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.

Some old ramblings…

I was trawling through some old CDs, and found something that brought back so many memories, it’s untrue. Way back in the Amiga days, I used to do some programming. And by that, I used to faff around in AMOS knocking together daft little programs, and upload them to Aminet. Basically, anything tha twas free for the amiga went on there. And it was a great site.

It must have been back in 1996 when I released a crap little game called “Reaction”. The screen would say “GO!” and you’d hit a button as fast as you could to get the lowest score.

My memory is blank on what this looked like, and what it played like, but the Readme file is still available. It mentions “FOX PD”. That’s a repressed memory for another day!

Anyway, where am I going with this?

Half of my life ago (at the time of typing), I was at college, and expected to do a placement, and I ended up at some accountancy place. It was a weird setup, sort-of a company within a company. They dealt with software.

Anyway, me, a spotty 18 year old layabout, in his first ever foray into the work environment, didn’t really enjoy it. It was the first time I’d ever have to work over the summer, and my entire time there, I never felt like I was neither needed, nor wanted. The two people who worked there would often have to go out to site visits to repair or reinstall software. This was before the internet, and patches were mainstream, so as you can imagine, once a software upgrade came out, they’d have to run around the north-east, installing the updates.

This meant I often had very little to do. Sometimes I’d write up college work, sometimes they’d have me typing out letters and stuffing the envelopes. This was the first place I ever had a computer to myself. Inside it was a 33.6K modem. And did I know the password? Did I bollocks.

It was awful. For the very first time, I had the world (wide web) at my fingertips, and this one little dialogue box stood in my way. One day, the boss gave me the password. And no work was done that day week month.

There doesn’t seem to be a point to that story. There isn’t. But, while I was there, and had the full rip of a computer, I decided to have a bit of a play. Part of my college work from the early days was to design something written in basic, and for this, we were provided with a copy of Turbo BASIC on floppy disk (a copy, of course). This has the advantage of being able to compile .exe files.

Anyway, back to my original workplace. The guesome twosome were out installing something somewhere, and I was left to my own devices. Somewhere, out of the blue, I received an email, thanking me for my original Amiga game. I guess that spurred me on to sit down and write a PC follow-up. I think the whole thing took half an hour. Maybe longer.

Anyway. I remember compiling it, and never actually giving it to anybody, or uploading it anywhere of relevance. I maybe had a copy on whichever website I as running at the time, but just like this one, its viewing figures are minimal.

I was 18 then. 18 years later, I’m trawling through some old catalogued CDs for a particular file, and I find one called “reaction.bas”. Could it be that the original file has survived for so long? Well, it seems I “updated” it back in 1999, but the guts are still there, and amazingly, saved in text format. Here’s the … ahem… “source”, in all its glory. I’ve had to remove a couple of comments, because in hindsight they’re probably slanderous!

1 rem ****************************************************
2 rem * REACTION - The only game where is pays to have a *
3 rem * shit machine! Programmed by Arctic Fox 27/5/98   *
4 rem * VERSION 1.02! (30/12/1999)			 *
5 REM ****************************************************
10 cls
11 RANDOMIZE TIMER
20 color 3,0,0
30 print "  ###   ####   ###  #####  #   ### "
31 print " #   #  #   # #   #   #    #  #   #"
32 print " #   #  #   # #       #    #  #    "
33 print " #####  ####  #       #    #  #    "
34 print " #   #  # #   #       #    #  #    "
35 print " #   #  #  #  #   #   #    #  #   #"
36 print " #   #  #   #  ###    #    #   ### "
37 print
38 print "         #####  ###  #   #"
39 print "         #     #   # #   #"
40 print "         #     #   #  # # "
41 print "         ##### #   #   #  "
42 print "         #     #   #  # # "
43 print "         #     #   # #   #"
44 print "         #      ###  #   #"
45 color 5,0,0:print "Presents:"
46 color 15,0,0:print:print "REACTION!!!"
50 print "The first program written in 1998 GUARANTEED to work on an"
51 print "8086. In fact it'll work better on one. If you have a P400"
52 print "then you may as well quit now."
53 print:color 12,0,0:print "Press any key to continue!"
60 if inkey$="" then goto 60
62 CLS:LOCATE 1,1
65 for d=0 to 21
70 for x=0 to 10000
71 next x
72 print "REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION!"
80 NEXT D
90 FOR X = 0 TO 20000
100 NEXT X
110 CLS
120 PRINT "THE IDEA OF THIS GAME IS TO STOP THE COUNTER AT THE LOWEST"
130 PRINT "NUMBER POSSIBLE. YOU CAN DO THIS BY PRESSING ANY KEY!"
140 PRINT "SOUND EXCITING? WELL.. NOT EXACTLY, BUT SOMEONE LIKED"
150 PRINT "THE AMIGA VERSION I WROTE! (2 YEARS AFTER RELEASE I"
160 PRINT "RECEIVED AN EMAIL!)"
170 PRINT "ANYWAY, GET READY WITH THAT KEYBOARD AND";:COLOR 11,0,0:PRINT" BE PREPARED!"
180 PRINT:PRINT "PRESS ANY KEY TO BEGIN"
190 IF INKEY$="" THEN GOTO 190
200 print "Marks... Set..."
195 CLS
205 D = INT (RND * 500000)+1
210 FOR X = 0 TO d
230 NEXT X
235 print "GO!!!!!"
240 FOR g=0 TO 10000 step 0.5
241 if inkey$<>"" then goto 250
242 locate 2,2:print INT(g)
245 next g
246 beep
250 IF g=0 THEN F$="False start!! Please try again..."
260 if g>0 and g<1000 then f$="Cool! Now find the hidden messages..."
270 if g>1000 and g<2000 then f$="Yeah! You could do better though!"
271 if g=561 then f$="To MASC - no-one likes you."
272 if g=472 then f$="The one with the jelly in the middle."
273 if g=639 then f$="Email me. [removed] "
274 if g=628 then f$="I like children, but I couldn't eat a whole one."
275 if g=213 then f$="Toooobe."
276 if g=178 then f$="This is hidden message number 1."
277 if g=841 then f$="Alan Robson is the king of talk shows. Except Tom Davies."
278 if g=562 then f$="These numbers are picked randomly."
279 if g=921 then f$="The secret of my success is my good looks."
280 if g>2000 and g<3000 then f$="It's good, but in an average sort of way..."
281 if g=2419 then f$="I'm at work typing this. I really should be doing some."
282 if g=2719 then f$="I've hidden 100 messages. Find them all and win a prize. Offer ends yesterday."
283 if g=2611 then f$="This is program line 283. Cool, eh?"
284 if g=2534 then f$="Reaction ver 1.02 29/5/1998 by [me]"
285 if g=2524 then f$="Programmed using Turbo Basic, you know!"
286 if g=2172 then f$="Greets go to Daniel, who emailed me about the Amiga version!"
287 if g=2511 then f$="... [The Boss] for leaving the office while I did this..."
288 if g=2473 then f$="... and the cat ran away with the money."
289 if g=2162 then f$="Toilet."
290 if g>3000 and g<4000 then f$="Quite poor really, isn't it?"
291 if g=3128 then f$="email: [no loner works]"
292 if g=3829 then f$="Visit [a website]. Tell them AF sent you."
293 if g=3239 then f$="Duke: You peed on my face. I hate you."
294 if g=3814 then f$="When you get to hell, tell them REACTION sent you!"
295 if g=3629 then f$="Lucky message #26."
296 if g=3221 then f$="Hackers, note the bug at $00A4F before recompiling."
297 if g=3422 then f$="Mr. Do! Is the best arcade game of all time."
298 if g=3912 then f$="Lesley, where are you? I love you! I still have your tape."
299 if g=3333 then f$="All the threes..."
300 if g>4000 and g<5000 then f$="Good score! Erm, no. I lied."
301 if g=4820 then f$="Hell! 18 months after starting, I finally get back to it"
302 if g=4204 then f$="HAPPY MILLENIUM!"
303 IF g=4021 then f$="[Removed]"
304 if g=4793 then f$="DAVID ICKE! DAVID ICKE! WAYNE, YOU LOVE HIM!"
305 if g=4309 then f$="Thinking up 100 messages like this isn't easy y'know."
306 if g=4621 then f$="That's probably why I left it for so long."
307 if g=4291 then f$="[removed link]"
308 if g=4999 then f$="Score 4291 and find out how to get paid to surf!"
309 if g=4522 then f$="Bum!!"
310 if g>5000 and g<6000 then f$="Come on! Connect your keyboard!"
320 if g>6000 and g<7000 then f$="The idea of the game is to PRESS the button!"
330 if g>7000 and g<8000 then f$="You really ARE using a pII400!"
340 if g>8000 and g<9000 then f$="Oh dear..."
350 if g>9000 and g<10000 then f$="You play badly."
360 if g>10000 then f$= "Way too slow. Try again."
390 cls
400 print INT(g):print:print f$
410 ?:?:?:?:PRINT "(Hiscore not available in this version)
411 ?:?:?"Please wait, or press X to quit"
500 for x=0 to 25000
501 if inkey$="x" or inkey$="X" then end
502 next x
503 cls
504 goto 1

So, some of the explanations. “ARCTIC FOX” was my old CB handle at the time. It was before I started using “scribbler”, and many years before “mercuryvapour”.

MASC… think I went to college with him. Think I said I was mentioning him in the game.

Alan Robson and Tom Davies are both still hosting talk shows.

Duke was a dog, the father to both of my dogs (now only one dog), And he really did pee on my face. He died many years ago and I didn’t hate him.

The program itself was obviously not CPU optimised. It ran as fast as your CPU ran. IT’ll be almost impossible to register any type of score these days. That is, if there’s anything that can even compile it these days. Oh wait… Minecraft?

People of ZX Spectrum land!

I’ve been going through some old tapes, and found the following (rather knackered) recording. I have no recollection which game it’s from, but if you do, I’d appreciate it if you let me know!

[UPDATE 10/2/2014]
Poot, 28 comments and 160+ downloads of the file and still no further forward! I’ll keep searching. Thanks all for the help so far though!

[UPDATE 19/11/2014]
Added this to the Spectrum 4 Ever Facebook group, on the off-chance someone knows what it is. To answer questions, yes, the tape is knackered. It would have been a recording taken directly from my Speccy+’s Ear socket, into a cheap “slimline” tape recorder. Probably running of batteries, I can’t remember.

White rabbit, white rabbit, and indeed, white rabbit

I’m sure I’ve started a blog post off with the same title before, but hey, I’m sure you can forgive me, seeing as I’m currently working through 2014 at what is currently a post a month. I’ve been busy, you see. Adding things to the site, updating things behind the scenes and….well, not much I can really type about really. In time-honoured tradition, however, I have been collecting shite record again, and I began to type a blog regarding this, and a recent acquisition, however, I never finished it… seeing as I’m all resourceful and all that, here’s what I wrote…

I’m starting the blog with the title of the last album I bought Because I can, and because I’m ashamed of myself, and need to get this out onto the internet in order to share my pain.

I say this as if buying crap music is a bad thing. To me it’s not, as every record like this I own has some type of deeper hidden meaning, going back to memories of my childhood, and this was no exception.

Let’s go back. Waaay back. Late 80s. I was never allowed to have a big music collection, nor have anything to play it on. the small amount of pocket money that I received, eventually ended up going on computer games or the latest copy of Your Sinclair. therefore, all of the tapes I got tended to be hand-me-downs, from friends ond family. One of my main sources of music was long time troll, prolific negative commentor and dweller of the east, Chad Phillips. Normally the tapes were copies, and not of particular good quality either. Still, to an untrained 8-year-old ear, this wasn’t a problem. they were likely going to be played through a slimline tape recorder, with a speaker so tinny, dogs three estates away would be pricking up their ears.

One of these tapes was a battered looking Philips C-30, exactly like this one…

I don’t have the exact tape to hand unfortunately, so that’s one from the bowels of Google Image Search. I’m sure I’ll update the post if and when the actual tape turns up. Yes, I’m that sad.

And, on this tape was, as you can hopefully have worked out by now, was “Party Party” by Black Lace. It wasn’t exactly a good copy, and part of it was missing, especially the first track on side 2, “Knock three Times”, apparently a remake of the Tony Orlando / Dawn song, or whoever sang it originally. Now, to this day I have still never heard it in its entireity, because the reason why it was missing is that Chad had taped over this particular track with a puppet show. No, really. An audio puppet show. Chad has always been a few years older than me (though by some of this comments on here, you wouldn’t think it), but even I, at the time, thought it was a bit odd.

Oops, turns out I wrote about pretty much the same thing in 2006… here’s what I wrote back then…

Other yearnings towards the business side of things also came in the form of another audio tape, which sadly no longer exists. During his school days, he’d made some paper mache puppets, and Barry, David and Chad held a puppet show in Barry’s back kitchen. I wasn’t present at the time, and considering they were doing a puppet show and recording it on AUDIO tape, most of it was indecipherable bollocks. Except for the end. Chad came on and said the following, despite being interrupted by David…

“If you think(ALRIGHT!)… If you think this puppet show was any good, then…. please give us summing.”

No, he wasn’t requesting mathematical puzzles. “Please give us summing” is best Hartlepool twang for “Please can we have something for our efforts?” The tape then cuts to the last few seconds of Black Lace, performing “Knock Three Times” from their “Party Party” album. It was a beige C-30 tape, manufactured by Philips, ironically enough.

Darnit, I hate repeating myself. I never repeat myself. repeating myself is something that I will never do, such as repeating myself. As for the tape not existing, I’m sure it does. Dunno where though.

You can see the details on the record in all its glory here And that’s that. I never finished the post, as the whole reason why I wrote it, was that it was taking my mind off a doctors appointment. God, I still hate that fucking place.

I digress. As you can probably tell, that’s another part of the site I’ve resurrected – the music collection. Yes, once again, you can have a static HTML view of my ever increasing record collection. I’m sure you can’t hold the excitement down. I’m also planning to do something I’ve been planning to do for ages, but haven’t managed to do it, and that’s to help possible fellow music collectors out, and do a review / directory of the charity shops in this fair town, along with how they fare when it comes to music collecting… what the size of their stock is, price, condition, that type of thing. I’m totally aware that it’s an incredibly niche subject, but it’ll give me something to do. Watch this space.

Blog on the tyne is all mine, all mine

For those of you who follow me on Facebook can’t have failed to notice that Rob, one of my 3 readers, has been begging me to do a review of a song. Any song. It sounded like a simple challenge, which the more I thought of it, the harder it got. Songs which I’d never heard for years came flooding back. “oooh, Maybe I should review Sinead Lohan’s ‘What Ever it Takes’… again”. Ohhh, how about “Wash Your Face In My Sink” by The Dream Warriors? Nope, nobody’s ever heard of it, and it’s garbage anyway.

With every facebook post, Rob would add another comment asking me to do it, , and each time, another slew of ideas would come flashing through my mind, blocking everything else out, meaning I’d be running through “Susanna” by The Art Company, and I’d suddenly forget how to breathe. Or something.

I gave up. I wasn’t going to be able to choose a song. It was never going to happen. Therefore, after a couple of comments on Facebook, it was time to let Rob choose a song or two…

Rob: Love it. But PLEASE do a record review!
Me: You know, I can’t decide which one to review. Here’s my music collection, choose a few.

A few moments went by…

Rob: It’s HUGE!

I switched off the webcam, and gave him the correct link to my music collection. Within a few moments, we had choices…

Ok Zig & Zag Them Girls Them Girls
Paul Gascoigne Fog On The Tyne
Bill & Ben Flobbadance

Judging by the title of this entry, I hope you can guess which one I went with.

And so, last night, I went to do a video A walk home from the offy last night filled my head full of ideas. Unfortunately my microphone is knacked, the one in the camera is guff, and I’m sure I can just as well communicate what I was going to say in the video, in a more textual format. Plus, I’m a shitty-arse when it comes to copyright infringement, so a blog entry means I don’t have to rip the song off. Woohoo, and all that. So, with the formalities out of the way, let’s get down to it.

In 1972, Geordie folk-rock group Lindisfarne released a tribute to their home town in the form of a song, the aptly named “Fog on the Tyne”. Despite lyrics about signing on the dole, it pretty much became the band’s anthem, alongside “Meet Me On the Corner”. They would continue to have other hits through the 70s and 80s.

Fast forward to 1990. the world was gripped by Italia 90. The world cup, in other words. Gazza would be forever remembered for getting a yellow card, then bursting into tears during the match against West Germany, which meant he’d miss the final if England made it that far. Suddenly, the country had a hero. A footballer with emotion. His lacrimations were all in vain anyway, as we didn’t reach the final, and finished 4th. Oh well.

Now, I don’t know the reasons WHY this record got comissioned, I’m sure, that if it wasn’t for that yellow card, I wouldn’t be holding this single right now. Gazza was a Geordie, Lindisfarne were Geordies [citation needed], and what way to combine the two than to have them “sing” together on a record. Well.

I’ve actually owned a copy of this song since Xmas 1991. Back then, supermarkets weren’t commonplace. Certainly not as commonplace as they were now. After visiting my cousin Julie, who was living in Stockton at the time, we went to the “Somerville Hypermarket” (the greatest store for the way you live today… I’m so sad I still remember the radio jingle for it). This place was massive, and it was the first time I’d been to somewhere that sold everything you could think of. I remember being in the record section with my aunt Rose, and her picking up a tape for my uncle Jimmy, thinking he would like it. It was “The Hit Pack“. I couldn’t fault the logic at the time. There were a couple of 60s/70s songs on there, either re-released or covered by another band. “Fog On The Tyne” being one of those. There were other songs that wouldn’t have been up Uncle Jimmy’s alleyway… Deee-Lite? the Charlatans? My word, even the slightest mention of “Cubik” by 808 State would have sent his hearing aid into a frenzied panic of whistling.

Xmas time came, and I received a copy of this album. Hurrah! Maybe it was that actual same tape? I don’t know. I’m not bothered. I was happy to have a good copy of “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera. The Gazza song is also on the tape version, but it rarely got played, and the song, for me, disappeared into obscurity.

Whilst in a charity shop in Stockton earlier this year, I picked up a copy. TEN WHOLE PENNIES. I got it home, only to find it had a crack right through the centre. TEN WHOLE PENNIES IN THE BIN. Luckily, during another charity shop dive, I picked up a copy for 40p, and that’s how I ended up with a vinyl copy of this staggering turd.

The cover features a shell-suited Gazza, with a pair of headphones apparently screaming into a microphone. the back of the cover features Gazza again, in a different shell suit, surrounded by the band, with the Tyne bridge as a backdrop. The record label is “Best Records”. I’ve not seen anything else by that record label, so whether it was set up just for that particular record, I do not know.

It says a lot when the people who mixed it wish to remain anonymous. The cover states “Mixed by BB and M”. Clearly, two people didn’t want this record on their CV.

So, the tune itself. Take a classic local song, slap a synthesized drumbeat / bassline over it and get a famous footballer to rap (or rather, speak) over the top of it, and you’ve pretty much got the song. Naturally, some words were replaced, the section about signing on the dole was replaced with Gazza “setting his sights on go-go-go-goals. The entire verse about urination was omitted from the new version.

the B-side is an uninteresting instrumental. the only thing missing is Gazza’s “Vocals”.

So, in conclusion, this song is like having a rock-hard shit. 3 minutes, 42 seconds of sheer, unbearable pain, followed by insurmountable relief when it’s all over.

Judge for yourselves…