Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Advertisements from a 1982 issue of Creative Computing

Old computer magazines are awesome. Especially when you're my age (41) and you grew up during the rise of microcomputers and have seen first-hand how much computer technology has advanced from the 1970s to today.

Today's advertisements are 30 years old, from the March 1982 issue of Creative Computing

Pictured at right is the full-page advertisement for Commodore's VIC-20. The ad touts the computer's 16 colors, four sound generators, 66 graphic characters, expandable memory (to 32K!) and Microsoft/PET BASIC. Peripherals available included a joystick, paddles, disk drive, printer and cassette unit.2

"The Friendly Computer" came with a price tag of just $299.95. (That would be about $668 in 2010 dollars.3)

Speaking of Microsoft, it has a pair of full-page advertisements in this issue. One is for the Manager Series of software (Time Manager, Project Manager and Personnel Manager).4 The other is for TASC, the Applesoft Compiler, which converted standard Applesoft BASIC programs into "super-fast machine code."

What was most interesting to me, though, was seeing the 1982 version of Microsoft's logo on these advertisements:

Meanwhile, the microcomputer advertisement at right is for the Atari 800 and trumpets the computer's graphics. The ad copy states:
"3.7 million reasons why the ATARI Home Computer is something to see. The display screen used with our computers is composed of 192 horizontal lines, each containing 320 dots. Delivering color and luminosity instructions to each dot for a second requires 3.7 million cycles ... a lot of work for the normal 6502 processor.

"That's why the ATARI computer has equipped its 6502 with its own electronic assistant. It's called ANTIC, and it handles all the display work, leaving the 6502 free to handle the rest."
Here's a closer look at the cutting-edge graphics that Atari and ANTIC helped to create:

There is no mention of the price of this Atari 800 computer.5 According to, the Atari 800 was released in November 1979 with a price of $999.95 (about $2,963 in 2010 dollars).

By May 1983, however, Atari was offering a $100 rebate on the machine, which brought its retail price below $400, according to So a good guess would be that, by March 1982, this microcomputer cost somewhere between $500 and $700 -- about twice the advertised price of the VIC-20.

How about some peripherals and software? Below is an advertisement for Okidata's printers, with their standard typewriter ribbons, dot-matrix output and speeds ranging from 120-200 characters per second and 76-to-114 lines per minute.

Here are some other advertised products and their prices from this 1982 issue:
  • Ricochet, a strategy game from Automated Simulations, cost $19.95 ($44.47 in 2010 dollars).
  • The Battle of Shiloh and Tigers in the Snow6 from Strategic Simulations Inc. cost $39.95 apiece for the Apple disc version ($89.05 in 2010).
  • Olaf Lubeck's "Red Alert"7 from Brøderbund Software cost $29.95 ($66.76 in 2010).
  • Sharp's 64K business computer was on sale for just $3,995.95 ($8907.23 in 2010!).
  • Grammatik from Aspen Software Company was a spelling- and grammar-check program that cost $54 ($120.37 in 2010).
  • Tax-Manager from Micro Lab was an early tax-preparation assistant that was available for the introductory price of $150 ($334.36 in 2010).
  • Mountain Software of San Bernardino, California, had plenty of popular early software titles -- including Sargon II, Castle Wolfenstein, Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess, Ultima, Star Warrior and Infocom's famous Zork8 -- available for prices generally ranging from $24.95 to $39.95.
So many memories! I could write about the advertisements and articles in this old issue of Creative Computing for hours. As it is, today's entry only spanned material from the first 50 pages of the 256-page magazine.

So you can expect a sequel or two to this blog post down the road. Let me know if there's any particular kind of computer-magazine history you'd like me to delve into.

I'll leave you with this cute cartoon from the same issue:

(I can assure you, though, that I did note write today's post while wearing my jammmies.)

1. The magazine, which had a cover price of $2.95, touted itself as "the #1 magazine of computer applications and software." It was published from 1974 until December 1985.
2. I had a computer-programming class during eighth grade at Madeira Beach Middle School, and we saved all of our programs onto cassette tapes. We were definitely the cool kids!
3. All of this post's price equivalents are from The Inflation Calculator.
4. The Microsoft Manager Series advertisement states: "The Manager Series from Microsoft turns an inexpensive personal computer into an executive's toolbox. Not a computer programmer's toolbox. An executive's toolbox. Computerized management tools for non-computer people. ... Even if you've never used a computer before, you should be able to productively use the Manager Series in a very short time."
5. Atari did offer copies of the Atari 800's "Technical User's Notes" -- intended for the serious programmer -- for a mere $27.
6. Game description: "Ghostlike Nazi Tiger tanks and infantry sweep across the dark, frozen forests of the Ardennes against a surprised U.S. force in the division/regiment-level simulation of Hitler's last desperate attack."
7. Game description: "Your civilization is under attack by the stinging space meanies and vicious thudputters. A protective shield slows their assault, but without quick counteraction your defenses will crumble one by one." (So, there. I've worked both Hitler and thudputters into these footnotes.)
8. Here's a list of places where you can download Zork or play it online for free.


  1. You can play it for free at my house!

  2. Wow! It's amazing to see how far computer technology has come! While I don't have any specific suggestions for future computer-magazine history posts, I very much look forward to reading the sequels!

  3. That very same VIC-20 advertisement was also used in poster form (minus the quoted price). I remember back in 1981 when my parents took me around to different stored to buy my very first computer. One of the last places we went to look for a computer was the Computerland store out on Prospect Road.

    I never really knew about Commodore computers at the time. Computerland was mainly an Apple shop, but they did stock the Commodore PET and (at the time) a brand new "Friendly Computer", the VIC-20.

    The salesman pointed to the VIC-20 poster and it piqued my curiosity. After being led to the demo machine, I was hooked. I almost picked a Radio Shack TRS-80 CoCo as my first computer until I saw the VIC-20. It had everything I wanted and at a great price.

    I still own that same VIC-20, and it still works. I hook it up to a TV from time to time to (ahem) play some of the few games I have for it. You know, just to make sure it works, right? (wink, wink)

  4. An interesting note about computer magazines at the time is the scope of the content.

    Magazines like Creative Computing "generalized" computer information and abstracted the finer details so the public could understand basic computing concepts.

    To really dig into the details about computers at the time, one would need to choose from the many brand specific computing magazines. Of course, ads in those magazines were more for peripheral and software add-ons and not necessarily for advertising the computers themselves.

  5. wonering about the poster in the upper left.