Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Nope, I'm not a week late with this issue of Commodore Format despite what the blurb said in the first edition and you can read the explanation in my previous post by clicking here.  But yes, it wasn't the 13th of October 1990 this bright and breezy second issue arrived, it was on this day a whopping 26 years ago.  Unlike the fully painted first cover and indeed the similarly classic covers to come, this was a more simple affair but nonetheless effective.

Bit garish in places but the 80s had just
finished after all

Celebrating the review of the Corker-winning Rick Dangerous 2 the cover was certainly a departure from what I became used to when I joined from #14.  Now, starting at #14 a year later is a key point to make here as I introduce a couple of nice surprises within the first pages.  As I've mentioned before I wrote a fun blog based around the classic Oink! comic of 1986 to 1988, and while doing so I discovered (as I'd completely forgotten beforehand) which issue had originally been my first only when I read it and recognised things I'd seen before.  As coincidence would have it that first issue had also been #14.  So my first ever comic and my first ever magazine share that.  I'm also writing about each issue a similar amount of years later; 27 for Oink! and 26 for CF.  But that's not all.

A very small Sample of a brilliant artist's work

While this may not be a commissioned piece of art for Commodore Format it no less got my attention when I was collecting together what I'd scan in for this issue's coverage.  I recognised the work straight away but couldn't place it.  However, I knew it was Oink!-ish and so I asked fans and creators at the Facebook group and lo-and-behold they were able to point me in the right direction.  Paul Sample worked on a couple of issues of the piggy comic but the only one I covered was the second Holiday Special which included this superb cover:

If you're just scanning the pictures there's no less than four
coincidental reasons this is here.  Read the post!

Hopefully that brings back some fond memories for some of you too and you can check out the full issue by clicking here.  Back to CF though and Paul's "contribution" is actually from a leaflet advertising one the computer shows featured in the Network 64 news section, but it still stood out to this fan.  Then a quick turn of the page and all the coincidences above culminate in this issue's PowerPack covertape!

Nothing at all like the comic but apparently a
very good game in its own right

I wouldn't have usually taken much notice of this, after all why would a game called Pig Tales with some average graphics call out to me when I didn't get the cassette with this issue?  Well, I've played this PowerPack before and upon loading the tape the Oink! game is there for you to enjoy!  The whole thing, including the correct title.  To this day I still haven't the foggiest clue as to why it wasn't referred to as Oink! in the magazine.  If the title screen of the game had been altered I may have simply concluded it must've been down to copyright issues, but nope it's all there including references to the four characters it's based around: Pete & his Pimple, Tom Thug, Rubbish Man and the comic's editor Uncle Pigg, including a full-screen C64 rendering of the rotund porker for the title.

Strange indeed.  If you'd like to know more about the game I covered it twice on The Oink! Blog.  First of all I wrote about the special edition of Spectrum magazine Crash which had a special issue of Oink! packaged inside it and an interview with the three editors, and I covered the game a little bit there too.  Also, there's a post about a lesser C64 magazine's special feature on the creation of the comic and the game too here.  Enjoy.

For now though let's get back to the nitty gritty of the sophomore edition of my favourite magazine of all time.  Something which set Commodore Format apart from its rivals at the time was a design aspect which we pretty much take for granted today.  Instead of just a long review about what they thought of the game, where they'd also try to explain it as best they could, CF gave us tremendous box outs and in-depth analysis of gameplay through much better use of the page layouts and loads of screenshots.  They really took the time to make sure we knew exactly how the game played.

While many reviews would rely on the main body of the text to do this they still differentiated themselves from the other magazines by their writing style.  As I covered last time they could mix opinion and facts about the game together in such a way that you'd be well informed but not lectured, and could make up your own mind.  This was, however, something which upon reading these first issues must've actually evolved over time which I became aware of the more I read these early CFs.  I'll go into that in more depth next time but for now here's a perfect example of what I was saying above about the design and how they utilised the space on the pages to the fullest effect.  This box out below took up half a page of a double-page review and with a selection of screenshots and carefully chosen words, writer Andy Dyer manages to give us a good feel for the play mechanics of the game; informative while maintaining that entertaining and playful style.

Ultimate Golf from Gremlin

Ah remember those golf games?  All grids of squares making up each hole, which we'd patiently wait to redraw after every swing?  Would we still have the patience for something like that today if we removed the rose-tinted glasses and tried a putt?  I still love the slow pace of Pebble Beach Gold Links on the 3DO from the mid-90s and prefer it over the (albeit immensely fun) Mario golf games and the like.  But going right back to these 8-bit golfers today I'm not so sure of.  But I'd love to give it a go.  So you never know.

Back to the main topic of conversation from last month now.

An impressive launch line-up

As with any new console the list of games being announced for its launch period is crucial to its initial success.  Although there's usually two truths about such lists.  The first is that none of these are usually fully confirmed and could just contain games which could get launched if the machine proves a success.  The other is that there's usually a bunch of lazy ports involved; games which don't take into consideration the unique features of the console and instead are the publisher's way of getting themselves onto the machine just incase it's a huge money spinner, without actually risking much.

Even with such games in the list above, and there are plenty, the idea of instant loading and multiloads no longer creating long pauses between levels must've felt like a good enough incentive to begin with.  The C64's games were by this stage smashing the ball out of the park if the creators put the effort in, but the slow cassette and relatively-slow disk formats were still putting people off when compared to the carts of consoles from Japan.  If these initial C64GS games could show there was an appetite for Commodore games on cart then we'd begin to see the more complex games arrive surely; the games that simply wouldn't be possible on tape.

Unfortunately Only Ocean and System 3 really pushed the carts and most of the games above would appear on the standard formats instead.  For the full lowdown, if you haven't already glanced over it, head back to my take on the whole Commodore 64 Games System story from last month.

But the GS was only one small part of the Commodore 64 story and this issue decided to teach its new readers a little history lesson on where their brilliant computers had come from.

Have a read of this article, it's
good stuff

I know as a new C64 owner of the time I'd have loved this as an introduction to my new computer.  Brilliantly written it sums up what's great about this little machine and the long journey Commodore had been on to reach the point of creating what would become (and to this day remains as) the world's best-selling home computer.  While also cheekily listing the games everyone should avoid!  I learned about the 64's history in bits and pieces as I went along, but CF was a new mag on the block and had a raft of new readers to aim itself towards.  People who had become disenfranchised with the competition splitting coverage between their machine and the fancy new Amiga, younger brothers and sisters who were being handed down their older sibling's 64s and of course people like myself who were still buying the micro in their hundreds of thousands as the best introduction to computing and computer gaming.  It had so much still to give and CF was here to show it hadn't gone the way of the 80s.

Reading articles like this now alongside others in these early editions which introduce many other features beyond gaming to the new-at-the-time audience is a joy.  I'm rediscovering the machine all over again myself and so it feels right to be going through these issues for the first time at this point, almost as if I was being introduced to the C64 for the first time now.  It feels like a fresh, clean start for me in a world where modern gaming just doesn't really appeal.  I've gone back to my roots and I'm loving it and CF is filling me in on what I not only missed out on first time around, but what I've been missing out on by not keeping my 64!

As we'll (eventually!) cover, CF really was the catalyst, in the UK at least, for the home-brew scene which came out of the end of the commercial lifespan of the computer.  I'm acquainting myself with the 64 in the modern world, where that home-brew time has grown into a fully-fledged Commodore 64 scene all over again, run by and for fans.  These magazines may be over two-and-a-half decades old but they're still serving as the perfect intro to the 64 for me even today.

One tough old bird

A few months after I got my original 64 my parents bought me my disk drive and within its packaging were eight full games spread across two compilations.  One of the most memorable ones was definitely Midnight Resistance and it was a pleasant surprise to see Commodore Format had been about when it was originally released.  It would only be about a year after this review that it'd be on that compilation so I didn't expect to bump into its original full-price release review.

I'm including it here as the game itself brings back a lot of memories, even if this issue for some reason only uses a handful of screenshots from the first level.  It was a very tough game but surely they got further than that.  Well from reading Andy's review it would appear he did, though I'm sure he probably cheated!  For the reviewers on CF they'd always try their best at a game first, spending many hours of the day and at home playing the titles fairly.  But deadlines are always looming.  I know this as I'm currently on the brink of another late night due to my own deadline.

To meet them, devices such as cheating cartridges which could furnish players with infinite lives would be used to enable the reviewers to get further into the game in time for the review.  Personally I remember playing through level one of Midnight Resistance with ease, but then even with Colin's Action Replay cartridge we'd come to a grinding halt on the second!  You'd stand on a small platform which would take you up through the trees, so your movement was already severely restricted.  But add in buzzsaws and many other flying enemies whizzing about all over the place, leading you to jump over one only to hit another, or to miss the platform on your fall back down again and it was virtually impossible.  Even with the cheats enabled it could test anyone's patience.  We eventually beat the level and then the following ones, while still a challenge, were much easier a lot more fun.  The whole game was brilliant fun to play except that one section if memory serves.  So much so that it became a chore and it really bugged me at the time (hey, I was a teenager, things bugged us) that the greater later levels were hidden behind that tree climb.

As such the game wasn't played as much as others in the compilations and on reading this review I'd say I'd mark it down a little further.  But maybe if I were to purchase it today with more patience(!) maybe I'd be more kind to it.  So I think it's probably a fair score.

Now, these days a week doesn't seem to go by without a gaming show being announced.  They're huge affairs these days; monstrously big shows full of loud music, celebrities, acres of bright screens, realistic graphics on almost cinema-sized displays, queues for days and huge announcements that get mainstream press coverage.  Back in 1990 they were a bit of a different affair though.  Commodore Format's editor Steve Jarrett took readers along (via a disposable camera - remember them?) to the Consumer Electronics Show in Earls Court in London for a quick walkabout and compared to today's undertakings it all feels... a bit quaint.

Nintendo wouldn't get away with THAT as their mascot today!

When publishers today spend millions upon millions in marketing one single game, for Steve to boast that Commodore's stand (with an almighty number '1' made up of its different hardware pieces including the C64GS) was "rumoured to have cost well into six figures" it just goes to show you how far the industry has come since then.  I'm not making any comment on quality here and indeed up until the end of the Wii and DS I was all about modern gaming, especially with friends, but no one can deny the sheer scale of video gaming today in comparison to this above.  These events were rightly seen as huge back then, but it was mainly about "computer gaming" rather than the "video games" and no one knew just how much things were to change over the next decade.

But I digress.  I do that.

A regular feature of the early issues was The Gauntlet, where the team would invite two readers to battle it out in the actual CF offices on C64 games, with the winner going on to the next issue's challenge.  They'd even pay for you to get there.  Well, if you lived on "mainland Britain", a phrase we youngsters in Northern Ireland grew to hate as it usually meant we couldn't take part in certain competitions on TV and in mags such as this, or that we had to pay extra for postage when ordering such games.

Just to digress again, for all you eBay sellers charging a certain price for "mainland UK/Britain" it doesn't cost more to send stuff here!  It never has, even back in the 90s.  You're fooling no one.  Ahem.

Anyway, I thought I'd include this issue's Gauntlet for a bit of fun.  It was a unique little feature which unfortunately didn't last too long but while it was there we could cheer on the current champion (or the underdog, it was up to you) while we read the article.  Written in a sports commentary kind of style long before GamesMaster came on TV, they were great fun and today also give us a chance to look back at some of the crazy fashions of the time.  But to us at that age any photos which showed us a glimpse into the world of the CF offices were always worth perusing.  Long before the 'net and social media made it easy to do so, these guys and gals felt really close to their readers through the clear personal styles of their writing.  We felt like we knew the team and so to actually see photos of them and the absolute mess they worked in just made them all the cooler.  If they could create such a professional publication in all of that, then our bedrooms didn't seem so bad after all.

I shouldn't make fun.  I had a shell suit around this time.

It's been a fun issue with plenty of variety in its contents, a great feeling of the team bedding into their new creation and yet, while no one would've known if it would even be a success at this stage, it reads like it's still in its introductory days.  Almost like they knew they were going to be around for a long time, so they were taking the second issue to bed in some history and educate the readership on more of the basics of owning this great computer, what it could do and showing off what was to come.

The C64 gaming scene had already been around for many years.  These days to launch a new magazine in a console's eighth year would be unheard of.  Heck, to have a console go beyond four or five years before being completely dropped for its replacement is unheard of.  Yet reading these preview pages the feeling is of great enthusiasm, of hundreds more games to come and many more years of enjoyment and new titles for those who wished to come along for the ride.  Indeed, what about a ride through Mega City One on Judge Dredd's Lawmaster bike?

A possible preview for this very blog!

I'm including this because I'm a fan of the Judge Dredd character and his universe, it must be said.  Before my read-through I didn't even know there had been a game for the 64 based on his 2000AD adventures, so it was a delight to see this pop up.  But I behaved.  I didn't rush on to the issue containing the review to see what the game was like, I kept reading in order and awaited with baited breath for the score.  You'll have to too, Dredd-heads.

But it nicely illustrates my point.  As I go through the entire run I'm jotting down my wish list of games and reading the previews feels a bit like they did back in the day.  I have that anticipation of whether I'll be buying them or ignoring them if I see the listings on eBay.  I could race forward when I see a preview, I could simply look over the issues out of order and see what I want, I could look at lists online of the CF review scores.  But I won't.  Just like I did with Oink! I'll let Commodore Format and its talented team guide me through the years 1990 to 1995, with its additional occasional look back at classics in special features, one month at a time (without the weeks waiting in-between mind you as I do so), with the previews whetting my appetite for what's to come.  I want to experience this the way we would've back then, just with the addition of hindsight.

With that in mind, what could I be writing about next month?  Who knows?  Maybe there's some clues in here?

Sounds tempting, but when?

Ah.  No actual release date.  That's handy.  Maybe they knew they'd messed up with #1's and were still awaiting confirmation on exactly which date the issues were going out on?  Maybe they had been on the money with the date for #2 but the first issue had been held back a week?  I simply don't know, but neither this nor the next issue give definitive dates.  So what to do for the blog?

Simple.  Taking what I worked out for this issue, then glancing forward until the fourth or fifth when dates appear again I simply worked backwards.  Enough gibbering, you just want to know when the next issue's goodness will be dissected.  Try Tuesday 15th November for size and see how that fits.    

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Well it appears Commodore Format #1 had a slight error when it hit the shelves in September 1990.  It stated the second issue would be out on 13th October, which felt a bit rushed to me as it was only three weeks after the previous issue.  They wouldn't have had the premiere edition on the shelves for a shorter period of time like that.  Indeed back in that year the 13th would've been a Saturday, however every issue in the first year was released on a Thursday.  Going by the following dates on a contemporary calendar it's easy to work out issue two was actually released on Thursday 18th October, so while I've been busy working on the write-up (including two surprising and coincidental references to my previous comic blog, Oink! fans!) it'll have to wait in draft form until next Tuesday.

So come back then y'hear?

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Okay, so try not to get too jealous here but I really do have the greatest of friends.  Previously on here I've shown you the Hunchback games kindly donated to my collection, as well as the first Commodore 64: a Visual Commpendium book and the Jaws game I received for Christmas last year, just like I would've received Commodore goodies back in the day.  Well, the kindly gentleman by the name of Kevin who bought me that latter favourite of mine has really outdone himself this time!

He decided he was going to buy me a game or two from eBay and asked if there was anything I'd particularly like.  My mind instantly flashed up with dozens of titles, so he was going to surprise me but upon looking at the mass of games on the auction site he decided in the end to ask me what I already owned.  Seeing as how my collection is in its infancy that definitely made it a lot easier.  What I didn't expect was for him to arrive at my house last week with a backpack stuffed (and I do mean that) with boxes of games.  My collection has effectively tripled in size.  So what has he added to my Commodore library?

Well Kevin did know I was intending to collect all of Codemasters' Dizzy tapes after reviewing one of my favourite games from the original C64 days and then buying the first of the franchise.  So he set about finding a few and these are what he came up with.

So it begins...

Excellent.  (Please note lack of an egg joke there.)  I've now got the first four adventure titles in the (free) range.  (Dammit.  Sorry.)  Plus two of the puzzle games, one of which I believe is a Klax clone and since I liked that game I'm looking forward to giving these a go.  I know the non-adventure games in the Dizzy series weren't reknowned for getting great review scores, but reading them in Commodore Format I'm keen to see what I think of them myself.  Plus I want the set!  Plenty to keep me busy here without even taking into consideration everything else he brought me!

This box alone has several weeks of entertainment in it!

Next up is this rather spiffy compilation and I was overjoyed when I realised what was in it!  I bought Elite the last time I had a 64 but believe it or not never got around to playing it.  I know that was sacrilege but I'll make up for it this time.  Also on my list of must-haves from reading my magazines is The Sentinel, which is reknowned as an absolutely classic strategy game with an almost infinite amount of levels, atmospheric 3D graphics and a highly intelligent A.I. and all within a single load!  The word "classic" is bandied about a bit too much these days when people discuss retro games, but this is one which apparently earned that status and I can't wait to get stuck in for a good cerebral challenge.

Starglider I've heard of but don't know an awful lot about, but I did read a brief review of Ace 2 from the pages of Roger Frames in CF and it got a great score.  He did say it was basically the first game again with an added two-player mode, but that both were excellent in their own right anyway.  I'll soon find out.  Also in there is Tetris which doesn't need anything in the way of an explanation but it does seem oddly out of place in this collection.  Nevertheless it's been many years since I've played the original game, though that was on the Game Boy as I'm sure it was with most people first time around, so I'll boot it up to give it a go.  I follow @retro_gaming on Instagram and recently she's been going gaga over Tetris and its many and varied sequels and remakes, so now I have it I'll see if it grabs me in the same way.

More classics, including some favourites of mine.  Bonus!
This next selection includes some I've heard of but never played such as Rampage which seems to be fondly remembered by many, especially Spectrum owners.  Antiriad is another game which has had brilliant reviews in the past and I do recognise some of the screenshots but beyond that it's another classic I'd never crossed paths with before.  The same goes for Star Control (a demo of which is on the Commodore Format PowerPack) though I always loved the look of it on the 3DO, as well as the arcade hit Ghosts'n'Goblins and Bomb Jack on the Best of Elite cassette, which also includes Battleships in another weird addition in the same way as Tetris.

But the two other games above I spent plenty of time with as a teen and it's exciting to see them here again in the flesh, so to speak.  Paperboy is known by everyone, surely?  My fellow C64-owing friend Colin at the time let me borrow his and I remember it taking a while to get into, but once it clicked I was hooked.  Grand Prix Simulator plays fast and loose with the term "simulator" like most of Codemasters' similarly-titled games, but it was a right hoot!  Static racing tracks viewed from above, the cars were so small they were simply tiny rectangles with a couple of white pixels for a windscreen, but my god did it work and the gameplay was hilarious!  Colin and I used to play it for ages at a time, the small shoeboxes screeching through handbreak turns at top speed.  Brilliant fun!  So much fun in fact I'm nervous about how it'll hold up today with the rose-tinted glasses off.

To round off the backpack came the following games, many of which are brand new to me.  Trivial Pursuit I did own as part of a disk compilation and I think it was used a couple of times instead of the board game and obviously there's certain others here that I've either heard of or at the very least I'm familiar with the name.  Cast your eyes over these.

Haven't a baldy notion about most of these, but hey-ho it'll be
fun finding out

So there we have it.  It appears Santa Claus came early this year and there's certainly so much here that I doubt I'll have fully playtested them all by the time he makes his next trip in a couple of months.  But I can tell you now I'll give it a damn good shot!    

Sunday, 2 October 2016


The exclamation mark at the end of the title is very deliberate, as I'm stupidly excited about my new bunker!  As I've shifted my focus from writing about a superb classic comic to writing about a superb classic computer I felt a change was needed in the office area I have set up at the rear of my living room.  It's resulted in a new found excitement at what's to come in my Commodore 64 journey and reinvigorated my love of both playing it and writing about it on my Mac.

Not that my love of the C64 needed reinvigorated, I've only had it a year after all and it's only been out of its packaging for nine months, but let me explain by showing you what I mean.

Between April 2013 and the end of 2015 I wrote a really fun blog called The Oink! Blog which you can access via the link in the right-hand column there.  In it I read each issue on the date of their original release in the same way as I am at the minute with Commodore Format on here.  During that time I've moved house (twice actually) and when I moved into my current abode I knew the living room was long enough to dedicate an area at its rear to my computer desk, complete with tall shelves full of Oink! and the other comics I'd collected such as Marvel UK's 1980s/90s The Transformers and a handful of others I'd either kept since childhood or collected again to cover on The Oink! Blog.  Despite my father being adamant on moving day that I'd never fit it all in, this was how it looked for the first year in this house.

Yes, yes, it's an unfortunate photo of that Titanic
book.  I couldn't have planned that if I'd tried!

Simple enough set up and I was very happy with it.  With a view down the living room to the main TV, a window behind me for natural light and the kitchen door to my right for easy access to coffee it was pretty much perfect.  All of the reference materials were to my left, with some even on display as you can see.  To my right as well was what I had originally intended to be the dining area; you know, for dinner parties and the like.  Well, in the three years I've had my dining table and chairs I think I've used them once to eat food off of, instead they've become everything from a base to build a model Aston Martin 007 car and sort comics to simply a huge storage unit to dump basically anything I brought into the house on until I found room elsewhere.  With the arrival of the 64 though it took on new life.

The 'Mystery Door' is just a cupboard I don't use
and I needed the space for the 64
With it pushed up against a wall (well, door) to make room for the little display table, I'd pretty much confirmed it wasn't going to be used by many people to eat on anytime soon.  But for a while now I've had the idea to buy a second desk identical to the one I have in order to make a large area where the C64 and Mac Mini could reside together, instead of being estranged neighbours.

There's also actually some logical reasoning behind the idea too.  I'm playing with and learning on the Commodore, then writing about it on the Mac and I want to increase the content of this blog massively.  There's also writing opportunities coming up for me (some have already happened, or are happening and will be covered here as soon as I can) and a big project I'm going to be dedicating a lot of time to over the next two months.  All writing.  All centered around the 64.

It was important to have the two systems side-by-side for the most part for these reasons, but conflictingly I also wanted a more comfortable set up for playing long gaming sessions.  While we may have done it as teens, sitting on an office chair (albeit a very comfy one) for hours at my age and with my back isn't ideal.  Also, piling up my Commodore Formats and books in that small display table above was only a temporary solution, especially with the limited amount of space for games and let's face it we like having our Commodore 64 collections all on display, don't we?

So here's my new set up I'm so excited about, starting with that large alcove under the stairs where the dining table/desk was previously.

My new bunker is the perfect hiding place away from the world

That chunky CRT TV was sat in my bedroom and hadn't been used in a year or two but I've always kept it for watching VHS tapes on.  Well, one specific series of VHS tapes in particular: Babylon 5.  Quick tangent.  Any fans of the show will know that the DVD transfer of B5 wasn't great.  In short, all the SFX shots weren't filmed in widescreen and the original computer files were destroyed when a storm broke through a Warner Bros building, so they couldn't be redone for widescreen (or upgraded for HD) which had been the original plan.  The real-life stuff was filmed in a HD (for the time) format in widescreen years before it became the norm.  It was forward-thinking of J.Michael Straczynski and no one could've forseen what would happen, but it resulted in DVDs of beautifully filmed live-action scenes and grainy, blurry, cropped SFX shots.  The best way to watch it is still on VHS then (oh if only Warners would release it on DVD in a cleaned-up 4:3 instead) and that's why the TV and the VCR were kept.  End of tangent.

So now the TV has taken on a new lease of life.  That beanbag chair usually sits in the living half of the room as a spare seat, but the idea is it can now be moved when needed to relax and play C64 games instead of the office chair for those lengthy sessions.  It's incredibly comfortable and supports my back brilliantly, so when the itch to play Creatures 2 (or get back into B5) occurs this is where you'll find me.

I'm also considering the purchase of a second 64 to put above the VCR shelf, where you can see K.I.T.T. and not just so I don't have to constantly disconnect and reconnect it.  Currently any screenshots you'll see have been taken from my curved CRT screen which results in an equally-curved photo.  It's all lovely and retro but I'd much prefer to use the flat screen of this bigger TV and in all honesty that was one of the main factors in hauling this monster down the stairs in the first place.  So with a second 64 I'll be able to play games between both set ups, one handy for short bursts, coding and creating, the other ideal for longer periods of play and taking the all-important screenshots for the blog and elsewhere.

According to a friend these are my "Shelves of Nerd"
I really need a steadier hand for panoramic photos

My CFs are now proudly on display in magazine sleeves I had used for 2000AD when I collected it (now focussing solely on reading Judge Dredd from the beginning instead) and the C64 shelf in particular is a treasure trove of fun waiting to be used.  Saying that, a friend has just treated me to a huge selection of games from eBay so a bit of reorganising... well, a lot of reorganising will have to take place but still, I'm happy with it all being out for people to see.  (Careful now!)

Elsewhere I've my Mac User collection as a guide to getting the most out of my Mac, Straczynski books for getting the most out of my writing, then my shelf of classic comics, modern small press comics from Oink! creators and my 3DO Magazines and, yes, that's the entire 80s/90s Transformers collection down on the bottom there.  I had to spend a long time one afternoon sorting them out again after tearing through it all to get scans for a blog post last year and seeing them all neatly displayed like that is enough to make me want to go back and read them all over again!  But at the moment I've far too much Commodore goodness on my plate.

Finally, what about the other half of the bunker, the actual desk area.

Bunker complete and it's bliss

My Blu Rays and DVDs have moved down beside the TV, them and my books proudly on view either side of the fireplace and this then left all the room I needed to finally set up the ultimate space for Commodore 64 writing.  I love it.  Okay so my Apple Watch is usually on my wrist (you can see it there at the far corner of the Mac's desk) but for photograph purposes that's where it charges for an hour every evening.

A friend did recently ask why I've got the small Apple keyboard and not the one with an additional number keypad, or even a split one.  This being the one I was given when I first received my Mac Mini was the initial reason, but it really is ideal.  After all I grew up with the 64 and then laptops and iPads.  I've actually requested a number-keypad-less keyboard in work as I find the mouse is uncomfortably far away otherwise.  I've become accustomed to it and absolutely love it.  Apple's keyboards are all a joy to use I find (to such an extent that the PC keyboards in work feel incredibly clunky), but this smallest one in their range had a lovely old-school and, dare I say it, C64 feel to it because of its layout.  With the 64 and the iPad Pro's keyboards also having the numbers along the top and the large amount of use both of them get, it's just far more comfortable for me to stick with this kind of layout.  I'm a lot more productive with a more compact keyboard and the use of the number keys along the top believe it or not.

So there's my complete 64 hardware set up, my Mac Mini set up (plus scanner on the floor just at the bottom of the screen under a few Mac bookazines) and my iPad Pro on hand for extra handy duties, all stationed at the rear of my living room, it's a lovely blend of classic and new tech.  I love it.

So there you go, the bunker is ready.  But ready for what?  Ah, you'll have to wait and see.  In the meantime look out for more regular posts on the blog and a lot more of me whittering on about my 64.  Now if only I didn't have to go to work in the morning, as this desk is far more exciting than the one I have to use in order to pay the bills!    

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


Between April 2013 and December 2015 I had a blast reading through the anarchic classic 1980s British comic Oink! for the first time in over two decades, covering each issue on my blog on the date of their original release, albeit it twenty-seven years later.  The whole point was to both reacquaint pig pals with their favourite characters and strips while also bringing those hilarious pages to a new audience.  A handful of pages were scanned in from each issue, the process having been okay'ed by the original creators and rights holders, and as the blog developed it became more personal.  I started writing about my own memories, behind-the-scenes information gathered from chats with the cartoonists, as well as my thoughts on the comic in the modern world.

Oink! was my first comic, which back in the 80s I'd started collecting from #14.  Then five years later I started reading my first ever magazine, also from #14 coincidentally enough.  That magazine was Commodore Format.

So I'm here to start another read-through with roughly the same amount of issues to cover as before but which will last twice as long; a whopping five years.  Previously it was on the date of release and twenty-seven years later, this time it's twenty-six, so still plenty of chances to feel old for all of us who read it first time around.

The thing is, all the CF magazines are available at the Internet Archive, a non-profit online library which Future Publishing are absolutely fine with, if you're that way inclined.  Personally I'm not and will always prefer to read a physical magazine, but everyone is different and as long as the permission has been granted and there's no money being made off their property and hard work I'm all for it.  In other words don't be buying those CD-ROMs you see on eBay.  But anyway, this basically means there's little point in scanning in pages with the sole intention of you reading them as I did with the comic, where I shared no more than a quarter of an issue with readers and that blog started off with that sole intention.  However, instead with CF I'm taking the personal journey aspect of The Oink! Blog and running with it.

I can't wait to get stuck into writing about my original time with Commodore Format all those years ago, as it was a very personal experience, but first of all I've had a full year of 'new' issues to read and so far they've been a real treat.  I've been reading for a while and will continue, teaching myself lots of techie tips, enjoying the team's wit, getting lost in the 1990s and collating my wishlist for my 64 from their reviews.  But today, on the 26th anniversary of the first time this fantastic magazine hit our newsstands, I'm going right back to that premiere edition.

The first thing that struck me when I got my hands on this late last year was the attention-grabbing cover!

There's nothing like holding the original in your hands
(sans covertape unfortunately)

Now of course with the gift of hindsight we know the C64GS didn't transform C64 gaming forever, but it certainly did result in some stunning cartridge games, even if it didn't have the effect Commodore and their fans wished for.  But more on that below.

At a hefty 100 pages this must've been a monster mag to have appear on the shelf in 1990!  Especially when most people thought the C64 was well on the way out, to see such a high quality monthly appear would surely have been a thrill for users at the time.  Zzap!64 was still about, although it was slowly moving towards the Amiga too (but would go back to the C64 only) and in CF's first year Zzap! took to copying the look and feel of the newbie to the degree that the review of Supremacy was almost a direct lift.

The design inside felt like an entirely new magazine to me compared to the ones I had originally, as the overall feel is quite different to the issues I'd become used to.  Over the course of this first year it does become more streamlined and the regular features and design aspects come in one by one.  But the main one (for me anyway) was there from the very start and that was the way they'd rate their reviews.  Most magazines I had a look at back then, whether they were a friend's Your Sinclair or multi-format ones I browsed in the newsagents such as C&VG all did basically the same thing; they split the game's review score into different, very specific elements.  To this day some still rate games by breaking them down into graphics, sound, gameplay and how long it'll last.  I was never 100% comfortable with these as they seemed too specific when a good game is more than a sum of its parts.

Commodore Format agreed and editor Steve Jarratt and the team came up with a superb alternative which was the Uppers and Downers Power Rating.  Simply put, they'd list the good and bad points against a scale and where they met that was the game's percentage.  Of course in reality the percentage came first for the reviewer and they'd then fill in the points, but it was a neat idea and became iconic.  It was such a better way to sum up a game, keeping the product as a whole and rhyming off what they liked and didn't like, no matter what it was.  It's what we'd do ourselves as users, so it made perfect sense.  Plus, of course CF came up with the brilliant slogan for a game which scored over 90%.  All mags used to have these but this one was just the best!  Apparently very much of its time though, which I discovered when a younger work colleague asked me what a "Corker" was a few months ago!

But here's the very first time all this came together with the very first CF review!

The "Uppers" and "Downers" would get labelled as such from
the next issue

I'd never heard of this game before I read this issue at the start of the year and it was immediately added to the wishlist.  I should've known the first game they'd review would be a Corker, they had to make a statement after all and it'd make sense to start off with a brilliant game.  The box outs, the superb (for the time) screenshots, the Power Rating, the huge amount of colour and the general layout and design was all very unique at the time.  CF really stood out!  When I compare it now to Zzap!s from the time it really is a vast improvement and feels much fresher and more exciting.  Their writing style was something else too.

But first, did you notice those little icons along the top?  These were a brilliant idea to sum up some key points about each and every game reviewed and were another funny addition.  Though be warned, there's a couple which are groan-worthy puns of the highest order!

Heads: The number of heads equals the number of players
Octopus: Multiload, this means the game loads in parts, like after each level it'll load in the next one for a minute or so (very important for cassette users to know!)
Keyboard: Can be played using the keyboard
Joystick: Self explanatory surely!
Paws: I did warn you... this means there's a Pause mode (hey, not all games did, okay?)
Podium: There's a high-score table included for points
Mountain Peaks: Different difficulty settings are available
Goalie Shirt: Please, remember I'm just the messenger.  This told us we could Save progress

Recovered?  That kind of sums up the sense of humour of the magazine, taking something others would simply write about in a matter-of-fact way and turning it into something fun while still being informative.  Above there I was talking about their writing style and I want to get back into that briefly, though it's a subject I'll definitely come back to as this write-up series continues.  I've mentioned it before (and I will again when I get my reviews section going) but Commodore Format's writers had me spoiled in my teenage years.  While the Power Rating gave a percentage and summed up what they personally thought, I remember reading the magazines and being able to make up my own mind when reading their reviews as to whether I'd like the game or not.  It's testament to the quality of the writing that this is very rare these days.

Today, magazines (and especially any person with a keyboard and an internet connection) like to lecture others on what they should and shouldn't like.  People have forgotten that these are simply opinions and opinions are subjective.  My friends and I can't agree on our favourite films and I'm sure you and your friends are the same, yet people will take complete strangers' opinions as gospel these days.  Back when I read CF the team treated their opinions properly and never talked down to us.  Reviews were intelligently written in such a way that they were hugely entertaining, the reviewer got their own views across and yet we could still make our own minds up.  We felt informed.  Since then very few magazines have followed this example and I've bought very little on a regular basis over the years since then, but it's interesting to read back over these early issues and see that reviewing style develop.

Another Corker from the first issue

Over the first few months the reviews seem to have followed a set pattern, which is introduce the game and then basically break down the levels or stages of play for the main bulk of the review, simply stating what happens and how it plays.  Then finish with a paragraph or two summing up an opinion, relying heavily on the Power Rating box to convey a lot of what they personally felt about the title.  Don't get me wrong, it still works as a great way of dissecting the game for us to decide for ourselves, but by the time I came on board a year later it had evolved and the formula became much more organic and free-flowing, with facts and opinion mixing much better.  It always felt like you were part of an exclusive club and these people were just chatting to you in an informed way, discussing their experiences in a friendly chinwag.  It never felt like the heavy going of some modern day reviews, but definitely in these early issues you can see them experimenting with a definite type of style and thankfully it became looser as time went on over the following year.

Speaking of the reviewers I really should introduce you to them all, so here's the first page of the issue's news section with the team saying hello, explaining how CF would be different and there's more on that console as well.

If all offices were made to wear jumpers like that
the world would be a... brighter Daz-like place

Straight away it's clear they're setting themselves apart from the competition and drawing that line in the sand that they were all about the Commodore 64 and not any other machine.  The whole 'Format' part of the title was an important part of the experience too.  As Amiga Format and ST Format etc. would later do, Commodore Format wasn't just about the games but the whole experience of having an actual computer and not just a games console.  We could do so much more with our machines and the creative juices in me were definitely cultivated with this magazine and the superb little computer itself.  Yes, the C64 was most famous for its games, but Commodore had initially released it as a business computer which happened to play games and Commodore Format made sure its readers got the most out of it.  By contrast Future also released Amiga Shopper for the serious user and Amiga Power for the gamers.

Indeed, in this issue alone there's a wealth of features, from the first ever Inside Info and a guide to datasette alignment, POKEs for game cheats and printer upgrades to an in-depth article on taking yourself online and onto the big, bad world of the fledgling internet with the C64!  There's reviews of some top utility titles for things like databases, spreadsheets etc. that we're so used to these days but which were fancy things back then and a look at Stop Press, a fully-fledged Desktop Publishing package.  For readers at the time used to magazines dealing solely with the games side of things for the previous few years this must've been like a breath of fresh air.  They even managed to get some A-list C64 celebs in there!  Martin Walker, or should I say The Legendary Martin Walker contributes a superb feature on creating music and sound FX (though I'll admit I wouldn't have known who he was back then as I was all new to this) and working within the limitations of the 8-bit machine and its excellent SID chip.  It really is a superb package for a first issue.

Just before I go back to that main feature I have to introduce you to one more person from the magazine.  The main reviews like the ones you saw above were for the full price titles only.  Now, these days a new release game could set you back anything up to £50, but back then it was usually between £10 and £20 depending on whether you went for cassette, disk or cartridge.  But the greatest thing was the fact there were a stack of budget games available from as little as £2.99 each.  Full games for pocket money prices and even the full-price ones would get rereleased on cassette in a smaller box for a few quid maybe half a year to a year later.  Bargain!  I remember cycling for about twenty minutes to the next village with a few pounds in my pocket and browsing through all the cassettes in the toy store, then cycling all the way back home again, sticking the cassette in and then lying down with a cold drink to cool off while I waited for the games to load.  It's strange what we remember at times, isn't it?

But anyway I've digressed.  The budget games had their own section in the magazine, usually made up of much smaller reviews.  While it wasn't unusual for magazines to do this, the way Commodore Format did it was just brilliant!  Meet Roger Frames, who buys Budgit Games.

What started off as one black and white picture soon became a
fully-fledged comic-style story in future issues
Weirdly for me Roger doesn't actually review the games in these first few issues, instead he instructs staff writer Andy Dyer to do so and then Roger sums up whether the reader should part with their cash.  Now the thing with Roger is that he's meant to be tighter than the smile of a botox-addict and he begrudges spending this money on anything.  So when a game gets a good score he grumbles because he has to recommend actual dosh is spent on something.  It makes for a unique take on things and after a few issues thankfully he starts to write about the games proper and the whole two or three pages is full of his cutting way of reviewing.

Oink! readers who may have followed me over from my original blog may recognise the artwork above, although to be fair it's probably hard to do so given it's not in full colour.  Thankfully it doesn't take long for the premise of Roger to take root with the team behind the magazine and the readers alike.  His character expands to include two or three original, full colour panels every month which tell a story of woe for the skinflint, usually loosely tied in with one of the budget games on show.  The person behind these brilliant little gems was none other than Mike Roberts who drew a few pages here and there for the piggy publication.  If you're unaware of what I'm on about you can click here to see the two posts of my Oink! Blog which showcased some of his work.  When you get there scroll down to see his first issue and an amazingly detailed front cover, as well as a mention of good ol' CF in my post.

I'll definitely come back to Roger in future posts and let you see some of those splendid cartoons.  Oh, and I've just noticed that the photograph I took there actually has the title of one of those games I cycled to buy over a year later!

Elsewhere in this issue the news section brings us nuggets about new games such as US Gold arcade conversions of Sega classics, there's movie tie-ins on the way such as Gremlins 2 and there's a suitably... um... "suitable" picture of Elvira (remember her?) to go with the release of her new arcade game too.  The fact the magazine was promising to come with a cassette every single issue (and in a proper box!) would've been new too, another fictional character by the name of The Mighty Brain made his debut (who I'll cover next time), the Monty Python review was deliberately printed upside-down to capture the spirit of the show and for the first time we were treated to all the funny little page number bits throughout the 100-pages, a little extra at the bottom of each page which fans simply loved.  There was also a feature on Commodore's new CDTV, the first and only time the magazine would cover a piece of hardware not directly related to the 64.  But it was new and shiny and different at the time, when "multimedia" was a new thing and no one really knew what to do with it.

Okay, so it's time to deal with the elephant in the room.

A much sought after piece of hardware these days, the C64GS can
fetch ludicrous prices on eBay

That was actually a bit unfair of me, as I do believe Commodore had the best intentions at heart when it came to releasing their Commodore 64 Games System.  It was just a plan which was doomed to failure, but not that anyone could've foreseen that at the time.

Okay, so in 1990 Commodore Format ran with this for the big opening issue and I can't blame them.  At the time the NES and Master System were flying off the shelves but those who owned C64s already had the best gaming device on the market!  It may have been several years old even at that time, but the technology in it and the fact the developers had had years of working on it was resulting in some spectacular games which completely trounced the console competition.  The thing was, these games came on cassette or disk, not cartridge.  In the States the disk drive for the C64 was a lot cheaper and most owners had one with its smooth multiloads cutting down on waiting times and allowing quite epic games to be released exclusively on that format.  However over here in the UK and Europe the disk drive was as expensive (if not more so) than the C64 itself!  It meant we were mainly a cassette country and this was seen as hugely inferior to the consoles, even though this was only really true for loading times and multiload games, but a little patience always went a long way.

Which was a shame, as the games themselves on the 64 could look, sound and play better.  Commodore wanted to tackle this head on.  In the early days of the 64's life there had been cart games but these were simple titles much like the early cassette games and came on 16k carts.  But by the late 80s the technology had developed and now Commodore could produce game carts for the machine with up to half a megabyte of data on it.  That may not sound like much at all these days, but at the time and for a machine which itself only had 64k these were a revelation!  It meant huge games, all loading instantly, multiloads were no longer visible so the games felt even bigger, the graphics could be improved, as could the sound and more intricate and memory-hungry titles could be worked on.  The tech really could give the C64 a new lease of life.  Yes, Commodore themselves were a few years into the lifespan of the Amiga already but with the 8-bit consoles proving so popular they rightly realised they could expand the life of the world's best-selling home computer too in direct competition to the consoles.

The only problem was how they went about it.

Commodore was definitely behind the new console 100%

When I received my original C64 for Christmas 1991 the C64GS had been on sale for over a year and had flopped, but I'd never heard of it.  My computer came with its own manual and a four-game cartridge with its manual being titled "C64GS".  I didn't know what that was all about and just assumed it was the name of the cart.  Later on of course I found out about the console and last year when I acquired a 64 for myself again and saw the front cover of this issue it all came back to me, and I always wondered why Commodore didn't just market the hell out of the C64 computer and its new cartridge technology.  By creating a console these bigger, more complex games couldn't take advantage of the keyboard, they were dividing the potential market and it just looked like a C64 with no keyboard, like it was less of a machine.

However, when I read this feature I understood.  I got it.  It's so easy with hindsight to criticise but when you read a contemporary piece like this it's clear they were trying to do exactly what I thought they should've done; to market the cart tech and the fact it worked on the computer as well as the console.  So basically people had the choice of playing these great Nintendo and Sega-beating games on either a fully-fledged computer with all the extra features and accessories that came with it, or on a simple, cheaper, pick-up-and-play console just like the competition had.  It was a two-pronged attack and when you look at it that way it makes sense.  They may have been thinking that the C64 had already been out for several years (even the newer C64C version I have was a few years old by then) so would people have dismissed the computer as old technology against the console giants even with the new cartridges?  Having a console version met them head-on, while the computer was still a top seller every year for those who wanted more (and to pay more) and these spectacular games worked on both.

It couldn't fail.

But it did.  For all their talk they simply didn't market it!  There were some adverts in magazines but these were for their Amiga and C64 computer ranges with the GS tacked on the end.  These adverts came across like dull, serious computer advertisements at a time when the 64 range should've had in-your-face gaming adverts with a hint of what else the computer could do if they were serious at taking on the Japanese competition.

Taken from #3 this ad wasn't really going to worry the House of Mario!

It was almost as if Commodore thought the idea was so good (which it was) that they didn't need to market it, they didn't need to get out there and push it the way Nintendo and Sega were, that their name and heritage would do it for them.  Something Nintendo themselves have been guilty of a few times over the years.  So they carried on creating the usual style of adverts.  For me personally that was the downfall of the C64GS.  If they'd marketed it right maybe we would've seen a whole raft of new C64 owners in both console and computer form who wouldn't have bought into it otherwise.  According to this issue of CF and the few after it on the build-up to Christmas 1990 the software houses of the day were certainly behind it, supporting it with a large array of new and exclusive games for the format which would push the humble 64 to its limit.  After that Christmas it wasn't long before most of these games got cancelled or redone as cassette and disk games.

Such a shame, a real crying shame.

Vivid Image talk about developing the new tech and the GS's
operating system

That's not to say the computer side of things was going anywhere for a while yet though.  For the next few Christmases 64s would continue to fly off the shelves while at the same time older machines were being handed down to younger siblings who would then start buying Commodore Format, learning about all the new games, the thousands of classic titles and reading the magazine to teach themselves how to code and create.  Editor Steve Jarratt has said it was like the second coming for the C64 and he was right.  The early-to-mid 90s saw a whole new generation come on board anyway without the help of the GS and that generation would be the one who'd return to bedroom coding, where the previous generation had started off.  My generation of C64 owners included those talented individuals who would become the ones to create the first breadcrumbs of the fantastic, worldwide homegrown scene we have today.

I wonder how many have Commodore Format to thank?

Well that's it for this month.  Not for the blog obviously, I've got tons of catching up to do on here and this weekend I'll be sharing some photos with you of my new bunker (as I'm calling it) as I rearrange my previous Oink! Blog writing space into something more suitable for a future full of Commodore projects and goodies.  Hope you'll join me then and, just to set another deadline for myself, #2 of Commodore Format will be getting the same treatment on Thursday 13th October.

I'll leave you with this rather disturbing you-can-tell-this-was-in-that-awkward-end-of-the-1980s-and-beginning-of-the-1990s-phase photo from this issue.

See you soon!    

Sunday, 18 September 2016


Just a quick post to end the weekend with to let you know I've been working on completely rearranging my living space to make room for a proper Commodore 64 office space and this has been taking up my entire weekend.  So I haven't been ignoring the blog, I've been working on my C64 future in a bigger way than you can possibly imagine!  It'll all make sense soon.

Behind the scenes I have been scanning in and photographing the premiere issue of Commodore Format for the post this coming Tuesday, so come back then for a look at how the greatest C64 magazine ever began.    

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


MyHermes obviously had no regard for the precious cargo they
unceremoniously dumped outside my house

What a delivery this was!  Not that MyHermes helped of course, leaving it sitting on the front door step where anyone could've taken it.  Luckily it wasn't long before I was home from work and could rip it open to find this glorious package of classic magazines within.  But it's left me with something of a dilemma.

Turning back the hands of time first of all though, back in September 1991 a revelation happened; I picked up my first issue of Commodore Format.  Having only read comics before, this was my first magazine and what a mag it was!  About a month earlier my parents gave me the option of which computer I wished to have for that coming Christmas and after picking out the C64 in a Littlewoods catalogue there was a long, long wait to come.  But one day after school a few weeks later I decided to check out the computer magazines of my local newsagent in the sleepy little seaside town of Whitehead and I saw an issue of CF on the shelf, complete with an exciting cover of a racing game and a cassette box!  Wow, games with every issue?  It reminded me of Story Teller, a partwork of children's stories I'd collected when I was much, much younger and how excited I'd been all those years previous with the cassettes.  Now, here was a proper magazine for my teen self with computer games on the cover every single month!  I had to have it.

By the time I asked my parents that night after dinner and they'd agreed (knowing full well this would mean them spending £2.20 every month and they'd been through years of buying several comics) the store was shut, so I went after school the next day but it was gone!  I was gutted, but I figured maybe the next issue was due in and lo-and-behold my first foray into this magnificent publication was waiting for me the very next day.

What a cover to be greeted with as a former Turtles
fan at the time!

I was amazed at the contents, just simply amazed.  I'd never read anything like it in my life!  Plus just look at the covertape!  A demo of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles coin-op I'd enjoyed that summer on a family member's NES and the full Aliens game too, which had terrified some school friends and I on an Amstrad CPC just a few months previous.  The design was eye-popping, there was so much content, it opened my eyes to the huge amount of fun I was about to have with my new computer, it raised my excitement levels to new unprecedented heights and, most importantly, it was superbly written.

In fact it would spoil me for life.  To this day there's only been a very small handful of computer or videogame magazines I've read and all because of how Commodore Format wrote their reviews.  They never spoke down to the readers, they never lectured us on what we should and shouldn't enjoy playing, never presented their opinions as fact and had such well-written reviews you could tell just from reading them if you'd agree with their score or not if you bought the game.  For example, there was a game in this first issue of mine which received a relatively poor score, but I was still dying to play it.  Still am to this day.

I know I've said this before but most reviewers these days, especially in movie reviews in magazines and online (everyone seems to be reviewing movies these days) but across all forms of entertainment, are too busy either telling people what they're allowed to like and telling them off for not liking the "right" things, or are more concerned with their own credibility and will criticise/praise what's deemed to be the "right" choices.  Personally, my reviews on this blog are just my opinion and hopefully they'll come across as such.  I had a good range of teachers in CF!

The techie side of things in CF would lead me on a journey I'd never have imagined when I picked up issue 14.  Later in the magazine's lifetime I would appear IN it.  A game I made got reviewed, a rather daft photo of me was published, news articles about a friend of mine and myself were written and I ended up running a PD library and a diskzine.  All because of Commodore Format.  That's a story I'll be covering on the blog, but it's come full circle now and that's why I'm writing this post today.

Sorting through my collection, just a handful left to complete
the set, with some doubles to be sold back onto eBay when I
decide which ones are in the best condition to keep!

I purchased the first ten issues of CF last year, as well as my treasured first again, a couple of months before I even opened up my 'new' Commodore 64 when my time off for Christmas finally began.  I read issue 14 first and it brought back not only memories but that feeling of treasured excitement I had and it just ignited my passion for this machine all over again.  Of course back then I also had the next two issues before my computer to build that excitement even further.  This time I then went back and started reading them from the beginning, taking in those early issues I'd missed out on originally.

I'd tried reading some early issues as PDFs on my iPad several years ago and it just wasn't the same.  Digital press is a great way for smaller outfits to publish works (and indeed I'm working on a book due next year for the format) but if a printed version exists I'll always prefer that.  So a couple of glorious months were spent cheerfully reading through those first ten issues at a leisurely pace, then it all came to a grinding halt.  That was because issue 11 was eluding me.

In fact, it was only a few weeks ago it appeared for the first time this year on eBay!  Ironically I'd just purchased a large bundle of issues a day or two beforehand and the Terminator-fronted 11th issue was also part of a large bundle, so I now have some doubles, but it was worth it!  I can now start reading Commodore Format again, in order and in my hands in its original form, as it was meant to be.  Brilliant!  I've got an unbroken run now from the first issue right up to #54, then a lone issue 59, so that's only 6 more to go.  That's not bad from only having 11 a few days ago.

What it means for me is once again a glorious winter ahead full of reading this wondrous magazine.  Indeed, during January of this year I had whole weeks where I'd come home from my job, have my dinner, then curl up on the sofa and read for a few hours in complete silence, my Sky+ plugging away saving everything I was missing.  I simply had something way more enjoyable to do!

So what is this dilemma I mentioned?

Well, I'd love to cover CF somehow here on the blog.  Previously to this my Oink! Blog covered each issue of that hilarious comic on the exact day it had been originally released, albeit 27 years later which made me feel rather... old, to say the least.  But it was great fun and the idea is tempting for Commodore Format too.  The thing is Oink! had next-to-nothing about it online when I started and CF has the fantastic Commodore Format Archive on Wordpress already chock full of interviews with the team, so what could I bring to the table?

Well, my Oink! read-through was just that; my own personal blog about reading that comic all over again, enjoying it, reminiscing and showing it off.  As the blog continued it grew into something I'd never imagined and became host to lots of lost information, creator insights and even new material, but at its heart it always remained my own personal journey.  The idea of covering Commodore Format here in the same way is intriguing; writing them up on the day of their original release.  It's a whopping five years' worth of magazines so there's no way I could wait that long to read them as I did with Oink!, but I could carry on with my read-through and go back and write up each issue on the correct date.

But that's a mammoth task!  Oink! lasted two-and-a-half years, CF twice that.  I never thought my blog would still be going five years from now.  Not that I thought it wouldn't, but I'd never considered looking that far ahead, after all the whole point of Recovering From a Scratch when I started it was just to see where it took me.  But it's a challenge I'd like to meet head on!

My Everest
Blog posts five years in the making

When I look at what I'm planning with the 64 I'd like to think there's a bright and long future with my beige buddy.  So what the heck, why not?  Yes, I have literally just talked myself into doing this as I type.  There's a lot more to cover on the blog this month, but you can be guaranteed of a personal insight into #1 of the world's greatest ever computer magazine on Tuesday 20th September.

What have I just committed to?!    

In the meantime check out Neil Grayson's superb archive to the
Biggest and Best!