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Alive 13

stos gigazine

This  little review refers to the second and final edition of the  Gigazine,
issue 2. It was written by the Black Eagle, but he tends to refer to himself
in  most  articles as Dave Haylett,  which is fair enough.  This is quite  a
'historic'  publication,  going  back to 1995,  past the peak of the diskmag
boom.  For  some  reason,  it doesn't seem to be widely distributed,  and was
recently re-released.

It  is  distributed  on a standard ST double-sided  floppy.  Running  it  is
straightforward,  as  you  double-click from the desktop and the  mag  shell
starts up with a random choice of a well-known soundchip tune,  these can be
changed on the function keys.

The top part of the screen displays a coloured ascii 'Gig2' logo,  some sort
of low-res blocky raster or colour cycling effect is going on behind it, and
a  simple vertical scroller menu selector beneath.  The menu reminded me  of
similar  diskmags  of that era,  such as the late lamented  'Power  Diskmag'

It  is a bit jittery in general operation,  it quits if the mouse is  moved,
but  the  soundchip  music continues on the Gem desktop.  This tends  to  be
annoying  if  you  are  running it within an  emulator  on  a  multi-tasking
desktop,  which involves a fair bit of mouse movement when you are switching
between  apps.  To  be  fair to the author,  he couldn't have  forseen  this
happening back in 1995! The article displayer looks a lot like a common Tony
Greenwood  Stosser  generic effort used in many publications.  There  is  no
special customising used.

The  editorial  gives  away some large clues that 'Giga'  is  not  a  recent
production,  with copious references to one Tony Greenwood.  The date at the
end of article is 19th July 1995.

It  is  divided  into several parts,  such as the  'Main  part',  'reviews',
'programming',  'puzzles',  'silly',  and three specific sections with hints
and tips for games varying from 'Captive' to the Jaguar version of Doom.

A quick overview suggests there are quite a lot of articles,  which would be
expected,  otherwise it wouldn't be a "gigazine"! A slightly slower overview
surprisingly  reveals  that this magazine seems to be a one-man band,  a  la
Moondog and UCM, that is, all the articles have been authored by Dave!

Happily,  he  avoided  the  temptation  to use  netgrabs  and  other  filler
material,  which  is  amazing for a publication of this type.  Giga features
wholly original articles, if many of them are quite short. The writing style
is  serviceable,  and  the  general standard of English is  good,  certainly
better than most early Maggie articles!

The  'Main  Part'  has a very eclectic range of  subject  matter,  from  the
straightforward,  such  as  Atari 8-bit memories,  to Dave's experiences  of
working  at  Asda,  through to Dave attempting to explain Chaos  theory.  He
escews 'Butterfly wing causing a hurricane' for the more prosaic "guy  loses
his tie, is late for work, big deal called off, company goes bust" example.

Also,  1995-era specific questions are asked in a searching manner,  such as
"Should compilation disks for PD be banned?" - His conclusion is, no.

One of the longer articles consists of a sci-fi story where Aliens  Colonial
Marines meet Terminator cyborgs, and are framed by Jeremy Beadle at the end.

Other highlights of this section include an article which does a pretty fair
job of explaining Stephen Hawking's 'Theories of Time and Space'.

He  briefly  reviewed  the  Jaguar Console from  a  laypersons  perspective,
generally favourably, apart from the lack of a save game option.

There is a fascinating article, especially for the historical context of how
sub-standard most Wintel offerings were back in the olden days of 1995. Back
then, 1500-2000 ukp used  to  get you a low-end pentium,  which didn't  work
properly when you got it out of the box,  and it took about three changes of
supplier  to get something that eventually worked.  And that is even  before
you  had  to fiddle with different drivers to get different  games  and  the
soundcard to work.  Weren't the olden days grand! And how did Peecee vendors
get  away  with such sub-standard half-functional crap in the  early  days?!
Were  people really that stupid?!  This is a question begging for the answer

This article is almost worth the download on its own.

The  'Reviews' section gifts the reader with a series of very short  reviews
of  unmemorable  productions,  including  a  Star Trek  mouse-mat.  The  one
exception,  where Dave went to a bit more time and trouble, is with a review
of Jag Wolfenstein.

The 'Programming' section features around a dozen articles,  not so many for
a 'STOS' gigazine, but the bulk of his programming tips were used up for the
first  Gigazine issue.  In here we find out the text displayer isn't a  Tony
Greenwood generic job after all, but written by Dave himself.

We'll  skim over the 'Puzzles' bit,  which is a varied collection of quizzes
and ascii mazes, and go on to the 'Silly' section instead.

As for 'Silly' (idea of 'silly' in a diskmag nicked from Deano perhaps?! Is
Deano  likely  to ever read this?) Some parts of it  are  wrist-slashing.  A
typical  example comes with the subject title "Lots of Letters".  Instead of
the bulging textfile of correspondence you might expect, you get this;

"Here are some letters."

"A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z"

And that is a whole article! Ok, you can all stop laughing now.

On  the other hand,  a piece where Dave clearly made some effort is with the
"PC  versus  ST" story.  This tells the story of Dave,  an ST owner,  dealing
with 'Larry', a proud owner of a new (1995 issue) peecee. All of the hassles
of  the latter system are shown in full detail,  as a 'competition'  between
the two systems unwinds. In spite of which, Larry ignores the evidence until
Dave asks him the killer question "Well why doesn't it work straightaway?"

To which Larry replies "Errm, how much did you say the ST cost?"

I'm not quite sure how a recipe for Passion Cake,  and a quick 1k's worth of
ascii starburst fits into this section,  although they are very nice.  Maybe
he's better off renaming "silly" to "random"?

The final three sections are about the games 'Captive',  'Doom',  and 'Elite
2'.  These are mainly of interest to the respective fans of these games, and
feel  like the most fillerish part of the mag,  especially with the Elite  2
planet  descriptions  which  would have been culled straight  off  the  game
itself.  'Doom'  features  more walk-throughs of the levels,  but it is  not
clear who wrote these?  'Captive' has lots of tables and things, and is only
for the dedicated fans of that game.

The end is near, 'Cheerio'! The author/editor is unlikely to come back to ST
in  this  sort of strength,  so this is the second and final issue  of  STOS
Gigazine.  Did  anyone  spot  it the first time around,  as it was only  re-
released fairly recently.


I  came to 'Giga' with low expectations,  having a certain familiarity  with
the  worst  of the second and third rank diskmags from that  period.  I  was
pleasantly surprised,  yes, I know the tone of my review does not show that!
The mag managed a generally higher standard than the norm, and a commendably
high strike rate for originally authored material. Many of the articles were
very  short,  some of the 'silly' material managed to avoid getting anywhere
near 'funny', and yet..

Some  of the articles,  where the author didn't take a "Right,  that's three
done before lunch,  and I'll do another three this afternoon" attitude,  and
made more of an effort, were showing real potential. The general standard of
writing,  whilst  not  100% perfect,  was certainly good.  If there had been
another couple of contributors capable of writing up to the same standard or
bettering it, then this could have been a little gem with good prospects.

I also enjoyed this more than some others,  as a historical document of what
computing  was like a decade ago.  It is a genuine shock to recall just  how
shitty a lot of early peecee's and early versions of Windows were.  It was a
useful  reminder  to  myself  just exactly why I  avoided  going  down  that
mainstream  route for as long as possible,  and ending up selecting a Mac in
the end anyway!

In an overall ranking scheme of things,  STOS Gigazine would come lower than
'Power-Mag' and 'ST Plus', for the simple reason that it was a single-handed
effort,  and  the  other two managed to generate a lot of  involvement  from
different  people,  had  a diversity of views and a real sense of  community
whilst  they  lasted.  'ST-Plus' in particular managed to find  some  superb
writers  who eventually got poached off for Maggie (heh heh!) However,  STOS
Gigazine  can  proudly  raise its head about the likes of  'Mega',  and  the
dozen's  of unremembered no-hit one disk wonders,  which relied too much  on
internet grabs,  unedited press releases and filler material.  It could have
been  different  if Dave had made contact with a couple of  other  motivated
like-minded people, then who knows how far it could have gone?

By  the way,  any dude who's into ascii-art gets an automatic thumb up  from

Better than average writing style..
High amount of original material..
Some articles are quite good..
Enjoyable as a historical account of 10 years ago..

Fairly basic menu shell, nothing special there..
Many articles very short..
Editor not minded to carry on, it shows in many of the articles..
Single-handed approach doomed not to last..

CiH, for Alive Mag, June '06..

Alive 13