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The random ramblings of a Star Trek-obsessed schools ICT Systems Manager who likes a good moan.
This is a place where I can whinge about life, and express my love of my family, 80's music, retro computer gaming (especially on my Commodore 64),
 oh and Star Trek. I'm very open with my opinions and I like a good moan. If you don't like what I say, then you might want to consider not reading this blog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Songs that remind me of my childhood Number 34 - Fade to Grey (Visage)

 
Strange (no pun intended) that I was actually going to make this a STRMOMC a few weeks ago, but with the recent sad passing of Visage lead singer Steve Strange, I thought it would be appropriate to include it now.
 
As a massive fan of 1980s music, I find that this song pretty much sums up the beginning of this great decade, during a time when pop culture movement New Romanticism was beginning to take over the night clubs (ok, I was a bit too young for that) and the charts.  A time when it was perfectly acceptable for a guy to wear more makeup than your average woman!  It was also during this great period when synth music was set to become much more wide spread in the music world leading to some of the best pop songs ever written in subsequent years by different groups.  This itself is one of the main reasons why I love this song..
 
Such a great song, and great memories from a time long gone.
 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Games that remind me of my childhood Number 30 : Star Trek The Rebel Universe (Commodore 64)


Space...  The Final Frontier. 
 
Combining computer games with Star Trek (two of my favourite things) will always be a winner for me, but the first time I experienced this unique combination was back in 1988 (or maybe 1989 - it was so long ago!) with a little known game on my friend Steve's Atari ST….  Star Trek The Rebel Universe.
 
It was developed by Firebird Software which itself was a division of the UK’s main telecommunications company, British Telecom.  It was designed by the late Mike Singleton, renowned game designer and programmer who also created The Lords of Midnight, Doomdark’s Revenge, Midwinter, and many others. 
Nice title screen with a good SID rendition of Alexander Courages Star Trek TOS theme
 
Now, for reasons unknown (well, possibly due to poor sales), the game was only released for a small number of computers – The Atari ST being one of them, IBM PC, and….  The Commodore 64.  However, the game wasn’t easy to come by.
Nice hi-res graphics
 
Now it wasn’t until my birthday in 1990 when a trip into Basildon to spend some birthday money in Woolworths ended up with me coming out of the shop a very happy 13 year old with a copy of Star Trek The Rebel Universe.  It was cheap too, but that was because the shop couldn’t find the instruction book to go with it.  Hey, I didn’t need the book – I already knew how to play it from the Atari version.
The game consists of various styles of gameplay but is completely controlled via an intuitive icon driven system which was quite original at the time.
The story is this…  The USS Enterprise and its crew under the command of Captain James T. Kirk has been sent by Starfleet Command to investigate an area of space that has caused any previous Federation starships and crew to mutiny and turn against the Federation.   There are many ways to win the game (something I never did manage) but what made this game special was that it really made me feel like I was Captain Kirk.  Being able to select a star system and warping to it, then plotting an orbit around a life supporting planet before beaming down with all my favourite characters from the original series only to be recalled back to the Enterprise again because it was being attacked by a fleet of Klingon battle cruisers, Romulan Bird of Preys, or even rebel Federation Starships.  It was great, and it was only achievable on my Commodore 64.
As mentioned before, the game is icon driven, and the main screen is divided in to 8 sections – 7 of which are the digitised heads of the command crew of the Starship Enterprise, and then the main gameplay area.  Clicking on a digitised head takes you to that persons screen where you can control that persons responsibilities.
Mr Sulu - For navigation, plotting courses to star systems and orbits.
Mr Chekov – Weapons control.
Mr Scott – Checking the status of the Warp and Impulse engines.
Uhura – Communications.
Mr Spock – Ships status, and planet analysis.
Captain Kirk – Checking the ships inventory, and beaming down to life supporting planets.
Dr McCoy – Checking the health of all members of the command crew
 
We've arrived at a star system.  Course plotted for Xuram I
 
On arriving to a star system, the Enteprise can orbit any planet, but the crew can only beam down to ones that support life.  When beaming down, you can choose which characters you want as part of your landing team.  Once you have beamed down, you can search the planet, while facing some simple puzzles and obstacles which can be overcome by either a suggestion from a member of the team, or from an object picked up from a previous away mission.   Beaming down is depicted by using very basic line graphics, but it’s enough to make you feel like you’re on an alien planet.
 
This fantastic image appears once orbit is achieved.
 
Selecting your landing party.  Nothing against Uhura, but I've always left her on the ship!
 
The command crew of the USS Enteprise face their biggest challenge....  A door!
 
Another fun part of the game is the combat.  Occasionally you’ll be attacked by Klingons, Romulans or rebel Federation starships.  Selecting Chekov and choosing whether you want to fire the more powerful (but limited) Photon Torpedos, or using the lesser powerful (but rechargeable) phasers really makes you feel like you are on board the ship and in control during battle stations.  The combat is shown in wireframe vector graphics and although they look very simple on the Commodore 64, they move fairly quick, and it can get quite intense when locking on to an multiple enemy ships and firing.
 
Klingons on the starboard bow.  Great vector graphics.
 
Lock on to your target...
 
and FIRE! 
Modern Star Trek games are usually hit or miss.  I loved Star Trek Voyager Elite Force, Deep Space Nine The Fallen, but none of them capture Star Trek the way The Rebel Universe did, and neither did they give the player the freedom to boldly go wherever they wanted.  The Rebel Universe allows players to explore star systems in a non-linear way,  and features some very impressive graphics (albeit a little blocky is places).
 
Travelling at warp speed for a long time will stress Mr Scott out!
 
Dr McCoy is busy caring for the command crew after a disastrous away mission - wait, who is running the ship?
 
Course plotted for the Dakiak star system.
 
I spent countless hours playing this game, and even though I never did find a way to win, I still go back to it every now and then.  Yes the Atari ST version is/was better with its improved graphics and digitised sound effects, but the Commodore 64 version showed what could be done to put a game designed for a 16-bit computer in to a single loader game on a computer with limited memory.
The box cover
 
Information sheet that comes with the Commodore 64 version
 
Information sheet that comes with the Commodore 64 version
 
A nice instruction manual with back story to the game.  A good read.
 
The tape
 
 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Mastertronic - What if? : Call of Duty Advanced Warfare

Mastertronic brings you "Call of Duty Advanced Warfare" on cassette for £1.99, only for Commodore, Amstrad, Spectrum and Atari  - Available from all good newsagents, chemists and game shops!
 
If only..... :o)

Because I have WAY too much time on my hands, I thought I'd mess around with putting together some fake Mastertronic covers for modern computer games in an attempt to give them the retro 1980's 8-bit cassette look.
  
Remember...  These are just for fun, and are obviously NOT available.

In case you are not aware (or can not remember), Mastertronic were big in the mid to late 1980s and were a major budget software label in the United Kingdom and produced a large number of cheapo games and re-releases for the Commodore/Spectrum/Amstrad/Atari 8-bit computers (and some 16-bit too) - most at a pocket-money-friendly £1.99!  They're still going now, but dare I say it I doubt anyone from the original days is still running things. 

Anyway, remember this is just a bit of fun, but what would modern games look like if Mastertronic still released games like the good ol' days? Well, here you can find out!
 
As always, click the images to enlarge.
 
 
 
You can view more of my fake Mastertronic covers by clicking here

How things change....

Whilst having a sort out and rummaging through the black hole that is my cupboard in the bedroom, I've come across this newspaper advert dating back to Friday 17th April, 1998.  Ok, it's nothing special, but it is in fact the advert that convinced me back in 1998 to upgrade my puny Pentium 90 Windows 95 PC (and also my suped up 40mhz Commodore Amiga 500) to a 'top of the range' Windows 98 PC with an astounding 300mhz Pentium 2 processor, complete with 64mb of RAM, 4mb ATI Rage Pro graphics card (which I upgraded almost immediately with a 3DFX Voodoo 2 card) and an incredibly large (at the time anyway) 6.4Gb hard drive, all for an amazing £1173.83
 
What amazes me more now is how the 21 year old me from 1998 could actually afford £1173.83 on a PC (bearing in mind that I also bought a laptop from Time around the same too for around £1500).
 
Click to enlarge
 

Monday, February 02, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Kieran

 
It's hard to believe that our little Kieran is no longer little any more and has now finally reached double figures.  Yep, 10 years ago today at exactly 5:13am, he entered the world (or should I say yanked and pulled!), weighing in at a healthy 8lb 4 1/2 oz. 
 
Watching him grow in to the young man that he is today has been one of the most wonderful life experiences I have ever had.  Both Michelle and I could not have asked for a more wonderful, caring, loving, and good looking son! 
 
The past day or so I've been reminiscing and remembering some of the wonderful times I've shared with my boy but at the same time feeling a little sad that for the past few years I really feel like I have let my work and other things get in the way of our 'play time'.  I really need that to change.
 
Anyway, enough of that...  Enjoy a small selection of pictures of Kieran from the day we first saw him during a scan at the hospital, his birth, and then up to yesterday during his 10th Birthday Party.  These are random pictures - I couldn't pick my favourite ones from a collection of over 43,000 photographs!!!!
 
The first time we saw Kieran, albeit, just the shape of him!!! (2004)
 
Proud Daddy moment, still at the hospital. (2005)
 
First trip to the seaside at Southend (2005)
 
Growing boy (2006)
 
Playing in the park (2007)
 
At the seaside again (2007)
 
Another Daddy and Kieran photo (2008)
 
Dressed up and looking smart (2008)
 
Doing a bit of gardening with Mummy (2008)
 
Kieran's first trek up the Malvern Hills (2009)
 
Kieran with his sisters (2009)
 
Spikey-haired Kieran (2010)
 
Kieran playing with his Army Men (2010)
 
You're supposed to eat the ice-cream Kieran! (2010)
 
Kieran riding his bike (2011)
 
Kieran and a Cyberman (2011)
 
Happy Kieran (2011)
 
Kieran during his 'Indiana Jones' period (2012)
 
Kieran on the Malvern Hills again (2012)
 
Kieran has been cloned!! (2012)
 
Kieran with his sisters (2013)
 
Smart Kieran (2013)
 
Kieran playing (2014)
 
Kieran showing off! (2014)
 
Kieran on his scooter at Southend (2014)
 
Kieran and sisters on Bredon Hill (2014)
 
Kieran (2015)
 
Kieran (2015)
 
Kieran, Daddy and a Creeper during his 10th Birthday Party (2015)
 
I love you mate!  Happy 10th Birthday Kieran, love from Mummy, Daddy, Kayleigh and Sophie  :)