Back again!

Beside being the title of really awesome track by General Base, Back Again signifies my return from the trial and tribulations of moving house and settling in to a new life (almost three suburbs away from the old one!).

Despite my silence I’ve been doing a lot more than merely organising my CD collection. In between that I’ve been out in the new garage turning it from the cesspit of the previous residents into a retro hideaway. I’ve removed the nicotine stains of most of the walls and vacuumed  the carpet numerous times (I’ll replace it all eventually, but one step at a time) and it is finally at a stage where I can sit for prolonged periods of time without my eyes watering.

Of course like any garage it is full of crap, in particular my wife’s work stock, but thankfully that will be going back soon, so I’ll be spreading out and setting up some proper lounge chairs and a second music system to make a home away from home.

The only downside (beside being f’***ing cold as we go into winter) is the fact that I’m sitting in a big metal box (akin to one of these I guess) and wi-fi reception from the house is pretty patchy.  Not to worry, I started with a 36k modem so it is all part of the retro experience – which just goes to prove there is good retro and bad retro: good retro is playing a game with simple sound and graphics that I have fond memories of as a kid, while bad retro is putting up with shitty internet access like it is 1998.

So what does it look like I hear you ask? Wonder no more:

My quarter of the garage

This is it so far – I’m squashed in the corner but will swing the TV around against the wall on the right eventually when other stuff has been taken away.  There are two old armchairs behind the TV which will eventually form the lounge.

You can see my stack of hifi gear too with a nice Arcam A75 and a suitably retro cassette player and record player along with a whole bunch of records (mostly techno, trance and eclectica, including my much loved ‘Emerson Lake and Powell’ album. All I need now are some decent speakers as the ones on the desk are only really used for the computer via my ancient ‘Dual’ amp.  I have three boxes of cassettes in the bookshelf, mostly recorded off the radio when I lived in Sydney in 1994 (big shout out to Nik Fish and his Musiquarium show).

Finally on the right you can see the BBC itself in its temporary home.

My BBC Micro collection so far

It’s great finally having a place to put these things and lay them out.  All my (remaining) original items are here, along with a few things I’ve acquired from ebay over the last couple of months.  There are a few comics in the magazine holder on the far left, and that copy of ‘The Micro User’ is volume 1, issue 1 – I figured if I can’t have the whole set I might as well have the first one as a memento. The whole bookshelf is normally covered with a sheet to keep the sunlight and dust out.

Of course it wouldn’t be a real garage if there wasn’t some tool action going on, so my first projects were to get the computer hooked up the Loewe TV and to an external amplifer.

Sure, I could have used a standard aerial cable for an RF signal to the TV, but lets face it – it’s crap: real men use RGB.  Following the instructions found here: Connecting a BBC micro to a Television, I wired up a SCART plug that a friend had given me ages ago and I somehow never got around to throwing out. After a false start where I somehow thought I needed a mini-DIN plug, I got this working first time.

The glorious combination of my Loewe TV and my hand-made RGB cable

You can see how clear the image is compared to a standard RF connection – no ghosting or interference and the colours are extremely vivid (the sort of stripy effect is from the camera).  And damn those pixels are large, although we retro fans prefer the term ‘cuddly’.

I made sure I used a long cable so this should be pretty sweet once I can set up the computer on a coffee table or something in front of the TV.

So that takes care of the visuals, but what about the audio?  The instructions on that same page show how to connect a resistor to bring the speaker level output down to line-out voltage so I wired this up to a couple of RCA sockets (although unfortunately despite having a left and right socket it is a mono output) and hung this out the back of the computer (once again after a false start where I hung the resistor and terminal blocks outside the computer, which was hella ugly).

After hooking this up to the little Dual amp I was able to enjoy the dulcet tones of Galaforce, Firetrack and XOR at their best.

The only thing left now was to get some fellow beeb enthusiasts over for a beer and Chuckie Egg night, which is precisely what happened last night (ok, so it was really a housewarming), and thankfully I managed to not get hungover and was thus able to post this and enjoy a glorious sunny day outside rather than in bed with all the curtains drawn.

I’m indulging in one of the many beers left over and about to have a quick bash at Arcadians, and really, life doesn’t get any better than this …