Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘1989’ Category

Microsoft Word 5.0 (DOS) & Microsoft Word 1.1 (Windows)

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Like the last post, this one is a double feature. Sadly, unlike WordPerfect 5.1, which was released for both DOS and Windows with the same version number, MS Word used different numbers for is DOS and Windows version. So I’ve arbitrarily picked a DOS and Windows version each released at around the same time as WordPerfect 5.1 to look at.


On first glance, MS Word 5.0 for DOS, released in 1989, looks fairly similar to WordPerfect 5.1. It’s a big blue screen with some status info at the bottom. But that’s not quite all. In Word, the toolbar is constantly visible at the bottom, taking up several lines, and the text entry area is surrounded by a box. This box isn’t just for show, though: you can choose to split the view into many different windows, which each may contain different documents. In practice, splitting the screen into more than two windows is probably not very useful, since the available space will be tiny, but it’s still a nice feature.

As for the toolbar at the bottom, though, that’s a waste of space. They should have just devoted a bit of space on the bottom line to say “Menu: Esc”, or something, instead. I give them half credit for the interface.


MS Word 1.1 for Windows, released in 1990, looks more like what we’re familiar with from Word. With the standard menu-and-toolbar interface, it’s a fairly usable word processor, even if it has some quirks in the display.

Word 1.1 does have a big flaw, though: when I tried to open in Word 1.1 the document I made in Word for DOS, it actually crashed DOSBox! It did successfully open the document I made in WordPerfect 5.1, though… I think I’m going to have to give this point to WordPerfect.


Furthermore, opening the documents I made in either the DOS or Windows version of Word in Libreoffice yields a bunch of garbage. I know that technically it’s not Word’s fault if a piece of software written a quarter century later doesn’t properly import its documents, but it’s still a sad lack of longevity.

In short, 1989’s version of MS Word had some neat tricks with the multi-window interface, but I prefer the minimalist (and less-space-wasting) WordPerfect interface. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows looks better than Word 1.1 for Windows, too, though both were apparently rather buggy, so they’ll be winning no awards: above all, software must work, after all.

WordPerfect was still king of word processors at this point, but over the course of the 90s, its crown would be stolen by Word, leaving the once-mighty application little more than an also-ran, relegated to filling out the OEM software stack of budget PCs.

Posted in 1989, 1990, DOS, Windows, Word Processor | Leave a Comment »

WordPerfect 5.1

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 16, 2014

Technically, this blog is meant to be about video games. But I’ve written about hardware and magazines and books and whatever this is, so I figure anything fitting broadly under the retrocomputing banner is fair game.


This one may be familiar to you. WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1989, was quite a popular word processor, and it persisted for many years. In fact, it seems that people still want to use it to this day. It was used in my keyboarding class, in high school, so this is a bit of nostalgia for me.


When you first open WordPerfect 5.1, you’re greeted with a blank, blue screen, plus some details about the current position of the cursor. I’m fairly sure this violates a few interface design principles. On the other hand, considering that WordPerfect cost hundreds of dollars, perhaps they expected people to be willing to read the manual.


Once you know how to use it, WordPerfect 5.1 is a powerful word processor, capable of doing pretty much anything you’d like. More modern word processors may be prettier, but all of the basic functions were there. The image above is what WordPerfect calls draft mode–a semi-WYSIWYG display suitable for general use. You could also turn on ‘reveal codes’ mode, which displays markup in a manner reminiscent of HTML or BBCode:

A blank, blue screen is just so… [Italc On]inviting[Italc Off]… wouldn’t you say?[HRt]

Naturally, when printed, the document would actually use italic or bold text, or whatever other formatting was selected. WordPerfect was intended, after all, for preparing documents for print, not for display on a computer screen. All of the various options could be accessed either though a menu (activated with Alt+=) or through some combination of modifier and function keys.


The Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1991, defaults to a WYSIWYG view that should seem familiar modern computer users. It does still support draft mode and ‘reveal codes’ mode, for those who long for the (shall we say) simplicity of the DOS version.

I never used the Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, back in the nineties. The word on the internet seems to be that it’s very buggy, which is a shame, since it seems like a fairly usable word processor, otherwise.


Just for fun, I tried just double-clicking the document I saved in WP 5.1 for DOS, opening it in LibreOffice. As you can see, it opens and renders flawlessly, despite the programs being released 25 years apart–a true standard-bearer for backwards compatibility! It makes me wonder if the present incarnation of WordPerfect could do the same.

I could spend pages discussing all the features of WordPerfect 5.1, but I really just wanted a quick look at it, to allow for comparison, so this much will suffice. I’ll write similar overviews of other contemporary word processors (Coming soon! Maybe.) and other applications, to show some of the variety in software on the market. There was a great deal of evolution in a fairly short time, so it should be interesting to see how they compare.

Posted in 1989, 1991, DOS, Windows 3.x, Word Processor | 1 Comment »

Die Türme von Hanoi

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Die Türme von Hanoi is a 1989 Tower of Hanoi game by Nikolaus Heusler, published in 64’er Sonderheft #42.

This one is pretty good looking, and has quite a different style, with the dark coloration, than the others I’ve played. The animation is quick, and the pulsing from light to dark of the discs looked rather nice.

I did have one difficulty with it: GB64 lists it as controlled by keyboard, but it is really controlled by joystick in port 2. It took me some time to figure this out–I’d tried every key on the keyboard and used two different emulators before I realized that GB64’s metadata was wrong. Let the player beware.

I really prefer using the keyboard to play these games; it’s quicker to type the numbers than to select stacks with a joystick. The joystick controls in this one are much better than in Pyramidon, however, so it’s not too bad. Die Türme von Hanoi gets points for its unique visual style, too, and I note that it has an automatic solver that can be used at any time to complete the puzzle.

Die Türme von Hanoi ranks along with Pharao’s Super Nadeln as one of the best ‘pure’ (i.e. no plot or anything like that) implementations of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Still not something you’ll want to spend much time on, but a worthy piece of software, all the same.

Posted in 1989, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on October 28, 2008

Tetris, the classic falling blocks game, was released by Nintendo in November 1989.

Truly, Tetris needs no introduction. There are hundreds of implementations of this simple, yet challenging game. Nintendo’s 1989 offering for the NES is quite well-done.

There are few options. The player can choose between A-type and B-type games, and select which music should be played, if any.

The A-type game is simply pieces falling endlessly, with the goal being to obtain the highest score. The six types of pieces fall starting at the top of the screen, and proceed toward the bottom. While they are in the air, the player can move them left and right, rotate them, or cause them to drop more quickly. Some of the pieces are rarer than others, so it’s necessary to choose where the pieces are placed with care–you can’t count on a line appearing whenever you need it.

For every ten lines you complete, the game’s speed increases one level and the colors of the blocks change. The more lines you eliminate at once, the more points you get, with a Tetris (four lines removed) scoring the most points. You also score more points if you’re at a higher level–each line is worth ten times as much at level nine as it is at level zero, for example.

As the game progresses and the blocks fall faster, the game becomes much more difficult. If the blocks reach too high on the screen, the music will speed up as a warning. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, you lose.

The B-type game is similar to the A-type game, except that rather than playing endlessly, the goal is to remove 25 lines at a particular level, and with a set height of blocks added at the start. Now the lines count down, and the game ends upon removing all 25.

You’re given a score based on the level and height you selected, as well as the points accumulated while removing the lines.

If your score is high enough, you can enter your name on the high score table, and be known far and wide as a Tetris master–at least until you power off the console. I played this game a lot when I was younger, though I suppose I wasn’t that skilled at it–on a good game, I’d get about 110 lines, though I understand that experts can get over 200.

Though this is a fairly old game, it’s quite nice. The graphics are nice, clear, and colorful (though the color schemes for some of the levels are a bit ugly), the music is good, and the gameplay is simply excellent. The B-type game offers a nice, quick challenge if you’re in the mood, and the A-type is nice for slightly longer gaming sessions. Of course, there are many other versions of Tetris, which may be better or worse than this one (I hear that Tengen’s NES version is superior), but Nintendo’s Tetris is definitely worth playing.

Personal Slant

Posted in 1989, Falling Blocks, Full Review, Good, NES | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: The Adventures of Captain Comic

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 24, 2008

This time a platformer, The Adventures of Captain Comic.

Like The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Captain Comic is frustratingly difficult. Most of the time, there are three or four enemies on the screen at once, and they respawn a few seconds after you kill them.

The level designs place many obstacles in your path, and though the controls are generally quite responsive, I found it difficult to manage the fine control to move on small platforms without running off into the abyss.

There were several different areas with unique backgrounds and enemies, each of which had different movement patters. This variety is nice, but unfortunately each area is similarly difficult.

Having read a guide after my attempt, it seems like some of the areas seemed so totally unfair because I tackled the game in the wrong order, but the complete lack of guidance made it impossible to know just what I ought to have done. Were it not for the benefit of save states, I’m sure I would have given up before seeing the third area, for the effort to get through the game is completely disproportionate to the entertainment granted.

The game looks fairly good for an old NES game, the music, though very repetitive, isn’t bad, and the controls are good if a bit too enthusiastic. Unfortunately, the game’s difficulty more than compensates for these positive points. I can’t recommend the game unless you don’t mind frustration.

Posted in 1989, Decent, First Impressions, NES, Platformer | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Adventures of Bayou Billy

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 16, 2008

The Adventures of Bayou Billy is a beat-em-up, with a driving and shooting game thrown in for variety.

Bayou Billy won’t be winning any awards for its plot. Some bad guy has kidnapped your girlfriend, and you have to rescue her.

He’s even kind enough to let you know that you will be encountering obstacles on your way to his estate. What a nice guy.

The game behaves pretty much like your bog standard beat-em-up, with a button for punch and one for kick, and pressing both together doing a flying kick. You can pick up weapons that you knock out of your enemies’ hands and to use against them. The difference, though, is that Bayou Billy is hard. It’s not so bad against one enemy, but you’ll find yourself fighting against three at a time, who are not stunned when you hit them, take many hits to kill, and are fairly quick-moving as well.

Fortunately, they are also fairly stupid, and will happily walk around in circles without hitting you, if you move just a bit. They also occasionally drop food, which heals you.

Humans aren’t your only foes, though. You’ll also encounter crocodiles in the water, which are quick moving and can attack you when you’re near the water’s edge.

When I got to the right side of this screen, it didn’t scroll any further, and since I couldn’t seem to harm the crocodile, I quickly died.

The game does include, as I mentioned, a driving subgame and a shooting subgame, which can be accessed from the practice menu, and apparently appear as levels later in the game.

Neither of these subgames was anything spectacular, although the shooting game did have the benefit of being playable with or without a zapper. Nice, since the emulated zapper uses the mouse, and playing with my laptop’s touchpad was very difficult indeed.

The Adventures of Bayou Billy was called Mad City in Japan, and was considerably easier.

My feeling from playing a few minutes is that the enemies died in about a third as many hits in Mad City. Furthermore, the screen that wouldn’t go anywhere in Bayou Billy and had only crocodiles had divers in Mad City, and continued once I defeated them.

No crocodiles in Mad City. Perhaps I didn’t step on a trigger or something while playing Bayou Billy, which caused the divers not to appear. Maybe.

Anyway, I think that Mad City is probably better than Bayou Billy, although I only played either one for a few minutes. My final opinion is that Mad City is worth playing, but I’d avoid Bayou Billy, since its difficulty is just not fun.

Posted in 1988, 1989, Beat 'em Up, Decent, Full Review, NES | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 8, 2006

A shooter this time, and a pretty good one, at that.

Since this game incorporates powerups, you begin, as in most similar games, with nothing but a pathetic little pea-shooter and no armor, moving very slowly indeed.

I had quite a bit of difficulty dodging the shots from the–very bizarre–enemies at first, but then I got a speed powerup and a couple of options and the dodging was no longer necessary.

After progressing through a level that looked like it was made of worms, or possibly intestines, and fighting enemies like flying mouths and eyeballs, I reached the first boss: some sort of skeletal dog with bits of flesh still clinging to it.

This boss just jumps around a bit while releasing a few shots, so it was no problem to kill. After defeating this boss, we proceed to the second level, which is rather like the first except in much closer quarters and with various obstacles which required dodging. At the end of this level was the second boss, a face made of intestines, with its eyes floating about in front of it.

This boss, too, was no trouble to beat, although it did destroy my options. However, after destroying this boss, the game changed from a horizontal scroller to a vertical scroller–which scrolled from bottom to top, just to make it more confusing.

I died a bit into this level, since I had no options and some enemies are only half-destroyed by a shot. This game is much better than most of the others I’ve tried. I liked Super R-Type for the SNES better, but this is also a pretty good example of the genre. Worth playing.

Posted in 1989, Full Review, Good, Horizontal Scrolling Shooter, NES | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »