1. VisiCalc had been available for the TRS-80... I wonder if Tiny Calc was an early spreadsheet?

  2. Thanks for the question -- my initial guess would be that this was nothing that sophisticated, as the "real" VisiCalc imitators on the Coco were selling in the $50-$100 range like word processors at the time.

    But I was curious too, so I went looking online and managed to find a copy of the Spectral Associates Treasury Pack 2-disk set, including Ken McIsaac's 1982 program TINYCALC.BAS. It features two modes of operation. One simulates an Adding Machine with variable precision, where the user types one number after another, hitting ENTER after each to keep a running total, with an option to print the "tape" to the printer after typing QUIT. The other feature is an Arithmetic Routine that simply accepts individual calculation steps, e.g. =3, +5, * 4, / 6, updating the output result after each step, just like a pocket calculator.

    So TinyCalc was no competition for VisiCalc, I'm afraid. But thanks for prompting some deeper investigation!