More Amiga stuff… Some Gravity Power Levels!

One thing I loved about the Amiga was the creative aspect of it. In fact, I’m sure the first program I loaded up on that fateful Xmas day in 1993, was Deluxe Paint IV. Being able to create your own “stuff” is what set it aside from the 8-bit machines. My main computer of choice during my childhood was the ZX Spectrum. Sure, I could do stuff with it, like write programs and all of that, but loading and saving stuff to tape was a nightmare. It certainly wasn’t convenient, and tape, to me back then, was a commodity not to be wasted. It was precious, and in short supply, and my creations would often get overwritten with other junk, or stuff from the radio.

When my amiga arrived, it opened up a whole new world of possibility and wonderment. No longer did I have to rely on tapes. Disks were faster, (barely) more reliable, larger storage capacity and more plentiful than the much maligned cassette tape.

Of course, fast forward a year, and up pops the hard drive! even faster, definitely more reliable than floppy disks, and I could store almost 300 floppies onto the drive. The posibilities really were endless. I created quite a bit of “stuff” – pictures, music, level designs, and that’s what the below video is about…

Gravity Power was a “covergame” – a free game that came sellotaped to the 50th edition of Amiga Power. I loved playing it with my friend Wayne back in the day. Several months later, an editor got released for it, and myself and Wayne would spend many an afternoon blasting levels out for it. Due to the fact I was at college at the time and had access to the internet, I rounded all of these up and put them on Aminet. Now, thanks to modern technology, I travel back in time to play these levels…. or at least view them in the editor!

Over the coming weeks, I intend to dig a little deeper into what went through my creative mind as a teenager, and just see how embarrassing / awesome it all is. At the end, I tease about some “Worms Directors Cut” levels… that might just be my next video once I get round to filming it!

Pointy thing in my arm…

I hate to drag you away from the excitement that’s been the Amiga posts (Trust me, there’s plenty more to come!) but yesterday was the day of my first COVID jab. Nothing more than that, nothing less. Just mainly for my records, and the fact this begins the 15 week path to freedom. Maybe.

My Amiga drive! It lives!

Today is a joyous day. well, yes, technically, it was yesterday now, but quite unbelieveably, my Amiga drive survived, and I’m over the moon to confirm that it actually works.

I know, over the last few days, I’ve promised some type of fanfare, or some type of great reveal about it. I decided that it would just be the worst thing, that I spent the time setting up a live stream, getting all excited, and finding that the drive didn’t work, or not spin up, or anything like that. Obviously, I’m typing this now, so I can confirm none of this actually happened. But still, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

On the off-chance, anyone is here to find out how to convert an A1200 hard drive to a machine readable format, let me give you a quick run-down. Now, unfortunately, despite me slamming the “PrtScr” button for all its worth, I totally forgot that UAE and Dropbox don’t play nicely when it comes to taking screenshots, so sadly, I didn’t get any of the procedure, but it was unbelieveably painless. The one thing to remember is that you *must* run WinUAE as administrator, otherwise the drive will appear with [ACCESS DENIED] next to it.

I initially had a panic about having to set the amount of heads and cylinders, but thankfully, this never materialised. Despite the drive’s age, it still had an automatic config, and WinUAE picked it up correctly. It’s then just a case of creating the image fine, and sitting back while it chugs though.

I was almost certain there was one bad sector on the drive, so I watched with baited breath, as the bar chugged its way across the disk, and evetually to the end. Nothing reported, we were all good to go. I hoped.

I mounted the image, held my breath, and pressed “Start”…

It’s a picture of a street light. I have no idea where this streetlight was (EDIT: See the end of the post). It caused me mto let out the biggest yelp of excitement in a very, very long time. This was the image I chose to display, way back in 1996ish, while my amiga went through its “startup-sequence”. It looks low-quality now, compared to the megapixels of 2021, but back in the day, to have a full colour image showing on your TV was quite a sight to behold. The image is slightly broken, as it turned out I was using the standard non-Commodore / Cloanto ROM that comes with WinUAE. It proved, at least, the drive image worked.

A quick switch over to a better ROM, and oh-my, away we went. This is where I would have left it so many years ago.

Turns out I was slightly wrong in my years, about the last time it booted up. Turns out the last time it was properly used was December 2000 – in one of the first posts I ever did on this site, I slapped this image up… (EDIT: Hopefully I’ll remember to fix this at some point, oops)

I’d forgotten about this, and was surprised to see a webcam image (oddly not mine, an image I saved of a mate and his ex from back in the day), with a timestamp of 2000, then yes, I had flashbacks of connecting a modem to my Amiga’s serial port, then transferring data using the two landline numbers we had back in the day. While this allowed SOME data to come off, the speed, and technical issues meant that I was only able to pull off a few megs of info, nothing close to the funn contents of the drive.

There was also a brief connect of the computer back in the mid 2000s, but this was only for a few minutes, as I’d discovered the graphics failure my Amiga had suffered had got considerably worse. From what I’ve seen, this could be leaky capacitors, but to me, at least, at the time of typing, the value of keeping my Amiga, all lived in the data stored on this drive. My worry about never being able to power it on again, all came from the worry about not seeing what was on here.

Amiga emulaton has came on leaps and bounds since I first heard about UAE – back when its name stood for “Unusable Amiga Emulator” because all it would display is a black screen. It’s 2021 and it’ll play everything I’ve thrown at it, but most importaly, I’ve got my hard drive. I can access everything that was on it. I’ve already got several security copies of the image on servers all around the world (y’know, just in case I was to listen to some .mods during the apocalypse), and the whole thing just feels like the end of a 25-year chapter.

Saying that, it also opens a new one. Granted, now, 240Mb is barely any information at all, but it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts. The next few days will be just exploring the drive, and seeing just exactly what has survived over the years

EDIT: Naaaah. You won’t have believe that I’ve just found, because I can’t believe it either. That image above…. STILL EXISTS on the internet. Now, all I have to go ff was the name, SUNSET.JPG. Not really very descriptive. Tonight, for some unknown reason that’s not even coming to mind, I started doing a Google Maps wander around Los Angeles. I noticed, concidentally, that the lighting columns looked very similar to what was on my Amiga’s startup screen. Just for giggles, I typed into Google Image search “Los Angeles Sunset 1996”. I incremented down the years, and sure enough, when I reached 1992, up came the original image…

So, I feel I absolutely must give credit to the fine folks at the City of Los Angeles Public Works – Bereau of Street Lighting for this almost 30-year-old image, and I hope you don’t mind me using this image for what is, essentially, one man’s lonely deep-dive into his own braincells during a desparately lonely lockdown period. Thank you for keeping it alive.

Cable’s arrived…

Not much of an update on my previous post, but just to say I now have the cable, Mr Amazons dropped it off at my door this morning….

I was going to do the big plugin tonight, but I’d slept like cack last night (can’t deny that part of it was excitement about this bloody cable arriving), so I went to bed straight after work, and went on my weekly lockdown Teams call with The Winnits (my only social interaction this week – I even considered asking Mr Amazons if he wants to talk for a bit, but he’d left the package outside, and he was already halfway down the gravel driveway of Mercuryvapour Towers by the time I got to the massive oak front door).

Therefore, I’ll likely get this all sorted tomorrow (Saturday). Don’t know how I’m going to go about this, whether it’s worthwhile doing any type of livstream for it, after all, the only person that’s going to have any interest on what’s on this bloody drive is me. I don’t know. Naturally, I’ll post my findings on here….

Bricking it, in case I brick it….

Right, let’s start with a post I wrote a couple of nights ago….

Here’s something I never thought would be possible. A blog entry entirely typed on an Amiga. Well, sort of. As you know, I’m a massive fan of the humble Amiga. A love that has never died, despite Amiga being locked away in a cupboard for the past 20 years, and only seeing the light of day several years ago to stop the battery from leaking. It’s always been at the back of my mind that I should do something with it, and I’m so much more closer it’s untrue.

Now you notice above, that although I said that I typed this on an Amiga? Well, it’s a half-truth. I’m typing it on an emulator, but still, everything is there. This is genuine Amigta software, being saved onto a floppy disk (image), which, if this works, will be copied over to a network drive and uploaded to MV. If you’re reading this, I managed to do it. If not, then… erm. wasn’t this a waste of a Tuesday night?

So, anyway, I bet you’re wondering why the sudden interest in the Amiga again after all of these years? I’m sure I’ve mentioned along the years that one of my favourite games was “Arcade Pool” by Team 17. A cracking little top-down pool game, and definitely one of my most played games, especially seeing as it was one of the few games I actually bought from a shop.

Anyway, I was bored on Sunday afternoon. The “Snooker Shootout” had finished, and I fancied something to eat. I popped downstairs, and Daddykins happened to be watching a train video. The background music just happened to be that exact same music used in Arcade Pool! I always thought it was an original composition used especially for the game, but apparently not! It turns out the music used is the “Fig Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Huh!

Well, all of those memories just came flooding back. I just had to play it again. Off I pop to download UAE, I dig out my A1200’s ROM dump which I created back in 1996, and also a disc image of Arcade pool, and I was in AGA enhanced, ball clacking heaven once again.

The fun didn’t stop there, however, as one thing I remembered, was that a while ago, I’d downloaded some disk images, from some old machines that, coincidentally, Team 17 had left over from their Worms development days. If I remember, I’ll insert a link here to where you can find them – there’s a whole video on YouTube. I was surprised to find that the one I tried (an image from an A1200’s hard drive) actually worked! It loaded up, booted, and I could use the machine just like it had been, when it was switched off for the last time some time in the 1990s. In fact, one of the pieces of software stated that it was something like 8,000 days over its 30 day trial period. Ooops.

I played with it for a bit, got bored, and seeing that it was only a copy of the image, I decided to just “wipe” it, and install Workbench 3.1 on it. Something I hadn’t done since I got my Amiga hard drive some time around 1994, early 1995.

You know, this has got me in one of those memory rabbit holes. It must have been after Christmas 1994, but can’t have been much after. Daddykins and I had been down to a shop in Leeds to get the drive. I’ve got conflicting memories of having my CB radio in the car with me, something I got for Xmas 1994, but I also remember getting this HDD for my birthday that year, which is before Xmas. It was also the first time I heard “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” by Bryan Adams. I remember it being months before I’d heard it again, and apparently it was on general release in April of 1995, so it must have been before then. Dunno. If only Google was tracking my every move back then. I might have still had a record of it!

Anyhoo, that was almost a post on its own. Back to my experimenting. It turns out that I couldn’t properly format this disk image. Amusingly, the disk image was damaged, so it wouldn’t format properly. It’s the first time I’ve had a physically damaged disk image that couldn’t be fixed by a format!

Yeeeeah, well it went on for a couple of more paragraphs without not really saying anything else, and I’m back typing this into lowly old WordPress. Such a come-down. I’m happy it worked though. There were a couple of keymap challenges on the way – despite installing the GB keymaps, it still gave me all of the settings for the US, and I had to change them manually. I forgot that was a thing. Also, the # key seems to have vanished. Anyway, onto the main part of the post…. the HARD DRIVE!

Yes, I mentioned that my Amiga’s been sat in a dusty cupboard for many years now. Tonight, I pulled it out of its cupboard, and ripped the plattery goodness from its deep underbelly.

There’s a date code of April 94 which would coincide with what I thought. The next step is wiring it up The drive is a Conner CFN250A, though I’m sure you can work that out from the pic above. Apparently it’s just IDE, so I’ve literally just ordered a cable set from Amazon. Could it be money down the kermit, or am I going to spend the weekend wallowing in so much nostalgia, the grey hairs in my beard will retract? You’ll have to wait and see…