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The 8-Bit Book - 1981 to 199x
Jerry Ellis
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InformationAuthor Diary
Jerry Ellis' The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x covers over two hundred of the best computer games of the 8-bit era.


Click here for the limited edition hardback!

The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x completes the 8-bit home computer trilogy of the acclaimed Golden Years series, covering over two hundred of the most influential, inspiring and downright interesting computer games of the 8-bit era.

Computer and video games aficionado Jerry Ellis casts a nostalgic look back at some of the titles that helped to define the golden age of 8-bit computer gaming. As well as an essential selection of ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 games not featured in either of the first two books, The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x investigates some of the landmark BBC Micro, Apple II, Atari 400/800, Oric-1/Atmos, Dragon 32, TRS-80 Color Computer, VIC-20, ZX81, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 128, Acorn Electron, Commodore 16/Plus/4, TI-99/4A and MSX efforts that provided players with the prehistory of today’s global gaming industry.

Individual chapters focus on every year from 1981 to 1989, while a final chapter covering the early ‘90s pays tribute to some of the 8-bit games that simply refused to accept that their humble host machines’ time in the sun was at an end. Though the main thrust of each chapter is a page-by-page analysis of many of the most memorable titles of the age, an introductory overview of each year’s most pivotal events and developments is also included, as is a foreword from none other than David Braben, co-creator of Acornsoft’s legendary BBC Micro space-trading epic, Elite.

Each of the two hundred and thirty-three games covered is given a full-page review, accompanied by a selection of screen shots and the game’s original cover artwork. Featured titles include such indisputable classics as 3D Monster Maze, Miner 2049er, Twin Kingdom Valley, Bomberman, Robotron: 2084, Elite, The Perils of Willy, Repton, Theatre Europe, Vampire Killer, Turbo Esprit, Metal Gear, Exile, Snatcher, Prince of Persia, Final Fantasy and many, many more.  As with the first two books in the series, a fascinating assortment of less familiar titles has also been chosen by the author, each of which holds a unique place in the history of 8-bit gaming and has its own curious story to tell.

Proofs are here... We'll be spending the next few days poring over them to try and round up any last minute errors.

In the meantime, here are some photos for your amusement:


 The HARD-BACK 8-Bit Book!!!

As the launch of the book gets closer (it will be on its way to the printer by the end of next week), and we're in the process of making the final run-through of the PDFs, I thought this would be a good time to announce the news that The 8-Bit Book (which is already a limited soft-back edition) will now have an extremely limited quantity of hard-backs available from the outset... 

Similar to the ZX Spectrum Book hard-back, we're printing 100 copies of The 8-Bit Book in hard-back!
I'll be emailing everyone who has pre-ordered to give each of them a shot at 'upgrading' their initial pre-order to a hard-back.
Any that remain after the pre-order people have had their chance will be put on sale on the website.

If you like the idea of getting a hard-back copy of The 8-Bit Book, then I'd recommend that you pre-order the soft-back now... That way, you'll be one of the first in line to be offered the hard-back upgrade option!


Time for a Great News double-whammy, methinks... First of all, I can now reveal that we have secured the services of none other than David Braben, co-creator of the legendary Acornsoft classic, Elite, to write the foreword to The 8-Bit Book - 1981 to 199x!! I only received his completed foreword this morning, and I'm thrilled to bits about it as I really never had anyone other than David Braben in my mind for this particular contribution, and I've been worrying for the past few months that he wouldn't be able to find time in his busy schedule to submit anything. But it's here at last and everything's looking good.

Incidentally, we're into the final few weeks of the book's production now, and we're on course to have the books printed and dispatched by some time around the middle of June. The more observant among you may have noticed that's a couple of weeks later than we'd originally planned, but there's a very good reason for the slight delay, and I'm happy to take the blame (well, half of it at least)... I'm delighted to be able to announce that I'm going to be a dad!!

So, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, just recently I've had to devote at least a small amount of my time to the lovely Em, who has been extremely understanding over the past year-and-a-half while I've been slaving away writing the book and neglecting her completely (god knows how I managed to fit in making a baby while I've been painstakingly piecing the book together). But there's also another very practical reason for the extra couple-of-weeks hold-up... I want to dedicate the book to Em and the little 'un, but I'd really like to include its name - which I won't know until we've had the 21-week scan in May which should tell us whether it's a boy or a girl!!

What am I hoping for? As long as it's healthy - and develops a healthy obsession for 8-bit games when it grows up - I really don't mind.


It’s been quite a while since my last diary entry, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t all been exceptionally busy here at Hiive Books!  As you know (if you’ve been following my occasional diary ramblings), the bulk of the writing for The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x was actually completed by the end of last year, but there’s been plenty more to do since then, including gathering screen shots and cover scans for all 231 games featured in the book, adding captions for all of the main screen shots, and generally tweaking and fine-tuning the text to something approaching perfection.  

Andrew Rollings has been slaving away, designing the book’s innards, for several weeks now, and I can safely say that he has produced what is going to be a wonderfully attractive piece of work, every bit the equal of his ZX Spectrum Book and Andrew Fisher’s Commodore 64 Book.  And Andrew Fisher has been helping out too, proof-reading the entries and even teaching me – so-called English teacher, Jerry Ellis – a thing or two about where and where not to stick a hyphen!

 Here are a couple of sample pages:

3D Defender (ZX81)

Marsport (ZX Spectrum)

As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s all coming together very nicely indeed!  We currently have seven complete chapters ‘in the can’, with only three to go before we can start having some serious conversations about giving those printers a tinkle.  Incidentally, we’ll be uploading an entire chapter to the Hiive website in the next few days, so make sure you’re around to check it out!!

Our delight at the progress we’ve made in putting the book together has been tempered somewhat by the fact that we’re still some way short of the pre-orders we need to cover the costs of printing.  That doesn’t mean that the book is at risk of not being published – far from it.  We’re going ahead as planned, only it’s looking as though we’re going to have to dig very deep to cover the costs involved ourselves, in the hope of recouping our outlay in the months ahead once sales have picked up.  The shortfall in pre-orders hasn’t come as a surprise, of course, what with everyone feeling the financial pinch at the moment(not to mention the fact that we have yet to explore some of the avenues we’ve identified for promoting the book and generating awareness of its existence). 

Potential customers in the United Kingdom are also having to contend with a poor exchange rate which, coupled with the fact that the books are going to be shipped from the USA, means that the cost of each book is being nudged upwards to the tune of a few pounds at the checkout stage.  But please don’t be put off placing your order – we can’t tell you how much we need your continued support!  Hiive Books is still very much a fledgling outfit, albeit one with the best of intentions and some truly amazing projects in the pipeline.  However, future publications can only come to fruition with the success of each new title, so if you can just bear with us, cock a snook at the world’s economic woes and pre-order The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x today, you’ll be playing a very important role in safeguarding this enterprise and ensuring that the other retro gaming books we have up our collective sleeves get to see the light of day!

Right, I’m off to gaze adoringly at Andrew’s latest pdf.  Remember to drop by again in a few days’ time – you’ll be able to flick through an entire chapter at your leisure!  And as ever, your constructive criticism will be most welcome.




That's it - we've done it!!  The last six entries have been completed, and I can now confirm that the titles of the final additions to the roster of 231 games to feature in The 8-Bit Book - 1981 to 199x are as follows:

Trailblazer (Amstrad CPC) ... 1986
Green Beret (C64) ... 1986
Brian Clough's Football Fortunes (Plus 4) ... 1987
Cosmic Battlezones (BBC Micro) ... 1986
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (BBC Micro) ... 1985
How to be a Complete Bastard (C64) ... 1987

I'll be cracking on with the chapter intros this week, and once they're finished, then the final checking and editing can begin.  It's all very exciting!

Before I sign off for this week, I'd just like to add that we're still in desperate need of pre-orders, so if you happen to find your finger hovering above the "add to basket" button any time soon then please just relax and let nature take its course.  Don't worry, the book will definitely be published regardless of whether or not we have achieved our target number of pre-orders by the end of January, but it would certainly make our lives a bit less stressful if we had enough pre-orders in place to cover the cost of printing... I for one have a fiancee to entertain and a wedding to pay for in a few months' time, so even if it's just for the lovely Em's sake, please get your pre-orders in soon!

The end is nigh!!

Actually, that sounds a little bit more apocalyptic than I had intended. It's all good news in fact, as I'm fast approaching the final stages of The 8-Bit Book (well, the writing, at least - there's still plenty of work to be done before the target March '09 publication date, including gathering screen shots and cover artwork, and deciding upon the design of the pages). After a ridiculously hectic few weeks, during which I've had to contend with what my doctor described as "a very nasty case of Shingles", I now find myself almost fully recovered and just half a dozen entries away from completing the book, with only the individual chapter introductions to finish off after that before I effectively hand over to Andrew to let him work his magic and turn my jottings into something resembling an aesthetically pleasing collection of tightly bound, full colour pages. Since my last diary update, the tally of games covered has reached a pleasing 225, with the following titles having now been completed:

Valhalla (Spectrum) ... 1983
Slinky (Atari) ... 1983
Ball Breaker (Amstrad) ... 1987
Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax (Amstrad) ... 1989
The Bilestoad (Apple II) ... 1982
Le Fer d'Amnukor (Oric) ... 1986
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (C64) ... 1991
Phantasie (Apple II) ... 1985
Undead Line (MSX2) ... 1989
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (MSX2) ... 1989
Star Blaster (Tandy Color Computer) ... 1981
Sargon II Chess (VIC-20) ... 1982
N.E.X.U.S. (C64) ... 1986
Galaxians (ZX81) ... 1982
Android Attack (TRS-80) ... 1982
Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday (C64) ... 1990
Le Secret du Tombeau (Oric) ... 1985
Koronis Rift (Atari) ... 1985
Raid on Fort Knox (VIC-20) ... 1982
Winter Games (C64) ... 1985
Revs (Beeb) ... 1984
Megablasters (Amstrad) ... 1994
Who Dares Wins II (C64) ... 1986
Lazy Jones (C64) ... 1984
Thrust (Beeb) ... 1986

I've also dropped three entries that had previously been written. Radar Rat Race for the VIC-20, Dark Sceptre for the Amstrad CPC and Rescue on Fractalus for the Atari 400/800 had all been covered for either the Spectrum or the Commodore 64 in the last two books, and after much deliberation I decided that none of those titles were 'essential' enough to merit being written about for a second time, even if it was for a different format. Anyway, as I mentioned above, I now have just six entries to write before I reach the magic total of 231; I'm 99.9% certain of the games I'm going to cover, but I'll stop short of confirming the titles just yet as you never know how things can change at the last minute.

Talking of which... the last time I updated the author diary for The 8-Bit Book, I mentioned that Andrew and I had decided to drop the 'Elite' cover and come up with something completely different, and that I had an idea up my sleeve which I was itching to have a go at; well, the idea I had in mind was actually an 8-bit take on The Beatles' famous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, and I managed to cobble together something along those lines which I was really quite pleased with. In the end, however, both Andrew and I agreed it would probably be not quite right for the cover after all (although I'm pleased to record that my efforts weren't in vain, as we're going to find a home for it somewhere inside the book instead). Anyway, here's what I came up with:

Having decided we still weren't 100% happy with the cover, Andrew and I both set about coming up with yet another idea (easier said than done)! Luckily enough, I had a moment of inspiration whilst writing the entry for Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday. The game's title page featured a font which was strangely attractive and very much 'of its time'... a sort of digital calculator / clock radio style of lettering which I fancied might work well on the cover of the 8-Bit Book. So I mocked up a simple image and sent it over to Andrew, and thankfully he felt it was just what we were looking for. Andrew then got to work on a far more professionally rendered version, and the end result looks like this (ever so slightly tweaked from the thumbnail image you can currently see on the home page):

We're both really pleased with the result, and hopefully those pre-ordering the book will be too.  Incidentally, if you like the new front cover, just wait until you see what Andrew's currently in the process of putting together for the back cover... it looks absolutely fantastic!!

Well, that's all for now, although I promise to update the diary again within the next week or so, and when I do, the final list of games to feature in the book will be truly set in stone.

I must also add a final plea to anyone currently toying with the idea of purchasing the book but who hasn't actually taken the plunge yet... please don't hesitate if you can help it! We rely solely on pre-orders to cover the book's printing costs, so it's imperative that we have enough confirmed purchases in time if we're to avoid any delays and make our planned publication date of March '09.

The 200 barrier has been broken!!  The total number of completed entries now stands at a mighty 203.  The latest additions are...

La Abadia del Crimen (Amstrad CPC) ... 1988
River Raid (Atari 400/800) ... 1983
Ace of Aces (Atari 400/800) ... 1983
Xyphoes Fantasy (Amstrad CPC) ... 1991
Wychwood (Electron) ... 1987
Scapeghost (C64) ... 1989
Phantom Slayer (TRS-80) ... 1982
Astro Chase (Atari 400/800) ... 1982
Terrormolinos (C64) ... 1985

Still on course to reach the final tally of 230 entries by the end of October!!
It's been a hectic couple of weeks - not only have I been completing more entries (another eight to add to the confirmed list now) but I've also been working on the new cover for the book, not to mention preparing for the new school term which started today!!  The latest games to make their way into the book are...

Defenders of the Earth (SAM Coupe) ... 1990
Give My Regards to Broad Street (Spectrum) ... 1985
Oh No!  More Lemmings (SAM Coupe) ... 1990
Beatle Quest (C64) ... 1985
DeathStar (Beeb) ... 1984
Catacombs (ZX81) ... 1981
Fungaloids (ZX81) ... 1982
Morris Meets the Bikers (Spectrum) ... 1983

That takes the total number of games covered to 194, with only another 36 left to go!!  At the current rate, I will have completely finished writing the book by the end of October, which should ensure our target publication date of March 2009 remains realistic (assuming the pre-orders come rolling in like we hope!). 
It's official - we have decided to change the cover of The 8-Bit Book

Although I was reasonably pleased with my first stab at designing a suitable image, reactions to the 'Elite' cover from various Retro Gamer and rllmuk forum members were mixed, to say the least
(Responses ranged from "beautiful" to "nasty"!) so I was more than happy to drop it; not least because (a) it will probably end up somewhere inside the book anyway and (b) I had a far cooler idea up my sleeve all the time, and now I'm going to get the chance to piece it together after all. 

I'll be keeping the details of the new cover a secret for the time being, with a view to revealing all by the time I've finished writing the text of the book (which will almost certainly be before the end of October '08).  

Watch this space!

With writing for the book now around 80% complete, I have revealed the titles covered so far over at the Retro Gamer and rllmuk forums - should be interesting to gauge fellow 8-bit enthusiasts' opinions, and perhaps there will even be one or two suggestions made as to games which ought to be included that I may have overlooked.  For the benefit of those who don't frequent online retro gaming forums (but love hanging around the diary sections of independent publishers' websites), here is the current list of around 180 games that will definitely feature in The 8-Bit Book - 1981 to 199x (out of a final total of 230-ish):

Alpiner (TI99/4A)
Car Wars (TI99/4A)
TI Invaders (TI99/4A)
Tombstone City (TI99/4A)
Popcorn (TRS-80)
3D Defender (ZX81)
3D Monster Maze (ZX81)
The Oracle’s Cave (ZX81)
Castle Wolfenstein (Apple II)
Softporn Adventure (Apple II)
Wizardry (Apple II)
Radar Rat Race (VIC-20)
The Count (VIC-20)
Aztec (Apple II)
The Dark Crystal (Apple II)
Necromancer (Atari 400/800)
Planetoid (BBC Micro)
Snapper (BBC Micro)
Starship Command (BBC Micro)
Parsec (TI99/4A)
Tunnels of Doom (TI99/4A)
Clowns & Balloons (TRS-80)
Donkey King (TRS-80)
Gridrunner (VIC-20)
Black Crystal (ZX81)
City Patrol (ZX81)
Mazogs (ZX81)
Trader (ZX81)
Planetfall (Apple II)
Ultima III: Exodus (Apple II)
B.C.’s Quest for Tires (Atari 400/800)
Dandy (Atari 400/800)
Encounter (Atari 400/800)
Jumpman (Atari 400/800)
Miner 2049er (Atari 400/800)
Pitstop (Atari 400/800)
Spelunker (Atari 400/800)
Aviator (BBC Micro)
Blagger (BBC Micro)
Chuckie Egg (BBC Micro)
Drogna (BBC Micro)
Granny’s Garden (BBC Micro)
Gunsmoke (BBC Micro)
Time Lords (BBC Micro)
Twin Kingdom Valley (BBC Micro)
Forbidden Forest (C64)
Jack Attack (C64)
Escape from Moonbase Alpha (Electron)


Felix in the Factory (Electron)
Monsters (Electron)
Antarctic Adventure (MSX)
Bomberman (MSX)
Moria (Oric)
Zorgon’s Revenge (Oric)
Winged Warlords (Spectrum)
Time Bandit (TRS-80)
Zaxxon (TRS-80)
Artillery Duel (VIC-20)
Robotron 2084 (VIC-20)
Skramble (VIC-20)
Star Trek – Strategic Operations Simulator (VIC-20)
Fruity Frank (Amstrad CPC)
Roland on the Ropes (Amstrad CPC)
Conan: Hall of Volta (Apple II)
Murder on the Zinderneuf (Apple II)
Montezuma’s Revenge (Atari 400/800)
The Seven Cities of Gold (Atari 400/800)
Daredevil Denis (BBC Micro)
Elite (BBC Micro)
Frak! (BBC Micro)
JCB Digger (BBC Micro)
Pengi (BBC Micro)
Wizadore (BBC Micro)
The Incredible Hulk (C16 / Plus 4)
Tales of the Arabian Nights (C64)
Cuthbert in Space (Dragon 32)
Countdown to Doom (Electron)
Jet Power Jack (Electron)
Track & Field 1 (MSX)
Don’t Press the Letter “Q” (Oric)
Mr. Wimpy (Oric)
Avalon (Spectrum)
Battlecars (Spectrum)
Gift from the Gods (Spectrum)
Rebelstar Raiders (Spectrum)
Strontium Dog: The Killing (Spectrum)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Spectrum)
The Perils of Willy (VIC-20)
Forty Niner (ZX81)
Sorcery + (Amstrad)
The Devil’s Crown (Amstrad)
Alley Cat (Atari 400/800)
Bounty Bob Strikes Back (Atari 400/800)
Gauntlet (Atari 400/800)
Rescue on Fractalus (Atari 400/800)
The Goonies (Atari 400/800)
Zorro (Atari 400/800)

Boffin (BBC Micro)
Castle Quest (BBC Micro)
Citadel (BBC Micro)
Doctor Who and the Mines of Terror (BBC Micro)
Repton (BBC Micro)
Tempest (BBC Micro)
Daley Thompson’s Star Events (C16 / Plus 4)
Monkey Magic (C16 / Plus 4)
Blackwyche (C64)
Law of the West (C64)
Racing Destruction Set (C64)
Scarabaeus (C64)
Theatre Europe (C64)
A Mind Forever Voyaging (C128)
Yie Ar Kung-Fu (MSX)
Bored of the Rings (Spectrum)
Gyron (Spectrum)
Marsport (Spectrum)
Robin of Sherwood (Spectrum)
Shadow of the Unicorn (Spectrum)
SurfChamp (Spectrum)
Avenger (Amstrad)
Get Dexter (Amstrad)
Heartland (Amstrad)
Max Headroom (Amstrad)
Spindizzy (Amstrad)
The Sacred Armour of Antiriad (Amstrad)
World Cup Carnival (Amstrad)
Might and Magic (Apple II)
Tass Times in Tonetown (Apple II)
Boulder Dash Construction Kit (Atari 400/800)
Infiltrator (Atari 400/800)
International Karate (Atari 400/800)
Galaforce (BBC Micro)
Imogen (BBC Micro)
Stryker’s Run (BBC Micro)
Kikstart (C16 / Plus 4)
Alleykat (C64)
Bounder (C64)
Fist II: The Legend Continues (C64)
Murder on the Mississippi (C64)
Sanxion (C64)
Super Cycle (C64)
The Last V8 (C128)
Dragon Warrior (MSX)
Vampire Killer (MSX)
Contact Sam Cruise (Spectrum)
Doctor What! (Spectrum)
iD (Spectrum)


Turbo Esprit (Spectrum)
Cobra (Amstrad)
Dark Sceptre (Amstrad)
Freddy Hardest (Amstrad)
XOR (Amstrad)
Aliens – The Computer Game (Apple II)
Henry’s House (Atari 400/800)
Firetrack (BBC Micro)
Voidrunner (C16 / Plus 4)
Airborne Ranger (C64)
Echelon (C64)
Mega Apocalypse (C64)
Ravenskull (Electron)
Metal Gear (MSX)
Nemesis 2 (MSX)
Bobsleigh (Spectrum)
The Vindicator! (Amstrad)
Neuromancer (Apple II)
Exile (BBC Micro)
Impossible Mission II (C64)
Modem Wars (C64)
Project Firestart (C64)
Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon (C64)
Snatcher (MSX2)
R-Type (Spectrum)
Target: Renegade (Spectrum)
Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Amstrad)
The New Zealand Story (Amstrad)
Prince of Persia (Apple II)
Myth* (C64) … *the Magnetic Scrolls text adventure, not the System 3 platformer!
Tusker (C64)
Aleste 2 (MSX2)
Contra (MSX2)
Final Fantasy (MSX2)
Space Harrier II (Amstrad)
Metal Gear 2 – Solid Snake (MSX2)
SD Snatcher (MSX2)
Last Ninja 3 (C64)
Warlock the Avenger (C64)
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (Spectrum)

Only forty or so entries to go now.  At a rate of around half a dozen per week, that means I should have finished writing the book by the middle of October!

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