ST/Amiga Format Now Available

Here’s a comparatively small one for you all – ST/Amiga Format, only 13 issues of 16-bit rivalry in under a gigabyte. Don’t get excited, this isn’t Amiga Format itself – that’s still my retirement project :) – but an interesting period piece nonetheless.

Grab it here, and share it forever!

Sinclair and the “Sunrise” Technology (EPUB/MOBI) now available

Hey, two posts in one day – who said 2013 was going to be a write-off, eh? I’ve had this one hanging around forever, and although it’s still not perfect it’s good enough to let lose. “Sinclair and the ‘Sunrise’ Technology” is a “exposé” of Clive Sinclair’s businesses through the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and is a great read for anyone interested in the era.

This is an original scan of my own copy, rang through the usual OCR process and then hand-edited into shape with the help of “mjwilson” on the World of Spectrum forums. EPUB and MOBI formats are included, and for anything else just use Calibre, the swiss-army knife of book converters.

And best of all, it’s teeny enough to hopefully share to all via DropBox – no torrent required! Grab it here.

Let me know if you spot any errors in the next that got missed in the “subediting” process …

EDIT: just in case there’s any problems getting the file from DropBox, I’ve uploaded it to Mega.co.nz too: try this link if you have any problems with the first one.

Micro Adventurer (with bonus “Spectrum Adventures” book) now available

Rejoyce! I’ve finally got off my backside and finished the long-awaited Micro Adventurer collection, and it’s now available here. Got to admit, I’d never heard of this magazine before, but judging by the number of people who’ve asked me for it, it holds a special place in multiple hearts. I also found a book by the same publisher – “Spectrum Adventures” – so that’s thrown in there too. So: DOWNLOAD TORRENT, SHARE CONTINUALLY, and I’ll sit down and sing you a song about gold (if you don’t understand any of that, this isn’t the magazine for you, move along :) )

Still Alive

Hello … hello? … is this thing on?

Ah there you are. Yes, it’s been ages. Far too long in fact, for which I apologise. There isn’t any one good reason for RetroPDF’s being effectively dormant for nearly a year and a half, but the front runners are:

  • Apple – now I love my Mac, nearly as much as I used to love my Amiga (OK, maybe not that much). However, OS X’s “Preview” – the system default viewer for PDFs – broke my heart. At some point in history, Apple introduced a bug into Preview: it was very subtle and would have gone unnoticed by most people. It manifests itself like this: if the user opens any PDF/A (the “Archive” version of PDF that I habitually use) and makes ANY minor change to the PDF – like rearranging pages or editing the metadata – Preview will silently corrupt the text stored in the PDF.

    The graphical part of the PDF is unaffected, and the corruption is unnoticeable until you try to copy or search the text: rather than the text reading:

    “Ken is great, you should donate some money to RetroPDFs right now!”

    the document actually contained:

    􏰽􏰃􏰝􏱁􏱁􏰽􏱎􏰃􏰝􏱈􏰃􏰺􏱒􏰿􏰺􏱆􏱈􏰝􏱁􏰃􏰒􏱆􏱀􏱏􏰺􏰃􏰿􏰽􏰃􏰳􏰺􏰃 􏰊􏰽􏱎􏰺􏱆􏰃􏰖􏰽􏱇􏱂􏰺􏰃

    Yes, little squares (which bizarrely present themselves on the Mac as little alien faces – honest).

    Worse still is OS X’s newfound habit of saving documents for you as soon as you so much as click on them – a dozen or more of my newly scanned Amiga Shoppers were affected, and when Stone Oakvalley alerted me to this fact I have to admit I cried. And then swore a lot.

    I spent days dicking around with the internals of PDF documents, learning about glyph mapping and font tables, trying to find if there was any way to reverse the damage, but there isn’t. I reported the bug to Apple, and then went in the huff.

    The bug is apparently fixed, and I have the replacement Amiga Shoppers nearly ready to put in place. More importantly, I need to go through all 6 squillion other PDFs and see if any others have been apparently affected. At this rate, I’ll be able to put “AppleScript” on my CV.

    and talking of bugs …

  • PDFPen – One of the tools in my arsenal is Smile Software’s PDFPen, which is a lovely program for fiddling around with PDF’s. Unfortunately, large PDFs, OS X Mavericks and PDFPen have had a fallout, and they’re currently undergoing counselling. As soon as they all get along together, I can start cranking out the updates.
  • Storage – the reason for choosing BitTorrent as a distribution system is that it seemed to be the best way of getting large files out there without resorting to the MegaFileUploadStoreZone.com-style sites – you know, the “click here for a SUPER FAST DOWNLOAD, click here to wait 30 seconds on a really slow download with lots of adverts and popups” dodgy corners of the internet. And Torrent works fine for me, but I’m aware that it’s not for everyone, and I’m concerned that might be putting some of you off. So if anyone can recommend a stable, fast, unlimited, advert-free and very very cheap/free place to hold the RetroPDFs files, please let me know and I’ll happily add that as an option.

    Fun Fact: I’ve personally seeded over 6 terabytes of PDFs in the last 18 months. That’s a lot of nostalgia.

  • Secret Project – I’ve been working on scanning in a non-computing magazine; this is a long-term pet project of mine, and will take me years to complete. It’s not “retro” so I won’t sully these pages with any more talk of it.
  • Laziness – it’s taken me weeks to get around just to typing this.
  • So add all that up, with a dash of real life, hot summers and some apathy and you have the first update of 2013 nearly at the end of it. But I’m back now, honest: as soon as Smile fix PDFPen I’ll have MicroAdventurer uploaded, and then we’ll see what else I can find in the “pending” folder – it’s currently 77Gb in size so I’m sure there’s something in there :)

    As always, feel free to drop me a mail or comment if there’s something you’d like to see bumped up the list.

    Honey, I’m home

    OK, so I took a bit of a break after the Amiga Shopper marathon, and holidays, work, and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness means there hasn’t been a RetroPDFs release in quite a few weeks. I’m back “in the zone” now, so hopefully I’ll get something released this week, probably a rework of something old.

    Thanks for everyone’s who’s mailed or commented, and apologies for the delay in replying. And BIG thanks to Paul for the donation, it’s appreciated more than pixels on a screen could ever say. 

    Amiga Shopper now available!

    I’m very proud to announce that Amiga Shopper is finally available for download. After more than a year of measuring, cutting, bleeding, swearing, scanning, processing, compressing and checking, all 71 issues – plus the “preview” issue and a couple of extra bits’n’pieces – is now ready for the world. To my knowledge, this is the first complete collection of Amiga Shopper’s available for download.

    This all started when – after one too many bottles of Scruttock’s Old Dirigible – I bid on a pristine collection of Amiga Shopper’s on eBay. They were going for buttons, and although the postage cost soon tripled the price it was worth it when they were delivered: beautifully-preserved, tight, almost untouched copies of Shopper in original binders. There was only one thing to do – cut them all up into little bits with a very sharp knife.

    P1030395

    From a few of these …
    P1030399

    … to a pile of these

    Shopper, for most of it’s life, was printed on a heavy newsprint in a larger-than-A4 format. Newsprint is great as it “sticks” to the document feeder on my scanner really well – no more skipped pages (in theory at least). However, my scanner is only A4 in size, so I’ve had to trim off a small chunk of each mags on the left and right hand sides.

    This means, unfortunately, there’s a little bit of Amiga goodness missing from each page. In 99% of cases, this doesn’t matter – all that’s been lost is a page number (which any half-decent PDF reader will show you), or maybe a small slice of an advert. Most “editorial” stuff had a fairly wide margin at the left and right, so nothing of real value has been lost. Very occasionally, I’ve managed to cut out the first few letters of a left or right hand paragraph on a page – sorry about this; think of it as an opportunity to improve your Scrabble skills by guessing what the start or end of the words were.

    P1030394

    Coming soon: Amiga Shopper – the DVD extras

    The worst affected are the earlier issues: the page numbers seemed to float randomly towards and away from the edge of the page. Another problem with the early issues is the pages are squint. Honest. I’d scan in a page only for it to appear on screen noticeably skewed, and this was WITHOUT any Old Dirigible – worrying. I spent ages trying to figure out what was going wrong with my scanner, or whether I’d trimmed the page wrongly, but after measuring, using a spirit level and consulting a trained optometrist, there’s no doubt about it: some pages were just printed squint. You’d never notice it when reading the physical copy, but on screen they just looked wrong.

    (Of course, I did trim a couple of issues badly, but we’ll ignore that :) )

    The OCR software should have straightened up the pages a bit, but unfortunately there’s still the odd page in there that’s a bit askew. I recommend learning to automatically tilt your head accordingly, and reduce the risk of motion sickness by not flicking through the pages too quickly.

    The later issues are much more consistent. In the last couple of years, Shopper switched over to almost-A4, which made things easier (only one side to trim to remove the spine), and then from issue 64 onwards it went staple-bound; these were scanned on a flat-bed scanner.

    I’ve included a few bits and pieces that were attached or associated with the mag: subscriber letters, subscription offers etc. And of course, the whole lot is OCR’d throughout: as Shopper had a fairly plain layout and clean design with no daft backgrounds or mad fonts, the OCR has done it’s thing superbly – one of the few magazines that you could easy copy the text straight out of the PDF without too much manual correction.

    So enjoy relearning how to get AMOS to print to your 9-pin dot matrix printer, or how to render 24-bit pictures down to HAM8 whilst saving to two floppy drives and your new GVP 52Mb hard drive simultaneously. And please, please, please seed this one for as long as possible.

    Next: Amiga Format, due some time in 2014 :O