Fantasy art


Well, I've just spent the day salvaging old files of my Amiga 1200. Some of that stuff I haven't seen in over a decade. I even found one disk circa 1992 (yes, it deserves a circa) which takes me back to my college days. The pics I found are probably the very first pics I did on the Amiga, if my memory is anything to go by. I remember doodling pics of Judge Dredd and Bruce Lee with the mouse on a tiny TV (the screen was about 8 inches so the graphics looked great whatever I did). I thought I'd lost those pics! But there they were, on a dusty old floppy. I loaded it into the Amiga, praying it hadn't corrupted from years of neglect. I'm going to post those and more, if only to amuse myself.

We'll begin with what can only be described as a pathetic ball animation. You can't imagine the hours I spent doing this, until the Amiga ran out of memory, so I had to draw a close to what would otherwise have been an epic. The animations have been enlarged so they don't appear as postage stamps. They should be a quarter of the size you see here and on the Amiga that filled the whole screen.


I still like this TreeBaddy animation even after all these years. I did it when I was 19 in 1994. I was inspired by an artist I'd read about, Steve Packer, in one of the Amiga magazines. I think he worked in the games industry. I contacted him and he asked me to send him some of my work. I spent a few days doing these animations (not the ball one, that came before), sent them to Steve and also some of the software houses at the time. I was surprised to get calls from Ocean, Psygnosis and even a job offer from Core Design. There wasn't that much work, I think even Ocean and Psygnosis were surprised I'd been offered a job from what I'd done, but obviously Core saw something in my work :)






You cannot imagine the problems I had getting these images, so I'll tell you. My Amiga's so delicate the slightest vibration makes it crash, so I step around it on tiptoes and have spent much of the day in panic, praying it doesn't crash as I'm writing to the HD backing up files. The hard drive hangs out of the computer on one side, because it's too big to fit in the machine. They computer's cover is off, exposing all the insides. The mouse doesn't work when plugged direct into the machine, so I use an extension which somehow fixes it. I hadn't turned it on in a year or so, not since before I went travelling. First thing that happens is the HD doesn't boot. I think it needs a soft boot, nothing to worry about. I can't remember the "vulcan death grip", so often used before to reset the machine. I eventually get to Workbench, the Amiga's equivalent of Windows. I hold my breath until files are copied and viewed on the PC, because until then I know anything that can go wrong probably will. So I start working through the problems. The computer starts losing power. The Amiga's use a power supply the size of a brick and I eye it suspiciously, knowing their reputation. I discover wiggling the plug that fixes the brick into the machine causes the power to go on and off, so I eventually get the power and the crashing sorted. I put a floppy into the drive (the only way to transfer files, which means hundreds of disk swaps). So far so good. The mouse isn't moving round the screen, so I clear the fluff off the trackball and it recovers a little. All set. I click an icon but the left mouse button isn't working. I rummage through my old collection of wires and find a mouse that had been replaced but not thrown away. I have to hold it in my hand, moving the trackball with my fingers as it doesn't seem to work on the desk. At least the buttons work. Using the keyboard I discover some of the keys don't work. The result of having accidentally pulled the keyboard off its hinges. I remember looking down seeing the ribbon connecting the keyboard to the computer just dangling there. I'd pushed it back in. That was over a year ago and I hadn't tested it until just now, so it's a miracle it even worked at all. Thing is, I needed to use full stops as part of backing up files, and that's one of the keys that didn't work. I had the idea of cut and pasting a full stop from a text editor. There's always a work around, I thought with a conquering smile on my face, but it didn't work. It wouldn't let me paste into the box. I had to type the commands on the PC, save them as text files, copy them to the Amiga, turn them into scripts and do it that way. I begin copying to floppies and it works for a while, then starts grating and chewing up my disks. If the floppy drive goes there's no work around until I can buy a new one. With nothing to loose I apply varying amounts of pressure to the floppy in the drive, which miraculously gets it working, at least for a few swaps. I have to keep playing around with it. Looking at my HD I suddenly realise how much work lies ahead, countless mind numbing disk swaps, so I call a few computer shops for suggestions for a quicker way, but no one can help. I set about my task and start copying.

So, I'm pleased to say the effort so far was worth it. I've found a few memorabilia and walked down memory lane. I found old chats from the days of running a BBS. These chats were from when people logged in and paged me. Everything we typed would be saved to HD. I still think it's one of the saddest confessions, having spent all those hours chatting to people over the computer, but anyway, I'm still in touch with some of the friends I made back then and we'd often mention those saved chats and how they existed on the old Amiga, stuffed away in some dusty old drawer. It may have been wiser to let those files go, let them crash and fade away to digital heaven. But the thing is, those texts represent the birth of friendships, and it makes me feel all weird inside to think of those people now and how I knew them then, and know in a very real sense I can look up our past and relive the experiences.

24 June 04

I started archiving up a directory on the Amiga's HD yesterday. It's an ongoing chore and goes something like this: I LHA archive up a bunch of files on the Amiga. I then split the LHA into bite sized chunks to fit on a PC's DD disk. I then, one by one, ONE BY ONE, transfer each disk across from Amiga to PC. These may be geek details to you but it's therapy to me. I need to share the pain. Yesterday I started archiving up a directory which turned out to be bigger than I imagined. A few hours later GUIArc was still at it, churning away, adding thousands of little files to one massive LHA file. Outside a storm was blowing. I could feel my muscles tensing as this is an area where you get those 1 second power cuts when the wind gets this bad. It was slamming against the windows so bad it felt like they were going to break. So I kept vigil over the Amiga. Unfortunately there was no way of stopping the process, I'd tried before. So I sat it out. To turn off the computer would be suicide, or at least russian roulette. You don't turn off a computer when it's writing to the drive. 12 hours later it had finished. By this time it was 2 in the morning. The LHA was 94 megabytes and I wasn't completely sure it had done it right. There was only a meg or so left on the drive. Anyway, I turned off the computer and waited for morning, knowing the worst was yet to come.

I used a utility called Splitz to create the 720k chunks for the floppy disks. 132 chunks later I was ready for the hardest part, copying all those chunks across to the PC. I have to admit that I don't think I came out of this completely in one piece. As I swapped disk after disk I felt little parts of my mind falling out of place. I was going mad. Buddist philosophy started racing through my mind (learn patience from this, learn to distract yourself, think positive monotony), in an effort to give this, the most meaningless of ways to spend your time, meaning. Put the disk in the Amiga, copy data to it. Crunch, grind. A few minutes later, eject. The same movements over and over again, reaching down to the PC, inserting floppy, knowing exactly, precisely, painfully what is coming next. Copying the information to the PC, while copying new data to a new disk in the Amiga. Watching in horror as the PC can't read data from the floppy. What's gone wrong now? Is it serious? The storm blowing outside. And then the power cut. Only for a split second. I was lucky. It happened in between writing to the HD. In fact I was damn lucky. The one second power cut couldn't have happened at a better time. Surprisingly the Amiga didn't lose power. Good old Amigas. Built to last. I was sure this one would have given up, its guts hanging out like they do. The keys not working, the drive chewing disks, the occasional crashes. It's hanging on in there, so I'm trying to copy this data as fast as I can. The PC reboots and does its blue screen thing as it checks the drive for errors. I'm still amazed the Amiga didn't reboot too when the power went out. The Amiga also crashed once during the day, again the timing couldn't have been better. It's a long drawn out story isn't it? I hope so, because like I said, I'm trying to share my pain and the monotonous madness which, I'm relieved to say, is subsiding somewhat having written this.

10 hours later I've copied all the chunks to the PC. Like I say, I'm not even sure whether it archived right, let alone whether I'll be able to recreate the original LHA file on the PC. But it works. A 94 meg LHA file magically appears on the PC. (94 megs is big for a 14Mhz Amiga with 2 megs ram, especially when getting there took 12 hours). I unarc it to test and all the files are there, seemingly in working order.

26 June 04

I didn't mention before that after all that, I'm still only about half way through. Only a day or two to go.

Later that day at 9pm..

Ha. All done. One or two days my ass.


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