That Was The Year That Was: 2010

By Dave E

Originally published in EUG #73

As the clock chimes midnight and we wave goodbye to 2010, it's time to reflect on what changes we've seen both on the Acorn Electron World site (and DVD) and in cyberspace with regard to the BBC Micro and its family of computers. As far as the "big news" goes, the story of the year has to be the release of Repton The Lost Realms, followed closely by the release of the five DVD set of Your Computer and all of the companion programs inside of it. Huzzahs all round, tempered only by the realisation that this could be the news to end all news, I suspect.

Repton The Lost Realms has been something of a holy grail amongst the BBC/Electron community for the past two decades with Kevin Etheridge first revealing (through the pages of EUG) the partly completed REPTON 4 game-that-never-was. As our review this issue attests, its eventual release is every bit the grand spectacle the game deserves. The question for Retro Software now, after initial stocks of the game ran out in one day is, I guess, "Follow that!" (Oh, to be able to jump forward to THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS 2011 to see if it can.)

Your Computer, or the YOUR COMPUTER DVD, is also a thing of some beauty, although currently marred by the missing Vol. 4 No. 8 issue. Quite unexpectedly, it revealed some quite intriguing things in its compilation. Firstly, the sheer quality of many of its programs was head and shoulders above other magazines. Secondly, games such as King Burger and Locomotion were, quite evidently, poached by Kansas City Systems and sold as professional releases. What was going on there is anybody's guess!

Another DVD collection finally appeared too - the INPUT DVD, which included Cliffhanger and another hitherto unseen game ESCAPE for the BBC. A poor relation indeed to Your Computer however. Many additional Personal Computer News issues were also added to our personal collection (and the DVD) this year - but not all of them. So the hunt for these is still on.

2010 saw the release of some ingenious demos and utilities for the BBC and Electron. Well, yes alright, mostly for the BBC. Amongst the unexpected public domain releases came The Master Of Your Old School (a megademo by CRTC), The Moscow Demo (a music demo by the Organ Grinder's Monkey), The Ricky Gervais Shows 1 & 2 (slideshows and commentary based on the TV show of the same name by the Organ Grinder's Monkey), The BeebSID Music Quiz (a companion disc to the new BeebSID music chip expansion for the BBC), all of the Tom Walker's music demos library (for the BBC B/Master only) and a new The Horny Elk demo named Hot Blocks (back into triple X-rated territory after the fairly placid The Kaori Cel Experiment in 2008).

Sometimes a lot of work goes on, behind the scenes, to implement what appears on the site itself as only a very small change. This is particulary the case now that we no longer host the downloads or instructions for games. This year, it was the turn of all of the Acorn Computing titles to be given a new lease of life on the DVD itself. All programs included upon the companion discs for this magazine now have screenshots and full html instructions 'as standard'. We are also working on the mammoth task of doing the same for all The Micro User companion discs.

In the same vein, all the books and manuals we had collected for the Acorn Electron over the years were de-spined and, yes, destroyed for the sake of the creation of The Acorn Electron Books DVD (actually now a two DVD set). At the same time, this resulted in the addition of Word Format User Guides to ROM cartridges such as Iso-Pascal, Logo, View and Viewsheet, all now happily nestled within the "super DVD". It will probably be no surprise to many that the Acorn Electron World DVD is our best-selling product (It now has some eight years' worth of work put into it!), although, as we point out this issue, making the move to DVD also brought us some benefits in relation to identifying visitors that we didn't think of at the time.

Over the past three years, Dave E has observed that modern tools are making our web site more and more beautiful. Harking back to the early days when he took over EUG (at EUG #45), graphics on the little Electron were few and far between. Just a selection of some recent images published through EUG really shows how far forward tools such as Image2BBC have brought us. Observe...

(BBC Master 128)

Now take a moment and think about how we used to look before IMAGE2BBC existed...


Other little touches to the site itself have included the new search mechanism (written in PHP) and the 'What's New' box on the initial four pages. These aren't ideal for all the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) theories and best practices advised by the experts to keep sites fresh - but short of rewriting the whole site in Drupal (which we are definitely not going to do) they are a solution of sorts to allow people to find programs they require for the Electron quickly and without needing to know the program's publisher or indeed if it was a professional, public domain or companion disc title.

Chuckie Egg 2009 went on to bigger and better things with it being re-written, almost in its entirety, by samwise, and entitled, in its new incarnation The Chuckie Egg Professional Resources Kit. Over at Retro Software, there is also tantalising talk of a Z-Machine interpreter being finalised for the Beeb, based on the standard interpreter developed for the old Infocom games. This compiler would bring, at a stroke, Acorn Electron World Web Site, 2009 many new text adventures to the Beeb and everyone with a bit of time on their hands can get involved in testing it.

Finally, adventure solutions were archived thick and fast with the Game Help page increasing almost weekly throughout 2010. Alas, we might have gotten a seventh Saw movie but we didn't get Micro Men II nor did we manage to eventually track down someone who could put either Summer Olympiad or Superman: The Man Of Steel onto disc! But then, there's always 2011 I guess.