Adventureland (1978)   10 comments

Adventureland nearly has the distinction of being the first text adventure available for home computers. It is slightly edged out by a port for the Heathkit H8 of Adventure which debuted in August by Gordon Letwin (who later went on to make the port Microsoft Adventure) and started being sold in Issue 4 of the magazine REMark (fourth quarter of 1978).

However, Adventureland is the first one made specifically for home computers; specifically, the TRS-80. It started being sold January 1979 through an ad in Softside magazine. Scott Adams himself says it was the first venue in a video interview. He mentions testers which presumably tried the game in 1978, but with commerical products it is standard practice to date them by when they first are commercially available.


Every other source out there says 1978 including the thoroughly well-researched Digital Antiquarian.

However, even the title page of the game itself says 1979


although it should be noted that this is a later revision of the game and it is possible an early title screen said “1978” since that is undoubtedly when the coding of the game occurred.

[ADD: Jimmy Maher makes a pretty good argument in the comments that due to the lag time of the magazine publishing that 1978 is sound, still. Note that would still make the port of Adventure the first available text adventure for PC. I am hence changing the title back to 1978.]

Scott Adams’s adventures all used a particular data format which can be run with the interpreter ScottFree. For at least Adventureland I’m going for the classic experience with a TRS-80 emulator, although there are plenty of more modern options available.

I’ve been having more fun than The Digital Antiquarian did (I’ve avoided reading his article too closely because it looks like it has spoilers, but I caught the quote “Which is not to say that Adventureland is exactly playable, at least by modern standards.”) I’ll get into gameplay details next time.

Posted January 18, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Adventureland (1978)

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  1. Glad to see you’re back at this!

    Remember that, magazine lead times being what they were (are), the January 1979 issue of Softline would have hit the newstands in late November or early December 1978. I’m very confident of a 1978 date for both Adventureland and Pirate Adventure. I wouldn’t swear that Adventureland was *first* sold through the TRS-80 Software Exchange — and I wouldn’t entirely trust Adams’s memories on things like this either; his details are often fuzzy — but, conversely, I wouldn’t swear it wasn’t either. Been a while since I researched that period.

    The interpreter you see there was a version that Adams rewrote in assembly language around April or May of 1979. The original was in BASIC, and was use for the first versions of Adventureland, Pirate Adventure, and Impossible Mission. (The databases used in the BASIC versions were the same, just the interpreter changed.) I’m not sure off-hand if the original interpreter is available on a disk image anywhere. It was published as a type-in listing in a later SoftSide.

    • I’ll put some caveats on the post. I’m ok changing back to 1978 for now (could you give a source where you have your confidence in Pirate Adventure being 1978, though)?

      The fuzzy-memory thing is a problem except Adams is correct that Softside would be the only outlet at the time, though. I can’t imagine where else it would be.

      I remember Graham Nelson (in his Craft of Adventure article) mentioning the original version being much more frustrating with the bees. If you come across a copy at some point drop me a line.

    • While I’m thinking about it, do you have any info dates regarding House of the Seven Gables or the first two Eamon games? I’ve seen contradictory 1978/1979 dates for those.

      • This is decidedly not the right place to comment on this, but since the question was asked here…

        I’ve been trying to wrap my head around those Greg Hassett adventures for awhile now. Even if some of them were written in 1978, I haven’t seen any evidence that they were (widely) commercially available until mid 1979. Journey to the Center of the Earth shows up all by itself in the Aug ’79 issue of SoftSide, and then the collection of four adventures (7G, JttCotE, KTT, SC) shows up in an ad for The Program Store in the Nov ’79 issue of Creative Computing (albeit this issue featured an HP3000 approximation of the Crowther/Woods Adventure, so it would have been a topical ad). There were Mad Hatter Software ads in previous months that included games, but they never mention the Hassett adventures, so I have to think that they weren’t distributing them yet.

        This is seemingly corroborated by a blurb in a Nov ’80 issue of Jet (of all things) that says that his first computer game was sold “last summer” by his own company named Adventure World.

        It would be nice if we could track him down and ask some questions. I have a suspicion as to which Greg Hassett he is on the Internet, but I can’t find current contact info. The one I’m thinking of is from the Boston area and has started/worked for numerous tech companies. The bio seemingly fits at least.

        SoftSide, p7 —

        Creative Computing, p133 —

        Jet, p19 —

        Gregory Hassett? —

      • Additional Greg Hassett stuff…

        I figured that the blurb in Jet was probably following up on a different story, and sure enough there was a small piece in the Boston Globe on Apr 29, 1980 called “Boy, 13, Is Making Computer Games Pay”. There’s not much there really, but here are some highlights:

        – “Adventure World has earned $5000 since last summer [1979] designing and marketing a series of eight games.”

        So all 8 of his games were definitely released between Summer ’79 and April ’80.

        – “His father, who is manager of software development at Digital Equipment Corp., stimulated his youngest son’s interest in computers three years ago when he brought home a video display terminal from the office to work at home.”

        DEC + 1977? There’s a good chance he was exposed directly to the Crowther/Woods Adventure, although that’s not mentioned here.

        – “sold more than 1000 tape cassettes”

        The article also names both of his parents, who are findable on the Internet, so that might be a route of getting a hold of Greg to ask him some questions, if anyone was so inclined.

        There’s also a short piece on Hassett in the Sept 1980 issue of Personal Computing that asks a couple more interesting questions.

        – “Gregory developed several adventure games and decided to market them. ‘I’d been looking through some magazines and saw the kind of
        software being offered; I just decided my adventures were probably good enough to be sold,’ said Gregory.”

        That would give credence to why some of the copyrights are 1978. He was already writing them, and then saw the success others (Scott Adams, probably?) was having, and sought a way to sell them.

        – “When asked if he’d been influenced at all by Scott Adams, the leader in adventure game development, Gregory said he also uses
        the split screen, as does Adams. ‘I was almost required to use the split screen when I started programming in machine language.'”

        Unfortunately, that response doesn’t really get to what influenced him to start writing these games in the first place, or why he abruptly stopped after those eight.

        Personal Computing, p12 —

      • I believe the Asio City blog ( linked to an earlier news article, but that blog is now entirely dead and because it used robots.txt there’s no backup at

      • Also complicating things is his games were sold by 3 different companies. Adventure World (his own), Mad Hatter Software, and Compu-Things. The last one I’ve only seen referenced here:

  2. A lot of programs were sold in those earliest days directly through the shops. An enterprising programmer would bring something in to one shop, whose owner would decide to sell it. Then that owner would tell his colleagues in other cities and states about it, who would contact the programmer to get copies to sell in their own shops, etc. There was definitely some of this going on with Adams’s early games. See for example the story he tells a lot about someone calling him in Florida from a shop in Chicago (or somewhere) with a big order for like 50 games, and he not knowing about the concept of wholesaling. (I think it’s in the interview you reference above among other places.) This wouldn’t have involved the TRS-80 Software Exchange, who handled packaging and distribution for their clients. The question is just whether Adams started selling Adventureland independently before joining the TRS-80 Software Exchange or after. I tend to favor the former, possibly by as early as August of 1978, but don’t have a smoking gun to point to immediately to hand.

    The advertisement you show above is actually for both Adventureland and Pirate Adventure in one package. The diction of the ad is pretty garbled, but it says it’s for “2 role play game[sic].” This is made more clear if you look in the following issue, which has the same name of just “Adventure” and the same price but clearly describes it as containing both Adventureland and Pirate Adventure.

    I host a MESS emulator saved state of the original TRS-80 BASIC Adventureland here: Hopefully this still works with the newest versions of MESS (kind of a moving target).

    I know nothing about House of the Seven Gables.

    Eamon is a thorny case. The standard date in recent years has always been 1980, but there’s strong reason to believe it’s actually earlier. I favor a date of the latter half of 1979. You’ll find my reasoning here:

    • He says in the same interview the Chicago order is in response to the ad, and that he doesn’t understand wholesale until it happens. Also that he didn’t even have packaging until then.

      I’m willing to believe he slipped some cassettes in a Radio Shack somewhere, although I don’t recall him ever saying so.

      (Maybe the solution to all this is to get Scott Adams over here. He seems to like doing interviews.)

      • Before my first wholesale sale to the Chicago Radio Shack run by I believe Manny Garcia, I had been selling individual copies in softside and local computer club groups. I definitely remember also selling a few tapes of a previous game “Dog Race” at a local radio shack in Longwood FL (no packaging just a tape with a label) and I think I put a some of Adventureland there as well, but not sure on that part. Chicago was my very first wholesale order and was when I invented my earliest packaging for pegboards.

        Also anyone reading this deep into the comments on Adventureland might be interested in a 40th anniversary version I am doing

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