Retro Computing News to close

Sad Mac

Due to increasing personal health issues this year, and commitments as sole carer of my elderly, disabled mother, I have reluctantly decided to close Retro Computing News, effective immediately, as I no longer feel able to do it justice.

That doesn’t mean the site will disappear; it will remain online as a hopefully still useful, if outdated, retro resource. It will simply not be updated in future. The Facebook page will also remain.

I hope to continue writing on retro topics occasionally, and have a couple of other current writing commitments which I am aiming to complete before taking a long rest. Hopefully I will be able to do other things like this in future, but not for some time I think.

Thank you, dear readers and followers, for your interest over the years. Running this site has been a pleasure, and I have met many wonderful people as a result.

Sincerely,

Stuart Williams

Editor & Publisher

 

Live from Recursion 2017!

Recursion 2017 - The Levi Fox Hall, King Edward VI School
Recursion 2017 – The Levi Fox Hall, King Edward VI School

Today we’re at the Recursion 2017 computer science fair, which is held every year at King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. And this post is being edited and uploaded live from the fair!

Apart from having a great affinity with educational computing the school just happens to be the school which William Shakespeare studied at in his early years!

The Retro Computing News table at Recursion 2017
The Retro Computing News table at Recursion 2017

Apart from the cracking educational computing and maker exhibits at Recursion, there’s a fantastic range of exhibits and activities for retro gaming and retro computing fans.

In fact, this post is being typed in between the Retro Computing Museum section and a load of other retro displays, anything from Acorn to Amiga, Sinclair to Commodore or AROS to RISCOS. There’s even a digital planetarium, robotics and much more!

For more posts today, watch our social media:

https://www.facebook.com/retrocompnews

We might even have a spot of Facebook Live video…

We’d like to thank King Edward VI School and event organizer Richard Barfoot for the invitation to have a table here, what a great event this is!

For more information about Recursion 2017 and the school, follow this link:  http://www.recursioncomputerfair.co.uk/index.html

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!

computer history, retro gaming and computing today