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Category Archives: My So-Called Life

Amiga Magazines Free (Plus Shipping…) for the Asking

Just before we left the U.S. for Denmark almost four years ago, I bought a cache of old Amiga magazines on eBay to help with the book I was planning to write there. By the time we moved to Norway almost two years ago, the book was finished, and so I deposited the magazines at my in-laws’ house near Flensburg, Germany. (There are a lot of different countries in my life these days.) Now said in-laws are hoping to move soon, so I need to do something with them. I just don’t have the space to keep them, especially as we’re likely to be moving yet again quite soon. Nor do I need them anymore in hard-copy form, because they’re all now archived on my computer. So, I’m wondering if anyone wants them.

What they are, specifically, is almost every issue of AmigaWorld and Amazing Computing from the first issue until just shortly after Commodore’s 1994 bankruptcy, in (relatively) gently used condition. I say “almost every” for the sake of caution, as there may be just one or two issues of either or both magazines missing, but no more than that. There’s also some sales catalogs, a few issues of an early desktop-video magazine, and some other loose bits.

So, I’m willing to give the whole collection to anyone who can arrange for their transportation. That, alas, could be the sticking point. They fill at least eight or ten boxes (maybe more), and they aren’t light. Shipping would likely be expensive within Europe, very expensive internationally. The ideal scenario would be someone willing to pick them up in Flensburg. I’ll be there this Friday and Saturday only, but I could arrange for one of my in-laws to be there most days in the near future.

If you want them, send me an email using the link at the right and tell me how you propose to get them. Should there be a rush I’ll decide based on some combination of first come first serve and practicality. And if you know anyone else who might be interested, please tell them about it. If I can’t find them a home I’ll probably have to take the magazines to the recycler, much as that would pain me. Hundreds of magazines just aren’t compatible with the Traveling Scandinavian Roadshow that is our lives at the moment.

More proper Digital Antiquaria for ya soon…

 

Underway in the USA

As you may have noticed, things have been quiet around here for a short time now. To respond to a few queries I’ve received (it’s so nice to know you care): yes, the blog will continue. However, it will be a few more weeks before that happens I’m afraid. My wife and I are taking my German in-laws on a road trip around the Southwest of the United States. (I’m writing this from our first stop after our starting point of Dallas, New Orleans.) We’ll be back home in Norway on the first of May, but it wil likely be a week or ten days after that before I can get caught up on other work and back to the blog. But bear with me please, because then we’ll be getting to Ultima III and the birth of Origin Systems, the continuing adventures of the text adventure in Britain, and at least one topic that may surprise you.

For now I’ll be wandering around my home country translating a lot of German and marveling at how unbelieavably cheap everything is here. Catch you in a few weeks!

(Update: Thanks for all your good wishes. We had a great trip. I’m back home in Oslo again now. Give me a week or so to get things settled, and then we should be rolling again around here.)

 

Audio Killed the Blogging Star

Ken Gagne and Mike Maginnis recently invited me to be their guest on their Open Apple Podcast. The result, which should show definitively why I chose to be a writer rather than a deejay, can now be enjoyed on their website. We talk some about the blog and various other projects, and then I offer lots of color commentary about lots of things I sometimes know something about and sometimes do not. Check it out if you have a couple of hours to spare.

Huge thanks to Ken and Mike for inviting me on the show. It was a lot of fun to do.

 

Ring in the New (Blog Initiatives)

As most of you have probably already gathered, I tend to be pretty horrible at social networking and at self-promotion in general. But it’s a new year, and it seems to be a good moment to at least make a stab at embracing modernity. So, I’m rolling out a couple of new initiatives today that will hopefully help me as well as you.

First, you’ll notice that there’s now a little donation button on the sidebar to the right of this post. If you click it you’ll be taken to PayPal, where you can send me some money if you’d like. I frankly struggled a bit with myself before I made this move. I’ve always written here out of passion and a belief that the work I’m doing is really, genuinely important. Knowing that thousands of you are reading and enjoying what I write is a huge thrill in itself, one that almost feels like it ought to be enough. On the other hand, though, the time I spend researching and writing for the blog is time I can’t spend on other, paying projects. So, I just ask that you think about what you can afford and what you think this blog is worth, whether to you in personal enjoyment or — at the risk of sounding too grandiose — to posterity. Then maybe kick a little into the kitty, at whatever level and frequency seems appropriate to you. If you can’t afford to contribute right now, never fear; I’ll never restrict content to “subscribers” or anything of that sort. Nor will I bother to try to convince you that the blog’s survival depends on your donations; I love it too much, and will happily continue if I don’t get a cent. But if I should get a nice surprise from all you kind souls, that might just help me to justify spending more time on it — which means more frequent new posts for you to read.

Second, I’ve finally taken the big plunge and joined the Twittering classes. My virgin id there is DigiAntiquarian. I’ve had some of you recently asking me for a tweet when new posts go up here. At least as of now, that’s the main purpose for the account. If the WordPress plug-in I installed works correctly, this post should be the first to be broadcast. Fingers crossed!

With that administrative stuff taken care of, we’ll next week be turning away from the hardware manufacturers and back to the important games of 1983, starting with the arrival of a new publisher that’s still with us to this day. In the meantime, do check out the reborn SPAG Magazine, now edited by Dannii Willis, if you’re at all interested in modern interactive fiction. I was the editor for several years in an earlier life, and it makes me very happy to see my old baby return in such capable hands.

(Update 24 hours later: Thanks so much for the generosity many of you have already shown! And thanks also for your suggestions about better leveraging social media. I’ll have a think about what seems doable without cluttering up the site too badly.

In other news, I’ve made a change in plans which means that we won’t get back to games just quite yet. I’ve one more detour into computer-science history yet to take, and I now realize this is the best time for it. But I think it’s one hell of an interesting detour; hopefully you will too.)

 

The Hobbit Redux

Sometimes I get things wrong. Usually it’s minor errors that come down to a careless moment or something that got wedged between the teeth of my rusting steel trap of a mind. Luckily, you folks who read what I write almost always come through to correct me when I make mistakes or even when I overreach. Something like that happened with the most recent article I’ve written, but it had causes a little bit more complicated than one of my usual attacks of boneheadedness.

Virtually all of the articles published about Melbourne House and The Hobbit — of which, unsurprisingly given the game’s immense popularity, there were quite a few — describe it as largely the work of Philip Mitchell, who wrote it with the aid of Veronika Megler and Stuart Richie. These are the sources which I relied upon to write my story of the game’s development. Shortly after I published my article, however, Veronika Megler contacted me to tell me that the contemporary sources are, simply put, false. She told me that hers was the primary mind behind the game, that Mitchell developed only the parser and handled the porting to the Spectrum and the addition of the pictures after she had left Melbourne House. Richie’s work, meanwhile, was theoretical rather than technical and played little actual role in the finished game.

I was of course quite nonplussed to hear this, but Veronika’s descriptions of the game’s development and the role played by everyone were so precise that I immediately tended toward believing her. That belief only strengthened as I talked to her more. Today I believe that the official story found in the magazines is a distortion (at best) of the facts.

It’s not difficult to understand how this could have happened. The story of The Hobbit‘s development started to be widely disseminated in the computer press during the lead-up to publication of Philip Mitchell and Melbourne House’s next big adventure game, Sherlock. Thus the pieces in question functioned not only as retrospectives, but — more importantly, at least in the eyes of Melbourne House — promotions for what was coming next. It sounds much better to speak of “the next game by the architect of the hit adventure The Hobbit” than “the next game by the guy who assisted the architect of the hit adventure The Hobbit.” Thus Mitchell’s role was vastly overstated, and Megler’s correspondingly reduced; in effect the two swapped roles, with Mitchell becoming the architect and Megler his assistant. As readers like me took those original articles at face value, this version of events passed down into history.

That’s unfortunate, and I understand Veronika’s frustration at having been effectively robbed of credit that is due to her. However, I can also understand how the pressures of promoting the follow-up to such a gargantuan hit could have led Alfred Milgrom and Mitchell down the path they took. I will also just note for the record that Veronika feels strongly that sexism also played a role in the downplaying of her contribution, although I’m not prepared to levy that accusation myself without knowing the people involved better or having more evidence.

Whatever the reasons behind the changing of the record, I’m convinced at this point that Veronika was indeed the major force behind the form The Hobbit took, as well as its major technical architect. I’ve revised the original article accordingly to reflect the true contributions of everyone involved. If you’ve already read it, I’d encourage you to give the new version a quick skim again, or at the least to know that much of what I credited to Philip Mitchell in the original should rightfully have been credited to Veronika Megler. Sometimes, alas, getting to historical truth is a process. I thank Veronika for taking the time to work with me to document what really happened.

I’m actually on holiday as I write this, back in the United States again. So, it will be a couple of weeks before I’ll have more material for you. But keep my in your RSS readers, because we’ll next be rounding the corner into 1983 at last, and things just keep getting more and more interesting.

In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and to everyone thanks for reading!

 

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