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

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: 12th October 2015 – Added Hawk Storm hidden hacker message (See bottom)

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:

Slightly Magic kickstarter

Author of the Codemasters graphic adventure Slightly Magic, Colin Jones, has set up a new Kickstarter project to resurrect the game in a 8-bit legacy edition (with faithfulness to the original graphics), but also with an extra special incentive which will be of interest to those into unreleased games like us….

As you will know via GTW64, there was a sequel planned called Slightly Spooky – which sadly never saw the light of day.  Well, if Colin’s Kickstarter is successful and OUYA funding is obtained as well, then Slightly Spooky will also be produced and given free as digital copy to those who are eligible for Slightly Magic’s remake.

But that isn’t all!  If the stretch goal of £12,000 is met, then the third title in the series will be produced also.  A title was set originally for a 3rd game, but never started after the non-release of Slightly Spooky.

An additional bonus is that Allister Brimble will be re-recording his original music score with his latest instruments and equipment for the game.

For more details, check out the Kickstarter page here:

Sound of the colossus

Just recently i’ve been speaking with Gari Biasillo regarding some of his past C64 work.   You see, I grew up with most of Gari’s work on the C64 and have particularly fond memories of Target Renegade (brought from a now long gone newsagent which had a rack of budget titles for £2.99 each – with a “Star purchase” label on them).

One thing about Gari is that not only did he code, but he was a great musician too – the likes of Slayer, Steel, Basket Master and Target Renegade all featured tunes by himself.

Gari is still producing tunes today – and recently released a superb album released called Sound of The Colossus, which you can check out here:

Maybe some day Gari will do some reproductions of his old classic tunes? … we’ll see!