Much like with movies it was video games that were an important part of my life when growing up – just something about both of them is what I would have preferred doing to anything else. Not much has changed. And as I’ve shared on this site and various podcasts, while money was very tight when I was a kid – my Family really did their very best to make sure come Holidays and birthdays that I had a good haul. Even from a young age that mostly involved video games for the home consoles of the day – starting with the Atari 2600 but not too long after Mattel Electronics released the Intellivision in ’81 our Family managed to get one at a garage sale. While both the Atari and Intellivision saw plenty of action back in those days – I started playing a little more of the latter when Mattel Electronics released two particular titles – Maze-A-Tron and of course TRON Deadly Discs (Which I covered in a Diary of An Arcade Employee podcast).
Now in the Night Stalker podcast I talked about how the group of programmers at Intellivision at that time found themselves as a subject for a TV Guide article. Mattel was worried that if their identities might become known, their rivals at Atari could possibly hire the programmers and designers away from them. The writer for the piece, Howard Polskin, had to call the the group something – which he came up with while attending one of their blue-sky meetings. Polskin went with the Blue Sky Rangers for his article and the programmers at Intellivision really took to it and the name stuck.
Which bring us around to this wonderful piece of history – uploaded back in 2007 on the Blue Sky Rangers YouTube Channel, the 1982 Intellivision – The Great Biplanes Tournament. Biplanes was one of the three games offered on Mattel Electronics Triple Action, a thrilling game that allowed two players to duel against one another in an attempt to reach 15 points. The game featured the ability to climb too fast causing your biplane to stall and begin plummeting to the ground – although if you managed to press down on the controller disc and steadily climb out you could save yourself. In addition there was a weather balloon that would occasionally rise up on the screen that you could shoot to score some extra points. Biplanes was a game that my Grandmother and myself would play a whole bunch during those seemingly endless Summer breaks – we liked the other two games offered on Triple Action well enough – Car Racing and Battle Tanks. But there was just something super special about Biplanes and as this video proves even the Blue Sky Rangers were pretty fond of it too.
Now the reason this 1982 Intellivision – The Great Biplanes Tournament exists is that it was part of a going away event for Steve Montero, who happened to be the programmer for Night Stalker. It turns out that both Steve as well as Russ Haft – who programmed TRON Maze-A-Tron were the top players in Biplanes at Mattel Electronics. So on August 6th of 1982, the two faced off in a best-four-out-of-seven tournament – Steve chose the red hued plane with Russ piloting the green hued aircraft (The age of the VHS tape makes it look blue!). Furthermore there is running commentary by both the late and great Keith Robinson (TRON Solar Sailer) as well as Mark Urbaniec who programmed 1983’s Vectron.