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Icarus Productions was one of the premier programming groups in the TI community, featuring some of the legendary TI calculator programmers. Although they programmed for the TI-85 and TI-86, two calculators that have since been discontinued by TI in favor of the current TI-83/84 and TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators, their programs and games still rank as some of the best ever created in the TI community. Simply put, they set the standard that other programmers and programming groups try to attain.
They released several high-quality games and programs for the TI-85 and TI-86. Some of their best games include Sqrxz, a Super Mario style game with smooth-scrolling graphics; Balloon, a balloon-based RPG; Daedalus, a first-person raycaster; BoulderDash, a remake of the classic Commodore 64 game; Plain Jump; Maze3D, a 3D raycaster; M.C. Mik, a greyscale platform game; Peaworm, a snake clone with many features and modes of play; Bomberbloke, a remake of the popular bomberman game; Vertigo, a remake of the classic Marble Madness Nintendo game; and the much-beloved, much-ported ZTetris, a classic on computers and calculators alike.
They also created the definitive shells for the TI-85 and TI-86 called Usgard and Rascall, respectively. Usgard is the way you pronounce the word "Asgard" in Germanic languages. In ancient Norse mythology, Asgard was a place in the world where the gods lived. Both shells provided new features and functionality for shells, including support of TI-Basic programs and emulation of most of the TI-85 assembly formats (PhatOS, Rigel, and ZShell), which became standard for all TI-85 shells.
Their two most important utility programs were Text Viewer, a program for viewing text with markup formatting, and z80 assembly compiler (ZAC), a file editor that allows you to write assembly programs directly on the calculator and therefore eliminating the need for a computer. These both integrated with advanced text editor (ATE), a powerful text editor with many of the standard features that you see on a computer text editor, written by Jonah Cohen.
- May 19, 1997 — Icarus Productions founded by Andreas Ess and Sam Davies
- April 28, 1998 — Jimmy Mårdell joins the group
- June 9, 1998 — Matthew Shepcar joins the group
- July 13, 1999 — Clement Vasseur joins the group after having been a member of ACZ
- March 4, 1999 — Icarus Productions gets hosted by ticalc.org at http://icarus.ticalc.org
- March 21, 1999 — Z80 programming competition started by Jimmy Mardell
- January 25, 2000 — Michael Kristiansen joins the group
The site first started out in early 1996 as Andreas Ess' own personal website using the URLs http://andi.ganymed.org and http://andreas.ganymed.org. He then changed it into a programming group with Sam Davies in May 1997, adopting the Icarus Productions moniker and a matching site URL (i.e., http://icarus.ganymed.org). The site then got hosting through ticalc.org in 1999, and changed its URL to http://icarus.ticalc.org where it can still be found today.
Andreas Ess and Sam Davies worked together on Daedalus and Usgard for the TI-85 in Spring 1997, and decided to start their own programming group called Icarus Productions in May 1997. Just like with Daedalus and Usgard, the name Icarus comes from mythology. As the story goes, Icarus and his father Daedalus escaped from Crete by flying with wings made of wax and feathers, but Icarus disregarded his father's warning about flying too close to the sun, and the wax melted and he fell into the sea and drowned.
Jimmy Mardell and Matthew Shepcar were recruited to the group later in 1998, as both were actively involved in assembly programming for the TI-85. The group added new members throughout its existence, along with releasing a wide assortment of high-quality assembly games, programs, and tools. Some of the members were dropped from the group, however, due to inactivity caused by other priorities (like school and a job).
Although TI programs continued to be released by the group after Summer 1999, they decided to become a virtual company to appear more professional and the group focus shifted to writing commercial games for the Nintendo Game Boy Color (GBC). In particular, they ported Sqrxz and Peaworm (Willy Wonderworm) from the TI calculator to the GBC, while also improving the graphics, gameplay, and incorporating sound. They also released a demo called HiColour Viewer that allowed the GBC to use more than 2,000 colors instead of being limited to the usual 56 colors.
Unfortunately, the group stopped doing any TI development in 2003, and the members have moved on to other things.
In March 1999, Icarus Productions decided to host a programming contest run by Jimmy Mardell. The Z80 Programming Competition (referred to as ZPC) was a programming competition to write small and/or fast routines in Z80 assembly. The routines were designed to solve one or more specific problems. For example, one of the problems was to write a routine which complements the zero flag, while preserving the values of all other registers. Some of the best assembly programmers in the TI community participated including Kirk Meyer, Dux Gregis, and Jonah Cohen.
(Math By Hand)
Some of the Icarus Productions members appeared in various categories of the Millennium Awards jointly hosted by ticalc.org and Dimension-TI in 2000. In particular, Jimmy Mardell won the best programmer and best game (ZTetris) awards, Matthew and Andreas made it into the top ten of the programmers category, Sqrxz and Bomberbloke appeared in the game category, ZAC got third place in the assembly programs category, and Usgard and Rascall got fourth and tenth place respectively in the assembly shells category.
In 2000, Icarus Productions developed a version of the classic show "The Three Stooges" for Cinemaware, Inc., featuring high-quality, digitized graphics utilizing their HiColour technology. They also appeared at the European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) to showcase the game and their HiColour technology.
Andreas Ess and Clement Vasseur were paid by Texas Instruments in 2002 to develop a Flash concept application for the TI-83+ graphing calculator called Math by Hand. It was an educational learning game, designed to teach students how to do simple math calculations step-by-step. Other TI community members also developed educational Flash applications for TI including Jonah Cohen, Michael Vincent, and Xavier LaRue.