Gavin Pugh - A Videogame Programming Blog

Getting old

26 August, 2008 at 1:06pm | Life

Amstrad Ebay

I learned how to code on the Amstrad CPC 464. Used to be mad for the system when growing up, read and re-read magazines, and spent hours playing a lot of very bad games. Plus a few good ones, mind. I think I only stopped using it in 1994, when we got our first PC.

Fast forward fourteen years, and things are very different. Whilst I used the CPC well past it’s best (commercial software dried up in 1991), since then it’s only had a passing interest. Cool stuff going on with it on the internet like SymbOS, CPCZone and CPCWiki kind of passed me by.

It was a couple of months ago that my interest picked up again. I was showing a colleague the CPC3D emulator I wrote a few years ago, on one slow night whilst we were waiting for a build to be approved. I then spent a little while seeing what’s going on with the CPC. SymbOS I first read up about a couple of years ago, a very impressive coding feat. CPCZone is kind of interesting, mainly just nostalgic reminiscing about the old machine. What sucked me in though was EBay.

I remember in the early 90’s when the 8-bits were coming to the end of their life, you had labels like Codemasters releasing budget games. For usually two or three pounds each. A godsend when you’re on pocket money. Many of them were very good games too. By this stage of the machine’s life though older software from around launch time was hard to come by. The machine was initially released near the end of 1984, with a bunch of software from Amstrad’s own publishing label: Amsoft. The internet consensus is that some of the worst games were released on this label, but I beg to differ. Many of the ones I had were real enjoyable, fun games to play.

Having old magazines listing the Amsoft games, I’d always wanted to get a few more, ones I’d liked the sound of. “Oh Mummy” was one that I’d always wanted. I first got to play that game on an emulator, in the late 90’s. No store near me whilst growing up stocked the old Amsoft titles. Once I remember there was a place that sold the disc versions of them, but at a ridiculously high price. But that was it.

Disc version? Yes, the vast majority of stuff I had wasn’t on disc. It was on cassette tape. Games took ten to twenty minutes to load, and you had to endure the modem-like screeching noise of the data being read from tape. Yes, I’m that old. Retelling this to some of my younger colleagues here, I felt positively ancient. Reminded me of teachers at University letting us know about the early days of programming with punch-cards. Ghetto stuff.

So yeah, after seeing some cheap Amsoft games on ebay I thought I’d like to try buying a few. From the image in this post, you can see though that the high-end price is a little ridiculous. Remember, this is for a cassette tape! I bought a number over the past few weeks, ranging from a few pennies each up to I think maybe $20 (USD) for the most expensive one. They have pride of place in my little bookshelf at home now, quite unique items to have in the United States. The CPC was never released out here.

By the way, the $67 game is ‘Roland Goes Square Bashing’. It’s actually one I wanted to purchase, but I really couldn’t justify spending that on a cassette tape that would sit on a shelf.

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