Sunday, 28 June 2015

Amiga 30 Amsterdam June 2015, my story...

The day finally arrived, who knew what to expect?! Well I don't think anyone went away disappointed.

It's now the day after, I'm sat in a café in central Amsterdam trying my best to recall the events of the day as well as my total experience.  As I'm looking back on photos and memories I have a big smile on my face.



Welcome to The Lighthouse

On arrival opposite the venue was a pop up tent with a few people hanging around, Amiga people.  At this point I was on my own, but quite quickly started chatting to people around me.

I had traveled from the UK and the guy next to me in line had driven from Germany.  We couldn't make sense of what looked like just a regular bar with a small marquee outside.  Was this it?!


This was it!

I'm not going to lie, at the very beginning I was starting to worry as we ALL packed in to what seemed a small bar which had a mini stage in the corner.  Without further ado the event kicked off.

With a quick introduction and a brief hello from our hosts and RJ, we got straight in to it...



We are, your friends!

Interestingly, the day started with the guys behind FriendOS.  As you can imagine the room was packed with hardcore Amiga fans and I don't think half the room was expecting something slightly off topic. So understandably some of them filtered out and chatted at the back of the room.

For me though, I was VERY interested. Literally the day before I had been sat on the train thinking about the current state of operating systems and if anyone could actually make a difference with the world with the concepts behind the original Amiga OS.  Sure there would need to be a lot of work to be done, but it's what I'd been thinking about.


It turns out others have been thinking the same.  FriendOS.  In summary they're creating an OS that is platform agnostic, modular and uses the internet to power everyone.  They are taking the best ideas and parts of existing operating systems, including several fundamental elements from the Amiga and creating a new OS.

You can find out more about their project here: friendos.com  They have also just launched a Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/apblix/friend-platform-secure-own-and-unify-your-digital

They presented at the Amiga 30 event because they wanted to get feedback from the Amiga community about what they are doing.  I really liked what I saw, I was able to chat to Arne later in the day, and I'll be getting in touch over the next few days.


Amiga Forever, FOREVER EVER!

Mike from Cloanto, makers of the awesome Amiga Emulator, Amiga Forever http://www.amigaforever.com/ gave us all a free copy of the latest version.  He gave us a run down of this history and where he's taking it.


Amiga Youtubers

These guys were as passionate as anyone else in the room.  I have to admit I didn't know who they were before they started, but as soon as it started I realised I had seen their youtube clips that have become so popular in the Amiga community.


They presented a short video piece which had many many great Amiga memories in.

A-EON

Huge respect to Trevor, I hadn't realised the amount of effort that has been going in to the hardware side of the Amiga (well due to legal complications, the closest thing to an official Amiga) over the last few years.


As we all know the Amiga intellectual property and copyrights situation is a complete mess, a complex mess.  Trevor confirmed this is still the case, but he's trying damn hard to do the best he can for the Amiga, and I take my hat off to you.  http://www.a-eon.com/

David Pleasance - "we don't sell computers, we sell dreams"

I hugely respect David for coming to the event and speaking about the great times and troubles he had at Commodore.  I know a lot of guys almost blame him for the death of the Amiga, so I could sense a little bit of a funny atmosphere about.


I have to say it felt like David had a chance to get a few things off his chest.  I don't know what to believe about the whole business situations, however he came across as very genuine and passion.  It's obvious he did do great things for Commodore and Amiga, direct actions he did like create the Amiga packages is still strongly remembered and talked about today.

The one, the only DAVE HAYNIE!

This guy, THIS GUY is a true Amiga rock'n'roll star.  His stage presence draws you in and still speaks with as much passion today than ever.

The energy in the room went up multiple levels, not just from Dave, but the crowd reciprocating passion.  This wall of love suddenly hit Dave which choked him and brought a couple of tears to his eyes.


What a privileged it was to hear the words from his mouth explaining hardware decisions he made that not only made the Amiga the most amazing home computer that ever existed, but how that then has impacted every personal computer system since.

As the Commodore ship sank, he explained they were working on technology YEARS ahead of it's time which wasn't far off.

Carl Sassenrath

Again it's a joy to hear straight from the horses mouth decisions that were made, why they were made and how they were made.  The Guru Meditation and dynamically loading libraries, stuff we just take for granted toady.


I hadn't fully appreciated that the Amiga team were in the thick of Silicon Valley. I'm so grateful that Carl left Hewlett-Packard to join Amiga :)  It's interesting to hear the connection between the companies, and interaction with Apple and Cray computers.

Dave, Carl & R J take to the stage... "Will swap floppy disk for food"

At this point in the day I had stood in the same place for about 4 hours glued listening to every speaker.  I'm gutted for the bad timing of when the 3 legends all took to the stage and announce that there was only 30 mins left to get lunch.  I hadn't realised the time or the fact lunch was even available.


I was about to pass out so thought I had better get some food inside me, I lost my spot close to the stage and had to hang back listening from afar and eating.  I didn't get to listen to the 3 legends all talking at once, but I'm hoping the video of the talks will all be available soon so that I can watch back through.

For those of us who prepaid for lunch, we were given a special lunch ticket which was actually an original floppy disk :)

Lets get some fresh air!

The sun was shining and it was about time I checked out the tent outside with a few things going on.  A few people had brought their own machines, there were companies selling games, hardware, memorabilia, all sorts!


I had a period where I was able to chat to other Amiga fans and chill out.  I'm not entirely sure what happened on the stage for the rest of the day, but I was in and out listening to different people as well as mingling with others outside.

What I loved about the format was that true legends were so open to talk about their true love, the Amiga to everyone and anyone.

That Eureka moment - This is why the Amiga is the best machine ever made...

RJ Mical - Just how does this guy keep his energy levels SO HIGH?!  I didn't bring anything to sign, I just wanted to approach him, so thank you and ask for a quick photo.  This isn't the RJ way.

As I stood in a line to get my quick moment with RJ, I realised that the Amiga had touched all of us in pretty much the same way.  All of us were saying how the Amiga just had that 'magic' about it, the perfect machine.  For some reason it was just 'different'.  And it occurred to me why the Amiga was so great, just listening to RJ talk.

The reason why it's so great, is because of the amount of love, energy and passion these guys put in to it.  They put so much in you can still feel it so strong 30 years later!!  And believe me they STILL have this amount of love, energy and passion.

RJ stopped every single person, sat them down and asked what the Amiga meant to them and wanted to listen to their story.  I mean, I've seen book signings and celebrities photo opportunities before, but I've never seen anything like this.


Someone had brought an Atari Lynx which was playing ported Amiga games and demos, RJ shouted "THIS IS THE BEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN!!! SEND ME THE ROMS!!"


The guy in front of me had brought the awesome Amiga Book by Bitmap Books to sign, a book which I backed on Kickstarter months earlier.  It was great to hear RJ say how he loved the book so much and that it was beautiful.


So I got my photo opportunity, as I was on my own, I asked for a selfie shot, which RJ thought was hilarious!  As you can see :)


Carl was a little confused with the concept of a selfie as everyone else were getting much more formal shots.


Dave just loved it, I can listen to this guy talk ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT.

Back in the room

So I was able to catch a couple of guys on the main stage in the afternoon as well as a 20 minute preview of the up and coming film Viva Amiga.  It's an understatement to say I'm looking forward to this, the glimpse of what we saw, this looks like it'll be a very passionate, honest, sad and fun packed documentary.


Jon Hare, a great set.  And everyone was waiting for it... they didn't disappoint...


Thank you and good night - "AMIGA! AMIGA! AMIGA!"

We were left on a high as all the VIPs hit the stage, everyone packed in to say thank you and goodbye.  For those lucky few who bought the VIP extra ticket, they were treated with a ferry trip with the VIPs around Amsterdam.  From the pictures I saw on Twitter, they looked like they had a great time!


All in all and a special thank you...

This weekend has been the first time I've ever done anything like this.  I've realised that over the years I've been an isolated Amiga lover, sure I had mates who had Amigas and played a lot of games.  But seeing the passion and energy levels of all the people this weekend who STILL LOVE the Amiga has made me realise that I've missed out on many years of the Amiga community.

This weekend has now given me the drive to make more time for the Amiga, to properly get in to assembler, but also connect with the Amiga community.

Thank you to Amiga 30 for making it happen, thank you to everyone who traveled the world to be there, you made it awesome.

The Amiga 30 event in Amsterdam was truly fantastic for me, however, my weekend away would have been nothing without meeting 2 awesome guys who I shared most of the experience with.  A couple of Amiga demo sceners from Sweden, Jonas and Alex, who I can now call my friends and hopefully have more adventures in the future together.


I'm so grateful for the sharing of knowledge, experiencing different parts of Amsterdam and the fun we had, thank you guys.

We you there? Do you wish you were there? Do you think we were insane?  Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd


Friday, 26 June 2015

What's happening this weekend? Where am I going? Amsterdam? Why? Amiga 30 Years event?

What an amazing place to have a meet up and who can believe the Amiga is 30 years old?!


I landed in Amsterdam yesterday (Thursday), what a place!!  OK so I've arrived a couple of days early before the Amiga 30 event on Saturday, but I wanted to make the most of travelling out here, get settled in and make sure I'm all set for Saturday.

I've been to Amsterdam a few times now, mainly for business.  I have done some brief exploring around town before, this time I'm on my own and have time to spend properly exploring.

Last night I finally worked out how the Metro / public transport system works which has saved me loads of money, walking and time!

It's Friday morning, I've found a nice café to sit drink strong coffee and quickly write this brief blog post.

Amiga 30 at The Lighthouse this Saturday

Go to the event website here: http://www.amiga30.eu/

Well I have no idea what to expect, honestly, I have no idea.  Sure I love the Amiga, the best machine ever made, but I'm worried I'm not quite as knowledgeable or up to speed with all the history and ins + outs of it's history and functionality.

I'm still very much in the early days of getting my head around and learning Assembler 68k, which I NEED more time for.  I have a lot of awesome memories of a lot of the games, and it amazes me to this day that I'm discovering amazing games that came out that I've never heard of or had an opportunity to play.

Why get flights and hotel for THIS event? Good question.

I guess I just love talking about the Amiga, sharing memories, but also learning new facts and things that happened.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the Amiga than to meet up with other Amiga geeks in one of the world's craziest cities! To actually potentially meet and listen to some of the amazing people behind the magic of the Amiga will be worth every penny.

I'm also very excited to meet someone who's been amazing to me, helping me out with assembler, Jonas.  You can find his blog here: http://www.retrocode.se/

So I will try and tweet the day via @rich_lloyd, I'll also aim to write a summary blog post of this weekend.

I'm going with a completely open mind, I don't know who I'm going to meet and don't know what I'll be talking about.  Can't wait!

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

Saturday, 4 April 2015

68k Part 1 - Easy now, raster lines and mouse buttons

Starting really simple now, lets change the colour of the raster lines and check the mouse buttons...

Changing the default colours on the Amiga

Yes there will be a heavy influence from the ScoopexUs 'Amiga Hardware Programming' tutorials on YouTube for the next few blog posts for sure. How can there not be? they are just so good!

I'm only learning, just a 68k noob!

I'm just trying to mess around with my own sections of code, for my own sanity, checking that I do sort of understand and hopefully will stick in my head for a while!  I will try to comment my code the best I can so that it explains itself.  Please PLEASE suggest better ways to do stuff, my samples sure wont be perfect.

My first snippet

Create a new file in Asm-One and copy paste the following code (or download source here).

This simple sample changes the default background and foreground colours, if the right mouse button is pressed down, it will change the colours whilst it's being pressed.  If the left mouse button is pressed the program is ended.

loop:
 
 btst #10, $dff016 ; test RIGHT mouse click
 bne default

; colours when right click is pressed
 
 move.w #$0f0, $dff180 ; moving colour in to background colour
 move.w #$0ff, $dff182 ; moving colour in to foreground colour

 bra  checkExit
 
default:

; default colours

 move.w #$f00, $dff180 ; moving colour in to background colour
 move.w #$ff0, $dff182 ; moving colour in to foreground colour 
 
checkExit:

 btst #6, $bfe001  ; test LEFT mouse click
 bne loop

 rts 

So I'm updating the colours every frame, I probably only need to do it at the start of the first raster line for each frame, but just as a sample I think it's ok.

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

Back with Amiga 68k Assembler, with ASM-ONE! C'MON!

OK so I started learning 68k assembler a while back now (2013!!) and it's tough, really tough.  I think it's more a case of just needing the time and focus to concentrate so that it absorbs in my brain.  Life and work gets in the way!!

I've been coding higher level languages for many many years now so it's not like I'm starting from scratch.  The hardest part for me is understanding the hardware, and how all the different code integrates to build the bigger picture.

Long story short - I've had a break away from the assembler world, and now I'm back and determined to get SOMEWHERE in 68k for the Amiga!  C'MON!

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

New goals!

Here's a list of things I would LOVE to achieve, once I've got a small library of techniques, hopefully I can start working towards the bigger goal of creating an Intro / Demo / Game.

  • Understanding  68k basics.  Moving stuff around in memory and program flow
  • Get a grip of the Copper, custom backgrounds
  • Draw a sprite!
  • Move a sprite!!
  • Mouse Input
  • Keyboard Input
  • Joystick Input
  • Play a music track / audio
  • Display Text
  • Create a simple Intro / Demo / Game
The ultimate goal would be to have made something awesome that fits on a floppy disc and runs on a regular Amiga machine.  I'll be happy with it running on the Amiga 1200, but if I can get it working on the Amiga 500 and upwards that really would be an achievement.

My new setup - AsmOne, lets get coding!

To achieve my goals, coding directly on my Amiga 1200 through my whole learning journey will be well... a very slow experience.  Lets get real, I'll be coding on my Windows laptops, then transferring the files to my Amiga now and then to check it works on real hardware.

My Windows setup with WinUAE, AsmOne and Notepad++
My Windows setup with WinUAE, AsmOne and Notepad++

Depending on the time of day, I'll be switching between 2 laptops (Windows 7 and Windows 8), but both will have identical set-ups.

Naturally I use WinUAE which is an amazing Amiga Emulator, you can download it here:

WinUAE Downloadhttp://www.winuae.net/frames/download.html

I've created a folder on my machine and set up as a hard drive (DH0:) when I launch WinUAE.  This means I can view files in BOTH the emulated Amiga and in Windows.  Makes it so easy to copy files about, especially when looking through examples online, I can just drop in to that folder and my emulated Amiga can see them straight away.  Happy days!

The assembler I will now be using to learn 68k will be AsmOne, mainly because there are plenty of examples out there that use it, and also off the back of Photon's truly amazing tutorials on YouTube which I have linked before, but will link again further down.

AsmOne Downloadhttp://www.theflamearrows.info/documents/ftp.html

Now I 'could' use the AsmOne text editor through the Amiga emulator, but in all honesty, it's slow.  Here's a better idea, as my files can be seen in Windows, I can use a modern text editor!!  Save the changes, and the Amiga will get updated.

For now I use Notepad++ , you can even import the 68k Assembly language definition for syntax highlighting etc...

Notepad++ Download here:
http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

Get the language definition here:
http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/commun/userDefinedLang/68K_Assembly.xml

So the last bit of setup I have, is that the folder I have on my Windows drive is actually part of my OneDrive (it could easily be a DropBox or GoogleDrive, etc... ).  As I work on multiple machines, my files instantly get synchronised so it makes it so much easier for me to pick up where I left when I get a spare moment.

68k references

Sure thing Google is your friend here, as well as the usual Amiga websites.  I have found it harder than I thought to hunt down things when I've had issues, so I'm just sharing some links here that might help out:
Make sure you subscribe to Photon's YouTube channel, includes excellent tutorials for Amiga Hardware Programming as well as other great Amgia stuff like demos.

ScoopexUs YouTube channel here - https://www.youtube.com/user/ScoopexUs

If you find a goldmine of reference then please let me know!

Here's a couple of books I find REALLY helpful when trying to get my head in the zone!


Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Memories of considering the Commodore Amiga 500...

Back in 1991 our well used Spectrum +2 was fully loved, however it didn't know it would soon be replaced... by the Amiga 500!

International Amiga Day is approaching us so just wanted to share some of my memories of the exciting time of upgrading our family computer.  Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd


We had always been a ZX Spectrum household.  First it was the rubber keys, then the +2.  Long loading times and 16 colours was the norm. A lot of my friends had speccys, so sharing games was frequent, the world of the ZX Spectrum was more than enough. Even the BBC Micro was exciting, mainly exposed to at school this tank like machine was great!

After joining secondary school there was a shake up in my world of computers. The Acorn Archimedes!  This was a machine from the future...

  • It had colours, bright clear screen which displayed crisp clean graphics. 
  • A MOUSE, wow this was science fiction right here. 
  • Disks, the quickest thing I'd ever witnessed
...this era of computing was about to change.  If you'd asked me right there if I wanted an Archimedes I would have said YES... but where are the games?  This amazing machine had the stigma of being an educational beast, not really your full all round home entertainment machine.

The Amiga 500 has entered the building

It was now becoming clear that the well loved ZX Spectrum was starting to fall behind and a new machine was about to replace it.  I remember very clearly going in to Dixons, Salisbury with my Dad to inspect the latest home computers and there it was the Amiga 500.  We asked for a demo of what the machine could do, and I will never forget what we experienced.  

Shadow of the Beast 2




First up was Shadow of the Beast 2.  After seeing the most amazing animation intro to any game of my life, the title screen appeared with the most beautiful music and stunning visuals.  We were instantly sold.  To this day the music is still stuck in my head.

Amiga Workbench




We were then shown the power of a multitasking computer when booting up the Amiga Workbench.  A clock in one window, some classical music being played in another.  There was also the power of desktop publishing (DTP), something we massively take for granted.  Produce documents which could be printed in your own home.  I could see this was ticking all of my Dad's boxes.

Deluxe Paint




Not to forget Deluxe Paint, Photoshop of it's day, this powerful art program was ground breaking.

Touch Me


The novelty of using a mouse was extremely exciting, a completely new way to interact with a computer.  The concept of Drawers (Folders) and Windows of icons was just pure wizardry.  Using the mouse for games was also a crazy thing, it wasn't a joystick!

I remember touching the keys was a joy, how they felt on the finger tips, solid.  This was a REAL keyboard it had Function keys and Amiga keys, WOW.

So it ticked all the boxes, games + art programs for me, desktop publishing + spreadsheets for my Dad. Everyone's a winner!

But before we handed over all our money we visited a friend with an Amiga just to double check it was all it was cracked up to be.  The main demo I remember is...

Puggs In Space




Again, seeing a full on animation on a home computer was mind blowing.  Watching a 'cartoon' on a computer and not a TV.

The Amiga 500 really was something special.  The quality of sound and visuals really were something new and exciting to experience.  The general feeling of power was felt every time you inserted a new disk for the first time.  When playing a game you never new what it was going to be like, but you knew it would be engaging.  You'd always be reassuringly hugged by the Amiga, no matter what.

The Amiga.  Friends forever.

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd

Mario Twins Shiggity Shiggity Shwa...

A little bit off topic, but recently remembered this Flash animation from quite a number of years ago now.

Didn't matter where you were or who you are, back in the day Nintendo ruled and there was no avoiding Super Mario Bros.  There have been many parodies and jokes over the years, and this one has stuck with me.

Ahh the Mario Twins.  This tickles me



Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd


Friday, 7 March 2014

What I really wanted in October 1991... Amiga Computing issue 41 reveals all...

That's right, I recently sat down and browsed through an old Amiga Computing magazine I had... 

Issue 41 to be exact, why issue 41 I hear you not ask?  Well I've kept all the Amiga Format, Amiga Power and Amiga Computing magazines we ever had.  Recently in conversation the game Mega Lo Mania for the Amiga came up.  Turns out issue 41 of Amiga Computing had a review of that very game, and a great review too 93%.
Amiga Computing - Issue 41 - October 1991

As I was browsing... 

I came across one of those ads that advertised every game under the sun, there's plenty of them, this one was for 'Special Reserve'. Before I flicked the page over I realised, as a 12 year old kid, scribbled next to the things I wanted.  So I thought I'd share with you these things...

My wish list October 1991

The Amiga games/software I wanted in alphabetical order:
  • AMOS (Games Creator) - £32.99
    Yes as a 12 year old I was desperate to be a games programmer, I was so naive, but Google didn't exist so didn't know what was out there, this seemed to be the obvious choice.  I owe a lot to AMOS, it spring boarded my programming career! 
  • ELF - £16.49
    I remember now, for some reason the advertising for this game really appealed to me. To this day I've never played it, I must fire it up on my Amiga 1200.  I've got a feeling it had bad reviews.
  • HOLLYWOOD COLLECTION (Robocop, Ghostbusters 2, Indy Jones, Batman Movie) - 19.99
    Of course I wanted this, how awesome are these bunch of games! Never had this collection. Remember playing Robocop and being slightly disappointed. I'm assuming that was Indiana Jones and the last crusade, I played it on other platforms and loved it.  Never played Ghostbusters 2 or Batman Movie.
  • RAINBOW COLLECTION (Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, New Zealand Story) - £13.99
    Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands were a MASSIVE favourite on our ZX Spectrum. Remember seeing the vibrant colours on the Amiga version and really wanted to be in those worlds. I did play New Zealand Story in the end, but I don't think it had the same energy as the other 2 games.
OK so there were a couple of accessories I wanted too...

Many joystick options available back in the day, but the Quickshot Maverick was the one I wanted

  • Quickshot 138F Maverick 1 - £12.99
  • Roctec External Drive - £54.99
So I was after an awesome joystick and external floppy drive, never did get a joystick better than a standard Competition Pro, but did get the 2nd floppy drive about a year later.

And then there was the Nintendo Gameboy...

OK so I LOVED my Amiga, it was great then, and it still is today. At the time I never had a Nintendo product, they were top of their game and the Gameboy was so amazing.  This is what I wanted.  After months of my Mum pretending to not understand what a gamethingy was she secretly got me one for Xmas that year.


The Gameboy games I desperately wanted was Formula 1 Race (with four player adaptor) £29.49 and Super Mario Land £19.49.  What I find funny about this selection is that I didn't know ANYONE else with a Gameboy at the time, so no idea why I chose the four way adaptor.  Super Mario Land became a massive favourite of mine, but I never did get or play Formula 1 Race.

Yup they were the top things I wanted.  Nothing too exciting I know, but it's just funny looking back on things that a 12 year old me wanted.  When I look at all the other things on offer at the time, makes me chuckle.

Right I must get back to coding in Amiga Assembler...

Comment here or get involved on twitter: @rich_lloyd