Category Archives: TelecomSoft

A collection of articles about TelecomSoft in general

Thanks

Creating the original hand-coded versions of The Bird Sanctuary web site would have been much harder without the help, encouragement or contributions from the following groups of people (in no particular order):

Web expertise, code and advice

David Sparkes, Craig Grannell, Lee Fogarty, Lokesh Dhakar (for his ‘Lightbox’ javascript)

Ex-TelecomSoft staff and associates

Tony Rainbird, Dr Ederyn Williams, Leah Wright-Williams, Ricardo Pinto, Tony Beckwith, Colin Fuidge, Adrian Curry, Joe Bonar, Peter Moreland, Gary Sheinwald, Graeme Boxall, James Leavey, Joss Ellis, Debbie Sillitoe, Martin Defries, Dave Carlos, Terry Finnegan

Ex-TelecomSoft developers

Steve Turner, Jez San, Steven Dunn, Nick Pelling, John Jones-Steel, David Rowe, Ian Oliver, Colin Mongardi, Greg Duddle, Pete Lyon, Mike Lewis, Andy Swann, Ian Brandon, Steve Lacey, Michael Bywater, Ste Ruddy, David J. Broadhurst, Dene Carter, Andrew Bailey, Ross Harris, Shahid Ahmad, Jasdan B. Joerges, Tony Warriner, Jon Dean, Ian Wright, Bo Jangeborg, Gabor K. Kadas, Grant Harrison, Mev Dinc, Dave Perry, Nick Bruty, Chris Pink

Other helpful souls or sites

Rupert Goodwins, Steve Gilby (TZX Vault), Martin van der Heide (The World of Spectrum), Peter Verdi (The Magnetic Scrolls Chronicles), Dave Moore (The Stairway to Hell), Kim Lemon (Lemon 64), Sarah Dwyer (Special Reserve), Simon Owen (Lenskey), The Home of the Underdogs, Exotica, Malc Jennings (CPC Zone), Stephen Stuttard (a.k.a. Mort), Lee Theasby, Jon North, Frank Gasking (Games That Weren’t 64), Staiff (Deviant Art) for the cassette case template PSD used on this site

The WordPress community

The latest version of this site has been crafted using WordPress, and there are far too many users and developers of WordPress to thank for the wonderful plugins and advice that they offer users around the world. Thank you one and all! ūüôā

… and last, but in no way least, thanks to my wife Siobhan for being so patient whilst I work on this website!

Helping out

If you think you can contribute information or images to the Bird Sanctuary, please get in contact. I am particularly interested in people who still own original boxed copies of TelecomSoft games, as there is barcode information on the packaging that might prove to be very useful to the site.

I’m also always looking for developers who worked on the games we published, so why not get in contact and help tell the story behind the game?

The Wanted section details specific items or images that are currently sought after for the Bird Sanctuary.

Remakes

There have been many remakes of some of TelecomSoft’s classic titles down the years. This section will try to cover as many of the good ones as it can.

None of the titles featured here are commercial, which just goes to show how much talent is out there and how much of an impression some of the games have had on people down the years.

3D Starstrike



This is a very slick-looking remake using ultra-modern solid 3D techniques as opposed to the 3D wire-frame used in the original Spectrum and Amstrad game. It looks very impressive and plays very nicely, although it does feel a little harder than I remember the original was, even in 'easy' mode!

Check it out by searching online. The original website is long gone.

Cholo



Whilst the objective of this version of Cholo is the same as the original, the remake looks far slicker than the original black & white 3D wire-frame game upon which it is based. Loads of impressive graphical effects and a smooth, fast 3D system definitely makes this worth a play.

Previously you could download this superb remake of Cholo from Ovine by Design's own web page. Unfortunately, that page has now disappeared and I'm not sure if the files are hosted anywhere else.

Thrust Extreme



Based and inspired by the original Thrust budget game, this new version looks stunning. Written using Blitz basic, Wiebo had previously coded Thrust Deluxe back in 2001.

Download the release version of Thrust Extreme from Wiebo's blog.

Zenith



An excellent, compact and very smart looking remake of The Sentinel. It's fast and great to play. It's a really nice modernisation and I much prefer Zenith over the commercial update that the PC and the Sony PlayStation got in The Sentinel Returns in the late 90's.

Download the latest version of Zenith from John Valentine's web site, but be aware that the game needs an additional installation (Creative's OpenAL - oalinst.exe) for it to run on a modern Windows OS.

Z-Virus



The name of this remake is an amalgamation of Zarch and Virus, and first impressions aren't great as the initial menu screen is a tad underwhelming. Selecting Start takes you into the game proper and the 3D graphics immediately look very familiar, until it starts to rain... only then do you start to appreciate how much effort has gone into augmenting the 3D whilst keeping the look and feel of the original game.

However, it gets better because pressing a few function keys changes the 3D view to further away, and then you really start to see how a modern PC can expand the horizons of this game! The water also undulates and the whole thing just looks exactly as you'd imagine it would have had David Braben had that kind of processing power back in 1987/88.

Download v2 of Z-Virus from the following Blitz Basic web site.

Trade Articles

Telecomsoft was regularly featured in the Trade press, particularly Computer Trade Weekly (CTW) which was the main publication throughout the 80s.

CTW – Unknown date (1988/89)

Computer Trade Weekly -

The headline for this article is a little misleading, as the actual story really covered the decision by TelecomSoft not to develop for the planned Konix console (a smart move as it turns out, as the Konix console failed to appear in the end!), and a possible move to develop for NEC’s PC Engine console instead.

CTW – Monday February 20th 1989

Computer Trade Weekly -

This article was published just before BT officially announced that TelecomSoft was up for sale. It covered a wide range of rumours and recent stories involving the company, including recent departures, possible future directions and the female to male staff ratios!

Handling the truth

Please keep in mind that the Trade Press didn’t always get things right, so the information you find in these trade cuttings aren’t necessarily 100% true or accurate. Often they are simply a snapshot of the rumours and opinions that existed at the time they were published.

TelecomSoft Tales

Tales is a section which contains a number of small stories, anecdotes, quotes, etc. about TelecomSoft. They all originate from developers or staff who worked for Firebird, Rainbird or Silverbird. Some of these stories have appeared on other web sites, or were published in the contemporary magazines of the day, whilst the remainder have been previously unpublished.

James Leavey talks about The Beano…

I remember taking the DC Thomson editors of The Beano and another comic (The Victor?) in Kensington and after a boozy lunch with this pair of Scottish ravers we agreed it would be a great idea for Firebird to join up with DC Thomson and launch a new game based on characters from the DC Thomson comic portfolio, such as Dennis the Menace. Unfortunately this idea was scotched back at the range…

Dave ‘Ubik’ Korn talks about visits to the pub…

Firebird Software (TelecomSoft) was the main firm I worked for in those days, and it was a great place! Every time I went there to show them the latest progress with whatever project I was working on at the time, we all ended up getting riotously slaughtered in the pub across the road. One night me and Colin sneaked back into the Firebird office in the middle of the evening and rearranged the furniture, put all the desks on the chairs and the phones on the floor. Unfortunately Colin was late getting to work the next morning (owing to a hangover!) and the people who arrived before he got there to explain thought the place had been burgled until they realised nothing had been taken…!

Tim Follin talks about composing a tune for the Spectrum…

I remember composing Black Lamp overnight. I had to have it finished for the following day. I took my work equipment home because I’d sat at work all day staring at a blank screen. I only had the tune idea at about 10 ‘o clock in the evening, and sat up all night in my bedroom writing it. It sounds like it if you listen to it!

More tales?

Were you a developer working on a TelecomSoft title? Do you have any tales to tell? If so, then please get in contact.

Silver Club logo

The Silver Club

Originally set up as a public relations agency, Inter-Mediates specialised in the promotion of computer games. In 1985, Tony Rainbird contacted the company to handle the PR for the launch of the Rainbird publishing label, having known co-owner Dave Carlos from his stint as editor of Home Computing Weekly. The Rainbird launch was handled by Dave’s business partner, Mike Baxter who was based in Brighton at the time.

A year later, and TelecomSoft had recently moved offices to New Oxford Street. As part of the Firebird budget range’s re-branding (becoming the ¬£1.99 Silver Range) and as a way of encouraging brand loyalty amongst customers, someone (possibly Herbie Wright) had suggested the creation of a club that customers could join. Unfortunately, nobody had the time to work out what to do with it, so Dave Carlos volunteered Inter-Mediates to run the club on TelecomSoft’s behalf. TelecomSoft didn’t really have to think about it for too long, as 120 cheques had already arrived in the post thanks to the new Firebird Silver games advertising the club inside an initial 25,000 printed inlays:

HEY THERE!!!

Have you joined the IN-CROWD? Are you a
member of the SILVER CLUB? If not, then
we in the SILVER CLUB would love to hear
from you!

To become a member, just send a cheque or
postal order for £1.99 made payable to
FIREBIRD SOFTWARE, along with your
name, address, age and the type of
computer you have to the address below,
clearly marking the envelope ‘SILVER CLUB’
and we’ll send you a bumper pack of goodies
including:

BADGES
STICKERS
POSTERS
NEWSLETTERS
AN EXCLUSIVE MEMBERSHIP No.
YOUR OWN MEMBERSHIP CARD

Dave Carlos expected the Silver Club to be a small part of the work Inter-Mediates produced for TelecomSoft, yet it quickly exceeded the initial expectation of maybe a few thousand members and (in Dave’s own words) “grew into a monster”.




The A4 newsletter typically consisted of four double-sided pages. The first page was in colour, to accommodate the Silver Club logo (above). The content included news of new releases, competitions, high scores, pen pals, letters, members cage, interviews, special offers and mail order information.

The Silver Club newsletter was sent out approximately every 2-3 months. It's currently unknown exactly how many issues of the newsletter were produced in total, although it's believed that it wasn't more than seven or eight. Club membership was at 10,000 by the fourth issue and at it's peak there were over 30,000! Some example issues of the newsletter are available from the downloads section.

Members could get 25% off Silverbird purchases (approximately 50p off a £1.99 budget game), and at various times other special offers came their way. For example, one offer gave members five randomly selected titles from the Firebird Silver £1.99 range back catalogue for the princely sum of £2.50!

One thing not mentioned in the official promotional info was that the Silver Club was an annual subscription, costing another £1.99 to renew for another year. In the end, the Club proved to be far too successful. The running costs far exceeded the membership fees, so it was decided to close the club down.

A big thanks must go to Alex Buckley for providing original copies of the 3rd and 4th issues of the newsletter, John Edwards for scanning issues 2 and 5, Richard Dare for scanning issues 6 and 7, im Langmead for the various badge scans and anecdotes, and a big thanks to Dave Carlos for remembering!!

Visit the Downloads page to grab some example issues of the Silver Club newsletter.

Editorial duties

The newsletter had a deliberate 'home made' look to it, and was originally written by Dave Carlos on a BBC Micro using Mirrorsoft's Fleet Street Editor.

As the club's success grew, Dave handed the newsletter over to his own team at Inter-Mediates so he could get back to running the PR agency side.

Near the end, the writing duties were picked up by Graeme Kidd, who had recently left Newsfield after being Editor of Crash! Magazine.