Monday, April 23, 2012

Speccy Bastard

Apparently the ZX Spectrum is 30 years old.

That makes me feel very old. I think the Spectrum was the third computer/games console I laid fingers on. The first was a BBC Microcomputer at primary school, and the second was an Atari 2600 (I think) owned by a friend. That was also the first time I played a game involving the Super Mario Brothers.

The same friend and his older brother also had a ZX Spectrum, and I remember watching them in 1987, sitting for what seemed like hours programming in a BASIC game. It was distinctly underwhelming.

It's almost strange that in today's modern society you can take computer classes for programming now.

But by 1988/89, I was desperate for a computer of my own, and Mither and Faither (or Santa Claus anyway) very generously bought Baby Brother and I a ZX Spectrum +3. Not only did the +3 boast 128k of RAM, but it had a built-in floppy disk drive, which was a revelation in the tape-dominated home computer market.

I actually broke our first Spectrum on Xmas Day, jamming the power cable into the back of the computer upside down and bending all the pins.

But we got a replacement, complete with a disk of six games that I still love to this day:

  • Gift From The Gods - based on Greek mythology, you float around a sprawling underground maze attempting to find stones that will unlock a gate.

  • NOMAD  - An armoured droid (NOMAD stands for something something Mobile Attack Droid) batters around a spaceship shooting stuff.
  •  Mailstrom - You play a postman in a post-apocalyptic England. Deliver the letters and futuristic violence. Dark humor persists.
  •  Daley Thomson's SuperTest - Follow up to Daley Thomson's Decathlon, the sports were more obscure, but the button-bashing was just as fun.

Those games would comfortably run on a modern mobile phone. But at the time, they were cutting-edge. Games on the Spectrum generally had very high playability - they had to, as the graphics and sound were so weak.

Days spent playing Chucky Egg, Dizzy, Footballer of the Year, the games above and hundreds of others are amongst the happiest memories from my childhood.

And now I've found all of the games above on an emulator site. That's my weekend sorted...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


In the six or so years I've been blogging, I've "met" some interesting characters.

It was incredibly saddening to hear today that my favourite blogger - indeed, one of my favourite writers in any medium - known to many as Almax, and to readers of seminal football fanzine The Absolute Game by his real name of Alastair McSporran (which he memorably described as having been invented by a Sunday Post sub-editor), died on Tuesday after a long illness.

Alastair's knowledge of music, conveyed through his blog, was an entry point for me into a whole world of previously unexplored music. Through him I discovered The Incredible String Band, Bunny Wailer, Ornette Coleman, Poco and many, many more.

I also enjoyed the debates he led on football, particularly the fortunes or otherwise of the Old Firm. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 35 private members of the blog when public access was revoked a few years back, and the community that Alastair created felt at all times like the world's best, most selective, private members club. No topic was off limits, and it became a safe haven of sorts to engage in occasionally heated discussion.

No words I write here can possibly do Alastair's talent justice. If a professional writer had left behind a body of work so varied, so forthright, so honest and so tear-inducingly hilarious, they would be feted for decades. That his blog was the work of a supposed amateur makes it all the more impressive.

While the main blog that bears his name remains behind closed doors, I recommend everyone visit this collection of Alastair's The Absolute Game writings for some of the best analysis of Scottish football you'll ever read.

Farewell Alastair - I'm listening to Blood On The Tracks in your honour.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Ten: Ten Great Album Tracks

Ten great songs that were never released as singles.

1: Hey Bulldog by The Beatles

2: Champagne Supernova by Oasis

3: Driving South by The Stone Roses

4: The Width of a Circle by David Bowie

5: Mardy Bum by Arctic Monkeys

6: When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin

7: On A Plain by Nirvana

8: Optimistic by Radiohead

9: Exterminator by Primal Scream

10: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 21: Leyton Orient 1 Huddersfield Town 3 (nPower League One)

Once again I find myself in London for work, and yet again my visit to the capital coincides with some live football.

Having seen Europa League, Carling Cup and Championship football on my two previous visits, this time I was lower down the pyramid, watching Leyton Orient attempt to drag themselves away from the League One relegation zone and Huddersfield aiming for promotion to the Championship.

I've long had a soft spot for Huddersfield, for a very odd reason - during my uni years, I spent a rather large portion of my life managing them in Championship Manager 1997/98 - 20 years in charge, missing out on promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs on TWELVE occasions.

If it's something you're interested in, there are several colleges that offer degrees in sports management.

Anyway, I digress.

On the tube map and London A-Z, Leyton's Brisbane Road stadium looks as though it's a long way from central London, but I found it a lot easier and quicker to get to than White Hart Lane or Upton Park.

The first thing I saw when I alighted from Leyton underground station was the new Olympic Stadium, which Orient have their eyes on as potential post-games tenants.

Which seems a little odd given that they were nowhere near filling Brisbane Road tonight. Only 3,674 hardy souls braved the heavy east London rain for the match, although that may be understandable given the weather, Orient's league position and form, Huddersfield's league position and form, and the fact that Barcelona and Milan were squaring up in the Champions League quarter final live on TV.

Brisbane Road is a weird little ground - a comparatively enormous main stand (the one in the picture above) with three wee ones completing the set-up. The stand I was in is made of wood, giving it an old-fashioned vibe that even Links Park can't match.

Weirder still, the four corners of the ground are filled with blocks of flats looking out onto the pitch, and many of the balconies were occupied by fans watching the match.

There was the potential for quite a Caledonian connection in the match, with Orient's squad including Scott Cuthbert and Marc Laird, while Huddersfield have Gary Naysmith, Scott Arfield and Jordan Rhodes, as well as former Dundee United striker Danny Cadamarteri and ex-Hibs keeper Nick Colgan.

Only Laird and Rhodes started the match, with Cadamarteri and Arfield coming off the Huddersfield bench.

Orient started the match brightly, and took a deserved lead with a sweet goal from Matthew Spring, the midfielder firing home from the edge of the box with quarter of an hour gone.

But Huddersfield levelled immediately, Orient's Jimmy Smith getting the final touch on Rhodes' back heel, although the Scottish striker did his best to claim the goal as his own.

Rhodes. who now has 36 or 37 goals this season depending on whether the first was his or not, was by far the best player on the park, finishing with a hat-trick (if we give him the opener).

He was a constant danger to a lacklustre Orient team, who looked beaten the moment their visitors scored. They looked devoid of ideas, made fundamental passing errors and struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas. As we can often see, a team down on its luck may struggle even to complete the basics, and too often they passed the ball straight to Huddersfield's players when under no pressure. Midfielder Dean Cox in particular seemed incapable of completing even a simple pass.

That is to take nothing away from Huddersfield, who were combative, first to every ball and quick to get the ball forward towards Rhodes. His was a real striker's performance, slamming home from close range for his side's second and coolly slotting into the net to complete his hat-trick in the last minute.

Arfield also looked good when he came on, and maybe his status as one of the lost talents of the Scottish game is premature, particularly if Huddersfield can push on up to the Championship. Rhodes, it is clear, is destined for greater things, not least a place in the Scotland squad once he's established at a higher level.

A good game, and one I'm glad I picked over a gig - if it had been a 0-0 draw I'd have been raging.

Man of the Match: Only one contender - Jordan Rhodes. A striker of genuine quality, combing pace and power with a finisher's instinct. Definitely a player to keep an eye on over the next few years.