Thursday, 15 November 2012

The History of Ocean Software Kickstarter

Hot on the heels of the recently created Amiga Works Kickstarter campaign, by musician Allister Brimble, comes another exciting retro project.

This new campaign hopes to raise enough funds to enable the creation of a 300-page, full colour, hardback book, covering the history of Ocean Sofrware, from 1983 to 1998.

The book price starts at £25, with some exciting perks further up the financial ladder, should you with to put more money down. These perks include signed copies of the book and framed posters by the legendary Ocean artist, Bob Wakelin.

Here's Ocean Kickstarter mastermind, Chris Wilkins, with some more information;
"Ocean Software was a revered and well respected software house all over the world, producing and developing iconic games throughout the 8 and 16-bit era.

'The History Of Ocean' will unfold the story of Ocean; exploring the company's origins, its employees, their games, their music and the iconic artwork that placed the company at the forefront of the games industry for over a decade.

With your support we want to produce the definitive Ocean book - full colour, high production quality and written by Roger Kean of Newsfield, the company that gave us the seminal Crash, ZZap 64 and Amtix magazines".
More information, including a 2 minute video detailing the project in full can be found over on the Ocean Software Kickstarter page.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Retro Fusion Issue 3 - Out Now!

Issue two of Chris Wilkins' retro magazine "Retro Fusion", hit the shelves of Gamestation stores up and down the country and landed on door mats way back in July 2006, selling over 1000 copies.

Since then things have been rather quiet, as work and raising a family have taken over much of Chris' spare time. This changed earlier this year however, when once again he got the retro bug and decided that it was time to get another issue put together and eventually released.

The problem with producing a magazine is that it requires a massive financial outlay, and this was the big stumbling block. Realising this, Chris turned to crowd funding web site Kickstarter, in an effort to generate the funds needed before any production took place.

Support from the retro community came in thick and fast, and after some nail biting from Chris the project eventually reached the required total.

Here's Chris;
"The Indiegoo camaign to raise funds to print Issue 3 of Retro Fusion was a roaring sucess with nearly $3k raised with the camaign itself, and a number of other donations made to the magazine independently".
Issue 3 came through my letterbox a week or so back, and now that I've had a chance to read it from cover to cover, I thought I'd report back.

The thing that hits you right away is the level of production that's been lavished on this latest issue. Gone is the flimsy cover of early issues, and in its place is a nice glossy card cover. It may be a small thing, but it just gives it a real feel of quality.

This standard is maintained as you open the magazine. I have no knowledge of paper grades and standards, but I can tell you that the pages are thick, and the print quality on each is excellent. This gives many newsstand publications a run for their money!

Okay, enough pawing over the look and feel of the thing, what's the content like? Well, you'll be pleased to know that it's also up to an extremely high standard. The contents for issue 3 is as follows;

- Retro News - C64 hits 30, Dreamcast Dux, Blazeblue sequel
- Hi Octane - Ex-Bullfrog employee, Alex Trowers, talks Hi Octane
- Alien Breed Music and Sound - Allister Brimble remembers his role on the Team 17 classic
- Fusion Love - The classic that is Walker on the Amiga
- Plok - A look back Plus Pickford Interview - An exclusive RF interview
- Crash - Favourite Issue by Roger Kean - Newsfield's founder reveals his favourite issue
- Ocean Software Ltd - A day in the life of ex-Ocean employee Mark Jones - Pt 1
- 10 Great Sci-Fi Games - The games you must play before you leave this planet
- Alien Legacy - RF celebrates the films and the games
- Bitmap Brothers Interrogation - The makes of Z talk to RF
- Homebrew Review - The best of this year's homebrew games
- Encyclopaedia Galactica - Brand new Spectrum game
- Atari XEGS - Kieren Hawken takes a look at Atari's obscure console/computer hybrid
- Asteroids - Celebrating the classic
- Back O' The Arcade #1 - Escape From The Planet of the Robot Monsters
- Sea-Monkeys - The pet that lives forever
- From Screen to Toybox - RF looks at the best toys that have come from the big screen
- Fusion Love - The 1979 Disney film - The Black Hole
- Sci Fi Roborgs Top 10 - The 10 best non-human film characters

As you can see, the issue's certainly a packed one, and not only is it packed, but the content is of a really high standard.

It's difficult to pick my personal favourite sections of this issue, because there was so much I enjoyed reading, but if I was forced to name drop I'd have to go for the Plok and Allister Brimble interviews, with my absolute favourite part of the entire magazine being the Ocean Software article by ex-employee Mark Jones. It's an amazing read, and I can't wait for the next part.

I don't know if or when Chris plans to release issue 4 of Retro Fusion, or if it'll require another Kickstarter project, but here's hoping that the wait's nothing like the gap we experienced between issues 2 and 3.

If Chris can keep the momentum going I'm certain the number of copies sold will increase issue on issue. His biggest challenge now is trying to keep the quality of the content up to the standard of this latest release. It's going to be hard work, but from looking at the editorial contributors section he's certainly not short of people willing to help.

The print version of the magazine is priced at £4.95 (for a limited time only), and can be ordered by going to A PDF version is also available to download, priced at £2.50.

Those who wish to play Jonathan Cauldwell's Spectrum game "Encyclopaedia Galactica", reviewed in this issue, can download it for £2.00, or order the cassette for a very reasonable £5.00.

Now, get your order in!

(This blog post has been edited, as when originally published the contents listing accidentally missed out the Atari XEGS feature)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Amiga 1200 - 20 Years Old Today!

Released on the 21st October 2002, the Amiga 1200 was Commodore's final budget machine before it filed for bankruptcy in early 1994.

Priced at £399, the initial UK pack, entitled "Desktop Dynamite", saw the machine bundled with platformers Oscar and Dennis, art package Deluxe Paint IV AGA, wordprocessor Wordsworth, and operating system Workbench 3.0.

The A1200 was a 32-bit system, played host to a 14mhz 68EC020 microprocessor, and came with 2 MB of RAM as standard. The machine also contained the AGA chipset, which increased the color palette from the A500's 4096 to 16.8 million colours.

The machine was originally intended to be released with the AAA chipset, offering increased audio and graphical specifications. However, with development lagging behind, the A1200 was rushed to market with the Amiga 4000's AGA chipset instead.

These days, the Amiga 1200 seems to be the platform of choice for those who wish to keep a working Amiga system at home. This is mainly due to the low price of the computer on the second hand market, combined with excellent expansion possibilities.

Such is the popularity of the A1200, that even today new hardware is still being released for the platform. These include graphics cards to allow the machine to be connected to high definition displays, RAM and CPU expansions, and even compact flash card adaptors.

If you're thinking of bringing your A1200 out of retirement you may find that due to Commodore's sourcing of cheap parts the capacitors on your machine have started to go. If your mouse is playing up or your sound has gone or is distorted then you may need to take the top off the case and take a look for leaks.

If the caps have gone, don't panic, and certainly don't even think about binning your machine. Pop over to Amibay where a number of forumites are offering cap replacement services. If you'd rather send your machine off to a registered company AmigaKit will also replace the components for you.

Raise a glass for the trusty Amiga 1200, and think what might have been had Commodore remained in business.

(Thumbnail image borrowed from the excellent Amiga History web site)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Massive Retro Mag Scans Archive at Your Fingertips

Like many Brits I've recently taken advantage of the free loft and wall insulation scheme brought in by the government, and currently being carried out by hundreds of companies up and down the land.

While it's great to finally bring my house insulation up to 21st century standards, (and for free!) it's meant me spending four or five weekends emptying out the loft and sorting through piles of junk prior to the installation.

Much of what I brought down from the loft went to either the tip (five trips!) or the local charity shop (two trips), but a good proportion of it got re-organised, boxed-up and put back up there.

It was during this sorting and boxing-up process that I realised just how many magazines I had stashed away - the entire run of Amiga Power (complete with disks), almost every issue of Crash from issue 1 until the early 90s, Your Sinclairs from 1986 to 1993, alongside stacks of Amiga Formats, Amiga Shoppers, CU Amigas and even a number of Your Computers.

With the loft re-insulated I had less than half the original loft storage space I had before the installation went in, and so I had to bite the bullet and make some sacrifices. Naturally the Amiga Powers, issues of Crash, C&VG, Sinclair User, Nintendo Magazine System, Amiga Formats and Your Sinclair magazines were put in order, boxed up and placed back in the loft, but I simply had to trim the collection. I was out of room!

After much thought the following random issues went out for recycling: CU Amiga, ACE, Amiga Shopper, various Nintendo titles, and a pile of chopped-up issues of Your Computer, which as a kid I'd cut all the adverts out of and stuck on my walls (I just loved the Ultimate and Mikro Gen ads back in the day).

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I no longer need to stockpile all these ancient tomes of computer and console coverage as much of it's been scanned in and made available online for free.

And it's down to the efforts of those who support the Internet Archive that all these magazines have been put into one place, where they can now be read online or downloaded for offline viewing as and when you want.

Here are just a few of the publications they've archived and made publicly available:

- Advanced Computer Entertainment (ACE) Archive
- Amiga Shopper Archive
- Amstrad Action Archive
- Commodore Format Archive - Crash Magazine Archive
- CU Amiga Archive
- Official Sega Saturn Magazine Archive
- Sinclair User Magazine Archive - Your Computer Magazine Archive
- Your Sinclair Magazine Archive
- Zzap 64 Magazine Archive

The full (massive!) list of magazine scans can be found HERE.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Two New Retro Music Albums From Yerzmyey

I'm not sure if retro computer music albums are like buses, but in this instance, you wait for one, and all of a sudden two come along at once.

Retro musician, Yerzmyey, has just released two free to download albums. The first, entitled "RetroBeat", features a collection of eight new tracks created with an Amiga 1200, while the second, "Strange Light Under My Bed" was created using an Atari Falcon, a 128K Spectrum, an Atari 520ST, an Amiga and a 48K Spectrum.

RetroBeat's got a real oldskool demo sound to it, and you could easily imagine a classic megademo pumping out one of the tracks as vector cubes and bobs strobe across the screen.

The track List is as follows:
01. Critical Density
02. GeoCosmos
03. Interdimensional Crusader
04. RetroBeat
05. Into Aphelium
06. From Desert to Forest
07. Arcane Zone
08. Time Machine

Total playing time: 31:17

Meanwhle, Strange Light Under My Bed features strong Jarre influences, with a real late 70s / early 80s sound.

The track List is as follows:
01. Noise reduction (Atari Falcon 030)
02. Unknown radiation spectrum (ZX Spectrum 128K)
03. Enormous magnitude (ATARI 520ST)
04. Strange light under my bed (AMIGA 500)
05. Starlies (ZX Spectrum 48K)

Total playing time: 42:19 min.

For more information, and links to download the albums and CD artwork point your browsers over to: Earlier albums produced by Yerzmyey can also be downloaded from the above site.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

I'll admit to being a massive fan of computer, console and arcade related films and TV documentaries. I've got a fair old stack of them in the collection, with King of Kong, Pirates of Silicon Valley and Chasing Ghosts being just a few of my favourites.

Earlier today I was made aware of a new King of Kong style production entitled "Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters".

With an IMDB rating of 8.2 I was keen to learn more about this release, so off to YouTube I went to view the trailer and arm myself with further details.

The blurb on the official YouTube channel for the release reads...
"Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, [is] a feature length documentary set for release in 2012 that captures the greatest world record Tetris players as they prepare for the Classic Tetris World Championship.

From the days of Thor Aackerlund and his historic victory at the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, right up to the present and Harry Hong's perfect "Max-Out" score, this documentary expertly chronicles over two decades of Tetris Mastery".
For more information, go to the official Ecstasy of Order web site at

The film is available to purchase on DVD for $19.99 plus shipping, or via a number of download/streaming services including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and more.

My thanks go to Twitter user @Wahwah_UK for the heads-up on this.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

NES Tengen Tetris Prototype Up on Ebay - $45k!

I was alerted to this auction courtesy of Julian Rignall's (@JazRignall) Twitter feed, when earlier this morning his tweeted;
"Real or fake? $45k NES Tengen Tetris prototype cart is very cool and VERY rare. But where's the authentication?"
Naturally, I had to take a look, and off to Ebay I went.

Here's part of the seller's item description;
"This is the real deal, the extremely rare and once thought nonexistent prototype of the Tengen Version of Tetris which states Licensed by Nintendo on the title screen.

If you are a serious collector and capable of winning this auction, you already know why this cartridge is so rare and so valuable.

Why is this cart so important to video game history?

This important piece of history was followed by one of the ugliest lawsuits in early video game history. One where Tengen was forced to pull their superior version from the shelves just 4 weeks after release. Only 100,000 units of the production version of Tengen Tetris were sold during that time period.

THIS IS A ONE OF A KIND ORIGINAL PROTOTYPE It is possibly the latest build of Tengen Tetris before the legal action commenced.

The label reads
Property of

The game is housed in a modified Duck Hunt Cartridge.

The EPROMs are protected with a thick tape and the cartridge is glued together to prevent piracy and or duplication.

I will NOT attempt to open this cart for pictures of the board for fear it will destroy the prototype altogether. Don't even ask.

Less than a handful of these rare pre-lawsuit prototypes ever existed".
If you want to add this bad boy to your collection then you'd better have some VERY deep pockets!

You can view the Ebay auction by clicking HERE.
Watch a video of the cartridge up and running HERE.
Read more about the cartridge by visiting this Wikipedia link.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Spectrum Show - Episode 9

Episode 9 of the impressive "Spectrum Show" goes back to November 1983, covering a selection of news stories doing the rounds at the time, including:

- The Spectrum Stick - A new joystick that doesn't require an interface, and instead, sits on top of your keyboard
- Sinclair brush away rumours of the ZX83, and announce a new development system for a future Sinclair business machine
- Macmillan join forces with Sinclair to release a series of educational titles
- A number of companies commit to supporting the Currah Microspeech Unit
- And, with Acorn's contract with the BBC due for renewal next year Sinclair declare their interest in pitching.

On to chart news, and with the Christmas season fast approaching the game charts are a frenzy of activity. Current top-selling titles include Maziacs from DK Tronics, Ant Attack from Quicksilva and Lunar Jetman from Ultimate.

This month's feature covers Galaxian clones. Boy, there were some real stinkers that ended up on shop shelves, but one or two versions are actually worth investigating further.

In the new game reviews segment Spectrum Show presenter Paul Jenkinson looks at one of his own games, "Space Disposal", a flip-screen Cybernoid style shooter, and rather nice it looks, too!

There's much more in this episode besides the above, including a segment on the truly terrible and frustrating "Jungle Fever". Perhaps the maddening "Jungle Trouble" could be a future joystick-hurling title for the show to cover?

The current episode lasts for just under 20 minutes, and can be found on YouTube by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

BitJam Podcast #157 - A Tribute to Psygnosis

On Wednesday 22nd August Sony finally called time on SCE Studio Liverpool. Established in 1984 from the ashes of a bankrupt Imagine, the company was formerly known as Psygnosis.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Psygnosis were the kings of presentation. From the gorgeous packaging the games came in, to bundled T-shirts, beautiful in-game graphics and stunning audio, they really knew how to polish each release.

The playability on many of their titles may have been sadly lacking, but for the purpose of this blog post we'll skate over that bit, as I'm here to give you the heads-up on a fan-made audio tribute, courtesy of the BitFellas podcast team.

Here's Bobic of BitFellas:
"Episode #157 - Tribute to Psygnosis, Part 1: The Amiga years

On August, the 22nd of 2012, the SHADOW OF THE BEAST (Sony) fell over Sony Studio Liverpool, better known as Psygnosis. After producing AWESOME games for 28 years the MENACE couldn't be stopped. Game over for a company who wrote a big chapter into the book of history of computer and video games.

BitFellas says "thank you" for creating and publishing milestones like Lemmings, Barbarian, the Beast trilogy, WipEout and many more gems, including some of the best box art of all time.

R.I.P. Psygnosis, playing at the THEATRE OF DEATH now.

This is the first podcast episode with music from Psygnosis games. The focus here is on music from their Amiga games, sometimes in their original MOD version, sometimes as remix. Some unreleased tunes are included, too.

We say thank you to the following musicians and people, who made this episode possible and bow down for writing some of the best game music ever made:
Tim Wright (CoLD SToRAGE), Matthew Simmonds (4mat), Chris Hülsbeck, Ray Norrish (NZO), Tim Bartlett, Olof Gustafsson (Blaizer), Mike Clarke and Jan Zottmann."
The podcast features a hefy 41 separate tracks, ranging from original Amiga audio to modern day remixes, and runs for a whopping 1hour 55mins 42secs.

Listen to the podcast HERE on YouTube.
Download the MP3 (159MB) HERE.
Download the cue sheet HERE.

BitJam Podcast:

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dedicated UK Retro Arcade in Planning Stages

With the sad demise of the Devon based Arcade Barn at the start of 2012, the UK has found itself without a dedicated retro amusement arcade.

Former Barn owners Aran and Shaun made a fantastic job of re-creating the look and feel of an amusement arcade from the 80s, but the massive overheads and lack of regular income forced the duo to call time on their risky but exciting venture earlier in the year.

Now it would seem that a couple of other arcade machine collectors are keen to pick up the baton from where Aran and Shaun left off, and are investigating setting up their own retro amusement arcade that would be open to the public.

Here's Luke Wells' recent post on the JAMMA Plus Forum;
"Myself + RGP are discussing renting a significantly large unit/warehouse to re-locate both our entire collections of machines (90-100 machines?) plus plenty of space to expand or share with others.

The location will be North West England, the location will have good transport links, with Blackpool being a good possibility. (You know, its like Blackpool is the daddy of retro arcades - plus rent is currently very reasonable due to volumes of empty property)

We have no intentions of trying to make a profit, or even to break even. We are happy to put our own money towards this venture, both for our benefit, and for the benefit of other arcade enthusiasts , however, it would not be sustainable for us to foot 100% of the costs all of the time. We need support from other enthusiasts to invest a small monthly fee, in exchange for semi-regular access to play games hang out for meets.

We are initially throwing around a figure of £10 per month per person to help support the arcade. (Hey if you can afford to reliably pledge more then please say so)

Machines will be a mix of Videogames, Pinball machines, Electro-mechanical and Mechanical arcade games.

Between us we have most of the "top" Atari and Sega titles as well as various other Taito/Konami etc in dedicated cabs, plus several Jamma cabs and several hundred working pcb's. I also have a handful of the "top" pinball titles as well as a good range of pins from all ages.

There would be regular small meetups for local members as well as annual / twice annaul BIG events like a Jamma+ birthday bash / uk pinball meet? etc probably quarterly 'big meets'"

Luke and RGP (Retro Games Party) are now looking for people to come forward with regular subscription-like donations to put towards the overheads of running a non profit retro amusement arcade. Currently, the monthly donations stand at a very respectable £200 per month, but more will no doubt be appreciated.

For more information on this project, you can find a lengthy discussion thread over on the JAMMA Plus Forum, which you get to by clicking HERE. The first post also shows those who have come forward with offers of donations, and how much they're willing to stump-up.

To get some idea of what this new arcade would look like, here's some footage I took last year, during one of the meets at the brilliant Arcade Barn.

It would be fantastic if Luke and RGP's plans come to fruition, and the UK finally got itself a permanent retro amusement arcade. There are a number scattered across the United States, and these seem to be extremely popular. Surely us Brits can accommodate and support at least one.

Please show your interest and get donating!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Midway's Arcade Origins - 360/PS3 - Nov 2012

If the price, number of bundled titles and standard of emulation are all good, I'm always willing to add a new retro compilation to my ever growing collection. On the modern systems these usually come with decent front ends, and a host of extra goodies to make the purchase even more worthwhile.

This week Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment announced the forthcoming release of "Midway Arcade Origins", for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Packed with 30 titles from the Atari/Williams/Midway back catalogue, this looks only to be of interest to those who don't already have the Midway Arcade Treasures pack for the Xbox/PS2, or want a decent retro compilation for one of the current systems.

The full line-up of games due to appear on the compilation are as follows:

- 720°
- A.P.B
- Arch Rivals
- Bubbles
- Championship Sprint
- Tournament Cyberball 2072
- Defender
- Defender II
- Gauntlet
- Gauntlet II
- Joust
- Joust 2
- Marble Madness
- Pit-Fighter
- Rampage
- Rampart
- Robotron 2084
- Root Beer Tapper
- Satan’s Hollow
- Sinistar
- Smash TV
- Spy Hunter
- Spy Hunter II
- Super Off Road
- Super Sprint
- Toobin’
- Total Carnage
- Vindicators Part II
- Wizard of Wor
- Xenophobe
- Xybots

Warner have released a nice promotional trailer for the forthcoming release, which you can find over on YouTube by clicking HERE.

Opinions from the retrogaming community certainly seem mixed regarding this proposed release, and nowhere more so than over on the Retro Gamer Forums.

Forum member shiftytigger, commented:
"As I can go use any of the older compilations on my GC / PS2 Im not too fussed with this (emulation issues aside) .

What they really should be doing is compiling all the older Arcade treasures and putting in some titles they keep passsing by. Its always the same games wheeled out over and over again. Lets see some of the rarer , lesser known stuff surface - even as unlockables etc."
While fellow Retrogamer forumite PaulEMoz responded with:
"This sounds great, though, and I'll be jumping all over it if it comes out here or is region-free."
Retrogamer Magazine editor, Darran Jones followed up by posting:
"My biggest concern with this is that it sounds like a repackaged midway arcade treasures. Good games though...."
I'll let you decide if this pack is worth adding to your collection or not. One thing's for sure, if previous retro compilations are anything to go by, you'll be able to pick this up for a massively discounted price within a few months of release.

Midway Arcade Origins is due for release in the US this November, priced at $29.99. European release dates and prices have yet to be announced.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Unused Nintendo NES System For Sale

As a lover of all things retro I'm used to adding systems and games to the collection that need a ruddy good wipe down prior to use. The C64 I purchased a month back required some serious work with a pack of hygienic wipes before I switched it on, and many years ago I bought a Space Invaders Part 2 upright cab that looked like it'd been stored in a barn for a decade or more. (That needed some serious cleaning work, I can tell you!)

With that in mind it always amazes me that mint (or near mint) condition items continue to pop up on auction site Ebay. So when ex ZZAP!64 / C+VG editor Julian Rignall, tweeted "Get your minty fresh unopened NES right here. Relive the joys of the bext Xmas present from 1988", along with a link to an Ebay auction, I just 'had' to take a look.

Here's the auction description:
Up for auction is this great Nintendo NES control deck with all original box, manuals, controllers, power, accessories and console as seen in the pictures.

Box and all accessories are in great condition, box has some very slight corner wear. Console and controllers have no cracks or dings/dents since the item has never been used.

It was only out of the box for the purpose of taking pictures for this listing. Includes original styrofoam and plastic accessory bags. UPC on box is 045496610067. This item is from a smoke free home. Excellent vintage gaming system from 1988. Rare find. Please email me with any questions.
The only issue with it being practically mint is that no one knows if time's been kind to the unit and whether it actually works, as this question and answer from a potential buyer and the seller shows;
Q: Any idea if it works properly?

A: I have no idea if it works properly. It's been wrapped in plastic and never opened. If I open it and plug it in then it no longer is never used. Plus I don't have any games to try on this unit. Thanks for your question.
The auction currently stands at $237, and ends on September 19th. If you're willing to take the risk on this being a worker or not you'd better get that bid in quick!

Update: The closing price for this unit was $310.88, with 21 bidders.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

New Book - Atari Inc. Business is Fun

I'll admit that I'm a sucker for retro gaming and computer history related books. I've got a fair stack of them in the old collection and am always looking to add more to the pile.

This week I stumbled upon news of a new book, due to be released towards the end of September. Going under the title "Atari Inc. Business is Fun", this looks like it could really lift the lid on this once legendary company.

Scott Cohen's "Zap! The Rise and Fall of Atari" provided a fleeting look at the history of the the iconic brand, and I'm hoping that this new publication will present a more in-depth and detailed analysis of the company. Written by Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel, the book should prove to be well written, heavily researched and a fascinating read.

Both authors come with decent CV's. Marty Goldberg has worked at, currently freelances for Retro Gamer magazine, and is a co-founder of the Midwest Gaming Classic Expo. Meanwhile, Curt Vendel has a bachelor in computer science, and in 1998 founded the Atari History Museum Archives, amassing over 15,000 files, folders and documents.

So, what can we expect from this book? Here's the blurb...

The true story behind the company and brand that was synonymous with 'video games' in the 1970's and 80's, told by the people who were there making history. Dominating both the arcade and home - and fueled by the public's 'obsession' with technology, Atari pioneered high tech fun for a new generation. The ripple effect of Atari's influence in technology and pop culture has resonated throughout the decades, and into the 21st Century.

In an age where Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft now dominate the consumer industry, Gen-Xers and those lucky enough to have grown up during the "Age of Atari" still cling fondly to the memories of this period.

With roots dating back to 1969, when Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney formed a small engineering partnership, these two California entrepreneurs took a chance and introduced an exciting new technology to the world at a time when pinball was king. Forming Atari Inc. on June 27th, 1972, together they launched a company that would come to dominate and innovate what people did with their leisure time.

Purchased by Warner Communications in 1976, the sale of the company to this entertainment industry titan would ensure Atari invaded all areas of American culture, enabling the company to stake its claim as a worldwide phenomenon. Rapidly expanding into other forms of entertainment, computers and advanced high-tech research, Atari's innovation and influence was comparable to Apple's preeminence today.

... that is, was until Atari imploded spectacularly in 1984, taking most of the US video game industry with it. As a result, its cadre of talented people and advanced technology were unleashed across Silicon Valley. Many of these individuals are still working in the industries they helped pioneer.

For more information, visit the "Atari Inc. Business is Fun" section of the Atari Museum web site at, follow the team on Twitter @AtariBook or join their facebook group over at

When I finally manage to get my hands on a copy I'll post a full review to the blog in due course.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

30 Years of the ZX Spectrum - A Celebration!

Over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of September Spectrum fans from across the globe came together at the Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, to celebrate 30 years of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

As an owner of various Spectrums since 1982 I was keen to go, but felt that I couldn't really justify the travel time and costs getting to and from deepest darkest Cambridge. With many coming from other countries, I suppose I don't have much of an excuse, but there you go.

Thankfully, a number of those who did attend have filmed and written about their experiences, giving you the chance to see and read about what you missed.

The Centre For Computing History have put together a short write-up, along with various YouTube clips and a selection of photos they took on the day. You can find the article by pointing your browser HERE.

Andrew Edney of the Connected Digital World web site has written a short review, and uploaded a mass of lovely photos. You can find those HERE.

If it's just photos you're after, then you'll want to check out the snaps uploaded by World of Spectrum forumite schombi. There's an absolute stack of them, and you can find them HERE.

Happy birthday ZX Spectrum. Here's to the next 30!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Play MP3's on Your Amiga With MAS Player Evolution

One of the things I love about tinkering around on out of date technology is getting them to perform tasks that they simply weren't designed to do. Some would argue that it's rather pointless, and they may be right. So, why do I do it? Because it's FUN, that's why!

Earlier this year I decided to enhance my expanded Amiga 1200 Tower setup with a MAS Player Evolution Interface. This is a small grey box which connects to the Amiga's parallel port, enabling it to play MP3's up to 192kbps.

This small box of tricks contains MP3 decoding hardware, meaning the Amiga can pass the task of playing the tunes over to an external piece of circuitry, and leaving the Amiga's CPU to deal with other tasks as and when required.

Installing the hardware
Installing the hardware is a five minute task. The MAS Player plugs into the Amiga's parallel port, and a joystick connector comes from the device and goes into port 2. L and R audio jacks come from the Player, and connect to the respective ports on the Miggy.

The more observant of readers will have no doubt noticed that this device uses the Amiga's joystick port for power. Thankfully, the designers of the MAS Player have provided you with a through-port on the device, so you simply connect your joystick/pad to this.

Finally, sound comes out of the Player through a 3.5" audio jack, which you hitch up to your sound system.

Installing the software
Installing the software is rather more involved. The device comes bundled with some public domain MAS Player software, which is simple to install and get up-and-running. The probem is that it doesn't run in a Workbench window. Instead, it runs on its own screen, with some really odd screen resolution that shifts everything off to the right. Not good, but at least it's a quick way of testing the hardware works!

Thankfully, Amiga Amp works brilliantly with the MAS Player, and once you've got that installed you can not only play MP3's directly from your Amiga's hard drive, but create playlists, and even listen to audio streams off the internet. Absolute 80s seems rather appropriate in this case!

If you're thinking about adding a MAS Player Evolution to your Amiga setup then you'll need an Amiga with a 68020 or higher, at least 2 megabytes of fast RAM and a hard drive. Be aware that many MP3's have extremely long filenames - a feature not supported by the Amiga's bundled Fast File System. This isn't a major problem, but it will mean that you'll have to truncate filenames if you're importing tracks from a PC, Mac or Linux box. I'd recommend installing Smart File System, as this not only supports long filenames, but hard drive partitions up to 120GB.

The MAS Player Evolution is priced at £48.95, and can be purchased from Cardiff based

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Yesterday's News Today - It's The Spectrum Show!

It's back to the humble ZX Spectrum for today's blog post, as I want to point you in the direction of YouTube, and more specifically, The Spectrum Show.

Currently up to episode 8, The Spectrum Show is a semi-regular series of documentaries covering the history of Clive Sinclair's rubber-keyed-wonder, month-by-month, from March 1983 onwards.

Each episode (weighing in at just under 15 minutes each) covers the Spectrum news of that particular month, charting the highs and lows from that particular point in time.

Alongside a roundup of news from months gone by each show also contains a feature. Examples include a roundup of Space Invader clones, game creation, and Moon Patrol clones.

Production values of each episode are of an extremely high standard, and the narrator is clearly spoken, interesting and informative.

The eight episodes currently online and available for your viewing pleasure are:

Episode 1 - March 1983
Sinclair recalls a batch of Spectrum power supplies amid rumours they could be dangerous. There's news of delays for the forthcoming ZX Microdrive, and Penetrator and The Hobbit from Melbourne House, along with Arcadia from Imagine are riding high in the charts. This month's feature is a roundup of Space Invader clones.

Episode 2 - April 1983
This episode includes a review of the Wafadrive, a look at the games charts from this month in time, plus new games including More Tea Vicar and Maritrini are investigated.

Episode 3 - May 1983
Episode three covers the Spectrum news and new game releases. There's also an arcade shoot-out and comparison of various Spectrum versions of Asteroids. If that wasn't enough the show also reviews some early Quicksilva games and looks at some newer releases.

Episode 4 - June 1983
Along with the latest Spectrum news and new game releases, this episode tracks the evolution of the joystick interface, reviews some early Software Projects games and looks at a couple of newer releases.

Episode 5 - July 1983 - This July 83 episode features the first part of a game creation feature along with the usual old and new game reviews. They take a look at early and not-so-early CRL games, and report that 3000 Spectrum's (worth approximately £380,000) have been stolen from a warehouse by a gang wielding shotguns. Also this month, WHSmith confirm they will no longer be stocking further ZX81 titles as demand for the machine has dropped.

Episode 6 - August 1983
Here you'll find the second part of the game creation feature, a look at a couple of titles from Incentive Software, and a mix of old and new game reviews. The big hardware release this month is the Alphacom 32 printer, and the majority of 3000 stolen Spectrum's are recovered after the people who stole them attempted to sell them back to the suppliers they were originally intended to go to.

Episode 7 - September 1983
In this episode they take a look back to September 1983 to get all the latest Sinclair news and latest Spectrum game releases. There's also a Spectrum arcade shootout - this time it's Moon Patrol. Which of the Spectrum versions will come out on top? As well as this there's reviews of some older games and a few newer titles.

Episode 8 - October 1983
Here, the team go back to October 1983 to get all the latest Sinclair news and up-to-the-minute Spectrum game releases. They also "go large" (their words, not mine!) with Spectrum gaming, reviewing a selection of older and more up-to-date titles.

That little lot should keep you busy for an hour or two, and please, if you like what this guy's doing, make sure you leave him some feedback. Hopefully this will encourage him to keep going.

Happy viewing!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Adding a C64 to the Collection

This year retro gamers across the globe are celebrating the 30th anniversary of two legendary computing platforms - the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64.

Both systems were massive sellers. At one point in its history the humble Spectrum held the record as the UK's best selling home computer, while the Commodore 64 went on to become the best selling worldwide.

Back in 1982 my father bought our family a 48k ZX Spectrum. The C64 wasn't available to purchase at the time, and even if it had been, the price tag would have pushed it far out of his financial reach. Combine that with the Spectrum being designed and built in the UK, and it's no surprise to me that he went for the rubber-keyed wonder.

During my school days almost all of my friends had Spectrums. I don't know if these friendships were forged on the basis of what computer you owned, or if it was just a fluke that we all owned the same system, but looking back only one person I knew owned a BBC, one an Oric (poor guy!), and one a C64.

Besides playing the odd game on my friend's C64, my experience of the machine is limited at best. I did attempt to rectify that about 10 years ago, and ended up with a 'breadbin' model and two data recorders. Unfortunately both recorders were extremely temperamental, and I think I spent more time trying to get these to work than actually using the computer. In the end I got rid of all the kit after hardly touching it.

Recently, however, I've spent a lot of time listening to the Commodore Rock album that was given away as a cover CD by Retro Gamer magazine many years ago.

I've discovered that the sound produced by the famous SID chip really is amazing when put in the right hands, and over the past month or so I've been visiting YouTube and a number of C64 web sites to stream further tunes.

This all came to a head when the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine featured a massive section dedicated to 30 Years of The Commodore 64. Penned by regular contributor Andrew Fisher, this article detailed the history of the machine, spoke to some of the famous programmers of the platform, and also highlighted a stack of games to check out.

Once I'd ploughed through that article my mind was made up. I needed to add a C64 to the collection!

Following that decision I had questions. Which model should I go for? Should I go for a boxed setup or try and keep costs down by just going for an unboxed machine?

In the end I decided to let familiarity help me. Back in the day a friend of mine had a C64 Night Moves pack, and so it was off to Ebay to try and track one down.

Amazingly, I was the only bidder on a boxed C64 Night Moves pack, and got the machine for £40 plus a tenner delivery. I thought that was pretty reasonable. It also came with the data recorder, and a selection of extra games the previous owner had purchased.

The machine arrived a week or so back, and I've been spending the last few days trying out various classic games and demos.

Now I'm armed with my own C64 I'll be reporting on my experiences with the machine over the coming weeks and months.

Watch this space!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Microsoft Updates its Logo for the First Time in 25 Years

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its new logo - the first time the company has changed it in 25 years.

The first I knew about this was when the announcement was tweeted by the excellent (you really should subscribe to it if you're not) @computerhistory Twitter feed, which directed you towards a nice little article on the Business Insider web site.

Naturally, the short article devoted a paragraph or two to the new logo, but what was of more interest to me was that it then took a look back at the evolution of Microsoft's logo since 1975.

Point your browser here for a look back through the years, Microsoft style.

A big thank you to @computerhistory for the heads-up on this one, and for pulling the different logos into one place.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bristol's First Raspberry Jam

Before someone comments that this post isn't retro, please read on. It 'is' retro related.

I've been a Raspberry Pi owner for a couple of months now. I bought my unit with the intention of teaching myself some basic Python, as it looked to be a powerful but fairly simple programming language.

Due to one thing or another I've so far managed to find little time to get stuck in, but am hoping that when the winter months roll round and I'm stuck indoors, this will change.

Anyway, I digress. Since getting my Pi up and running I've been keen to see what others are doing with their systems, and last night, at the first Bristol Raspberry Jam, I finally had that opportunity.

Hosted by Broadcom, and held at the wonderful Bristol and Bath Science Park, the event saw over 100 Pi and prospective Pi owners get together for two hours of talks, demonstrations, and generally be inspired to get stuck in and have a go.

I was amazed at the range of people at the event. Sure, there were the geeks, but there were also students, university lecturers, teachers, people from local businesses, and even a decent number of children, all keen to learn more about this amazing device.

With the surroundings of the stunning Bristol and Bath Science Park, the event looked more like something out of Silicon Valley than the South West of England. In fact, it made me think that this probably wasn't far off the atmosphere found at the computer meetings back in the early to mid Eighties, or at the now legendary Homebrew Computer Club, where such luminaries as Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak attended.

Retro-heads like myself were well catered for at the event. One speaker demonstrated a new version of BASIC he'd ported over to the Pi (and was running a version of Pong), and another gave a brief walkthrough of the much-loved RISC OS, which had been converted to run on the system, and was going like the clappers.

If even that was too modern for you then perhaps the setup by members of the Bristol Hackspace would have been more up your street. Here, a BBC Micro and a Pi were linked, enabling the BBC to send and receive tweets via Twitter.

Unfortunately, with the hardware of the BBC being somewhat older than those in the Pi, the Beeb had decided to blow the capacitors in the PSU, meaning an actual demonstration was off the cards. That didn't stop a good number of people crowding around the machine to see how the hardware went together, though.

Still, there's always next time. As the event was so popular it looks like a second Bristol Jam will be taking place in the not too distant future. Watch this space.

And with that I'm off to fire up the Spectrum emulator on my Pi and see if I can finally get past The Abandoned Warehouse on Matthew Smith's classic platformer, Manic Miner.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Memories of my Local Computer Shop

Established in 1988, R.J Computers was a family owned and run computer business based in Downend, Bristol, and Between 1990 and the shop's closure some 14 years later this was my gaming mecca.

I first discovered R.J Computers (RJ's) when a flyer came through the door around late 1990 or early 1991. I'd not long had my Amiga, and was keen to make the most of it. With a specialist computer store only a short drive away from home this seemed to be a marriage made in heaven, and I wasn't wrong.

Back in the early 90s RJ's supported almost all the popular platforms - Spectrum, C64, Atari ST, Amiga, PC and SNES, to name but a few. Sure, an excellent range, but for me, this was 'the' place to go if you wanted to buy brand new Amiga games. They always stocked the latest titles, and they were slightly cheaper here than if you bought them at Game or Electronics Boutique.

As an Amiga owner I found RJ's to be an amazing place to visit. It was the place where I bought my 512k upgrade for my Amiga 500 (£39.99!), the place where, through a trade-in scheme, I part exchanged my A500 for a brand new A1200. I bought my first A1200 RAM expansion from RJ's, and experienced the joys of entering the CDROM revolution, when I purchased a Zappo CDROM drive (£225 for a 2x CDROM!) from there.

The staff were fantastic. They were always on hand to give advice, and nothing ever seemed to be too much trouble. One Christmas I received a Commodore inkjet printer, but no matter what we tried my father and I couldn't get it to work properly. We took it down to RJ's, and even though we'd not bought it from there they hooked it up to one of their Amiga systems and spent a good 40 minutes troubleshooting it until they'd got it working. All this was completely free of charge. How many places would offer that kind of service these days?

Following the demise of Commodore in 1994 RJ's started to move away from the Amiga, and concentrate on the blossoming PC market. They started selling their own custom built machines, and although they may have been slightly more expensive than the online retailers, you knew that if anything went wrong with yours or you had a problem they'd be more than happy to take a look at it.

In 1998 the company I work for set up a scheme where you could purchase components to build your own PC through the business, where you'd have access to massively cheaper components than if they were bought from a high street shop, and you could pay the cost back over a period of 12 months.

With a decent PC costing over £1000 back then this seemed like the best way for me to move away from the dying Amiga market, and so I jumped ship, bought the components, built my own computer and packed up my trusty A1200.

Over the next few years I still popped in to RJ's every now and then. I didn't purchase much - perhaps the odd adapter here, the odd cable there. The place was full of PC systems by this point, and while the staff were as friendly and chatty as ever, the excitement I used to get when walking through the door of the place just wasn't there anymore. The hustle and bustle had also gone. What was a heaving haven for 8 and 16 bit gamers some 7 or 8 years prior was now a place where often I'd be the only customer in there.

In early summer 2004 I had the need to pop in to RJ's again. I was after something for a PC I was building, and I didn't want to order it online and have to wait for it to arrive. It'd been a good 12 months since I'd last popped in there, and I was quite looking forward to seeing the place and catching up with the staff.

I parked up outside the shop, got out, and was gobsmacked. The RJ's I'd known was gone, and in it's place was a fish and chip shop. I can only assume that the electronic retail chains and online stores had been the nail in the coffin. Others like me had no doubt found that items could be purchased online from the comfort of your desk and a couple of mouse clicks. It was easy, and often it was cheaper, too.

Stunned, I got back into the car and made my way home. "Perhaps they've just moved", I said to myself, and so I decided to go on to their web site to see if that had more information on the closure.

The site had been updated, but the news wasn't good:

As of the 12th June 2004 R.J.Computers has closed.

We would like to express our thanks to all our customers who have used our services and supported us over the years.

I'll never forget those Saturday's driving (or being driven, when I was too young to drive myself!) down to RJ's. Most of the time I wasn't going down for anything particular. I simply enjoyed the buzz of getting down there and wondering what new hardware or software they'd have in stock.

It's clear I'm not the only person who has fond memories of visiting their local computer shop, as this thread over on the English Amiga Board shows.

With the rise of the online stores offering massive discounts compared to your bricks and mortar independent, I can't ever see the days of the indie returning. It's sad really, as they offered something the online stores never will be able to - service with a smile and help that was second to none.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Donkey Kong Inspired Retro Shelving

I don't mind admitting that I'm rather partial to a bit of retro related furniture and tat for the home. We've seen retro framed pictures, retro inspired t-shirts, more recently the Tetris lamp, and now, Los Angeles designer Igor Chak has designed and produced a set of Donkey Kong shelves.

A set of Donkey Kong Shelves? Yes indeed, and here's how the basics of the idea took shape;
... I came across an old scenario that has been embedded in my childhood memory...The colorful steel beams of Donkey Kong and I started to wonder, what happens to all those video game props when games become old...Do they get stored away in a digital world or do they fade away with time?

The famous steel beams from Donkey Kong have served their time but I could not pass by such an ingenious design...So as a designer I though how can I encourage Mario to take this back.

I’m sure with popularity of Mario he is not a simple plumber anymore and he wouldn't want some rusty beat up steel beams at his place but he would probably need some kind of sweet looking wall to put his awards and trophies on.
Mimicking the style of the first stage from Nintendo's classic arcade title, Donkey Kong, these not only make great bookshelves, but they look absolutely fantastic, too.

At present it doesn't look like these shelves are for sale. However, Igor has already designed and built a Space Invader style sofa, which he now sells from his web site, so perhaps these will be next.

Keep those fingers crossed!

A selection of photos showing the shelves in all their glory can be found in the industrial section of Igor's web site.

Thanks go to Twitter user @chut319 for giving me the heads-up on this.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Out Run Serial Number Project

I've been a proud owner of an upright Out Run arcade machine for a good 12 or more years now, and after all this time it's still one of my favourite games.

It features great graphics (for the time), a selection of stunning music tracks, and offers the type of gaming that's ideal for short bursts, when you've got a spare 5 or 10 minutes to kill.

When I purchased the machine I noticed that in the corner of the screen bezel, under the monitor glass, was an official Sega hologram serial number sticker, and it got me thinking "Just how many Out Runs are still out there and what stories do their owners have to tell?"

A thought was all this remained, until, a year or so back, I stumbled upon the Spectrum Serial Number Project over on the World of Spectrum Forums.

My thoughts returned to the Out Run serial number mystery, and this time I decided to do something about it, and so, over the past 18 months I've been contacting known Out Run owners, or people selling them on Ebay, in an effort to obtain the serial numbers and information about each machine.

I've currently got information relating to 11 different Out Run machines, and am always on the lookout for more.

The list can be found on my (very much under construction!) Retro Ranch web site, and you can get to the list directly by going HERE.

If you're an Out Run owner or know someone who is, and the machine's not currently listed, or has changed owners, please get in touch and let me know.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Amiga PD Interviews Top Hat Willy Author

If you were an Amiga user back in the late 80s to mid 90s you'll have doubtlessly enjoyed the thriving public domain scene which was prevalent at the time.

Demos, games, utilities, images, music and more were all available for free, or at least for the price of a floppy disk and postage & packing (remember, this was before the internet crept into homes up and down the country).

The great thing is that the Amiga still plays host to a public domain scene to this very day. Although this is a far cry from the days when the Amiga was still being sold in the shops and through mail order, there's still a steady stream of demos, utilities and the odd game seeing the light of day.

Some truly wonderful games were released into the public domain, and one of my all-time favourites is Top Hat Willy, which I still wheel out to play on my trusty Amiga 1200 on a fairly regular basis.

For those of you not familiar with the game, it's basically an Amiga rip-off of Matthew Smith's Spectrum classic, Jet Set Willy. Yes, it's a rip-off, but it's been done so well, that it easily stands alongside the 1984 title it's clearly influenced by.

So, why am I waffling on about this ancient Amiga platform game? Well, earlier this week, Christian Clarke, maintainer of the excellent web site, (a site devoted to not only highlighting the best PD games the Amiga has to offer, but also features interviews with many of the programmers of those games) revealed that he'd just published an interview with Top Hat Willy Programmer Tero Heikkinen.

It's a fantastic little interview, where Tero reveals how the game came together, subsequent projects, and even some background info and screenshots on the sadly cancelled Top Hat Willy 2.

If you've not played Top Hat Willy, I urge you to give it a go. It's such a cracking little game.

You can find the interview with Tero, HERE.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The (C64) Music of Tim Follin

Throughout the 80s I was a proud Spectrum owner, and apart from an occasional play on a C64 owned by a friend, the lovable breadbin pretty much passed me by.

Towards the latter part of 1990 my parents house was burgled, and my Spectrum, along with a good proportion of the games I'd amassed over the previous years went West. Thankfully, not only did the people who broke in receive a six year prison sentence (they'd broken in to around 40 houses) the insurance payout gave me the chance to move over to the Amiga.

It's on Commodore's 16-bit machine where I enjoyed the output of a certain Tim Follin, and I rank his Ghouls 'n' Ghosts music as some of the very best the platform has to offer.

I was fully aware that Tim cut his musical teeth on the Commodore 64, and so, enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon I trawled YouTube for some examples of his output.

Some of the best uploads relating to Tim's work have been put together by YouTube user DarkgreenOrange, who's compiled a set of four videos containing some of his best work.

The uploads cover a whopping 20 tracks, and run for over 40 minutes. Not only that, but the sound quality is excellent, and the tracks have been indexed, so you can skip along to your favourite tunes with ease.

Part 1/4 Running time 10:24
- Gauntlet III-1
- Bionic Commando-6 (Stage 2)
- Ghouls n Ghosts-8
- Ghouls n Ghosts-11
- Gauntlet III-2

Part 2/4 Running time 10:54
- Raw Recruit-1 (Game Music)
- Bionic Commando-5 (Stage 1)
- Ghouls n Ghosts-10
- Bodyslam-1 (Game Music)
- Agent X II-1

Part 3/4 Running time 10:35
- Black Lamp-1 (Game Music)
- Qix-11
- Bodyslam-2 (Title Music)
- Bionic Commando-8 (Stage 4)
- Agent X II-5

Part 4/4 Running time 10:14
- Sofware Creations Music Demo-25 (Wierd 2)
- Bionic Commando-1 (Title Tune)
- Black Lamp-2
- Ghouls n Ghosts-1
- Bionic Commando-10 (Game Complete)

The above collection of tunes has shown me just what I've missed out over the years, and I'm now hoping to add a C64 to the collection before too long.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Arcade UK's YouTube Channel

The blog's only four posts in, and already, coverage of my rubber-keyed chum (the ZX Spectrum) takes up 50% of all subject matter! It's time to fix that, so here's something that may interest the arcade gamers and collectors out there.

Over the years you've probably stumbled into an amusement arcade only to see a game switched off, or quite possibly left on, but displaying complete rubbish on screen. It's obvious that the game's not happy, but what's gone wrong with it, and more importantly, how does someone go about fixing them?

Well, like a magician who reveals some of his best tricks, arcade collector Luke Wells has his very own YouTube channel which attempts to show just what can go wrong with arcade games and how he goes about fixing them.

Arcade UK is Luke's little corner of the popular video sharing web site, and it features numerous short PCB (printed circuit board) repair videos that have been put together in a light hearted and informative way.

Each video starts off with Luke explaining a little bit about the game he's going to fix, a short demonstration of the problem showing itself, some details relating to his troubleshooting investigation, and then a final wrap-up where we're shown the game up and running and back to its former glory.

Each video runs on average for 3 or 4 minutes, so they work brilliantly as bite-sized snippets of viewing. Not only are they enjoyable to watch, but you may learn something, too.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Could Mire Mare Finally See The Light of Day?

Regular readers of Retro Gamer magazine will surely be aware that issue 105 (Daley Thompson cover) featured an in-depth investigation into Ultimate's long lost title, "Mire Mare".

Along with the disappointment readers will no doubt have felt in learning that the title most likely failed to get further than some artwork and a few basic design details, it was exciting to see some fantastic mock-ups of just how the game may have looked had it surfaced.

These wonderful graphics were drawn by World of Spectrum forum member BiNMan, who was asked by Martin Carroll to simply draw a sprite. Thankfully for us he got a little carried away.

Here's what BiNMan had to say;
[This was] done as a favour for MartynC, he only wanted a sprite!! But to keep it looking and feeling like an Ultimate game, I reused some graphics from Sabre Wulf and Pentagram, font and menu is from Underwurlde (but this wasn't used)

The sprite's an original inspired by the GBA version of Sabre Wulf, as is the loading screen which I tried to do in a similar style to Nightshade and the border around the gaming screen, Martyn was of the opinion that the main character would be a large detailed sprite exploring a map that would scroll from left to right (and vice versa) but would flip up and down.
For the in-game mock-up, BiNMan explained that he'd simply placed an energy bar at the bottom of the screen. However, prior to the screenshot appearing in Retro Gamer, this had been replaced with a location - "The Foothills of Mount Sol", by Martin. Ex-Ocean Software artist Mark Jones, spotted the mock-ups on The World of Spectrum Forums, commenting;
That's a fantastic job. You should do a game based on those graphics. I would if they were mine!
This quite clearly got BiNMan thinking, as he responded with;
It would need a good story line that would fit into the Sabre Man universe and tie up the other games etc

Hmmm. I can envisage a sprawling map centered around a lava lake in a mountainous region, according to the article and what MartynC came to understand (said this in an earlier post) that the game would scroll left to right but would be flip screen going up or down but the game would be more like Sabre Wulf than the Knight Lore or Underwurlde.

[I] need to read the article again to see if he gleaned a back story or what the object of the game was.
Clearly these are very early days. This may not get anywhere at all, but with Mark Jones showing an interest, some excellent graphics (albeit stills) already put together, and a keen community, perhaps Ultimate's long forgotten title may finally see the light of day, even if it's a fan made production.

We'll have to wait and see!

The full thread can be found here on the World of Spectrum Forums.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Making of Jet Set Willy

Here's a nice article I stumbled upon during my usual rummage around the internet for something interesting and retro related. It's an article from the Edge magazine web site, interviewing the legendary Matthew Smith, author of classic platformers Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy.

If memory serves me well, I'm pretty sure that this originally appeared in the print version of the magazine some years back.

The dynamic of designing, coding and testing had its own lolloping momentum. Smith would draw rooms by hand on large sheets of graph paper, six rooms to a page. (He actually hung on to these first drafts of the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired mansion right up until the mid ’90s, despite his mother’s dog having urinated on them during the previous decade.) He would then type the relevant numbers into a Tandy TRS-80 Model 4 and any actual coding was done on this machine, before being ‘squirted’, a favourite Smith phrase, on to the target machine: the Sinclair Spectrum.

There's some really interesting stuff to be found here, and it's a must read for any Miner Willy fan.

Thanks go to World of Spectrum forumite Dan, for giving the heads-up on this one.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

From Bedrooms to Billions - Under $5k to go!

For those of you who've been sitting under a rock for the past few months, "From Bedrooms to Billions" is the name of a 90-minute documentary, which hopes to tell the tale of the British games industry from 1979 to 1996.

Currently in the pre-production stage, the producers, husband and wife team, David and Nicola Caulfield, have turned to project fundraising site Indiegogo to help raise the $35k needed to make this happen.

As of this morning, the project has 10 days left to run, and needs just under $5k of donations to reach its target.

Full details regarding the production, and how you can help fund this project can be found on their Indiegogo page.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Nolan Bushnell: Gaming's Absent Father

1If you only read one retro related article today you could do a lot worse than spending ten minutes on this.

Thanks go to Stuart Campbell for the heads-up on this as I'd have missed it otherwise!

Eurogamer reporter, Simon Parkin, spends time with the legend that is Atari founder Nolan Bushnell;

Nolan Bushnell founded Atari on June 27, 1972. But 40 years later, where many of his contemporaries are still active in games, Bushnell is an absent father to the medium he helped establish. In fact, he sold Atari just four years after he created it for $28 million. But not before he and his designers had defined the basic vocabulary of video games, proto-verbs the industry still uses today. The company was the first to view game designers not as production line workers but as creative artisans tasked with defining the language and boundaries of this new medium.

The full article can be found here.