The Matra-Hachette Alice was a home computer sold in France starting in 1983. It was a clone of the TRS-80 MC-10 produced through a collaboration between Matra and Tandy. The Alice was distinguished from the MC-10 by its red case.
Unlike the MC-10, the Alice became a fairly popular computer and Matra later released two successor models with much improved graphics and a built-in assembler. The Alice 32, released in 1984, shared the case of the original, but was a different computer inside with the EF9345 video chip in place of the MC-10's Motorola MC6847. It had 16K memory as standard. The Alice 90, released in 1985, featured 32K and a full-size keyboard.
Because of the introduction of the EF9345 not much of the Basic software for the Alice will work with the MC-10. The EF9345 is capable of 40 and 80 column text and most of the software you can find on the Net uses one of these modes. However, a few programs still use the 32 character mode. In order to maintain some backwards compatibility, Matra made a special screen using the 40 X 24 screen with a 32 X 16 window positioned in the middle and a black border around it consisting of the unused rows and columns. This means that you can still gain access to the columns and rows around the 32 X 16 screen through the use of PEEKS and POKES. I found a Basic game for the Alice that uses this 32 X 16 mode (mostly) with only a few hires embellishments and a few screens that use 80 column mode directly: The Sphinx d'Or.
As you can see from its intro screen (with the pyramid--not the Sphinx), there is a colourful banner around the standard semigraphics screen. There are also some hires embellishments to the standard semigraphics block graphics of the MC6487. The sides of the pyramid have been smoothed, and in the second picture there are some rays that have been added to the sun.
But besides little details like these, it is essentially a Basic graphic text adventure that uses mostly standard SET/RESET block graphics. Of course, it is in French, but with the help of my son Charlie, who was home from Dalhousie University and a graduate of late French immersion for grades 6-9 here in Sydney, and Google translate, it wasn't long before we had English versions of all the text messages. Thanks Charlie (there's an Easter egg in the code in honour of you)!
Then I just had to convert a few of the screens that used the 80 column mode. Also, the original program from the Alice was split in two parts and had a multiple- loading process for different parts of the story. I think this was because the Alice 32 only has 16K RAM (and a 16K ROM--hence the name Alice 32). But I was able to combine both programs into one that fits entirely in a 20K MC-10 (4K + 16K RAM pack) by using the RENUM command that comes with MCX Basic. The first part of the program had the starting screens and also the final game completion puzzles and win routine. A value was POKED into memory that was preserved between loadings that re-directed program execution to the intro or completion routines depending. So you had to load the game, then load the second part, and then re-load the first part to complete the game. There is a version of the Master Mind game in the completion routine that used the 80 column screen and graphics. I was able to create new semi-graphic images for this and all the other aspects that used hires. The only hires thing I couldn't recreate was that fancy permanent woven banner around the screen. But you can't have everything. But, banner aside, we now at least have a new piece of software for the MC-10 compliments of the French. Merci beaucoup citoyens du france et Monsieur Schwartz!
I still have to solve all the riddles of the adventure, but I have tested most of the individual parts of the game. When I'm confident that it is bug free I'll post about in the Interactive Fiction Database, etc. and see if I can find some volunteers willing to try to solve the game and test it more fully.
|Original tape cassette box art|
Here is a partial list of my activities over the last several months that I have been wanting to blog about:
STORM an original game using Semigraphics 6 mode.