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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

audioBoo: Sunny Saturday Skateboard park boo

An audio recording from audioboo.fm

Posted by james at 3:30 PM

Friday, 25 June 2010

Retro computers and... er... music!

I've mentioned that my younger brother Dave and I have had some fun Monday evenings together playing with musical instruments. We've not quite finished anything yet, but spending time with him playing with different sounds has certainly inspired me, and I've certainly not let the dust settle on the kit, despite the busy nature of modern life.

We've both long shared a passion for old computers, too, and on Sunday - as a Father's Day treat from our families! - we spent the afternoon at Bletchley Park (a fantastic museum as it is) enjoying the Vintage Computer Festival which was being held there. It was a historic haven for some absolute gems of computer kit, including some rarities that I'd never even heard of, let alone seen, including three out of the five prototypes that were built of a 'business' version of the Dragon 64!

As we ambled past row upon row of carefully preserved and customized pieces of computing history, and attended a performance of a work called "Obsolete?" by an artist known as Pixelh8, crafted from samples of computers and systems based at the museum, it became clear that one afternoon simply wasn't enough to take in all the delights, so I'm hoping we can have a 'day pass' for the next time there's a Vintage Computer Festival!

There are more photos of geek heaven in the gallery.

A ZX81 on top of an Atari STFI could easily bore you with a list of the classic home computing kit that Dave and I share, but it's fairly extensive and quite tedious (so perhaps it merits a separate blog entry!) However, I have a lot of affection for the first computer we ever had as a family - the Sinclair ZX81, and was really pleased that Beth was able to buy one of eBay that still worked. Using a piece of Java software called TapeUtils, I was able to turn tape 'images' of software for the computer into WAV files that I could load onto my iPod Touch and play them in through a slightly modified audio cable - they worked perfectly, and I could play such classics as Galaxians and Catacombs. Yeah, you can play both of them on an emulator (like "EightyOne") but it's more fun plugging it up to a real television - although modern flatscreen TVs have a real problem with a black and white UHF modulated video signal!

I also have a lot of affection for the Atari STF which was kindly donated to me by one of my university housemates in our second year at University of Kent. The children have enjoyed playing the very basic 16-bit games, but my favourites were always Virus (based on the amazing Zarch for Archimedes) and Wizball, which I have come frustratingly close to completing on a number of occasions, but never have because I didn't have the right combination of colours on the final level(!)

One Saturday morning last month, I had another go at completing it - the children were intrigued by the basic graphics but ingenious gameplay (modern Flash-based games are much more colourful, but are thay any more interesting?) - and very much enjoyed hearing the unique timbre of the computer generated music through my studio speakers. Inspired, I sampled a number of the sounds from the game and made a rather lo-fi but quite fun 'techno' remix of the theme using nothing but sounds from the game and some wizardry inside Logic Audio. It might not be to everyone's taste, but here it is in all its glory:

jamelopoeia - Wizball Theme (zappy techno lofi remix thing [1:52]

Posted by james at 10:56 PM

Sunday, 13 June 2010

An audio recording from AudioBoo

syzygy: audioBoo: jack plugs and sunshine boo (with bonus tiredness & distractions)

An audio recording from audioboo.fm

Posted by james at 8:30 PM

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Wicksteed Park - a hidden gem in Northamptonshire

Lenni and Chris in the floral gardenThe amusement park to which we've taken the children more than any other - certainly, since they've been a little too young for the big rides in the likes of Alton Towers and Chessington - is Wicksteed Park, near Kettering in Northamptonshire. It was originally set aside as land for local people to enjoy by the founder of Wicksteed playground equipment.

Parking costs £6, and even without going on the rides (which, during busy times - such as the half-term weekday we visited earlier in June, have fairly long queues) there are lots of things to see and do, with the biggest adventure playground I've ever been to, and a huge amount of green parkland to run around.

Lenni enjoyed the 'umbrella' ride the best - she's not really into the 'high G-force' rides, and has always wanted to fly, so gliding around high in the air, with legs free to swing was about as close as she's ever got!

The 'Laser Tag' was much more up Chris's street - in fact, given the chance, I think he would've played there all day!

It's been - on the whole - a very sunny June, so I was glad of some factor 20 suncream and the breeze on that busy, but fun day. Below are some photos from the day; as ever, there are more in the gallery.

Before that, here's an audioBoo I recorded on the day:

An audio recording from audioboo.fm

Beth and Lenni on the pirate shipChris and Beth on the umbrella ride

Posted by james at 9:40 PM

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