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The PiMan
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The PiMan was probably the first cult cartoon game hero. He was created by Automata UK, otherwise known as Mel Croucher and Christian Penfold. The game was Pimania, and again, this was probably the first computer game to offer a big prize to anyone who could solve its riddles. Initially for the ZX81, the game was soon available for the Spectrum, and because of the prize, became a best seller. To anyone who could solve the game, and from the clues therein, be at a given place at a given time, would win the Golden Sundial of Pi, allegedly worth �6000.00.


Automata took over the back cover of the weekly magazine Popular Computing Weekly early in March 1983 and used it to sell their games and entertain our minds. Humorous cartoons depicting the life of the PiMan remained there for many years, often mimicking current events such as the general election. Other subjects were also mentioned like their court case with Monopoly producers Waddingtons, computer dating and fake top-ten charts. Cartoon strips also featured other Automata characters like Groucho, Lady Clair St.Clive, ETa, Morris and Yak.
The PiMan character was dropped after Interceptor Micors bought out Automata in 1986.


On the B side of their games came a music (!) track. The songs were bad, nay very bad, in fact so bad they were funny. Maybe this was the aim ? Eventually there were enough tracks to release a compilation, and so came the PiMan's Greatest Hits Tape, released Xmas 1983. Then, after further games and songs... another collection of music inventively titled the PiMan's Greatest Hits 2. These tapes have somehow survived despite the awful music. The copyright on this music is, as yet, unknown, as Automata are no longer trading. So, in keeping with the Automata's spirit of spreading happiness and joy, I have placed a small clip of one of the tracks for download. If it proves popular, I may add more. ;-)


As time passed and the sundial had still not being won, a few magazines, C&VG amongst them, began to insinuate that there never was a prize, and that it was all for publicity. Could this be ? Could a company dedicated to entertaining us, really want to rip us off ? Was Keith Cambell (adventure column writer for C&VG) right ? Whether by luck, or some other (!) unseen force, the prize was won a few months later in July 1985, some 3 years after the games release. C&VG announced this fact, and proceeded to apologise. The full transcript, including the details of the winners etc.. is HERE.


To prove the world that the search for the price was not in vein, Automata published an answer booklet, detailing the exact location of the hidden artifact (with directions to get there). The full transcript of this booklet is just one click away, HERE.