‘Kombos'(Knot), the first Greek computer-game commercially released (in 1984, ZX-Spectrum)

Indeed, “Kombos” was the very first commercially released Greek computer game. In addition, it was (as far as I know) the first commercial game in the world with Artificial IntelligenceBased on an (admittedly rather crude) inference engine with (only very elementary) Greek Natural Language processing code (in Sinclair ZX Basic) “Kombos 1” was an “Artificial Sophist”, a little bit like Eliza“, in some ways, but… better (IMNSHO) and much more addictive, as it turned out.

Here are some screen-shots of “Kombos”, with some attempts for English translation (imperfect because of the game’s language-specific Greek puns):

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“Kombos” was equipped with a miniscule dictionary of… 34 Greek nouns and adjectives, plus all the common Greek determiners (cramming the ZX-Spectrum’s... heroic 48 kilobyte RAM memory). However, it was boxed and delivered together with “Polylogiki”, a companion-application empowering users to define their own dictionaries and/or inference-relatrons. Using this tool, after releasing “Kombos” I created many experimental knowledge-bases (mostly about Greek politics) … lost in old cassettes that eventually got damaged, as years passed.

 “Kombos” in Greek means “knot”, a name I chose because of the game’s “artificial personality” striving to “tie-up in knots” (of complexity) unsuspecting… human victims, most of whom eventually became blissfully addicted Kombos-players, at the time, in Greece. Bear in mind, that at the time of Kombos’ release (July 1984), the ZX Spectrum was only two years old.  Ah well, those were the days…(as they say). In fact, some of these people still remember “Kombos”  three decades later, e.g. in the Greek “retro-maniacs” forum, where “Kombos 1” was officially resurrected in public, forever saved from oblivion: A rare cassette-recording of “Kombos” was discovered by Mr Mavrogiannopoulosa ZX-Spectrum veteran (while my own “Kombos” cassettes are damaged); a cassette clean enough for conversion into a snapshot-file (*.sna) that can run on any ZX-Spectrum emulator. Here is an English translation (summary) of the retromaniax forum’s discovery:

…We are happy that we have identified and electronically-preserved the first Greek commercial game for home-computers, the electronic “sophist” Kombos and Polylogiki! 

We had previously addressed Mr Stathis who had told us that he does not have a copy and is earnestly looking for one. In an interview with Mr Mavrogiannopoulos, among other things he showed us a tape of this double game! We brought these two people together and they gave us their permission to digitize and upload the game online. 

The digitization was very difficult. While other titles were easily digitized, due to the poor condition of that cassette it obstinately refused. We tried to convert it to aTZX-file with repair filters, with no succes. Fortunately, eventually the wonderful community of WOS helped us and we got it perfect (special thanx to Gilby, Richl) 

Note: To start with, we uploaded it as an Sna (snapshot-file) that can be loaded on any Spectrum emulator…

here is a recent video-recording of a complete “Kombos” game-session on an emulator:

If you are (or understand) Greek, you can download the game’s snapshot-file [here] to play it straight-away in any ZX-spectrum emulator (preferrably free; e.g. the excellent on-line ZX-spectrum emulator [here]). However, in that case you should also first read the game’s Greek manual [here]. After playing the game a few times, you can also have a go at the Knowledge-base editor “Polylogiki” [here], even though… it’s a much too complicated, time-consuming program by today’s standards; not recommended…

Anyway… This post is (hopefully) only a short introduction. In the near future, I hope to describe in detail  the logic of “Kombos-1”. I also hope to release (at last) a Second version of “Kombos” (exactly thirty years later!) using today’s vast machine-readable dictionaries and advanced A.I. / NLP techniques, which I had the good fortune to study in detail (and use in software applications) during the last… thirty years, or so.

George A. Stathis ()

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