West Midlands Amstrad User Group revived on Facebook

Advert for the Amstrad CPC464, first of the range
Advert for the Amstrad CPC464, first of the range

One of the most popular 1980’s clubs for English Amstrad computer owners has risen from its dusty tomb like the star of Amsoft’s legendary ‘Oh Mummy’ game and sprung back into life this week – as the new West Midlands Amstrad User Facebook Group!

The original pre-internet West Midlands Amstrad User Group was a brand-specific computer club which was based in Walsall, West Midlands, but the new online group is purely virtual at the moment, and is hoping to attract any Amstrad-using retro computer hobbyists and/or professionals from the West Midlands region who may be interested in interacting online today.

The W.M.A.U.G., as it was, operated between September 1985-1990, holding meetings in Walsall with 100 members by 1986, and from 1990 as a multi-computer brand club, the Serious Micro User Group, until 1997.  The editor of Retro Computing News, Stuart Williams, founded the group and was its Secretary throughout that period.

W.M.A.U.G. the Facebook group

The launch of the new Facebook group is intended both as a tribute to the original W.M.A.U.G. and as a meeting place for present day Amstrad retro computing enthusiasts living in or from the region, and has been prompted by Stuart’s recent return to Amstrad ownership (see picture, top), as well as the discovery of an anniversary notice about the club in a copy of Amtix! magazine from December 1986 – plus a nudge from a fellow member of the ‘Amstrad 4Ever’ Facebook group!

Stuart WIlliams said “Since many people don’t have the time to get together on a regular basis in person these days, this new group will hopefully be a useful way for people to celebrate the good old days of computer clubs by meeting virtually, and chatting/exchanging info/obtaining advice about their past computer exploits and memories and their retro computing hobby today, with a shared regional focus. I hope you think that this might be useful to you!”

The group can be found by searching on Facebook for West Midlands Amstrad User FB Group or by clicking on the following direct link:

West Midlands Amstrad User FB Group

Advert for the Amstrad PCW8256 CP/M based computer
Advert for the Amstrad PCW8256 CP/M based computer

Membership coverage

This group is specifically aimed at people in or from the West Midlands of England. That includes the boroughs and cities of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandell, Solihull, Coventry and the towns and villages within those boroughs. Relevant traders or makers of Amstrad-related equipment, software or books are also welcome to join the group.

Here’s a map of the region: https://upload.wikimedia.org/…/1/11/West_Midlands_County.png

If this does not apply to you, then two other excellent Facebook groups, ‘Amstrad 4Ever’ and ‘Amstrad CPC 464’ are also available, and are highly recommended.

Meetups

Naturally, there’s always a possibility of meeting out there in the real world, perhaps via meetups at relevant events, but that’s something for the future, if there’s enough interest.

Advert for the Amstrad CPC6128
Advert for the Amstrad CPC6128

Work in progress

The new group, says Stuart, is very much a work in progress, and will take time to build up, assuming there is sufficient interest to make it viable, so it may be quiet for a while. But anyone interested should feel free to pipe up in the meantime – members will only get out of the group as much as they put in, like most things in life!

If this sounds like the group for you, why not check it out?

See: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WestMidsAmstradUserGroup/

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Amiga Trek magazine returns to the Final Frontier

The Final Frontier Logo

Star Trek-loving Amiga fans have done the seemingly impossible in downloading their own blast from the past from the digital dustbin, much like Scotty was saved from the transporter’s pattern buffer in the legendary ST:TNG episode ‘Relics’.

And, not only has the Infinite Frontiers website returned like the Enterprise coming home from a slingshot time-travel trip, its publishers have promised the return of the accompanying Commodore Amiga-based disk magazine, The Final Frontier.

The magazine was originally launched upon the  unsuspecting Amiga community of the Alpha Quadrant way back in 1991, when, with phasers set on stun, it joined the fleet of discs already available on the growing public domain scene.

The Final Frontier was unlike anything seen at the time. While most disc-based Amiga mags were dedicated to gaming, or the public domain scene itself, The Final Frontier was, say Infinite Frontiers, the first disk magazine ever dedicated to Star Trek. Issue 1 was released in September 1991 and for the next 5 years it was loved by its readers and the Amiga press alike. Scoring highly in reviews in magazines like CU Amiga, Amiga Format and Amiga Shopper and being read all over the world, it was a huge hit. Each issue took a massive amount of time to create though and the publishers’ ability to pack so much in proved to be their self-confessed downfall, with each issue taking longer and longer to produce. Issue 10, released in the Summer of 1996, sadly turned out to be the last. Until now.

A new frontier

After moving to South Wales in 2013, the magazine’s Editor, Simon Plumbe, was sorting through his Amiga disk collection that finally moved home with him after sitting at his parents house for over a decade. In boxes he discovered an unfinished, unreleased copy of issue 11 of The Final Frontier. Now, 20 years after that last issue was produced, Infinite Frontiers is going back to its roots and releasing its first Amiga product in two decades and is going to complete this disk magazine ready to release it for a new audience.

Infinite diversity in infinite combinations

Infinite Frontiers itself apparently has a long, proud history and a diverse one, not just in the Star Trek or indeed the Amiga field. It was founded in August 1989 by Simon Plumbe along with school friends Stephen Coller and Mark Haggett, initially as a small local branch of a regional Doctor Who fan club. Over the years, as interests in different aspects of media science fiction ebbed and flowed, the group’s organisers moved on to Star Trek, founding a fan club: Alpha Quadrant was born.  Moving into paper fanzines, a flurry of these came about, covering Star Trek, general sci-fi and even an Amiga fanzine. The next turning point came in 1998 with the launch of The Cybertronian Times, a Transformers fanzine created by Sven Harvey, which became their most popular print-based title.

Transformations

Following on from the success of this, the idea was developed to try a Transformers equivalent to their Star Trek club meetings and Auto Assembly was born. Over the years this grew to become not only their primary focus (even more so after Alpha Quadrant closed) but also to become Europe’s largest Transformers convention, attracting over 1,000 attendees in 2015.

Game on

2012 saw the organisers going back to computing and video games again with the launch of Vita Player, a video games website focused solely on the PlayStation Vita console and since it’s launch it’s managed to build up quite a cult following and has attracted almost 4,000 followers on Twitter making it their most successful project to date on social media.

A new beginning

Things changed again though and 2015 saw the Transformers convention come to an end. But now, both Infinite Frontiers and The Final Frontier have returned. No doubt the Klingons will be pleased, as they’ve had no Starfleet enemies to battle since the premature demise of ‘Enterprise’ in 2005 apart from a couple of somewhat variable ‘reboot’ movies…

The Infinite Frontiers website is also seeking to not only focus on Star Trek, but reflect all of its publishers’ past diversity, and they are looking for contributors.

Success

Here at Retro Computing News, where our own editor is a Trekkie from way back, we can only welcome the return of The Final Frontier and wish its publishers a hearty “Qapla’!”

Watch this space for more news as it happens.

Meanwhile, why not beam over to the Infinite Frontiers website?

New Retro Computer Facebook group launched

New Retro Computer Facebook group launched

The new Retro Computer Clinic Facebook group - click to enlarge
The new Retro Computer Clinic Facebook group – click to enlarge

A new Facebook group for retro computing enthusiasts has been launched.

The group, which will be of particular interest to anyone looking for new hardware add-ons, repair service and general advice, has been dubbed the ‘Retro Computer Clinic’ and is aimed at users of classic Sinclair, Commodore, Amstrad, Atari , Sega, Nintendo and similar retro computing systems and consoles.

The Retro Computer Clinic group is intended to, amongst other things, offer “…a group where we are all free to discuss our passions, free from politics.  A place where we can share our stuff in a safe and mutually respectful environment.”

The buying and selling of retro goodies and services will be permitted from day one, and the wide discussion of topics including DIY repairs, restoration, expansions and retro computing/console gear in general is encouraged.

INVITATION

Admins Mark Payne and Ash Evans are in the process of inviting as many experts (both professional and amateur), enthusiasts and hobbyists as they can to get the new virtual meeting place humming – and all are welcome.

Potential group members can sign up at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/478461635673192/

 

New Oliver Twins video interview

New Oliver Twins video interview

Working on the Viva Computer project
Working on the Viva Computer project

The Centre for Computing History has posted a new video on YouTube  from the Cambridge, England museum’s  Heritage Lottery funded Viva Computer project.

In the video, Andrew Oliver (seen below) talks about the early days when he and his brother became legendary UK games programmers and pioneers in the 1980s. They became known to their legion of fans simply as The Oliver Twins, and decades later are still active today in the industry and the retro community.

Andrew Oliver speaks
Andrew Oliver speaks

At around the age of 12 the twins began their careers writing games for the UK games market, including the highly regarded Dizzy franchise, which is still popular with retro computing fans today.

In 1990 they founded Blitz Games Studios which at its height employed 235 people.

In 2013 they set up a new studio called Radiant Worlds along with their long term friend Richard Smithies, focusing on games as a service.

The new video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/z1EzM4OgxZY

Images courtesy the Centre for Computing History.

New Atari forum opens online

New Atari forum opens online

Atari Boards
Click to enlarge

A new forum for fans of classic Atari home computers and consoles has opened online – Atari Boards.

The discussion group’s primary focus is retro Atari 8-bit, but 16-bit and games consoles can all be discussed, with forums covering all of these plus relevant hardware, software, manuals and guides.

There is also scope for wider computing and gaming topics, including custom builds, arcade, Mame and jukebox/video dedicated systems – and more general topics.

For full details and to sign up, see:

http://atari.boards.net/

Raspberry Pi impersonates PDP-8 at Irish museum

Raspberry Pi impersonates PDP-8 at Irish museum

Pat Moran demonstrating the Pi-based Minicomputer

Pat Moran demonstrating the Pi-based Minicomputer

One of the early 21st century’s smallest computers has been turned into a 1970s minicomputer and shown off at a museum in Galway, Ireland.

Pat Moran, of the Board of the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland – CCMI, has demonstrated, at a museum public exhibit, a PDP-8 simulator based on the credit-card sized ARM-based Raspberry Pi, the English-designed and Welsh-made spiritual descendant of the BBC Micro.

The real thing - a PDP-8 in operation
The real thing – a PDP-8 in operation

Pat previously worked in the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) plant in Galway city where these refrigerator-sized 12-bit minicomputers were manufactured until production ceased in 1979.

The simulator uses a miniaturised version of the famous flashing lights and switches on the front of these much larger, yet less powerful, computers, which put a smile on many of the former DEC employees and users of PDPs that attended the show.

Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland logo

For more information on the Museum, which is located at the Insight Centre For Data Analytics, IDA Business Park, Lower Dangan, Galway, Ireland, check out their website or their Facebook page.

 

News and museum images courtesy the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland - CCMI

Fun with terrible old games in Cambridge!

Fun with terrible old games in Cambridge!

Terrible Old Games With Ashens poster
Click to enlarge

Like movies, some video games are so bad that they’ve become cult classics, or at least a legend in their own lunchtime.  For every great game there are always several awful games that balance things out in the gaming Universe.

So it’s great that some of these classic clunkers are getting their own back towards the end of this month, when you’ll be able to roll up at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England, where you’ll be joined by enthusiastic volunteer staff and celebrity Youtuber and author of ‘Terrible Old Games You’ve Probably Never Heard Of’ Stuart Ashen, when the museum is “…putting on an exhibition of some of those forgotten stinkers.”

Just for fun, the Centre is dedicating an entire day to “…the games that wasted our time, effort and hard earned pocket money as kids and the games that we never played because they scored so low in gaming magazines that… well why would we?”

So come along and re-live the agony of playing some of those terrible old games that you threw in the bin or returned to WH Smiths as a kid. Stuart will be hanging out at the museum for most of the day if you’d like to meet him or to get anything signed.

Tea, coffee and snacks will be available from the Pac Lunch Shop.

Normal museum entry fees apply. Booking is not essential, but if demand is high priority will be given to those who have booked in advance.

Date : 23 January 2016
Time : 10:00am – 5:00pm

Further details:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/40121/Terrible-Old-Games-with-Ashens/