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Bill Loguidice's picture

More on Avalon Hill Computer Games on Heath/Zenith platforms

I had some time to further test Telengard (which I discussed here the other day), B-1 Nuclear Bomber, Computer Football Strategy, and Computer Stocks & Bonds, which, as far as I can tell, and seems to be confirmed by the "Heath/Zenith Games" insert included with all of these boxed games, were the only H-8 H/Z-89 Z-90 H/Z-100 ports from Avalon Hill. As was stated, these games require CP/M-85 and MBASIC to work on my Z-100, which is an all-in-one model. They're all single density disks. All of the games worked, and I was able to make backups of each, though some disks did have errors, which as far as I can tell did not affect running the games or were necessarily present in the copies. It probably helps that these were more or less one or two program BASIC files.

One thing I should point out is that Avalon Hill games are notorious for having catalogs and manuals with staples that become rusty, even when the box is sealed. That was present in my sealed copies. I put any of the documentation with rusty staples in their own zip loc bags for safety, so hopefully that will solve that particular issue going forward.

Of the four games, the only game with multi-platform instructions that specifically mentioned and included the Heath/Zenith platform(s) was Computer Stocks and Bonds, otherwise, every other game just included the aforementioned insert, with the previously mentioned incorrect instructions for running Telengard. So, outside of Computer Stocks & Bonds, you basically had to use the generic instructions for keyboard commands and otherwise wing it.

On a side note, Avalon Hill specialized in supporting many, many platforms with single games right up to the mid-80s through a combination of games written in BASIC and the use of cassette tapes, the former making ports easy and the latter allowing multi-platforms on each side of the tape (six or more platforms on one tape was not uncommon). Naturally, with a disk, at best you could have two formats, one on each side, but all of these Heath/Zenith-based games just had the one platform. In looking at the instructions for B-1 Nuclear Bomber, which again, didn't even mention the Heath/Zenith version it was included with, the game was on Atari 8-bit, Apple II, C-64, TI-99/4 and 4a, TRS-80 Model I/III, IBM PC, and Timex/Sinclair (oddly enough, no PET or Vic-20, which were two Avalon Hill favorites). Every version was assumed on the same tape except for the IBM PC version, which mentioned being on a disk.

The Heath/Zenith versions of these games are mostly unremarkable, with rudimentary text-based graphics, with the occasional line or symbols that vaguely represented what they were intended to be. Crude, but functional, and again, the only CP/M support that I know of that Avalon Hill ever directly provided.

Here are some rough photos of the screens for each of the games just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

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Avalon Hill's Telengard for Z-90 or H/Z-100 with CP/M-85 and MBASIC: A casual tale of making it work in photos and videos

Telengard (Z-90/H/Z-100 version)Telengard (Z-90/H/Z-100 version)This right-after-the-fact casual blog posting will be about the rarest known version of Telengard, one that has not previously been documented in otherwise exhaustive historical accounts, so bear with me a bit as I set the scene... Since I lack any real electrical engineering skills, I recently sold off the non-working portions of my Otrona and Heathkit collections. Both collections went to fellow collectors who should be able to get the various systems working. While it was difficult to part with even those non-working portions of my 430+ system videogame and computer collection, this will give me more room and time to focus on all of the items that do work, and at least shows that psychologically I'll be able to part with more redundant and/or non-working portions of my collection going forward. One item in those groupings that I didn't sell off was my Zenith Z-100 all-in-one, which is the pre-assembled version of the Heathkit H-100, able to run Heathkit-branded versions of CP/M and MS-DOS thanks to its dual processors. As you may or may not recall, I was trying to get my low profile (same system, no built-in monitor) to run way back when. Long story short, among many other hurdles and much fact finding, and after acquiring an unnecessary replacement power supply and a necessary replacement disk controller board, it had a memory error on boot-up. So, I sold it along with various other Heathkit items. However, when I was going through my saga of acquiring those replacement parts, I was able to acquire a working all-in-one version, the Z-100. Now, I obviously love old technology, but truth be told, I was most interested in running the aforementioned rare versions of the official Avalon Hill games on the system. Interestingly, these ports run on the Heathkit/Zenith Z-90 or H/Z-100, as long as they're running CP/M-85 and MBASIC. Now, I did not have a copy of CP/M-85, but I was able to acquire a replacement set (among other disks) from a gentleman who provides that service for a modest fee. Unfortunately, the Avalon Hill games require MBASIC, which was NOT included by default with the Heathkit/Zenith systems apparently. Luckily, a gentleman from the SEBHC mailing list was able to come through with a copy for me. Here is what went down, told casually, as it happened a little while ago, complete with equally casual photos and videos (by the way, check out Matt Barton's old interview with the late great author of Telengard, Daniel M. Lawrence, here):

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Unfortunate Situation with the Heath/Zenith Z-100

Well, I FINALLY got around to setting up my Z-100 and going through all of the stuff, primarily in the interest of getting used to the general operation and then playing the games.

Opened up:
Heath/Zenith Z-100 opened up
Heath/Zenith Z-100 closed up

Unfortunately, after plugging it in, it briefly made a noise as if powering up, and then nothing after that. I attempted to open it up and either remove or bypass the power supply (since I have spares of various vintage), but it's really a tight case and screwed in in a configuration that is not particularly easy to tamper with. I gave up. When I mentioned this a little while ago on the SEBHC mailing list group, it was suggested that I check the power supply voltages. If they checked out, that would not be the cause of the issue(s). Naturally, I don't really know how I'd do that. I think one of the things I have to move on my to do list somehow is learning basic electronics if I'm to maintain the type of overall collection I have at present...

I guess I'll either look for an opportunity in the future to re-open it again, preferably with someone more experienced at my side, or just wait for another unit to eventually pop up for a reasonable price on eBay, then sell this one. Of course, I seem to have the worst luck with anything Heathkit (save for the Hero Jr. robot of all things, which works well for me), so I may give up on my whole Heathkit collection at some point down the line. With that said, I have some items that I really like in the Z-100 portion of my collection (particularly since my focus is primarily on games), so I'd really love to make use of them. Here's a very casual inventory I just did, which should be pretty much everything:

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Heathkit H89 Emulator Integrated with H89 Utility - Now Updated to V1.47

Les bird sent along the following update from the SEBHC Google group regarding his Heathkit H89 Emulator (I recommend checking it out just to get to try out some classic CP/M and HDOS games. Screenshots below!):

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Constructing a Heathkit H-8 Clone Computer

Les Bird has just put up a detailed Web page on the construction of his amazing Heathkit H-8 clone computer, affectionately dubbed the H8-2000, using his newly created PCBs. As a fan and collector of these types of systems - which certainly includes the H-8 - I've been following this work with much interest (and some personal investment--more on that later) on the SEBHC Google Group. Check it out here.

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Can you guess what's missing? (Heathkit H8)

Filed strictly under "fun" rather than a true contest, I was wondering if anyone can figure out the one (1) thing missing from this highly collectible Heathkit H8 computer system. The fact that the top cover is missing does not count, since I removed it so the inside of the system could be seen. In actuality, this unit is self-contained and ready to function as intended save for one key item. First correct answer to describe that key item gets a round of applause from all AA'rs and admiration from your fellow geeks everywhere!

You can view the images here. I highly recommend that after you click on an individual photo in the set that you go to "All Sizes" and pick "Original Size" to get the maximum detail.

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Hacking Robot Vacuums and other Thoughts on Personal Robotics

As a lifetime technophile primarily interested in computers and videogames, another area that has always intrigued me, but been generally hands-off due to the various barriers to entry, is home robotics. There were some delightful robots and kits in the early to mid-80's to go along with the personal computer boom. However, the personal robotics boom was short lived and ultimately a much smaller niche than even the fledgling personal computer business at the time, dooming them to the domain of the truly hardcore. Today, toy and personal robots and robot kits from the likes of Tomy and Heathkit are still very much in demand. Much more recently, Lego made a strong impact in the home robotics and hobbyist field with their Mindstorms technology and Radio Shack carries an aggressive line of kit robots and accessories. Bottom line, today hobbyist robotics is stronger than ever and more practical than ever, though is still awaiting that "killer app" to truly push it into the mainstream.

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