Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cover to Cover: Aardvark Ltd. 1983 Catalog (pp. 7-8)

Pages 7 and 8 of the Aardvark Ltd. 1983 catalog feature the inimitable Dave Edson, who wrote a number of machine-language arcade-style games for the TRS-80 Color Computer, most "inspired by" popular coin-ops.  Mr. Edson's games have remained in legal circulation, as he has been gracious enough to release the copyright on several of his works; emulator disk images are available at this excellent CoCo resource page.

Page 7 is the first of two pages devoted to the prolific Mr. Edson's work:

Caterpillar is, clearly, an unlicensed version of Atari's Centipede; Tube Frenzy is an original game with resemblances to Targ and Ladybug, and is not an imitation of Tempest as the name might imply; and Venturer is one of the few home computer clones of Exidy's Venture.  I bought and played Venturer back in the day -- it didn't have the classic arcade game's music, zoom-in effect, or its variety of monsters, but it had varying treasures and was an acceptable version of one of my favorite old-school arcade games.

Page 8 continues the trend, with games that are apparently "Edson's Best," so presumably better than the ones on the previous page, in case we were thinking about wasting our money on those:

The catalog copy for Planet Raiders takes pains to point out that it is "not just another copy of Defender," which means that it basically is another copy of Defender, with ground bases and a few other new touches.  Catch 'Em is a version of Atari's early coin-op Avalanche (which also inspired Activision's Kaboom!); the artwork implies that it has a touch of Midway's Kickman thrown in for personality, but in reality the player just controls a series of horizontal bars that the player must maneuver to intercept falling objects.

Next time, more pages from the distant past...


  1. Dave Edson was truly a "computer genius", and one of the most gifted programmers I've ever met.

    He bypassed using BASIC and went directly to hand-assembled machine code (no assemblers in those days). His first commercial game (which I don't see on these pages) was a racing game similar to "Midnight Racer" (which may be a more familiar name), fast and smooth, and he just improved from there.

    A story he told me one time- Dave was working as a programmer for a well-known company which made "fish finders" for fishermen. While developing the software for a new model, he ended up with some left-over space in the ROM chips, so he programmed in a little game, just for fun. When it was rainy and the fish weren't biting, if you knew the correct keypress sequence, you could bring up a game (similar to his "CatchEm" clone of Activision's "Kaboom") where you had to catch little fish coming down the screen on the fish-finder with a net at the bottom you could move by pressing a couple of the buttons on the front panel of the unit.

    When the boss found out about it (and the units had already gone into production), Dave almost got fired, and was told NEVER to do that again.

    I wish I knew exactly what model that fish-finder was. I don't have any particular use for one, but as a piece of gaming history it's probably one of the most rare examples of the art.

    1. Hey, Bob -- Dave Edson chimed in below, the fish finder in question was the Computrol TBL300.

  2. Computrol TBL300
    And the game was met with such positive praise that all the finders had hidden games in them after I left. It was just a summer job for me

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Dave! One of the reasons I started this blog was to try to capture some of these stories about the early days. Very much appreciated!