Happy 21st birthday to this blog!

21 years. That’s a lot to take in. I’d have been sat in a very similar position this time on Sunday, 4th November 2000, behind a keyboard with my legs underneath a desk, as I open my Blogger account, and begin typing about my day, my dreams, my banal, inane life as a 20-yr old Hartlepudlian. At 41, however, the world is a completely different place, and I’m a different person. Everything electrical has a blue LED in it…. Back then, they’d have only been invented 7 years ago. Blogging is a completely different scene too I had friends with blogs, but they’ve all come and gone. the rise of Myspace, and Twitter, then Facebook and Youtube quickly put paid to spending hours toiling over a keyboard. You could allow your audience to have small chunks of your mind without committing reams and reams of text to the ether.

As you know, I don’t really post much on here now. I used to joke about my “both of my readers”, but it’s ofrficially down to zero. I’ve not had a comment on a new post for years now. the only comments that come in now are hits from Google. I suppose I have to type something for people to read, but when I spend hours and get no feedback, it seems such a waste.

Privacy is also an issue. It’s naturally not a good idea to post stuff about myself in as much detail as I used to. I genuinely would have liked to post a lot more about the struggle I had with my foot, but maybe not a good idea to post *everything* in a public forum.

I know I say this every years, but I do have plans. Maybe go into more of a “Charity Shop Shit” type vibe, and start talking about the crap I’ve picked up in charity shops. Make that the permanent fixture. At least after 21 years of doing this bollocks, the bloody site will have a theme of some sort.

I’m sure you’ll be interested to know (lie) that I still do “blog” now, it’s it’s all private. I like “photo hoarding” where I take hundreds of photos when I’m out somewhere, and then add the details to the photos themselves via the IPTC information… Here’s an example from last Saturday…

A day out to the charity shops around Guisborough, Stokesley and Redcar. A particularly cold October day, there was definitely autumn in the air. Another decent haul of CDs, especially from the Herriott charity shop in Stokesley. An amusing part of the day was in the first charity shop we visited, “Frade” in Guisborough. I asked for a carrier bag, got given the pinkest, most floral “carrier bag” I’ve ever seen. Couldn’t have got rid of it quicker, but at least it made a good photo opportunity.
Might put it as my facebook profile pic.

Right, so that’s the celebration over with. I can’t believe I’ve kept it going for so long… here’s to another 21 years! There’s a chance I might have received that fucking Desmonds record by then…

The theme tune to Desmond’s

Waaay back in the late 1980s, there was a comedy show called “Desmond’s”, following a family running a barber’s shop in Peckham. It aired from 1989 until the death of the lead actor, Norman Beaton, in 1994.

It would come to no surprise (to both of my regular readers anyway) that I was a fan of the theme tune, and of course, it’s one of the things that stood out to me. I loved it, and it was one of my favourite parts of the programme. It was one of those theme tunes that should have been released as a single, but it wasn’t.

Every year or so, I’d do a quick Google to see if a proper copy, or even an extended version of the theme had been leaked anywhere. Nope. The only things that ever turned up were just off-air, or off DVD recordings. Nothing more than the 45 seconds used at the start of the programme, and the instrumental bit used in the credits at the end. I came to the conclusion that it was only ever used on the programme, especially as it was co-written by the creator, Trix Worrell.

I think I went though one of these search things most recently anout a year ago, when for absolutely no reason, the theme started to be used in an advert for butter. This rekindled my love for the theme, and got me thinking, there had to be an “official” version. As the show ended in 1994, it’s unlikely that it would still exist some 26ish years later, and it certainly sounded better quality than it just being ripped from a copy of the programme.

Once again, I searched high and low (or rather, I searched Youtube), and found nothing. What’s even weirder, is that the full episodes that had been uploaded to Youtube now had the theme tune removed. How very, very odd. Considering that its only use outside of Desmonds was on a butter advert, it seemed very odd that it would just suddenly disappear like that. Obviously someone still owns the copyright to the song, so it could have just been that they didn’t want it on youtube, but why would they object to the theme being on there, but still allowing the rest of the episode to survive? It seemed clear that someone else had the rights to the song now, than what they did when Desmond’s was recorded. Were they planning a re-release?

Again, the trail went cold. No song, no videos on Youtube (except for poor quality versions), no more butter advert, and no release. I put it to the back of my mind. It was never going to see the light of day. A quarter of a century had gone by.

Now, I’ve been holed up for the past 4 weeks, thanks to an operation on my foot. I’ve barely been able to move off the sofa for a month, so I’ve became acquainted with an old friend called “Television”. Tonight (or yesterday by the time this makes it “to air”), I was watching The Chase, and the butter advert made a reappaearance. Just out of complete boredom, I flung “Don’t Scratch My Soca” into Google. Up came a result for Bandcamp. It was 3 minutes long. I didn’t expect much, just a fan remix or something like that. Imagine my surprise when, not only was it the proper version used on Desmond’s, it had a second verse! This was the moment I’d waited over 30 years for. All of the bits were there… the main theme, the bit they fade out when the episode starts, the end theme, and of course, that never-heard second verse. Daddykins, who happened to be enjoying The Chase, didn’t quite understand my excitement, as I fumbled with the remote, pausing his enjoyment of the afore-mentioned tea-time quiz show.

The track was released on June 21st, so only 9 days ago. Not only was it available as a free MP3, it’s possible to actually purchase it on vinyl (at the time of typing). A very small number were produced. 100 in colured vinyl, 200 in black vinyl, and a few white label test pressings. Well, I had to go for the coloured vinyl. I only ordered it today, so obviously, it hasn’t turned up yet. Might be a couple of weeks. Might be sooner. No doubt I’ll update when I have the record in my grasp.

Should you wish to hear the full theme, or even chance your arm at getting a vinyl copy, you can click here. Now, to give my fingers a rest, as typing this all into my phone hasn’t been the most comfortable experience.

EXTENSION: The theme was also written and produced by John Collins, and released under his “Local Records” label, which explains how / why the master recording survives. And, of course, it’s also available on Spotify

I asked some of the questionson the Local Records website too, such as when it was recorded, why it wasn’t released until now, etc.

RIP Nick Kamen

Well, it’s not been a good few weeks for losing musical acts who I actually like… We lost Jim Steinman a few weeks ago, and I found out today that we’ve also lost Nick Kamen, who wrote and performed one of my favourite songs “I Promised Myself”.. I first picked up the record when I was in Garmany back in 2007, and I had this to say at the time…

“Another stall sold 7” singles, by far my audio format favourite. I picked “I promised Myself” by Nick Kamen – a song which I’d heard originally in the Hartlepool shopping centre, at about 8AM in the morning before the shops even opened. But that’s a story for another day. I also bought two others which aren’t really worth mentioning, as they were simply ro replace scratched copies of records I already had.”

It just occurred to me that I never told the story of how I heard this song. Right, so I’m going on memories that are *at least* 15 years old, but I remember the main gist of it. As you know, if you’ve followed this blog for over 9 years (well done if you have), that I used to work nights, 3 days on, 3 days off. At rhe end of the 3 days on, it was not unusual for me to have a couple of pints with my fellow work colleagues, and seeing as the local Wetherspoons (which is no longer owned by them), didn’t open at 9, I’d have 45 minutes or so to kill. the shopping centre was next to the afore-mentioned establishment, so this would often see me walk around aimlessly, especially as none of the shops would be open.

One thing that was noticeable, is that the tannoy system was actually audible. It plays the entire time that the shopping centre is open, but it’s normally barely audible by the sound of screaming children, dismayed parents, and all of the other sounds that a shopping centre in a deprived area of the North-East would emit.

Thankfully, as mentioned, it was audible, and I heard this particular song. I’d not heard it before, and insteantly fell in love with it. This was long before the days of Shazam, or even Android (I was probably rocking the world with a (a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Ericsson_K800i”>K800i back then), but I somehow got enough lyrics for me to google it, and find out the artist.

And… ero, that’s pretty much it. As mentioned, I tracked down the single in Berlin. At some point, I picked up the album on CD, and on 20th February 2016, I picked up the 12″ version. It still amazes me that this song wasn’t a bigger hit than it was, at least here anyway, reaching a measly #50.

In other news, it’s now under a week until I get my second COVID jab. Hopefully things will return to some type of normality, and I can start typing about the crap I’ve found in charity shops again. I bet you all can’t wait for that!

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!

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…