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.
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
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!
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 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:
See also the group’s new website:
If you’re an Amiga fan in the south west, why not come and see if SWAG is your bag?
Where credited, pictures shown here have been kindly provided courtesy of Steve Netting. More can be viewed by following this link.