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Alive 9
Jagfest 2004!

          Back to the Rochester place!

Time  and  cash  constraints meant that we were only able  to  carry  out  a
partial  re-run  of  the very successful 2003  Jagfest  weekend  this  year.
Nevertheless,  Felice and I resolved to make the best of this situation, and
it  was at the horribly ugly hour of 06.00 on Saturday morning of  the  12th
June, that I started on the dusty road to St Neots.

About forty minutes later, I find Felice ready to go and add his Philips Mk1
CM8833 to my hardware mix of CT60 Falcon and classic slightly yellowing STe.
Ten  minutes  after  that sees us on the second part of  the  road  trip  to
historic sunny Rochester.

The  road trip was straightforward to the point of dullness,  WAKE UP THERE!
And the direction-finding part of my brain remembered enough about Rochester
from last year,  to make finding the Medway Hotel very easy.  I even managed
to  find  the  rear entrance car parking spaces at the back  with  only  the
single  false  turn.  We got there about quarter an hour or so ahead  of  my
target arrival time of 09.00hrs.

Inside,  the  show  was alive,  but only just,  the majority of the overnight
guests still wiping the last dribbles of egg yolk off their chins (curses! I
really  like the sort of breakfast that is cooked by someone else!)  We  did
find  Shiuming  and Matthew Preston of the MyAtari crew in  the  process  of
setting  up,  just  a short paperclip flick away from the 'Commodore  Scene'
area, which had been invited down on the strength of their impressive Retro-
Zone  showing  at  last November's Micromart show.  We also  found  the  Mad
Butcher,  who  had stumbled out of bed and into a different country from the
one in which he usually  lives!

Shortly  after  we  unloaded our bags,  Nick Harlow,  the organising  genius
appeared,  and among the other half a dozen things he was trying to organise
simultaneously,  he  directed  us to set up in the other room,  which we did
quickly,  checking  to  make sure that both computers had survived the  trip
over.  One  little  glitch nudged its way forward at this point,  as I found
that the hurriedly borrowed from Nicky external peecee speakers hadn't  come
with their power supply. This absence sort of knackered up about 50% of what
I  was  going  to  do with my stuff that day,  such as mp3  and  ogg  vorbis
playback, graoumf and Ace tracker escapades and so on. Still, never mind. We
then went to check out the rest of the Jagfest, now that people were turning
up in force.

This  year,  the  original two rooms had expanded to three.  In the furthest
corner,  Shiuming,  Matthew, and assorted computer and console gear were set
up on one table. Next to them were the Cheshunt Computer club with a similar
display  to last year,  and with the addition of the other CT60 at the show.
Next to them,  magically preserved since the final Stafford ACC show several
years ago,  was the Portfolio Club, with much the same stuff on sale as they
had back them.  And finally in a crowded room, jostling for position against
a  load of vibro-massage beds that had been dumped there,  was the Commodore
Scene,  and  an intriguing presence from one of the people behind the 'Retro
Gamer' magazine,  a real glossy newsstand magazine on sale in the shops, all
about retro-gaming and old hardware. This person was Shaun Bebbington.

The  centre area contained the bar as before,  and the 'shop' area for 16/32
Systems.  There  was  also  a  Milan '060 running a version  of  the  online
catalogue. I managed to have a dabble with it later on. It had a 60mhz rated
'060,   which  wasn't  too  bad,  but  when  Kronos  was  run,  it  compared
unfavourably with the CT60,  let alone things like Magic Mac.  We think that
it had a cut down '060 with a crippled FPU.  The one area where it did score
over mine, was with the enhanced screen modes, brought about by the addition
of a peecee third party graphics card. I didn't have a lot of other success,
managing  to  provoke  one '060 exception error whilst trying  to  run  what
looked like the fabled level demonstration of the enhanced Milan version  of
'Running'.(That missing FPU again?) I left it at that.

The  third room,  where we had located to,  contained the bulk of the Jaguar
based  action,  with  several  big  screens running  a  mixture  of  Jagfest
favourites,  such as Worms, Tempest 2000, Battlesphere and so on. There were
some  new developments,  which to be honest,  I only caught passing glimpses
of.  The  consoles  spent  most  of  their time  involved  in  a   round  of
tournaments which we weren't able to join in with,  only being there for the
single  day.  Shame,  as  I  fancied  my chances on the 7800  console  based
Asteroids tournament!

Next to us,  was the other computer based entertainment in the room,  the ST
Gamesbase emulator frontend project.  This was being run by Rob Perry, who I
remembered very well in several diverse roles, from being my second earliest
Falcon  contact after Sh3,  through to the System Solutions dude with a very
high spec TT,  and even his early days in the STOS demo crew 'Dentrassi'! He
was  doing an amazing job showing the frontend via a very high-tech  system,
and  a  huge  flatscreen (which tilted into portrait mode later  on  for  an
arcade emulator!) Lethal Excess really looked the business on that screen!

To set against that grandeur,  we had the Badger demo!  Well actually,  that
came  a  fair bit later.  For now,  the STe was running a themed  collection
(gasp!) of classic frenchie demos,  early hits of Hemoroids,  Equinoxe,  the
Flipo demo and so on.  There was also a plan for a further theme of STe-only
stuff,  but we never quite got that far,  a long showing of the Paradox High
Res colour slideshow aside. Maybe for the next one?

The  CT60,  handily  labelled as such for those people who might doubt  that
such  a  thing  could  exist in a stock ST/Falcon  case,  did  attract  some
attention  during  the day.  An early companion was Matt 'Neo' Smith.   His
experiences  with  the  CT60  were considerably less  happy  than  I'd  have
expected  from him even to the extent of not running long enough to see  the
likes of 'Deeztort', 1.0' and 'Traal' running. so I happily obliged. We even
got  so  far as running some of the Atari 130XL finest  moments  of  classic
demos on the Atari 800 emulator,  some of them running a bit faster than the

I  also got speaking to a guy who remained nameless,  but was one of the new
batch  CT60  customers awaiting delivery,  so he was naturally very  curious
about  mine  and  how it worked.  It turned out that he may  have  been  Jan
Thomas,  who  is  working on a DSP port to USB cable adaptor,  according  to
Rodolphe's developer list!  If so,  it didn't crop up in conversation, damn,
another missed opportunity!

I had some previous misgivings, based on the very hot and humid weather we'd
had  a  couple  of days earlier,  when my CT60 ran about 3  degrees  celcius
higher  than normal,  and started to throw up errors in Aniplayer.  Happily,
the  ambient  air temperature behaved itself,  and so did my CT60.  Rodolphe
Czuba  was  down as provisionally as a guest,  but he was unable to make  it
here in the end.

Checking  out the 16/32 stall,  I spotted a preponderance of Jaguar and Lynx
stuff.  There  was a generous supply of hardware and games for both systems.
There  was also a sizeable collection of stuff for the ST/Falcon range,  but
nothing  really standing out as a must-buy item for me personally.  I  doubt
this  stopped  other  people though,  as I remember Matt Smith  stuffing  an
armful  of  Jag related goodies in his VW camper van.  The only  purchase  I
ended  up  making,  was  for  a copy of the english  translated  French  'ST
Magazine'. This will be reviewed in a separate article elsewhere in the mag,
but  initial  impressions  are  favourable.  We await the  next  issue  with

To  make  up  for that,  Nick had generously laid on some freebies  for  the
partygoers. Everyone  ended  up with a Jagfest keyring,  and a copy,  with a
nice manual,  of Oxyd Magnum. I remember something of this game from my very
early  days  with a Falcon,  and it still plays as well as  ever,  including
running happily on a CT60.  The freebie count did not stop there,  as I next
paid a visit to the combined Commodore Scene/Retrozone magazine stand.

There was quite a bit to look at on the Commodore stand.  Allan Bairstow was
playing with an uncannily GEM-like GUI on his 20mhz Super-CPU expanded  C64,
which I remember describing in the Micromart show report.  They had a wealth
of  printed  material including what looks like the entire  back  issues  of
their  magazine  collected into a ring binder.  This featured an  impressive
amount  of demoscene related material,  including someone's all-time top-ten
ranking of C64 demos, and screenshots from the C64 version of Doom! (This is
very blocky, but still recognisable.)

In  the  end I ended up scoring another freebie,  a copy of  the  Retrogamer
magazine,  with a cover-mounted CD,  with loads of cd-audio original C64 SID
tunes  and  a  whole bunch of remixes of these.  I got as far  as  having  a
substained  go  at  the C64 Bomberman game with Shaun  Bebbington,  sort  of
muddling through to a points victory before we both gave up on it.

All  this retro excitment whisks the hours away until my stomach  grinds  to
remind me that its last food was an unscheduled toast stop at Felice's place
very  early  on.  Lunch,  in the form of a buffet selection arrives,  and is
stripped clean within a handful of minutes by the hungry crowd.  Fortunately
I  manage  to pick up a plateful of sandwiches before this  happens,  smugly
munching them beside my CT60.  This is a good start, but a small group of us
are going to town to see what we can pick up to eat in any case.

Shuiming, Rob,  Felice  and  myself head into town in Rob's car,  not a huge
distance apart from the vertical bit in the middle.  Rob and Shuiming are on
some informal ex-Systems Solutions staff reunion.  We park up and wander the
sunny streets, managing to find the pseudo-southern fried chicken place with
a memorable late night atmosphere that we partook of last year.  Inside, the
town  drunks  can  be glimpsed practicing football chants.  We  sampled  the
pastry  wares of a local baker,  transferring these to our mouths as fast as
we  could.  There  wasn't a lot more to detain our interest,  so we returned
back to the party shortly after, which was a good thing.

Almost  as  soon  as we got back,  the sky darkened and angry  black  clouds
appeared.  Then it rained,  a stinging downpour that threatened to wash away
the  car  park.  This was ominous in view of our evening food  arrangements,
which was going to be a barbeque.  What price waterlogged sausages now?  But
eventually the rain slowed and stopped.

James Haslam of the Cheshunt Computer Club remembered that there was another
CT60 in the building,  and he searched us out.  I was happy to show him what
he had been missing so far,  which was probably quite a lot, bearing in mind
the Cheshunt CT60 is probably a dedicated seriousness terminal ;-) From  the
reactions,  I guess he was impressed with what he saw,  including a few non-
CT60  specific  Falcon goodies of more recent vintage,  and a re-run of  the
classic  'Delta'  demo  which dominated last years proceedings.  An  air  of
desperation  appears  in his eyes when the Dildo Fatwa stuff comes  out  for
another showing... Eventually he makes his escape.

The  afternoon carries on in much the same easygoing vein as the morning,  I
fetch  up  at  the recased Falcon of Ian Smith,  an Alt party  survivor  who
drifted in with the Cheshunt contingent. He is on hand to explain that is it
a  bit  of  a mystery machine,  as he purchased it from someone  in  deepest
Yorkshire,  he  has  had  it for two or three years,  but with  two  Falcons
already, hasn't really got down to looking at this one closely until now! So
we start to take a look.

The  mystery machine has a Nemesis,  tends to lock up when trying to  change
the  screen resolution when it is active.  Poking around in the auto  folder
soon  uncovers  a full Magic and Jinnee installation,  and a maximum  screen
resolution  pushed a bit beyond 1024 x 768 with Videlity.  It turns out that
it  is  packed with tons of software,  including a spare partition that  was
hidden under TOS mode.  Nothing has been removed from this machine, even the
emails are still on there! I think he might have cleared those off at least?
There  is  nothing that explicitely refers to the friends of  Bin  Laden  on
there,  and  we  chuckle at the couple of 1998-era proto-spam emails,  early
droplets harbinging the tidal wave of crap to come.

It  also has an insane partitioning scheme on a 1 gig drive,  with  randomly
sized partitions solely designed to use up all the available drive  letters.
This  has  the  effect  of 'hiding' the built-in  CD-ROM  under  Magic,  and
stopping  access via the file selector on TOS,  so the only way to get at it
is  via  the desktop icon!  The contents can be summarised as plenty of  GEM
stuff, a number of ST games that were being stored, and amazingly bearing in
mind  it  is a Falcon after all,  no audio-related applications at all!  (In
fact,  I  don't  think there was anything that used the DSP at all?  I guess
that  the original owner was really seeking a cheap TT,  and his next  Atari
purchase would have probably been a Milan?)

This  genteel tinkering takes us the rest of the way through the  afternoon,
until  some  point  later on,  a cloud of smoke billows into  the  building,
setting off the hotel fire alarms, to summon the partygoers and tell us that
the barbeque is to hand!

Nick has set up a "Hells Kitchen" sweary chef working area at the bottom  of
the pub garden of 'Fagins Retreat'. Several barbeque pans are going at once,
and  assorted  forms of meat are being charcoaled to death.  A hungry  crowd
gathers, and the first burgers are judged sufficiently cooked (ie completely
black!) to be safe.  The barbeque proceeds smoothly, suffering a slight mid-
session  breadroll  failure,  for  which Peter West of the  CCC  volunteered
himself  to  bring  in further supplies.  Eventually as the fires  start  to
slacken,  hunger  is  sated,  and the crowds gradually disperse.  At time of
writing I don't think anyone went down with violent vomiting fits after,  so
that worked out okay then.

The final evening session fills a few gaps. I spend a bit of time at the bar
with Felice,  Ian Smith and James Haslam, the European cup has started, with
the first matches being played.  I return downstairs, and Tyrant, one of the
hardcore  Jagfans takes an interest in what I'm doing.  He is interested  in
the  CT60,   and then I boot up the Badger demo!  Otherwise known as the MJJ
Productions killer app!

This attracts a lot of attention for the STe,  which has largely sat ignored
in  the  corner  during the day overshadowed by the  more  glamourous  CT60.
Reactions  are  favourable,  with people remarking on the coolness  of  this
Flash animation being converted to the humble ST. Of course when it has been
running a while,  people attempt to kill it,  via the reset button! I shared
that little "joke" with a lot of people.

Eventually,  with  a  10.00hrs  departure time hanging close by,  we end  up
spending  some  time in the MyAtari enclosure chatting   with  Shiuming  and
Matthew.  I get to try out the fabled "2600 VCS games built into a joystick"
unit.  This plays a respectable game of asteroids,  and quite a good version
of  the  more  complex 'Gravitar' as well.  Shuiming has an insane  plan  to
review  one  of these,  as in *completely* review it,  stripping it down  to
reveal its inner workings,  and comparing it directly with a classic vintage
Atari 'dumb' joystick.  After that,  we are  all too soon packing and making
the return journey home.

I got back home at around 01.00hrs on Sunday,  having had a relaxing journey
back,  going  to  bed I almost got to sleep,  when I was awoken by  football
related  shouting  from  some premature idiots  three  streets  away.  (Very
premature  as  it turned out,  with reference to England vs France  on  that
first Sunday evening!)

The headache,  which appeared without any heavy drinking beforehand,  waited
until the following morning to kick in.

The end bit::
We managed to make the most of our day in Rochester.  It is unfortunate that
we  weren't able to stay for both days.  Still we managed to cover the 'main
points' very well, and I hope that this report manages to convey that.

The  Jagfest  managed to maintain the momentum from last year,  keeping  its
place  as  the  premier Atari-related event in the UK.  It even  managed  to
expand  from  the  past year,  to include a large guest  presence  from  the
Commodore  64 community,  who were nice guys and fondly remembered from last
Autumn's Micromart Retro-Zone.  Nick Harlow seemed to be working even harder
this  year,  to  make sure we all had a good time,  and we did.  The Saturday
evening  barbeque  was a great success,  and the weather played its part  by
staying away for just long enough! A repeated vote of thanks for Nick making
the considerable effort once again, is in order at this point.

We  managed  to  remake a lot of old acquaintances,  which  are  all  nicely
described in the main body of the report,  but particular mention is made of
Shuiming Lai,  and Rob Perry, and also Shaun Bebbington, who made sure I got
a close up chance at the Retro Gamer magazine.

We  had  a reasonable success with the CT60,  although a little bit more  to
show it off with,  would have been nice,  still, I'm sure there will be next
year  to come back with a greatly expanded menu of goodies.  I won't say any
more about the Badger Demo, as mere words will not be enough!

CiH for Alive Mag,July '04

Alive 9