Wednesday, 26 September 2012

BitJam Podcast #157 - A Tribute to Psygnosis

On Wednesday 22nd August Sony finally called time on SCE Studio Liverpool. Established in 1984 from the ashes of a bankrupt Imagine, the company was formerly known as Psygnosis.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Psygnosis were the kings of presentation. From the gorgeous packaging the games came in, to bundled T-shirts, beautiful in-game graphics and stunning audio, they really knew how to polish each release.

The playability on many of their titles may have been sadly lacking, but for the purpose of this blog post we'll skate over that bit, as I'm here to give you the heads-up on a fan-made audio tribute, courtesy of the BitFellas podcast team.

Here's Bobic of BitFellas:
"Episode #157 - Tribute to Psygnosis, Part 1: The Amiga years

On August, the 22nd of 2012, the SHADOW OF THE BEAST (Sony) fell over Sony Studio Liverpool, better known as Psygnosis. After producing AWESOME games for 28 years the MENACE couldn't be stopped. Game over for a company who wrote a big chapter into the book of history of computer and video games.

BitFellas says "thank you" for creating and publishing milestones like Lemmings, Barbarian, the Beast trilogy, WipEout and many more gems, including some of the best box art of all time.

R.I.P. Psygnosis, playing at the THEATRE OF DEATH now.

This is the first podcast episode with music from Psygnosis games. The focus here is on music from their Amiga games, sometimes in their original MOD version, sometimes as remix. Some unreleased tunes are included, too.

We say thank you to the following musicians and people, who made this episode possible and bow down for writing some of the best game music ever made:
Tim Wright (CoLD SToRAGE), Matthew Simmonds (4mat), Chris Hülsbeck, Ray Norrish (NZO), Tim Bartlett, Olof Gustafsson (Blaizer), Mike Clarke and Jan Zottmann."
The podcast features a hefy 41 separate tracks, ranging from original Amiga audio to modern day remixes, and runs for a whopping 1hour 55mins 42secs.

Listen to the podcast HERE on YouTube.
Download the MP3 (159MB) HERE.
Download the cue sheet HERE.

BitJam Podcast:

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dedicated UK Retro Arcade in Planning Stages

With the sad demise of the Devon based Arcade Barn at the start of 2012, the UK has found itself without a dedicated retro amusement arcade.

Former Barn owners Aran and Shaun made a fantastic job of re-creating the look and feel of an amusement arcade from the 80s, but the massive overheads and lack of regular income forced the duo to call time on their risky but exciting venture earlier in the year.

Now it would seem that a couple of other arcade machine collectors are keen to pick up the baton from where Aran and Shaun left off, and are investigating setting up their own retro amusement arcade that would be open to the public.

Here's Luke Wells' recent post on the JAMMA Plus Forum;
"Myself + RGP are discussing renting a significantly large unit/warehouse to re-locate both our entire collections of machines (90-100 machines?) plus plenty of space to expand or share with others.

The location will be North West England, the location will have good transport links, with Blackpool being a good possibility. (You know, its like Blackpool is the daddy of retro arcades - plus rent is currently very reasonable due to volumes of empty property)

We have no intentions of trying to make a profit, or even to break even. We are happy to put our own money towards this venture, both for our benefit, and for the benefit of other arcade enthusiasts , however, it would not be sustainable for us to foot 100% of the costs all of the time. We need support from other enthusiasts to invest a small monthly fee, in exchange for semi-regular access to play games hang out for meets.

We are initially throwing around a figure of £10 per month per person to help support the arcade. (Hey if you can afford to reliably pledge more then please say so)

Machines will be a mix of Videogames, Pinball machines, Electro-mechanical and Mechanical arcade games.

Between us we have most of the "top" Atari and Sega titles as well as various other Taito/Konami etc in dedicated cabs, plus several Jamma cabs and several hundred working pcb's. I also have a handful of the "top" pinball titles as well as a good range of pins from all ages.

There would be regular small meetups for local members as well as annual / twice annaul BIG events like a Jamma+ birthday bash / uk pinball meet? etc probably quarterly 'big meets'"

Luke and RGP (Retro Games Party) are now looking for people to come forward with regular subscription-like donations to put towards the overheads of running a non profit retro amusement arcade. Currently, the monthly donations stand at a very respectable £200 per month, but more will no doubt be appreciated.

For more information on this project, you can find a lengthy discussion thread over on the JAMMA Plus Forum, which you get to by clicking HERE. The first post also shows those who have come forward with offers of donations, and how much they're willing to stump-up.

To get some idea of what this new arcade would look like, here's some footage I took last year, during one of the meets at the brilliant Arcade Barn.

It would be fantastic if Luke and RGP's plans come to fruition, and the UK finally got itself a permanent retro amusement arcade. There are a number scattered across the United States, and these seem to be extremely popular. Surely us Brits can accommodate and support at least one.

Please show your interest and get donating!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Midway's Arcade Origins - 360/PS3 - Nov 2012

If the price, number of bundled titles and standard of emulation are all good, I'm always willing to add a new retro compilation to my ever growing collection. On the modern systems these usually come with decent front ends, and a host of extra goodies to make the purchase even more worthwhile.

This week Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment announced the forthcoming release of "Midway Arcade Origins", for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Packed with 30 titles from the Atari/Williams/Midway back catalogue, this looks only to be of interest to those who don't already have the Midway Arcade Treasures pack for the Xbox/PS2, or want a decent retro compilation for one of the current systems.

The full line-up of games due to appear on the compilation are as follows:

- 720°
- A.P.B
- Arch Rivals
- Bubbles
- Championship Sprint
- Tournament Cyberball 2072
- Defender
- Defender II
- Gauntlet
- Gauntlet II
- Joust
- Joust 2
- Marble Madness
- Pit-Fighter
- Rampage
- Rampart
- Robotron 2084
- Root Beer Tapper
- Satan’s Hollow
- Sinistar
- Smash TV
- Spy Hunter
- Spy Hunter II
- Super Off Road
- Super Sprint
- Toobin’
- Total Carnage
- Vindicators Part II
- Wizard of Wor
- Xenophobe
- Xybots

Warner have released a nice promotional trailer for the forthcoming release, which you can find over on YouTube by clicking HERE.

Opinions from the retrogaming community certainly seem mixed regarding this proposed release, and nowhere more so than over on the Retro Gamer Forums.

Forum member shiftytigger, commented:
"As I can go use any of the older compilations on my GC / PS2 Im not too fussed with this (emulation issues aside) .

What they really should be doing is compiling all the older Arcade treasures and putting in some titles they keep passsing by. Its always the same games wheeled out over and over again. Lets see some of the rarer , lesser known stuff surface - even as unlockables etc."
While fellow Retrogamer forumite PaulEMoz responded with:
"This sounds great, though, and I'll be jumping all over it if it comes out here or is region-free."
Retrogamer Magazine editor, Darran Jones followed up by posting:
"My biggest concern with this is that it sounds like a repackaged midway arcade treasures. Good games though...."
I'll let you decide if this pack is worth adding to your collection or not. One thing's for sure, if previous retro compilations are anything to go by, you'll be able to pick this up for a massively discounted price within a few months of release.

Midway Arcade Origins is due for release in the US this November, priced at $29.99. European release dates and prices have yet to be announced.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Unused Nintendo NES System For Sale

As a lover of all things retro I'm used to adding systems and games to the collection that need a ruddy good wipe down prior to use. The C64 I purchased a month back required some serious work with a pack of hygienic wipes before I switched it on, and many years ago I bought a Space Invaders Part 2 upright cab that looked like it'd been stored in a barn for a decade or more. (That needed some serious cleaning work, I can tell you!)

With that in mind it always amazes me that mint (or near mint) condition items continue to pop up on auction site Ebay. So when ex ZZAP!64 / C+VG editor Julian Rignall, tweeted "Get your minty fresh unopened NES right here. Relive the joys of the bext Xmas present from 1988", along with a link to an Ebay auction, I just 'had' to take a look.

Here's the auction description:
Up for auction is this great Nintendo NES control deck with all original box, manuals, controllers, power, accessories and console as seen in the pictures.

Box and all accessories are in great condition, box has some very slight corner wear. Console and controllers have no cracks or dings/dents since the item has never been used.

It was only out of the box for the purpose of taking pictures for this listing. Includes original styrofoam and plastic accessory bags. UPC on box is 045496610067. This item is from a smoke free home. Excellent vintage gaming system from 1988. Rare find. Please email me with any questions.
The only issue with it being practically mint is that no one knows if time's been kind to the unit and whether it actually works, as this question and answer from a potential buyer and the seller shows;
Q: Any idea if it works properly?

A: I have no idea if it works properly. It's been wrapped in plastic and never opened. If I open it and plug it in then it no longer is never used. Plus I don't have any games to try on this unit. Thanks for your question.
The auction currently stands at $237, and ends on September 19th. If you're willing to take the risk on this being a worker or not you'd better get that bid in quick!

Update: The closing price for this unit was $310.88, with 21 bidders.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

New Book - Atari Inc. Business is Fun

I'll admit that I'm a sucker for retro gaming and computer history related books. I've got a fair stack of them in the old collection and am always looking to add more to the pile.

This week I stumbled upon news of a new book, due to be released towards the end of September. Going under the title "Atari Inc. Business is Fun", this looks like it could really lift the lid on this once legendary company.

Scott Cohen's "Zap! The Rise and Fall of Atari" provided a fleeting look at the history of the the iconic brand, and I'm hoping that this new publication will present a more in-depth and detailed analysis of the company. Written by Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel, the book should prove to be well written, heavily researched and a fascinating read.

Both authors come with decent CV's. Marty Goldberg has worked at, currently freelances for Retro Gamer magazine, and is a co-founder of the Midwest Gaming Classic Expo. Meanwhile, Curt Vendel has a bachelor in computer science, and in 1998 founded the Atari History Museum Archives, amassing over 15,000 files, folders and documents.

So, what can we expect from this book? Here's the blurb...

The true story behind the company and brand that was synonymous with 'video games' in the 1970's and 80's, told by the people who were there making history. Dominating both the arcade and home - and fueled by the public's 'obsession' with technology, Atari pioneered high tech fun for a new generation. The ripple effect of Atari's influence in technology and pop culture has resonated throughout the decades, and into the 21st Century.

In an age where Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft now dominate the consumer industry, Gen-Xers and those lucky enough to have grown up during the "Age of Atari" still cling fondly to the memories of this period.

With roots dating back to 1969, when Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney formed a small engineering partnership, these two California entrepreneurs took a chance and introduced an exciting new technology to the world at a time when pinball was king. Forming Atari Inc. on June 27th, 1972, together they launched a company that would come to dominate and innovate what people did with their leisure time.

Purchased by Warner Communications in 1976, the sale of the company to this entertainment industry titan would ensure Atari invaded all areas of American culture, enabling the company to stake its claim as a worldwide phenomenon. Rapidly expanding into other forms of entertainment, computers and advanced high-tech research, Atari's innovation and influence was comparable to Apple's preeminence today.

... that is, was until Atari imploded spectacularly in 1984, taking most of the US video game industry with it. As a result, its cadre of talented people and advanced technology were unleashed across Silicon Valley. Many of these individuals are still working in the industries they helped pioneer.

For more information, visit the "Atari Inc. Business is Fun" section of the Atari Museum web site at, follow the team on Twitter @AtariBook or join their facebook group over at

When I finally manage to get my hands on a copy I'll post a full review to the blog in due course.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

30 Years of the ZX Spectrum - A Celebration!

Over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of September Spectrum fans from across the globe came together at the Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, to celebrate 30 years of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

As an owner of various Spectrums since 1982 I was keen to go, but felt that I couldn't really justify the travel time and costs getting to and from deepest darkest Cambridge. With many coming from other countries, I suppose I don't have much of an excuse, but there you go.

Thankfully, a number of those who did attend have filmed and written about their experiences, giving you the chance to see and read about what you missed.

The Centre For Computing History have put together a short write-up, along with various YouTube clips and a selection of photos they took on the day. You can find the article by pointing your browser HERE.

Andrew Edney of the Connected Digital World web site has written a short review, and uploaded a mass of lovely photos. You can find those HERE.

If it's just photos you're after, then you'll want to check out the snaps uploaded by World of Spectrum forumite schombi. There's an absolute stack of them, and you can find them HERE.

Happy birthday ZX Spectrum. Here's to the next 30!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Play MP3's on Your Amiga With MAS Player Evolution

One of the things I love about tinkering around on out of date technology is getting them to perform tasks that they simply weren't designed to do. Some would argue that it's rather pointless, and they may be right. So, why do I do it? Because it's FUN, that's why!

Earlier this year I decided to enhance my expanded Amiga 1200 Tower setup with a MAS Player Evolution Interface. This is a small grey box which connects to the Amiga's parallel port, enabling it to play MP3's up to 192kbps.

This small box of tricks contains MP3 decoding hardware, meaning the Amiga can pass the task of playing the tunes over to an external piece of circuitry, and leaving the Amiga's CPU to deal with other tasks as and when required.

Installing the hardware
Installing the hardware is a five minute task. The MAS Player plugs into the Amiga's parallel port, and a joystick connector comes from the device and goes into port 2. L and R audio jacks come from the Player, and connect to the respective ports on the Miggy.

The more observant of readers will have no doubt noticed that this device uses the Amiga's joystick port for power. Thankfully, the designers of the MAS Player have provided you with a through-port on the device, so you simply connect your joystick/pad to this.

Finally, sound comes out of the Player through a 3.5" audio jack, which you hitch up to your sound system.

Installing the software
Installing the software is rather more involved. The device comes bundled with some public domain MAS Player software, which is simple to install and get up-and-running. The probem is that it doesn't run in a Workbench window. Instead, it runs on its own screen, with some really odd screen resolution that shifts everything off to the right. Not good, but at least it's a quick way of testing the hardware works!

Thankfully, Amiga Amp works brilliantly with the MAS Player, and once you've got that installed you can not only play MP3's directly from your Amiga's hard drive, but create playlists, and even listen to audio streams off the internet. Absolute 80s seems rather appropriate in this case!

If you're thinking about adding a MAS Player Evolution to your Amiga setup then you'll need an Amiga with a 68020 or higher, at least 2 megabytes of fast RAM and a hard drive. Be aware that many MP3's have extremely long filenames - a feature not supported by the Amiga's bundled Fast File System. This isn't a major problem, but it will mean that you'll have to truncate filenames if you're importing tracks from a PC, Mac or Linux box. I'd recommend installing Smart File System, as this not only supports long filenames, but hard drive partitions up to 120GB.

The MAS Player Evolution is priced at £48.95, and can be purchased from Cardiff based

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Yesterday's News Today - It's The Spectrum Show!

It's back to the humble ZX Spectrum for today's blog post, as I want to point you in the direction of YouTube, and more specifically, The Spectrum Show.

Currently up to episode 8, The Spectrum Show is a semi-regular series of documentaries covering the history of Clive Sinclair's rubber-keyed-wonder, month-by-month, from March 1983 onwards.

Each episode (weighing in at just under 15 minutes each) covers the Spectrum news of that particular month, charting the highs and lows from that particular point in time.

Alongside a roundup of news from months gone by each show also contains a feature. Examples include a roundup of Space Invader clones, game creation, and Moon Patrol clones.

Production values of each episode are of an extremely high standard, and the narrator is clearly spoken, interesting and informative.

The eight episodes currently online and available for your viewing pleasure are:

Episode 1 - March 1983
Sinclair recalls a batch of Spectrum power supplies amid rumours they could be dangerous. There's news of delays for the forthcoming ZX Microdrive, and Penetrator and The Hobbit from Melbourne House, along with Arcadia from Imagine are riding high in the charts. This month's feature is a roundup of Space Invader clones.

Episode 2 - April 1983
This episode includes a review of the Wafadrive, a look at the games charts from this month in time, plus new games including More Tea Vicar and Maritrini are investigated.

Episode 3 - May 1983
Episode three covers the Spectrum news and new game releases. There's also an arcade shoot-out and comparison of various Spectrum versions of Asteroids. If that wasn't enough the show also reviews some early Quicksilva games and looks at some newer releases.

Episode 4 - June 1983
Along with the latest Spectrum news and new game releases, this episode tracks the evolution of the joystick interface, reviews some early Software Projects games and looks at a couple of newer releases.

Episode 5 - July 1983 - This July 83 episode features the first part of a game creation feature along with the usual old and new game reviews. They take a look at early and not-so-early CRL games, and report that 3000 Spectrum's (worth approximately £380,000) have been stolen from a warehouse by a gang wielding shotguns. Also this month, WHSmith confirm they will no longer be stocking further ZX81 titles as demand for the machine has dropped.

Episode 6 - August 1983
Here you'll find the second part of the game creation feature, a look at a couple of titles from Incentive Software, and a mix of old and new game reviews. The big hardware release this month is the Alphacom 32 printer, and the majority of 3000 stolen Spectrum's are recovered after the people who stole them attempted to sell them back to the suppliers they were originally intended to go to.

Episode 7 - September 1983
In this episode they take a look back to September 1983 to get all the latest Sinclair news and latest Spectrum game releases. There's also a Spectrum arcade shootout - this time it's Moon Patrol. Which of the Spectrum versions will come out on top? As well as this there's reviews of some older games and a few newer titles.

Episode 8 - October 1983
Here, the team go back to October 1983 to get all the latest Sinclair news and up-to-the-minute Spectrum game releases. They also "go large" (their words, not mine!) with Spectrum gaming, reviewing a selection of older and more up-to-date titles.

That little lot should keep you busy for an hour or two, and please, if you like what this guy's doing, make sure you leave him some feedback. Hopefully this will encourage him to keep going.

Happy viewing!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Adding a C64 to the Collection

This year retro gamers across the globe are celebrating the 30th anniversary of two legendary computing platforms - the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64.

Both systems were massive sellers. At one point in its history the humble Spectrum held the record as the UK's best selling home computer, while the Commodore 64 went on to become the best selling worldwide.

Back in 1982 my father bought our family a 48k ZX Spectrum. The C64 wasn't available to purchase at the time, and even if it had been, the price tag would have pushed it far out of his financial reach. Combine that with the Spectrum being designed and built in the UK, and it's no surprise to me that he went for the rubber-keyed wonder.

During my school days almost all of my friends had Spectrums. I don't know if these friendships were forged on the basis of what computer you owned, or if it was just a fluke that we all owned the same system, but looking back only one person I knew owned a BBC, one an Oric (poor guy!), and one a C64.

Besides playing the odd game on my friend's C64, my experience of the machine is limited at best. I did attempt to rectify that about 10 years ago, and ended up with a 'breadbin' model and two data recorders. Unfortunately both recorders were extremely temperamental, and I think I spent more time trying to get these to work than actually using the computer. In the end I got rid of all the kit after hardly touching it.

Recently, however, I've spent a lot of time listening to the Commodore Rock album that was given away as a cover CD by Retro Gamer magazine many years ago.

I've discovered that the sound produced by the famous SID chip really is amazing when put in the right hands, and over the past month or so I've been visiting YouTube and a number of C64 web sites to stream further tunes.

This all came to a head when the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine featured a massive section dedicated to 30 Years of The Commodore 64. Penned by regular contributor Andrew Fisher, this article detailed the history of the machine, spoke to some of the famous programmers of the platform, and also highlighted a stack of games to check out.

Once I'd ploughed through that article my mind was made up. I needed to add a C64 to the collection!

Following that decision I had questions. Which model should I go for? Should I go for a boxed setup or try and keep costs down by just going for an unboxed machine?

In the end I decided to let familiarity help me. Back in the day a friend of mine had a C64 Night Moves pack, and so it was off to Ebay to try and track one down.

Amazingly, I was the only bidder on a boxed C64 Night Moves pack, and got the machine for £40 plus a tenner delivery. I thought that was pretty reasonable. It also came with the data recorder, and a selection of extra games the previous owner had purchased.

The machine arrived a week or so back, and I've been spending the last few days trying out various classic games and demos.

Now I'm armed with my own C64 I'll be reporting on my experiences with the machine over the coming weeks and months.

Watch this space!