Back in my day…
I, like many of you I’d assume, grew up in England in the 80’s as one of those kids who would stand in the line at Boots or Curry’s or WHSmiths, standing on my tip toes to just catch a glimpse of the latest “computer” on display. On a good day, I may even get to have a go if the bigger kids didn’t push in first.
Being from a working class family, to actually own one felt beyond reach. Back then, if you wanted something you saved for it, for months or longer.
Thanks to my older Brother John, we eventually enjoyed owning an Acorn Electron, and later he brought me a Spectrum +3 for my birthday, which I cherished.
Time and technology marches on and after a year or so, I was lusting after a new machine. There I was again, older now, popping into Boots or WHSmith, on the walk home from Secondary School, perving with my friends at, not the top shelf magazines (well maybe sometimes) but at the “actual game play” screenshots on the back of game boxes or in computer magazines, of the graphics of the Commodore Amiga 500.
We couldn’t possibly imagine graphics could ever get anymore realistic than this. They looked almost photo realistic.
Screenshots of driving games and flight simulators really grabbed my attention, and any game that had screen shots from the Spectrum AND an Amiga on the back of the same box really made a compelling case for an upgrade.
Back then, we saved for stuff
The quest began. I helped my friends with their paper rounds, stopped buying new games, and I even worked with my Dad and my Brother in summer holidays (which I hated), usually reduced to the only tasks I was good at: Holding the ladder steady, and cleaning the paint brushes. It is no wonder I didn’t follow the family footsteps. And any hint at the question “What would you like for your birthday or Christmas this year?” was met immediately with one simple answer: “Money towards my Amiga!”
Finally and hardest of all, I sold my beloved Spectrum +3 to one of my brothers friends, having written my own welcome disk and drawing program to go with the package as well.
Target Acquired: Batman Pack!
November 1989. I have no idea how many magazine adverts I’d read but I knew all the prices out there, and the packs available and emerging.
It had to be the Amiga 500 Batman pack.
Batman looked amazing, and it came with the must have “F/A 18 Interceptor”. My first flight sim. New Zealand Story I have to confess, had no draw for me at all.
The RRP was £399. I think I’d saved about £300-£320. Not enough. But there was hope.
Among the pages of magazine adverts for things like the Tenstar Games pack for £350, was an advert for the “Computer Shopper Show” at Alexandra palace at the end of November. It promised bargains and stores, and many of the computer shop adverts in the magazines were even stating which trade stand they’d be on at the show. And surely, being around my Birthday and Christmas, any shortfall would be met by the family?
November 25th 1989: Amiga day
And so the tickets were booked. Myself, mum and dad, my brother and I’m pretty sure one or two of my sisters, would all trek on the train from Kent into London, and go stall to stall at the show in the hunt for the best bargain. It is only now in my mid 40’s that the thought occurs to me, that adding the show tickets and return train tickets for at least five people, must have negated any saving made on the day. I guess then that this further emphasizes how big a deal this was. The entire family was invested emotionally and financially in my day. In my Amiga.
Once at the show we moved like a mini swarm from stall to stall and before long at all, had it down to three main shops all competing for my business.
Again, looking back, I’d have to assume it was “Silica” who perhaps owned the final stall, due to the amazing package I ended up with. Because for the price of £350, I scored the Batman pack and all the games from the Silica Tenstar Games pack, and a Joystick and Amiga dust cover. I will never forget that deal.
Then my brother threw in a some extra money for a flight yoke/steering wheel controller, and a copy of the Star Wars Trilogy, and our day was done.
That night, we set the A500 up, and mostly played Batman, with a little Buggy Boy thrown in, and lots of Star Wars, until eventually being told it was time to go to bed.
A day, and a machine I will never forget.
I have so many great memories from that machine and that time. Using it to write homework, do graphic design, adding a 512k RAM upgrade, creating music, but of course, more than anything, I used it to play games. An ever growing and expanding library of games. And for me, the bigger percentage were legally purchased rather than copied even though it would take me two to four weeks to save up for each one. Most purchased from Megabytes in Royal Tunbridge Wells. An independent shop that became like a second home to me on weekends, even though most of the time I didn’t have the money to buy anything. I was just looking and talking, and dreaming of which game I’d save up for next.
Why did I sell it?
It was my love of flight sims that eventually made me decide to sell the Amiga and my fine collection of games and joysticks, so that I could “upgrade” to a used 386 DX 33 PC. So the Amiga was sold and it must have held it’s value as the lady who purchased it from me for her son, paid me over several months, in installments before finally taking delivery of it.
I’d heard of the Amiga 2000 but it was just too out of reach. The PC seemed the better choice. And perhaps it was. I have to thank my step into PCs for the IT career that followed, but equally I have to thank all the machines that went before, including the +3 and especially the Amiga.
But A PC doesn’t get under your skin like an Amiga. And I’ve owned many PC’s. Certain upgrades hold a special place I guess, like my SB16 Pro, or much later, my 3dfx Banshee card. But these were of course all just installed into faceless, nameless grey boxes for which I have no love or lasting memory. Don’t get me wrong. I have very fond memories of PC gaming to this day, but no one machine stands out, as each one morphed into the next.
Nostalgia: the drug of choice
November 2018. Middle age suddenly hit hard. I found myself pining for the past and looking up things from my childhood. Before I knew it, I’d allowed myself to be re-brainwashed by the likes of Nostalgia Nerd and Dan Wood on YouTube, and suddenly I now knew more about Commodore and Amiga than I ever needed to.
I needed an Amiga again. Badly.
Having only recently shelled out for birthday presents for my kids, a car club track day, and a Logitech G29 for my PS4, an upgrade I’d long put off due to the expense, I made a fatal mistake. I checked ebay.
“Amiga 500 Batman Pack. Boxed.” For sale by ebay seller Barbarians-hoard.
And when I say Boxed, I mean, with sleeve and foam inserts and everything. Everything there. Everything accounted for. Registration card. Warranty sticker in place. F18 Code wheel in place. Workbench disks. Deluxe Paint. The works.
£399. The original RRP from when it was brand new. There is a symmetry to that.
An email to my old School friend Lee confirmed what I’d suspected. “They don’t come up in that condition often mate. If it were my money I’d buy it!”
The ebay seller told me he’d purchased it off an old guy who had “brought it in his 40’s. Didn’t really use it much and it’s never really been used by kids”.
I rang the store I’d got the Logitech G29 from. They’d happily take it back so long as I still had the box and everything. They have a 7 day no questions asked returns policy so long as the product is still “as new”.
So take it back I did. Sacrificing once again, for the hope of securing my Amiga 500 Batman pack.
The ebay seller was no where near where I live so we were arranging a skype call for the weekend so that I could see the package in detail. But I’ve missed out on deals before. If you want something, buy it! You snooze you loose. So even before the weekend or the skype call, I woke up one morning and said to the wife, “I’m buying it!” And that was that.
The day my new Batman Pack was delivered, I actually had it shipped to my parents house. I was watching the tracking information on my phone, using the map. Hell I can tell you where the van driver stopped at a pub for lunch (I’d guess). I even took a screen shot. Once delivery was confirmed, I rang my mum. A guy in his mid 40’s ringing his mummy to check if his Amiga has really arrived safe and sound. Yes. Yes it had. Hanging up the phone I can’t even describe the wave of emotion. I owned it. Once again I owned an Amiga 500 Batman pack (again). I said it out loud to myself “Oh my God. I’ve got an Amiga! I’ve got an AMIGA!”
December 2019. That will be just over 30 years since I had my original Amiga. And I hope you can see from the journey above why so much emotion is attached to this purchase.
December 2019 is when I’ll once again unbox my Amiga 500 Batman pack, and not a day before.
Because my parents live in England while I…..I live in Australia.
I wont get to see or use my “new” Batman Pack until December 2019, in my old bedroom, in the house I grew up in, with my parents watching on.
Again, there’s a symmetry to that.
I’ll be documenting my year long wait, the emotion attached to the games I purchased that day back in 1989, all the way up and including the eventual unboxing of my repurchased childhood in a box. Feel free to follow along in my Youtube playlist.