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! 🙂

… 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.

Adverts

The adverts shown on this page are specifically multi-title. Individual adverts for games can be found (where appropriate) on their respective tribute pages.

The full-price Firebird Software label was the most promoted TelecomSoft label as far as advertising was concerned. The initial push on the £2.50 Silver Range gradually disappeared. Rainbird initially got very little advertising, but as the range found its feet and became well-known, the titles started to get their own adverts.

Firefly Software

Before Firebird there was FIREFLY. The original FIREFLY advert from British Telecom appeared in computer magazines in the Spring and Summer of 1984.



By the time the first budget games were released, the name had been changed to Firebird. They recreated the advert a year later, but this time in black and using the Firebird name.

Firebird Silver Range

When Firebird titles first appeared on the shelves in late 1984, an advertising blitz was made on the popular computing magazines of the time.



The early Firebird Silver adverts used the Seeing is believing slogan as a way of promoting the new publisher into the game player's conscience, and these multi-title adverts appeared over the Christmas and New Year period of 1984/85.



As the number of games increased, new adverts appeared that featured the entire (current) range of Firebird Silver games. The first few Firebird Gold titles also began appearing on the adverts, although it wasn't long before they got adverts of their own.

Firebird Super Silver

The new mid-range label Firebird Super Silver appeared in 1985, as did a handful of multi-title and multi-platform adverts to announce its arrival. The chosen advertising slogan was Set to Stun, Ready to Run.



The Firebird Super Silver Range included Firebird's first licensed deal, for the classic Gerry Anderson sci-fi puppet TV show Thunderbirds.

Firebird Gold

The higher-priced Gold series debuted in 1985 with two titles - Buggy Blast (48k Spectrum) and Demons of Topaz (C64) - retailing at £5.95. A one-sided A4 poster was sent out to shops to promote the first two titles. Despite advertising the Gold range, the poster was printed in four colours (black, white, red and silver) which excluded gold! This was followed by individual adverts (also available as a double-sided A4 poster for shop windows) for both titles, in full colour.



With the first of the Firebird Gold titles successfully published, it was then time to publicise the latest additions to the range with a new advert, adding Gyron and Elite. Other Firebird Gold titles also got their own adverts, including classics like Revs, Revs + and The Sentinel.

Rainbird

Not long after Rainbird was launched, an advert was produced to show the range in the best light. Rainbird was really getting into its stride in 1986. So much so that a new advert promoting a series of titles was produced. In 1987, an advert showed a number of titles on their way, but some of them never made it in the end!



The games included in the advert were Tracker, Starglider, Jewels of Darkness, The Pawn, Silicon Dreams, The OCP Art Studio and The Music System.

Firebird Hot

Another mid-range full price label was launched, with the name Firebird Hot. Four games were available at launch - Rasputin, Runestone, Costa Capers and Gerry the Germ Goes Body Poppin'.



The square cardboard boxes weren't used beyond the initial four releases, but the strong red packaging design specifically employed for the Firebird Hot range lasted beyond the range itself!

Ultimate - Play The Game

TelecomSoft signed a deal with Ultimate to convert and publish C64 versions of three of their most popular Spectrum releases. This early advert promoted the first two releases, Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde.

Sabre Wulf & Underwurlde - Commodore 64 - Advert

The third and final Firebird C64 Ultimate conversion (Night Shade) was not advertised.

16-bit games

As the 16-bit market matured, a combined ST and Amiga advert was published to promote a number of 16-bit titles, including Return to Genesis, Black Lamp, Pandora and the 16-bit conversion of The Sentinel.

Firebird - Atari ST & Commodore Amiga advert

The prices included Postage and Packing, which actually meant that they were being sold mail order at the same price as bought from a shop.

Silverbird launch

Advertising the budget range came back in early 1988 to help promote the new Silverbird label and the various different price points.

Silverbird announcement - Advert

Only the £1.99 (black and red stripes), £2.99 (black and yellow) and £9.99 (black and blue) price-points were ever used, with the green £6.99 and the orange £3.99 labels remaining untouched.

Christmas 1988

Christmas 1988 saw Firebird's last ever multi-title advert from TelecomSoft. It advertised a number of games, including Savage, Elite, Dynamic Duo, Blazing Barrels and Exploding Fist +.



Rainbird also got an advert for Starglider 2, Verminator, Corruption and Fish!.

The Christmas Silverbird advert included a game that was ultimately published by a different publisher after the sale to MicroProse (UK) Ltd in May 1989.

Barcodes

The barcode on the inlay or box gives a clue to the intended production order. For example, 5012439011002 represents:

501=UK, 2439 = Company ID, 01=Internal (Group), 100=Internal Production No., 2 = Checksum

In the early days of TelecomSoft, the production numbers started at 01, but they started using higher numbers for different brands or publishing labels, e.g. 201+ for the Firebird Gold titles, 301+ for the Firebird Super Silver range and 501+ for Rainbird.

TelecomSoft used different company ID numbers, starting with 2439 for everything and eventually using 2439 for Rainbird, 7095 for Silverbird and 7096 for Firebird.

Sometimes, the same barcode is reused (by mistake). For example, Bubble Bobble on the Spectrum is the same barcode as Ricochet on the Amstrad CPC! Other times, it could be deliberate. For example, the Opus Discovery version of Elite (supplied on 3.5″ disk and sold exclusively in Boots the Chemists stores in the UK) was produced in very small numbers and so it wasn’t considered necessary to produce a new barcode and all the work that involved.

Thanks to Terry Burton, whose online barcode generator was used to create the barcode images found on this web site.

For anyone interested, TelecomSoft used the EAN13 standard for barcodes on all of their products.

Bulletin 1000

On the corner of Notting Hill Gate, in the fashionable Kensington and Chelsea area of London you would have found the offices of Bulletin 1000. This was a company that produced VHS videos to help software publishers promote their latest releases to the various retailers who stocked computer games back in the mid-80s and early 1990s.

The videos were sent out at regular intervals to both the larger chains (like WH Smith, Woolworths and John Menzies) and the smaller independent retailers who had added computer games to their portfolio from an early stage.

The first three videos produced by Bulletin 1000 featured an on-screen presenter, but this approach was dropped in favour of a 100% game footage with voice-over format after retailers reported that customers lost interest and walked away when the presenter appeared!

I can clearly remember being cooped up within their small offices, playing the latest versions of our games for the 8-bit and 16-bit platforms. We would spend an hour or two playing and simultaneously recording the footage, followed by another hour or so sitting down and watching a time-coded VHS tape and choosing the footage we wanted to keep by noting down the in and out points via the time-code.

The trip from TelecomSoft to Bulletin 1000 was fairly easy - just a quick hop onto the Central Line tube from Tottenham Court Road to Notting Hill Gate, then a few minutes walk down Notting Hill Gate road.

Where can I see them now?

Small examples of footage from some Bulletin 1000 videos crop up now and then on YouTube, and sometimes you'll also find people selling original VHS PAL tapes on ebay.

Whilst they are a fascinating slice of UK computer game history, don't expect the quality of the voice-overs or the footage itself to be particularly good when compared to today's standards!

Artists

Over the years a large number of graphic artists worked on TelecomSoft titles. A few are mentioned here, with hopefully more to come in the future:

Stephen Robertson

Most recognisable by his 8-bit title screen signature SIR, Stephen created a series of C64 title screens for the budget range Firebird Silver/Silverbird between 1986 and 1987. Titles included Freak Factory, Happiest Days of your Life, Harvey Headbanger, I Ball, Microrhythm, Olli and Lisa, Warhawk, Twinky Goes Hiking. Stephen has his own website, found here.


An interview with Stephen can be found on the excellent C64 web site Lemon 64.

David Rowe

David Rowe created some of the most memorable paintings for Firebird's 8-bit classics, including the eye that adorned The Sentinel, and the cover for the Flying Shark conversions. His first piece of artwork for TelecomSoft was actually for Beyond just after they had been bought by BT (for the Monolith game Bounces).



In addition, David also worked for Starlight Software and produced the artwork for the charity 8-bit software compilation Soft Aid. He also contributed the background art for the children's British TV series Knightmare and later created the artwork that adorned the box for the classic EA game Populous. David is married to the equally accomplished artist, Susan Rowe, who also produced some work for TelecomSoft (including the back of the novella The Darkness Rises that came with the Rainbird title Jewels of Darkness and some unused artwork for the Firebird coin-op conversion of Rainbow Islands).

Herman Serrano

Herman is one of a rare breed of artists who is as adept with a paintbrush as he is with a mouse. Apart from co-designing Weird Dreams (as well as doing all the in-game graphics, the title screen and the box artwork), Herman contributed a number of other paintings including Carrier Command, Quartz, and Savage.



Titles screens drawn by Herman included Carrier Command, Quartz, Savage, Starglider 2, Verminator, and Virus (ST version only). He also contributed some of the in-game graphics for Starglider (Mac and Spectrum), Carrier Command (icons on 16-bit versions), and Stunt Car Racer.

Steinar Lund

Steinar Lund is a veteran of computer game artwork. In the past he produced art for dozens of UK publishers including Martech, Mirrorsoft, TelecomSoft (obviously!), Quicksilva, Domark, MicroProse, Electric Dreams, Empire, Llamasoft and many others.

Rainbird's Starglider featured a poster created by Steinar. He also did the box artwork for Firebird's Gyron and Firebird Silver's I, Ball, The Extirpator and more besides.



He also used to live quite close to fellow artist and TelecomSoft contributor, David Rowe.



When MicroProse UK bought Firebird and Rainbird from BT, they asked Steinar to create new versions of the iconic logos. He also produced the cover for 3D Pool.

Odin Computer Graphics Ltd logo

Odin Computer Graphics Ltd

Odin Computer Graphics Ltd (OCG) were known as ‘Thor’ in the early 1980s. Based close to Liverpool’s Albert Dock, Thor’s early catalogue mainly consisted of Spectrum games written by freelance programmers. Read More