Crowdfunded documentaries

I’m aware that my blog has evolved… these days most of the posts are about transport, reflecting my current interests.

I wonder if this is a bit dull for those who have been on the old Toxic Custard mailing list, which is the descendant of the humour-based email list I started while at uni.

Yet transport posts get by far the largest number of comments. Hmmmm.

Here’s a post to mix it up a bit.

Crowdfunded documentaries

Last year I helped crowdfund two documentaries:

Bedrooms To Billions — the story of the beginnings of the computer game industry, from the perspective of UK developers. In the 80s, the first games were written by schoolboy (mostly boy) coders with cheap computers in their bedrooms, manually copying tapes and sending them out by post. I was in that age group, and tried to write my own games too…

I knew much of the story, but the extensive interviews with those involved at the time made this really interesting, especially the first half or so.

I probably got a bit carried away: I contributed enough money that you’ll find my name in tiny writing in the credits somewhere.

Well worth a look if you’re into retro gaming.Thumbs up!

The Outer Circle — Melbourne’s forgotten railway — many would know that the Alamein line and linear parks and bike paths are all that’s left of a line which once ran from Fairfield via Camberwell to Oakleigh.

This documentary manages to have a lot of detail in it, without ever being dull, and has some terrific accounts from actual users of the line, as well as archival footage and photos. I for one had no idea that John Monash built the line. Well worth catching.Thumbs up!

I’m pretty happy my contributions helped these two get made.

I’ve since donated to the sequel to Bedrooms To Billions, and I’ll be on the lookout to see what others get proposed which are worth a look.

Back in the mid-70s when Monty Python was developing The Life Of Brian, they got a sizeable contribution of funds from George Harrison, because he “wanted to see the movie”. That’s not an option most film makers have, of course.

Crowdfunding is something that has probably only become practical since the spread of the internet. The long tail of interests means a special interest group like this can reach the numbers of people necessary to make it viable.

It’s nice to see technology being used in this kind of way — something that would have seemed unimaginable just a decade or two ago.

PAX Australia – overall a success, but the public transport arrangements let it down

An article in The Age today notes that while there were a few issues, last weekend’s inaugural PAX Australia video game festival went well.

PAX Australia: XBox One demonstration

PAX Australia: Wizard Of Wor on the Commodore 64

We went along on the Sunday, and had a good time. We avoided the sessions with long queues, and instead saw an XBox launch event, played some games in the retro area, had some lunch, and looked around the expo hall.

Not being hardcore gamers, that satisfied us. And that’s I think where the planning for this event slipped-up.

Someone had obviously decided that most people would be staying all day, and the transport planning clearly reflected that.

The trains to the Showgrounds only ran every 20 minutes until 10:40am… then at an appalling 40 minute frequency until midday.

Trains to PAX Australia at the Showgrounds: infrequent, and delayed

Worse, we and others found there were train delays. The 10:04 was about 10 minutes late, meaning we spent 25 minutes waiting in the cold at Southern Cross. It then crawled to North Melbourne before finally getting up a decent speed the rest of the way to the Showgrounds. The 12:04 train was 20 minutes late.

At Showgrounds station there were long queues for the few Myki validators available. (We didn’t bother to queue — it barely matters on weekends when the fare cap is $3.50 anyway, and even on a concession fare, two 2-hour fares will get you to that cap.)

After 12:04 (well, 12:24 if that service was 20 minutes late) there were no trains at all until the late-afternoon. Instead people were advised to catch a tram back, with extra trams running.

The reality was that lots of people didn’t stay all day… while many may have come first thing in the morning and stayed until everything finished up, many others arrived and departed at various times across the day.

And what few extra trams ran were sporadic, resulting in the utterly predictable problem of the regular route 57 short (Z-class) trams being packed:

The tram coming back from PAX Australia

Apart from making many people who’d arrived by train find a different exit and stop to get home again, it was a slow crowded ride back into the city. Thoroughly unimpressive.

The PAX programme booklet noted the support of the Victorian Government, and I happened upon an episode of Byte Into It on Triple R last Wednesday which noted that PAX came to Australia because of enthusiasm from the locals — and to Melbourne specifically by that government support. Which is great.

But this kind of cooperation should include adequate transport arrangements. Public transport can and should do special events like this very well, but on this occasion, the system let people down. The danger is that next time more people will drive, clogging up streets around the venue. And given that special events are sometimes the only times people use PT, they may also be put off using it for other travel in the future.

How much extra would it have cost to run 20 minute trains all day? Surely not much more than the extra trams they ran all day, given the labour costs (drivers, and signalling people for trains) are the main cost.

If PAX returns to Melbourne, and I hope it does, if it’s at the Showgrounds again, they clearly need to do better.

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map? Yes!

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map?

Yes!

Pac-man: street art map

CDH Art: “Using the familiar street art motif of retro gaming, I created a walking guide-map to Melbourne’s street art.”

There goes my August spending money

Yowzers. It’s been 7 years since I bought the house.

And it’s been four years since I bought the car.

At the time I bought the car, the dealer I bought it from had just paid the rego, so it’s due every August. This year it’s $696.50.

Obviously because I bought the car in August, the insurance is also due every August. $369.05 (It can be paid monthly, but this is 15% more expensive.)

And… you guessed it… the house insurance is also due. $673.35

Can someone remind me, when/if I decide to upgrade the car at some stage in the future, not to do it in August?

  • I also just got a rates notice… happily the next installment for that isn’t due until late September.
  • A reminder why, despite their groovy advertising and the promise of cheaper premiums for people who don’t drive much, I don’t insure with Youi

Actually do plan to use a little spending money: to help fund From Bedrooms to Billions, a documentary on the beginnings of the UK video game industry. Nostalgia ahoy!

I’ve donated $100. And that was before I discovered the music they’ve used for the trailer — which starts at the 3 minute mark in the following video:

From Bedrooms to Billions – Teaser Trailer from GRACIOUS FILMS on Vimeo.

Flashback to 1984: The Challenge Chamber

Australian PCGames magazine cover, December 1984One of the lesser-remembered 80s Australian computer games magazines is PC Games. At least, I assume it’s lesser-remembered because it doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry, although its UK cousin does.

PC in those days simply meant personal computer, not necessarily the IBM/Microsoft platform it does today.

Australian PC Games ran for, I think, perhaps about two years in the mid-80s, during the boom of 8-bit personal computers. It was put out by the same publisher as Australian Personal Computer, which is still around, but had more of a games focus.

Apart from games reviews and tips, it also had features and reviews of new microcomputers — at the time, 8-bit computers such as the Commodore 64 were incredibly popular, and the likes of the Atari ST and Amiga were just starting to appear on the scene.

The magazine also had games listings — something unheard of these days (thanks to cover discs and the Internet), they’d print program code in the magazine for readers to type in. Apart from games they also had a running series called PCG-64, which was machine-code listings of BASIC language enhancements for the Commodore 64, many of them sent in by readers.

I’m only reminded of PC Games because the Retrogaming AUS web site has started up a Wiki which has a page on it. To my lasting regret, at some stage in the 90s I cleared out almost all of my copies of PC Games, except for one: December 1984.

The Challenge Chamber

One of the regular features in PCG was the Challenge Chamber. People could send in their high scores in various games for listing in the magazine, and PCG would periodically call in some of them to play in their “Challenge Chamber”… just to make sure they were as good as they claimed.

My friend Merlin sent in a dizzyingly high score for the Commodore 64 pinball game Night Mission, and one Saturday in late-1984, PCG got him and another 13 year-old called Paul (who was a whiz at Pogo Joe) to come in and play.

It turned out the PCG Challenge Chamber (the Melbourne version at least) was a magazine office next to Elwood Post Office — and just down the street from my house. I managed to invite myself along and watch the challenge unfold.

After a while getting the C64s organised and hooked-up, both Merlin and Paul played. The account of the Challenge appeared in the December 1984 edition of the magazine…

Australian PCGames: Challenge Chamber (1/2), December 1984

Australian PCGames: Challenge Chamber (2/2), December 1984