Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Benutzefreundlichkeit: Nüfekop

VIC-20's massive marketing campaign.
As any businessman in his forties can tell you, looking back, the VIC-20 had more to do with marketing than technology.  It wasn't so much that it be a user-friendly computer as it be, "The Friendly Computer(tm)."  In fact, one could argue it was the antithesis of user-friendly.  With its antiquated BASIC 2.0, and the way the memory map moved all around, it was actually exceedingly challenging for users. 

Most of our gadgets today don't come with manuals.  For example, it is just assumed that when you see a USB plug you'll figure out in which port it goes.  When iOS first arrived in 2007 that really raised the bar and re-defined the term, "user friendly!" 

The VIC Czar
However, the VIC-20 was the friendly computerCommodore defined our reality.  From the computer's name to its price, it spared no expense to essentially make a PET more approachable to Mom and home.  She could pick one up at Target on her next visit, where they had them stacked to the ceiling!  It had a lot of friendly features, too, and to hear its story is to believe that no stone was left unturned.  A lot of effort went in to educating users as well as making it seem as fun as possible.

Jack Tramiel wasn't the Steve Jobs of Commodore; no, that man was Michael Tomczyk.  He gave the VIC-20 a soul, and that made it a revolutionary product.  When the C64 finally arrived on the scene, which was truly a quantum leap forward in technology, the soul re-incarnated and its momentum propelled it off the charts!

The software industry was in its infancy then, too.  One brand that always intrigued me was Nüfekop, and I didn't know why.  My friends and I certainly owned a lot of their games, but they somehow also managed to create an identity akin to what Commodore was doing with the VIC-20.  The two went hand-in-hand in many ways, which helped define the whole VIC experience at the time. 

Antimatter Splatter (review) - 100% Machine Language!

Compute! rated 5/10.
The umlaut gave their name an aura of mystery.  Were they German?  No, the name was of Druid origin and means, "putting an extraordinarily large amount into a small pocket or enclosure, possibly through the use of magic."  That sounds rather intriguing, but could it also have been subliminal?  Nüfekop is a combination of "fun" and POKE (an archaic BASIC expression) spelled backwards.  One of the company founders was shocked when the decoding was revealed, but said it was basically true; adding, "We're amazed, as always, at the visionary powers of the Druids." - Gary Elder, President of Nüfekop (Compute!, May'83)

Compute! rated 9/10.
Wherever the magic came from, Nüfekop certainly had it.  Co-founder and author, Scott Elder, has a tell-all book entitled, "Nüfekop: Images of a classic game company."  Sadly, I just found out about it while researching this blog entry, but I can say that this book is definitely on my reading list for 2013.  By gathering all his photos and scanning everything, Scott feels he has preserved their little corner of classic gaming -- if only for his kids.  "Actually, if you're into VIC-20, I think you'll find it interesting," he said.

Compute! rated 10/10.
Just like Atari discovered with their VCS, any time you are pushing millions of units it can attract a lot of dirt-bags.  The same was certainly true of the VIC-20, however Nüfekop was different.  They developed all their own titles in-house (as opposed to ripping them off), or entered into licensing agreements with exceptional 3rd-party programmers.  It was reflected in the quality of their catalog, which steadily improved year over year.  Many programs were written in 100% machine language.  Thoughtful features, like self-adjusting to however much memory was installed, really made them user-friendly.  Would it be enough to survive?

Nüfekop cassette tape
Scott had this story to share over on the Denial forum... 
"Right about at the time of the big crash in 1984, a company (I can't remember the name...) out of Canada, with great credit references, offered to buy most everything we had in the warehouse, on 90 day terms. They seemed very legit, they haggled to get the price per piece way down, but it was a huge sale, maybe $150,000. We shipped, they never paid. Over the years I've heard the same story from several other small companies. I think it was a fairly organized attempt to either simply rip off starving companies or intentionally drive them out of business." - Scott Elder (June 30, 2010)

=====  Nüfekop Titles  =====

3-D Man (3K+) ... $16.95 (review)
Alien Panic [CG008] ... $9.95
Antimatter Splatter
... $19.95 (review
Bomber [CG014] ... $9.95
Collide [CG026] ... $9.95
Defender on Tri (3K+) ... $16.95

Dodge Cars ... $?.??
Edit'It [CG201] ... $12.95 - Multi-color char editor.
Escape [CG066] ... $9.95
Exterminator by Ken Grant ... $19.95
Gallows [CE102] ... $9.95
Invasion [CG036] ... $9.95
Journey [CE106] ... $9.95
King's Ransom ... $?.??
Krazy Kong [CG054] ... $9.95 (review)
Rescue from Nufon [CG058] ... $9.95
Search [CG056] ... $9.95
Spellit [CE106] ... $9.95
Target [CG016] ... $9.95
Times+ ... $9.95 -
Educational game.

Vikman [CG002] ... $9.95

For more information on the Commodore VIC-20 home computer system, please check out my other blog entry: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - Turning Japanese...   

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1 comment:

  1. I got the book today from Amazon and highly recommend it for all VIC-20 enthusiasts. Show the Elder brothers some love, and rescue yourself from Nufon, by ordering a copy today!