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* Posts by Mr C Hill

937 posts • joined 26 Mar 2008

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Bendy or barmy: Why your next TV will be curved

Mr C Hill
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Designed to sell screens

"Quick lads, 3D didn't work. What can we come up with to sell more TV's?"

Engineers spent 30 years trying to get rid of the curve on TV screens. Now these geniuses want to bring it back! It's the same design mentality that put a square steering wheel into the Austin Allegro.

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It's not you, it's EE: UK mobile network goes titsup, blames gremlins

Mr C Hill
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Re: Here's what I think happened

I rebooted my phone several times between 6pm and going to bed at 1am. It never once connected. So your theory is incorrect.

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Mr C Hill
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Text message

12 hours after the service was restored, EE sent me a text to say that I may need to reset my phone to be able to get mobile reception again.

Just think about that for a second.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: I got hit

Why don't these people have a service status page?

Remember the old days of a Demon dial up connection and seeing the status message as you logged in (which told you what was broken today).

A simple web page listing network issues would be really helpful, but the suits would never allow it.

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Mr C Hill
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Any help from EE?

My wife and I are both on EE (although technically she's still on Orange). When my phone went down I checked hers and it was fine.

So I assumed it was my phone. Tried to phone EE from landline and came up number not recognised. Then tried 150 from my wifes phone, went through the options and was told "we are very busy, please call back tomorrow".

How hard is it for these people to put a notice on their website or put a recorded message in place explaining the outage for the people who do get through.

What they did end up doing was tweeting a picture of a Gremlin (from the films) on their Twitter feed.

Thanks lads, good work. While you were wasting time googling for pictures you could steal, you could have been doing a proper status update for your website!

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Xenon: Bitmap Brothers' (mega)blast from the past

Mr C Hill
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Re: Demo Scene

You had an A1200 in 1990? Wow, how did you get hold of it 2 years before it was released by Commodore?

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Mr C Hill
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Amiga v PC

I was forced into an upgrade from my Amiga 1200 at the end of 1994 due to an A-level computing course. The first thing that struck me that 3D games aside, how crap PC games were.

Graphics were blockier (games running at 320x200 rather than 320x256) and the sound was god awful even on the high end cards. Doom and the 3D stuff was way ahead of the Amiga, but all the 2D stuff seemed inferior.

I went to see someone who claimed he had one of the best sound cards money could buy. He was playing X-Wing and had it hooked up to a hi-fi. God the sound was diabolical. Plinky tunes that sounded like a Casio keyboard from 1986. Every game was the same. Then I got my own card (a Soundblaster 16) and it was just as bad.

Then there was Windows. Precisely Windows for Workgroups 3.11. You soon hit the limitations when you realised it couldn't multitask in the same way the Amiga could. Indeed to do a lot of things you'd take for granted on an Amiga you'd end up in MSDOS.

Still have my A1200 which now has an 030 and 64 meg of RAM, A compact flash card in the hard drive bay effectively gives an Amiga an SSD. Super speedy, fast and great fun.

And as for that 486 PC with Windows 3 and Soundblaster 16? Rotting in a landfill somewhere.

Long live the Amiga!

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Mr C Hill
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Not very good

Take away the flash graphics and sound and Xenon and Xenon 2 aren't actually much cop as shooters.

Whereas shooters like Gradius, R-Type and even Apidya are worth a blast today, Xenon hasn't really aged that well and as someone who spends his gaming time mainly playing old games, Xenon isn't a game I really find tolerable any more.

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Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?

Mr C Hill
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Re: Mainstream traction

I knew someone who was a complete Acorn fanboy to the point of it being unhealthy.

He looked on at my Psion, secretly wanting one but not admitting it because it wasn't an Acorn.

Then Acorn bought out a rebadged version. Naturally he got one. Of course because it had an Acorn logo on it, it was "better".

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Mr C Hill
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Hinges

Loved my 3a but the hinges broke with alarming regularity. Went back twice under warranty to be repaired and a third time where I had to pay myself. The unit wasn't being manhandled, it was just poor design. They just kept cracking in the same places.

Then got a Series 5 which had had it's hinge mechanism fail under warranty. The second time they failed the thing went in the cupboard.

Came to the conclusion that while Psion made fantastic devices with a useful OS, they couldn't make a hinge mechanism for toffee.

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ROBOCOP statue, Minecraft film, revived Sinclair ZX Spectrum...

Mr C Hill
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Revived ZX Spectrum

It wasn't a revived ZX Spectrum, just a Bluetooth keyboard that looks like a Spectrum which will only work with games sold by one company.

Games which the authors withdrew the rights for the company to use due to years of unpaid royalties.

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Apple fanbois DENIED: Mac Pro deliveries stalled until April

Mr C Hill
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Delays

Crikey, the last time I saw such shipment delays for pricey kit was when I ordered a 4 meg RAM upgrade from Watford Electronics during the great RAM shortage of early 1995. Took my money, constantly promised delivery but kept pushing back, prices dropped, and 8 weeks later I got my RAM. Never got the difference back.

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Loki, LC3 and Pandora: The great Sinclair might-have-beens

Mr C Hill
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Re: Amiga competitor for £200?

The CPC article from last week gives a good indication of how many people it needs to design a computer.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Sinclair Research still around, sort of...

Amstrad purchased the all the rights and IP to the computing products and the Sinclair name for use with computing products. They also purchased all the stock in the supply chain.

They had no interest in the company although it appears Clive had been hoping Sugar would bung him a few million to carry on. However Sugar was only interested in the areas that had a natural fit into Amstrads product line.

The banks initially wanted Dixons to buy it, and it was Dixons (who who didn't want the Spectrum cash cow to end) who got Sugar involved.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Stop bashing the Microdrive, it wasn't that bad

A case of bash the early models which had all sorts of problems (including data recorded on one drive couldn't be read on another).

The later ones were great and there are still instances of people recovering data off of the tapes today.

Another instance of Sinclair buggering things up by rushing a product to market with inadequate testing and letting the punters test for them instead.

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Mr C Hill
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CPC 472

Mention of the CPC 472 in the article which Amstrad sold in Spain to avoid the 64k tax.

The thing was that you couldn't actually use the 8k. It sat on a little daughterboard along with a ROM. While the ROM itself was connected, the connections to the 8k of memory went nowhere (a fact obscured by some white markings on the board).

Here's a piccy - http://www.cpcwiki.eu/imgs/thumb/3/37/Amstrad_472_motherboard.jpg/800px-Amstrad_472_motherboard.jpg

Managed to fool Spanish Customs until the tax was dropped.

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Mr C Hill
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Mac Pro

Take a look at that Wafer Drive pic. Sinclair appear to have invented the new Mac Pro some 30 years ago!

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BBC: Hey, Atos, old buddy. Here's a cheque for £285m, fill your boots

Mr C Hill
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Re: The crazy thing...

Yep. I was there and all the sale did was add a couple of layers of seat polishers called "management" who just made everything more complicated.

So instead of just taking a phone call and fixing something, there was suddenly endless bureaucracy costing god knows how much. I escaped as soon as I could as the useless idiot managers bought in had no concept or understanding of a broadcasting enviroment.

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Vertical take-off and laughing: Space Harrier

Mr C Hill
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Re: Southsea Arcade

The only way you can describe arcades at that time to kids today is if you tell them imagine seeing games of a quality you might only get at home in 5 or more years time. In short like telling a kid who has just got a PS4 that they could go and play PS5 games today.

The problem was the arcade manufacturers didn't innovate enough and home technology also caught up. By the time you get to the Dreamcast era you can play a nearly perfect version of Crazy Taxi at home.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Given the anniversary last week...

Software publishers at the time were often sausage factories with hard pressed coders having to put out games under impossible deadlines. You might if you were lucky have a coder, a graphics guy and a sound guy but that was pretty much it.

To try and re-create Space Harrier on any of the 3 main 8 bits was impossible. The Spectrum and CPC versions have a fair crack at it. The C64 version is a total disaster.

Frankly I wouldn't touch any of the home versions of Harrierand instead use MAME. But back in 1987 when the home conversions came out they were the best we could hope for.

Unlike something like Speccy Rainbow Island which I still adore to this day!

I hold special contempt for Space Harrier 2 on the Sega Megadrive. The Megadrive should be capable of something better but it's just utter rubbish with palid music and crap baddies. Despise it.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Southsea Arcade

El Reg outing to the arcade museam at Funspot anyone?

http://www.classicarcademuseum.org/museum-photos.htm

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Mr C Hill
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Re: 1985???

It was but IIRC it didn't start to hit the arcades in the UK until mid to late '86.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: "It’s hard to comprehend...

Doh! :-)

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Given the anniversary last week...

Once you get over the vector graphics, it's not bad. It captures the speed of the arcade combined with a decent soundtrack. But as I say you need to get over the vector graphics first which not everyone can.

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Mr C Hill
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Home versions

Space Harrier ended up being ported to anything and everything. Here's a few unusual versions:

The Sharp MZ-700 (a machine that only does text not graphics) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GObao5a7Fis

The NEC PC6001 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WYEpH-bKDs

The NEC PC8001 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UBjZW8_qm8

The rather splendid NEW Atari XL version - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Oi3zgpGu8

I've played the XL version and can confirm it's rather splendid.

Note the NEC PC's are not PC we think of them today but are Z80 based machines.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: "It’s hard to comprehend...

It's hard to understate just how mind blowing seeing those graphics moving at that speed was at the time. It wasn't just that it was way ahead of home systems, it was way ahead of everything else in the arcade as well.

It's also easy to forget about the pumping soundtrack with speech that encouraged you ('You're doing great!").

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Southsea Arcade

That was a very good arcade. Had practically everything you'd ever need in the mid to late 80's.

Went back a couple of years ago and its now just rows of slot machines, grabbers and coin pushers with a sorry looking Crazy Taxi cab right at the back.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Atari Discovery Pack

Having played the arcade version I was less than impressed with the ST version my mate had. The mouse felt wrong and the loading between levels was interminable. He seemed to like it though.

The same pack had a terrible port of Outrun which he also liked thus confirming he had no taste in games.

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Mr C Hill
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Southsea Arcade

I remember this turning up at the arcade near Clarence pier at Southsea. The full hydraulic set up, parked right at the entrance to lure people in.

The queue to get on, and the crowd around it is something I have rarely seen in an arcade to that extent. People willingly shoving in their 50p's (50p for 9 lives or 20p for 3) and rarely getting very far all, while people stood there slack jawed at the graphics. Sure people stood around other games, but not to the extent that Harrier machine attracted when it first went in.

The home conversions were a bit of a let down which was to be expected. Your humble Z80 or 6502 couldn't really replicate a dual 68000 setup with custom graphics hardware.

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Computer expert and broadcaster Ian McNaught-Davis dies at 84

Mr C Hill
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The Old Man Of Hoy

Fascinating documentary about the climb of the Old Man Of Hoy in which Ian took part:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYfxQBE9QkI

A TV natural even half way up a sheer cliff face.

RIP MAC.

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Wii got it WRONG: How do you solve a problem like Nintendo?

Mr C Hill
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Sega spent a huge proportion of their UK Dreamcast marketing budget sponsoring Arsenal instead of the massive amount of TV advertising Sony did for the Playstation.

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Mr C Hill
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Drive failure can usually be fixed. There's a pot on the board that you you adjust to give it a little more juice. Eventually it won't take anymore but good results have been had from this method.

If I threw away every old computer that had a PSU failure I wouldn't have much left! Usually a few caps and half hour with a soldering iron (the caps in BBC micro PSU blow in a most entertaining manner).

Caps don't last forever so its always a case of "when" not "if" they blow.

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Mr C Hill
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The Dreamcast was wonderful. Its failure was a tragedy as it has a superb catalogue of games that are just plain fun in the good old seafront arcade style.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Wii failed

"he SD analog composite-video output didn't play well with a modern digital HD TV, it looked all blurred and smudgy."

And what did you expect exactly? Composite video was only ever any use as an improvement from RF. I have 30 year old games consoles and guess what, they look crap if plugged in via composite video as well!

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London calling: Date set for launch of capital's very own domain name

Mr C Hill
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Rise of the idiots

A domain name just for London? Why not go the whole hog and have one just for Shoreditch. It'll be 'well weapon'.

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Imprisoned Norwegian mass murderer says PlayStation 2 is 'KILLING HIM'

Mr C Hill
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Re: Atari 2600

Pitfall and Yars Revenge would keep me happy if I was on a desert island!

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Mr C Hill
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Cassette 50

All he deserves is a Dragon 32 and a copy of Cassette 50 (without the 'free' calculator watch).

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Apple Mac Pro: It's a death star, not a nappy bin, OK?

Mr C Hill
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Re: Final Cut Pro X?

It's very true. The phoning home problem is very real. A colleague had his copy lock him out whilst abroad due to Adobe trying to take money from an expired credit card (he'd updated it months before). Trying to get that fixed from a remote location was impossible and he ended up doing a cut on FCP-X instead.

People are also scared of the lock-in (which suits Adobe but not the end user). Stop paying and you won't be able to access your old projects.

I'll probably end up biting the bullet myself. For now CS6 is fine. But once you take out the sweetener discounts "cloud" is more expensive and locks you in to the Adobe ecosystem forever whilst it slowly bleeds money from your credit card.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: £1040 for an extra 52gb of ram???

People keep on talking about processor speed and memory for 4K video. If you are doing it right you are offloading much of that work to a GPU (or two in the case of the new machine).

Yes memory is good and you'll need a lot of it, but not as much as people think unless you want a huge memory cache. If you have SSD's on a fast interface like Thunderbolt there won't be much advantage in having a huge memory cache.

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Mr C Hill
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Last time I had a fault I had it repaired under warranty at a local authorised repair shop. Drove it there, they repaired it, collected it next day. Just like the good old days of going to the Acorn/Amstrad/whoever dealer.

As a bonus you don't have to deal with some brainwashed prat dressed in black and fight your way past the people freeloading on the wi-fi.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: Final Cut Pro X?

I know some Pros who are using it for certain types of fast turnaround work. But it is esoteric in the extreme.

Adobe shot themselves in the foot with "Cloud" which has stopped some people from switching from older FCP setups.

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Mr C Hill
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Huge relief

Huge relief that you can add your own memory and SSD card (assuming some get released). My current Mac Pro dates from 2008 but has had various upgrades so that it can still cut the mustard today. Buying a base spec and then getting RAM from Crucial saved a small fortune!

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You’re NOT fired: The story of Amstrad’s amazing CPC 464

Mr C Hill
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Re: First Computer

The casing shown in the article is a prototype. I may be wrong but I seem to recall reading the reason its that colour is the prototypes were made with whatever spare plastic chips the factory had (saved cost).

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Mr C Hill
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CPC's little secret

Not mentioned in the article, the CPC has a little secret. Amstrad were not sure if they were going to market the CPC themselves or just licence it to third parties in each country.

As a result the main board has a jumper on it that replaced the Amstrad name on boot-up with any of the following:

Amstrad

ISP (A brandname of Orion, see below)

Triumph (nobody is 100% sure who, possibly the typewriter people?)

Saisho (brand used by DSG Group)

Solovox (Comet, so Sugar hedging his bets here!)

Awa (Australian electronics company)

Schneider (German electronics company)

Orion (the people who actually manufactured the CPC)

In the event only Amstrad and Schneider were widely used although some have reported that AWA has been seen in the wild.

It is highly likely that some of those companies would not have even been aware their name had been included in the ROM!

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Mr C Hill
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Re: @Jaybee

They are decent monitors and many a ST and Amiga owner carried on using them when they had upgraded from their CPC.

While they are just standard TV tubes rather than the higher dot pitch displays found on high end PC's, Orion went to effort to get them to look as good as possible. In fact the reason the CPC boots to a royal blue background with yellow text was because Orion told Amstrad that this combination would yield the best possible quality display on initial start-up thus giving a good impression.

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Mr C Hill
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The first time I saw the new R-Type's title screen display, my jaw was on the floor. Full screen, no border. I've seen overscan before but not done that well.

Most of the micros of that era had a massive border. Partly due to distortion at the edge of the CRT displays but also to save memory. Some CPC games increased the border size to save RAM.

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Mr C Hill
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Re: @Mr C Hill

That Wikipedia article is the first time I have seen the 5 million figure. 7 million is the figure I've always seen quoted in print and online going right back.

There are many different sources. Crash says Sinclair sold 4 million units pre-Amstrad, another source says 5 million sold pre-Amstrad. A 1992 issue of Your Sinclair claims 7 million were sold in total.

The 1 million +3 sales comes from an article in New Computer Express when Amstrad axed the +3 in 1990.

Remember the Spectrum was the UK's top selling home micro every year between 1982 and 1989 (as reported by C+VG). Amstrad got hold of it April '86. So that's that's still a good 3 years at the top to sell some units. Was also top seller in Spain as well with the CPC second.

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Micro Men: The story of the syntax era

Mr C Hill
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The punch up in the pub is quoted verbatim. He really did take it that personally!

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Mr C Hill
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Getting the year wrong

Wouldn't worry about getting the year wrong. El Reg managed it in the Amstrad article a few days back, with constant references to 1983 when they meant 1984.

I love the little nods and cameos in Micro Men. Sophie Wilson behind the bar, the Sinclair guy in WH Smiths.

Sadly I don't think its out on DVD otherwise I'd buy a copy as I'd love to own it.

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