From K6X Paul (chimpanzee) Clucas
It Happened One Weekend
As the one who is the most eloquent ( according to Chris ), I have
been volunteered ( by Chris ) to write a load of woffle about our 1996
( Not The ) Acorn User Show. 'Twas in a small town called Shef-field in a
part of England apparently called York-shear. Being from South of Watford,
I have heard of these places of course but never before felt the need to
visit. Suffice to say they do in fact exist, and contrary to what you
might think, there was neither cloth cap nor whippet spotted the entire
I did not arrive until about 6.30pm on Friday, after spending over
7 hours at the mercy of National Express ( now there's a mis-named company
if ever there was one! ), to find the following people sprawled around
contentedly digesting their recently-finished meal:-Jonathan Harston, Neil
Parry, Andrew Nelson, Stephan Richardson, and the Head Pool Keeper
himself, Chris Richardson. Having spent nearly nine hours travelling, my
first priority was to feed my face, so Chris escorted me post-haste to the
local chippy ( which did good trade from us over the weekend ) and bought
me probably the best dollop of cod and chips I tasted that day. You would
not beleeve the hills around Sheffield. Good brakes and non-slip shoes are
essentials around Jonathan's house, and probably a set of crampons come
winter-time! To give some idea of the steepness; standing in Jonathan's
back garden, the gutter of the house backing onto his is BELOW eye level!
Going down to the chippy was easy, but the climb back up....WHEW!
Having got back I settled into a chair, and whilst feeding my face
took stock of what was going on. There were four machines set up, being
hammered merrily away at by various folk, with Andrew and Jonathan poring
over a printout working out how to crack some encryption software.
Stephan soon decided it was time to go and started packing away his
gear and putting it out in the car. Once he had done this, the place
looked quite bare, so the other machines got spread out a bit to take up
the space. The rest of the evening was spent trying to make some room in
Jonathan's fridge by the simple ( and enjoyable ) expedient of downing
Chris wandered off during the evening, and reappeared a few minutes
later with a small Tupperware container. I assumed that Gill had packed
him up some cheese sarnies or something, but no, inside was a perfectly
fresh ( they are good those Tupperware boxes ) sound sampler gizmo. This
was duly connected up to a machine, Neil produced a radio/cassette which
produced barely acceptable music ( I use the term loosely ), and strategic
bits were sampled. These, along with various other vocals from the rest of
us, were then cobbled together into a short piece of TOTALLY unacceptable
music ( once again I use the term loosely ) which got played so often over
the weekend that I never want to hear an Australian folksong again! Thus
Friday ended, and we retired to our cots to get some zeds in preparation
for the expected invasion of members the next day.
Saturday dawned bright, very bright in my case cos my bedroom faced
East, and I made everyone a cuppa as they staggered blearily downstairs!
( Incidentally, if you ever have Chris to stay overnight, he has 43 little
grains of decaff coffee in his first cup of the day, and 97 at all other
times, no milk or sugar at any time! ) The weekend DOES get a bit more
interestin later on, so don't give up yet. We all settled down to a yatter
and a play, sorry, comparative assessment of various pieces of software. I
do not remember the order in which they all arrived or left, but during
the day we were visited by:- Mike Fearon, Mick Needham, Frank Jones, Mick
Reeve, and Lorna Jenne.
It seemed that every time you turned round, Chris was shoving his
camera in someone's face and taking photos like some papparazzi with
shares in Kodak. In fact I think he has now scanned them all onto a
couple of discs if you want to see them. Jon Ripley phoned to say that he
wouldn't be coming after all, as his arm had come a poor second in an
argument with a piece of glass ( Chris even took a photo of Jonathan on
the phone speaking to him, to have a record of the fact that he was almost
there ), we all waved at Jon, but I don't think he waved back!
Chris produced yet another toy for us all to play with, this time a
video digitiser. Jonathan spent a half-hour or so running a piece of co-ax
around everybody and soldering some connectors onto it so we could connect
the TV in the front room to the Master in the back room. Sadly, another
half-hour spent trying to get a decent sample showed that Jonathan's half-
hour had been wasted, and the Master was moved into the front room where
it worked much better, grabbing frames from various broadcasts.
That evening we patronised the chippy again. This time I had pie
and chips and, being up North, some mushy peas. This was the first time
I had tried this particular delicacy, and I must say I was impressed. The
idea for this dish ( well, small styrofoam pot actually ) was obviously
plagiarised by the Northern folk from the pie 'n' eel shops of my own
city's East End, but it was a fair imitation.
More fridge-emptying then ensued, during which time some software
was written for the digitiser, and it was used to grab some frames from
the big film of the evening, the name of which I have forgotten!
Neil and Andrew and I stayed up after Jonathan and Chris retired,
and we spent all night, or so it seemed, discussing just how secure a file
server and associated hard-drive could be. This may seem to have been a
rather strange thing to spend so long discussing, but apart from the fun I
had winding Andrew up about his beloved file server, it did serve a useful
purpose, as I will explain later.
Dawn broke to see us still at it, and Jonathan's fridge emptier.
The others arose later, having missed another wonderful sunrise. All but
me seemed to have left their "Advanced Kettle User Guide" at home, and as
Jonathan hadn't finished writing his version of it yet, once again it fell
to me to try to fathom out the operating system of that most difficult-to-
master piece of hardware. Suffice to say that sundry teabags and 43 grains
were duly hydrated, and we were off on another day.
Mick Needham 'phoned during the morning offering a lift to anyone
who might fancy going to a boot fair. All except Andrew said yes please,
and Mick picked us up just after midday. Unfortunately by the time we got
there the boot fair was all but gone. We had a quick walk across the field
and around both the remaining stalls, found nothing of interest and went
back to the car. We went past a bowling green between the car park and the
field, and I thought it looked a bit strange on the way to the field, so I
had a closer look on the way back to see what was wrong with it. The grass
was nice and short and smooth, if a bit yellow, but slap in the middle of
the green was a huge bump! Our greens down South are like billiard tables,
so I was shocked to see this one in such a poor state. I am amazed the
club allow the groundsman to get away with such poor workmanship. Even if
the home side have managed to get used to playing on such an undulating
surface, it must make playing the game horrendously difficult for visiting
teams, and I am surprised the local League haven't done something about
this less-than-subtle piece of gamesmanship.
We got back to Jonathan's, more software was written, copied, and
discussed, taking us to nosh-time. Chris and Neil and I walked down to
the chippy, but being Sunday it was shut. We therefore set off towards the
Chinese take-away at the other end of the main drag, but this was not yet
open. Totally drained by the day's exertions in such terrific heat, and
unable to manage the climb back up to Jonathan's, we established base camp
in a local hostelry, re-hydrating ourselves with some falling-down-water
whilst letting Neil win most of the pool games.
We just about managed to restore our fluid levels before the take-
away opened, and thus refreshed, quite easily managed the walk there and
thence back up the North Face to Jonathan's. Some very good food was then
swapped and shared around. We then somehow got onto the ( contentious as
it turned out ) topic of which animal is the most accurate timekeeper. I
put forward the chimpanzee, but despite having letting him win at pool,
Neil got extremely argumentative in favour of the elephant. In the end,
Chris stepped in and refereed several one-minute rounds. Although I was
consistently more accurate, Neil would not concede defeat and accused me
of cheating. Everyone else then had a go at judging one minute of elapsed
time ( no, sorry, it wasn't a fight ) and my method ( one-chimpanzee, two
-chimpanzee, etc ) proved the most accurate. Neil sulked off into another
room, threatening to open the argument up to the membership in an attempt
to prove me wrong.
In an attempt to restore harmony, Chris produced yet another of his
goodies, this time a miniature video camera. It proved difficult to grab a
good still from it, but Andrew wanted one of himself and went through all
sorts of contortions to be the star of the show. At one stage we had him
pinned behind a chair to keep his head still, a light shining on him from
each side at close range to get enough light for the camera to work ( well
that's what we told him and he believed us ) making him sweat a bit. It
looked like we were interrogating a suspect! One of the results of this
exercise is also on the discs with the scanned-in photos.
Apart from the video digitiser being used to grab some frames from
the program about the Page 3 girls ( sad really, isn't it? Before you ask,
no I don't know what happened to them! ), that was just about it for the
weekend. Chris gave Neil and I a lift down to London. I said that it was a
bit far to go, but he said it was OK cos he was giving Andrew a lift back
to Newcastle and it was on his way. With those sort of map-reading skills,
don't get ill in Hull folks, the ambulance may take a while to get there!
I may have missed out a few things ( but hopefully not any people
who were there ), and what I have put in may not always be in the right
order, but Chris asked me to write a short ( some hope! ) piece about the
weekend as I remembered it, which is what I have done.
The main product of all the discussions over the three days ( and
nights, as I mentioned earlier if you can remember back that far ) was a
plan for the future of 8BS, which I know Chris will write about it in his
Editorial, but I will give a brief outline here.
The entire 8BS PD Library, present and future, is to be placed onto
hard disc, with members being given direct access to it via modem.
All the necessary hardware for the system ( working title, EbTel )
has been donated, so the only costs to the membership will be the purchase
of the modem for those who wish to use it. EbTel will be complementary to,
not a replacement of, the present system of sending discs by post, and it
is hoped to have it up and running by next Summer.
If you have any comments, advice, suggestions, or queries about it,
do send them in. After all, 8BS is run for YOU and you have a say in how
it is done.
The only things remaining to do now ( and probably the only things
that there are room for at the end of this epistle ) are to thank all of
those who were able to make it to our first ( Not The ) Acorn User Show,
and especially to thank Jonathan for putting us up and putting up with us
over the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to invading
your space again next year, if you will have us?