What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

In case you missed it I’ve been at the Byte Back UK Classic Gaming Convention which took place down in Longton, near Stoke-on-Trent. I was principally there to demonstrate the Domesday Project which I still have in my possession but it finished up as a bit of a general Acorn nerd-out! I met with quite a few enthusiasts from the BBC Micro maillist and the Stairway To Hell forums, it’s always nice to put faces to names you’ve talked with for years 😉

So what was there? Quite apart from the Domesday, I’d taken the MDFS network fileserver down and some random Beeb stuff. Ian Wolstenholme and myself constructed an Econet on our six-table Acorn island, networking together three stations and the fileserver; it was a bit of a frig and there were occasional bare wires and curses as the termination failed. Ian had also brought along a 6502 second processor and Teletext adaptor (probably the last time you’ll see that working given the digital switchover), but sadly the signal just wasn’t good enough and we had to make do with trying to decipher the headlines. Dave had an Atom there with an MMC card as storage (!), and you could buy RAMagic for the Beeb too.

Our room – “The Executive Suite” – was predominantly Acorn (Ian reckoned 75%). Adjacent to us were Superior Interactive and Retro Software showing off their Repton levels, and Retro Clinic had some fabby external Compact Flash drives for the BBC Micro. I was pretty impressed with those, and came home with one for my main Beeb – it’ll mean I don’t have quite a nightmare transferring stuff over, and also means I can back up things to the house fileserver more reliably.

Saturday was exceptionally busy, probably at capacity – I spent most of the day demonstrating the Domesday Project but did manage to nip out for a wander and a drink. It’s always nice to see reactions to the Domesday in action: they vary from the highly technical inquisition (since the LVROM usually has no screws in it I occasionally pop the top off so visitors can see the innards), right to the non-technical people who look to see if their school is on there or how areas have changed since the mid-1980s. Occasionally you’ll get a teacher who’s never seen the system, or a pupil who contributed and who’s named in the credits.

Sunday was quieter so we could tinker – we started the morning ambitiously extending the Econet to Rob’s A5000, and from there to the Retro Clinic stand. It sorta worked, although both Rob and Mark had fileservers running (although the network failed in interesting and fun ways resulting in some undocumented Econet error none of us had seen before). Actually, Mark’s fileserver deserves special mention since he had it running on a Master 128 using a CF card instead of a Winchester… yes folks, with a little bit of messing around (limiting the formatting program to 64MB) you can run an Econet fileserver off a flash card! Then at 3:30ish just as I was leaving Alex got his BBC Buggy working – with a rather weird situation where the buggy PSU could back-power the Master through the user port.

It was an interesting venue (“Bidds”) more a live music shed falling apart at the seams and with rather crap lighting but it served the purpose… I’d advise against trying the burgers or the hotdogs, mind. Bit damp too, and occasionally pools of water would appear in the back corridor as the rain fell.

Bizarre/heroic/fun stuff: Guitar Hero on a C64 (“Shred64”, GH on a SID chip, how cool?!), an old vector-graphics Star Wars machine (played that a few times I can tell you), various Game&Watch toys from Nintendo, and a Sega bare-board flight-sim setup for the US military.

Only one potential disaster: Leaving the SCART cable at home for the Domesday so haring it to Maplin with 30 minutes to go… then the monitor going pop-whine in a rather annoying fashion 5 minutes before the show was due to open (luckily there was a telly around with SCART – thanks to whoever found that for me!). Actually, I was pretty impressed with the Domesday and MDFS holding up over the course of the two days.

Photos are here – enjoy.

Anyway, if you’re naffed off at missing the Acorn geekery you’ve got another chance! The Wakefield Acorn Show takes place on 25th April at Cedar Court Hotel (just off J39 of the M1) and I’ll be running an 8-bit museum of sorts there with the Domesday and a few other things. There is a movement to try and get an Econet running, plus I’ll be running an 8-bit surgery if you’ve got a machine that’s not working properly or want some pointers.

In the meantime, it just goes to show – the Acorn 8-bit retro scene is alive and well! Game of Chuckie Egg, anyone?

Update: If you want to see more, David Glover took some video (there’s a little chunk of my bit around 1m20s) and a few photos, plus there’s pics from the Retro Software chaps here. Peter also did an extensive write-up on STH which you can read here.

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