Mastertronic tribute book Kickstarter goes live

The Mastertronic Archives

A project to produce books detailing the history of Mastertronic budget computer games has gone live on Kickstarter.

Founded in 1983 by Martin Alper, Frank Herman and Alan Sharam, British company Mastertronic went on to become one of the UK’s biggest home video game publishers of the 1980s.

The company’s marketing strategy of putting games on shelves at the low price of just £1.99, when most other games sold from £4.99, resulted in booming sales and massive profits for the London-based company.

The Kickstarter appeal aims to produce both a standard volume and an enhanced collector’s volume detailing the history of these games.

The project is being organised by publishers Player One Books of Canberra, Australia. The books are unofficial publications.

Standard edition

First up is the Standard Edition 256 page hardcover book covering all of the Mastertronic £1.99 releases including game reviews, game credits, screen shots, cover images and more.

Collector’s Edition

The special 512 page Collector’s Edition includes everything in the Standard Edition, PLUS an additional 256 pages featuring game reviews, game credits, screen shots, cover images and more of the other Mastertronic labels such as M.A.D., Americana, Rebound, Rack-It, etc PLUS the unique disk releases.

“199 RANGE” limited collector’s edition

The “199 Range” Limited Collector’s Edition pledge includes the “199 Range” 512 page Collector’s Edition featuring a unique cover design, PLUS a signed and numbered “199 Range” bookplate, PLUS a 128 page Cover Art Gallery book featuring a range of game covers including commentary by select original cover artists, PLUS a limited edition “199 Range” USB cassette, featuring a custom “199 Range” inspired hand numbered inlay, and containing a 512 page PDF copy of the The Mastertronic Archives Collector’s Edition, and a 128 page PDF copy of the cover gallery book PLUS a set of limited edition postcards.

Funding options are shown in Australian dollars on the Kickstarter site, not to be confused with US dollars.

Around the globe

UK and EU backers: Books will be shipped from within the UK to minimise shipping costs and delivery times.  North America backers: Books will be shipped from within North America to minimise shipping costs and delivery times.  Australian backers: Books will be shipped from within Australia to minimise shipping costs and delivery times.

Further details

For further details of the books and other aspects of the project, including perks and current funding status, check out the Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/15723376/the-mastertronic-archives

As well as the Kickstarter, Player One Books can also be contacted via Twitter: https://twitter.com/player1books

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So long, and thanks for all the Macs…

Douglas Adams with Mac 128k and electric guitar
Douglas Adams with Mac 128k and electric guitar

Today is Towel Day, when fans of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in particular celebrate his life and work all around the world, but especially here in England.

Douglas Noel Adams (11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001) was an English author,scriptwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist.

He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a “trilogy” of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime and generated a television series, several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film. Adams’s contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983),The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990), Last Chance to See (1990), and three stories for the television series Doctor Who; he also served as script editor for the show’s seventeenth season in 1979. A posthumous collection of his works, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

Adams was known as an advocate for environmentalism and conservation, as a lover of fast cars, cameras, technological innovation and the Apple Macintosh, and as a “devout atheist”.

Computer games and projects
The Infocom version of The Hitchhiker's Guid to the Galaxy was available on many computers
The Infocom version of The Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy was available on many computers

Douglas Adams created an interactive fiction version of HHGTG with Steve Meretzky from Infocom in 1984. In 1986 he participated in a week-long brainstorming session with the Lucasfilm Games team for the game Labyrinth. Later he was also involved in creating Bureaucracy (also by Infocom, but not based on any book; Adams wrote it as a parody of events in his own life).

Starship Titanic - the adventure game
Starship Titanic – the adventure game

Adams was a founder-director and Chief Fantasist of The Digital Village, a digital media and Internet company with which he created Starship Titanic, a Codie Award-winning and BAFTA-nominated adventure game, which was published in 1998 by Simon & Schuster. Terry Jones wrote the accompanying book, entitled Douglas Adams Starship Titanic, since Adams was too busy with the computer game to do both. In April 1999, Adams initiated the h2g2 collaborative writing project, an experimental attempt at making The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a reality, and at harnessing the collective brainpower of the internet community. It found a new home at BBC Online in 2001.

Continue reading So long, and thanks for all the Macs…

Top British gaming publishers recognised with blue plaque

The proposed plaque.
The proposed plaque.

One of the UK’s most prolific home computer gaming publishers of the 1980s-90s is to be honoured by Ludlow Civic Society  in the now-defunct company’s ‘birthplace’, Ludlow, with a special blue heritage plaque!

Newsfield Publications Ltd, usually referred to simply as Newsfield, was founded by Roger Kean, Franco Frey and Oliver Frey in 1983. Based in the market town of Ludlow in Shropshire, England, Newsfield is most famed for publishing a number of popular computer game magazines from the mid-1980s to early-1990s.

Crash Magazine issue 1
Crash Magazine issue 1

Newsfield’s home computer/gaming magazines included:

  • Crash (focusing on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum)
  • Zzap!64 (covering the Commodore 64)
  • Amtix! (a short-lived Amstrad CPC publication)
  • The Games Machine (a multi-format games mag)
  • Raze (rebranded from The Games Machine and focused on Japanese consoles)
  • Complete Computer Entertainment Guide (a multi-format, quarterly magazine)
Zzap!64 issue 1
Zzap!64 issue 1

This line-up was over time supplemented by a number of less successful magazines covering role-playing games, film, horror and youth culture – for more general info, see Wikipedia’s Newsfield article.

Newsfield HQ

Newfield’s headquarters between 1984-1989 was the upper three floors of number 2, King Street, a place of pilgrimage for avid 8-bit retrogamers even today. This is where the plaque will be fixed for posterity.

Importance of gaming industry

The plaque also effectively recognises the importance of the rise of the 8- and 16-bit games market in the 1980s and 90s and subsequently of retrogaming today.

It is hoped that some kind of unveiling of the plaque will be held in the near future so that fans of Newsfield’s seminal magazines can come from far and wide to view it.

Plaque icture courtesy of Roger Kean.

Revived Amiga group has a (boing) ball!

Entrance to Swindon Makerspace
Entrance to Swindon Makerspace
Computer clubs are sadly rare as hen’s teeth these days, unlike the heyday of the UK home computing revolution in the 1980s-90s, so it’s great to receive a report from Robert Hazelby about the phoenix-like return to the scene of a once-thriving group focusing on the ever-popular Commodore Amiga! 
The revived and refreshed South West Amiga Group – aka SWAG – met for the first time in fifteen years a little over a week ago, on Saturday 7th May 2016, getting together to party like it’s the 1980s all over again. Robert tells all:

The seeds of the first SWAG meeting of the new era were sown back in January of this year when Amiga user Brian Hedley created a thread over on the English Amiga Board, asking if there was a group of Amiga users in the South West of the country. If there wasn’t, would anyone be interested in forming one and helping to set up a meeting?

Fellow Amiga users Steve Netting and myself responded, and in February we three met in a Swindon pub to chat about all things Amiga and to discuss the possibility/viability of organising a meeting.

By the end of the evening, it was decided that the meeting idea was worth pursuing, with the thought that at the very worst three Amiga users would meet up later in the year for an afternoon of Amiga gaming, tinkering and repairing.

Blast from the past

The other decision made that evening was to resurrect the old SWAG name. The South West Amiga Group held its last meeting way back in 2001 and sadly folded in 2004. In its active years, the members held regular sessions, and each meeting was well attended.

After numerous enquiries, a venue was chosen – the new Makerspace in Swindon, which was due to open the first weekend in May. The members there were happy to have us, and so, on Saturday 7th May, SWAG rose from the ashes and began a new era.

It’s alive!
Amigas galore to explore! (pic Steve Netting)
Amigas galore to explore! (pic Steve Netting)

The afternoon ran from noon until 4pm, and during that time, approximately a dozen Amiga users turned up. The majority of attendees brought kit with them, and as such we had an amazing collection of Amiga and other computer systems. The line-up included:

  • Expanded Amiga 1200 (68030 @ 50mhz, Indivision 2, 32megs RAM, Hard Drive, Network Card
  • Expanded Amiga 600 (ACA620 and A604n)
  • Amiga 500 with 512K RAM expansion and Gotek
  • A laptop running UAE
  • Raspberry Pi 3 running UAE for all
  • 2008 MacBook used for streaming demos to the plasma screen and for storing an Amiga TOSEC
  • AmigaOne 500
  • Amiga 1200 for repairing
The game was afoot
Deep thought (pic Steve Netting)
Deep thought (pic Steve Netting)

Gamers were well catered for, with some excellent four-player sessions of Hudson Soft’s Dyna Blaster (Bomberman), Acid’s racer Skidmarks and Team 17’s platformer Superfrog. Numerous other titles from down the years were also fired-up, with one attendee completing Turrican from start to finish in what he declared was his fastest ever run.

The Raspberry Pi 3 did a fantastic job of emulating classic Amiga hardware, with a number of children present glued to Lemmings as a result. The speed of the mouse took a little getting used to, though – it was rather twitchy!

A new generation of Amigans sees off a few Lemmings with a Pi (pic Steve Netting)
A new generation of Amigans sees off a few Lemmings with a Pi (pic Steve Netting)

 

The Macbook was mainly used for streaming a selection of Amiga demos from the recent Revision 2016 demo competition, along with a number of repeated showings of the forthcoming “Amiga Works” documentary by Paul Bridger. When it wasn’t streaming video it was used to transfer files from the Amiga TOSEC to pen drive and then on to an Amiga.

There can be only One
The future of Amiga? (pic Steve Netting)
The future of Amiga? (pic Steve Netting)

The AmigaOne 500 was undoubtedly the star of the afternoon when it came to hardware specs. Facebook user Amiga Richard had been kind enough to bring his prized possession along, and throughout the afternoon gave guided tours around the system, answering questions put to him by fellow attendees.

The final system was Amiga Richard’s faulty Amiga 1200, which initially failed to display a picture or boot. A dismantling later, the removal of a rogue screw which didn’t seem to actually belong to the system, and the 1200 was back up and running once more. Success!

End to a perfect day

By 4pm the computers had all been packed up, and the last of those who had attended were making their way home. What had started as a thread over on the English Amiga Board and a subsequent meeting in a pub, had turned into a fantastic afternoon of classic gaming, tech and general retro chit chat.

Feedback from those who came along was glowing, and as such a second SWAG meeting, to take place on Saturday 17th September, also at The Makerspace, Swindon, is already being planned. More details will be posted on the SWAG Facebook group as they are available:

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

See also the group’s new website:

http://www.southwestamiga.org.uk/

If you’re an Amiga fan in the south west, why not come and see if SWAG is your bag?

Robert Hazelby

Photos

Where credited, pictures shown here have been kindly provided courtesy of Steve Netting. More can be viewed by following this link.

RCN to exhibit in Shakespeare country

King Edward VI School
King Edward VI School

For the second year running, Retro Computing News will be attending the Recursion computer fair on Saturday 2 July 2016 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

But this time around, we’ll be an exhibitor – at William Shakespeare’s very own school!

RECURSION 2015  from above - general view
RECURSION 2015 from above – general view

We’ve been invited along by the event organisers at the historic King Edward Vi School, where the legendary English playwright was educated, and will have a table in the ‘history of computing’ section (see below) of this fantastic, free and fun-packed digital day out dedicated to computer science and computing in education, industry and leisure.

The Levi Fox Hall, King Edward Vi School
The Levi Fox Hall, King Edward Vi School

Last year, over 500 students, parents and members of the public visited the fair in the Levi Fox Hall of the school, and the organisers are looking to expand the range of exhibits and activities further this year. There will be stands from local businesses, universities and other schools. A number of stands and activities will make use of small-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi, Micro:Bit and Arduino.

At Recursion 2015, Tom Williamson showed off his historic BBC Micro's as well as his self-built Ident computer case containing a Raspberry Pi
At Recursion 2015, Tom Williamson showed off his historic BBC Micro’s as well as his self-built Ident computer case containing a Raspberry Pi
History of computing
Andy Spencer (right) and his Retro Computer Museum team at Recursion 2015
Andy Spencer (right) and his Retro Computer Museum team at Recursion 2015

In addition, the fair will offer a community-led ‘history of computing’ section, where local user groups and aficionados of “classic” and “retro” computing can get together and share their passion for everything from a ZX80 to an Amiga 1200.

Those attending Recursion 2015 were rewarded with a buzzing, vibrant and diverse event for computer fans of all interests, not only gaming, with a great retro component.  This year’s fair, which opens at 11am, promises to be an equally exciting event and one that should both promote and celebrate the industry and enthuse the next generation of British Computer Scientists and Engineers.

See you there?

Recursion is a show of a kind which has been rarely seen since the 1990s, and we’re only too delighted to give it our full support!  Retro Computing News’s editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, will be setting out our stall at Recursion 2016, and will be there to talk to any and everyone about our magazine site and retro computing in general, as well as covering the event for RCN.

A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall in 2015 - click to enlarge
A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall in 2015 – click to enlarge

As we receive more detailed information about this year’s fair, we’ll pass it on in these pages, meanwhile, why not check out our feature on Recursion 2015 to get an idea of what you can look forward to?

See:  https://retrocomputingnews.com/2015/07/07/recursion-2015-repeats-success-in-stratford/

For more info as it is posted, also see the event website:

http://www.recursioncomputerfair.co.uk/

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

RCN sponsors REVIVAL Solstice 2016 in Walsall

RCN sponsorship banner

We’re delighted to confirm that Retro Computing News is sponsoring the upcoming REVIVAL Solstice 2016 retro gaming, retro computing and arcade show in Walsall, England! Taking place over 30-31 July 2016, the event sees REVIVAL back at its big event best, with a huge range of gaming and computing plus dealers, competitions and special guest talks.  Moreover this year, the big show, previously held at Wolverhampton Racecourse, is moving to Bescot Stadium, aka Banks’s Stadium, the home of Walsall Football Club, which is easily accessible by road and by railway, with its own station nearby!

We’ll also be covering the event, and taking a table there so our editor and publisher Stuart Williams can chat to anyone who’d like to know more about our online magazine and maybe give us their own news for possible publication!

Retro goodies sprouting in the arcade hall at REVIVAL 2014
Retro goodies sprouting in the arcade hall at REVIVAL 2014
Speccy sponsorship

More good news for anyone attending is that we’re sponsoring this fantastic event by providing a classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 home games computer as a prize for one of the many retrogaming competitions that will be taking place over the weekend!

REVIVAL is the largest and best true dedicated retrogaming event in the UK, and their return to large scale is definitely the one you won’t want to miss!

Arcade days all over again at REVIVAL 2014!
Arcade days all over again at REVIVAL 2014!
What’s happenin’

The show is now filling to the rafters, says organiser Craig Turner of Turnarcades fame, with all the best retro gaming exhibits you love, and plenty more besides! Solstice 2016 will have:

  • 35+ arcade machines
  • 15+ pinball machines
  • 100+ playable consoles and computers
  • Retro Asylum’s talks arena and gamer’s theatre
  • Special guest appearances with live Q+A sessions
  • The Retro Lords’ stage show and competition area
  • A great selection of retro related traders and exhibitors
  • Retro Gaming Roundup’s retro gaming lounge
  • The Dreamcast Junkyard’s Sega zone
  • The ‘Cutting Room Floor’ zone, filled with playable rare/unreleased/prototype systems and games
  • Large screen, multiplayer gaming setups
  • Portable gaming zone, featuring handhelds to tabletop curiosities
  • Homebrew retrogaming development showcases
  • Fully licenced bar and pinball cafe
  • Early admission and discounted traders for REVIVAL membership card holders
  • Late opening for exhibitors and membership card holders
The hunt is on for that retro holy grail at REVIVAL 2014...
The hunt is on for that retro holy grail at REVIVAL 2014
Guest announcements

REVIVAL are about to start full public advertising and will also be announcing their confirmed guests in the coming weeks, so be sure to grab your tickets and book the best hotels NOW before they all go! It’s going to be an amazing weekend with the much-loved REVIVAL atmosphere, so make sure you get along to this one!

Just part of the 2015 REVIVAL Winter Warmer
Just part of the 2015 REVIVAL Winter Warmer
Poster

Download the poster in jpeg format by clicking on this image:

REVIVAL Solstice 2016 poster
Click on image for larger version
Event tickets

Buy your tickets and membership cards here while you still can:

https://www.tickettailor.com/ch…/view-event/…/47596/chk/069b

More details

For further info, visit the REVIVAL website and to keep up with the latest announcements, why not Like their Facebook page, as well as the show’s dedicated Facebook event page now!

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next board demonstrated

Spectrum Next concept rendered in white
Spectrum Next concept rendered in white

Following our previous post about the announcement of a new, modern technology Sinclair Spectrum retro computer, the ZX Spectrum Next, by UK company SpecNext Ltd, the designer of the Next’s electronics, Mr Victor Trucco, has posted a video demonstration of the Next’s prototype electronics, showing the majority of the commercial board’s proposed features.

The video is narrated by Mr Trucco in Portuguese and subtitled in English.

We thought you’d be keen to see this as an update, and so are we, so here it is!

We now also have confirmation that HDMI output will be via a Raspberry Pi Zero built into the case.

For full details of the new computer, check out our original post here:  Sinclair Spectrum – the Next generation!

Sinclair Spectrum – the Next generation!

Spectrum Next concept rendering by Rick Dickinson
Spectrum Next concept rendering

Things seem to have gone a little crazy on the retro computing front lately, what with new retro consoles and computers coming out of the woodwork all over the place – and the latest and possibly most amazing of all is a brand-new Sinclair ZX Spectrum, from yet another new manufacturer!

This latest homage to Sir Clive Sinclair’s classic ZX Spectrum+ has been dubbed the ‘Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next’ by new UK manufacturers SpecNext Ltd.  The company has its registered office at 135 Bermondsey Street, London, and was incorporated on 9 February 2016 by Carlos Henrique Olifiers, Co-Founder of BAFTA-winning games developers Bossa Studios,.

And, by combining a slick modern take on the classic Spectrum+ exterior design, once again created by original Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson, with powerful modern electronics designed by Brazilian Victor Trucco, the latest ‘Speccy’ to hit the market looks like it’s going to be a hot product – though we will have to wait a while yet before the real thing is available.

A Speccy for all seasons?

Apparently officially licensed through intellectual property holders Sky In-Home Service Limited. the ZX Spectrum Next is clearly an upgraded homage to the classic 1980s micro rather than a traditional chip-by-chip clone.

Despite this the concept, which to date has been seen only in 3D renderings, seems to have been well-received amongst the ‘retro community’ so far, perhaps due the fact it is being pitched as a development to take the Sinclair brand into the future – and due to its adoption of the modernised Spectrum+ style case and keyboard, unlike the popular but sometimes controversial Vega range of hand-held consoles produced by Retro Computers Limited, who at the last count had decided against reviving an actual Spectrum computer.

The TBBlue by Mr Victor Trucco
The TBBlue by Mr Victor Trucco
The ZX Spectrum Next is based on Victor Trucco’s previous project, the TBBlue, and the Altera Cyclone FPGA-based board which will form the heart of the next Speccy is expected to be similar.

The Next is a reimplementation of the original at hardware level, ensuring it runs all the software out there. And it´s also planned to be compatible with most expansions made for the ZX Spectrum, as well as being compatible with new ULAplus video modes. There is also a possibility of implementing ZX81 hi res mode before the first units ship.

The SD card ‘disk’ operating system used is ESXDOS, and the new machine will be compatible with all the original Sinclair ZX Spectrum versions including 48k, 128k (Toastrack), +2 and +3.

In fact, amazingly, the Spectrum Next will also be compatible with Brazilian Speccy clones the  TK90X and TK95, as well as the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81, and Jupiter Ace!

Sexy specs for the Speccy Next?
Spectrum Next concept rear rendering
Spectrum Next concept rear rendering

The following equivalent specifications for the new computer have been revealed so far:

  • Processor Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
  • Memory  512Kb RAM
  • Video  ULAplus featuring compatible and expanded modes and colours
  • Video output  RGB, VGA, mini HDMI
  • Storage  SD card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
  • Tape support  Mic and Ear ports for cassette tape loading and saving
  • Audio  AY-3-8912 or FM2149 audio chips (selectable) with stereo output
  • Joystick port  DB9 compatible with Interface 1 or Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
  • PS/2 port  Mouse with Kempston mode emulation OR external keyboard
  • Extras  Multiface functionality for memory access, save games, cheats etc
  • Expansion  Original Spectrum external bus expansion port
  • Accelerator slave board  GPU/1Ghz CPU/512Mb RAM
Spectrum Next concept side rendering
Spectrum Next concept side rendering
Any colour you like as long as it’s black (or white)
Spectrum Next concept rendered in white
Spectrum Next concept rendered in white

The very attractive modernised design of the Spectrum Next may also be offered in traditional Spectrum black – or white! Not really surprising this as there’s been much interest from retro hobbyists in DIY modded white versions of the classic Speccy. So it looks like buyers will probably have the option to buy a black or white cased Spectrum Next, or indeed both. Pretty smart-looking either way, judging by the

Not really surprising this, as there’s been much interest from retro hobbyists in DIY modded white versions of the classic Speccy.  So it looks like buyers will probably have the option to buy a black or white cased Spectrum Next, or indeed both. Pretty smart-looking either way, judging by the renderings published so far.

HDMI through Pi

It’s been suggested that the HDMI out video option will be given by passing the output through a Raspberry Pi computer, possibly a Pi Zero, built-in to the Spectrum Next casing, though this is unconfirmed as yet.  Update 2 May 2016: we now understand the HDMI output is definitely planned to be via a Pi Zero.

Crowdfunding

Apparently the ZX Spectrum Next project is to be crowd funded, a popular method amongst new retro console and computer manufacturers. This has not yet been set up and we will follow this up in due course.

Company website

A preliminary website has been set up, but as yet shows very little. It does, however, offer the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter and further information:

http://www.specnext.com/

Facebook

There is also already a ZX Spectrum Next group on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/237301699960491/

Conclusion

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next looks like a very exciting product, with a lot of potential, and we will be following the project closely. Watch this space!

Update 2 May 2016

Mr Trucco has now placed a video demonstration of the Next’s protoype electronics online – see our latest post about this exciting new machine: Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next board demonstrated 

Rendered images shown here are reproduced courtesy of SpecNext Ltd and Mr Victor Trucco, with thanks.