WE’LL BE BACK!

Terminator bitmap image

Good news! We are pleased to announce that Retro Computing News (RCN) will be officially reactivated in January 2017 – and we’ll be ramping up our coverage over the next twelve months, so watch this space for some of our best work yet!

Editor and publisher Stuart Williams put the magazine site into effective hibernation earlier this year due to personal and family health issues and resulting time constraints, but now plans to kick-start RCN back into action after the festive apocalypse is over.

Stuart said “After a pretty rough year, I’m finally getting into a position to be able to devote the time that Retro Computing News deserves once more, and just as soon as I’ve loaded up the minigun with sprouts and terminated a turkey or two I’ll be back behind the controls again.

“Meanwhile, watch out for the odd festive missile or temporal displacement grenade being hurled out from behind the barricades. Not the least of which being, may I take this opportunity to wish all of our readers past, present – and of course, future – a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, or Happy Holidays if you’re on the other side of the pond!”

If you have any news you’d like us to cover or events to publicise, please get in touch via the Contact page or press releases, photos etc can be sent direct via:  retrocomputingnews@gmail.com

END OF LINE.

REVIVAL Solstice 2016 – a resounding success!

View from the stage at REVIVAL Solstice 2016 - click to enlarge
View from the stage at REVIVAL Solstice 2016 – click to enlarge

Veteran retro gaming/arcade show organisers Revival Retro Events returned to take the retro scene by storm once again last weekend, after a break from major events since 2014.

Breaking new ground with a brand-new venue for the show, the event took place for the first time in the spacious Stadium Suite at the Banks’s Stadium (previously known as Bescot Stadium) – the home of Walsall Football Club in the West Midlands!

After a smaller comeback event last November in Wolverhampton, this year REVIVAL executed a mighty return to the scene with the aptly titled REVIVAL Solstice 2016 on 30-31 July.

Loads of fun and excitement on cab or computer!
Loads of fun and excitement on cab or computer!

Bringing back all the attractions of their previous fun-packed summer exhibitions, the latest show included:

  • Over 100 playable retro consoles and computers
  • Over 50 classic video arcade machines and pinball machines
  • On-stage competitions run by the Retro Lords, and prizes (including a Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 donated by sponsors Retro Computing News!)
  • A selection of traders offering various retro collectables
  • The return of the guest talks panels and new gamer’s theatre
  • Reasonably priced, fully licensed bar and gamer’s snack bar
  • serving hot and cold food
Pinball wizards at REVIVAL Solstice 2016
Pinball wizards at REVIVAL Solstice 2016

The venue had the advantage of not being far from the M6 and right on the doorstep of Bescot Stadium Railway Station, although it’s fair to say the location caused a little confusion with some drivers finding it not so easy to locate as they thought.

One of the Retro Lords running a contest on stage
One of the Retro Lords running a contest on stage

But with hundreds attending on each day of the weekend, it’s clear that retro fans had more than enough to encourage them to beat a path to Bescot for more REVIVAL retro fun!

One of the several wheelers and dealers at REVIVAL
One of the several wheelers and dealers at REVIVAL

And our editor and publisher Stuart Williams, who spent the Saturday there in retro heaven, couldn’t agree more – and he came on the bus from Bloxwich!

Continue reading REVIVAL Solstice 2016 – a resounding success!

Vintage Computer Festival West is back!

Vintage Computer Festival West is returning for its 11th iteration this coming weekend (Aug. 6-7, 2016) at the amazing Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, USA.

Back from a 9-year hiatus, the event is now being organised as part of the non-profit Vintage Computer Federation, a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organisation existing for, and led by, computer history hobbyists. The Federation evolved in autumn 2015 “from the DNA of related groups”.

Vintage Computer Festival West XI logo
Click to enlarge

The festival runs from Saturday, 9:30am-6:00pm, to Sunday, 9:00am-5:30pm.

Hands-on exhibits will be presented on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll find demos of 1960s minicomputers, 1970s homebrew systems, 1980s eight-bitters, and a few oddities. Some exhibits contain pristine original machines, while others focus on unique modern hacks, and everything in between.

Celebration Apple I

CharityBuzz are auctioning what may be the rarest Apple-1 in existence. Come see it at the show!

Early Amiga

There will also apparently be an Amiga 1000 with serial number 1 on show!

Consignment room

Vintage Computer Festivals are not flea/swap events, however the organisers are offering a consignment room.

Tickets/More information

Tickets are available now.  To book and for more details of the event including food etc, see the event web page – click on the link below.

http://vcfed.org/wp/festivals/vintage-computer-festival-west-xi/

REVIVAL Solstice 2016 retro event almost here!

Revival Solstice 2016 Floor Plan - click to enlarge
Revival Solstice 2016 Floor Plan – click to enlarge

Veteran retro gaming/arcade event organisers, Revival Retro Events, are almost ready to take the scene by storm once again, with REVIVAL Solstice 2016  due to take place over the weekend of 30-31 July at a completely new venue for the show, the Banks’s Stadium (previously known as Bescot Stadium) – the home of Walsall Football Club in the West Midlands!

After the event’s successful, albeit somewhat smaller, comeback event Winter Warmer 2015, last November, and previous big event successes, REVIVAL once again returns to large scale this summer with the aptly titled REVIVAL Solstice 2016.

New show plan
Arcade days all over again at REVIVAL 2014!
Arcade days all over again at REVIVAL 2014!

This new event marks the start of a new show plan for future REVIVAL events organised by the RRE team, headed up by Craig Turner, and brings back all the attractions of their previous fun-packed summer exhibitions.

This year’s event features already include:

  • Over 100 playable retro consoles and computers
  • Over 50 classic video arcade machines and pinball machines
  • On-stage competitions and prizes
  • A larger selection of traders offering various retro collectables
  • The return of the guest talks panels and new gamer’s theatre
  • Reasonably priced, fully licensed bar and gamer’s snack bar serving hot and cold food
  • New large summer venue for up to 1000 visitors per day
  • Easy transport access from M6 J9 and J10 and the Bescot Stadium railway station between Birmingham and Walsall.
  • Choice of nearby hotels with direct rail and bus links to the venue

Continue reading REVIVAL Solstice 2016 retro event almost here!

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

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.

computer history, retro gaming and computing today