Matt Chat 154: Jennell on Coleco, Adam, and Bard's Tale IV

Matt Barton's picture

I'm back this week with part 2 of my interview with Jennell Jaquays. This week, we turn to her time at Coleco during the early 80s, when she worked on a prototype that I'm sure Mr. Bill L. would love to get his hands on--an RPG that combined two "hot" techs of the time--bar codes and speech chips. It never materialized, but it sounds amazing. Jennell also describes why the ADAM was a failure from an engineering perspective. Next, we turn to Bard's Tale IV, and get a look behind-the-scenes of what would have been the most ambitious Bard's Tale game ever. I was interested to know that it offered three different perspectives.

Download the episode here. As always, if you like the show and want to see more episodes, donate today. I've had a few people inexplicably cancelling their subscriptions lately, so I'd really appreciate your contributions to keep this show in production.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Coleco Adam

There was and is nothing wrong with the concept of the Adam. In fact, it sold quite well initially, but the issue was one of quality control, which doomed further sales. Coleco as a toy company could get away with dubious quality control for a console, but the tolerances required were much higher for a computer. Once Coleco righted most of the manufacturing issues, it was too late. Obviously, putting the power supply in the printer was foolish and using unrealiable tape for storage were all negatives, but if it worked reliably, it would have been just fine. Losses from the issues with the Adam doomed the ColecoVision, which very well could have weathered the crash based on how it was continuing to sell.

By the way, the Adam's disk drive was actually excellent - high speed and reliable - and, not only was its BASIC (which it too, was improved over time) very similar to AppleSoft BASIC, but also like the Apple II series, the Adam had expansion slots. Coleco did get SOME things right.

You can see the potential that the Adam would have had in the MSX series of computers, which had very similar capabilities. You'd also be surprised at the number of games that were finished or near finished that debuted first or were ported to the Adam. If it survived even one more year, it would have been an even more interesting system than it ultimately ended up being.

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Matt Barton
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Future Feature?
Bill Loguidice wrote:

There was and is nothing wrong with the concept of the Adam. In fact, it sold quite well initially, but the issue was one of quality control, which doomed further sales. Coleco as a toy company could get away with dubious quality control for a console, but the tolerances required were much higher for a computer. Once Coleco righted most of the manufacturing issues, it was too late. Obviously, putting the power supply in the printer was foolish and using unrealiable tape for storage were all negatives, but if it worked reliably, it would have been just fine. Losses from the issues with the Adam doomed the ColecoVision, which very well could have weathered the crash based on how it was continuing to sell.

Do I sense a great feature article on the Adam coming up?

Lots of fun what if's there. It's fascinating to think of the ColecoVision weathering the crash and competing with the NES.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
So much to talk about...
Matt Barton wrote:

Lots of fun what if's there. It's fascinating to think of the ColecoVision weathering the crash and competing with the NES.

The ColecoVision was easily capable of competing with the early stuff from Nintendo, save maybe for Super Mario Bros., but it would have run into serious issues by 1987. Of course, by then, a ColecoVision 2 could have been released, perhaps similar to the MSX2 computer spec, which came out in 1986. The big issue that the ColecoVision had was lack of RAM - it only had 1K - something that the Adam addressed with a full 64K, and poor scrolling, something the NES/Famicom specialized in.

There were actually two consoles that weathered the crash, the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, though particularly the latter never with the same presence as it had pre-crash due in part to no longer being run by Mattel. New games never stopped being made for either, and both had new consoles produced into the early 90s. Post crash both were pushed as budget alternatives to the other consoles.

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Paul H
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Joined: 10/11/2011
Bards Tale IV

I had no idea a Bard's Tale IV was ever in production. The description of the silhouette scene sounds interesting.

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David Barbour
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Joined: 04/05/2012
Really interesting video,

Really interesting video, thanks Matt. As an avid fan of the show I think it's about time I made a donation.

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