Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cover to Cover: SSI Summer 1986 Catalog (back cover)

We're through the bulk of the Summer 1986 SSI catalog, but a parting look at the back cover gives us a nostalgic glimpse at another aspect of early computing that's still part of the industry today -- power upgrades:

The Apple II debuted in 1977 and was getting seriously long in the tooth in 1986 -- it was a versatile and reasonably powerful machine that outlasted its main contemporary competition, the TRS-80 Model I, by a good half-decade at least.  But as game designs became more sophisticated and technically demanding, this pioneering machine's CPU was showing its age -- SSI's strategic, often turn-based games could still be played effectively, but were starting to feel sluggish. 

This also wasn't a time when one could just buy a faster, compatible machine; the Apple II was the Apple II, and game code was generally based around a specific CPU speed, which meant that releasing a faster machine would only make much of the existing entertainment software library comically unplayable.  So SSI devoted its back page to the SpeedDemon acceleration card, which allowed the venerable machine to optionally run up to 3.5 times its original speed, eliminating the "waiting and delaying" mentioned in the ad copy, without seriously impacting the actual gameplay of most SSI titles.  Nobody wanted to wait on the CPU, but if a game wasn't played in real time, the acceleration wouldn't have penalize the human player.

That wraps it up for SSI circa 1986.  Later on, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons titles would cement SSI's reputation but also come to dominate its software lineup in the early 1990s; in 1986, the company's roots were still showing.

Next week, we'll begin a look back at one of the earliest computer game publishers to put out a significant catalog.
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1 comment:

  1. Perhaps interestingly, a few months after that catalog was in effect, the Apple IIGS would be released which had an option to switch the CPU between 1MHz and 2.8MHz, mostly for compatability with 8bit Apple II software. (It was something like 99.5% back compatable, though I can state for certain that EA's EOS would not run on a IIGS, although it would run fine on a Mac IILC with the IIe card.)