The year was '87
and the old girl was starting to show her age. The 64 just didn’t
cut it in the old graphics stake anymore. All these ambitious
ports of 40" monitor Arcade smashes Outrun, Space Harrier,
Powerdrift to name but a few showed the C64 for what it was, a
5 year old antique that had seen better days. Flicking thro C@VG
or some other mag one day I came across an image of a game boasting
visuals, as wank wet'ingly gorgeous as Susanna Hoffs!!! , this
couldn’t be fuckin' real, no danger!! The game was International
Karate, the hardware - The Atari ST.
I gotta get myself one of those babies, however
earning just over 4 grand a year made it something that wouldn’t
be forthcoming in the immediate future.......or so I thought.
Friday came around, it was the same old routine, me, Grant and
Ian.......... (for the record I got to know Ian thro my work,
he came to help out in the wages dept and one lunch I mentioned
fractal graphics on Koronis Rift, he had a Electron and was obviously
taken with my powerhouse that was a 64 and a disk drive, I mean
COME ON!! He came to my house one day to see it in action and
20 years later, we're still mates) .........would don our pastel
shirts, jacket sleeves rolled up and so much hairspray you could
graze someone arm if they brushed you. Hey Ian Botham, you're
not the only bastard that can look good with shoulder length,
semi permed hair and a moustache! I was the dog’s bollocks!!
Our drinking hole was the Paraffin Lamp, its
still there today and looks like it’s never been decorated
since then. It had a certain, sleazy, mildly dangerous ambience
to it but we liked it. It was very working class and attracted
all walks of life and all ages. Grant and I always got the prime
seats looking out over the dance floor, it gave us the best view
of the evening talent and I wasn’t talking karaoke either!
It never seemed to bother Ian the fact that he always faced the
wall. Here we were sitting supping our pints of Tenents Lager,
looking at the birds on the adjacent tables convinced they were
looking at me and not Grant.
We would slowly get pissed to the sounds of
'Never gonna give you up, 'So Macho', 'Whole of the Moon', 'The
Rattler' etc, etc There was an old bloke who would always entertain,
mainly because he was pissed like us, but he would get up on to
the small dance floor and do a bit of break dancing and sometimes
a bit of robotic dancing. It was so funny, the bloke was laughed
at but it was almost regarded as cool speaking to the old fella
later. In the 2-3 years we went there, none of us ever 'got off'
with anyone...EVER. It didn’t matter, the fact that the
blonde bird had "Looked and smiled across at me...."
made my night.
Invariably the drunken walk home would end up
with one of us in a shopping trolley. The 24hr BP service station
was a godsend, same old order, a large block of cheese or if Ian
ordered it "a block of your finest cheese please.....oh and
a copy of Fiesta". It was great cos he always forgot to take
it home, the fact that I hid it sometimes may have accounted for
that. Grant would go home but Ian, living 5 miles away, became
a permanent fixture at weekends. I reckon my Mum and Dad regarded
him as another son for the 2 days a week. Ian always made the
baked potatoes, in to the microwave, drowned in butter and even
more cheese made this a cholesterol nightmare, but blind drunk,
it tasted magic. Ian would crash out in the spare room and it
wasn’t uncommon to awake the following morning, head pulsating,
fully clothed on top on the bed with a stone cold, untouched potato
by my side, butter colligated and cheese solid.
"That's it son, make us proud one
day with your cheesy doin's."
However this one Friday, we were sitting in
our usual places supping our beer when Ian announced he had a
surprise for me. He wouldn’t tell me what but just said
that I’d be very jealous. New car? Nah he can’t afford
that, what the fuck is it I thought??? As the alcohol took its
effect and the girls became better looking, I soon forgot all
about the surprise.
Saturday morning, Ian said that all would be
revealed tonight at his bit??
We made our way to his parents place; his family
had travelled the world a fair bit but originated from Devon.
His parent’s house was always very, very untidy. His father
drove a Citroen Diane and had a room where he would 'jam' on his
plethora of synthesisers and guitars. His father resembled a social
worker, a comb-over to end all comb-overs, dark rimmed glasses,
thick brown cords and a thick Arran sweater and always called
you 'mate'. Their bathroom was burgundy and had a foosty smell
We came in said our hellos and ventured up stairs,
carefully avoiding the folded clothes on the stairs. He told me
to go in first and then switched on the light. F - U - C- K, staring
me in the eye was only a fucking, spanking new, 350 quid Atari
He put on the one of 2 games he'd gotten, the
first being Arkanoid, wow, this just blew me away, it was just
perfect. Look at the graphics, 100's of colours and a mouse....I
was in heaven. Granted the sound IMO wasn’t as good as the
64, something I delighted in telling Ian. But fuck, the graphics
were just awesome, no blocky sprites here. The other game was
'Prohibition' a game akin to Operation Wolf but lacked animation.
It was basically a New York Skyscraper backdrop with various baddies
and gangster types, some holding hostages. You were alerted by
digitised screams and an arrow that showed the way. Listen to
the screams and shouts, this is amazing. I reckoned we must have
sat until 4-5am and were only encouraged to call it a night when
the birds outside sang their wake up call.
Next pay day, borrowed my Dad's car up to Ray's
computer shop (as mentioned in my previous Computer Shops post).
"How much would an ST set me back Ray?" I enquired.
350 quid, this was 2 months wages IF I gave my Mum and Dad no
dig money, couldn’t see them accepting that. There was however
another option, credit it was called or 'Easy Payment' method.
For approx 50 quid a month for a year, I could have this state
of the art machine in my bedroom this very afternoon - ya dancer!!
Heck so what if it’s costing me close on 500 quid, it means
I can get it now!!!
switch on the power - that's advice gold that is.
Contract signed it was time to look out a game.
The beauty of Ray's shop was he would allow you to try any game
out. He was quite friendly unless he had an older customer in,
in which case he ignored you and then would resume speaking to
you once the older person had left. Back then there wasn’t
too much to pick from. I plumped for a 'Commando' clone - TNT
albeit with much better graphics and simultaneous 2 player!!
Before too long, ST Format pointed us in the
direction of Pro Copy. This little baby meant we could expand
our collection of games, although the protection soon made this
50 quid device null and void.
Come pay day, we'd venture up to Rays and carefully
check out all the latest releases. Crash Garrot, Gauntlet (even
better looking than the arcade, that was), Terripods, and Shadow
of the Beast. Psygnosis was king back them and made Barbarian,
a point n click beat 'em up, sideways scrolling number featuring
some astonishing graphics and awesome sounds.
One particular day we went to Rays and were
greeted by some music. A radio we thought? It then dawned on us
that this noise wasn’t coming from any radio but the computer
itself!!! 'Foreign Affair' by Mike Oldfield was the song and was
somehow coming from a floppy disk!! This blew us away BUT when
we enquired as to the likelihood of a copy, Ray informed us that
it required the more powerful and unaffordable behemoth that was
the 1040 edition!! Bollocks we thought, we did however leave with
a digitised extravaganza that was Star Trek (turned out to be
completely devoid of any gameplay but had sound to die for) and
an 'Arcade Perfect' Street Fighter bought by Ian. He never did
forgive me for completing this game on my first go while he was
making the coffee.
Mamemeister (far right), Ian not shown.
Before long my software collection expanded
mainly via a 'Mr Big' whom I'd become acquainted with. He was
about 14 years old, extremely obnoxious and irritating (heck he
had Garfield posters and soft toys in his room) but I had to be
nice to him, hell he had every bit of software under the sun!!
Ian and I soon discovered the delights of 'sampling'
made possible via this little dongle fitted to the back of the
machine. We even made a 'demo' we called "Ray's Porno Palace"
which was a pisstake on Ray's shop. Using samples ripped from
Rannarama it consisted of a series of sound effects and voiceovers
but we thought it was brilliant. Fuck I wish I could lay my hands
on that disk now.
Bubble Ghost was completed by me, one of my
all time favourites and one of only 3 games I have ever finished.
Robin o' The Wood and Castle Wolfenstein on the 64 being the other
I did eventually get the hardware to play 'Foreign
Affair', fuck I even had an external disk drive.
I was a very content man......until one day
I tuned into Microlive.....
.....there was Fred (surname escapes me) and
Lesley Judd about to unveil the new "Kid on the block".
They had this new machine under a cover but we had to wait until
next week to see it.
Next week came and it was to change my world..........................
Oh and yes, International Karate never