The 554th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1, ending a trilogy of stories themed around the Doctor’s regeneration and the reintroduction of the Master. Peter Davison makes his debut as the fifth Doctor, and Anthony Ainley guest stars as the Master. The 19th season sees Doctor Who’s first move away from Saturday nights on the BBC’s schedule, with the series now airing on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Atari releases the original title Yars’ Revenge for the Atari VCS home video game console. Despite not being a port of a popular arcade game (though it started out as an attempt to port Star Castle to the VCS), Yars’ Revenge sells well thanks for favorable reviews and good word-of-mouth. A pack-in comic from DC Comics, “Yars’ Revenge: The Qotile Ultimatum”, is included.
Sierra On-Line releases the computer game Mouskattack. Designed by John Harris, this is one of several titles Sierra will publish to get a Pac-Man-style game on the home computer market before Atari can release an official port. It is available for the Atari home computers.
Midway delivers the long-anticipated sequel to Pac-Man to eager arcade operators. Ms. Pac-Man – a game which originated not from Pac-Man’s creators in Japan, but from an American “enhancement kit” maker called General Computer Corporation – arrives in arcades and immediately starts to break earnings records, eventually becoming the top-earning coin-op video game in American history.
CBS unleashes a particularly virulent strain of Pac-Man Fever into record stores, courtesy of rock group Buckner & Garcia, and there is no cure in sight. With musical odes to the arcade games Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Defender, Frogger, Asteroids, Berzerk, Centipede, and even the relatively obscure coin-op Mouse Trap, this album’s release probably marks the high point of the video game industry “boom” – the apex at which public awareness of video games is at the saturation point, having seeped into the rest of pop culture.
At Rockwell International, a spare Space Shuttle crew module is assembled alongside components intended for the orbiters Discovery and Atlantis, and though the spare isn’t intended for a specific shuttle yet to be built, it will find a purpose in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster: the spare crew module will become one of many completed shuttle spares that will eventually be assembled in the late 1980s as the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Challenger’s replacement and the last space shuttle constructed.
Cupertino businessman Larry Jones incorporates Mythicon, a new video game software publisher focused entirely on providing games for the Atari VCS. With the knowledge that the market for VCS software is already becoming flooded, Mythicon’s business model involves selling games for a price point just under $10 each, and distributing them in grocery stores and drug stores rather than the usual retail chain outlets. Only three games – all three regarded as some of the worst yet produced for the VCS – are released before Mythicon closes up shop.
Imagic, recently formed from a group of ex-Atari programmers, releases its first wave of cartridges for the Atari VCS home video game system. The first group of games includes Demon Attack, the pool game Trick Shot and the first-person space flight sim Star Voyager. With silver foil boxes and game artwork utilizing miniature models, the Imagic games have a distinctive look on the store shelves, and the games themselves quickly acquire the company a good reputation..
Released a couple of years after the movie that inspired it, Parker Brothers’ The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari VCS is the very first Star Wars video game to hit the market. Though games inspired by the movies have been appearing since the first film was still in theaters, this is the first game officially licensed by Lucasfilm. It pits players against an endless onslaught of Imperial Walkers (and unlike the movie’s rebels, the player has no chance of surviving indefinitely).
The 570th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. Many fans of the series consider this the “last pure historical story” – the Doctor and his companions are merely witnesses to events that have no other science fiction influence.
In a federal court hearing in Chicago, Atari and Midway – as the American licensees of Pac-Man – are victorious over Magnavox, whose Odyssey2 cartridge K.C. Munchkin was alleged to infringe on Pac-Man. The court ruling, which results in an injunction forcing Magnavox to pull K.C. Munchkin off the market, says it “captures the ‘total concept and feel’ of, and is substantially similar to, Pac-Man,” and that Magnavox “jeopardized the substantial investments of Midway and especially Atari.” Beaten but defiant, Magnavox releases a K.C. Munchkin sequel later in the year.
The 571st episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. Many fans of the series consider this the “last pure historical story” – the Doctor and his companions are merely witnesses to events that have no other science fiction influence.
The Soviet Union’s unmanned Venera 14 space probe successfully lands on the planet Venus, its landing module enduring almost an hour in temperatures of nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit and air pressure nearly 100 times that experienced at sea level on Earth. A soil sampling experiment is thwarted by an unforseen problem, namely the lens cap of Venera 14’s camera popping off and landing precisely where its sampling arm was designed to gather Venusian soil for testing.
The 572nd episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. What most fans don’t realize, thanks to a carefully coordinated reveal, is that Earthshock is the first Cyberman story since 1975’s Revenge Of The Cybermen. The Cybermen are only seen at the end of part one, and producer John Nathan-Turner declines the potentially valuable offer of a Radio Times magazine front cover in order to preserve the surprise.
Emerson, an American radio and telvision manufacturer that has shown no previous interest in the video game boom, releases its own console, the Emerson Arcadia 2001. Intended to be a serious challenger to the Atari VCS and Intellivision, the Arcadia 2001 has limited graphics capabilities and a limited library boasting relatively generic sports games and knock-offs of popular arcade games, as well as a few incredibly obscure licensed arcade ports.
The legendarily tough arcade game Robotron: 2084, designed by Eugene Jarvis (creator of Defender), hits arcades across America and becomes an instant hit. With its two joysticks – one for moving the player’s character, one for firing in any direction – Robotron continues Williams’ hallmark of challenging control schemes, and screws with the fight-or-flight responses of arcade gamers everywhere for years to come.
Sega introduces the cult classic arcade game Zaxxon, significantly raising the bar for arcade graphics with its three-quarter isometric 3-D view (and making it nearly impossible to translate faithfully to home video game consoles of the era). Though this new perspective doesn’t make Zaxxon easy to play, it becomes one of the first video games that players line up just to look at.