Merry Mosh 2004 At Cheshunt Computer Club

No snow but Shiuming Lai and the gang still enjoy one of the best seasonal meets ever


Following the grief of getting to October's CCC meeting, which itself lasted all of 30 minutes by the time I got there, I decided to give November a miss and concentrate on work and the magazine. All was shaping up for a superb Christmas party, though. Rob Perry was to make his second visit to the club with a ton of new widgets including some that he never managed to even touch the last time he came. Somewhere in between, he had bought Steve Sweet's old Atari 8-bit gear and was going through the best bits, and there was the mint 130XE he had last time, which had been boosted in memory, but more of that later!

Other less frequent visitors determined to make this meeting included MyAtari's Matthew Preston, we had spent ages discussing what to bring and show, and it would be a good chance to catch up. As usual, there were last-minute panics all the way up to the day, including some major suspension-all-in-pieces work on my car the day before, and suspected tracking problems on Matthew's car, on the day! Yes, we love it when everything happens at once, at the most inopportune moment... Fortunately both of these were resolved otherwise this club report would end right about here.

Rob decided to go to Steve's house first. Steve was going to give Rob a lift, rather than going in two separate cars, but considering the amount of kit Rob was packing, this was not such a good idea, especially as I was also bringing a coffin-sized box of computer junk for Steve to take away. So it was with great difficulty that Rob followed Steve doing his Michael Schumacher impersonation around the M25.

[Photo: Action!]

The meeting is well underway. Rob is reading some instructions but that's just for the camera, real techies never read instructions.

[Photo: Ian Smith]

Ian Smith checking out the latest English language issue of the French ST Magazine.

When I arrived there was the familiar sound of a computer meeting, most people had already arrived, including Matthew Preston. He was keen to show me what I considered to be one of the two highlights of the meeting, that is, his new mobile phone stuffed with a 512 MB Mini SD flash memory card, loaded with an Atari VCS 2600 emulator and practically the entire library of games ever released for that machine! He was particularly pleased as he received this new handset as a free upgrade from his service provider.

[Screen-shot: Atari Retro]I remember not long before, he was showing me an official Atari-licensed product (Atari Retro - see left) featuring yet again some remakes of a few VCS titles, headed by that travesty of the new Atari logo but otherwise a pretty decent little package, though of course no match for his new emulator!

Now, another person packing 512 MB into a sleeper was Rob Perry, who arrived a little later with Steve and the contents of his local B&Q in tow. Rob's got one of those IDE host adapter boards from Mr Atari in the Netherlands, hoping to build in a 2.5" notebook sized hard disk, which is perfectly feasible, as I first saw way back at Unconventional 2001 in Germany. Matthew Preston didn't have any luck with a number of 2.5" mechanisms on his adapter and more or less gave up, and Rob didn't fare much better with an Apple-sourced drive. The solution? Connect the IDE adapter to a Compact Flash to IDE adapter and shove in a gargantuan memory card! 512 MB is incomprehensibly spacious for the Atari VCS, less so for the more advanced Atari 8-bit computers but still plentiful enough to load 32 different operating systems and far more software than could possibly be demonstrated in an evening lasting no more than three hours.

You'll see from the photo immediately below that the set-up is rather tidy, save for the excess length of IDE cable but that's nothing we couldn't solve with a scalpel and IDC crimping tool. Do be careful with unnecessarily long cables, things just don't work as reliably due to radio frequency interference issues. Officially IDE cables should be no longer than 18" - I've regularly seen ones made up to 24" and as much as 28" long, and they have to be cut down, losing one connector in the process, in order to function properly. My supplier at work tells me he's never heard of such a thing and that he even specifically orders ones that are much longer because his computers need them. He obviously hasn't tried to install or use the machines his company builds!

[Photo: Rob's Atari XE on steroids]

Rob Perry's "stealth" 130XE.

[Photo: Steve soldering]

Steve Sweet undertakes some soldering, in between munching sausage rolls.

[Photo: Felice]

Felice reading the latest issue of Retro Gamer magazine.

[Photo: Peter West]

Peter West looking busy.

This was easily the best turnout I've seen at the club, there were familiar faces as well as new members all having a good time and catching up, planning ahead and working on projects, it was positively buzzing. It's just a pity that meetings can't be longer or more frequent, as for some people it's a considerable journey, though I think the quality of time spent here is worth it. There is always JagFest for the extended get-togethers, talking of which I can't wait for the next.

Once again, club member Fred brought an impressive selection of delicious morsels prepared by his good wife, to feed a hungry computer club! Many thanks to Fred for this, we should all treat him and his wife to dinner at the next meeting. Such events are always most enjoyable when everyone participates, something that is commonplace at the Cheshunt Computer Club, so why not come along and see for yourself?

[Photo: Outside the hall]

If you're coming to the club for the first time, look out for this!

[Photo: Matthew Preston's Orange SPV phone]

Matthew Preston's Orange SPV C500 phone running a slick emulation of Atari VCS Asteroids.

Come to think of it, just as well it didn't snow otherwise the hall would have been closed and the meeting would have been cancelled.

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MyAtari magazine - Feature #5, December 2004

Copyright 2004 MyAtari magazine