dalliard.net

He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

C30, C60, C74 Go

A few weeks ago I heard an announcement that was something of a surprise, the statement that the MP3 was dead. Whilst I've no doubt that people will still continue to use it for a good while to come, this adds another format to the dead-list, along with cassettes, vinyl*, CD, minidisc, DCC, 8-track and wax cylinder.

Whilst I'll confess I've bought the odd digital download, I still like to have the physical media to add to my collection. My 600+ CD collection continues to grow and I routinely trawl Discogs for other second-hand discs to add to my shelves. I can't see that changing for foreseeable future.

With the death of these formats, there's something else that's been lost along the way - the mixtape.

In my teenage years, the mixtape was one of those things that we all did for our friends and loved ones. Back in the height of the cassette format, I remember many attempts to put together the perfect mix of music on a C60 or C90 (C120s weren't such great quality and used to snap quite easily). The challenge of putting together a mix that used up every second on a side of a C60 was a fun one. Unfortunately in the world of streaming services this just doesn't seem to work in the same way. There's something quite tangible and personal about making your own tape to give to somebody else.

I will confess, however, that I still like to make a slightly-more-modern day equivalent of the mixtape - using minidisc.

Minidisc was a format that was declared dead by Sony back in 2013, although in some areas it's still alive and kicking. Some recording studios continue to use the format and it's still popular in journalism, which is why they still get a good price on sites such as eBay. A standard recordable minidisc contains 74 minutes of music and seems nicely reminiscent of C60/C90 cassettes, albeit with some funky editing facilities. A physical time constraint still remains and time is still required to record the contents.

I bought my minidisc recorder back in 2001 and it's still going strong. My machine, an MZ-R700, is still by modern standards a relatively small device. It nicely fits in the pocket, runs for days on a single AA battery and can record up to five hours on a single disc (although the quality isn't great at that level). I've also got a tiny plug-in microphone, which is ideal if you want to discretely record and make your own bootleg gigs - and blank, new discs can still be bought. Sound dead? No, not really.

As you can see below, it still has its uses - such as recording your vinyl to a format that you can listen to elsewhere….



I have no doubt that the MP3 format will continue to be used for many years to come. Whilst I buy the odd AAC/MP4 track from iTunes, I'm a luddite at heart and still like having some form of physical media to collect - and should iTunes/Amazon/Spotify/whoever go to the wall one day, I'll still have something to show for it. Ultimately, though, I'm convinced that there's no such thing as a dead music format. I'll still rip and burn CDs, I'll still use the MP3 format and I'll still make up my own mix-tape minidiscs. The technology sector is a fickle one and there's already a successor to the current MP4/AAC format on the horizon. Are we going to bin our old iTunes downloads and buy this new format instead in a few years time? I hope not.

Don't believe what the industry tells you. A music format is only dead when you stop using it.

* - Yes, yes, I know vinyl isn't totally dead - but it's definitely "niche".
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My favourite game

Rock monsters - poisonous little buggers!

The screenshot that you see above is a capture from what I believe to be the greatest game ever - Dungeon Master.

Back in 1989, I’d not long since had a motorbike accident. I’d been on crutches with my leg in plaster for about six months, nursing a broken fibia/tibia. My insurers, finding me not liable for the accident, paid me an interim damages claim. Having no fear at that age, thoughts turned to getting back on a new bike and riding again.My mother, however, had other ideas and was keen to discourage me from getting back on the seat and having a repeat incident (or worse). Looking over the shoulders of my peers, I bowed to pressure and spent some of the money on an Atari ST, a more serious computer than the rubber wonder I’d been using before.

I remember a couple of my friends having Dungeon Master. It was the game that sold me the entire computer. Historically, it seems I wasn’t alone. There are reports that over half of people who had an Atari ST bought it. It’s no surprise. It rocked - and it still does.

The game has a simple premise - pick four characters and travel through a dungeon, killing stuff, using magic, exploring, pushing buttons, developing your characters and solving puzzles. Despite it’s simplicity, I still remember how amazingly immersive the game was. I used to make a habit of playing at night with the lights off - it added to the atmosphere. Some levels were exceedingly tough. I remember that on sight of a purple worm, I would “run” like hell down corridors and cast fireball spells from a distance. I remember the comical shrieking of the screamers - and how tough it was to get your character resurrected should one die. Carrying their bones back to the altar on level one to resurrect them was not a fun task.

He eats a lot, strange chap.

At the time, I don’t think anyone realised how influential the game would be. There are so many elements that have appeared in similar games that followed - and the game is still fun to play now. I challenge you to find as much fun that fits on a single floppy disk.

Emulation is a wonderful thing. I’ve recently downloaded NoSTalgia for my Mac and have got back into playing the game again, and I suspect that once I’ve completed it (a fair task in itself), I’ll the continue on to play it’s sequel, Chaos Strikes Back.

I’m probably going to sound like an old man when I say it (and you would expect nothing less, I imagine), but a great deal of modern games seem to focus far too much upon graphical realism at the expense of good gameplay. I’ve actually got a couple of gaming devices, but I’ve pretty much stopped using them in favour of retro gems such as this. Maybe I’m getting old, but when I play a game I want it to look like a game, not some version of augmented reality. It’s probably why I enjoy playing Angry Birds so much on my iPhone. Simple works best.

This probably says an awful lot about me - I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. In the meantime, I’ve got to deal with four blue trolls that would like to club me over the head. And I still have my Atari ST now. Twenty years on, it still works.
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