Hello there! I hope that you’re in good form!
This blog post is about my attending of the Amiga Users Ireland 2018 Meetup, which just happened over the weekend just gone, on Friday & Saturday 19th & 20th January.
It took place in the Prince of Wales Hotel, Athlone, and it was an absolutely brilliant weekend! This was the third annual meetup of Commodore and Amiga users and definitely the best yet.
The Commodore Amiga Users Meetup was created by Iarla Ó’Riada, who is a passionate fan of all things Commodore! We were childhood friends and were both Amiga owners which helped cement our friendship even more!
He came up with the idea of an Amiga meet up to get some like minded people together who are all enthusiastic about Commodores and Amigas. From that he set up a group for Facebook group which is open to everyone and currently has well over 200 users. It’s a brilliant resource if you have an old Amiga / Commodore and you want to revive it, or if you’re just looking for info about the current scene, which is really vibrant.
Anyways, I travelled up to the event on Friday morning and took a few obligatory CDs to make the road trip fun! I grabbed some Crannberries, Manic Street Preachers and Alanis Morrissette because I was in a bit of a 90s buzz, and I wanted to enjoy some classic Crannberries after the sad passing of Dolores O’Riordan.
When I got to the meetup, I got a lovely warm welcome from Aisling at the registration desk as well as my name badge and lanyard. Each of these IDs was painstakingly designed by Iarla, and each one had logos on them to represent the interests of the person, and it also included the persons name written in Ogham, which was a really cool touch! You might see at the bottom of the badge a list of the sponsors who sponsored the event. They were A-EON, Amiga Kit, Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland and Optimum Health.
Also on the back of the name badge, there was a voucher from Mike Battilana of Cloanto for a download to their amazing emulator for the Amiga called Amiga Forever! If you’re interested in gaming but don’t want to go buying a retro computer, then this emulator will be just the ticket. There is also a Commodore 64 Forever emulator if you want to relive some of those games too.
At the event there was lots going on, with all kinds of machines set up, from Commodore Pets, to C64s, Amigas and even X1000‘s, the modern incarnation of the Amiga made by A-EON Technology, a company set up by Amiga enthusiast Trevor Dickinson. There was all kinds of machines running which would have seemed impossible a few years ago, like a C64 connected to the internet, an Amiga connected to the internet and Amiga’s with Vampire’s, which greatly increase the power of Amiga’s.
I had big plans to take loads of video and photos of the weekend but I ended up getting completely immersed in the fun of playing the games that were on show and so I didn’t get as much as I’d like! But many people took lots of great photos including Gary Kavanagh which can be seen here and also Dermot O’Halloran’s, some of which can be seen here. Also, Maddi aka Ms Mad Lemon was recording lots of footage and has put together a fantastic video recap of the event which can be seen here!
Before I talk about Sensible World of Soccer, I need to talk about Crazy Priest. It’s a newly developed game by Peter Schnapke (Sordan) and Tomasz Derent, and it’s bloody amazing! The game play is pretty simple, but as with most games, the simplicity is what makes it so beautiful! I didn’t get a chance to play the one player mode but I did play the 2 player battle mode, where you basically have two characters who try to kill each other. You do that by firing bullets at people, or dropping bombs. It sounds simple, but it’s actually really tactical. You can fire bullets while moving, and if you stand stationary and press fire, you drop a bomb, which you need to get away from yourself also. Your ammunition runs out and so I found myself conserving my bullets and trying to entice my opponent to waste theirs, by bluffing moves around corners! And then when they’d run out of bullets, I’d go on the hunt! But, more ammunition appears randomly on screen, which leads to manic races to get to it first! The first time I played it, I can’t remember if I won or lost, but I was absolutely buzzing after it, because it was so much fun! Seriously, I highly, highly, highly recommend checking it out, especially the two player mode. I’m already planning getting mates over to have a night of Crazy Priest head to heads! You can download it from Aminet here.
As I mentioned above, we had a Sensible World of Soccer tournament, which I ran with my bestie Liam Doherty. I love the game, I think it’s the best sports game ever made, and I’m gonna write a post dedicated to it at some stage. But, ignore that for now. We had 19 people for this years competition, and so we had a knock out competition, with 3 minute games which would go to penalties if there was a draw. I had a bit of a target on my head because I won the tournament last year, and so a few of the lads taking part had been practicing a lot in the lead up to the event! And they were bloody good! I made it through to the final and there I met Przemek Duchnicki, who was a really tough opponent. We played a 5minute game (all the games up to that point were 3mins long) and it was the most incredible game I’ve ever played against someone. Neither of us could shake off the other. He was Brazil and I was Denmark, and there was 11 goals scored in the game! In case you want to watch the video without knowing the result, I have a video of it here to check out. If you do watch, let me know your thoughts on it! I’ll post the score at the end with a ps for those who aren’t interested in watching the video. The winner was to get this fabulous trophy!
One of the highlights of the weekend was having David Pleasance and Trevor Dickinson attend and tell us some of their stories and insights of the Amiga times gone by and Amiga times to come. They also spoke about the project they’re currently working on, Friendup which is a unifying platform which looks pretty cool. This video sums it up…
David and Trevor spoke on both Friday and Saturday and I recorded both of them. The first can be seen here and the second one here. As people who have “been there” and “done that” in the Amiga scene, it’s amazing to hear the stories they have and their thoughts on what could have been for Commodore and Amiga had it been run properly. The Amiga scene is a very friendly place and I’ve always found people very welcoming and willing to help fix machines or give advice on what could be done to jazz up your machine. And I think that environment comes down from people like David and Trevor, who lead by example. David traveled to Athlone from England just to be able to spend time with the Amiga community and he was extremely generous with his time. And even more impressively, Trevor travelled over from New Zealand! The dedication to and the joy they get from Amiga’s is really inspiring and they are both really great role models. By the way, David Pleasance is currently writing a book about his time with Commodore and by the sounds of it, it’s gonna be amazing! You may have already helped kickstart it, but if you’d like to order the book, you can do that here!
There were copies of ‘Komoda & Amiga plus’ magazine there, which is dedicated to retro gaming culture. It looked fantastic and so I bought one up from Tomasz Ankudowicz, who is an editor of it and was attending the event. All the copies that were available sold out, and it looks like a great read. Check out the magazine here, you can order printed copies of it or download digital versions here.
Tomasz also brought along some awesome posters with him which had come with an earlier issue of the magazine and which featured screenshots from C64 games and which I won in a raffle. I was able to get Trevor and David to sign it which I’m delighted with!
There were lots of prizes donated by people for the event and so along with the poster I picked up a cool Amiga keyring made by Daniel Cyganek, an Amiga Love sticker, an Amiga badge and recycled A-EON copybook which I will NOT be writing in!
There was lots of workshops run over the weekend including soldering, programming and music creation. I didn’t get a chance to take part in them as I was running the SWOS tournament on the Saturday and so was pretty tied up, but I’d love to know more about soldering. I don’t think I have the brain type for programming or music, but it might be just that I’m not giving myself a chance with it. But those who took in them really enjoyed it. Rob Cranley ran the soldering and the programming workshops and Iarla ran the music one. I have Rob to thank for my Amiga, which I brought to the first meetup 3 years ago and he opened it up for me and saw that it needed it’s capacitor to be changed or else it could leak onto the motherboard which would cause damage. He removed it there and then and replaced it with a cap I had brought along and it’s been purring like a kitten ever since. Not literally, that would probably be a sign of bad workmanship to be honest! Also, on a side note, I bought a C64 recently which needed something to be fixed in it, and Daniel Cyganek took it off my hands, did a bit of problem solving and ordered the part that was needed and replaced it for me. Those acts of help by Rob and Daniel kinda sum up the Amiga community really, and as someone who is not very tech savy at all especially when it comes to retro computers, it’s something I really appreciate.
Rob Cranley and Iarla also recorded an episode of Amiga Ireland podcast at the event which was great. Well, I say “recorded”, but I should say “performed without actually recording” 😀 Unfortunately the podcast didn’t record for some reason but you can check out some older episodes of their weekly podcast here!
So, I’ve written waaaay more here than I had planned to, and if you have read this far, I salute you. In hindsight I would have liked to have taken more photos etc, but when you’re in the thick of it and having the craic and enjoying yourself, you tend to lose track of things like that, and sometimes it’s nicer to experience something than to document it instead.
I’ll finish with something that I really loved about the weekend: the camaraderie amongst everyone. There was a real openness about the whole event, from the welcome you get from Iarla and his wife Aisling who ran ran it, to the friendly nature of all those there, either attending as guests or as displayers. In particular, I had brilliant fun with the Polish crew. Like I mentioned earlier, I had a bit of a target on my head in SWOS and so from the start there was great banter between us about who was going to beat who, and how we’d do it, and there was non stop laughs! Added to that the fun of playing Crazy Priest with them, I spent most of the time running around like a giddy school boy who’d just eaten a kilo of skittles! A lot of credit must got to Iarla, who first set this up, but who also runs it in a way which caters to as many people as possible, in a manner which excludes no one. There’s never any stupid questions there. Unless it’s about Atari obviously.
There is something special about the Amiga, and I think the same goes for Amiga owners. As someone who has the same Amiga for over 25 years, I can appreciate how much care and attention is needed to keep it functioning. It’s not just a plastic box with cables and buttons; it’s a time capsule with your childhood, something which captured imaginations, helped start careers off, provided friendship, fulfilled dreams. And I think most Amiga owners appreciate that, and it’s part of the reason why having an Amiga meetup like this is so special. And even though I’m completely and utterly out of my depth once any kind of technical talk starts regarding Amigas, I’m already very excited for next years event. January 18-19th 2019, pop it in the aul calendar!
Photo credit to Gary Kavanagh Photography.
ps, i won the game 6-5 😀