By Special Request

When I first soft launched this site, this was among the first Tweets I received. This has always been something that interested me, the idea of the original Catchphrase, but I never got to to the end of. What follows is an example of the sort of thing I do to research one of these, and a request for help if anyone can fill in the details.

My interest started with this tweet, a while back:

We went back and forth on this (I’m not going to reproduce the whole conversation here), but it got me looking at videos like the one below:

Similar gameshows in the US (such as Classic Concentration) around this time standardised around the Commodore series, particularly the Commodore 64, much in the same way as similar UK shows operated around the BBC Micro, but this seems a little too detailed, even for the C64. One of the advantages of such a setup is the relative ease in getting a broadcast picture out of the setup, something that would later drive the adoption of the Archimedes series for image mixing.

If we drill down further, we can see the original US series, from 1985 uses largely the same setup, indeed some of the phrases are duplicated in the UK series outright.

The fact that this is 1985 would rule out the early Amiga as a hardware base, at least at first (production models of the Amiga would not reach shelves until July that year. With the show itself being the brainchild of one Stephen Radosh, a former Atari employee who later worked for Philips*, it is not beyond reason that he may have seen prototypes of the Commodore 128, or got hold of the Atari 800XL, both just about capable of this kind of imagery. However, nothing concrete is available.

The Commodore 128 (left) and Atari 800XL (right) both seem capable of providing the detail needed at the given frame rate.

Given that in Greg Dyke’s memoir Inside Story, he mentions the expense of the computer equipment needed for the pilot, this doesn’t seem to tally with either, as these were (in TV terms) cheap home computers. However, the fact that similar concerns weren’t raised over the run of Concentration produced at that time suggests that the system would be pulling double duty. The graphics for that are rather more traditional Commodore fare, so does this imply that this ran both?

Classic Concentration, 1991 episode, Terri vs Antoinette ...
The computer graphics here are merely the game board overlay, not the rebus itself – not beyond the reach of the Commodore.

Here however, the trail goes cold, no specific references to anything specific appears in any text. Searching through trade publications of the time shows up only a reference to AMS Audiofile, the system used to play in the sound cues. As a result, at this point I’m looking for any information anyone may have on this, as I’m starting to get the same insomnia as The Industrious Ant above.

*Stephen Radosh’s run at Philips included overseeing the collaboration between Nintendo and Philips for the CD-i. So the man is in part responsible for that Zelda game. To be honest, Mr Chips was better animated…


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