Sinclair ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium

Sinclair zx visual

Following up on my prior post on The Art of Atari, fans of British retro computing will want to get a copy of the fascinating "Sinclair ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium" published by Bitmap Books in the UK. Though not as comprehensive as "The Art of Atari" the book provides extensive artwork on 100 classic ZX Spectrum games, as well as interviews with the designers and artists behind these games.

It's a heavy-duty 300 page book available in high quality paperback or luxurious hardcover editions. For fans of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, it is truly in a league of its own. Luckily fans of the equally popular Commodore 64 are not left out; there's an equally compelling Commodore 64 Visual Compendium for them.

Art of Atari

Art atari

If you're a fan of ''70s era retro computing, or graphic design in general, you should check out Dan Lapetino's "Art of Atari."  First of all, it's worth noting this is a hefty book; it clocks in at just about 300 full color pages in a nice hardback binding. And this book covers everything you could wish for from this era. It includes plenty of over-the-top cheesy Atari game box art, artist profiles, ads, screenshots (which never even come close to living up to the box art), rough drafts, artist notes, industrial design and more. The book skews more towards the console side of Atari than the personal computer era and largely stops at the end of the '70s. That said, it includes profiles on the Atari 400 and 800 which were released in 1979.

I was more of an Apple ][ than Atari, but it's clear the influence Atari design esthetic influenced an entire industry. And some of the artists profiled were influential in the Apple world also. But if Lapetino or anyone else decides to create a book like this that covers Apple in the late '70s and early '80s, I'm all in.

"Art of Atari" is available on Amazon and most good bookstores. And coming up soon, I'll take a look at a similar book focused on early '80s UK home computing...

Last chance to support Bob Bates' IF Kickstarter


Infocom author and gaming legend Bob Bates is running a Kickstarter project to support his new IF game "Thaumistry: In Charm's Way." Bates was the only non-Infocom employee who wrote for the company with two classic IF titles to his credit ("Sherlock" and "Arthur"). Bates also co-founded Legend Entertainment, and published a series of innovative graphical adventures that married some of the best elements of parser driven interactive fiction with good graphics, publishing titles such as "Timequest", "Spellcasting 101" and others. 

The Kickstarter project has met it's funding goal, but is now on it's way to stretch goals that would enable the development of digital feelies and possibly porting to more platforms. 

If you're interested in modern IF or want to pay homage to one of the original IF authors, I encourage you to help fund this project. It ends late tonight Feb 21. 

Chris Huang's Peterkins Game

Peterkins game 2

Noted IF author Chris Huang is back in action with a short piece of IF called "Mustard, Music and Murder."  Though the title seems a bit eccentric, maybe that's the point. This is a tie-in with Huang's golden age detective novel "Murder at the Veteran's Club" which is available for pre-order at Inkshares. Although I expect this game to be shorter than his previous murder mystery "An Act of Murder", I'm sure it will be a lot of fun. 

"Murder at the Veteran's Club" is published via InkShares and is at the half-way point of achieving it's pre-order goal. For $10 you get the book and help an author who has contributed so much to IF. Heck if you're a first time buyer at Inkshares, you can even get $5 off. I hope many IF fans will step up and support this creative project. Don't just tweet it, buy it.

You can get regular updates at Chris's blog.

Murder at the Veteran's Club

Murder at the veterans club

IF community member, author and reviewer Chris Huang, is publishing a book called "Murder at the Veteran's Club" that looks to be a classic "golden age" detective novel in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton, P.D. James, Agatha Christie and others. 

His award winning "An Act of Murder" remains one of my favorite IF games and helped rekindle my interest in the genre. If you haven't played it, you really should. And if you like it half as much as I did, you'll jump over to Inkshares to pre-order a copy of "Murder at the Veteran's Club" right now! Chris has been a huge contributor to the IF community and I'm sure he'll appreciate the vote of confidence. 

The book is published via InkShares and so if there aren't enough pre-orders, the book doesn't get published. (And perhaps worse things though, I'm not sure.)  If everyone pitched in, I'm sure we could put this book over the threshold this week. And I really want to read it.

You can also get regular updates at Chris's blog.

Underground Radio - An Open Source Rock Opera

Zack and rob studio 4x3 with titles

My buddy Rob and I are almost finished with our epic '70s homage rock opera Underground Radio. It's been nearly two years in the making. It includes 20 original songs, 4 vocalists, a slew of vintage amp simulations, guitar effects, hammond b3 organ, handclaps, cowbells, backwards guitars and more. Also we even got a 30 piece symphony orchestra!

Underground Radio is inspired by music of The Pretty Things, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Clash, The Jam, The Stranglers, Television, Pink Floyd and others. It's set in a dystopian future under an evil surveillance government, 50 years of winter, rock music is illegal. But these two guys try to jam the government's systems with rock and roll, yada yada yada.

All of the songs will be published under a Creative Commons license so they can be used royalty free by anyone in their own creative projects, like films, games, you name it.

We've posted the project on Kickstarter to raise funds for the final mixing and mastering. Any contribution, even $5-6 is greatly appreciated. (If you want to splurge, we'll write a song for you or take you out for lunch!)  If you can help spread the word on social media, that's much appreciated.

Once this is done, I'll get back to my other creative project: The Z-Machine Matter.

Update: The music and Libretto are now available for free download at



Lights Out Old Time Radio


I recently ran across the Lights Out old time radio (OTR) show from the '30s and '40s. I've always been a fan of the old Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar radio shows. Lights Out predates these and has a uniquely gripping, if occasionally gruesome, style. These stories have a fascinating noir feel to them, not unlike some of the 1950's EC Comics' Weird Fantasy or Crime Suspense Stories or later Twilight Zone. As the shows were originally broadcast after midnight and without advertising, they went well beyond the usual "family friendly" radio dramas that most people are familiar with.

Perhaps the most famous from this series is the "Chicken Heart" episode. But I can also recommend "Oxychloride X," "Man in the Middle," "They Met at Dorset," "Author and the Thing," and "Christmas Story." Actually, they're all pretty good if you don't mind the occasional second-rate acting.

LightsOut -- ChickenHeart

If you're interested, check them out on the Internet Archive where you can download many of the shows made in the '40s by Arch Oboler. Oboler built on the work by series originator Wyllis Cooper, and added an interesting anti-fascist political style to some of the shows. 

Mike Berlyn Needs Our Help

Mark Blank Michael Berlyn 1985

Michael Berlyn, one of Infocom's more prolific authors (Suspended, Cuththroats, Infidel, Fooblitsky, Zork - The-Undiscovered Underground) is raising $36k for cancer treatment. His games touched a lot of peoples lives. Lets do the right thing and help Mike out. Go to GoFundMe to make a donation.

Papers, Please! Now on iPad

Papers please ipad

The brilliant, quirky indie game Papers, Please is now available for iPad. This is an 8-bit retro style simulation where you work as a border control agent in the cold-war era Soviet republic of Arstotzka. If you haven't tried Papers, Please in the original Mac / Windows / Linux versions, this is a great port. The game is still just as creepy as the original. While there's no new content, the touch interface of the iPad works very well in viewing, stamping and passing documents over the counter.

There was a brief flap earlier this week when Apple told indie developer Lucas Pope to remove the nudity from the game (which appears when you use the x-ray machine. But thankfully all of that's been resolved.

Best of all, Papers, Please is on sale this weekend on iTunes for just $5.99.
Glory to Arstotzka!

Hard Case Crime Sale

Hard Case Crime Sale

Hardcase Crime's publisher Titan Books has put on a summer sale with more than 30 ebooks available for $2 or less at Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. The sale includes classic pulp authors Mickey Spillane, E. Howard Hunt, Brett Halliday, Robert Bloch, Robert B. Parker as well as more recent works by Max Alan Collins, Jason Starr, Ken Bruen and editor Charles Ardai.

This is a great opportunity to stock up on some classic noir fiction to inspire your own writing.