Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cover to Cover: Adventure International 1981 Catalog (pp. 1-2)

This may have been the first "real" software catalog I ever encountered as a youngster, aside from Radio Shack's TRS-80 publications.  I learned about Adventure International's existence through Tandy's TRS-80 Software Sourcebook, and sent a money order in for James Talley's Kid-Venture #1, only to learn it was on backorder and I would not see it ship for another few months.  In the meanwhile, I was sent a copy of the Spring 1981 catalog from Scott Adams' pioneering software company, and my eyes were opened.  Radio Shack was suddenly not the only source for TRS-80 games!  I spent many hours reading and re-reading this publication in my early teens, so I think it's high time we did a page-by-page review.  Three decades have passed, and this is a time capsule from the very early days of the home computer industry.

The cover shows us a company experiencing early, tentative success; the catalog is still in blue-and-white, not full-color, but it weighs in at a substantial 36 pages.  There's a brand-new computer mascot character named "Whiz," designed by the equally colorful Adventure International cover artist "Peppy," although the mascot didn't last very long if memory serves.

"Whiz" is promoting a couple of products -- a complete, disk-based Apple II port of the classic Will Crowther/Don Woods Adventure, and a database tool called Maxi Manager.  The classic Scott Adams adventures were newly available for the Atari 400/800 home computers, and the company was supporting the TRS-80 Model I/III (and II) computers, as well as the TRS-80 Color Computer, Apple II, Atari 400/800, Commodore PET, and Exidy Scorcerer [sic].  We are also urged to Watch for "WHIZ" in all our ads, just like riding the subway.  Ahem.  Anyway...

Page 2 contains an index, a snapshot of the state of the industry in early 1981.  The TRS-80 Model I/III computers dominate the product offerings, and Adventure International even published some titles for the business-oriented Model II, which used an 8" disk format.  Games were available on tape, disk, or "tape to disk," an awkward term indicating that the game shipped on inexpensive tape but could be transferred to disk by the end user for convenience.

The market shares would shift dramatically within a few years, with the Apple II dominating and the gaming-oriented Atari 400/800 doing well also, as the affordable but relatively primitive "Trash-80" began to fade out.  The TRS-80 Color would become more popular in the Adventure International lineup, with many AI products ported to the 6809-based machine, the Commodore PET would fade away in favor of the VIC-20 and Commodore 64, and the Exidy Sorcerer would fade out quickly.  Scott Adams' text-based Adventure series relied on a standard data format, so only the game engine had to be ported to various platforms, and the company supported a number of relatively obscure machines over the years.

More to come...

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