Life can sometimes play cruel tricks. One of these tricks is procrastination. Once you get into this funk, things can spiral out of control pretty quickly. This has certainly been the case with me, over the last year or so. To be more specific, I used to write like a demon. I wrote articles for the Podcast User Magazine, the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, as well as a myriad of other paid gigs and personal projects, including Indie Launchpad, and my own site ColinMeeks.com.
Things slide ever so slowly. Slowly though, you start using an kind of road block as an excuse. I sat down to write with good intention, but this is not the way I usually prefer to work. I’m good with deadlines, but as the recession began to take hold, writing gigs became hard to come by. Without these kinds of pressure, writing became purely a personal thing. This however meant that with no real deadlines, things would take me forever to complete. I needed a way to work easily, when I had that creative spark, instead of getting a creative idea and then trying to write it when I had a free moment near my main desktop computer. I knew the answer to my problem would be a Netbook, but picking one up, is not that easy when your disposable income shrivels to nothing, ah the joys of kids.
Anyway I was finally able to pick up a Netbook on Wednesday and I can already feel the creative juices burning a hole in my brain. As I type this, I have two children playing in the basement, and another watching, “Meet The Robinsons”. In this little free time slot, I’ve already finished off an article that’s been sitting on my computer for a few weeks and am very close to hitting the post button on this one. I do have a laptop, an unwieldy, but very powerful 17″ HP Pavillion, but just the thought of setting it up, forces one of those road blocks in front of me. It’s a great laptop, but the battery has long since given up the ghost, which means that I constantly have to have it plugged in. Even before that I was lucky to get 2 hours of of the battery. In comparison the Netbook I bought has a battery life of up to 8 hours. This hasn’t been the case so far, as I’ve been installing software and also generally abusing the Internet connection, but once things settle down I imagine I’ll get at least 5-6 hours.
Anyway I shall write a post soon, with a review of my Netbook. I did a lot of investigation and feel the one I pick has been right for me so far.
I was half way though the second part of my Computer Odyssey series when I was reminded of a computer game I used to play on the ZX81. This is a game that’s haunted me for many years. I always knew it was called London Bridge, but the only thing I can remember of the author, was that he had a Polish sounding name. This also wasn’t an off the shelf computer game, but a program listing that appeared in a computer magazine. The only thing I was certain of, was that it appeared in Sinclair User magazine, sometime between 1982 and 1983.
After a bit of Internet research, I finally had the name of the author, Jerome K Laskowski. I was also able to determine that the listing appeared in the December 1982 issue of Sinclair User. Unfortunately although I have several thousand snaps of ZX81 games, this isn’t one of them, but I did manage to find several other games from Jerome, including, Deploy, Future War and Race Track. So for a while the trail was cold and I thought no more of it, until while searching eBay recently found a seller offering every issue of the Crash magazine in PDF format and not just crash, I found ZX Computing and numerous other magazines on offer. This led me back to the greatest Sinclair resource of all, World of Spectrum, or WOS as it’s more affectionately known and BAM, there I found my Eldorado, virtually complete scans of every magazine, for the discerning Sinclair afficianado. Tucked away deep in the bowls, was the December 1982 issue of Sinclair User. On page 67, London Bridge, by Jerome K Laskowski.
OK, so now I had the game, it wasn’t much good unless I could actually play it, which was easier said than done. I sat down to type in the listing using a ZX81 emulator, and while the single click keyword entry was certainly great on a real ZX81, it majorly sucked on a PC emulating a ZX81. I thought there must be a better way and fortunately there was, a program called ZXText2P, which allows you to take an ASCII document and convert it to the P format compatible with the emulator. Now I think I typed in 10 or so lines into the emulator and it must have taken me at least 15 minutes, as former ZX81 and Spectrum users will remember, you had to press key combinations to get keywords to appear. Typing it in as a pure ASCII document, I managed to type the whole thing in under 10 minutes. Being able to play the game for the first time in 29 years was nearly within my grasp, or would have been if there hadn’t have been a typo in the program listing. I keyed in my first move and all I got in return was an error, “C/220″, which didn’t mean anything to me. Fear not, I pulled out my PDF copy of the manual and it told be :
“The text of the (string) argument of VAL does not form a valid numerical expression. ”
This basically confirmed to be something that I thought when I was looking at the listing, that, what appeared on the listing as a “,”, should have been a “)”. Once I made this correction the program sprang to life.
Now while the program is still interesting, it’s not quite how I remembered it. The passing of time, can be such a cruel mistress, but I think with a little careful thought, it would be quite possible to update it and really bring it up to date. We shall see what happens over the next little while. This exercise has also caused a few sparks to go off in my head. More of that another time.