How poorly the real thing compares to nostalgia-drenched memories

Amstrad_Action_074
Amstrad Action was *the* magazine to read back then; less for its CPC content and more for its off-the-wall humour.

I’ve been feeling in a nostalgic mood today, so a wikiwalk through the CPC Wiki was in order. I was a huge fan of the Amstrad CPC as a child. Although I moved over to the PC in late 1993 (my first PC was a Christmas present that year – an Amstrad Mega-PC, which I adored), I kept my faithful Amstrad CPC 464/6128 hybrid (464 case, 6128 CPU, 64k RAM expansion and external 3″ disk drive – the best of both worlds in my opinion, since the 6128’s keyboard was nowhere near as nice as the clunky first-generation 464’s) on my desk alongside the new PC for years to come.

In fact, my loyal CPC is still in my office to this day, and sometimes shows up in my videos. The disk drive needs a new band in it (the mechanisms use a rubber band to spin the disks and these fail over the years) and I have long since misplaced my cassette tapes but the machine itself still runs.

I used to love programming the CPC more than actually playing games on in. I first learned to program when I was five or six, typing in commands and example programs from the CPC’s user manual (of which I now have three, for reasons I cannot fathom – two are perfect bound, one is ring bound. I remember the ring binding being very useful because it meant the book actually stayed open on the page you wanted while you were typing).

I was nine when I wrote my first game; a text-based shipping business simulator. It was very rudimentary (and almost impossible to lose money in, which made it rather easy) but I enjoyed playing it. I never really bothered with graphics, which I now think is rather funny given my career choices, but I would occasionally add in a vector drawing or two when making my text adventure games. I produced a lot of text adventure games over the years – it’s where I practised my writing. The ones I can remember are:

  • The Troll – A medieval fantasy about a hunter tasked with tracking down and defeating a troll
  • The Maze – A fantasy adventure where you were stuck in a maze with a vast array of fantastic creatures and had to escape
  • Treble-N – An urban fantasy tale where you were tasked with uncovering a magic conspiracy to destroy a small town. One of my personal favourites.
  • Splitship – A sci-fi tale where you had to uncover how and why your spaceship had been duplicated, then restore the original ship from its two duplicates before they disintegrated.
  • The Life of Nob T. Mouse – an early outing for the characters from my first webcomic. You played as Nob Mouse and you had to escape his home in order to defeat Frederick’s evil plans to destroy Blob City.

There was also a supposed “teletext emulator” I wrote, which was really good fun to write the pages for. It spanned four disks and took up far more space than it ever really should have. I should really have written it to read in text files and display their contents on screen; which would have taken up approximately 1 side of a disk for the entire thing. Instead, I wrote a menu system that loaded and displayed graphics drawn in a very basic graphics program I had called Voila! (because that was the last word on the descriptive text accompanying the type-ins page I got it from – the actual program had no name). What can I say, I was young and hadn’t thought it through properly.

One of these days, when I dig out the old 3″ disks and get the drive repaired, I’ll try to port over the games and other software I made, so you too can see just how poorly the real thing compares to nostalgia-drenched memories. There are plenty of good CPC emulators out there to make playing these clearly-written-by-a-kid games playable again.

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