LM’s Forum

Talk about depressing... when I got back from Bournemouth I could hardly open the front door of the cottage because of all the post piled up inside! Them Upstairs had sent it home so I could start straight away... letters about Mel Croucher’s Monitor, charts on every topic under the sun (like My Top Ten Topics Under The Sun), and from one Ewan Dalton an interesting Letter Of The Month. Now read on while I have a breather...

Letter Of The Month

Dear Lloyd
I am writing on the topic raised by Ian Kerr in Issue 54 of CRASH. He talked of the derisory image given to computers, explaining why people often hold the view that computers are trivial and stupid.

The bane of the games-player (and I’m sure many readers would agree with this) is the ignorance and fear which much of the public holds of computers.

As an example, in 1983 I let my dad have a game of Planetoids (remember that?). He played it for about ten minutes, and then gave a sneering chuckle. Since then he has always referred to my playing ‘silly wee games’. Despite some very heated arguments, he wasn’t even convinced by the awesome Dungeon Master on my ST.

Many people seem to take the view that there is no point in playing a computer game: the image of Space Invaders still prevails, with the completely pointless exercise of shooting down wave after wave of aliens remaining in everyone’s mind.

A lot of normally reasonable people still hold the belief that computer games are the root of much evil (as pointed out by Mel Croucher in Monitor), and these same men and women refuse to believe that honest fun and enjoyment can be derived by perfectly sane individuals from the odd alien blast.

The old cliché ‘small minds are easily amused’ is frequently applied to computers; parents of older children and young adults take the view that if someone can enjoy a game, then they must have a single-figure IQ. Again this is pure ignorance.

If any readers out there are hounded by mum or dad about playing games on their computer, they might like to point out that they are at least exercising the grey matter, to a greater extent than is realised.

Even a straightforward shoot-’em-up requires some form of concentration in following what is happening on screen, and planning moves ahead (‘there’s a big mother ship just two screens ahead, so I’d better pick up four of these weapon pods and get into the bottom right of the screen’), not to mention the necessary hand-eye coordination.

Sitting in front of a small screen soaking up the latest farfetched happenings in Ramsay Street or Albert Square is a much less intellectual pastime.

Fortunately, all is not lost, I work in a computer store, and I frequently serve people who are several times the school-leaving age. Some are perfectly lucid, intelligent pensioners who have been bitten by the computer bug.

I even have a top-brass managing director of a multimillion-pound company who likes nothing better than to come home from work on a Friday night, dig out his ‘dead-flesh’ Speccy and go for a stroll round the streets of Dun Darach!

Coming back to the letter of Ian Kerr’s, I agree that tech media are largely (if not wholly) to blame for the way many people look on computers. The plain fact that game reviews (very sparse though they are) on TV appear entirely in kid’s programmes like Get Fresh has lead to the view that computers = kids, and anyone else using them for entertainment purposes must only be considered a psychological moron.

I think it’s time that the public wakes up to the fact that computing for pleasure — in whatever field — is a universal hobby which is both mentally taxing (at times), rewarding and fun. What we need is a TV programme specifically catering for computers in leisure (and, no, I’m not talking about showing endless rows of BBCs playing Snapper), handling material in an informative and intelligent way.

The nearest there has ever been to a universal age group programme on computers was Micro Live, and we all know what a dismal effort that was. What is required is a proper presentation by someone who both knows what they are talking about, and is interested in it.

Someone unlike Fred ‘I’ve got an incredibly silly hairstyle’ Harris rambling on about what jolly fun this new game, The Hobbit, is. So, come on! Any TV bosses out there take notice! A well-presented effort at this type of programme could be much more successful than previous lame attempts: alter all, a quarter of a million people read CRASH every month, and that’s just one magazine for one computer!

I think it is so unfair that there isn’t such a broadcast already. Computer users may be a ‘minority interest’, but how many programmes are shown a week catering for homosexuals? There must be upwards of 5 million computer users out there...

Well, thanks for taking time to read my rantings!
Ewan Dalton, Publisher of Reflex

Where do I begin?! We certainly all agree. There are a few shows in the pipeline I’ve heard about — a producer in Birmingham was working on one last year and actually called in a few CRASH staff to help, while TVS (the ITV station for southeast England) has a new Saturday morning show in the works which is apparently going to feature computers and coin-ops to some extent. But as you say, it’s a ‘kids’ show’.

Interestingly, perhaps you remember that earlier this year Barnaby Page (Erstwhile Man Ed) was saying exactly the same thing in an editorial, though about newspapers, which don’t exactly do much for micros either.

Perhaps the problem is that the top people in publishing and broadcasting, particularly in newspapers, tend to be in their 30s and 40s at least — not aware of how important computer-gaming is. Of course there are older players — I get the odd letter from Spectrum-owning pensioners and they always seem a bit taken aback when I pop into the shop in Shrewsbury to buy a few myself! But still the majority are under 25.

Incidentally, I think it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that there are many TV programmes for homosexuals... or for any minority for that matter. It’s not a case of computers being singled out, just of nearly all programmes being aimed at the vast majority. Ewan wins a £30 software voucher for the most interesting letter of the month.


Dear Lloyd
Goodbye! I’m joining the 16-bit world of Amigas and leaving the dying world of Spectrums. Maybe that’s a bit strong — there are still a few years left in the old Speccy. I’ve been reading through my past issues of CRASH (28–51) which are about to be thrown out (nothing personal!) and as I drift from the Spectrum scene I believe I have some interesting points to make on the computing world and the changing of CRASH.

Firstly the computing world especially the Spectrum’s position on this, is there any life left in the machine, is there any life in 8-bit computers. Well the Spectrum, a glorious machine in its day, is coming to its end let’s face it. There have been no significant developments for a long time.

Driller? No, it’s slow, incomprehensible to the eye at times and very unplayable.

SAM? It’s like giving a heart transplant to someone who is bleeding to death.

This is not a direct criticism of the Spectrum but in two years’ time what percentage of the Spectrum units will be in use? Not much, if Sinclair/Amstrad are to survive they will have to depart from the Spectrum base and try something to compete with the ST and Amiga.
Christopher Jones

The bad news is you’re leaving — the good news is you’re wrong. Spectrum sales have actually gone UP quite considerably in the last year and it’s still the number one machine.

Driller unplayable? Step outside and say that!


Dear Lloyd
Writing to you are two overjoyed hackers. After the publication of the POKEs in your magazine (which were incorrect!) and several buckets of sweat we managed to complete Arkanoid II.

(The POKEs should have been POKE 33055,n.)

To prove this here are the end credits:

Well that seems to be that. Until ARKANOID III
Hi Pea Brain
Coming soon... (bit of advertising hype)
When do you have your next bucket of crud?
Fish stinks!

Now do you believe us?

Adam ‘Big Tips’ Parker and Richie ‘Sexy Hunk’ Baker

PS If anyone is interested, it is possible to alter the screen attributes to your advantage... Say no more!!!!

Anyone else finished Arkanoid II?

PS Nick Roberts is full of excuses, not to mention pizza.


Dear Lloyd
Looking through the book Movies On TV 1986–1987, I discovered quite a few computer game namesakes: Athena, Beachhead, Blue Max, Desert Hawks, Forbidden Planet, The Great Escape, Green Berets, Gun Runners, Gun Smoke, Head Over Heels, Heartland, Juggernaut, Kung Fu, Magic, Popeye, Rampage, Rollercoaster, Rolling Thunder, Saboteur, Spybound, Tomahawk, Vampire, Vertigo, Zig Zag, Zorror.
Andrew Cook

It’s a mad mad mad mad world.


Chris Isaac of Swansea sent on his expert guide to who gives the best free gifts... you can find the software houses’ addresses on their CRASH ads. (Now who was saying ads weren’t useful?)


Dear Lloyd
Recently, I read the review on Blood Brothers from Gremlin, in THE GAMES MACHINE — I had found out that it wasn’t worth buying, since the percentage was low. But to my shock and horror, after receiving my faithful CRASH, the same game was reviewed but better and worth very much to buy. Why are you confusing us? And who do we believe?
Sandra Chalisey

Well, I’d say believe CRASH — but ask TGM and you might get a different answer! Generally, TGM rates games slightly lower than CRASH — nothing pleases those picky people on the other side of the office. LM


from Cheuk Man Li


Dear Lloyd
I do feel really sorry for the poor people who write pages to the Forum only to get a two-liner from you! You rotter!! And now I KNOW you’re going to do that to me, aren’t you?
Ian Miller

Of course not.


Dear Lloyd
Is Mel Croucher’s Monitor a tongue-in-cheek affair or is it serious? I certainly found the article amusing!
Andrew Thomas

Deadly serious — but Mel has that talent of keeping you entertained even when he’s looking at a serious subject.


from Gerald Byrne, Birmingham


Dear Lloyd
Why do people complain about the amount of adverts in CRASH? At least they let you know more about the game, what other magazines thought of them, and where you can get hold of them. Also companies advertise games at special offer prices etc.
Neill Edwards

Some people always find something to complain about — just look through my post any day! But past CRASHtionnaires have shown that plenty of readers enjoy the ads like you Neill, and some of them have art just as good as Oli’s... well, not quite (Oli made me say that). How about some Top 10 Ad Art charts for next month?


Dear Lloyd
I am writing to express my fears of playing on any computer for a few hours without a break.

I feel that overexposure, like looking at your computer screen for a few hours, causes some serious problems with your health, physically and mentally, and I thought it a good idea to mention these problems, and list a few ideas of how to overcome them.

Some problems I have found are:

Mental tiredness through deep concentration at looking at the computer screen without a break, which then causes eye dilation and terrible headaches.

Physical pain due to being stiff as you are always sitting in the same position for a long time, which causes a stiff neck and backache.

Some solutions I have found helpful are:

Don’t stare at the screen for such a long time, focus your attention on looking out of the window then looking at something else etc, so when you go back to looking at the screen, after this little break, you might be able to rethink and solve a problem in a game, due to your eyes being able to glance at a situation more alertly, and feeling less droopy and tired, and your brain being able to become more clear so being able to perform better in a game, without any distracting headaches spoiling your concentration.

I think it a good idea if you’ve got a stiff neck, to move your head to the left and right and around in a circle, which seems to loosen the muscles in your neck, and if you get backache after you finished a game, to stand up and touch your toes. This relaxes the muscles in your back.
Lee Beaverstock

There’s been lots of argument — and Forum letters — about how much harm computer screens actually cause. But I’ve certainly found like Lee that it’s best to take a break every so often — good for your mind as well as your eyes!


Dear Lloyd
It has been two months now since I first thought of starting a fanzine but have come across several problems.

The worst of these problems is that software houses are very careful at who they send reviewing games to.

We don’t just want ‘A Free Game’ we really do want to start a top-quality tape magazine.

We said that we would return the games to them once reviewed but it seems to have no effect.

Is there anything that can be done to assure them that we are seriously interested in writing a top quality fanzine?

We will be having over 250 pages per month and that puts people off from buying it, they either think that the quality is crude or that we just want them to send us money for no magazine.

We are ECU (Exclusive Computer User) the tape ’zine for all Speccies. We cover Spectrum, Atari ST and Sega games console. We cost £1.

Please help us Lloyd... You are the only person I can think of to turn to at a time like this!!
Ian Warren

Nice to know I’m wanted... the problem is that software houses get so many letters from new fanzines, I remember one saying they received ten a day, that they simply can’t send everyone review copies or they’d have none left to sell! The best thing is to get all the games you can, by buying them or borrowing from friends (not copying — as soon as a software house smells that it’s bound to put them off), produce a few issues and THEN send them round the companies so they can see you’re serious.


Dear Lloydy, CRASH and all that bother
We (my mate and I who are not lefties) are putting the old quill to scroll so we let you and your worldwide readership know what we think about the price of bacon, and while we are on this subject we would like to utter the words ‘Jeff Minter Lives Forever’, though we think his games are slightly underpriced and underrated.

At this precise moment we would like to tell you that Jennifer Mullinder’s cat is sitting on the beanbag, is sound asleep and does not at all remind us of a 48K or even a 128K Spectrum.

However, what we DIDN’T really want to tell you is that in our local supermarket you can buy a cake for 15p. What we did want to know is, whether a pointless and stupid letter like this would get printed in CRASH’s excellent Forum section.
Peter Mullfinder and Stuart ‘Llamasoft forever’ Robinson

Certainly not.

September showers mean October hours, my grandma used to say, though I was never sure what it meant now I think I know! If you send me showers of letters by September I’ll spend hours answering them for the October issue! Still, some of the work is already done thanks to our new assistant Erica who now types all the letters in for me (the old Hermes typewriter is getting a bit fragile and I don’t want to use it too much), so next issue there’ll be a special section of your opinions on sex, software and Split Screen.

But there’s plenty of room to fill, so send your letters, art and personal charts straight away to LLOYD MANGRAM’S FORUM, CRASH.

There’s a £30 software voucher for the best letter each month and even the ones that don’t get printed get read by the CRASH team — so don’t mince words (mince? where? any chips? — Nick Roberts), tell us what you think.