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AppleToTheCore.me

I'm a total Apple addict, as you might tell.

1984 Through the Looking Glass

"Through the Looking Glass" has been on my wish list for a long time now. This is another "Holy Grail" item of vintage Apple collecting. I never though I'd find one. I've only seen two or three come and go on eBay over the last few years. They are very rare. Not to mention the price is always a good $200 bucks. I did bid on one or two, but the price always skyrocketed at the end.

This auction started at $99.99. With seconds to spare, I put in a max bid of $120. I was thrilled when the auction closed at $103.50. I guess there were no other serious buyers on the lookout for it this time for it to end so low.

It's in amazing condition. I'm actually kind of glad it's not sealed because I'd feel terrible opening it!

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It's very clean; not so much as a mark on it.

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The corners, as well as the spin, are perfect. They are nice and sharp with no signs of wear. It's been very well taken care of over the past 30 years.

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So what's the big deal? Why spend $100 for some old video game?

Well, this is no ordinary video game. It's dated 1984. This is the video game! This is the first game that Apple ever released for the Macintosh. Not to mention the packaging is so unique and unlike anything you've even seen before. Any other game just came in a cardboard box.

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Since this is an Alice in Wonderland themed chess game (of sorts) the packaging is meant to look like Lewis Carroll's famous novel. It opens like a book to reveal the 400K floppy disk inside.

See the Apple logo on the floppy? This isn't just any old video game, this is an actual Apple product.

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The bottom text on the inside cover reads, "Thanks to Marge, Andy, Bill, Bruce, Burell, Larry, Patti, Steve, Jello, and L. Carroll".

That's Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, and Burell Smith of the original Macintosh design team. Along with Bruce Daniels, manager of the Lisa software team, and Steve Jobs.

You can lift the red ribbon to remove the floppy from the inlay. The underside is lined with red velvet. Very nice.

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If you look at the floppy, you'll see that the disk is labeled "by Steve Capps".

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Back in the day, things like this were works of art, and the creator often signed their name to it like a painter would sign a painting. It wasn't unheard of for a game or a piece of software to be completely written by one person. In fact, more often than not, that was the case. Thirty years ago when the Macintosh was new, Apple didn't have a building full of software developers like they do now for iOS. Often, it was just one guy. Think MacPaint. The MacPaint splash screen simply states: "MacPaint by Bill Atkinson". MacPaint was written by one guy!

During the prototype phase of the Macintosh, Bruce Daniels (who was the manager of the Lisa software team) stopped by the Macintosh group to show Andy Hertzfeld (who was one the Macintosh design team) a cool new game that Steve Capps was working on. Steve Capps was on the Lisa project and worked on the printing software. Apparently, "Alice" (as it was originally called) was something that Steve Capps threw together in his spare time for the Lisa.

Andy thought that the game was awesome. He was instantly addicted. He told Bruce that he should give Steve a prototype Macintosh and have him port the game over. He agreed. Andy and Bruce gave Steve a Macintosh. Two days later, Steve presented them with a working Macintosh port. It actually even ran better on the Macintosh due to the better hardware. Pretty soon, everybody on the Macintosh team was addicted to it.

After 30 years, the disk still works. I inserted the floppy into my Mac Plus and it booted up into System 0.1 (System 1.1 / Finder 1.1g).

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The game splash screen is the same as the woodcut featured on the front cover.

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The intro screen mirrors that of what's printed inside the cover of the game.

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Finally...the game:

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The object of the game is to help Alice take out all of the chess pieces while avoiding being captured. The game is won when all of the chess pieces have been taken.

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If you click on the score at the top of the screen, a hidden Cheshire Cat menu appears. From there you can adjust the game speed, start a new game, or quit.

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Here's a fun little tidbit: the woodcut on the front cover features an Easter Egg. Hidden within the design is a Dead Kennedy's logo; a tribute to one of Steve Capp's favorite bands. Below that are Steve Capp’s initials. It's too bad Steve Jobs disavowed the use of Easter Eggs in 1997. They're always fun to find.

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Since the game didn't take up the whole disk, Capps included a few other goodies with it.

There's a clock screensaver.

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As well as the classic, "Amazing" that was also written by Steve Capps. Many hours of my youth were spent navigating those mazes.

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The source file for the bitmaps is even out in the open so you can edit the game characters if you wanted to.

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For the final release, the game's name was changed from "Alice" to "Through the Looking Glass" due to legal reasons. The name "Alice" was already in use for a database program.

In 1984, these graphics must have blown people away! I guess the whole idea behind this game was to show people the power of the Macintosh’s graphics capabilities. However, Apple was battling the misconception that the Macintosh wasn't a serious computer for an office setting. They feared if they pushed the Macintosh's gaming capabilities as a feature, people would have thought of the Macintosh as a novelty, or a toy for kids to tinker with and not as something that could rival IBMs offerings in the workplace.
Remember, this was 1984 and people hadn't quite grown accustomed to the idea of a graphical user interface yet or how amazingly useful it could be. People heard "graphics" and thought "games".

So Apple never promoted the game like they should have. In addition, everyone on the Macintosh team had mastered the game by playing it for countless hours well before it was ever released. Joanna Hoffman, the Macintosh’s first marketing person, spent a lot of time mastering the game and eventually complained to Steve Capps that the game was "too easy". Prior to the game's release, Capps made the game a little more challenging. However, it made the game a little too hard for the rest of us mere mortals. In the end, I guess a game that wasn’t marketed and was hard to beat made it not as popular as it could have been. I guess that’s why it’s so rare. It’s not like they sold millions of them.

I’m going to have to pick up a plastic case or something to protect it. I want to keep it in mint condition. Who knows what it will be worth another 30 years from now?