Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cover to Cover: Adventure International Spring 1981 Catalog (insert)

We're just about done with our tour through the Spring 1981 Adventure International catalog... and I almost forgot about this two-page advertising insert!  Scott Adams founded his company to publish his own adventure games and other products, primarily for the Radio Shack TRS-80 in the early days.  And before mass-market computer magazines existed, it made sense for other companies -- even competitors -- to advertise in his widely-circulated (by 1981 standards) catalog.  These products and ads apparently arrived too late to make the regular print run, but were added as a stand-alone page inserted into the regular catalog.

Page "A" offers a number of specials on random computer paraphernalia:

Most of these are recognizable items -- disk drives, modems, books and diskettes -- but a few of these offerings were very TRS-80 specific and deserve some explication.  The GREEN WINDOWS were simply green overlays designed to fit the standard TRS-80 Model I, II and III 60 Hz black-and-white monitors, to provide a more professional green-on-black look better suited to long hours at the computer.  The LOWER CASE KIT  added true lowercase characters to the budget-minded Model I's built-in font ROM -- while the machine could represent the full ASCII character set in memory, the standard model reused the uppercase characters for lowercase display, making it impossible to distinguish between the two onscreen.  Radio Shack offered its own upgrade kit, but cheaper aftermarket kits were very popular too.  Finally, we have the RESET BUTTON EXTENDERS -- the Model I's reset button was hidden under a door on the rear of the keyboard/CPU unit, and most users ended up removing the door.  Even with the door off, reaching the button tended to require hooking a finger blindly into the casing from a normal seated position, so a simple plastic extension on the reset button was deemed handy.

Page "B" reminds us how lucky we are to live in the age of USB -- back in the day, being able to simply "Plug in your Printer and PRINT" was actually an unrealized dream.  Even the old-fashioned Centronics printer port was not standard on home computers, so in addition to buying a dot-matrix Epson printer for six hundred and forty-five 1981 dollars, users had to buy machine-specific adapters and cables for anywhere from 30 to 250 dollars.  Spectrum Computers was only too happy to provide package deals for users of Atari, Radio Shack, and Apple home computers:

Just a few more pages to go, tomorrow!

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