26 October 2007

Troubles In MeatSpace Part 2

Some months ago, I acquired an Amiga 500 computer, or A500 for short. In its heyday of late 1980's, the Amiga computer platform was touted as the best for desktop video. I dabbled a bit with video, but the one thing I learned from owning the Amiga computers was that command-line commands can be explicitly referred to. At the time, I subscribed to a disk-only magazine called JumpDisk. Each issue of JumpDisk featured programs, pictures, animation, music, etc. perhaps by readers and freelancers that the magazine paid. At one point, I happened to explore the scripts that came with the disks. Maybe to make sure the commands always work with the disk inserted, the scripts spelled out the full path of the commands and their arguments. For example, to load the picture Amiga500.iff in the folder called Pics using the Viewer program in the Tools folder, the command would be

JumpDisk13:/Tools/Viewer JumpDisk13:/Pics/Amiga500.iff

where the disk name is JumpDisk13. At the time, I was familiar with DOS commands and was aware of the PATH command, but it never occurred to me that there were other ways to issue commands. Using absolute paths, there was no need to CD (Change Directory) or to alter the PATH environment variable. But I digress.

The reason I acquired the A500 was that I had a few games on diskettes that I really like. I still have an Amiga 3000 but by default it boots from the hard drive. Most of the games were made for booting from the diskette drive. To do that with the A3000, I would have to hold down the mouse buttons at boot time then click a few buttons on the screen. After one game, if I forget to depress the two mouse buttons, I would have to reboot again after the A3000 completed booting up. And then there were other games that would not work at all with the A3000's newer architecture, compared to the A500, that is. To go around certain limitations, some games went directly to some hardware addresses. When the A3000 came out with changes in hardware design, those games stopped working.

So now I had the A500, games booted up from the diskettes easily - there are no hard drive anyway. It requires some patience to play the games, as it takes some time for the computer to read from the floppy drives. But the graphic and music are usually so great, even in these days and age, with faster computer and higher resolution graphics. The only problem is that now I have a bunch of floppy diskettes to juggle around. For starter, looking for the games that I like was a daunting tasks. It had been a while since I last needed to play Amiga games on diskettes. I somewhat knew where the disks were, but they had become very disorganized. A bunch here, a box there, all over. I managed to find most of the games I like. There were a few diskettes that I gave up on ever playing again and tossed them into a box for recycling - if I ever needed a diskette to be formatted. Luckily, the need never arose and I was able to rummage through the pile. I found Obliterator (platform game), Capone (shooting game), Pluto (vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up), etc. The only game I have not found is Menace, a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up game. It is one thing to own something, it is something else to be able to locate it, if it cannot be stored on a hard disk. This is where cyberspace needs meatspace. No physical diskette then no game.

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