Amiga memories from 1995

As I’ve mentioned a few times in passing, my day job for the back end of the 1980s and half the 1990s was selling home computers; for a lot of that time it was primarily the Amiga range since the indie company I worked for called Computerworld was a specialist, but we shifted a fair few Commodore 64s, Atari STs, DOS and later Windows PCs and games consoles as well during that time. But today’s ramble is about the Amiga and more specifically an event which occurred after original manufacturers Commodore rather unceremoniously disappeared beneath the waves.

Some machinations followed, with the rights eventually being sold to ESCOM and, after what was a quite frankly agonising wait whilst assorted ducks were organised, eager Amiga dealers in the south of the UK were invited to a presentation about the re-launch of the A1200 under the new Amiga Technologies brand. This took place at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel in London with the dealer event happening on the 17th August 1995; I was there and during the event they handed folders of promotional materials… and my copy has somehow survived the intervening years pretty much intact, which is how I’m “remembering” so much detail. The folder itself is a bit battered but looks like this…

…and the contents can be viewed as a PDF (11.2Mb). The enclosed literature includes transcripts of a couple of speeches which were delivered during the event, a potted history of the Amiga and a couple of double sided, glossy information sheets about the Amiga 1200 and the M1438S – a multisync monitor with stereo speakers – which are somewhat reminiscent of the ones that Commodore used to supply dealers with. One thing worth noting is that, although the paperwork all sports the new Amiga logo with the red square, that isn’t present on the hardware in any of the cheesecake shots.

So there you go, a teensy slice of Amiga history that possibly won’t be archived online already; the text is rather dry, but that’s pretty much how I remember the presentation being overally, despite what the Amiga was capable of. And for any Amiga fans or archivists who might be reading, if you’d like to host a copy of the PDF please feel free.

Teenage dreams

I’m running a little late this week due to various factors so here, have some randomness. I’ve always wanted to make computer games and have been trying to since the early 1980s despite not really being able to program well enough in order to do so. My friends and I also tended to talk about games as well, flinging all manner of random, sometimes surreal scenarios against the wall to see which would stick. So for your delight and delectation here are a couple that didn’t pan out for one reason or another, they should be in roughly chronological order and I’ve listed platforms even though there’s a fairly good chance I’m not remembering correctly.

Pavement Pigeon (Atari 8-bit, 1985)
The blame for this one lies very squarely at the feet of my pretty much lifelong friend David Young, who mashed together the “classic” action television series Street Hawk and Clive Sinclair’s recently-released electric vehicle. So whilst Street Hawk was a jet-powered, all-American motorcycle with cool, futuristic weapons, Pavement Pigeon was the British equivalent, a Sinclair C5. We were teenagers, so that kind of juxtaposition was high comedy to us at the time… and still makes me giggle now since I’ve spectacularly failed to grow up since then.

As for what the game would’ve entailed I’m not sure after all these years; I think we were aware of Peace Women and C5 Clive on the C64 at the time – both feature the player character riding a C5 and the latter is very different to the Spectrum game it shares a name with – so that or possibly Moon Patrol clones like Trooper Truck would have served as potential inspirations. David and I both had an Atari 800XL at the time, but neither of us were proficient enough at programming to actually write the game – learning assembly language on a tape-based Atari 8-bit was… difficult – so I might well be misremembering the format here.

Who knows, we might have eventually come up with something similar to Street Hawk Subscriber’s Edition

Piggles (C64, 1986)
I’m far more more vague on the origins for this one; it’s basically a parody of Biggles which was inspired by the hype around the less-than-stellar 1986 film of the same name – well okay, I like it personally but that’s possibly my masochistic streak talking – where the player controls a pig with a propeller attached to its snout… no wings, just a prop and nobody talking about the idea seemed to be concerned by that omission for some reason. My memory is being almost painfully vague about this one to the point where I really don’t know whose idea it actually was, but it was a classmate at school.

I think it was going to takes cues from the official, rather lacklustre Mirrorsoft game Biggles, specifically the plane flying stage but using pre-shifted graphics for the background scrolling. This didn’t get anywhere as a project because nobody involved could draw the flying pig and it’s not every day you find yourself writing something like that!

The Last VW (C64, 1987)
And to finish, one I can’t blame anybody else for; The Last VW was intended to be something of a “parody” of The Last V8 about a post-apocalyptic racer which just happened to be a Volkswagen Beetle for… well, reasons. The plan was to develop it using the rather clunky Creations in part because building a knock off of David Darling’s Mastertronic game with the Codemasters-published creation tool he co-authored was, once more, endlessly amusing to the teenage and slightly more immature version of me.

The result would’ve been more like another budget game called Morphicle – The Transforming Car from the Power House – a terrible game in its own right due to the difficulty curve which was actually steeper than The Last V8 – with fixed speed horizontal scrolling. Due to limitations of the aforementioned utility, it was planned to have just one wrap-around screen to drive through and items to collect in order to finish the stage. I vaguely recall getting a half decent car sprite and some background graphics drawn but lost interest after that.

So there you go, three things the fevered imagination of teenagers came up with over thirty years ago; there were many more – it was probably my most “creative” period on that front even if the majority of the ideas were utterly unworkable – but my memory really doesn’t want to give out further details. Some would say that’s down to shame, but I’m reasonably sure I don’t have any at least in that context? Still, if the little grey cells relent there’s always the chance of another post… you lucky people.

Workprint – May 2018

Yes, I’m a little late with the workprint this month but in my defence there have been things going on; I spent a significant chunk of the weekend in an unexpectedly large van with my stepson Matthew and stepson-in-law Josh, heading to Kent for an overnight stay in order to relocate boxes of old computers and software which have been sat in my dad’s garage for… oh, about sixteen years. Here’s what it looked like after we put everything into the van…

…and no, the large Rupert having a lie down on top of everything wasn’t originally mine but has been adopted anyway. I’ve found myself left with a lot to process – both in the literal sense and emotionally, the latter probably being the harder to deal with – but it’s done and everything is in one place now, although I haven’t had a chance to do any serious ferreting around just yet. I did get a family photo before we left for home by the way, so it wasn’t just pictures of storage boxes!

In programming news there hasn’t been much time of late (or more accurately, the problems I’m having with my shoulder means that sitting in front of a computer for extended periods is at best uncomfortable) but the previously mentioned C64CD project is pretty much done with just little extra polish and some “how it works” style articles required before release – there’s an all-formats retro game development competition I like the look of which might serve as a place to put it out, although I’ll need to check their rules properly beforehand since it’s using some wired graphics – and I’ve been doodling a little here and there when spare moments present themselves.