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Comment Re:The 90s is calling. (Score 1) 122

I had similar experiences, also in 1998. I started working in the support department of a smallish PC manufacturer and supplier. We had no access at all to the web from our desktops, not even access to any of the support sites of our main suppliers. My support resources were just an old copy of a Microsoft Technet CD, and I had to look other things up at home after work, which was 30 miles away. Even E-mail access was restricted, and I could only send an external E-mail by using a PC on a desk situated next to the managing director. This naturally made the whole process of downloading patches and drivers to pass on to customers completely impossible, and I walked out after two days.

Comment Re:Became ARM (Score 1) 106

The BBC Micro also integrated with the BBC's CEEFAX teletext service, if equipped with the relevant add-on adaptor. The Model B's mode 7 graphics were a full implementation of the then teletext graphics standard. Not only could the BBC Micro then display standard CEEFAX pages, but the BBC also broadcast other content specifically for use with this adaptor, under what was known as Telesoftware. This content was mainly BASIC applications, some of which tied in with the BBC's own TV shows for schools, but there was other content including weather maps and teacher's notes for specific TV episodes. The Telesoftware service ceased in late 1989, around the same time as the BBC's tie-up with Acorn ended. During the last year of the service the BBC also served some DOS-PC content, but take-up of the service wasn't enough to warrant keeping it going once the rest of the service ceased.

Comment Re:overheat (Score 1) 91

My Issue 2 Spectrum exhibited exactly the same problem when connected to one of our TV sets. The issue was due to the PAL colour signal, in particular the fact that the phase of one part of the colour signal is reversed on each alternate line. On decoding the signal the TV simply inverted the phase of the wrong lines, resulting in red and green components of the picture getting mangled. Of course these decoding errors were down to the Spectrum's signal not adhering to the PAL specifications properly. A previous TV set of ours would sometimes do something similar when handling a standard broadcast signal - switching channels was enough to reset the decoder to its correct operation.

Comment A couple of others, one well known, one not so. (Score 5, Informative) 474

I can think of a couple of other manufacturers who are still going, and were producing machines at the the time of original Mac. One of these is a major name, another is obscure, even in it's own country. The first is of course Toshiba, who were producing CP/M systems in 1980, if not earlier. The other is the British manufacturer Research Machines, who produce exclusively for the UK educational sector. Their RM 380Z, another CP/M box, appeared in 1977. RM are still producing PCs for education today, but I believe that they will soon be moving out of hardware whilst continuing with their software and support services.

Comment Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (Score 1) 160

Telesoftware was ended in September 1989. It was mainly used to distribute educational software and utilities to BBC Micro users, although during the last year of the service they also transmitted PC software. The Telesoftware service was also used to distribute other content to schools, mainly satellite weather maps and text files containing teacher's notes covering the BBC's education programming. The Telesoftware service took up 20% of the overall bandwidth for the CEEFAX service carried on BBC2, and given that only a very small proportion of users ever used the service, it was decided to drop it. The end of the BBC schools computing scheme, the fact that the weather maps that the system distributed would no longer be made available free-of-charge, and the poor take-up of PC adaptors all contributed to making the closure inevitable.

Comment Re:Read Error (Score 2) 204

At work we had an installation of Windows NT Server (3.5, perhaps) that came on floppies. There was over 40 of them. We had many other OS installations on floppy too. Banyan VINES (which we resold) had about two dozen, and as Banyan were compartively late in supporting CD media for installation, and even then didn't support IDE CD-ROM drives, many servers had to be installed and upgraded this way well up to the late 1990s. We had other operating systems on floppy, too, including several versions of OS/2, Netware and SCO Unix. Then there was that floppy installation of Slackware I made for in-house installation on test PCs, as most of our test boxes lacked CD drives.

Comment Odd new hardware never works. (Score 1) 780

Fix it yourself by hacking the drivers. I had to do that with the sound hardware fitted to an old PC of mine. The card worked fine, apart from the MIDI interface which I could never get to work. It turned out that the main sound controller chip had a slightly different model number to the ones listed in the source of the kernel driver, and the mechanism for setting the MIDI hardware base address and interrupt was somewhat different. One evening spent disassembling the hardware's DOS driver later, and I had a patch that added support. It eventually ended up in the kernel source tree (2.2 perhaps?), but the whole driver was purged from the kernel a long time ago.

Comment Re:WP had poor support back in the day (Score 1) 472

The DOS version was somewhat quirky, too. I recall one of our customers having problems with WordPerfect 5.1 (or was it 6.0?) creating huge temporary files on network file volumes. Another had problems with print queue parameters getting mangled, as if WordPerfect was writing directly to the print buffer, bypassing the standard API calls.

Comment Re:Who cares? (Score 1) 551

In the Beatles case it was not a reluctance to release their catalogue in a downloadable format, but down to an exceeding complex set to legal issues over the rights to their catalogue. The group sued EMI over several issues, such as the low royalties paid during the beginning of their contract and the assortment of badly complied albums that appeared after the groups' EMI contract expired in 1976. When these cases were finally settled it granted the group full control as to what can and can't be issued worldwide, although EMI still owned the actual masters. Of course this settlement didn't anticipate downloadable content, and it was re-negotiation that significantly held things up.

Comment WWII UK Aircraft serial numbers. (Score 1) 330

During and prior to World War Two, all military aircraft were assigned serial numbers by the Air Ministry. These comprised of one letter followed by four digits unit that sequence was exhausted in 1940, afterwards the code changed to two letters followed by three numbers. These numbers were painted on the sides of aircraft on a vertical surface, usually the rear of the fuselage. Different groups of letters were assigned to each service (RAF, Royal Navy, and from 1942 the Army Air Corps), often prior to production. However to make production numbers seem higher than they actually were, ranges of serial numbers assigned to particular projects often contained gaps which remained unused. These were known as Blackout Blocks. For example serial numbers for one batch of Spitfires produced in 1939 had serial numbers that went P8640-P8679, P8690-P8729, P8740-P8759 and P8780-P8799 with the rest unissued.

Comment I owned a lot of sound cards back then. (Score 2, Interesting) 348

I bought a good number of sound cards over that period.

I started with a cheap Soundblaster clone called the Thunderboard. It offered Adlib compatibility, which was enough for games music. The card was somewhat noisy when playing audio and not always compatible. It did, however, have native drivers with Windows 3.1 when that finally appeared.

The next card was an early wavetable card from Orchid. I wanted a Roland but couldn't afford one, so went for this thing instead. The card supported the GM sound set, but also roughly emulated a Roland device. It also emulated Adlib playback, but had severe compatibility issues when it came to playing back wave audio.

A few months later I acquired a Soundblaster PRO. Finally I had stereo PCM, but also updated the FM synthesis to OPL3. Finding games that supported OPL3 was tricky, but when they did appear the sound was phenomenal, with big 'farty' bass sounds.

Eventually my old PC became obsolete so I upgraded to something new. That came fitted with it's own adequate Soundblaster 16 clone from Opti, but went back to OPL2 for FM. It lacked any wavetable facilities onboard, but had a slot for a daughter-board that offered the feature. Unfortunately I could never find anything to fit that slot.

Then I picked up a Yamaha XG wavetable board that was probably the last in wavetable technology. The XG soundset added many more instruments to GM, together with a whole other set of parameters that could be tweaked. By then, of course, most games were abandoning external music sources, so it was only really used for other projects. I've still got this card at home, but lack anything with an ISA slot to fit it to.

I'm pretty sure I also picked up another cheap Soundblaster clone around this time too, as the card originally fitted into the PC wasn't compatible with the latest version of DirectX requited by one game. Again

Comment Strategy. (Score 5, Informative) 193

The strategy behind the game is to clear the playfield of all bar a handful of small asteroids, and then wait for the flying saucers to appear. If you're moving fairly quickly up or down the screen you can avoid the saucers with practice. As the game awards 1000 for the small saucers and a bonus life every 10,000 points it's a somewhat easy task to rack up many extra lives. Once the last asteroid was eliminated, the game would restart, increasing the number of large asteroids at the start up to a limit of around 12.

Early versions of the game were even easier as broken game logic resulted in an area of the screen that rendered the player immune to attacks. There wasn't even any means for making the game harder by setting the game's dip-switches - these only controlled the initial number of lives and other sundry settings such as language and coin count. Suffice to say experienced players could easily play the games for hours at a time.

Atari later released Asteroids Deluxe which was somewhat harder. This included a second type of saucer that split into components which homed in on the player, as well as amendments to other parts of the game logic.

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