Monday, 16 November 2015

THE COMMODORE COUNTDOWN


THE ADVENT OF THIS BLOG
- IT WASN'T ACCIDENTAL TIMING -

An advent calendar?  Yes indeed, one of two I've purchased this year and if you read the first post on this new blog you'll probably have worked out what this is all about by now.  The blog itself popped up here on 11th November, exactly a month before what I've dubbed Commodore Christmas Day for myself, the first of many days I have off work this festive season and the day I've chosen to wait to until I can open up my 'brand new' Commodore 64!

Well I always buy an advent calendar every year, usually one with chocolate inside, to count down to my favourite time and this year is no different, with a Malteaser one waiting patiently for 1st December.  However, with the start of my Christmas vacation (I'm not going anywhere, it just makes it sound grand) being the big Commodore day I thought why not count down to that one too with more chocolate?  I'm sure not many would argue with that logic.

With twenty-five days in these Thorntons ones, today was the first day to open it up and bite down on the first step towards the first of two big days this year.  Yes I know the twenty-fifth one is meant to be opened on the day you're counting down to, but who ever remembers to do so with all the excitement of Christmas Day?  I certainly wouldn't!  I never did understand that about such calendars, so in this case I'm ignoring the rulebook and using that extra day to start early.

What a rebel.

With having secured a CRT TV for the computer too this weekend (more on that soon) my excitement levels are building!  Can't wait to share everything with you in just twenty-five days.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

OFF WE GO

I'M GOING TO PARTY LIKE IT'S 1991
- A NEW COMMODORE 64 BLOG -


Welcome to the start of a brand new adventure for me and it all starts with this above, still currently within a combination of its delivery parcel and an old Sky+ box and waiting to be unwrapped to see what develops.  A bit like this blog really, the design of which is deliberately basic at the moment because it's going to be based around what's in those boxes, but you'll see what I mean when the time comes.  First up, what's this all about?

HOW I GOT HERE

Over two-and-a-half years ago I started a fun little experiment to read each and every issue of classic 80s UK comic Oink! on the date of their original release and write them up on one of those blog things.  Originally intended to be a small endeavour which would be finished within a couple of years, it soon grew into something much bigger than I'd ever anticipated.  It became hugely popular, I befriended other pig pals (how readers of the comic were addressed by fictional editor Uncle Pigg at the time) and got to chat with many of the extremely talented writers, cartoonists and editors who worked on it; even becoming good friends with some.  I started covering more than just the original issues and it very organically expanded over the past two-and-a-half-and-a-bit-more years.

Something I definitely didn't see coming was how it ended up reigniting my passion for writing, which I'd had at various points in my younger life but never followed up on career-wise.  One of those times was actually a diskzine for the Commodore 64 too.  Now I'm heading into 2016 with big plans for an Oink! book and wanting to develop that writer trapped inside me and see where it all leads.  The key here is to emphasise how this all came about perfectly naturally.

You see, in my past I've had a habit of latching onto an idea and being completely obsessed about it for a while, before my attention span moves on to something else and whatever I was working on would be left to collect dust in the foggy parts of my memory.  This is what happened with several writing projects in the past, along with a lack of confidence, and indeed with some things I developed for my original Commodore 64 back in the 1990s when a friend and I set up Parallel Logic.

But with The Oink! Blog I didn't set out with any grand plan, instead I feel like I've grown too and am now following that dream at my own pace instead of making the same mistakes.  The professional writers and cartoonists I've become acquainted with have also been extremely supportive, their words about my writing giving me the great boost in confidence I needed.  This is where Recovering from a Scratch comes in.


WHERE I'M GOING
(I DON'T KNOW YET, BUT THAT'S THE POINT)

This isn't the first time I've bought a C64 since my youth, however that's a story for another time.  Concentrating on the current occasion, this past year or so has been tough at times; I'd previously been in debt, cleared them, then a bunch of us lost our jobs and I ended up unemployed for about half of last year and the debts piled up again (I love signing up for cards and payment plans just before losing a job, don't you?).  I've spent this year getting on top of them and at the end of September I paid them off - debt-free just in time for Christmas, my very favourite time of the year.

I'd been reminiscing about my writing, programming and game creating on my original 64 and, after the experiences of The Oink! Blog and where it was leading me, I decided now was the time to branch out and, alongside developing a writing career, why not also flex those creative muscles with a return to an old hobby?  To celebrate the final debt payment I purchase a refurbished Commodore 64C with a few extras and set about collecting a few magazines, the manual and just a small selection of games to get me started, all chosen very deliberately.  The computer has stayed in its packaging and the other bits 'n' bobs I bought were put into another box, sealed away and there's a reason I'm waiting patiently.

The Oink! Blog winds down its initial concept this year before I relaunch it in January, but there's a good bit still to do and I wanted to concentrate on that first.  Also, I've been able to book a tremendous amount of time off work this festive season, so exactly one month from the date of this post, on the morning of Friday 11th December I'll be up at the crack of dawn on my own personal Commodore Christmas Day and unwrapping all the goodies for the first time.  There's a lot to be said about anticipation for something when you know you'll be able to set the proper time aside to enjoy it.  This is something I do often, for example my first iPhone last Christmas (and my Apple Watch this forthcoming season) was very kindly paid for by my family all pitching in, the money used by me to buy it several weeks in advance.  But I kept it out of my sight until I could give it to my parents and sisters to wrap up and keep for the big day.


A few years ago I acquired an iPad and then when my laptop went to Microsoft heaven a really good friend of mine called Andy bought me an astonishing present; a Mac Mini!  He said he saw great potential in the blog I was writing and didn't want me to stop, but more than that he wanted me to keep on developing what I was doing as he said he saw a bright future in it for me.  Basically, he was seeing what I wanted to do before I even knew myself.  Thanks to him I've been able to carry on.  Adding the TV and phone to the package (though the iPad was traded in) resulted in me enjoying my writing more and more; the research, the interactions, the designing, the artwork and of course most of all the writing itself.  I hadn't enjoyed working with technology and developing an affinity with it this much since the days with my beloved Commodore 64, and now the two are to meet.

When I first got my hands on a C64 as a quite computer-illiterate 14-year-old I had no idea the potential inside its lovely beige casing, nor how it'd grab me and not let me go for many years, how it'd become my life or how it'd start me on a path which could've led to the career I'm only seriously chasing now.  Life can repeat itself and I'd also no idea how the simple change from an old laptop to the Mac would have the same effect.  Though Andy did.

My life with this 'new' Commodore will be covered on this blog and the whole point behind this site is quite simple.

RECOVERING FROM A SCRATCH

This isn't going to be a blog about me collecting loads and loads of games, so many that I can't possibly play them all.  It's not about tracking down and spending a fortune on rare titles.  It's not going to be a place to catch up on the very latest C64 news (and yes, there's plenty out there).  Nor will it be a site where you'll get loads of technical specifications and programming tutorials, or hundreds upon hundreds of game reviews.  All of those and more are already out there for this wonderful home computer and they're great!  No, this is going to be something more personal, it's going to be my journey to... well, I don't know yet.

- - -

When I got my C64 for Christmas in 1991 I had no idea that by those final days of school my time with the Commodore would have me on the cusp on something great.  It all just developed and happened but I was young and didn't realise what I had and what I'd achieved!

When I started The Oink! Blog in April 2013 I had no idea that by the time I finished covering all the issues I'd be addicted to writing again, wanting a career once more and be on the cusp of starting a book about a beloved subject.  Again, it all just developed and happened but this time I'm getting on a bit (I'm in denial about those couple of grey hairs that popped up a few months back).  While I'm always surprised at the feedback I get, especially from professional writers, it's taught me to realise what I have and what I've achieved this time.

- - -

So now it's time to reset the clock and restart my Commodore 64 adventure again, albeit it with some hindsight.  I have no idea where it'll lead.  Could I end up making the killer 3D Construction Kit game I always wanted to do?  Could I end up creating some regular writing work or a book out of it?  Could I end up programming a new game or utility from scratch?  I have no idea and that's the fun part!  I'm starting again from scratch and that's the focus here.

I'll be starting out like I did the first time round and it's going to be a fun ride.  That much I do know.