RDI Halcyon

Carlsbad, California’s RDI, in near-bankruptcy in 1981, created Dragon’s Lair — the first interactive laserdisc game to enter the arcades in the United States. When it and the subsequent Space Ace became sudden hits, RDI president Rick Dyer began work on a $2500, Level 3 computer/laserdisc player system incorporating voice-synthesis and voice-recognition technology. Dyer named it Halcyon, he says, for a variety of reasons, but primarily because, “The first syllable of ‘Halcyon’ is ‘Hal'” — the name of the soulful computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. “With the modules we’ll be introducing, you’ll be able to control your whole house. You’ll talk to Hal, and it’ll talk back. It’ll be a robot without wheels.”

The bundled game, Thayer’s Quest

Arthur C. Clarke aside, Halcyon came bundled — saddled would be more like it — with a sword-and-sorcery adventure game called Thayer’s Quest. RDI was also to release its Raiders vs. Chargers football game ($94), which was sanctioned by the National Football League and uses three seasons of live action footage. Dyer also had plans for a Dallas vs. Washington game and a Thayer’s sequel, as well as a pricey “Control Module” that would allow unified remote control of a variety of electronic gadgets. But there were problems.

RDI, despite Dyer’s understandable cheerleading, was in shaky financial shape — common enough among young companies, but especially important to consumers when you consider the warranty and servicing of a $2,500 item (or $1,700 for the computer portion alone). One creditor reported being stung along baldfacedly, and of suddenly receiving a form letter asking him and other creditors to please hold off for 90 days. Dyer, however, insisted that “RDI is doing well. RDI started shipping for real the second week in January 1985, and the creditors unanimously voted to give us a 90-day extension. Whatever the specifics, RDI wasn’t alone in the home videogame squeeze.