Binary Dinosaurs Computer Museum
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Classic Gaming Expo UK 2004
Well, the UK's first Classic Gaming Exhibition has finished, and what a show it was - 2 days of 8,16 and 32-bit tomfoolery (OK, I might've had the only 32 bit supermicro), great laughs, excellent people and cold beer. No beards were hurt during the production of the CGE so that's good news for hirsute types with leanings towards geekiness :)
Best thing: the atmosphere.
Worst thing: the heat.
Annoying thing: the hotel (not the venue), but don't get me started on that one
Friday
Grrrrrrrrrr. For people not from the UK, the M25 is a shockingly bad multi-lane road stroke car park that runs around Greater London. It exists on a knife-edge - all it takes is a minor accident, blown tyre or vehicle fire and the entire road stops. It took me 2h 45m to do about the 70 miles into south London. Bah.
Still, once everyone present was set up we all decamped to the nearest pizza hut for food and chat; I ended up sitting next to Manic Miner creator Matt Smith, and what a nice bloke he is - very approachable, friendly and understandably a bit bitter at not getting any money for what are arguably 2 of the best known early Spectrum games - Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. I hope it works out for you, mate! Many thanks for signing my tapes when I reckoned you'd had enough :)
Later on Andrew Oliver arrived - he's one half of the Oliver Twins who created the multi-platform and multi-selling 'Dizzy' series of games and guess what - another nice bloke! It was shaping up to be a good weekend :)
Saturday
In at 8am to try and finish setting up; fail. 9am there's a queue outside waiting to get in, and by 11am it was mental. Many more people through the doors than any of us were expecting, and there's only BinarySaurs, RetroBeep and 8bs.co.uk exhibiting working machines or examples of 8-bittery, everyone else was selling piles of vintage kit and new software for the old machines, though I think most of the old hardware was overpriced. Still, I'm not buying :oD
Excellent fun though, none of us stopped all day and all the projects I'd brought to work on stayed under the table. The interest that's still around for this sort of kit is phenomenal, particularly given the current console market and games that are available. I was astounded at the interest generated by my Apple Lisa, C65 (even though I never got the chance to make the demo disks I had on my workhorse Escom Amiga 1200HD), Enterprise 128 and SAM Coupe. There was a surprising number of people that walked in with faces like this: :-o
I'd bought a SAM floppy drive interface from Colin Piggott/Quazar so it was nice for the man himself to turn up early saturday morning to test drive my machine and get everything working for me - cheers Colin :) Another top bloke - see a theme building here?
Pity my B&W telly blew up because I was the only stall that had a working ZX81 on display, and of course it had to be running JK Greye's (not Rowling :) 3D Monster Maze, which is still an excellent game even today. I'd planned on 'borrowing' the composite video cable from my UK101 (another machine that ended up staying under the tables) and using the composite signal present on the ZX81 motherboard, but again I never got the chance. Next year eh :)
Saturday night was us left to our own devices, and by lucky chance I ended up with Mike and Steve from ukretro.co.uk - another top pair of blokes! Thanks for the laughs and the +2A PSU, lads :) You saved my bacon on the Enterprise front! I'd also hoped to hook up with Chris and his wife from 8bs.co.uk (The Acorn archive) but with the bizarre opening times of the hotel bar it didn't happen; instead we found Jeremy (sorry mate, I can't remember which stand you were on!) and a couple of other exhibitors so some midnight oil was burnt.....
Sunday
In again at 8am with the aim of checking over the Vectrex which locks up when it gets hot, doing the C65 demo disks etc. Fail spectacularly because I spent all the time talking to the other exhibitors :) Fortunately today was quieter and cooler, with some people back in again after yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised that all my stuff still worked, particularly Lisa and the Enterprise 128. Pity I didn't have a second colour telly to show the converted Enterprise version of Manic Miner alongside the emulated version using the hardware emulator.
Rich "dragondata.co.uk" Harding brought up his recently acquired beta Dragon board for us to look at as well as his mini-MAME cab which had been modeled on a Space Invaders cab. Good job he didn't bring it on the saturday because it was as popular as Lisa, SAM and the Vectrex....hehe.....
Thanks to Simon Brooks who aside from bringing some excellent bumf, advertising brochures and badges of the day (he used to sell at trade fairs in the early 80s) told me his understanding of why the Commodore 65 came into being and verified the story of the (in)famous show in 1984 when Enterprise were showing off early prototypes of the Enterprise 64 using video players under the table to display the machines 'working', a fact much denied at the time by Michael Shirley of Enterprise who happens to be the same bloke who wrote to the press telling them that the story of the 'Flan' Enterprise was just a joke....hmm....why have 2 of my machines got 'flan computers' motherboards then, Mike?
After close of play at 17:30 it took me 2 hours to pack up and get everything back in the car, 2 hours to get home because of the bloody M25 and the 3 lane 16 (or so) mile queue for the Dartford Tunnel that runs under the river Thames, and another hour to get everything OUT of the car again. Heh. Good job I'm used to it!
Much kudos to Chris Millard, his wife Christine and the assembled family and helpers for getting everything to run so smoothly...nice one, people! I notice CGE-UK 2005 is in the planning stages already, so count me in!
Also thanks to the friendly staff at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, south London, Hi to Andrew Oliver & Matt Smith, Mike & Steve (ukretro), Andy & Anne (ConsolePassion.co.uk), Scouse Keith (retrogamer.co.uk) Jeremy, Chris and Gill of 8bs.co.uk (it's occurred to me I never asked what your name was!), Barry and the lads on RetroPassion.co.uk, Jules and Pete at RetroBeep, Shawn, Ian and the lads at Retro Gamer magazine (thanks for the 1084 monitor and PSU!), and everyone I met and had a pint with - it was a great weekend despite the parties and noise in the hotel lasting till 1am every night :-/
Also for some reason I was unnerved by the fact that someone had been in my room on saturday to get the kettle I'd had to borrow because my room didn't have one and all they'd done was nick the kettle (registered to the 'church of the living god' apparently....riiiight.......). No untouched gideon bible in the room either.....

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