Monday, 25 November 2013

Play Sega Megadrive/Genesis Games from SD Card

I recently reviewed the EverDrive 64, a custom cartridge which allows you to play Nintendo 64 ROMS directly from an SD Card!

While some purists may argue that it's not as good as owning the original game, if you're not a collector, have limited space or just care about playing the games in a really simply fashion, it's a great solution.



In fact, I love my EverDrive 64 so much, I have bought a second device for the Sega Megadrive.

My EverDrive MD came from Retro Towers.  Not only can you download Megadrive ROMs and play them on your original hardware, it also has a Powerbase converter built in so all your favourite 8-Bit Master System titles can be played too.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Commodore Business Machines LED Watch

Before some of our favourite technology computers made the machines we all know and love, a lot of them were involved in the short-lived digital watch craze of the mid 70st

Companies such as Intel, HP and Sinclair all tried to get a slice of the market for digital time-pieces that was forecast to be a huge money-maker.

After the introduction of the world's first digital watch in 1972 (for a price of $2,000) several companies made an entry into this market before over-saturation and dropping prices meant the bottom dropped out later in the decade.

I take a look at the short-lived Commodore Time Master LED Watch from 1976.


Commodore The Amiga Years Book Cancelled

If you are a fan of Commodore computers and have any interest in the people who were responsible for your favourite machines, the book "Commodore: A Company on The Edge" was essential reading.

The book does miss out a huge proportion of the companies history as it ends in 1984 when Jack Tramiel left, with the plan of devoting an entire second volume to the tumultuous Amiga years.

Fans of the Amiga have been waiting with baited-breath for a quality tome dedicated to our favourite system, featuring as many in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes stories as the first book.

Unfortunately, deadline after deadline was missed, and more than two years after the second book was promised it has now been officially cancelled. Posting on his Twitter account, author Brian Bagnall confirmed our worst fears:
Exact reasons have not been given, and it seems Bagnall is now working on other projects.

With a vague claim that he may "return to it someday", it's very sad news to those of us who have been eagerly anticipating this book for some time. How's about releasing it in an un-finished state on-line somewhere Brian? At least we may get some enjoyment and education out of the sections you've already completed, rather than leaving it gathering bit-rot on a hard disk for the rest of time. :(

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Why I Love The Ouya

You're probably familiar with the story of the Ouya, the infamous Kickstarter that raised over $8million in summer 2012.

The premise was pretty simple, a low cost Android-based gaming console that you can play on your TV and use a controller with.

It's fair to say that the system has failed to set the world alight as yet, some early hardware problems and pretty poor PR from the parent company have tarnished its image somewhat with gamers, however it does make a fascinating little system for those of us who go a little deeper than the surface.

One of the virtues of the system that Ouya have actually publicly promoted is the ability to emulate classic gaming systems.

In fact they received some accusations of endorsing piracy when they posted this (now redacted) Tweet recently:


It's not the aim of this blog to argue the rights and wrongs of using 30 year old ROMs, but if you do have a desire to own a very portable, easy to use emulation box - the Ouya is it!


Thursday, 8 August 2013

DirectoryOpus 5.8 Magellan Is Now Free

One of the most popular Amiga file navigation tools is now free to all Amiga users! The news was posted today on the Meta MorphOS Facebook Group

 "Following a request to GPSoftware, Dr. Greg Perry was kind enough to make available DirectoryOpus 5.8 Magellan, the famous Amiga file manager. The company now offers his excellent software on Windows."

Here is the registration key: 4456BLJEM4616474390 http://www.meta-morphos.fr/download/files/MagellanII_Install.lha

Playing MP3s with the Amiga MAS Player

The MP3 format really only took off in the late 1990s, long after the Amiga's days a mainstream platform.  That said, there is certainly enough software to take advantage of the format on AmigaOS, the only problem is the raw computing power in some of the lower end machines.

The MAS Player Evolution is the latest incarnation of an MP3 decoding device which allows the Amiga to pass over the hard work of handling MP3 audio while the rest of the system carries on as normal.


Using some simple Public Domain software from Aminet it is possible to play MP3 audio seamlessly in the background while using your Amiga as normal.

The MAS Player Evolution attaches to the Amiga's parallel port and joystick port, using the parallel for data transfer and the joystick port for the +5v it needs for power.  Luckily, it also has a pass through connector so you can still attach a joystick to port 1.

You connect the dual RCA connectors into the Amiga's audio ports, it is then mixed with the MAS Player's audio and sent out via a line-out mini jack on the back, direct to your amp/speakers.  This is a very tidy solution and once it's set-up it can just be left this way.

The quality of the audio the device can player is limited by the data transfer of the Amiga's parallel port and the CPU of the system, but I've found 128kbps to be the sweet spot, without having any noticeable degradation on a 68030 accelerated A1200's performance.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Connect An Amiga To The Internet

To say I started early with "comms" (as we used to know it) is a bit of an understatement, I first got on-line when I was around 8 years old.  This may be common-place today that kids access the Internet all the time, under strict adult supervision, but back in the late 80s/early 90s my parents just let me get on with it with little-to-no understanding of exactly what I was doing on-line, they just assumed it was something to do with getting games or similar.

They were more innocent times, and my parents didn't have much interest until their phone bills started getting a lot higher.  I eventually started getting my BBS fix at school using the one Acorn Archimedes system that was hooked up to a phone line in our IT classes.  I think the teachers used the modem to send files between schools and access email, but they didn't really have much understanding beyond that, so during our IT classes in the early 90s I would just dial up BBS and download files while the teachers all blissfully ignored me.



My first experience of the web came around 1994 when I got a copy of a fascinating new program called AMosaic, an Amiga port of the early Mosaic browser, the rest is history!

In this video I demonstrate the process of getting on-line with an old Commodore Amiga from 1992 and try out some WWW, IRC, BBS/Telnet software, I also explore some of the comms tools present on the more modern Amiga platforms such as AmigaOS 4.1 and MorphOS 3.1.


Is CRT The Best Display For Retro Gaming?


Recently I had an old school friend come and visit me for a weekend.  After a night visiting a few of my local sleazy night spots, we returned back to my place and decided to revisit our youth and play some of the games we used to love when we were kids.

I've still got a big collection of classic systems, but my friend hadn't played some of them since our school days back in the 90s.  His first impression was how dated the graphics looked, sadly I tended to agree with him, but there was something different... I was playing my systems on a modern LCD flatpanel TV.



Any purist gamer will tell you that CRT displays are the way to enjoy older systems, after all they were designed with these displays in mind.   Why go to all the effort of maintaining vintage hardware for "the true experience" when you're not going to go the whole way and get a suitable display?

After setting up my old CRT display I was blown away by how good the games looked again, they looked every bit as good as I remembered them!

 

Which Amiga Model To Buy

Retro has never been bigger than it is right now.  I think it's something to do with the age of people who grew up during the personal computer boom of the 1980s and 1990s, they are now reaching a time in their life when nostalgia kicks in.

The Commodore Amiga was a huge machine in the UK for many years, when I was at school it was "the" computer to own, if you didn't have an Amiga then you felt left out of playground disk swapping sessions and gaming nights at friend's houses.




One of the most popular questions I get asked on my Youtube channel is from people wanting to rediscover their youth and purchase another Amiga computer.  Sometimes it's from younger users who just have an interest in such a legendary machine and want to see what all the fuss was about.

Commodore produced many different models of the Amiga line during the 80s/90s, so it can be a bit bewildering choosing from all of the various machines you may find on ebay today.  I thought I'd record a quick video detailing some of the pros and cons of each system, I hope it helps!


Use SD Cards on Commodore 64


I recently got my hands on a fantastic little device called the SD2IEC which allows you to use SD cards as a storage method on Commodore 8-bit machines.


If you're still struggling along with 5.25" floppy disks or even worse, the very slow datassette then using SD cards will massively transform your classic machine usage. 

Twinned with a great piece of software called CBM Filebrowser you can navigate and load D64 and PRG files directly from a FAT formatted SDCard.  It is possible to access them in the usual way via CBM BASIC but the filebrowser is much more intuitive.  There are versions for most Commodore 8-bit machines and can be downloaded for free from here: http://www.vic20.it/cbmfilebrowser/


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

4Chan Introduces Retro Gaming Forum

Popular image sharing and discussion site 4Chan has recently added a Retro Gaming forum!

A spin-off of their popular /v/ gaming channel, the new retro section was trialled for a few weeks to test its popularity and now seems to be a permanent addition to the Interests tab.


As with anything on 4Chan, it is generally uncensored, crude and attracts its fair share of trolls, but there are also some useful and very interesting discussions and advice threads.

Recent favourites include the benefits of using real hardware over emulation, the joys of CRT over LCD for classic systems, hardware mods and titles for more obscure consoles like the Atari Jaguar and the 3DO.

Visit 4Chan's Retro Games board here: http://boards.4chan.org/vr/

This board is for the discussion of classic, or "retro" games. Retro gaming means consoles, computer games, arcade games (including pinball) and any other forms of video games on platforms launched in 1999 and earlier. Sixth generation and later consoles are not considered retro.



Commodore Disk Drives

I've recently been testing out my old Commodore floppy disk drives. Luckily both of my devices seem to be in good working order!

Some of you may have seen my recent video where I demonstrate using SD Cards on a Commodore 64, this is an amazing development and it really is mind blowing to have pretty much every piece of software you remember held on a 4GB SD Card. That said, there is something to be said for using old 5.25" disks for that authentic experience.

If we didn't care about "keeping it real" then all retro system fans would just use emulation surely? I figured if I go to the lengths of using real hardware and CRT monitors then let's use the storage medium we had to live with back in the day.

 

I have two classic Commodore drives, the 1541 that was very widespread, used by everyone from Vic 20 users to C64 fans, the C16 and Plus/6 to the 128, being so compatible it was by far their most popular 5.25" drive.

My other drive is slightly more obscure, the 1551 was designed exclusively for the Commodore 264 range (the C16, 116 and Plus/4) and used a much faster User Port interface which meant the data transfer was around 4 times faster than the serial connection to the 1541.




The 264 range was a total flop in the USA, and really only had limited success in Europe.  The preferred data storage method in 80's Europe was generally cassette based storage which means the 1551 didn't really sell in any numbers there either.

For some reason the 1551 uses much more brittle plastic than the 1541 as well which means they have a tendency to break very easily which makes finding a nice condition unit very rare indeed.

Luckily my 1551 is in almost mint condition and I look forward to making a video on this black-beauty at some time soon.

Another nice use of the original Commodore drives is to be able to play demos and games that used custom fast-loaders which are incompatible with SD Card readers, they're few and far between but it is nice to not be limited by your choice of hardware.

Backing up your old Commodore disks can be done, as can transferring downloaded D64 images to your 1541 drive using an inexpensive cable to connect to a PC's parallel port!

I'll be covering this in my upcoming video too.  It's nice to have these old noisy drives in operation again!