• Tag Archives retrocomputing
  • Atari 400/800 (1982)

    1982 Atari home computers ad


    This Atari ad for the Atari 400 and Atari 800 computers emphasizes the useful productivity things you can do with Atari computers. Atari had an “Investment Series” line of software that allowed you to do things like chart stocks and track your investments. This ad also mentions some of the educational stuff you can do with Atari computers like composing music, learning a new language, or…simulating a nuclear power plant? That one seems a little strange…

    Games are mentioned too but not until you are half way down the ad. Atari had two problems succeeding in the marketplace. The first and biggest was competing on cost. However, the perception of Atari computers being only game machines really hurt them too. Don’t get me wrong, Atari did have modest success for a long time. The Atari 400 and 800 were introduced in 1979 and 8-bit Atari computers were manufactured until 1991. It’s just that they never had the sales that Commodore and Apple had during that era and most third party software support dried up in the mid 1980s.

    Commodore also developed somewhat of a reputation as producing game machines with the Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 had a couple of advantages over the Atari 8-bit line though. First, it did get at least some penetration in the education market, at least in the early years of the C64. Second, Commodore was able to dominate pretty much everyone at the time in terms of price due to their vertical integration. Commodore owned MOS Technologies who made the 6502 based CPU and other chips in the Commodore 64 (and other 8-bit computers). Commodore garnered much larger sales because of this and third party software support was much more robust, even in the productivity arena.

    Atari made some great computers but they were poor marketers and just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get prices down quick enough to be dominant after the early 1980s. Apple dominated the education market with the Apple II and Commodore dominated the home market with the VIC-20 and then Commodore 64. Atari was really the only other long term survivor of the 8-bit wars but they were a distant third for most of that time. Atari’s attempt to market their 8-bit line as serious computers was never really taken…seriously.

  • Zork II (Commodore 64)

    Another Commodore 8-bit floppy! And yet another Commodore floppy sleeve and envelop design! This is Zork II for the Commodore 64. I like how it’s got a blank-floppy label on it in addition to the product label – like they just grabbed a bunch of blanks from the office supply shelf and ran them over to the duplicator.

    Knowing Commodore, actually, it wouldn’t even surprise me if they had.


    While text adventures are pretty niche now, back when computers were much more limited they were quite popular. No series was more popular than the Zork series by Infocom. Zork II, subtitled The Wizard of Frobozz was first released in 1982 and while it did not appear on as many platforms as the original, the list is still quite impressive and includes the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Macintosh, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, CP/M, DOS, MSX and TRS-80 among others.

    The photos in this post relate to the Commodore 64 version but there was no significant difference between the various versions. Most Infocom games ran on their own parser (almost like a virtual machine) and it was this that was converted to various machines. Commodore distributed the Commodore 64 version and you can see how cheap Commodore could be based on the disks they used. It appears they just took blank disks that were probably intended to be sold as such based on the labeling and put the game on them and added a second label. However, this doesn’t affect the quality of the game.

    Zork II picks up more or less where the first Zork left off. In Zork I the object was to collect as many treasures as possible. If you collected them all then you achieved a perfect score. Zork II has a bit more of a subtle plot. You still have to collect treasures but the treasures themselves are needed to finish the game. At least some of them as the game can be completed without collecting them all. You just have to figure out how to use them correctly.

    The plot revolves around an exiled and slightly senile enchanter. You must figure out how to avoid his tricks and control his magic. This is not an easy game or for the easily frustrated. It will take you much trial and error to solve the various puzzles. However, it offers long hours of entertainment for those who like solving difficult puzzles.

    I don’t know that Zork II has ever been re-released on modern systems but it was released by Activision as freeware at one point. You can play via emulation on the system of your choice or even play via your browser (search for Zork II in your favorite search engine and you’ll find it pretty quickly). The browser version is a good way to try it out but it isn’t a practical way to play the whole game because you can’t really save it. If you have never played a text adventure but are an RPG or point and click adventure fan then it is worth giving a try even if just to see where it all started. Some people love text adventure and some people hate them. I would start with Zork I and if you enjoy that one proceed to Zork II and the subsequent sequels. Then there are plenty more vintage text adventures from Infocom and others and even new ones still being created today if you find you enjoy the genre.