With a working relic from the 80’s sitting in front of me (completely noiseless – no need for a fan for a processor that runs at 2Mhz. In fact I’m not sure which chip IS the processor), it was now time to move on to the next bit if kit – the floppy drive.
Back in those days discs really were floppy, and size was little indicator of capacity. This particular piece of hardware supported a disc capacity of a couple of hundred kilobytes (I think. I should look it up), but you could usually flip the disc over and use both sides.
Being a mechanical device, this is what I was most concerned about, especially as I have only seen two for sale on ebay the whole time I have been looking.
If I couldn’t get this working then I’d be back to an emulator like everyone else.
It is a bit of a beast. I have no idea who built it, but it was built to last, with a solid metal frame and even the plastic bits aren’t going to drop off in a hurry.
Shown here in the open position, you can see the circular bits that clamp over the centre of the disc when the system is closed and to the right is the read/write head. This is only a single-side drive so the disc has to be flipped over to read the other side.
The magic that makes it all happen. Trust me on the fact I cleaned this all up before letting any discs near it.
With everything cleaned up, screwed back and then plugged in (with the computer turned off of course – this ain’t USB) , it was time to see if it could still deliver the goods.
Well-remembered muscle movements prompted me to press Shift-Break to boot off the disc. With a heap of noise that to most people would suggest that the floppy disc was being mangled to bits but to me was exactly how I remember it, up came the Stryker’s Run: Codename Droid game …
… in black and white. Damn, that is a bit disappointing.
Still, there had to be a solution.
Not sure what any of this means and this option is not documented in the manual of my TV. It was originally set to ‘M’ and changing it to ‘B/G’ restored the glorious colours. I think a couple of those other options worked as well. Don’t you love how easy it is to turn a frown upside down sometimes?
With the colour sorted and the strains of the Airwolf theme pumping out of the speaker it was time to sit back and admire my work. It was a strange feeling looking at something that at the time was so familiar yet now feels alien and out of place. I need a smaller screen …
Without wanting to dawdle on anything I had a quick bash at Codename Droid, jumping around, shooting, ducking and climbing ropes. It was like being back at school (in the old days when kids did stuff that may, heaven forbid, result in them getting the occasional cut or bruise). Maybe without the shooting. That only came later … and mostly in America. Sorry.
Moving on …
One of my favourite games – great music and game play and a dash of humour. It had a bit of a different slant in game play in that there was no time limit and instead you had a limited number of moves. A great puzzler, and a freeware version is available for modern machines: http://xor.ovine.net/
So that pretty much wrapped up an exciting and fruitful night.
I’m impressed that something that has been sitting around that long still just needs to be plugged in and is as good as the day it was purchased. Maybe when people talk about our ‘consumerist” society it is really the act of ‘buying’ that drives people, not the ‘having’. Too quickly people dismiss something merely because it is old (i.e. six months), and feel compelled to buy something new to replace it. How often can these people say they got real value out of it while they owned it anyway? How many people buy something that is good quality like a DVD player, and the hook it up to TV using a composite cable? I’m busier than anyone I know, but still find a few minutes to read the manual.
It is such as short term view on so many fronts. Even setting aside the environmental factors of all the waste, people are too quick to say they can’t afford ‘the best’, yet are happy to throw money away because they need it now, and buy crap instead of waiting a bit longer and buying something that not only lasts longer but gives them more satisfaction for every minute that they do own it.
Anyway, I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted. If you have read this far then you are probably not a dumb-arse, blind consumer, but instead have an appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into products like this. Sure, it is old, but seeing it as a product of the time you can admire the elegance. and as programmer myself I’m blown away at what was achieved with so little resources and such primitive (or more accurately: non-existent) tools.
I’m also a bit of a hi-fi buff, and while my budget doesn’t stretch into the stratosphere like some (or rather, I balance my desire for the perfect sound with the desire to eat good food, enjoy fine wine, smoke the rare cigar and drive a car that doesn’t belch smoke or leave pools of oil everywhere), I have a rather fine and balanced system which may be the topic of another post one day…
But for next time, I’d like to proudly display the rest of my BBC collection that escaped being thrown out.