Amiganuts! POWER!

Today, I saved the life of my Amiga 1200. And I’m slightly relieved.

I’ve typed on here several times about my love of the Amiga 1200, the computer I received on Xmas Day 1993. But what do I mean about saving its life? I removed the battery. Yep, that’s it. I took the battery out. “Hang on”, says both of the Amiga aficionados reading this, “The Amiga didn’t have a battery”. Well, mine did, because I bought a memory expansion which also shipped with a real-time clock, and obviously, a battery backup for it.

Back in 2007, I dragged my Amiga out for a quick play, to see if a problem with the video circuitry had fixed itself in the 10 years it had been in storage. Unsurprisingly, it hadn’t and my screen was still just a jumbled mess. OH WELL. Back in the cupboard it went.

Years went by, and that cupboard fell pretty much out of action. Certain room reorganisations, and knowing there wasn’t much stuff in that particular cupboard meant it wasn’t really accessible anymore. But my Amiga was safe in storage.

Fast forward to 2013. Dave Jones, aka EEVBlog, posted a video about an old Archimedes computer he’d been sent. The video was going great, until he’d opened it up and found that the RTC battery had leaked, completely eating away at most of the circuitry, including the ROM sockets and keyboard connections, turning the machine into a beautiful, yet pricey paperweight. My heart sank. I knew my Amiga had what looked like the same battery, and although that machine was older, it wasn’t MUCH older, and the clock battery in my Amiga hadn’t been changed since I installed the expansion board in 1995, pushing it up to 22 years. That thing must have been a goner.

I spoke to Daddykins about something random, and I mentioned about my Amiga and leaking batteries. I was surprised to find the cupboard now slightly more accessible. Enough to squeeze an arm in, and pull out an Amiga, anyway. Maybe he’d realised I was right, and the little Miggy was worth saving!

I precariously opened the underside door on the machine to see what grotty state the board was in…. Aaand.

Not a speck of corrosion. And yes, I’d taken the battery out before I’d taken this, but it was still in there, and came out perfectly shiny.

So, my Amiga might live to fight another day. If I can get that graphics issue fixed.

I have much more to say about this fantastic machine, so stay tuned for some more inane rambling shortly… Bet you can’t wait.

Barnsley. Record buying, broken trees, and broken cars.

It appears that some people actually DO want to read about my purchasing of records. No, I can’t believe it either. Some of you may know that a week or two ago, I was lucky enough to visit the town of Barnsley. It all started because Daddykins wanted to buy some “radio equipment” and asked if I fancied a run down. Of course, the answer to this was yes, on one condition, I’d get to spend some time scurrying around the charity shops like a rat in a sewer, while he does what he needs to do, and then sits in the car, miserable as sin.

Seeing as Daddykins drives like Miss Daisy these days, the journey there hardly gets fast enough to get interesting. On the way down, he was talking to a DJ who used to work on TFM called Gary. Never found out his surname. That really was as exciting as the journey there got. I did enjoy it though, as it’s not very often I listen to Radio 2, but when I do, they usually have good music on. And by that, I mean old shite.

Naturally, before the jorney began, I’d hunted down some charity shops, so I’d have some knowledge of where I’m going. Google Maps did its job, and directed us to the shop he needed to go to, and also how I’d waste some of my time. Hurrah. It’s not often I get to visit a town on my own without someone else whinging over my shoulder at how bored they are, so I was going to make the most of it. I even considered turning my phone off, but Daddykins was going to ring me when he was done, and as I didn’t fancy a train home from a town I’m not familiar with, I kept it on.

I left Daddykins to do what he needed to do, and I added in the general direction of the shop I’d spied. It took me through a shopping centre, of whose name escapes me. Alambra? There’s possibly a H in there somewhere, but seeing as I have no regular readers in Barnsley (as far as I know), that will probably remain a mystery.

My internal Charity Shop GPS kicked in, and I was soon near the shop I’d spied from the road, but first a dive into a previously undiscovered “Age UK”. I’d picked up a few CD singles. The guy who served me almost creamed his pantaloons at the site of “You Do Something To Me” by Paul Weller. Admittedly, a nice find, but it was a bit scratched, and the case had seen better days. Same with the 1996 version of “big River” by Jimmy Nail. I’ve yet to play it, so I have no idea what the difference between this and the 1995 version are.

Onto Sense. This was the one I’d spied from the road, and, sadly, most of its CDs came from the awful feature that some charity shops have, of getting “replay” CDs. It’s usually exactly the same stock you see in Poundland, but for twice the price (£2 then – Ed.) Yes, precisely. If it comes pre-wrapped in cellophane, it doesn’t belong in a charity shop. There, rant over.

I did manage to score the theme to “The Wind In The Willows” on 7″, sung by Ralph McTell, for 75p. I have very hazy recollections of the show as a kid, so this was a nice find.

Those were the charity shops I’d known about, out of the way. the rest of the day would be a complete guess, except for a “Cash Generator” I’d spied on Google Maps, so I’d headed in the general direction of where I thought it was. Eventually, I’d found it. A complete waste of a walk. Quite a few DVDs, about 6 LPs and no CDs. Bugger again.

Slightly dejected, I headed back towards the shopping centre, as I’m sure Daddykins would be contacting me soon. I checked my phone. 3 texts saying he was ready. Whoops.

I rang him back, just as I’d hit a “rich vein” of charity shops, but there were about 5 in a row. The conversation went something like this…

“Yeah, I’m nearly done, I’ll just check this shop out, and oh, hello!”

I’d walked into “Cancer Research”, and my eyes darted over to shelves full of 7″ singles apparently in great condition, aaaaaand, at about £3 a pop, my heart sank. What didn’t make it any better was the fact they were CRAMMED into the shelves, making browsing pretty much impossible. Plus, there was some old guy who seemed to be persistent in holding the best position in front of these records. I abandoned them. I have many thoughts on charity shops that don’t know how to price records.

There were a couple of other shops I checked out. I could have picked up an original 1987 pressing of Kylie Minogue’s first album on CD, but I already have it, so decided to save the 33p. This was the last weekend before pay day, so I really was watching the pennies. Admittedly, it was another shop with a wacky pricing structure.

I phoned Daddykins, saying I was on the way back. He’d happened to be speaking to the guys in the shop where he was at, who said there was an antiques centre just over the road from where he was parked, and that it was a decent pace for records. I was intrigued, but knowing about these type of places, I had a feeling the records would have been overpriced, and pretty much scrap. the weather had dried up by this point, so I’d dropped the small collection of records I’d collected, and bribed a look around the afore-mentioned shop by presenting Daddykins with the last bite of a sausage roll and a bottle of coke. It did the trick, but I promised I’d be straight out if they weren’t up to my pricing grade or quality standard.

they were, and I admit I’d felt a little guilty as I had a proper rummage in the crates. First one out was the 12″ of “For America” by Red Box. A song I don’t expect anyone reading this to know, but yes, I like it.

then came the find of the day. For years, my friends know I collect crap music, and have suggested titles that I’ve somehow eventually tracked down. One had evaded me. A piece of plastic so deplorably cheap that they could only print the cover in black and white. A truly disgusting specimen that would probably survive a nuclear holocaust, along with Formica and cockroaches.

I’ve yet to play it. Instead, I’m saving it for a special edition of “I Bet You Don’t Like This”. I’m aware it’s on Youtube, but actually playing a physical copy of it is much worse.

So, we left Barnsley, in pretty much the same state we found it, minus several records and a piece of radio equipment. Daddykins decided to head towards Doncaster on the way out, as it’s apparently easier to get home, or something. It’s a change of scenery from the way down, so nothing wrong there.

Except for when we happened to pass under a tree, just as the branch became detached. THUD. I do try to keep my expletives under control around Daddykins, but even I couldn’t help but let out a “Fucking hell!” A split second earlier and it had went through the windscreen.

Although it doesn’t look like much, apparently, it’s not a cheap fix, as although the bumper popped right back in place, it’s also knocked the headlight out of place, broke the clips, and oh god, we should have just got the bloody thing delivered….

Antother adventure with “That’s Entertainment”. And crisps

Long suffering viewers will know I collect CDs, to the point of hoarding, so I’m always on the lookout for a bargain or seven.

I attended work (for only three times this week, thank you peepers), and a colleague, who is also into music informed me that the “That’s Entertainment” store at Dalton Park was closing down. This was good news to me. It meant that they’ll be having a “clearance event”, and getting shot of a load of old stock that they can’t be bothered to ship off to other stores, or back to the magical warehouse, full of whimsy and music.

Saturday came around all too quickly, and off I jolly well popped. Usual route to Peterlee, and then I’d get the 22 bus from there to Dalton Park. No dramas. Excfept I found that a rival company had started running a service that goes pretty much directly to Dalton Park, and it stops at the bottom of Mercuryvapour Towers’ leafy driveway, give or take a few hundred metres. So, I could have saved myself the hassle of waiting half an hour for a bus. Anyway, I rattle on enough about buses on Facebook, I’m sure you don’t care on this.

Aaaaanyway. Two bus journeys, and I find myself outside of Dalton Park. It’s a weird shaped shopping complex, rather like half a horseshoe, with strange plastic sheeting covering the aisles. You know, the stuff that’s permanent, but goes mouldy really quickly, so looks rotten after a couple of years. I didn’t come here for any other shop other than “That’s Entertainment”, and I skipped on merrily by, as I ignored the rest of the shops..

In the window, there was a sign that said “75% off all replay stock”. Those are the second hand CDs which I was looking for! This could be interesting. A quick glance around the shop showed that most of the things worth anything (for me, CDs) had already disappeared – either been sold, or sent back to the warehouse. Not sure, but my heart sank a little when I noticed *the* little blue table. This was where the 49p CDs were housed. It was completely empty. Not a disc in sight. Couldn’t help but think my journey was completely wasted. That was, until I took 5 steps forwards, and noticed an almost entire wall, crammed full of 49p CDs.

And, not only were there thousands of them, but it turns out they were actually giving them away at 12p each, and multi-disc sets actually counted as one disc. Sometimes, they’re a bit picky about that, but the deal of the collection was 5 Simon + Garfunkel CDs and a DVD for that very price. 2p a disc. Thank you to the totally random guy who tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d be interested in it. Yes, sir. Yes, I would.

At some point, I’d ventured the shop looking for a shopping basket, as the pile of loose discs I’d picked out was looking pretty precarious. This also meant selecting discs was a lot easier. they’d just get thrown in, and I could sort them out later.

After about 2 hours, I gave in. I was in pain from repetitiveness, standing with my head slumped, looking down as my halds flipped quickly through the CDs was starting to give me neck ache. I don’t think I touched half of the stock. Nothing more that could have been done. I did end up with a couple of duffers, namely 2 pirated Now 74 discs, and a Now 31 disk, professionally pirated. Both of which I had anyway, but if I had checked the discs before I took them to the counter, they’d be in a skip right now.

The day wasn’t over. [Person who doesn’t like to be named in public] picked me up, and we went through to Newcastle. A walk-around the usual shops, including a check in PC World to see if the hard drive prices had gotten any lower (they hadn’t), and a quick perv in All Saints because some of the ladies in there have really nice bottoms. (Careful, Jamie, some of the girls might be offended by that – Ed). Oh, OK, They ALL have lovely bottoms.

The day was nearing an end, and I had one last stop to make. A chain store named “Bargain Buys” sell these really nice crisps.

Daddykins also likes these particular crisps, and a multipack of 6 different types are £1, so I thought I’d stock up, and get 4 packs. I get to the till, and the guy offers me a 50-pack box of Golden Wonder “snacks” (Cheesy balls, Onion Rings, and Salt ‘n’ Vinegar Sticks) for £1 because the expiry date was the day after. Personally, I think they had a little competition between the staff members, as when I agreed to purchase, he seemed overly enthusiastic. Still, crisps don’t go poisonous overnight, and almost a week later, they’re still perfectly edible.

This was where I originally was going to conclude the blog, as the bargain hunting was over for the day. I never fully finished writing it, as I got sidetracked by Pinball, or something. 2 sleeps later, Monday arrived. It was an uneventful day at work at Employment Palace. I finished, headed for the bus, and missed it by about a minute. Oh well. Thankfully, this job, unkile my last one, means that if I miss a bus, I can just cut through the shopping centre, and get all number of buses (Three, actually) close to Mercuryvapour Towers.

So, I begin to cut through the shopping centre. One of my new haunts is a shop called “ReNew”, which is a bit like “That’s Entertainment”, albeit with less organisation. CDs are placed on the shelf by letter, but it’s a gamble whether the letter is the artist, or the album title. The are also large wooden bins where CDs are just thrown in without order. Everything is £2 per disc, or 3 for £5.

Anyhooooo, this particular Monday, I walked past, and there were balloons outside, and staff holding charity donation buckets. Normally, I’d go in the opposite direction at the site of such a contraption, but I was curious. It turns out they were laving a literal stock clearance, and giving everybody who went in there 10 CDs / DVDs (in total), as long as you put a donation in the bucket.

I donated every penny I had on me at the time, and I hope my 65p helps!

Goodbye Micro Mart, I shall remember you fondly.

Ah, so 2017 starts off with the first sad death of the year… my favourite little magazine… “Micro Mart”.

Well, OK, technically, it died last year, as this last issue is dated 29th December – 31st Never, but still, I didn’t find out until I was browsing a local WH smith.

I must start by saying , I wasn’t a prolific reader, and instead decided to just pick up an occasional issue, either when looking for a new PC (or parts for an existing PC). In fact, it was waay back in 1996, when one of my old college lecturers told me about it, and especially one of their advertisers, called something like “Page 72”, who, you guessed it, always ran their adverts on Page 72. I’m probably wrong with the page number there, but I always thought it was a nifty little martketing tool. You’d always know where to find them!

In fact, I bought my very first computer from out of a Micro Mart advert, around that same time, possibly from that very first issue I bought. Of course, way back in 1996, the internet barely existed. For me, it had only just started existing, and I certainly didn’t have the ability to shop for a new PC. I relied on the pages of Micro Mart to tell me what I was looking for. And it didn’t disappoint.

My very first PC was a Pentium 166Mhz (With MMX no less!), 16Mb RAM, 2Gb hard drive, and a 1Mb graphics card. Eventually, I outgrew this little machine, and the next one I bought also came from the hallowed pages of Micro Mart.

Time gre on, the internet became plentiful, and I didn’t really rely on Micro Mart for anything after that, but my love for it didn’t die. In the back of my mind, I’d be in a service station somewhere, or an airport, and I’d think to myself “Well, I’ll need something to fill the journey time”, and I’d walk out with a copy of MM under my arm. Sometimes I’d even pay for it!

Ho ho, I jest. In all seriousness, print medium when it comes to computer magazines is shrinking all of the time. Although there’s roughly 100 feet of shelf space in every large WH Smith, the computer section is dwindling rapidly. The vast majority of what’s left, taken up with “special” publications which seem to hang around for months, and the old established monthlies (and in MM’s case, even more frequent) are going to the great paper pulper in the sky. And I, for one, will miss them.

RIP Micro Mart.

It’s a complicated entry into 2017!

And you’re welcome to it! I can’t guarantee what time this post will appear, but I can guarantee it’ll be in the following year it’s typed from, for you see, although I’ll set the post to automatically release its contents at a second past midnight in the year of our lord 2017, it won’t appear until someone visits the website. Something about it triggering cron jobs, or something. Sounds rude, anyway.

So, going by my current visitor tally, and people who actually read this, it’ll appear around 3rd January… everyone will be going back to work, and not giving a flying toss about what I’m typing or who it’s aimed at.

I think I wished a happy 2016. That went well. Just do whatever you can to survive in 2017, and I might write shit about it.