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Fred_M

Dixons pack releases (UK)

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Hi guys,

 

I hope some guys from the UK (or other countries :) ) can help me investigating the Dixons pack releases. I am trying to make an inventory of all releases that were sold together with the Atari 8-bit computers by Dixons. For the people outside the UK: Dixons is an electronics and computer store in the UK. They sold several brands of home computers and often included a "pack" of software with these computers (for many different brands). These packs contained several cassette tapes of regular titles which were produced by Dixons (I think?). They used a far less quality cassette tape, often flimsy cheap inlays and the cassette label was also very cheaply produced.

 

I have had some help from my buddy ultrasteve and we have now identified 13 titles. I am hoping that people from the UK can confirm these titles and add more of them. My goal is to include these Dixons releases as separate releases in the various preservation projects, as some of these tapes are different from the original releases.

 

So if anyone can help :)

 

This is the list so far:

Sunday golf : Adventure International
Pengon : Microdeal
Bug off : Adventure International
Mr Dig : Microdeal
Tutti Frutti : Adventure International
Cannibals : Calisto
The Golden baton : Channel 8/Adventure International
Electric starfish (2 different covers) : Calisto
Cuthbert goes walkabout : Microdeal
Danger ranger : Microdeal
Artist : Calisto
Ten little indians : Channel 8/Adventure International
Waxworks : Channel 8/Adventure International
Here are two pictures of some Dixons pack releases in my collection:
post-6711-0-89390600-1535554683_thumb.jpg
post-6711-0-60066900-1535554718.jpg
And here some differences between an original release and a Dixons pack release:
post-6711-0-23436800-1535554761.jpg
Look at the difference in tape length:
post-6711-0-36022700-1535554795.jpg
And here the differences between the original release of Waxworks and the Dixons pack version:
post-6711-0-46584800-1535554841_thumb.jpg
Any help would be very much appreciated! :)
Edited by Fred_M
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We talked about this once before and I really really really wish I could be of help but I can't, you (or others) might think why can't a bloke who was tech sales selling Atari's with a Dixons about 100yrds down the road does not know but there's a couple of simple reasons.

 

1. Of course I did sales checks locally, I'd have been rubbish if I didn't check what the competitors were up to but with no internet and only magazine ads word of where was selling didn't spread easily so some smaller shops didn't get the volume and therefore could not compete easily on price unless they wanted to make almost NOTHING on sales, they rarely sold the machines so their income was what they could scrape on software income...Tough job...SO prices were normally too high in their shops..

 

2. Dixons jumped in to the Atari scene quite late if memory serves me and with nothing but box shifters for staff (average age of sales staff was higher then in that sort of line), by the time they were pumping out their little packages the software had already done its normal sales and dried up, the packages were a reasonably good deal for a new buyer but those just buying software had seen it all before and then some..

 

So with us just about to jump computer ship it passed us by as a non event with them...

 

So I never really ever looked at their stuff bar walking past as I went to get a McDonald's etc at lunchtime, I more liked the TV's but the prices, wow....They were and even with the PC World / Currys shops still manage to be the worst place to buy a TV from, a good place to look at one but the prices are a no no..

 

So there we are, the reason I have no clue about the Dixons stuff...I really wish you well on your quest Fred, UltraSteve seems a good help and I hope you find others...

 

Good luck with finding ex Dixons staff from the time, they are either nigh on 70+ pensioners or to full of pride to admit they worked for Dixons :) ........There was a little acronym of sorts (forget the actual term) used by some sales folk for them, the KNC's, the first two are Know Nothing and the last is unprintable..

Edited by Mclaneinc
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I think my first Atari 800XL came from Dixons around the Christmas of '83 or '84, if I remember correctly it cost my Mom and Dad either £89 or £99; it came in a big brown cardboard box. It came with a selection of games, all were Atari branded, red and white cassette inlays, Eastern Front, European Countries and Capitals, The Lode Ranger etc.

 

Can anyone remember the exact year these came out, was it '83 or '84?

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@Mclaneinc I hope some collectors will check their Microdeal and especially Adventure International releases ;) I think we can find out what titles were in the Dixons packs by checking our cassette tapes ;)

 

@adam1977 Yes, Dixons (and Currys) also made packages with the red Atari cassettes, but those are legit Atari UK releases. I am not looking for those titles, they are already preserved ;)

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Can anyone remember the exact year these came out, was it '83 or '84?

 

It was a bit later on ;) The red compilation cassette tapes were published in 1987, European countries and capitals, Lone Raider and Eastern Front in 1985.

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I got a 65xe I believe for Xmas 88, maybe 87. It came with two cassettes, each with 5 games on. They had red labels and it all came from Dixons for 79.99 with an XC12.

 

The games that I remember are

Leaper

Airstrike II

Savage Pond

Centipede

Cloak of Death

And 5 more I cannot remember off hand.

 

There was also a penpal of mine who had another red cassette which was different and I believe it had Chop Suey on it.

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Thanks snicklin, but that is the red Atari Compilation C tape, similar to what adam1977 remembers ;)

 

All red Atari Corp. UK tapes are known and preserved, I am looking for the non-Atari Corp. UK releases, which were produced by Dixons themselves.

 

Hopefully there are some European collectors out there who recognise the type of label as seen in my pictures. Tapes with such labels are (almost?) definitely Dixons pack tapes.

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Now you can see how difficult it is for Fred and why many can't help, its real niche in the UK for this...

 

I remember the red tapes 'a little', think may have one here in the very few tapes I have..

 

Bloody Dixons, always late to the party!

 

Frdd, have you spoken to Atari Frog re this (guessing you have) he's really in to the hard to find stuff...

Edited by Mclaneinc

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I am not looking for the red Atari tapes....

 

I know there are some serious collectors here, so I am hoping they are willing to (visually) check their Adventure International and Microdeal tapes :)

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I don't have much to offer here, except to confirm that I bought several of the "Dixons Pack" cassettes individually from an independent store (Intoto in Nottingham) for £1.50 each in mid 1985 and at various market stalls (again, circa mid 1985). I had no knowledge that they were from a pack not to be sold separately at the time. I remember the "computer font" printed tape labels and shoddy (and strange smelling) lightweight inlays that made me suspect they were pirated versions! In all, I *think* I had Tutti Frutti, Bug Off, Artist, Electric Starfish and 10 Little Indians, all bought separately. I also had those Microdeal games, but they were the real deal.

 

Edit to add: from memory, as well as smelling of very cheap plastic, those "computer font" labelled cassettes had a very strange whistle sound while they were loading which often caused them to fail!

 

I only became an Atari owner in mid 1985 (bought from a catalogue) and it was the 800XL/1010/Pole Position/Basic Demos pack, for £150. A few weeks later, I remember looking around Dixons and finding this:

 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/54/98/33/5498339a1d78069e71e3746b8f988e86.jpg

 

Aaargh! It was half what I paid, with Tramiel now dumping old stock bundled with the first of those Atari UK-produced red inlay cassette packs. There were further bundles including the 1050 dumping (with Waxworks/The Payoff etc.) and further red inlay cassette packs when the 130XE was in decline.

 

But anyway. Those amateur "Dixons Pack" editions must pre-date all of this, so I'm guessing some time in 1984. I'm searching old newspaper archives for advertisements. I can't recall when the two high-street electronics giants of their day Dixons and Currys merged, but it's well known that Centresoft/US Gold and Calisto Computers (both based in the West Midlands) cut their teeth by approaching individual retailers directly to supply them with stock. I suspect that the "Dixons Pack" was comprised of titles Geoff Brown was able to license (and manufacture) very cheaply. In the meantime, try searching Google Images for "Dixons advertisement 1984 Atari". You've probably already found 'em all :-)

 

Further edit: This guy would know, if he's still with us:

 

http://www.page6.org/about/bug.htm

Edited by Mark Wright
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Thanks Mark! Yes, I already did an extensive google search ;)

 

I did not find adverts of the old packs including these cheaply produced tapes, I only found adverts of the Dixons/Currys packs with the red tapes and sometimes a cartridge (Typo attack). Plus a big load of pictures of Dixons tapes for other systems (like the Spectrum, C16 etc.) with the same cheap cassette labels and inlays.

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Fred, a further complication:

 

People's memories will be hazy, but something I recall very clearly from my first Atari purchase.

Mine was winter of 84/85. At that time, the Shopping Centre in our fairly large town in Worcestershire, boasted A Currys, Dixons and a Tandy.

There were also two TV rental places - Multibroadcast and Granada selling box-deals on computers.

 

I know all had their own "bundled software packages" and there was crossover/duplication. I know this for a fact, because I went from shop to shop comparing each - before finally settling on Granada (deal was £79.99) and had 4x cassettes included with 800xl and 1010.

Edited by brenski

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I am not looking for the red Atari tapes....

 

I know there are some serious collectors here, so I am hoping they are willing to (visually) check their Adventure International and Microdeal tapes :)

 

Don't worry Fred, I know you are not looking for the red tapes but that's the problem, most people just about remember those let alone the actual ones you are looking for..

 

As always, the very best of luck...

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I didn't know or have long forgotten that Microdeal made Atari 8-Bit games! I was a Dragon 32 user (that my Dad bought) before I bought my 130XE in late '86. Microdeal were a massive supplier of games for the Dragon platform so I had a ton of their games.

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Couple of sort of related ideas - I got all 3 of the Tynesoft/MicroValue Four Great Games compilations on tape from Dixons. I don't think there was any Dixon branding on them though - will check tonight and report if different. It was surprising at the time because Dixons around me didn't sell computer games separately, and those were the only Atari things I ever got from Dixons. (My 800xl was from Currys, with the 5 Red tapes).

 

Also, I got Sunday Golf, Bug Off and Tutti Frutti together from a random pop-up "Christmas shop" in about 1988. If that shop was actually selling old Dixons stuff, then "Crazy Cobra" by Illusion might be in the same batch.

Edited by wesmond
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In case it's helpful... I've got a few tapes which are really similar to the ones in your images - but subtly different. Afraid I don't have any "Dixon" branded ones, but I'm pretty sure these all came from the same Christmas pop-up shop.

 

I have a "Tutti Frutti" with "LOADING: CLOAD" printed on the tape, (whereas yours doesn't have that...)
My "Bug Off" looks exactly the same as yours!
My "Sunday Golf" doesn't have the "LOADING: CLOAD" on the tape, but is otherwise the same.
I have an "Electric Starfish", where the tape has the black text and "LOADING: CLOAD" like your middle image, but the inlay card was the one on the left on your image.
I have "Golden Baton", and "Waxworks"; the tapes have the same font as yours, but in the light blue colour, and are blank at the bottom - no "Dixon pack" or "Loading:" text.
I have "Mr Dig" with the "LOADING: BOOT" just like yours.

Separately from that, I have a "Danger Ranger" which I'm pretty sure I got elsewhere - it's the Microdeal version, with red text like the original Mr. Dig image you have.

 

Happy to ->CAS any of these if you want them Fred.

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When I get a chance I'll dig my box of cassettes out of the basement. We purchased a pack of 10 games at an Atari Show that included the majority of the Microdeal games, but the cheaper format. I'll take a look and see what I can find.

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In case it's helpful... I've got a few tapes which are really similar to the ones in your images - but subtly different. Afraid I don't have any "Dixon" branded ones, but I'm pretty sure these all came from the same Christmas pop-up shop.

 

I have a "Tutti Frutti" with "LOADING: CLOAD" printed on the tape, (whereas yours doesn't have that...)

My "Bug Off" looks exactly the same as yours!

My "Sunday Golf" doesn't have the "LOADING: CLOAD" on the tape, but is otherwise the same.

I have an "Electric Starfish", where the tape has the black text and "LOADING: CLOAD" like your middle image, but the inlay card was the one on the left on your image.

I have "Golden Baton", and "Waxworks"; the tapes have the same font as yours, but in the light blue colour, and are blank at the bottom - no "Dixon pack" or "Loading:" text.

I have "Mr Dig" with the "LOADING: BOOT" just like yours.

 

Separately from that, I have a "Danger Ranger" which I'm pretty sure I got elsewhere - it's the Microdeal version, with red text like the original Mr. Dig image you have.

 

Happy to ->CAS any of these if you want them Fred.

 

Many thanks wesmond! It is interesting that you got most of the tapes from another shop (the pop-up Christmas shop) than Dixons! Mark Wright also states that his tapes came from another shop. I will investigate Crazy Cobra, to be honest I have never heard of that game. Please wait with converting the titles to CAS. The titles you mention are already in my personal collection, so I will try mine first. But I will be happy to take you on your offer if some of my tapes turn out to be too bad for conversion ;)

 

 

When I get a chance I'll dig my box of cassettes out of the basement. We purchased a pack of 10 games at an Atari Show that included the majority of the Microdeal games, but the cheaper format. I'll take a look and see what I can find.

 

That would be great! Many thanks!

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(My Crazy Cobra is identical to AtariMania's scan here http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-crazy-cobra_1382.html)

The Christmas pop-up shop was quite bizarre - basically all sorts of random clutter in it, including some tatty dusty little cardboard boxes with these sort of games for different platforms, although mostly Atari, surprisingly. They didn't have any of the usual Mastertronic/Firebird/Americana sort games I'd seen in the other shops at the time - so given the packaging similarities I think it's quite likely these, and the Dixon branded ones were somehow connected at their source. Perhaps mine were rejects because they forgot to print "LOADING:CLOAD" on some of them! Or leftovers that Dixon didn't sell...

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Hi guys,

 

I dumped both cassettes to see if there is any difference between the Dixons release (white label) and the original Microdeal release.

 

post-6711-0-36022700-1535554795.jpg

 

The Microdeal version takes a bit longer to load, about 30 seconds more. The file size seems quite the same though.

 

Sadly I don't have the technical knowledge to find possible differences between these two. So I am hoping that one of the technical preservation guys will take a look into these two.

 

I have attached the cas files to this post and I have uploaded the wav files to wetransfer.com. The wav-files can be downloaded for 1 week: https://we.tl/t-gj9MVeLLzD

 

I hope someone can tell me if these two dumps are the same :)

MrDig_Dixons.rar

MrDig_Microdeal_NOT_DIXONS.rar

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By simply looking at the photos, I would say, that the Dixons release uses CSAVE format (short IRG), while Microdeal uses SAVE"C:" format (long IRG)... but I have not tested the CAS files in any way. At one time I had three different Mr. Dig versions, all with a different tape length on the tape counter, but could not see any differences in the game itself...

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Both recordings are identical, although the Microdeal one has a bit lower pitch and somewhat longer inter-record gaps, both of which contribute to greater load time.

 

The resulting file would be identical to the Microdeal CAS file that is included in Farb's preservation torrent, so forgive me if I won't attach another CAS file here.

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