Look these early pre-Arcadian issues of "Arcadians" over; they're short and you'll enjoy them. These issues are a glimpse of the just flickering beginnings of the Bally Arcade, when JS&A was still selling them only via mail-order, before BASIC was released, and when people were having all sorts of issues with systems not working and didn't yet know that to be a Bally Arcade owner means to be the proud owner of a quite fragile system. Some of the early kinks were worked out with the system failures, but as time has proven, the failures have driven up the prices of working (and non-working!) units to this day.
I'm pleased with this "Arcadians" download area. I wish I'd taken the time to create thumbnails of the covers and had listed the general content of the other seven volumes of the "Arcadian" newsletters (and Cursor too). Then again, the "Arcadian" newsletters were the first additions to BallyAlley.com (the reason it was created, in fact). Back in 2001, I didn't understand how to setup a website. As is plain to see from just how beautiful the website is now, I still don't know how to do it properly. Ah, well, I'm happy it's available to all you classic gamers out there!
Until now, the "Arcadians" have been the hidden pre-history of the "Arcadian" newsletter. What might have happened if Bob Fabris, the editor, had not initiated the ball rolling and started the "Arcadian?" Would someone else have done it? Maybe, although I'm really not sure if it would have been as good as the "Arcadian." Bob was quite devoted to getting the news out there in the beginning. From his records, it's amazing how hard he worked to get it done.
If someone else HAD started a newsletter without the "Arcadian" existing first, then would it have lasted for seven volumes? I can answer that for you. No. For example, just look at "The "Cursor" (later renamed BASIC Express), which was a Bally Arcade newsletter that started later, but folded after three volumes. Bob handed over editorship of his "Arcadian" to someone else for volume 7. When the issues started falling behind, Bob came back to wrap-up the last volume to give the "Arcadian" a graceful exit. If the Bally Arcade/Astrocade had not had Bob, then even the few of us who know of the system now may never have heard of it. That's impressive work!
Have fun looking through these issues, which are from the stone-age period of Bally citizenship.
ARCADIANS, no. 1 (April 12, 1978): 1-2.
This first issue of "Arcadians" is simply referred to as "BALLY OWNERS."
This is the first letter to those who responded to an ad that Bob Fabris placed in "On-Line." This "issue" appears five months before the first "Arcadian" shipped in November 1978, starting off a seven-volume run (1978-1986).
Some of Bob's comments from the letter include: "Some game cartridges (cassettes, whatever - they have no tape in them) are available now [...]" I guess that calling the carts "cassettes" never settled right with anyone. Bob continues, "The Dial-A-Bargain add-on [basically, a modem to call JS&A] will be free to those who bought the unit before February 28, 1978." The Dial-A-Bargain never shipped. Bob also gives background about himself and his plans for the "group" (the people that got issue #1).
ARCADIANS, no. 2 (May 29, 1978): 1.
Readers of this issue are greeted with, "To BALLY Owners: (Arcadian?)." It's clear that Bob already knew what he had in mind as a name for the forthcoming newsletter.
The Bally Arcade's overheating problems are causing delays with shipping of units, but a fix is in the works. The Math and Baseball carts have become available. Bob conjectures that the add-on might be delayed. He figures that since it's June and he still doesn't have BASIC that everything is probably running behind-- he doesn't know how right that he is about the subject: the add-on never shipped.
ARCADIANS, no. 3 (June 23, 1978): 1.
This is the first issue that is addressed to the "Arcadians." I've always been fond of that nick-name.
This issues talks about someone who is a member of the "Arcadians" group went to the CES in Chicago and saw Tiny BASIC in operation. Bally BASIC is nearing completion; Bob has seen a copy of the BASIC manual. He says that there are one-word summary of some BASIC commands. The game cart PCB is described as a 24 pin board with an IC on it that can't be changed (a hand-drawn rendition of a Bally Arcade cartridge IC board is included to give the reader a better idea of the description).
ARCADIANS, no. 4 (September 1, 1978): 1-2.
This is the first letter to those who responded to an ad Bob placed in "Kilobaud" magazine. There are about thirty-five people in the "Arcadians" group. Bob got his unit on February 28, 1978. A basic overview of hardware is given for new members of the group. Another mention of the overheating problem says that it only occurs with the first units that were shipped. NCE will send interested people a free copy of the TBASIC manual [printed on newspaper stock].
The Bally units in the Montgomery Ward's catalog increased in price from $220 to $269. Bob and about a dozen others (including Jay Fenton) have a meeting with Bally; they get to talk about what they want in the machine (and they also complain about problems that they've had). In the meeting Jay Fenton reviews a working prototype add-on unit (a rack-mounted 44K unit with a keyboard on a separate shelf. It includes a floppy disk system that broke on the way to the meeting).
The first mention of the "ZGRAS" programming language occurs in this issue. Eventually many users pin their hopes on this language and the add-under, both of which went unreleased-- at least for the Bally Arcade; the UV-1 computer, which included these functions (and more), did get released). ZGRASS has online help, which Jay demonstrates. Bob now has the code about the Bally Arcade routines available. Maybe he referring to the Nutting Manual? Information about the 50-pin connector is now also available from Bob.
ARCADIANS, no. 5 (October 10, 1978): 1-4.
Bob exclaims in large hand-written letters, "It's Here!" He is referring to Tiny BASIC finally being on store shelves for $50. All members of the group are getting the Bally PA-1 Service Manual sent to them by Bally for free. Bob had been paying for postage and copying costs for all group members, so this is the last free issue. A one-year subscription costs $5 (the price increases to $10 soon afterward).
Bally says that a third vendor of the custom chips (address system, I/O and data) is now available to them. The Add-On will be demonstrated at the January 1979 CES show in Las Vegas. Bob mentions an article in the Sept/Oct issue of "Creative Computing" magazine. Bally is producing three different models of the unit. They are:
Tiny BASIC and the cassette interface are discussed. The "Bally BASIC" errata sheet is included on page 2. Some commands that are not mentioned in the Bally BASIC manual are listed here. Eventually a document compiled by Jay Fenton called "Bally BASIC Hacker's Guide" includes all of these BASIC commands and how to use them). The cassette interface is said to be "somewhat touchy" and needs to be adjusted using the volume on the tape recorder. There is a reprint of the Tiny BASIC description from the Newman Computer Exchange (NCE) catalog (also reprinted on pages 7 and 8 of the premiere issue of "Arcadian").
- "BA-1000-2" - This unit is for Montgomery Ward.
- "PBA-1100" - This model is available at retail outlets. Over 10,000 units of this model were manufactured at this point.
- "PBA-1200" - This is the model available from the mail-order company JS&A.
||Arcadians Subscription Request #1|
This is version one of the subscription request for the upcoming newsletter "Arcadians." This version says that the subscription amount is five dollars. This request may have been included with people that received "Arcadians" and/or sent to people who requested information about the upcoming newsletter.
||Arcadians Subscription Request #2|
This is version two of the subscription request for the upcoming newsletter "Arcadians." The description of this request is completely different from the first one; it's not just reworded or a variant. The subscription amount has already increased from five to ten dollars. As with this first request, this one may have been included with people that already received "Arcadians" and/or sent to people who requested information about the upcoming newsletter. Eventually, when the first issue of the newsletter was released in November 1978, it had been renamed to "Arcadian."
||Arcadians Partial Compilation|
In 2011, Richard Degler managed (through time, effort and a labor of love) to transcribe the text from the available "Arcadians" newsletters are that time. His transcription text includes issue 4, part of five and two requests for subscriptions.