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The History of 8bit Gaming in the UK » July

Archive for the ‘July’ Category


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Popular Computing Weekly 26 July - 1 Aug 1984


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Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Activision sues Microdeal

MICRODEAL, the Cornwall based software company which last week took two Blackburn brothers to court in a software piracy action, has itself been taken to court.

American company Activision instituted proceedings in the High Court on the grounds that Microdeal’s Cuthbert in the Jungle is a copy of Pitfall. Activision claims that the consumer would be hard pressed to distinguish between the two on the Commodore 64.

“We applied to the court for an injunction to prevent Micro- deal selling Cuthbert in the Jungle,” explained Geoff Heath, UK managing director of Activision. “However, after reviewing the writ and our prosecution papers, Microdeal obviously felt our case was watertight because they didn’t fight it.

“They gave the court an undertaking that they would not reproduce, adapt or copy Pitfall in any form, and have written to suppliers to say that Cuthbert in the Jungle can no longer be sold.

“Our intention was to fight the case on the grounds of a breach of copyright. Happily it didn’t come to that.

“We had been working on our approach to this case for some time, but obviously the release of Pitfall in Britain, and its conversion to the Commodore 64 has accelerated proceedings.”

Microdeal’s solicitor, Michael Drynan, confirmed that Activision had an open and shut case.

“Microdeal obtained the license for the game from Tom Mix in the States in good faith. But when we compared our licence with Activision’s, theirs appeared to have been agreed first, so we were happy to withdraw.”.

Activision will now be taking action against Tom Mix in the US, again on copyright grounds.

Microdeal has, however, been successful in its case against Dr Tariq Mohammed who with his brother, 14 year old Mohsan, copied Dragon games from Microdeal, among other companies, and sold them at much reduced prices.

On Friday, July 20, it obtained a further injunction preventing Mohammed from copying and selling Microdeal’s games. After the ruling, Microdeal has decided not to pursue a full trial.


Major shake-up for Atari UK

THERE has been a major shake-up at Atari UK, just three weeks after the US parent was taken over by a company headed by ex- Commodore chief Jack Tramiel.

Atari UK’s managing dircetor Graham Clark has resigned, and many of the UK sales and management staff have been sacked.

Clark has been replaced, initially by Simon Westbrood, previously Atari UK’s financial controller. He will remain as acting managing director until a successor can be found.

Tramiel resigned his position as president of Commodore in January this year, and since his dramatic purchase of Atari from Warner Communications, several key Commodore executives have joined Trameil’s organisation in the US.

The upheavals at Atari UK are seen as part of a stategy to streamline the loss-making company and sell Atari products through appointed distributors rather than through the company’s own sales force.

Quest develops CP/M system for QL

QL OWNERS should be able to run CP/M software on their machines.

Hampshire based Quest Automation will be converting Digital Research’s CP/M 68K operating system to run on the QL.

“It will, in effect, mean that all CP/M software will run on the QL,” said Quest’s Grant McKeown. “Although the system is written to run with the 68000 chip, there are a few changes that need to be made for the QL.

“We feel that this will provide the key for using the QL for business purposes.”

CP/M 68K for the QL is planned to be available in October priced at £49.50. Quest will also shortly be announcing hard and floppy disc drives for the QL as well as add-on memory for the machine. Details from Quest Automation, School Lane, Chandlers Ford, Hants.

A joystick adaptor for the QL allowing any Atari- standard joystick to be connected is now available at £6.00 from Tirnedata, 16 Hemmells, Laindon, Essex.

Menzies opts for electronic software

TWO UK distribution companies are hoping to change the way you buy your software.

Program Express of Edinburgh and Micro Dealer UK have jointly launched a scheme to download software from ‘retail modules’ installed in individual shops.

Explained Neil Johnson, Micro Dealer’s managing director. “Customers will first look at a menu on the unit’s display to see which titles are available. When they have decided which they want, they buy a blank cassette, disc or cartridge and slot it into the machine. Twenty seconds later the software is downloaded into the cassette or whatever via the machine from a central host computer.” The system is still under evaluation but Neil hopes that the first such machines will be in the shops by October this year.

The cost of software bought from the system should be the same as a conventional cassette, cartridge or disc.

A similar system, Romox has been tried in the US but has yet to get a full-scale trial. Prism, which has the UK rights to Romox has yet to evaluate the system in the UK.

So the Program Express/Microdealer system could become the first operation of its kind to go on trial in this country. Already John Menzies has shown considerable interest. “We have ordered five machines,” said managing director Robert Black. “It means we will be able to have a full range of software available to customers all the time, and will save a huge amount of storage space. We hope to have our first machines installed before Christmas.”

Ivan Berg Mirrorsoft tie-up

WAN Berg Software has teamed up with Mirrorsoft to release a range of new titles for the Commodore 64, Spectrum, BBC and Electron machines in September.

These include Know Your Psi-Q — testing your psychic power and a no-diet weight control system designed by Professor Justin Joffe. Versions of Know Your Personality and BBC Mastermind will also be released on the Spectrum and BBC machines.

MSX versions of all the titles are planned through Mirrorsoft before Christmas.

Oric price increased

THE price of the Oric Atmos has been increased by almost £20 to £189.95. The company is blaming the dollar exchange rate for the increase.

“At present Oric is building up stock levels quickly in time for Christmas,” explained an Oric spokesman. “But the strong dollar makes the price components high, and we have had to raise the price accordingly.”

Oric announced record June sales of £2 1/2m, largely taken up by £1 1/2m sales to France, although Italian and German orders also increased. Only 30 per cent of this figure — about 4,500 units — went to the UK market.

The prices of Oric peripherals remain unchanged.

Enterprise move

SINCE losing its exclusive distribution contract with Sinclair, Prism has gained the distribution rights for the new EnterPrise computer as well as the Oric Atmos.

Prism will distribute the Enterprise through a national network of retailers and dealers, although Enterprise has retained a small number of accounts to supply direct.

First deliveries of the Enterprise are due in September.

Rabbit bounces

RABBIT Software, best known for its Commodore games such as Troopatruck, has gone into liquidation.

The company had been in difficulties for some time following the death earlier this year of its founder Alan Savage.


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Popular Computing Weekly 14-20 July 1983


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Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Vic add-on causing concern

SOFTSWITCH is a new add-on for the Vic20 causing concern to software manufacturers, because it allows ’secured’ Rom software packages to be broken into and saved on to tape.

Software houses have condemned the sale of the £19.95 add-on by the Swindon-based General Hardware Company, claiming that it opens the way for the easy piracy of cartridge software.

Although the unit only works with the Vic20 at the moment, its implications are more far-reaching. Many manufacturers are looking increasingly towards Rom software to avoid precisely the same sort of piracy problems, now commonplace for cassette software.

Softswitch is a small unit which plugs into the cartridge port on the Vic20. A games Rom can then be plugged into a port at its back. Softswitch then inhibits the auto-start of the game, by relocating the expansion Rom to a different area of the Vic20’s memory map under software control.
With the auto-run disabled, software in the Softswitch program allows the cartridge program to be copied either to cassette or disc.

To run a program taken from Rom in this way, the Softswitch unit is again used, this time with an 8K or 16K Ram expansion unit used in place of the cartridge, and the program is simply loaded into Ram from cassette or disc.

Commodore’s UK software manager Gail Wellington was not at all pleased to hear of the Softswitch development: “Certainly I will take legal action against anyone selling pirated copies of one of our programs, but to take action against individual users making copies for their friends is much more difficult.

“The sad thing is that the only people who will lose out with things like this will be individual software authors — we will. have to take increasingly more complicated steps to protect our software and that, inevitably, will mean smaller royalties for authors. It will mean in future we may be looking at only doing our own software — rather than taking any third-party material.

“I can make it impossible for our future software on Rom to be pirated in this way — what we will have to do is make the program write all over itself when it is run. That is fine for a Rom — it wouldn’t have any effect. If the program was a pirated Rom, soft-loaded back into Ram, then the program wouldn’t work — and somebody would have to do quite a bit of sorting out before it ever would.

“That obviously doesn’t help with our existing Vic20 software, but our Commodore 64 Roms are already protected in this way mainly because piracy was seen as easier: on the 64 there is Ram-backed Rom.”

Other manufacturers of Rom software for the Vic20 are also concerned by Soft-switch.

Audiogenic’s David Smithson commented: “With software piracy becoming prevalent, software houses will begin to lose money and software of reasonable quality will stop being written because it will no longer be worthwhile. Authors might as well go and become postmen and earn more money.”

Thorn EMI sells Rom software for the Vic20 and Atari machines. Hardware manager Peter Chandler said: “We are quite shocked. It is inevitable that people will bring these things out — if is very like a thing called Mycard manufactured in Taiwan for the Atari VCS.

“All our software is protected against this kind of thing — it will not work straight away and the pirate will have to do quite a bit of work on the program to run it. Hopefully, we have been devious enough. because the law gives us no protection.”

No more ZX81 titles at Smiths!

WH SMITH is to stop taking new ZX81 software titles.

A spokeswoman for the company commented: “The reason is simply that consumer demand for the ZX81 has lessened.

“The ZX81 has been around for a long time and the Spectrum machine offers many more facilities.”
WH Smith will however, carry on selling the ZX81.

“We cannot forecast what future demand for the machine will be, but at present we will continue to sell it and support it with our main lines of software.”

A spokesman for Sinclair Research Would not confirm that his company had been aware of the WH Smith move, but he said that no ZX81 hardware or software orders had been received from the retailer for at least a couple of months. “There has been a drop in ZX81 sales over the last six months and the price drop from £49.95 to £39.95 was designed to keep the machine going,” he said.

“The ZX81- is now not selling in anything like the quantities of the Spectrum, but certainly enough to justify it remaining in production.” Prism, who handled distribution of Sinclair hardware and software to all but the very large retailers, was not aware of Smith’s move. Prism managing director Bob Denton commented: “It does not surprise me. WH Smith has been doing some very strange things with the ZX81 recently.

“As far as Prism is concerned, ZX81 software is still very buoyant. — we have just introduced some new titles. The hardware, however, has slackened off considerably. I expect that by October we will find some product shortages.

Prices slashed on Oric

ORIC has announced substantial price reductions on its 16K and 48K machines.
The 48K comes down by £30 to £139.95 and the I6K returns, after a brief spell at £129.95, to its original launch price of £99.95.

This brings Oric prices into line with those of its nearest competitor, the Sinclair Spectrum. Following recent Sinclair cost cutting, the 48K Spectrum was being offered at the same price as the 16K Oric. Now the rival 16K machines are matched price for price, but the 48K Oric remains £10 more expensive than its Sinclair competitor.

The new Oric prices take effect as from July 6.

As an additional bonus, new Oric owners will soon be offered a voucher with their purchase giving them £40 off the cost of the Oric MCP40 four-colour printer/plotter currently selling for £169.95. This offer will take effect “as soon as we can print the vouchers” according to Oric’s sales director Peter Harding.

Julian becomes the video king

EIGHTEEN year old Julian Rignall has become the 1983 Video Arcade Game Champion.

Julian successfully fought off competition from over 500 of the country’s top arcade players to win the title. The best 18 met for the final held in London last Thursday. Julian received a prize of his own arcade machine, worth over’ £1,500, presented by the sponsors of the competition. UK arcade machine manufacturer, Taitel.

For the last three-and-a-half ‘months aspiring video games whizz kids have been sending in their highest scores on any Of six coin-operated games machines — Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Mr. Do, Robotron, Amidar and Defender.

The three highest scorers from each machine were then brought together by the competition organisers, computer and Video Games magazine. The six best players — one from each machine — then played off on a new machine none of them had seen — Taitel’s Gyruss, unveiled for the first time at the final.

Julian achieved his title with a score of 73,100. He won through to the final with a Defender score of 5,248,5211 on a machine on the Royal Pier, Aberystwyth. From Tregaron in Dyfed, he is currently taking his ‘A’ levels prior to studying graphic design at Brighton College.

Close runner-up in the competition was David Ross, 15. from the Isle of Wight with a score on Gyruss of 72,350.

Unexciting trade show

MICROTRADE ‘83, Britain’s first show exclusively for manufacturers and dealers, was rather a let dawn.

Few exhibitors attended the three-day event at the Barbican last week and even fewer had anything new to offer. The 55 exhibitors included only 15 or so of interest to the home computer user. Four manufacturers were there — Jupiter, Camputers, Video Technology and One — with Sinclair, Commodore, Texas and Atari all staying away. On the software side only Microdeal, Imagine, Prism (distributors of Sinclair titles) and Melbourne House showed.

Interesting bits and pieces included: Jupiter’s 16+ Ace in a better case at £10 extra (£99.95), Melbourne House’s Terror-Daktil 4D game, a preview of Camputers’ first business software for the Lynx and a new company, Computer Software Associates, with a range of home business packages for the Commodore 64.