Radio Shack obviously sold computer games for its flagship TRS-80 line of home computers - but did you know they also sold tabletop games?
This list presents an overview of the face of gaming at Radio Shack, circa 1973-1989.
Throughout the heyday of the TRS-80 Model I/III, Radio Shack offered a small line of computer games. Many TRS-80 users owned some of these games. People also became familiar with these programs due to the open access policies of many Radio Shack stores which allowed you to liberally try out their computers and software.
Notably absent from this list are many games for the TRS-80 Color Computer. I'll leave the definitive list on that subject to someone more familiar with that platform...
"Armed only with your 'Ghost Blaster', you're out to de-spook a Ghost Town. You'll encounter a skeleton that's immune to your blast and a 'laughing ghost' with an annoying knack for waking up dangerous ghoul friends. You'll be lucky to get out alive!"
The side-scrolling background terrain made this first-person perspective shooter a unique title on the TRS-80.
"Bedlam is another new adventure from Radio Shack. There are no hidden treasures to find, no wealth to amass, no score to beat. There is only one goal--get out, if you can. Your success depends totally upon your resourcefulness and your ability to think clearly. There is always one way out, but be warned--the exit changes each time you load the game."
"To help you escape, you can try enlisting the aid of some of the people you meet. Just remember where you are. Can a man running around painting doors on walls and claiming to be Picasso really help? Can a man who says he is Houdini get you out? What about using 'X-Ray' Johnson to burn a hole in the wall to gain freedom? Perhaps the guard dog just needs a little attention. Maybe the nurse or the doctor with the hypodermic needle (if he really is a doctor) can be persuaded to help you."
A TRS-80 cassette with a different game on each side. In Blackjack, one or two players can try their hand against a computer dealer. In Backgammon you use your TRS-80 to play the classic board game against a friend (two-players required).
"Have you ever longed for the excitement of Reno? Craved to cruise down the strip and search out a good game? Wished for the day the dealer would say to you, 'I'm sorry sir, you have broken the bank, we cannot play any longer.'"
"Well, now they don't have to be dreams. The most exciting casino games are within your grasp without stirring from your own den. The CASINO GAME PACK, for your TRS-80 Microcomputer, contains six of the most popular and exciting games Hoyle ever dreamed of."
"You can now experience the excitement of Craps, the titillation of Keno, the luck of the 'One-Armed Bandit,' the unpredictability of Wheel of Fortune and Roulette and the complex fun of Baccarat, right in your own home. That's right, you don't have to get on a plane to go anywhere. These programs re-create the excitement of every game, they will challenge the more experienced gambler and be a fun learning tool for the newcomer to the casinos."
Cassette for the TRS-80 Model I computer (1978) Catalog No. 26-1908
A program which invites you to have a "conversation" with a computerized doctor by typing responses to questions into your TRS-80.
"ELIZA is an early example of primitive natural language processing. ELIZA operated by processing users' responses to scripts. It was written at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum between 1964 to 1966."
"ELIZA was implemented using simple pattern matching techniques, but was taken seriously by several of its users, even after Weizenbaum explained to them how it worked. It was one of the first chatterbots in existence."
Score as many points as possible by blasting large and small flying saucers with your laser cannon before the timer runs out. A score of 400 or better earns you extra time. Shoot carefully, as you lose points when a shot misses or when a flying saucer escapes the screen. Shooting a Super Saucer eliminates all flying saucers currently on the screen. A record of your shots, hits, score, and the remaining time are continuously updated and displayed on screen.
"Gammon Gambler turns your [computer] into a tireless, skillful backgammon player. Whether you are new to the game or an expert sharpening your skill for that trip to Monte Carlo, Gammon Gambler is a challenging adversary at your level."
Like Microchess, this game came from the guys who would go on to create the spreadsheet software VisiCalc.
For the Color Computer, 64K (1984) Catalog No. 26-3293
"Join Professor Chance, better known as Ghana Bwana, on his hazardous quest for the 'Great Secret' of legendary Erebus Island. Use your wit and quick reflexes to make your way through the many perils of this hostile and mysterious land. If your luck holds, you may reach the treasure site, the final and ultimate challenge."
"Explore Radio Shack's Haunted House--a game of mystery and excitement that runs on all 4K Level I or II TRS-80 computers! The house has many rooms, and even more dangers. It's up to you to discover the clues and magic you'll need to find your way out."
"Haunted House is easy to play. Each room of the house and its contents are described on your TRS-80 screen. Act accordingly (but carefully) and give simple commands through your keyboard. There are no scores to keep or treasures to find. But you'll be too busy anyway, with a more important task--getting out of the Haunted House alive! Great fun for the entire family!"
"The situation is grave: the code book controlling a top secret experimental satellite has been stolen. In the wrong hands, this satellite could do almost anything. Can you collect the clues and tips in order to find the crooks and regain control of the satellite?"
"Our forces made a treaty with Zon Cor, ruler of the planet Volkin. Before the treaty could go into effect, the evil Troll King kidnapped Zon Cor's daughter, Anitra, and took her to his cave kingdom."
"As a Private in the Space Vikings, you are sent to the planet Troldhjem ('home of the trolls'). Your assignment is to rescue Anitra and to destroy the Troll King and his underground kingdom."
"To accomplish this mission, you must enter the dreaded Norwegian Circle Maze, battle the trolls, recover stolen treasures, collect the scattered parts of a bomb, and find the Hall of the Mountain King. You are to plant the assembled bomb in the Hall and escape with Anitra before the bomb goes off. Information we cannot disclose at this time will be made available to you during the course of your mission. Good luck, Private."
It's you alone against a fleet of alien invaders, again. Pilot your starship, the USS Hephaestus, against a fleet of the dreaded Jovian Battlecruiers and Command Cruisers. At your disposal are masers, triton missiles, and a handful of anti-matter pods.
A text-based real-time Star Trek style game. The game takes place in a ten by ten grid of quadrants, with each quadrant being ten by ten sectors in size. Your main display shows the quadrant currently occupied by the Hephaestus, your long range scanner readings, power distribution percentages, a list of command keys, and your weapons and power status.
A compilation of three cassette tapes containing six Level I BASIC programs: Star-Pilot, Hamurabi, Space Taxi, Random Tic-Tac-Toe, DRAW (I, II and III), and Checkers.
The collection came packaged in a binder that held the cassettes and documentation for the games. The documentation included the BASIC source code listing for each game. This reflected the nature of the times, as many programs were only available in the form of type-in listings. Users could learn about BASIC programming by studying, typing in and modifying BASIC program listings.
For the Color Computer, 16K (1984) Catalog No. 26-3313
"A text adventure game for the TRS-80 Color Computer. Developed by Spectral Associates in 1981, the game lulls players into a false sense of security by providing a comparatively easy and static early game. Once the player walks down the stairs, however, the game rapidly degenerates into what may be the most difficult text adventure labyrinth ever created."
"Suppose you were the director of a movie or the writer of a story. Maybe Luke wouldn't have lost his hand, or maybe you would make Dracula a seven year old boy. Wouldn't it be fun if you could tell the hero what to do?"
"The Magic Carpet is a very special kind of story called Interactive Fiction. You get to take part in the story, by deciding where the story should go next. You tell David, the boy in the story, exactly what to do."
"You can read the story over and over again, each time making a different choice at different points. The story and the ending will be different each time, depending on how you chose. Some endings are happy, while other endings are tragic. You decide."
"Microchess, by Peter R. Jennings, was originally a microcomputer chess program for the MOS Technology KIM-1 microcomputer, first released on December 18, 1976. Microchess, as small as it was in terms of program size, could still play passable chess . . ."
"It was the first microcomputer software package to sell 50,000 copies, almost exclusively on cassette tape. Jennings founded VisiCorp together with Dan Fylstra, and the new company published Microchess to the growing microcomputer market. Microchess gave the company enough success to launch VisiCalc which would be its greatest success."
"The program was so popular that even the chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer arranged a meeting with Jennings to play a match against Microchess, the program was overly beaten. Microchess was later expanded into a more fully featured program with graphics for the TRS-80, Apple II, Commodore PET and Atari 400/800 computers."