Microbee – Alan Laughton
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What got you started collecting on/around the area of games?
Back in the 80’s I was also a stamp collector, so collecting came natural. But for computer games, there was a scarcity of games for the Microbee at the time, so one collected everything you could, be it a type-in, public domain, downloaded from a RBBS, swapped with a friend, etc.
Can you tell us what you collect?
Anything Microbee basically, but games on the high priority. But educational games were good also but difficult to find and limited. But now the hunt is on and have collected most of the games for the Microbee, but only 2/3rds of the Educational material.
What do you find pleasurable/enjoyable (or substitute the word you’d use here) about it?
It’s the thrill of the hunt I suppose and finding material in the most unexpected places. Then being able to share the old abandonware with others.
Do you have any items that hold a special significance for New Zealand/Australia? Can you tell us about one/some of them?
Well 90% of the software that can run on a Microbee has originated from Australia, and I would probably have the largest collection of any Microbee software compared to anyone else. A member of the MSPP wrote a few programs back in the 80’s when he was at school and sold them to Microbee Systems. They payed him a nice royalty. He then wrote another game (he says his best ever game also) called Hopper. This was a Frogger type game. But decided to sell this one direct himself thinking he could make more money that way. He sold 20 copies to the Sydney Microbee Users Group and that was it. So for a game that sold only 20 copies, I/we have been able to locate 2 copies of this game from 2 different sources.
Hopper opening screen
Hopper gameplay screen
Also being able to recover Matthew Hall‘s only Microbee game (The Jewels of Sancara Island) from a printout that has survived 30 years and then being able to locate the missing “sound” code to encode it all back to the original game.
Another story is from Richard Larkin who wrote many programs back in the 80’s when he was in his teens going to school, and had them published in the computer magazines (like Electronic Australia & Your Computer). He then wrote one (ISBOK, an Adventure game) that he then tried to sell, again selling only a few copies to friends. Recently he found a box of tapes in his garage that he forgotten about and I was able to recover 95% of them for him including the adventure game that was previously unknown to the members at the MSPP, call ISBOK (as shown below).
ISBOK cassette and insert
ISBOK floppy disc
What are the biggest challenges you face as a collector?
Never completing the collection and its getting more and more difficult to locate missing games, programs, etc.
Do you consider what you do as having an archival/historical aspect?
Not 30 years ago, probably not even 10 years ago. But most definitely now. I would like to think in 100 years from now and beyond, that the collection of Microbee games and others is still generally available and in a condition that its still readable and playable in their current digital form.