Infocom was a software company that produced interactive fiction from 1979 to 1989. The games were so well-written and conceived, that even today, they are still widely played and collected. Thanks to a loyal fan base, these decades-old games are playable on all modern computers, as well as iPhones and iPads.

Interactive fiction or text adventures were the precursor to graphics-based games. Like a great novel, a text adventure dropped you into a strange new world, a world you could interact with by typing commands via your keyboard.

hitscnInfocom games were authored by writers, who were also programmers.But what really set Infocom apart was the user interface or parser.

The Infocom parser allowed you to type your commands in plain English. While other text adventures could understand only two words at a time, a verb and a noun (take flashlight, hit troll, go east), Infocom games understood full sentences (loosen the screw with the screwdriver and pick up the hammer) which made the fantasy world more believable. And to make sure that you were further immersed in the world, each game included “feelies”, small items and props that served as background material or clues related to the story.

deadfoThe mystery game Deadline included lab reports, crime scene photos, fingerprint cards, and even the pills used in a murder. For the first five years, each Infocom box was different; some were oversized, some were tall, and some were even shaped like a flying saucer or mask. This original game packaging was referred to collectively as “folios”.

Folios looked great, but with their oversized and awkward shapes, they didn’t display well on the sales shelves, so in 1984, Infocom began releasing their games in a standardized box, which players nicknamed the “gray box”. Older games were also re-released in this new box format.

Sadly, with graphics-based games becoming popular, and some bad business decisions, Infocom was acquired by Activision, and disappeared completely just a few years later. The games however, both the original folios and the gray box editions, are highly collectible. Somehow I managed to collect them all.

To see the scans, click here.

Written by stevemargolis

4 Comments

p.jullien

Steve,
Do you know anything about the infocom folios made for the Osbourne platform?

Reply
stevemargolis

I’ve seen them come up on eBay in the past year and also on the Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe (http://yois.if-legends.org).

They’re pretty rare, right up there with the CP/M folios.

That would be cool if you collected those.

Osborne

Reply
p.jullien

I was able to snag a folio for “The Witness” (Osborne). One more followup question if you don’t mind. Do you know what time frame folios were made by infocom? I was thinking maybe 1981-1983 or so?
Thanks!

Reply

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