Sunday, June 15, 2014

Weird Software : The Buick Dimensions 1992 Floppy Advertisement

A long time ago, or which seems a long time ago, I bought a non-working IBM PC XT from a guy off craigslist.  He gave me a box of floppies.  Included in those floppies were several games and these :

The concept of these disks are part advertisement, part spec sheet, part leasing tutorial, affordability calculator and part health and fitness advice.  If you find the last of those curious, read on.

I showed these disks to my friend Trixter, who had never heard of them.  He noted that they appeared similar to the Ford Simulator disks.  While not quite as awesome as the Ford Simulator, which had a basic automobile simulator reminiscent of Test Drive included, these disks are a lot wackier.  This is the first screen you see when you start the program :

Mr. Mertz, your immortality is assured.  Onto the main menu :

These disks were clearly intended for the IBM PC and XT.  The disks were manufactured no earlier than January 1992, long after the PC and XT had been discontinued in 1987.   These 360KB disks work in tandem and one can work in Drive A: and the other in Drive B:  They require a CGA or compatible card, and unusually for the time period use Mode 05h and its intense cyan/red/white palette (its cyan/magenta/white on EGA or VGA). A state of the art advertisement would have been released on 1.44MB or 1.2MB disks and used VGA graphics and Sound Blaster sound.  However, lots of dealerships apparently still used older systems in or near their showrooms.  By targeting the PC, GM/Buick ensured its software would run on just about anything.  Using a computer to look up model information must have still been fairly novel, even in 1992.  

The first option on the main menu sends you to a submenu listing eight Buick models, as shown below :

Once you select which model you are interested in, you can see the various features and specifications of each model :

"Attractive styling" :

What we take for granted today :

For completeness' sake :

This isn't going to deter a car thief :

Not really selling me on the MPG :

No V-8, I'm disappointed :(

There used to be a lot more sheet metal in cars twenty-two years ago :

Their cars come in three colors :

I'm sure that it must have looked very impressive to the average customer, but this is probably the same information you would have found in Buick's brochure.

The next selection on the main menu tells you all about leasing.

 It begins with an animated discussion between two people talking about the advantages of leasing :

But you don't own it, and stop trying to look down her shirt you perv!

And you have to give the car back :

Then it gives you sliders to determine whether you would lease or finance your Buick :

You can also find a debt/payment calculator  :

Choosing the final option on the main menu gets you to this menu :

The submenus include animation.

In case you Aren't Smarter than a 5th Grader :

But aren't they trying to sell you a car?

Reach for your checkbook too :

How do I measure my heart rate ?

This is the nutrition submenu :

 Somethings haven't changed :

Lies my nutritionist told me :

Low fat, high carbs, your ticket to a miserable dieting experience :

No chocolate, no choices for me :

An oversimplified quiz :

As you can see, there is a disconnect between the Buick advertisement portion of the program and Exercise/Nutrition portion of the program.  Who would expect detailed, if out of date, dieting advice on a program issued to Buick dealerships?  The Exercise/Nutrition portion is very elaborate, its as if someone at Buick liked the presentation and decided to advertise their automobiles with it as well.  If they kept it to the cars, they probably could have fit everything on one floppy.  

The split-personality of this program even extends to the disclaimers shown as you exit the program :

Despite the RealSound credit, all the music is standard PC speaker, not digitized or tweaked PC speaker. The ASCII Art Buick logo is really well-done.

I have made disk images of the above disks, and as Buick states, I am "feel[ing] free to copy and pass on to my friends".  Download them from here :


Raifield said...

That wouldn't have sold me on a Buick, but then, what would have sold anyone on buying American in 1992? The eighties had a lot to answer for, but this seems like a novel attempt at something new, if falling a bit short of the mark.

Great Hierophant said...

Apparently this was not so novel after all :

Raifield said...

Well, that's still Buick.

Maybe the exercise program was for when the car died and you had to jog to a gas station for a tow.

Greg Soravilla said...

Buick always had weird things like this. We had a LeSabre from '85 with a cassette owner's manual. V8 aside, I'd take that 3800 V6 over most anything. Best balance of low-end torque and reasonable fuel efficiency of any engine I've driven.

Jonathan said...

I have long forgotten the specific details, but we received something similar from GM in Canada. I think it only occupied one disk, however. (My Father owned a Buick Park Avenue at the time.)

I seem to recall another version, perhaps released a later, that included automotive or geography trivia questions.

Anonymous said...

OK, this thread is really old, but I thought I would chime in. I worked for the agency that developed the Buick Dimensions program in the '90's. You'd be surprised how many disks were produced. For every one that Buick paid for, approx. 4 were copied / created by people to share. For it's time, these were really cutting edge.

Thierry Kurt said...

Its posible to upload again ? link mediafire down , thanks !