Computing History – the early 8-bit years
I have been interested in computers since the early 1980s. My father brought home a ZX Spectrum (the old rubber-keyed one) from Lasky’s (a pre-cursor to the Dixons brand) from Kingston-Upon-Hull. The fun we had (honest!) going through the Horizons cassette that came free with it. My brother would sit and play the Brick In The Wall game until he could get that ‘just right’ move of the bat in order to remove the final brick from the screen.
In 1987, I did the Spectrum & Amstrad CPC graphics port of the C64 graphics from ‘Out Of This World’ for Reaktor. It was a shameless rip off of ‘Fantasy Zone’ on the Sega Master System, but it was my one and only bit of paid graphics work. Going to/from the offices of Paragon in Clapham Junction to see how far it had got. This included late night trips to their office to use their phone connection to download the latest C64 demos from Compunet. Paragon went on to bigger and better things (compared to Spectrum & Amstrad ports of C64 titles for US Gold) via a name change to Revolution. Yep, the very same software house that created Beneath A Steel Sky!
I digress .. I was lucky enough to get a nice score of 92% for the graphics in Amstrad Action at the time too! Because I was only 17 at the time, I was paid for the work in cash. (Erm .. hello HMRC .. in my defence, it was 30 years ago and that’s how things were done!)
16-bit era: Atari ST
However, the cash didn’t didn’t last long once I’d bought a new 14″ colour TV and a Atari 520STFM (single-sided drive) setup. I soon realised afterwards that, with the higher resolution and multiple colours, a career in graphics design/pixel-painting just wasn’t for me.
Programming, though, via the medium of GFA BASIC (and a little bit of 68000) was much more interesting. I could use a BASIC similar, but way more powerful, than what I’d learned on the ZX Spectrum and it wasn’t long before I was churning out utilities and some (quite awful) demos.
Unfortunately for me, most of these demos have been preserved on DemoZoo by Lotek. Believe me when I say that the sampled demos *are* awful. If you’re really unlucky, I think I still have the GFA BASIC v2 source code for them knocking about somewhere. So they could end up being available here, if you want a laugh that is 🙂
Later on, when Magnetic Fields (Super Scramble Simulator and Super Cars creators) were leaving the 16-bit scene, I was given their Atari developer’s MegaST setup with a huge (for the time) hard-drive. A whole 65Mb of space across on 5 partitions!
My development / turnaround time increased dramatically around this time. No more swapping over of floppy disks when compiling or assembling code!
Some of the demos I created were quite good though, especially the Synthetic Delights (100+ Amiga ‘chip music’ modules on a single disk, selected from a mouse-driven menu) and Pinball Illusions demo (music ripped from the Amiga that would just about fit onto a Atari ST disk).
Both of these demos used Terry King’s Spriteworks as well as my own GFA Linker. My linker enabled all of the data files to be stored inside a single larger file, which automatically ensured that the demo would run from a hard-disk. It would also allow those ST owners with larger memory configurations to load all of the data into memory if there was space available. Not that I’d learned about link-filing from my time as a demo-compilation disk creator whilst being part of The Source 🙂
Why did I call myself Mug UK?
It’s an old school nickname from when I attended Wandsworth School for Boys in Southfields, London (1981-1986). I was a late import into the first year due to failing to get into another school, so I was fresh-faced, and with my Brummie accent, the butt of quite a few jokes. Especially when my voice was recorded for a French lesson and a thick-accented “Ooo Eh Laa Booos” came out instead of the expected “Où est le bus”.
In my classroom colleagues eyes I was marked down as a “Northerner” and I therefore only drank tea. Which I did, every break time. I also, in my more energetic youth, played football at every break time. And I wore Dr Maarten’s shoes. So Mr ‘Mug O Tea’ was renamed ‘Mugger Boot’ and I just shortened it.
Not that there’s much left of the old school judging by the Old Wandsorthians website. What’s left is the old 1880’s building which is where I broke my wrist at the age of 14. Four years later, it was operated on to help ‘fix it properly’ and I still have a metal bar inside since 1988.
I also have two other websites that I set up and try my best to look after:
- My Word Toolbox – a Word add-in that helps you to fix common Word problems in your own documents – www.mikestoolbox.co.uk
- My scans of some ~1200 slides that I bought from a car boot back in 2015. It’s still in the early stages, but for now there’s a collection of slides scanned in from the late 1960s through to the late 1970s from various parts of Britain – www.oldslidescans.co.uk. There are four boxes in total that need to be scanned in.