A Computer Christmas
A Computer Christmas, commonly referred to as Sierra Christmas Card 1986, is a software demonstration developed and published by Sierra On-Line in November of 1986. The demo displays animated scenes, each set to a different Christmas tune, with Sierra advertisements mixed in. The entire demo lasts a little over 6 minutes before recycling. Sierra distributed the demo to computer stores around the country in the hopes that they would play it in their showrooms and promote their Adventure Game Interpreter games. To entice dealers to use the program, they allowed them to include a short custom message and promoted the demo as a way to show off the multimedia capabilities of their computers.
The demo supports CGA (composite and RGB), PCjr/Tandy 1000, or EGA graphics and PC speaker or PCjr/Tandy 1000 audio. Although RGB monitors are supported, it's clear Sierra didn't intend for them to be used because the graphics look terrible on them. Some of the demos are not timed properly with their music and cut out mid-song. Also, the demo reveals a weakness of the AGI engine: the inability to clip sprites at the edge of the screen. This is especially noticeable in the Rudolf scene as the reindeer near the edge of the display where they sort of cram closer together before finally disappearing all together. The designers used to frame to try and lessen the abruptness of their disapperance, but it's still pretty noticeable.
I never saw this demo when it was in stores in the late 1980s, and I didn't even know about it until nearly 30 years later when I found it while searching for various programs that used Sierra's AGI engine. Despite it now being horribly out of date, even now it looks interesting, and I can imagine how utterly impressive this would have been in 1986 with its full screen 16-color graphics, large animated sprites, and three-voice audio.
There are nine unique demos which include the following:
|1||The Christmas Song||A fire burns in a fireplace with a pot of chestnuts laid out in front of it. Filled stockings hang from the mantle, and lights blink on decorated Christmas tree.|
|2||Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer||Santa and his sleigh slowly approach the roof of a house, land on it, and Santa jumps from the sleigh into the chimney.|
|3||Silent Night||A deer in a snowy valley walks to a river and drinks from it as the moon rises in the background.|
|4||We Wish You a Merry Christmas||A present with the Sierra logo has a marquee on the ribbon advertising various Sierra titles. This demo appears again after the Space Quest ad. If the user entered a message to be displayed, this will also be the first animation.|
|5||Jingle Bells||Two people travel through the snow, in a horse-drawn sleigh a freshly cut evergreen is in the back. This arrangement of the song has a more jazzy sound than is traditional.|
|6||The First Noel||Shepherds watching their flock by firelight as a bright star flickers above Bethlehem.|
|7||Frosty the Snowman||A child dresses a snowman which comes to life and dances around in the yard.|
|8||Space Quest Theme, Bar Song||An advertisement for Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter.|
|9||King's Quest Theme||Wrapped presents surround a box with chasing lights. In the center it reads, "Navarre."|
Each of the three display types for each demo is displayed below. For most of the scenes, I prefer the PCjr/Tandy 1000 colors, but for some of the scenes, especially the night scenes, I think the composite display looks better. Obviously, the RGB looks like crap for all of them.
|PCjr / Tandy 1000 / EGA||CGA Composite||CGA RGB|
This is the DOS demo.