Q-Bits From my Personal Collection – Asteroids in Space

Welcome to another Quick Bits article. I’m thinking of briefly digging into some of the many Asteroids clones hitting the personal computer market in 1980. Here’s the first and very short article.

In late 1979, Atari Inc. introduced the world to Asteroids, a space-themed multidirectional shooter designed by Lyle Rains and Ed Logg. The arcade game would become an instant success and quickly dethroned Space Invaders as the most popular arcade game in the US. Shooting and destroying asteroids became the hottest thing around and with over 70.000 cabinets sold over its lifetime, Asteroid became Atari’s best-selling arcade game of all time. While ports for Atari’s own VCS video game console wouldn’t happen until 1981, Asteroids came to inspire numerous programmers to craft their own direct copies or variants of the popular concept during 1980. One of the clones hitting the market that year was Bruce Wallace‘s Asteroids in Space.

Wallace had worked with data processing and had designed and implemented mainframe applications in Fortran, Cobol, and assembly language during the mid-’70s. With the personal computer revolution in the latter part of the decade, Wallace left mainframes and supercomputers behind and in 1979 joined Personal Software, one of the earliest companies to focus on software development and distribution for personal computers. The same year Personal Software released VisiCalc for the Apple II, the first spreadsheet for personal computers and the application that essentially turned microcomputers from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool.

In 1980 when the Asteroids craze swept across the nation, Wallace went on to develop his own faithful home computer version using the Apple II’s Hi-Res mode for graphics and the game paddles for controlling the spaceship, firing its laser, and applying thrust to propel it around, avoiding impacts from asteroids and incoming fire by flying saucers.
Asteroids in Space was picked up by Quality Software and released for the Apple II in 1980.

Bruce Wallace’s Asteroids in Space was published for the Apple II by Quality Software in 1980.
I’ll add a short gameplay video sometime in the future, as I need to acquire some game paddles first

Asteroids in Space was voted one of the most popular software titles of 1980 by Softalk magazine where it held on to a position in the top ten. Later that year several new Asteroids’ clones were hitting the market, among those Asteroids from Adventure International and Wallace’s Asteroids in Space slipped from sixth to seven place on the magazine’s top-seller list. By 1983 the concept had been more or less exhausted, still, variants in some form or shape would continue to pop up over the next many years.

In 1980 Wallace left Personal Software and became lead software architect at Aydin Energy where he was in charge of software design and implementation and wrote an entire multi-threaded multi-tasking system for Lawrence Livermore Labs fusion reactor experiment. For the next four decades, Wallace would provide custom computer software development, consulting, and contract programming services around the world. 

Sources: Infoworld, Wikipedia, Softalk Magazine, Linkedin…

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