Jump to content
IGNORED

Keyboard Component Spelling Challenge Play-through


decle
 Share

Recommended Posts

Happy Intellivision Day 2021!

 

Following our work on Conversational French, we've captured and digitized Spelling Challenge.  Like Conversational French and Jack Lalanne, Spelling Challenge was written by APh for Mattel.  We know from the 2004 CGE panel that Peter Kaminiski was one of the programmers (24:40).

 

Now don't get your hopes up!  It's unlikely that Spelling Challenge is going to blow you away. :|

 

The premise is that by correctly spelling words you help a monkey to feed a crocodile with coconuts.  What is it with Mattel's educational primate fixation?  Having shaken the coconuts from the tree, they have to be floated into the air using balloons, before they're picked off by a passing bird which ferries them to the crocodile!?  Why this convoluted process? :ponder:  Don't know!  Sounds like an idea generated at the end of a particularly long and liquid lunch to me.  The result is that you have to spell each word correctly three times to complete a level.  The game comes with five predefined lists, each containing 20 words.  The words to be spelled in the first two lessons are represented by sounds, in the remaining lists they're just spoken.  The player can also record their own lesson of up to 20 words with associated noises or spoken cues, providing unlimited spelling entertainment!

 

Here's a quick "highlights" video:
 

 

OK, so calling these highlights is probably stretching things.  Even for an edutainment title Spelling Challenge is pretty lack lustre.  Having to spell each word three times turns each list into a bit of a slog, it's missing the competitive, two player aspect of Math Fun or Word Fun, and it doesn't provide a timer, score or track your progress.

 

For the completionists, here are the full set of lessons (apologies for the changes in exposure on scene changes, this is caused by my cheaping out on an AV capture device).  For Animal Sounds we've provided a full play-through of all three game phases so you can see all the animations.  However, for the other lessons we only show shaking the coconuts from the tree. The balloon and bird sections have the same animations as Animal Sounds, and once the coconuts are on the ground, you've heard all the pre-recorded audio content:

 

 

And finally, you can record your own lists like this:
 

 

As was mentioned in the Conversational French "making of" video, the Kitty Faker cannot record audio, so we can't demonstrate using a home word list.


So far, we've not found Easter Eggs in Spelling Challenge.  The nearest to one is the rather cryptic text "SIGNAL for condition not ENABLEd" found in one of the program records (the capitalisation is as it's written in the program).  We've not worked out how this message is triggered or what it means yet.
 

As noted by @Lathe26, the K/C software was pretty expensive, with recommended prices between $50 and $70.  As a comparison, a regular Inty cart cost $25 at the time, and a tape from the album chart was between $7 and $10.  Spelling Challenge's program and audio amounts to about 8 minutes of content on the tape (1:15 of program and 6:30 of audio samples).  Although, as @intvnut has pointed out, at 12K decles of program, the game is quite a bit bigger than something like Math Fun.  Was it value for money?  We leave it to you to decide.

 

Again, credit to @Knarfian, @Ron The Cat, @Lathe26 and @intvnut for their help in bringing this to you.

 

Right, on to Jack Lalanne!

 


Cheers

 

decle
 

 

 

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The synopsis for this program reminds me of some folk tales from Senegal (and possibly other African/Middle Eastern countries). In particular there is one about a crocodile who is told by his mother to go out to hunt for monkey heart for dinner. He locates a monkey in the trees and befriends him. The crocodile is on his way to invite the monkey home, and admits that he is looking for monkey heart. The monkey tells him that the monkey has left his heart at the top of the tree so he has to run back to fetch it. Once at the top of the tree, the monkey throws down some coconuts for the crocodile and tells him that is the monkey heart. The crocodile is fooled, picks up the coconuts and heads home only to get scolded by his mother crocodile. In some variations of the tale, the coconuts may be figs or plums but generally it is the same story. There were no birds involved in that one though.

 

It would appear that this tale might have been the inspiration to the above program. There is also the Alligator Swamp game on the Sharp MZ-80 (later ported to Commodore PET and which I made an unfinished Intellivision game in the 2015 IntyBASIC competition) which may have similar origins.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, carlsson said:

The synopsis for this program reminds me of some folk tales from Senegal (and possibly other African/Middle Eastern countries). In particular there is one about a crocodile who is told by his mother to go out to hunt for monkey heart for dinner. He locates a monkey in the trees and befriends him. The crocodile is on his way to invite the monkey home, and admits that he is looking for monkey heart. The monkey tells him that the monkey has left his heart at the top of the tree so he has to run back to fetch it. Once at the top of the tree, the monkey throws down some coconuts for the crocodile and tells him that is the monkey heart. The crocodile is fooled, picks up the coconuts and heads home only to get scolded by his mother crocodile. In some variations of the tale, the coconuts may be figs or plums but generally it is the same story. There were no birds involved in that one though.

 

It would appear that this tale might have been the inspiration to the above program. There is also the Alligator Swamp game on the Sharp MZ-80 (later ported to Commodore PET and which I made an unfinished Intellivision game in the 2015 IntyBASIC competition) which may have similar origins.

I can't say I am familiar with that folk tale, but it sounds a lot like one of Chuck Jones' Bugs Bunny cartoons, in which a mother buzzard sends her not-so-bright son to get a rabbit for dinner.  He tries to convince Bugs Bunny to come with him, but the rabbit just tricks him into returning with ... something else, I don't recall.  It's quite funny, as most of Chuck Jones' work is, even though on the surface the underlying story may seem a bit ... strange and sordid.

Edited by DZ-Jay
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah. Given that Mattel licensed a few cartoon characters in games, it wouldn't have been out of place to use Bugs Bunny in educational software for the upcoming Keyboard Component. Perhaps the costs would have outweighed the sales profit so they saved such licensing to games that were projected to reach some serious volumes.

 

Here is a slightly different rendering of the tale by the way (though it has very little to do with Intellivision at this point).

 

Edited by carlsson
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, decle said:

Happy Intellivision Day 2021!

 

Following our work on Conversational French, we've captured and digitized Spelling Challenge.  Like Conversational French and Jack Lalanne, Spelling Challenge was written by APh for Mattel.  We know from the 2004 CGE panel that Peter Kaminiski was one of the programmers (24:40).

 

Now don't get your hopes up!  It's unlikely that Spelling Challenge is going to blow you away. :|

 

The premise is that by correctly spelling words you help a monkey to feed a crocodile with coconuts.  What is it with Mattel's educational primate fixation?  Having shaken the coconuts from the tree, they have to be floated into the air using balloons, before they're picked off by a passing bird which ferries them to the crocodile!?  Why this convoluted process? :ponder:  Don't know!  Sounds like an idea generated at the end of a particularly long and liquid lunch to me.  The result is that you have to spell each word correctly three times to complete a level.  The game comes with five predefined lists, each containing 20 words.  The words to be spelled in the first two lessons are represented by sounds, in the remaining lists they're just spoken.  The player can also record their own lesson of up to 20 words with associated noises or spoken cues, providing unlimited spelling entertainment!

 

Here's a quick "highlights" video:
 

 

OK, so calling these highlights is probably stretching things.  Even for an edutainment title Spelling Challenge is pretty lack lustre.  Having to spell each word three times turns each list into a bit of a slog, it's missing the competitive, two player aspect of Math Fun or Word Fun, and it doesn't provide a timer, score or track your progress.

 

For the completionists, here are the full set of lessons (apologies for the changes in exposure on scene changes, this is caused by my cheaping out on an AV capture device).  For Animal Sounds we've provided a full play-through of all three game phases so you can see all the animations.  However, for the other lessons we only show shaking the coconuts from the tree. The balloon and bird sections have the same animations as Animal Sounds, and once the coconuts are on the ground, you've heard all the pre-recorded audio content:

 

 

And finally, you can record your own lists like this:
 

 

As was mentioned in the Conversational French "making of" video, the Kitty Faker cannot record audio, so we can't demonstrate using a home word list.


So far, we've not found Easter Eggs in Spelling Challenge.  The nearest to one is the rather cryptic text "SIGNAL for condition not ENABLEd" found in one of the program records (the capitalisation is as it's written in the program).  We've not worked out how this message is triggered or what it means yet.
 

As noted by @Lathe26, the K/C software was pretty expensive, with recommended prices between $50 and $70.  As a comparison, a regular Inty cart cost $25 at the time, and a tape from the album chart was between $7 and $10.  Spelling Challenge's program and audio amounts to about 8 minutes of content on the tape (1:15 of program and 6:30 of audio samples).  Although, as @intvnut has pointed out, at 12K decles of program, the game is quite a bit bigger than something like Math Fun.  Was it value for money?  We leave it to you to decide.

 

Again, credit to @Knarfian, @Ron The Cat, @Lathe26 and @intvnut for their help in bringing this to you.

 

Right, on to Jack Lalanne!

 


Cheers

 

decle


That's very ... uhm ... interesting.

 

Still, it's exciting to see the software in action and the vision the designers had on the use cases for the Keyboard Component.

 

Notwithstanding, I feel I need to say this.


Decle, my friend, pay attention:

 

TRUNK:

image.thumb.jpeg.2a59be24bea70bc0df5c09c3f57423d3.jpeg
 

 

NO TRUNK:

image.thumb.jpeg.47fff469ed6d1ff5d08f2d23d4bf1881.jpeg


 

Got it?

 

????

  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...
On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

We know from the 2004 CGE panel that Peter Kaminiski was one of the programmers (24:40).

Kaminski also remarks that he worked on Math Challenge. Have you found any tapes of that?

On the same recording Karen Nugent recalls working on Art Ulene (weight loss). Have you found any tapes of that?

 

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

Now don't get your hopes up!  It's unlikely that Spelling Challenge is going to blow you away.

This tape was prepared as a sales demonstrator—fading memories recall that it wasn't offered for sale. D. Johnson wrote that the actual product under development had 40 separate themed animations sync'd to the school year (Labor day, Columbus Day with boats crossing the Atlantic, Halloween with a witch throwing pumpkins, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Washington's Birthday, Valentine's Day, Easter, etc.), that there would be different tapes for different grade levels and that marketing was trying to coordinate with school book publishers. The same sort of thing was happening with Math Challenge.

Compared with the other non-BASIC programs (Jack Lalanne, French, Art Ulene, Astrology), the graphics you see in this tape are very simple. The balloons were used in Bear Run, and I have just the vaguest of feelings that I've seen the palm tree and alligator somewhere before. The same screen is used for all six lessons and looks to me like something a programmer cobbled together as a place holder. In words used elsewhere on this forum, "Not very Mattel."

But c'mon; the animation of the monkey blowing up the balloon and tying it to the coconut is kind of cute. The bird feeding the coconut to the alligator is unexpectedly off-the-wall and kind of funny too. But it's definitely a "funny once," which is all marketing needed for a demonstrator.

The lessons end with the message, "Hit RETURN to study another list." (Emphasis added.) None of the five pre-programmed lessons are worth studying. Indeed, those five "lessons" aren't lessons at all--why go through each of the words/sounds in them three times? But they would have made great ammunition for a slick and accomplished snake-oil salesman.

You also have to remember that the early Intellivision work was all done under the auspices of the Preliminary Design department, whose charter was to explore ideas. The five pre-programmed lists have the feel of such an exploration, made by individuals who grew up in the sixties.

 

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

Here's a quick "highlights" video:
 

 

Ah, but what exactly are you showing here? The palm tree leaves, left side of the pyramids and riverbank all show higher resolution pixels than the Intellivision can generate. Furthermore, some of your color transition artifacts seem off. If there were a flag it would probably be rippling in the breeze. J'Accuse!

 

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

What is it with Mattel's educational primate fixation?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNON8bNk7vw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqtFbAd5M0s

 

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

Having to spell each word three times turns each list into a bit of a slog

Your parents are making you practice your school spelling list, what do you expect? "No playing games until you can show me you completed your lesson." Not only that, but you have to spell every word you misspell at least twice more. But you're absolutely right—it makes absolutely no sense to have you spell each word three times on the five pre-recorded lists that were included just for fun, and there should probably just have been a score for those. That supports the recollection that this tape is a demo rather than the final conceived program.

 

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

So far, we've not found Easter Eggs in Spelling Challenge.

Which is consistent with it being a demonstrator.

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

The nearest to one is the rather cryptic text "SIGNAL for condition not ENABLEd" found in one of the program records (the capitalisation is as it's written in the program).  We've not worked out how this message is triggered or what it means yet.

You have found a trace of an exception handler. Today we THROW rather than SIGNAL exceptions, but this hails from a time before which that was all settled. Programmers ENABLE marks at various hierarchical levels of their applications and, if a condition (usually some kind of error) is encountered below that mark control is popped to the associated exception handler to effect a soft recovery. For example, if one frame of the French cassette encounters a non-recoverable error after retries you'd want to just skip just that one frame, not crash the whole program. Or if a Jack LaLanne exercise record was corrupted you might want to grab a second copy recorded further down the tape and then transparently resume execution where you left off. (I don't know that Exercise or French actually do these things, they're just the kind of things they could use an exception handler to do.) You'd want exceptions to be handled differently depending on where you were in the program, for example, an exception occurring when you were at a top level menu would be handled differently than one occurring in the middle of a lesson. In this case you might check the stack for more footprints: it's possible that the marks are kept on the stack so that they're automatically released when popping to a higher hierarchical level. Clever folks, that APh bunch.

Although the plan was to have duplicate records where feasible, there was clearly no room for that on the French cassette and Exercise, as one of the first programs, may have coalesced too early to have been outfitted with the exception handler. You must remember that the only design work that had been done on the Keyboard Component as of January of 1979 when Chandler, Maine, Harrower and APh met in Hicksville to kick off the project was a rather naive draft of a power supply schematic. The tape mechanism selection, logic board, analog boards, CPU1 monitor, CPU2 monitor, data compression scheme, tape deck characterization, AUDIT, SLINK, MSYNC, MODIT, TSERV, DMOD, MERT/GERT, JAZZ, structured programming macro library, exception handler, PICSE, PECO, extended data widgets, modulation hardware, encoders, ½" master tape editing bays, Auto-conform, Daddy-conform, floating point library, string library, music editing and playback facility, Demonstration cassette(s), French, Exercise, BASIC, BASIC II, Spelling, Math, Tax, Super Football, Reading Comprehension, Bear Run, Game Box, Astrology, Weight Loss, Wheel of Fortune, Land Battle (originally conceived as a Keyboard Component game à la Stalingrad, emasculated to make a cartridge), text editor, spreadsheet, modem/serial interface, printer interface, Centronics interface, M-Net (a communications network, not the M-Network VCS games), assembler and linker extensions, tape duplication capability, production assembly line and diagnostic programs were all subsequently developed in parallel. Mattel management had no clue what it was letting itself in for when it green-lit this project. Richard Chang did, but that's a long story.

On 12/3/2021 at 2:43 AM, decle said:

Was it value for money?  We leave it to you to decide.

This particular cassette was a freebie sales aid—its value lay in persuading store buyers to carry the Intellivision. A more interesting question is whether the planned cassette was value for money—I suppose the answer to that would depend upon just how bad a speller your kid was, how much that bothered you and how rich you were.

Furthermore, one simply can't assess the value of computer functionality using today's standards. As Lathe26 points out elsewhere, "It's really awesome to also see how things were priced back then." And, of course, Americans are total suckers when it comes to going into great debt to pay for marginal education.

 

On 12/3/2021 at 7:12 AM, carlsson said:

Yeah. Given that Mattel licensed a few cartoon characters in games, it wouldn't have been out of place to use Bugs Bunny in educational software for the upcoming Keyboard Component.

It was easy to find licenses for random intellectual property for which you had no use; getting a specific license that worked well for your purposes was much more difficult. For example, some programmers included a "Coke" logo for a panel banner in the background of a sports game. The Coke logo worked because it was very simple: four white letters on a red background, implementable using just three two-color cards. The programmers asked marketing to get permission to use it; they didn't care whether or not Coke paid. Marketing was unable to make that deal and instead came back with logos that were too complex to implement. The Coke logo was taken out.

 

On 12/3/2021 at 7:12 AM, carlsson said:

Perhaps the costs would have outweighed the sales profit so they saved such licensing to games that were projected to reach some serious volumes.

According to D. Johnson, licensing substantially improved sales of Mattel's traditional products, not only to the public but to retailer buyers; so a 2% licensing fee was seen as trivial expense. Mattel had little experience as to how that would carry over to games and other software, but applied the formula anyway as a matter of course. The licensees were familiar with this game—with a few exceptions, they didn't want to be bothered with product development, they just wanted the free money. This quarter, if you please, but in any event before the end of the fiscal year, in time to figure in the annual report and the annual performance bonus calculations.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...