Amiga 1200 Liberated From Loft

I decided to have a dig around in the loft as I couldn’t remember exactly what was up there computer wise, I knew there was an Amiga 1200 and a CD32 but I was also surprised to find an Amiga 500 and a barely used Sony Playstation.  I retrieved the A1200 and the A500, the first is in great shape, in fact it looks like new and it works, the hard drive even booting into Workbench on initial power up.  The A500 is pretty grubby, very yellow and not working, giving only a flashing power LED and green screen.  There was also an A590 external hard disk unit with it, I’d forgotten I had that.

The A1200 cost me a small fortune back in 1993, I ordered it with an 80mb drive and a Microbotics MX1230A accelerator board featuring a 68030 CPU, 68882 FPU and 4 Mb of additional RAM.  It was and still is a gorgeous system, probably my second favourite retro system, pipped to the post only by the C64.

Thinking back to how much I used to dream about upgrading the RAM which was devilishly expensive in those days, it was odd to find a 128 Mbyte SIM in one of my piles of junk and simply plug it in.  For some reason, in my mind, the A1200 still seems really powerful.

There were a couple of games on the drive, Sim City 2000 and Frontier, Elite II.  Many, many hours were spent playing the latter which is one of my all time favourite games, despite the bugs.  On researching the game I noticed you can download an OpenGL version here and play the game in high resolution under Windows or Linux which is pretty cool.

I also discovered there’s still a thriving community surrounding the A1200 with much ‘pimping’ of the original machines still going on.  The most common upgrade seems to be a compact flash internal drive which I’m hoping to attempt.  Others have added USB ports and even internal CD ROM drives.

During my Amiga years I still had delusions of becoming a digital graphic artist, I used to dream of ending up at somewhere like Pixar.  With the 1200 I found a box of disks including Sculpt 3D and 4D and Deluxe Paint III and IV.  I managed to recover some saved files from DPaint but no luck so far with the Sculpt files.

Dpaint produced .lbm bitmap files and after hunting around I found this site that allowed me to convert them to GIF’s.  The second image was copied from a 1985 Tolkien calendar and the first from a book lent to me by Urbancamo called Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons.  Very odd to see these again after all those years.

Guybrush Threepwood in CGA

No progress on the Silent Running adventure for a couple of days.  I got bogged down in trying to resolve a particular issue, realised it was time to walk away and come back fresh which hopefully I’ll do today or tomorrow.

Instead I’ve been messing around with the Equity, trying to understand what it’s capable of.  My first experience with a PC as opposed to machines such as the Amiga and Commodore 64 was a Pentium 90 based machine with Windows 3.1, so the pre Pentium days passed me by.

I’ve been trying to compile the code I have written so far with the Equity with no luck as yet.  As a point of interest the code compiles on a Core 2 Quad essentially instantaneously.  On a Pentium 166 it takes a few seconds.  On the Equity it’s taking around 4 minutes before failing on a specific library issue.  I need to try the Minform library I mentioned in an earlier post next.

I also wanted to see what games would run on the Equity and found an early version of a Secret of Monkey Island demo which loads and runs.  I was never really aware of the limited graphics abilities of the early PC’s having been spoilt by the abilities of the Amiga and its custom chips, it’s pretty basic stuff as I’m discovering.

The Equity has two option slots, one is currently occupied by the hard drive controller card and I believe the only other card produced specifically for the option slots by Epson was a modem card.  Somewhat bizarrely one just came up on Ebay, unused, and new in the box so I snapped that up (only bidder) and it’s on its way.

Monkey Island Demo

Retrochallenge Initial Thoughts

I recently wrote how I’d managed to acquire some classic Level 9 and Infocom text adventures that would run on my Epson PX-8.  I’ve always been a great fan of interactive fiction (IF) and some years ago I remember spending many hours writing a Star Trek themed adventure using The Quill on my Commodore 64.  As with most of my projects it showed great promise but was never finished.

I’d quite like therefore to make another attempt at such a project although I’m not sure I’m going to be able to shoehorn this in as a genuine Retrochallenge project.  Short of writing the whole thing in BASIC, which given my ham-fisted, clunky approach to coding isn’t going to happen, I’m not sure how much development will actually involve a retro machine.

Ideally I’d like to produce a game that can be played on a variety of retro platforms providing they have a Z-Machine interpreter, somewhat unfortunately one of the few platforms I don’t seem to able to find an interpreter for is CP/M.  There are a number of solutions out there for creating IF, this morning I had a quick play with Inform7 which uses a natural language approach to building your game.  I was able to quickly knock up a few rooms and objects but the system soon had me scratching my head when I tried to create anything complex.  Also, having created only a few rooms, objects and descriptions the game file was already too large for the PX-8.

I’ve decided to base the game on the 1972 film Silent Running which in my view is one of the all time great Science Fiction films, so I settled down to watch it this afternoon and used the PX-8 to write some initial room descriptions.   I’ll have another play with Inform but given the file size issue it looks as though I’m going to need another solution if this thing is ever going to run on the PX-8, either that or stick to a two or three room adventure.