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Computerdial

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Hamaskis

Computerdial were the purveyors of F.I.S.T., the game deveoped by Steve Jackson for interactive telephone gaming, based on Fighting Fantasy.

BeginningsEdit

Computerdial was founded in 1985 in the United Kingdom, and developed a system which could read the clicks on a rotary-dial phone.

AstrologyEdit

In the mid-eighties they used this system for astrology, where the user dialled in their birth-date and heard a horoscope read by the TV astrologer, Russell Grant. This was the period during which Russell became a British institution. When Grant jetted off to America to present an astrology special with Angie Dickinson, he also launched his astro-telephone lines there with Computerdial in New York, having had already had a huge success in London and the UK. Apparently, "540-RUSS" became the catch phrase. During this time the owners of Computerdial, the Pirquets, paid for Grant to live at Greenwich country club in Connecticut[1], a reflection of the success they were having.

F.I.S.T. and Steve JacksonEdit

In the late 1980's Computerdial approached Steve Jackson asking if he thought it was possible to do any games, perhaps like a Fighting Fantasy book, using their system. Jackson described his thoughts on being asked this in the following terms:

Wow. It was like someone had said to me: "Hey, we've just invented a pack of cards. We've been using it to tell fortunes. Want to see if you can invent any games to play with them?"[2]

Evidently, Jackson felt the system was perfect for his Fighting Fantasy-type adventures. He immediately set about the creative process describing it as "the nearest thing I've come to actually programming a computer ... the whole adventure was written like a cross between a Fighting Fantasy book and a computer program.".[2]

The result was gamebook-style adventures, played by calling up a toll phone number and pressing buttons on a touch-tone phone or using a rotary-dial phone. The first, and most well known, of Jackson's projects with Computerdial was called F.I.S.T. (Fantasy Interactive Scenarios by Telephone)[2] Jackson called upon associates from his past, and got Martin McKenna to do the Advertising art for F.I.S.T. in 1989. [3] Computerdial placed an advert on the TV pages of The Mirror newspaper and got 5,000 people a day phoning in. So they then put one on the back page of The Sun and in Jackson's words "it went ballistic."[4]

Once again, Computerdial scored a success, and once again crossed the Atlantic with this product. Jackson describes the fact that the royalties he received were wonderful with which he was able to buy a Spanish villa.[2]

Jackson did 5 telephone adventures in total.[2] As stated, the first was called F.I.S.T.: ("Castle Mammon"), released in early 1988. The second was a direct sequel called F.I.S.T.2, ("The Rings of Allion"), released in March 1989.[5] The third adventure was not called "F.I.S.T.3", as stated by Jackson in the "F.I.S.T.2 is ready - are you?" pack, sent out in March 1989 as a promotional invitation to play F.I.S.T.2.[5] Jackson was clear that "I'm working on the third Computerdial game. It's not "F.I.S.T.3" - not even a fantasy game - but it is a game of combat."[5] It is not yet known what the fourth and fifth games consisted of.

Competition Commission's investigation of British TelecomEdit

Computerdial were heavily involved in the Competition Commission's investigation of British Telecom ("BT") in 1988, looking into whether the provision by BT of Chatline Services and Message Services by means of its Public Switched Telephone Network operated against the public interest. Computerdial, a member of ATIEP ("Association of Telephone Information and Entertainment Providers"), obviously had a keen interest in BT not dominating the market in a way contrary to the prosperity of their own business.

The Information Service LimitedEdit

In 1997 the company became known as "The Information Service Limited", changing its name with Companies House. They were bought by Scottish Telecom, a subsidiary of Scottish Power plc, and continue to exist in this capacity.

See AlsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Russell Grant
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Interview with Steve Jackson, 1998, on RPG Vault Archive
  3. Martin McKenna Bibliography
  4. Next Generation - Edge interview with Steve Jackson "Writing Fiction", December 2007
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "F.I.S.T.2 is ready - are you?" pack, March 1989

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