Book finally launched!

Finally, after 6/7 years of late nights the Games That Weren’t book is now open to pre-orders at http://www.gtwbook.co.uk

I’ve been nervous as much as excited about the launch, because there are paying customers buying copies, and I want them to get something special as a result. I honestly hope that’s what has been achieved and that people really enjoy the book. It has very much been a long labour of love.

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In the meantime, i’m going to try and now get some more playing time in for a change! ūüôā

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.

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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 Рthough 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.

 

‘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, ¬†‚ÄėGame Machines 1972-2012‚Äô 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.

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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 Рso 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 – The Coal Tip / Coal hole

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 from between the years of 1987 and 1993, 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.

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The Coal Tip РPhoto taken from around November 1986 from the Cambridge Aerial Photo archive.   My school is on the far left, where I would have possibly been at the time of the photo.

My dad even used to walk the dogs around the track as well.  The back of our house had a bit of land (a grassy area with some trees/bushes) which just came off from the coal tip Рand where we also had many bases and trees to climb.

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The grassy land that led from our back garden to the coal tip.  Me on the right trying to get into shot.  This was from about 1984/85 time.

Alongside to the left of the above photo and grassy land was an allotment which my dad used to maintain.  Often we used to cut through our back garden and through onto the coal tip Рas 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 Рthere 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 several hedgerows.

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When the diggers came in and cleared the land in October 1993.

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 (As young kids, I remember us talking to the guys digging the holes in the ground).  It was decided to turn the dis-used land into a housing estate, and during around October 1993 Рthe diggers came in and cleared everything.  Demolishing the camps, trees and everything we enjoyed until it was just clear chalky land Рwe sneaked onto the land after it it was cleared during the evening, and it was like a ghost land Рhardly recognisable.  Not long after, all the houses were built and the coal tip was no more.

Now over 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 had 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!

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When the gas works were still around. Image thanks to the late John Shilling.

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 satellite 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!…

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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?? ūüėČ

UPDATE РFebruary 2019 РCambridge University Photo archive had some photos of the harbour, and luckily they were high quality enough to show the Coal Tip in the background.  1986, which is the closest apart from the Google Earth photos in 1990.  Photos can all be found below.

So why dwell so much on a place which was just a disused bit of land?¬† ¬†Well, some of my fondest memories are from that era,¬† and when we live now in a time of worrying about paying bills, going to work, and other stresses of everyday life – it’s easy to feel like you sometimes want to escape back to those simpler times with no worries in the world and a whole lot of mischief to get up to.

Unfortunately I don’t have a time machine to go back, even for one day.¬† ¬†Time does indeed move on and its important to live in the present and find new memories to make.¬† I am grateful though for the fun times I had back then with my old school friends and am lucky to have those memories in the first place to look back on.

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: