January 2011


My first computer was an Amiga, an A600 to be exact, way back in the early nineties. At the time they were sort of comparable to PCs, but the PC then went on to expand and grow while the Amiga stagnated and went through a few different owners before going kaput.

It was a brilliant machine though, and despite being known as a games machine had all sorts of software available for it: from compilers to databases, word processors to paint programs. A lot of TV graphics were done on early Amigas. They were very suitable for that environment having Gen Lock hardware that could do green screening and mixing of images.

I mention Amigas because I bought Amiga Forever, an Amiga emulator, a few years ago. Recently I have been using it quite a bit and even more recently I upgraded to the latest edition. Then I went on the net and downloaded a lot of programs for it.

The first Amiga magazine I bought was Amiga Computing, and I bought it on and off for a few years until it – like the Amiga – went bosoms up. Although I suppose Amiga Format was the magazine I bought most often: back then Amiga magazines were like the early PC magazines in that they would have full software on their cover discs. Half the time I was buying the magazine for the little bit of plastic on the front.

The Amiga I bought still works – or did the last time I tried it a few years ago – and the loft is littered with bags of the floppy discs, so it was nice to be able to download most of them from the net rather than try and find some sort of floppy disc drive to read them and copy them to a PC (Amiga Forever can read PC discs).

The best thing about them is that they are tiny: they were low density floppy discs – which meant around 800k of data. It’s amazing to think that they contained not only a full program but sometimes several full programs, and I’m not talking command line programs either but full WISYWIG GUI programs. I’ve downloaded buckets of them and they are still under about thirty megabytes on my USB drive.

I doubt if any program on Windows would be able to even fit into 30 MB let alone under 1 MB. And the A600 itself only came with 1MB of RAM. So, on a low density floppy with 1MB of RAM a fully multitasking Windowed OS would run quite happily. Nowadays a PC wouldn’t even boot with 1MB of RAM. The processor ran at 6Mhz. The later models of Amigas ran at such ridiculous speeds as 30 to 40 Mhz. It just shows how far computing has come; we’re only talking about twenty odd years here, not a couple of lifetimes. But twenty years in computing is several generations I suppose.

So I’m looking forward to trying out Amiga Forever 2011, which has been updated quite a bit since I bought it; it now looks something similar to Virtual PC. I’m also looking forward to exploring all those old programs too.

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I hope everyone had a good festive season. It’s back to work for me, so holiday’s over. I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, the latest, Crimewave (11), dropped through my letterbox today and I’ve dipped into it already. I wrote earlier about how a couple of Robert E Howard books went missing. Well they’ve turned up. They were found in a box that had old equipment in and had nothing to do with books. A tattered copy of The Book of Robert E Howard, a very fine 1980s edition (still smelling newish) of She Devil and one I had forgotten about, The Howard Collector, a paperback collecting various bits and pieces from the legendary small press magazine put out by Glenn Lord in the early seventies. I’ve had a browse through them all, reading bits and pieces here and there.

The bad weather seems to have rode off into the distance (fingers crossed) with rain now taking its place. Luckily the house scrapped through the cold and snow but there were some tricky times. It has certainly been the worst winter I can recall – temperature wise at least.

The credit card is weighed down this month, due to Christmas spending, and I’ve avoided any sales (which are year round now anyway and don’t end when January ends) while off work. Boredom can set in easily when off work and getting into the car and off into town centres is an easy option. Waterstone’s have a sale on at the moment with a lot of good bargains but I decided not to splash any cash.

I’m hoping that post hasn’t been lost over the Christmas break: I’m expecting an important document and a little unsure of how long to wait before phoning up about it.

I’ve got a new bookshop to investigate: I noticed a car while parking which was advertising the bookshop (probably belonged to the owner) and on doing some Google-Fu found out they’ve been going for years – established 2005. It might be worth the extra five or ten minutes to get to; I’ll find out next time I’m in Kirkcaldy. It should be worth a look at least.