Commodore 64

Photo courtesy of PC World

The Joy of Retro Tech
| published March 27, 2015 |

By Earl Perkins
Thursday Review features editor

I was recently sifting through books, magazines and ephemera, with high hopes of thinning my debris. That's when I cast my eyes up and saw the book: The Best of VIC/Commodore Software.

Oh, this tome was cutting edge back in the day, but not so much these days. Now it’s just a relic and conversation piece. Published in 1984 by the editors of Consumers Guide, the book had everything you could want—educational, games, business and word processing for your home and personal use.

Even their advertising was so enticing that you might hurt yourself rushing to pay $4.98 for the spiral-bound gem. From recipe files to financial spreadsheets and adventure games, it separated the useful from the useless, the easy from the difficult, and the bargain from the rip-off. Wow. What more could you want? It was the essential reference to your software needs.

Where else could you learn all about word processing in 15 pages, including 11 programs that turn your VIC 20 or Commodore 64 into a word processor, along with software to check spelling and correct errors?

Eight incredible chapters, including business, home, education, networking, strategy games, arcade games and programming aids. It was 192 pages of detailed information that left you screaming for more.

How could you not want what would follow Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz? There was Apple Panic and Chicken Chaser, Choplifter, Demon Attack, Fort Apocalypse, Frogger, and Gorf.

With so many secrets to be shared with you, I'm shocked they didn't send it in a plain, brown wrapper with specific directions telling the world that it was to be opened by addressee only. After all, it clearly states on the back of the title page "All rights reserved" and "...may not be reproduced or quoted in whole or in part by mimeograph or any other printed means," etc. And here I am, three decades later spilling the secrets.

So many years have passed, and the dazzling advance of technology has left the Commodore 64 and all this software behind. Like our editor’s recently functioning Radio Shack TRS-80 computer whose picture tube finally gave up the ghost, this book is mere artifact and novelty—not quite antique, not quite collectible.

Alas, it's next to impossible to find this lovely book for some reason, but I've decided there's no longer a place in my life for so much greatness. I'm sure by now it is well on its way to the grindery, destined for a box factory or maybe it will return as a sack for your groceries.

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Gamergate, Politics & The Culture Wars; Isaac Fink; Thursday Review; February 13, 2015.