ZX Spectrum Next may get Professional Adventure Writer


Rick Dickinson-designed Spectrum Next concept-rendering
Rick Dickinson-designed Spectrum Next concept-rendering

The recent Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new Next Generation Sinclair ZX Spectrum 8-bit home computer has certainly stirred up a massive amount of interest in the retro computing community, and a number of past and present developers for the original 1980s British home computer, affectionately dubbed the ‘Speccy’ by fans, have begun to surface, interested in the potential of the  ZX Spectrum Next, which has been fully funded on Kickstarter and is expected to be released in January 2018.

Cassette-based original version of the PAW
Cassette-based original version of the PAW

Great news for Spectrum-loving fans of adventure games in particular is that now Tim Gilberts, founder of legendary 1980s Welsh software developers and publishers Gilsoft International Ltd, has thrown his hat in the ring, expressing strong interest, subject to discussion with the former Gilsoft team,  in adapting the now-defunct company’s adventure game generation software the Professional Adventure Writer (aka The PAW or The Professional Adventure Writing System ) to the Next, with its modern SD card storage system and other updated facilities.

Gilsoft were best known for The Quill and the PAW, both of which were popular systems in their day, enabling the simplified creation and coding of text and graphical adventures on a number of 8-bit home computers. The Quill in particular was used by a number of independent developers to create and publish text adventure games, as did Gilsoft itself.  Continue reading ZX Spectrum Next may get Professional Adventure Writer

The Retro Station – gaming fun for all in Cannock

Matt 'Kapow' Dawson (left) and Carl Lewis Jenking podcasting live from The Retro Station
Matt ‘Kapow’ Dawson (left) and Carl Lewis Jenking podcasting live from The Retro Station

Our editor Stuart Williams was lucky enough to be invited to check out a new but increasingly popular retro gaming event with a modern edge in Cannock last Saturday.

The Retro Station is the brainchild of podcasters Matt ‘Kapow’ Dawson (the event organiser) and fellow retromaniac Carl Lewis Jenking, and offers a fun and deliberately family-oriented chance for dads and mums to go retro (and sometimes modern) gaming with the youngsters in the family. What a great idea – after all, the family that plays together, stays together. Why not play arcade style?

The Retro Station is very much a family event
The Retro Station is very much a family event

Why ‘The Retro Station’? Well, as luck would have it, Matt and Carl, who go by the tag of Kapow!EMaG,  have managed to line up a great venue that just happens to be free on Saturday afternoons, which is just what they wanted. ‘The Station’ itself is a rock bar and music venue named after the Cannock Bus Station which is literally just on the doorstep, with the bar being housed in a corner of a modern shopping centre. So it is, as they say, handy for all amenities.

The bar itself is up a few flights of stairs, but there is a lift as well, and being a bar, no shortage of refreshments to buy – or the essential toilets!

A place where partners and friends or family can have retro fun together
A place where partners and friends or family can have retro fun together

What you find when you enter The Retro Station – which also happens to tie in with Matt and Carl’s podcast, ‘RetroCast Radio’, a show which mixes gaming, music and banter in fine style, and which takes place live from the event, being available FREE on iTunes and on Podbean – is a typical rock bar style venue packed full with TV’s and a wide range of games consoles from retro to modern – and lots of great games to play! Continue reading The Retro Station – gaming fun for all in Cannock

Is that Pacman’s Liver You’re Wearing?

Mel Croucher
Mel Croucher

The Games Collector, a UK-based producer of both modern and retro gaming-related products is running a crowdfunding campaign to bring the music of the legendary Mel Croucher to the masses.

Who is Mel Croucher? Some say he is the father of the British gaming industry. Others, that he is the secret identity of that crazy 1980s Speccy ‘anti-superhero’,  The Piman.  At a time when most computers were being used to calculate the compound interest on the revenue from a year’s worth of potato sales, Mel was selling his eclectic range of games for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum through eye-catching adverts on the back pages of the popular computing magazines of the day.

What made Mel’s games particularly memorable (for those who do actually remember them) was that they often included audio tracks on the reverse side of the game cassette. From original compositions to hilarious parodies, there was something for everyone. Leider of the Pac told the tragic tale of Pacman’s lover, who wears the yellow character’s internal organs as a memento after witnessing his death in a car crash (yes, really). Put Cat Out Mother, It’s on Fire Again surprised no-one with its mention of a cat on fire, and Three Point One Four Two sounds vaguely familiar but none of us actually remember it.

Piman's Greatest Hits

Now The Games Collector has decided to inflict these sonic gems on anyone willing to part with a reasonable amount of their hard-earned wages, making the collection available on vinyl, CD and even cassette tape for real fans of the era. In total there are five albums (two are in fact doubles) that make up Insπred: The Collective Works of Mel Croucher.

Mel Croucher intro title card

The sequel to Mel’s most famous game – Deus Ex Machina 2 – featured a cast including Christopher Lee and Joaquim de Almeida, and one of the highlights of the collection is a real life ‘Evil Laugh Off’ between the two of them – almost but not quite justifying the asking price by itself.

Interested parties can reserve their collection through the campaign’s Indiegogo crowdfunding page at https://igg.me/at/pimania

A preview of Mel’s music is available on Soundcloud at http://bit.ly/2oHZlae

New Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next fully funded

Rick Dickinson-designed Spectrum Next concept-rendering
Rick Dickinson-designed Spectrum Next concept-rendering

Hot news today is that the new Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next home computer which was launched on Kickstarter in the early hours of Sunday morning to mark the 35th birthday of the original Spectrum produced by Sinclair Research has been  fully funded in less than 48 hours.

At the time of posting, the project had raised £250,534 pledged of its £250,000 goal, funded by 1,160 backers – and with 28 days of the campaign still to go!  It seems that for Speccy fans, a quality project, run by skilled, friendly and accessible people really does mean the sky is the limit for the new kid on the Sinclair block.

21st century Speccy

Dubbed the ‘Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next’ by new UK manufacturers SpecNext Ltd, this 21st century Speccy looks both backward to a glorious gaming past and forward to what is hoped to be a bright new future, by combining a slick modern take on the classic Spectrum+ exterior design, which is once again created by original Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson, this time around with powerful modern electronics designed by gifted Brazilian retro hacker Victor Trucco.

The big question now is – how much will the Spectrum Next raise by the end of its campaign?  We hope to see the latest prototype in operation very soon, and will report back.  Watch this space!

For the full story behind the machine and its creators, and the link to the Kickstarter campaign plus other details, see yesterday’s post in RCN.

The latest pre-production fully working prototype board

Images courtesy SpecNext Ltd

64 Bits celebrates WWW history in 64 moments

Iconic Apples browse the web at 64 Bits
Iconic Apples browse the web at 64 Bits

When did the world wide web become history? As the iconic ‘Dancing Baby’ turns 21, internet users, budding digital historians and the simply curious are offered a trip down www. memory. lane in London from 30th March to 21st April 2017.

64 Bits: An exhibition of the Web’s lost past, a new interactive showcase of 64 seminal moments in the web’s history, is taking place at The Press Centre, Here East, in iconic Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Billions of people use the web on a daily basis – but do you know who invented the search engine? Would you be interested in browsing the world’s first ever website? Have you ever heard of Susan Kare?

64 Bits is a fun, interactive recreation of the early years of the web. As part of a wider digital archaeology project, it seeks to plug gaps in the historical record by telling the stories of the forgotten artist engineers that shaped today’s digital culture.

Take Alan Emtage, Barbadian-born inventor of the search engine. Billions of people use the technology he created on a daily basis but very few know his name. The exhibition includes a working version of his first search engine, Archie.

Icons by Susan Kare have become part of our culture
Icons by Susan Kare have become part of our culture

Equally significant, is the work of designer Susan Kare. Her icons and fonts have been seen by billions of people, yet few know her name. The exhibition incorporates a selection of the key milestones in her career, including the original Macintosh icons, the MacPaint interface and the Microsoft Solitaire playing cards.

Legends of the lost

These are not isolated cases. Many pioneering examples of digital creativity from our recent digital past can no longer be seen. Files have been lost or stored on redundant media. People have passed away. Companies have gone out of business. Stories have been lost. 64 Bits explores these forgotten roots and offers alternate histories.

The Dancing Baby was one moment in Weird Worldwide Web history
The Dancing Baby was one moment in Weird Worldwide Web history

A key part of the exhibition is an open-door digital media archiving service, supported by the British Library, where artists and designers can bring in obsolete media to migrate inaccessible historical artwork to a modern format. Where appropriate, the excavated work will be exhibited as part of the exhibition.

Eboy pixel art
Eboy pixel art

Curator Jim Boulton says, “The early lessons of the web are in real danger of being lost forever. With Here East’s focus on digital innovation and the Olympic Park’s legacy remit, then Here East is the perfect venue for 64 Bits.”

Lucy Bawden, Programme Manager at Here East says, “The exhibition will be the starting point for a programme of related workshops and talks at Here East around digital art and the connection of technology and creativity.” Continue reading 64 Bits celebrates WWW history in 64 moments

Swap chicks for chips this Easter at the CCH!

Centre for Computing History logo

With the Easter holidays leaving the kids with time (and chocolate!) on their hands, why not take them along to the amazing Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England, where they can level up on digital know-how while having fun?

As usual, the team has bags of events going on at the Centre during the school break.  Take a look at the range below and visit CCH’s What’s On page to find other exciting events. There’s lots to see and do for adults too.

The Centre will be open 7 Days a Week for the duration of the holiday.  Remember to book your tickets early to avoid disappointment!

What’s on?

From the Centre for Computing History, direct links to events and activities leading up to Easter: Continue reading Swap chicks for chips this Easter at the CCH!

Commodore Story documentary heads for stardom

The Blu-rayA new techno-nostalgia film production is headed for Kickstarter stardom – and is set to become an essential addition to the collections of fans of classic Commodore computers, games and software, including as it does, many of the charismatic creators and movers and shakers who feature in the dramatic tale of so much of that seminal computer industry and hobby community history.

The Commodore Story is a cram packed two hour documentary that will take us through American home and business computer company Commodore’s evolution from the 1970s to the 1990s, and from the PET, Vic20 and Commodore 64 to the Amiga and beyond, including many game makers and composers from the 80s and early 90s.

Well-supported already, the soon-to-be-classic crowd-funded flick has now broken its own latest £32,500 goal target and is rapidly heading for the next level – funding of £35,000 – meaning that it will hopefully be published as a double Blu-ray package alongside The Chiptune Story – Creating retro music 8-bits and 16-bits at a time.

Major Commodore collaboration
Steven Fletcher, Director - recording his Behind The Scenes Video Diary
Steven Fletcher, Director – recording his Behind The Scenes Video Diary

Produced by Wavem Studios, a feature and short film company based in London and Essex, The Commodore Story is helmed by Director Steven Fletcher, a passionate advocate for Commodore, and boasts an impressive number of 30+ collaborators, interviewees and contributors, including Commodore and Amiga Legends Leonard Tramiel, Dave Haynie, Michael Tomczyk, Greg Berlin, Randell Jesup, Hedley Davis, Ronald Nicholson and David John Pleasance with more to come as well as games programmers, 8-bit music composers, and Commodore book and magazine authors.

Pages of history
A 150 page companion book and a free copy of Wavem's DeVoid feature film are also options
A 150 page companion book and a free copy of Wavem’s DeVoid feature film are also options

Not only a documentary, the film, which will have special features and has a range of options for pledges from £10 (digital download) up to £1,850 (offering Executive Producer status, no less!) will also be published alongside a complementary full colour book. The book has its own separate starter pledge (ebook for a tenner) to upward of £25 for a printed book and ebook package.  There are also other pledge possibilities including limited-edition t-shirts, additional films, and London premiere and aftershow party tickets!

4K wahey!


An earlier stretch goal now means that the production will be in 4K ultra HD definition video resolution, meaning that the highest quality will be maintained, with downloads in full resolution, and you might actually find yourself with something good to show on that expensive 4K telly you bought at last!

Come on, make your pledge

There’s just 15 days to go on Kickstarter with £33,402
pledged of the original £17,500 goal.  Why not join our editor, former Amiga User International writer Stuart Williams, and the other 855 backers in supporting the project now?

To make your own pledge and help push that top end stretch goal over £35,000, or to find out more information, beat a path to this exciting retro computing project’s Kickstarter page and get in on the act with the latest major contribution to recording the amazing boom and bust story of one of the world’s top, and it has to be said life-changing, computer companies ever.

Follow this link:  The Commodore Story


Images courtesy Wavem Studios

Cracking new fanzine for Amstrad computer fans

CPC issue 1

Amstrad and other home computing hobby fanzines were a big thing back in the good old days of 8 bit – and we should know, our chief pen-pusher Stuart Williams started his editing career publishing one using a screeching Citizen 120D printer and a photocopier for the West Midlands Amstrad User Group here in England!

Decades on, though, surely fanzines are more of a thing with the terminally-obsessed followers of footie, fantasy fan-fiction or TV sci-fi? Aren’t websites, forums, Facebook and blogs the true, deep-burrowed homes and hangouts of geekish ‘amsters these days? Maybe not entirely – because a cracking little real-world, honest-to-goodness paper-based fanzine dedicated to our favourite Arnold has now come to the attention of RCN direct from the pen, or should that be the virtual dot-matrix printer, of James Ford from cpcfanzine.com.

Colour Personal Computing 1 contents
Colour Personal Computing 1 contents

The first issue of COLOUR PERSONAL COMPUTING (catchy title, eh?) was released to general acclaim back before Christmas, tagged as the Winter 2016/17 issue (arriving in January) and costing just three quid in the UK.  It was packed chock-full of enough goodies, cheeky fun and useful info to fill the Oh, Mummy-obsessed bonce of any CPC-trufan.  And we couldn’t wait to take a closer look ourselves (thanks, James!). Continue reading Cracking new fanzine for Amstrad computer fans

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