Video games in vinyl grooves

By MarchHair MarchHair
updated 8 months ago

The first patents for the use of phonograph disks as a computer data storage medium were issued in the early 1970s. Prompted by the success of vinyl data experiments in the mid- and late 1970s, computer and video game hobbyist magazines began to include flexi disc video game covermounts for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and other microcomputers. The 1980s and 1990s would see further video game data releases on traditional non-flexi vinyl.

NOTE: The following releases have not yet been submitted to Discogs, but belong on this list:
• No Artist - Elektor Software Service 001 (Oct 1978, TVGC) - Produced for the Dutch Elektor, this 5-program collection marks the magazine's first vinyl data release in the ESS (2) series. Appearing as a non-flexible 45, this disc featured the game "Mastermind". A basic description can be found in Elektor Nos. 42-43, Oct.-Nov. 1978 (English edition); Elektuur No. 182, Dec. 1978 (Dutch edition).
• No Artist - Elektor Software Service 005 (Oct 1979, TVGC) - Elektor's fifth vinyl ESS release, and its third with video games, this 6-program disc included "Battleships", "Keyplay", and the lunar-lander simulator, "Luna". Details are available in Elektor No. 54, Oct. 1979 (English edition); A basic description is found in Elektor No. 37, Jun. 1982 (Italian edition) and later issues.
• No Artist - Elektor Software Service 006 (Nov 1979, TVGC) - Another release in Elektor's ESS series, this 3-program disc featured a space-themed shooter game called "Space Shoot-Out". Details are available in Elektor Oct. 1979 (English, German, and Dutch editions); No. 10, Mar. 1980 (Italian edition); Jan. 1981 (Spanish edition).
• No Artist - Epidemic (July 1985, Spectrum/MZ-700) - Covermounted on the Italian List magazine. Details available in List Vol.3 No.6/7 1985.

  1. No Artist - Elektor Software Service - Software for 2650 TV Games Computer

    1 For Sale from $29.30

    (June 1979, TVGC)
    Elektor's third ESS series release, and its second to feature video games, this 6-program collection includes such video games as "Four-in-a-row" and "Surround". Although this disc was released as a non-flexible 45 for German and English markets, its later Italian release was only offered in cassette format. A basic description can be found in Elektor No. 50, Jun. 1979 (English edition); No. 9, Feb. 1980 (Italian edition) and later issues.

  2. No Artist - First ZX-81 Flexisoft Disc

    (June 1982, ZX81)
    Your Computer's first vinyl data release, this single-program "Flexisoft" flexidisc established Flexi Records Ltd as the primary producer of vinyl data releases. Flexi Records would go on to produce Your Computer's second "flexisoft" release in December of the same year, Which Micro? & Software Review's 1983 data flexi, the 1984 Thompson Twins Adventure Game, and others in later years.

  3. No Artist - ZX-81 VIC-20 Spectrum Games Flexisoft Disc

    1 For Sale from $26.30

    (Dec 1982, ZX81/VIC20/Spectrum)
    The second of Your Computer's Flexisoft releases, this covermount expanded on the previous release with single game programs for ZX Spectrum and VIC-20 as well as another ZX-81 game. These three platforms (especially the Spectrum) would prove to be the most popular vinyl data platforms.

  4. No Artist - Free Programs For ZX81 Spectrum BBC VIC 20 PET

    (Apr 1983, ZX81/Spectrum/BBC/VIC20/PET)
    Less than a year after Your Computer's first vinyl data release, Which Micro? & Software Review released their own set of 5 programs, expanding the reach of vinyl data to the BBC Micro and Commodore PET. This release marks perhaps the earliest use of 2-sided flexidisc program data storage.

  5. Chris Sievey - Camouflage

    (Aug 1983, ZX81)
    Chris Sievey's first set of video game releases. Mirroring the progression of Elektor's late 1970s release formats, this 3-program non-flexible 7" would be followed by the cassette-based The Biz in 1984.

  6. No Artist - Free Programs

    (Feb 1984, VIC20/Spectrum/BBC/Dragon32)
    The third UK video game magazine to experiment with the format, Personal Computer Games' release expanded coverage to the short-lived Dragon 32. With 4 game programs including Namco's classic Galaxian, Free Programs set a new standard for video game quality.

  7. Thompson Twins - Adventure Game For The Spectrum

    (Oct 1984, Spectrum)
    Computer & Video Games' 1-program vinyl data release was made for the ZX Spectrum and was originally intended to expand coverage to the Commodore 64 on its B-side. Technical difficulties greatly delayed the C64 version's release, and although its source code (created by F. J. Preston) has now been leaked online, and although it is known that the C64 version was to be mastered at The Magnetic Recording Co., it is unknown whether any physical copies of the C64 flexidisc were in fact produced.

  8. No Artist - Discolist - Eggscape—La Fuga Dell'Uovo

    (May 1985, VIC20/TI-99|4A/Spectrum)
    Coming 6 years after Elektor's late 1970s experiments, this release marked the resumption of vinyl data distribution on mainland Europe. The Italian microcomputer magazine, List, produced two flexidisc covermounts in two successive issues, re-introducing Italian gamers to this unusual video game medium. Notably, this would be the first vinyl data release for the TI-99/4A.

    Details available in List Vol.3 No.5 1985.

  9. No Artist - Discolist - Epidemic

    (July 1985, Spectrum/MZ-700)
    The second List release followed immediately after the first, bringing vinyl data to the Sharp MZ-700 for the first time.

    Details available in List Vol.3 No.6/7 1985.

  10. No Artist - Discoflex

    1 For Sale from $34.24

    (July 1985, Spectrum)
    Following in the footsteps of 1984's UK-produced Free Programs, the Madrid-based Discoflex's release of Konami's popular Hypersports on its B-side served to introduce Spanish audiences to the concept of vinyl data with a bang.

  11. No Artist - Free Flexidisc Of Games

    (Dec 1985, Spectrum/C64)
    This late 1985 offering from Computer Gamer Magazine finally accomplished what C&VG and the Thompson Twins had attempted in 1984, and expanded vinyl data coverage to the Commodore 64. This would be one of the last UK releases of vinyl game data for nearly a decade, turning the second half of the 1980s over to Spanish and few other European experiments with the medium.

  12. Various - David El Gnomo (Soundtrack)

    (1985, Spectrum)
    The first vinyl data game not affiliated with a video game magazine was also the first to experiment with the 12" size format. The game from this 1985 release, Juego De Los Gnomos, would also appear as the last track on the Ariola Baby Album double-album. Non-flexible 12" release.

  13. Various - Baby Album

    4 For Sale from $11.71

    (1986, Spectrum)
    This non-flexible 12" compilation album from Spain included Juego De Los Gnomos from Ariola's 1985 David El Gnomo soundtrack album.

  14. Papa Dance - Poniżej Krytyki

    6 For Sale from $8.76

    (1986, Spectrum)
    Perhaps Poland's earliest example of vinyl video game data, this non-flexible 12" album included vinyl data at the end of both sides. The video game is a quiz game related to the band.

  15. Various - Spectrum EP

    18 For Sale from $1.71

    (1998, Spectrum)
    Released nearly a decade after the initial early-to-mid-1980s wave of vinyl data releases, this non-flexible 12" release contains a ZX Spectrum game as the last track of its A side. It marks the first UK release in this obscure video game medium in nearly a decade.