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January 12, 1987

ACTIVISION BRANCHES OUT INTO LITERATURE – ON COMPUTER OF COURSE

By CBR Staff Writer

Just like the brilliant clown who thought himself a failure because no-one ever asked him to play that manic depressive great Dane Hamlet, the computer seems mortified that it is not taken seriously as a creative genius, and keeps trying to invade the world of imagination. Anyone who has seen any clips of old black and white movies that have been computer-tinted will be well aware that its skill even at painting by numbers is almost non-existent, but, undeterred, it is trying to turn its digits to literature. Promoted as the first true piece of computer literature, (well it would be, wouldn’t it), Portal: A Computer Novel has been released onto the market by Activision. The company stresses that unlike books or films that have been translated into computer form as text adventures, Portal was designed from the beginning as computer literature. It’s an interactive mix of text, graphics, and sounds – a dazzling combination on the Amiga version according to Microbytes Daily. I think of the computer as a window or doorway to another world, made up of data, says novelist Rob Swigart, who teamed with Brad Fregger to produce Portal. So I was trying to come up with a story-telling form that was as appropriate to the medium as I could make it, which meant looking at how you work with a computer. A Portal reader, or player, has to delve into various Worldnet databases to progress further into the science fiction storyline. Portal allows you to interact with the machine and gives you the feeling that there is an entity on the other side that you’re working with to pull the story together, says Swigart. The program is available at $40 for Commodore 64 and 128 machines, and consists of three disks. Versions for the Amiga, Apple II, IBM Personal, Atari ST, and Macintosh are on the way.

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