OnyxSoft JoyDivision

Already coming up for February, but one of the first projects I wanted to have a go at building this new year was an Amiga setup on a Raspberry Pi 3, using Amibian.  It’s been brilliant – it’s allowed me to set up a Pi that can boot straight into a Amiga 1200 with an OS installed and access to WHD_Load games, without issues with floppy disk decay like I was experiencing when I dug out the Amiga over Christmas.  Perfect now for a quick fix of Amiga nostalgia every so often.

However, although I could use a keyboard to play the games instead of a joystick – i’d much prefer to have a real joystick to use with games like SWOS.  USB Joysticks are ok, but they don’t quite feel right compared to the original ones I grew up with in the 80’s and 90’s.  It would be great to use my old-school Competition Pro instead.

When looking in the Amibian settings, I noticed that there was configuration options for something called OnyxSoft JoyDivision.   Upon further investigation, I found their website which lists a wonderful little USB device which allows you to connect up a classic 9 Pin Joystick.

joyadapter

The site gives all the source code and PCB layout details, so you can build them for yourself,  or luckily for people like me, you can purchase them when available for a great 22 Euros for 2 – though its best to get in touch with Stefan beforehand to check if that is still the case and if he has them in stock.

No drivers were required.  I plugged it in with a proper Competition Pro with my Raspberry Pi, and it worked right away!  No lag (not noticeable to me at least), and feels great using proper classic joysticks with the setup.  Really impressive, and the build quality was sturdy too.

There are details of what compatibility is like, but the great thing is that the boards come with a firmware that is updatable, and will soon feature support for Amiga/ST mice for instance.  But standard joysticks and control pads should work fine already.

So if you’re looking for a cost effective solution to using your old joysticks in your emulation setups, then i’d highly recommend checking out the JoyDivision.

 

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‘Game Machines 1972-2012’ book review

I recently received a new retro/gaming related book to review, thanks to Anna and Dave from The Attic Bug, which was ideal timing for reading over the Christmas period.

Although the retro scene is awash with publications these days on specific platforms or subjects,  ‘Game Machines 1972-2012’ is a encyclopaedia of consoles, handheld and home computers across most of the duration of the games industry.  The book has been published by GamePlan and written by Winnie Forster, a very well reputed games journalist who has written for publications such as PowerPlay and VideoGames.

s-l1600

This is the second edition of the English book, expanded to include more recent and modern consoles.  The first edition covered up to 2005.  The book is printed in full colour, and is compact but packed full of information, including a section on the different storage media types and terminology section to give a comprehensive overview of classic and modern platforms.

Collectors will find the guide very useful indeed, with not only common platforms covered, but more obscure platforms too.  There are details (where possible) of how many of each machine were sold, and a focus on some of the games that were popular.  Though some may have wished to have seen a price guide included, no doubt such information would become obsolete quickly, so probably best not to be included.

More popular machines of the time (such as the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum) are given a bit more page coverage to give more background and history.  Accompanying each write up are wonderful photos of each of the machines.  Over 700 exclusive photos are included in the book overall.

Owners of the first edition book will find that the new edition has not only new content, but has been heavily edited, with large numbers of amendments and fixes fed back from the community and other sources.   Others may have struggled to find the first edition, which sold out a few years ago – so now is a perfect opportunity to pick up a copy once more.

If you need a guide to all the different classic and modern consoles, handhelds and computers out there, then I would recommend grabbing a copy.  Either as a collector or someone who just wishes to learn more, this is an easy to read and comprehensive guide worth checking out.

Copies can be purchased from The Attic Bug at https://goo.gl/eAoL7i

Past memories of Dover

As a kid growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there wasn’t a great deal to do in my home town of Dover.  Money was also low, so as kids we used to get up to all sorts – playing ball games in the street and also playing down a dis-used coal yard out the back of our houses.

The ‘Coal-tip’ used to be a storage area for moving coal to the furnaces to generate energy – built around the 1930’s / 1940’s – before then it was just a large field.  Around I think the 1970’s, the furnaces were demolished and the land emptied and left.

For years as kids, we used to hang out down there – as there was a concrete path that went all the way around which we could ride our bikes,  there were trees and bushes where we could create our ‘bases’ or ‘camps’ to then have fake wars with other kids.  My dad even used to walk the dogs around the track as well.

The back of our house even backed onto a bit of land (a grassy area with some trees/bushes) which just came off from the coal tip – and where we also had many bases and trees to climb.  Alongside was an allotment which my dad used to maintain.  Often we used to cut through our back garden and through onto the coal tip – as the end of the Coal Tip would cut onto one the streets going into town.   My dad used that as his route to and from work.  I even used to cut through to get my copy of Commodore Format from the newsagents.

Although there was no coal any longer, there were remnants everywhere, and walking down there when it was raining would result in black puddles and staining of clothes.  I used to remember some old guys who used to go and collect coal to take back for their fires.  There were other things to salvage from down there – there was a cooking apple tree which we used to collect from, a Katkins tree and also a flurry of blackberries every year from one of the hedgerows.

1993 was a sad time for me, as in previous years there had been machines brought in to test the land for suitability of building on.  It was decided to turn the dis-used land into a housing estate, and during around October 1993 – the diggers came in and cleared everything.  Demolishing the camps, trees and everything we enjoyed until it was just clear chalky land – we sneaked onto the land after it it was cleared during the evening, and it was like a ghost land – hardly recognisable.  Not long after, all the houses were built and the coal tip was no more.

Now almost 20 years on, I still miss the place – but have very fond memories.  Unfortunately, although my parents have a few photos from the grassy land just out from the back of the house,  we have none of the coal-tip in the form that we remembered.   A friend of the family very kindly dug out some old photos they had of the coal tip before and after it was build – dated from around the 1930’s to 1940’s, which you can see below.   The first photo shows the area before anything was built – even it seems my old school St Radigunds Primary!

The second shows more what I remember – but filled with stacks of coal and the factories in the background.  It’s hard to really see how we could have played on that land, but emptied there was a large oval shaped land to run riot.

In 2015, it was flagged up that satelite pictures from 1990 were added to Google Earth, showing Dover and the Coal Tip area!   So here are some photos which show exactly how it was when I was a kid!  It was amazing seeing the place again, though I still wish I had some pictures from within the grounds.  Mapped to the contours of the hills on Google Earth, browsing around was quite un-nerving, and felt like I was back there again – apart from the flat buildings!…

Then finally in November 2015 – i’ve dug out the photos showing the green land that was out the back of us.  Sadly I don’t have any photos from within the actual coal tip area, as why would anyone take a picture in there anyway?? 😉

Unreal maps, demos and Quake demos

During a bit of a tidy up, i’ve dug out a bunch of Unreal 99 Maps that were produced by myself and colleagues at my old work place back in 2005/2006.

Also there are some recorded demos in both UT and Quake… all of which can also be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/user/fgasking/videos

Here are the files for downloading:

10th anniversary of full time employment

I can’t quite believe that it’s been 10 years already since I started my very first full time job, and probably one of the best jobs I could have ever started with back in January 2005.  This post is one my usual annual reflection posts on a particular past event/time period, this time (with it being 10 years this month) on my very first proper job and the challenges involved…

I had just graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University in July 2004 with a 1st in my Computer Science degree, still not entirely sure how – as this was all done whilst bringing up our daughter and not getting a huge amount of sleep for about 2-3 years.  Since late 2000, I had been working at my local Co-Op, and gradually increased the hours after I moved out and set up home with my future wife and child.   For a small period after graduation, I was offered the chance to begin teaching part-time on the very same Computer Science degree I had just graduated from, as well as running a multi-media class on the HND Multimedia course being ran at the time.  The hourly rates were very good, and it seemed ideal to teach something I had just been freshly taught myself.

Before that I had been applying to quite a few jobs over the summer without much luck – many jobs wanted the experience part, which I just did not have.  It was a pretty stupid situation, but I was gathering experience at least in CV design and interview skills.  I did almost get a software development job in Chatham for a company that specialized in Rail timetables, but with a lack of experience – I was initially only offered a tester job – which wasn’t quite enough to cover the travel costs and leave much left over, so I had to turn it down.

I was doing OK after a month or so into the lecturing, though I felt completely out of my depth to be fair in the new role.  As it was just part time, I was still doing my student job at the local Co-Op every Saturday and Sunday.  My lecturer and friend Dr David Bennett kept telling me that I shouldn’t just stick to doing teaching, and should get out there and do a real IT job to get the experience under my belt.  He then one day dug out an advert for a new job in the Web Team at Christ Church University, which looked great and right up my street.

Although I hadn’t no work experience in the field, I was a graduate from the University and had done a fair chunk of web work for myself and as part of the course, as well databases and general programming.  The team were now looking to expand.   Stupidly, and I don’t know why – I didn’t get my CV in straight away – and it took a kick up the backside from David for me to see sense and go for it.  I got my submission in (after a little help from David), and to my surprise I was granted an interview!

Continue reading

Hidden secrets in games

Update: 11th July 2016 – Added Jet Power Jack hidden hacker messages (See top)

I’ve always had a bizarre interest in the things we were never meant to see – I don’t know why, it’s something i’ve had ever since the day I discovered a cheat which allowed me to be immune to fire/water in Fantasy World Dizzy and helped me to discover odd looking screens which were not part of the game. The desire for discovering unseen materials is why I run a preservation project for games that never saw the light of day.

Getting hold of and sharing something that we waited months for back in the day when magazines showed promising previews of a particular game, and which eventually never showed. However, it’s not just unreleased/lost games which interest me, but its the little details within the games that DID make it.  Most of you are probably well aware of the term “Easter egg” in the computing world, being a small piece of code which is buried away and unlocked in a particular way (Via a code or a key combination).   With C64 games, there are loads of easter eggs buried away in the shape of mini-games,  demo’s and messages from the developers – unlocked via a combination of key strokes or accessing a strange part of a game. Finding an easter egg is pretty neat, but there is much more awaiting discovery that we may not be aware of – things classified as easter eggs maybe, but not intentional ones…

No, i’m talking about bits of unseen ‘assets’ within games …  unused sprites, music, background graphics and even levels! There is a lot of this kind of thing tucked away in the games we all love and know very well, but unless you’re actively digging around – you most likely will never get to see these things.  You may not for instance get to see the cheeky message hidden away in Army Moves Part 2 (See below) unless you were hunting around in the code with a Machine Code monitor. After starting a thread recently on Lemon64 forum, it seems others out there are interested in this kind of thing – and its got me hungry for starting up a new segment/category on the up and coming new GTW portal site (Which btw will be here soon!).

Very quick fire pages/entries for particular titles with hidden bits and pieces, showing you the assets or even how to get access to them.  It’s a slight expansion from just covering unreleased/lost games, but I think it will be an interesting one.  Let’s see how it goes…. As a taster, below are some samples of hidden bits and pieces discovered in a few C64 titles (Thanks to those over at Lemon64 for discovering them)… Continue reading

GTW64 xmas update 2013

Well, part of the usual promoting of what we’ve done recently for GTW64, here is the xmas update doing the rounds ….

The GTW64 xmas update has been published today with the following additions:

(*) 3 previously unseen full games recovered
(*) CDU Games Disk 6 recovered (Including 3 new full games)
(*) 12 previously unseen previews/prototypes recovered
(*) Potential Spore 2 finding
(*) Odd Melbourne House title surfaces in loading screen form (Questerious)
(*) Tangent and RISK prototypes found and added
(*) 31 other additional new entries added
(*) 10 other additional updates added
(*) Frank Gasking work disk collection added

Full news item and updates can be found at:
http://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64