Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 5    August 1998

Little-Known Products

by Chris Federico and Adam Trionfo

Combat for Odyssey 2

Combat for the Odyssey 2 -- We found this game to be excellent. The only problem is that you have very limited space for movement, as the tanks and the score fill up the entire screen. As you can imagine, this makes dodging bullets especially difficult.

The Amiga SkiBoard -- Before they revealed that they were actually in the electronics biz to manufacture computers, Amiga released several 2600-compatible controllers, including a palm-sized joystick and the wacky JoyBoard, a large, floor-based controller that required the user to stand on its side-ramps, tilting according to how he wanted his character to move.

A prototype has been unearthed of the SkiBoard, a pair of skis housed in a T-bar that extends upward and holds two skiing poles. In order to play the included game Ski! Ski! Ski!, the user would have been required to rake the poles across his floor in an alternating fashion, triggering small electronic contacts in the pole bases, while simultaneously sliding the skis backward and forward. The product was never released, apparently due to Amiga's worries that 2600 owners would complain about rips in their living room carpets, not to mention the uncomfortably tight boots mounted on the skis (all size 5).

Microsoft BASIC for the Atari 2600 -- This product was completed in 1982 by the software giant that created the standard BASIC language for all 8-bit micros. Seeing the obvious limitations of the Atari 2600's version of BASIC, Microsoft wrote a much improved version that took complete advantage of the 2600 hardware. There were a few reasons that this was not released.

The primary reason was that it required the user to upgrade the 2600 to include the following: 64K of RAM, a 360K 5&1/4" floppy drive, a standard ASCII keyboard, and a 10-meg hard drive. Microsoft was working on a hardware project codenamed The Super, Super, Really Good SuperCharger. It would have included all of the hardware needed to run Microsoft BASIC on the Atari 2600, including MS-DOS and the original version of Windows (soon to be re-released as Windows NT 5.0).

Although the cost of the software was to be about average, $399 retail, the cost of the extra hardware was to be quite a bit more -- $5,999 without the hard drive, or $8,999 with the drive (but no controller). Microsoft believed that many Atari users would be willing to pay for this upgrade. They may have been right, but due to the video-game crash of the early eighties, MS BASIC has never been released -- which is a shame, since it really was a fine product.

There are rumors that much of the code for Visual BASIC 6 is based on the final, but unreleased, version of Microsoft BASIC for the 2600. Microsoft did release a few copies to dealers in 1982 (on MS-DOS for Atari-formatted disks), but no one at the time was able to run the software because the additional hardware was not yet available. The code eventually migrated to the Internet in 1995, thanks to the hard work of Kilgore Trout. However, no one has been able to run the software. Hopefully, Microsoft will release the required hardware soon at a reasonable price so that we may all enjoy this superior product.

Le' Car -- Remember all of the "Le" products that came out in the '80s? Video games weren't safe from that strange semantic trend. This game is basically Night Driver -- well, okay, it is Night Driver -- but the manual has been translated into French, which is so...y'know...exotic.

Nerf™ Boomerang Joystick -- The only tube joystick ever made (thought to be as effective as tube amplifiers, and manufactured via a cooperative cross-over deal between Atari and Peavey), this Nerf™ controller was thought to be the solution for players who'd angrily throw their joysticks. Unfortunately, as the product was still quite heavy due to all of the internal circuitry, all play-testers were killed, and the item never made the shelf.

The Gullible Reader -- This is not a software or hardware product. It is the real name of the article that you are currently reading. -- OC&GS