Apr 112015
 

Back in late 2014, Chris Wilkins approached me to write a “memoir” for his upcoming book, “The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels: VOLUME 1.

The book, which launched in December 2014, was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, and per Chris’s Fusionretrobooks.com site:

The book, ‘The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels‘, is 236 pages in length and finished to the very same high standard adopted for ‘The History of Ocean Software‘ and ‘The Story of U.S. Gold‘ publications . The ‘ Sinclair’ logo on the front cover is embossed making the book a desirable addition to any gaming fan or book collector

The book is predominantly a visual journey charting the best games on the ZX Spectrum from 1982 onwards until the early 90’s. Each spread contains a large iconic image of the game and is accompanied by artwork from the inlay, the game’s advertisement where available and further game screens showing the loading screen, menu etc.

We have also interviewed over 19 programmers, artists and musicians to get their view on the Spectrum and how it helped launch their careers into gaming including Rick Dickinson, the man who designed the Sinclair range of computers.

It’s an excellent read (my contribution notwithstanding), and recommended to anyone interested in the retro gaming scene (and specifically the Sinclair ZX Spectrum). Volume 2 is now well underway and available for preorder, having again been successfully Kickstarted, and I’m personally looking forward to reading it!

To (possibly) whet your appetite, here’s an extract from my contribution to volume 1:

The next year, back home in Barnsley, I bought a 16K Sinclair ZX Spectrum and 13” black & white TV, total price £200 in 1983 money from WH Smiths, with a lot of help from my Mum. My early recollections, upon acquiring the Spectrum, are spending hours and hours loading and exploring the Horizons tape, and then playing Manic Miner, Lunar Jetman and then later Atic Atac. I bought the Spectrum primarily due to my interest in electronic music, but pretty soon I was trying to figure out how to make games in Z80. I remember disassembling Time Gate by Quicksilver, and the minor epiphany when I finally understood LDIR for block byte copies. Thanks John Hollis!

 

 Posted by at 12:18 am
Aug 252013
 

A couple of items of trivia about the music in “Jet Set Willy: The Final Frontier” for Amstrad CPC.

Title Screen Music

The title screen music is of course Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I wrote the music player for the game, and sourced the actual music data from the C64 version of the game (which had a nice 3 channel rendition of the tune). Since I never had any contact with the programmer of the C64 version of the game, I sat down one (long) night (while housemates Stoo and Marc went down the pub) with a hex dump utility, a pre-release copy of the C64 game, and a Casio MT30 keyboard (I loved that keyboard!). I spent hours poring over the hex data looking for a byte sequence that resembled the distinctive triplet that begins the Moonlight Sonata, playing the note offsets on the MT30. Eventually, I found the right sequence of bytes, for all three audio channels (and figured out how note duration was encoded), and dumped the data over to the Amstrad. After hours of monkeying around, I eventually had the whole tune playing (in full three-channel, square wave glory on the Amstrad CPC’s General Instrument AY-3-8912 sound chip)!

It turned out … OK, here’s a rendition courtesy of a dedicated YouTuber:

In-Game Music

The in-game music for the original Spectrum version of Jet Set Willy was “If I Were A Rich Man” from the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”. For whatever reason (word had it that publisher Software Projects ran into rights issues), new music was needed and so I came up with a catchy (if not … repetitive) little ditty, composed 2-finger style (and transposed by hand) on my trusty MT30. This tune (which was the first original music I had written for a game) can be heard here (again courtesy of a dedicated YouTuber):

This (untitled) tune is a 2-channel composition, so that the third sound channel on the Amstrad CPC’s AY sound chip could be used for game sound effects.

 Posted by at 9:30 pm