Thursday, May 12, 2016

Choose Your Own ATARI Adventure

Inside UFO 54-40 Ad
Inside UFO 54-40

Bantam Books

The Inside UFO 54-40 advertisement appeared in the promotional teacher's copy of the 1982 Choose Your Own Adventure series book Inside UFO 54-40 written by Edward Packard and illustrated by Paul Granger. Inside UFO 54-40 was the 12th book in the series. In the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, YOU are the hero of the story and YOU get to make choices leading to multiple endings in every book. The series was first published in 1979. With almost 200 unique titles, it now has over 260 million books in print in more than 40 languages.

Promotional Teacher's Copy of
UFO 54-40

The advertisement was for a contest. Bantam Books was holding a contest for educators in which they would submit their ideas for using the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books in the classroom.  All contest entries had to be postmarked by December 31, 1982.  The winner would receive an Atari 400 home computer, the Atari Educator and the Atari PILOT Educators Package.  

The Atari Educator was a package that contained the Atari BASIC language cartridge, the Atari 410 Program Recorder, the States & Capitals educational software on cassette tape and a manual.

The Educator by Atari

The Atari PILOT Educators Package was another behemoth software package by Atari shipped in a large black cardboard-reinforced binder almost three inches thick. It contained the Atari PILOT language cartridge, two cassettes tapes with demonstration programs, four manuals and a reference card. As a "simple programming language" for children, PILOT sure came with a lot of manuals!

In an interview with Choose Your Own Adventure book series founder R. A. Montgomery, he mentions that  "... we were on the Atari set top box in 1982. Bantam, our original publisher, actually started a little software division just for us. It was the text of a story interspersed with some early eye-hand coordination games and some puzzles."   

In a 2014 Gizmodo article commemorating the passing of  R.A. Montgomery, Alissa Walker states that "Here’s what I didn’t know when I was devouring piles of his books back when I was nine: Montgomery also was a pioneer in children’s gaming tech. He adapted two Choose Your Own Adventure titles for Atari in 1984, and went on to create CD-ROM games for Apple in 1990 (he was an early and enthusiastic Apple fan). It makes perfect sense: In many ways, the books were like the role-playing games Montgomery had designed. This was a way to bring that idea full circle when the technology emerged to make it all possible.

Sadly, despite what these two quotes mention, no Choose Your Own Adventure titles seem to have been completed and/or released for the Atari 8-bit home computers or any of the Atari game consoles. Two games based on the book series, The Cave of Time and Escape were written for the Apple II and the Commodore 64 home computers and released in 1985.

The Cave Of Time
for the
Commodore 64
I bought my first computer, an Atari 400 in March 1982 when I was in the 8th grade. During the summer of 1982, between 8th grade and my freshman year in high school, I attended a two-week summer computer camp at the local community college. We spent most of the day learning BASIC programming on the Apple II computers in the lab. I can clearly remember one of the other student/campers converting the book The Cave Of Time, the first book in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, into an Apple II BASIC text adventure. Good times.  

ESCAPE for the Commodore 64

[2018-09-24 Update] In the summer of 2018, a new board game based on the Choose Your Own Adventure book series was released.

Thanks to Giann Velasquez for some late night back and forth texting to complete this post. See the Spanish translation of this ad and more on his Peruvian Atari blog Atariteca.  

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