Oil demonstration program

1983-1984 Archer Maclean

Platform: Atari 800

Whilst working to recover the late Archer Maclean’s work disks, we discovered a few things which surprised us. As well as games, Archer also did a bit of freelance development work outside of games – including this oil demonstration for old British Oil company Carless.

oildemo (4)

According to Archer’s C.V,  it was November 1983 that he decided to become a freelance programmer to earn a reasonable income. The very first job he would secure was to produce an animated graphics demonstration program for Carless.

It was created for the intention of being used in a large public library as a demonstration of the Oil company’s proposed projects in the local area. It would be used for a few years overall. The program was around 5 minutes in total with animation and text, and was written entirely in machine code – taking up around 34K and aiming to fully utilize the Atari 800’s graphics capabilities.

However, in May 1984 – Archer would take the demo and improve upon it further, so that Atari U.K might purchase it for use as a comprehensive demonstration program. Archer would add a new, unique and dynamically colourful title screen surrounding an Atari Fuji logo (which is what we found remnants of previously) and changed the text – removing references to Carless.

After these changes, the program increased to around 42K in size and took around 6 weeks in total to tidy up and improve. It seems though that Atari U.K would not pick up the demo and it would be left to gather dust on his work disks.

Whilst going through all of Archer’s disks, we found all of the source code for the different builds – but several builds of the demo through its life – including both the Carless and the Atari UK editions. All of these have been included within the download below for you to check out.

Although it isn’t a game as such, it is a very interesting curiosity from Archer and which no doubt fans of his work will find it interesting to take a look and see his early beginnings in action.

Thanks to CharlieChaplin on the AtariAge forums, it has been revealed that the Atari U.K edition of the demo has been out there for some time. It seems that a UK group got hold of it and leaked the demo, so it spread to various PD libraries. However, it has always been unattributed to anyone, and it is now that Archer’s name can be linked to it. Ironically – the clue has been there all along, as in one of the screens AM83 is placed in the bottom right corner :-)

With huge thanks to Chris Wilkins (Fusion Retro Books) for the loan of Archer’s disks to preserve and permission to add executables to the site, Alan Hammerton for hardware help, Mat Allen for the flippy PC drive loan, CharlieChaplin and Ross Sillifant for heads up about the leaked release and Bertrand / Atari Frog for guidance and help with tools and formats.

In memory of Archer Maclean – 28 January 1962 – 17 December 2022.



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