SW as Max Headroom

My name is Stuart Williams.

Welcome to AMIGA meditations, my personal reminiscence of the Commodore Amiga computer and my own small involvement in its history, as a writer and user.

At the moment this blog mostly consists of the articles I wrote for Amiga User International magazine here in the UK, between 1988-1990.  I will expand on this as time permits, all being well on a regular basis, so please do keep coming back, dear reader!

A little about me.

I’m a writer, journalist and photographer living and working in the West Midlands of England, and amongst other things, these days I’m a retro-computing fan. But back in the late 1980s-1990s, I wrote for several home computer magazines, so in a sense, I am retro myself :-)

The first computer I remember seeing was HAL 9000 in the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968!). Though to be honest, I had grown up in the ‘space age’, eagerly devouring pulp science fiction books and magazines from an early age. So by the time the real thing came along, I was very familiar with fictional ideas of computing from the writings of Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Frederick Brown.

There were no personal computers in my school at the time I left Comprehensive in 1979; the following year my younger brother was introduced to them by means of programming in class using punched cards which had to be run on the local college computer, and the first microcomputer to be introduced in my old school was the Tandy (aka Radio Shack) TRS-80 Model 1.

In 1981, by then in my early twenties and having left college (where I trained as a professional photograper), I was amazed by the appearance of the Sinclair ZX81, but didn’t become a user of Uncle Clive’s products until the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k was launched in 1982. I didn’t have one for long, as it didn’t work and I sent it back, getting a Texas TI99/4A instead.  That was a great machine, ahead of its time. It was the beginning of a lifetime’s obsession.

I had landed a job in newspaper publishing and, having a modest disposable income, I went on to own most of the ‘usual suspects’ including the ZX81 (for which I wrote a version of ‘Frogger’ in Sinclair BASIC!), various Spectrums and + versions, a Dragon 32, Oric Atmos, Commodore 64 and Commodore 128, BBC ‘B’, Colour Genie, Amstrad CPC 464, 664 and 6128, Amstrad PCW 8512, Atari 520STFM and ST, Amiga A1000 and (briefly) A2000, Acorn Archimedes and A5000, various PCs including Commodore, Atari and Amstrad, HP, IBM PS/2, Victor Vicky, an Apricot and a Sinclair QL and Z88.  In fact every time I watch ‘The IT Crowd’ on TV I find myself counting off the computers I once possessed on the shelf behind Moss – and wishing had kept them!

Me on the CBM stand at the Personal Computer World Show in the late 80s

Me on the CBM stand at the Personal Computer World Show in the late 80s

In the mid 1980s I founded the West Midlands Amstrad User group, based in Walsall and which evolved, as technology moved on, into the ‘Serious Micro User Group’, a multi-machine club now long since defunct, though it continued until the late 1990s.  I was also previously a member of Bloxwich Computer Club and had links with Walsall Computer Club, both also sadly long gone.

As technology moved on, like many I moved on to 16/32 bit computers – the Atari ST and later the Commodore Amiga. This inspired me to take up writing for magazines. From the late 1980s onwards, I wrote on a freelance basis for several home computer magazines including Micro Computer Mart, Atari ST User, Amiga Computing and Amiga User International.

Amiga User International Masthead

The latter publication was the most important to me in many ways, writing for it changed my life, and my work featured in its pages from 1988 – 1990, when for much of that period I wrote a regular monthly feature on public domain and shareware software, and on many occasions I penned other articles at the invitation of the Managing Editor and Publisher, Antony Jacobson, occasionally hardware reviews, but mostly a broad spectrum of features on communications.  These might be on the subject of bulletin boards, or communications systems, or the technology (modems and suchlike) and software, or even amateur radio.

I was even, towards the end of that period, dubbed ‘The Comms Kid” by our illustrious Managing Editor, and I personally set up and supervised AUI’s dedicated area on Compunet.

I had previously been co-editor of an Atari ST area on Micronet 800 (a Prestel-based interactive Viewdata system run by a private company renting space on British Telecom’s Prestel servers, and spent rather too much time on the bulletin boards before the internet, on one occasion spending £250 a quarter on telephone calls!  This, and my time working for Amiga User International, was all before public access began to be introduced to the World Wide Web (generally accepted to be in 1993, when the Mosaic browser was made available).  And the rest, as they say, is history.  I now carry the web in my pocket, a constant companion.  It’s a long way from my days of bulletin boards, terminals and ex-military acoustic couplers – but perhaps not always as much fun.

Since the late 1990s I have mostly moved on to Apple computers, currently a 2008 Mac Pro 8-core, though I also have a few ‘retro’ computers, and a recently-acquired gaming PC.  But looking back, the computer which really gave me a new direction was the wonderful Amiga A1000, not only because of its inspirational features as the world’s first multi-tasking multimedia computer, but because it inspired me to become a writer.  And I still have an Amiga – an A1200 though, sadly, not my original A1000, which is lost in the mists of time, like tears in rain…

If anyone out there has an A1000 which they’d be willing to part with, please do

Retro Computing News Masthead

Today, amongst other things, I edit and publish an online magazine – Retro Computing News.  This looks back with fondness on those heady days when computing was young and so were we, and supports the sharing of information for those who not only have an interest in the history of computing in general, but who are enthusiasts for the now-burgeoning and rapidly growing hobby of ‘retro-computing'; the use, care for and restoration of old computer hardware and software.

This new blog, AMIGA mediations, is however more specifically a personal reminiscence of my own Amiga days, and in particular those exciting and happy years spent writing for Amiga User International.  Here, I present a selection of my work, and hopefully that will grow as time permits and as I rediscover magazines which are not currently in my possession, completing my own ‘Amiga story’ – or at least, that chapter…  Please check out the menu heading M.I.A. if you think you might have any scans or copies of AUI which might help me with that.

It seems most appropriate that AMIGA meditations is launched now, to mark the 30th anniversary year of the Amiga in July 2015, and on International Amiga Day 31st May 2015 – the birthday of Jay Miner, the engineer and ‘father’ of that most remarkable computer of its time.

I hope this will be of interest to you.

Stuart Williams