Microzine, Questing for Apple II Software

Microzine, Questing for Apple II Software

Many long years ago, in the days of yore, in a time when the world wide web hadn’t even been conceived and Apple was at the core of home computing (“apple”, “core”, Hah! I kill me! [/ALF] *cough* Ok… Carrying on….) there were these large buildings known as “libraries”. In these “libraries” were vast numbers of these things which were called “books”, but sometimes there were other things as well, including computers.

Back in the early 80s I lived just a block from the public library and would spend large amounts of time there, in the mid-80s they installed an Apple II for public use. You would sign up for an available time slot and then get to use the computer for 30 minutes at a time (though this was a rather fluid time limit. If there was no one else signing up that day they would often sign you up for an hour at a time, and if no one else had signed up for the slot following yours
they would usually let you stay on until someone did). Having no other access to a computer, I signed up for computer time at the library very frequently. The computer only had a monochrome green screen, with two disk drives stacked next to it, very much like this:


When it was your turn to use the computer, the librarian would ask you what software you wanted to use. There was a shelf full of software behind her desk but each one was a volume of multiple programs tossed together and you couldn’t tell from the binding what programs were in which volume, as such you usually had to ask to see some random one, read the back, then ask for a different random one, etc until you found one you liked. There were a couple of games that I was fond of and played many times, though I unfortunately didn’t pay much attention to the names at the time. For the next couple decades I often thought back and tried to recall what those programs were, or even what the name of the set of software was. I was fairly certain that it was from Microsoft, but as I discovered a few years ago (and you’ve probably guessed already), it was MicroZINE, which was apparently produced by Scholastic (which explains why there was always so much educational content).

This software was self-booting, so you had to insert the disk while the computer was off, then reach around to the power switch and turn it on, then turn it back off before removing the disk when you were done. Due to the anthology type nature of this software, you would have to insert side 1 of disk 1 (each volume typically contained 2-4 disks) to start, then after you selected a game from the menu it would prompt you to flip the disk over or insert disk #3, etc, only to have to switch back to disk 1 side 1 when the game was over. Discovering the name of the software library was a watershed which quickly led me to the names of the two programs I had been trying to remember; “Mission: Mix-Up” and “The Myths of Olympus”. Recently I decided to install an Apple II emulator and some of my favorite old software (including Oregon Trail and the Carmen Sandiego games), central of which were volumes #13 and #29 of Microzine, the volumes which contained my two long-sought games.


This was my favorite of the games. In it you are stranded and need to mix various imaginary chemicals to create solutions to get through the world. Mixing “coldice” and “airium” for example would create a fire extinguisher, while airium and rubberol would make a toy balloon. The names of the imaginary chemicals were plain enough that you could make educated guesses as to what you would get, but there was still a large element of trial and error. This trial and error was a pain though, because your supplies of each chemical were limited. If you couldn’t make what you needed to escape a situation because you had already
used up all of one of the chemicals, you were screwed. The game did include areas where you could refill some of your chemicals, the problem was trying to find these areas and trying to reach them without using up all your other chemicals in the process.


The game did include a notebook feature so that you could look back on prior attempts, but this was only useful during a single game. The notebook only tracked what slots made a given item, and the slots were randomized between games. On top of that, some of the chemicals would be swapped out with completely different ones between different games. When I played this back in the day, I took to keeping physical notes so that I could retain results from previous games. Another interesting aspect was that some puzzles could be resolved with one of multiple options. The desert for example (which was difficult to pass because anything you did would only get you halfway through, making you burn through twice as many chemicals) could be passed either by making rain or by making a watermelon to eat.


This game is more of a standard interactive fiction type game, where you type “take fleece”, etc. It was slightly different though, as it included graphics and movement was achieved by using the arrow keys or HJKL to move your figure in the onscreen map, with the verb/noun commands only being used for non-movement actions. The story of the game is that you didn’t do your mythology homework, and get whisked away to mythological Greece for both punishment and education. You wander through the maze seeking the gods and avoiding the Minotaur. When you encounter one of the gods you listen to their piece of mythology, then take some object they offer you (which will help you in some other part of the maze). There is no warning other than memorization as to what lies in wait where however, and you can’t back away from an encounter once it has begun. While this makes no difference with the deities, its instant doom with the Minotaur. The Minotaur can be passed if you have the right items, but if you stumble onto the Minotaur before getting them, it’s game over.


Team Retroist Chief Nostalgia Psychic...

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. I love the idea of the Microzine and I have fond memories of similar media that I grew up with on the Amiga. Like Drahken, my memory of the titles is vague, and so I haven’t been able to rediscover them :(

    I recall one very strange disc that contained a rudimentary AI that forced you to interact with it before you were allowed to continue to play a very difficult version of Boulderdash – the game was only a few levels long and once that was finished, the disc finished off with a brief megademo with dancers that were not dissimilar to those see in classic demo State of the Art.

    I have a feeling it was something I had found from a PD library but my every search of those still out there (Aminet for example) has turned up blank… though the searches have never been fruitless as Aminet is astonishingly good!

  2. I too used to spent a LOT of time at our local library using the Apple ][ there. I remember there being a coin insertion thing similar to what you’d see in a laundromat. Somehow this was tied to the power of the machine. I played a LOT of Kabul Spy.

    Also, THE MYTHS OF OLYMPUS must be a BASIC program. I cracked up when I read the text shown in the picture. :)

  3. Microsoft did have a line of titles for the Apple II in its early days. It was fairly short-lived, because they didn’t like the machine’s 6502 CPU, but I’ve found boxed examples of Microsoft titles for the Apple II in the wild.

  4. Hey hayde, have you tried looking around theoldcomputer? http://www.theoldcomputer.com/roms/index.php?folder=Commodore/Amiga
    Some of the sections like “compilations”, “diskmags, and “public domain collections” might have the ones you’re looking for. Most of the stuff on TOC can be downloaded for free, though much of it requires a free membership. As the name implies, the site also has software for most other old computers & video game systems.

  5. Drahken – I hadn’t come across this site before but I’m going to be spending a lot of time there in the future!

  6. I know it’s been many years, but this is an ageless topic. Have you found a working copy of Microzine #17? (Mission Mixup and MicroAgent of the bodyguard.) I’m been searching for years for a working dump of the games and I can’t find them anywhere! No longer have my old Apple II, so I’ve got to resort to some kind of emulator thing. Any suggestions? Beautiful screenshots btw! Thank you for mentioning the Mission Mix-Up. People, over the years, have thought I was crazy talking about this game, now I’m vindicated! Rawr! (I guess I am crazy for being obsessed about this game for so many years… What, 30 some odd years now?) Feel free to email me if you want. Thanks!

  7. No, Lesa, you are not crazy (unless I am too). I spent a lot of time looking for Microzine #11 to play “The Dark Tower” and I finally found it on the Internet Archive. They have lots of the Microzine software, much of it playable through your web browser, but all I could find for #17 was a screenshot.


    Nonetheless it can still be obtained. There are several copies currently available on ebay:


    If you bought it off ebay and sent it to the people running Internet Archive I would imagine they would be happy to make it available to play. Or you could just keep it and run it on an Apple ][ emulator – you probably would not need to worry about copyright issues with the operating system because I believe the computer could boot straight from disk. You probably would need help transferring the data from the original 5.25″ floppies, though.

    At least that would be cheaper than buying an original Apple ][.

  8. The disk images are there, just click on the “torrent” link and you can download the files individually.

  9. Ehh, I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation. I’ve been trying to remember the name of a game I played in elementary school (for this game I’m thinking early 90’s. At first I thought it was a Macintosh game that I played on my elementary’s first Macintosh (I think an SE), but after going through many pages of Mac educational games, I haven’t really found what I was looking for. So maybe it was on one of the Apple IIe computers and my memory is just confused. The one room I played Apple/Mac games in the most had a IIe on one side of the table and that Macintosh on the other. So it’d be easy enough to mix them up in my head.

    Now here’s what I remember (or at least…what I think I remember…I’m really starting to doubt myself on these details). I believe you play the game as a kid who forgot to buy his dad a birthday present – or something to that effect – and you are inside of a mall or department store after closing time, trying to find the right gift…and I’m guessing doing some math problems or some other sort of educational experience along the way.

    Maybe I’m getting details mixed up from multiple games and that’s why I can’t find it! Buy I thought maybe it was part of the Microzine series…and that could be why I’m having a hard time finding it.

    Does this sound remotely familiar to anyone?

  10. As an update to my previous post, I found it: the game I was thinking of was “A Night at Fleener’s” on Microzine #32. I haven’t found enough info about it online to confirm the details of the game, but it’s definitely the one I was thinking of. One day I’ll source it and play it again…

  11. So here’s a fun story: In the early 90s (like 1991ish), we still had an Apple 2, and my dad had gotten a bunch of old Microzine issues somewhere. In the “back page” content of at least one of them were various freebies/cheap stuff that you could get by sending a SASE or a SASE and like 50¢. Of course, these Microzine issues were at least as old as I was at that point (6ish). Not realizing this, I sent away for pretty much everything that was free and a few things that were cheap. I actually got a few things back, including one saying the offer was years old but they sent me it anyway (it was a photo filter or something).

    Imagine having to send a physical letter in the mail to get something. Ha. I’m almost tempted to see if any of those businesses still exist.

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