• Tag Archives Atari 8-bit
  • S.A.M. (Atari 400/800, Apple II/II+)


    Source: inCider – March 1983

    Speech synthesis seemed to be all the rage in the early to mid 1980s. S.A.M. is one of a variety of speech synthesis products available during that time. S.A.M. is short for Software Automatic Mouth (I can see why they abbreviated it) and was available for the Atari 400/800 and Apple II/II+. This was a product primarily designed to incorporate speech into your own programs.

    Advertised as “cheap”, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. The Atari version was priced fairly typically for the time at $49.95. However, the Apple II version required additional hardware and cost $124.95. Not really cheap in my opinion, especially for the time. The Atari sound chip was sophisticated enough not to require additional hardware for speech synthesis of acceptable quality at the time. Despite the limitations (iffy speech quality and having to blank the screen for maximum quality among others), these products were fairly popular and S.A.M. was one of the better known products of its type.

    The whole talking computer thing never really appealed to me that much (though we have it now more or less with products like Alexa). I guess after the movie Wargames, everyone wanted a talking computer…or something.

    This ad is from the March 1983 issue of inCider.

  • MicroLeague Baseball


    Source: Compute!’s PC Magazine – Issue 2 – Volume 1, Number 2 – November 1987

    MicroLeague Baseball was an early classic baseball game for computers. This particular ad mentions the Commodore 64, DOS, Apple II and Atari 8-bit line though it was also later released for the Amiga and Atari ST. Like most other MicroLeague sports games, this one was strategic in nature instead of a more typical arcade style game.

    In MicroLeague Baseball, you take the roll of a manager. MicroLeague used real teams in addition to real stats from real players licensed from the Major League Players Association. You could choose to manage any team from any year and match them up any way you wanted. As the manager, you got to choose the line-up, when to steal, when to send in relief pitchers, pinch hitters, etc. You could play vs. another human player or against a manager controlled by the computer. There were various expansions for this game including a Box Score/Stats Compiler Disk that allowed you to save the results of every game played and compile statistics for every player as well as a General Manager/Owners disk that you to make trades and create your own players and teams. Various data disks were released as well. While maybe not for everyone, MicroLeague Baseball was a statisticians dream.

    As far as I know, this game has never been re-released which is a shame as the MicroLeague line is rather unique in the baseball video game world. There were several sequels culminating with MicroLeague Baseball IV in 1993. I tend to like turn-based strategy games and if there were more sports games like this today I would probably play them more.

    The above ad is from the November 1987 issue of Compute!’s PC Magazine and the screen shots are from the Commodore 64 version of the game.

  • Voice Box II (Atari 400/800)


    Source: ROM: The Magazine That Brings The Atari Computer To Life! – Vol. 1, Issue 3

    It seem that in the 1980s everyone thought that talking computers were the wave of the future. Voice synthesizers were available for just about every platform. It was even in popular movies like Wargames (though its odd how the voice followed Matthew Broderick around to other locations). Of course, the sci-fi idea of talking computers started much earlier. HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind.

    I had a Commodore 64 and it was capable of some rudimentary voice synthesis without any special devices but it could of course be improved upon with specialized hardware. The device mentioned in this ad from ROM magazine, the Voice Box II, is for the Atari 8-bit line of computers. Advertised features include singing and The Singing Human Face. I mean who wouldn’t want to incorporate The Singing Human Face into all your programs?

    In the early home computer era, voice synthesis never became much more than a novelty. But while computers that talk back never really caught on as an every day sort of thing, the idea lives on today in cloud based services like Alexa, Siri, etc. There have also been screen reader programs and various accessibility options that include speech for quite a while now. It won’t be long before HAL is refusing to obey your commands.