Q. What was your first experience coming across a VZ computer? How did you pick this one?
It was a cold rainy Wednesday night in May 1983, about 7:45pm, and my Mother had just driven me home from being at the weekly Cub Scouts group meeting. I was 9.
I walked in and here was my Father playing Ghost Hunter on the newly VZ200 that he had just purchased from Dick Smith Electronics in Tamworth that day.
He had it hooked up to our big colour TV on channel 1, and there was Ghost Hunter playing in its glorious four colours on the family’s tele. I am very fond of this precious memory.
I was hooked. The VZ was it for me. Nothing else compared to it. My parents still cringe now when they see the bright green screen of VZEM on my laptop…
Q. What kind of setup did you have? Peripherals/expansions/etc?
Initially it was my Fathers computer, and I’m certain that I had to ask and be watched when using it.
Within 12 months it was definately my games machine, as well as attempting to learn BASIC, and I loved typing in listings from magazines.
I can’t remember the exact history, but went something like:
VZ200 and DR10 cassette player. Sheiko printer that DSE was selling very shortly after with the VZ interface. Then the 16k ram pack.
Sometime during these years, my Father had a go at building voice recognition circuitry; but failed miserably. It ended up blowing up the circuity within the DR10. So , for a number of years we used an old 27 meg CB for its amplifier hooked up to the DR10 cassette player. We now had volume control on the DR10.
It could load in those pesky tapes that a normal working DR10/DR20 could not load in. Dracula’s Castle and Maze of Argon were two pesky tapes that loaded in ok with this weird CB contraption.
Received a VZ300 for Christmas in 1986, 16k RAM pack a bit later. ‘300 joysticks were definitely after 1987. Disk drive in 1988. I can recall loading in Ladder Challenge faster off a floppy disk than it took rewinding the tape!
By 1987 my Father had let the smoke out of the VZ300, so I was on the lookout for another VZ300. Bought one off a fellow school mate.
1989? we modified the ‘200 16k pack for both ‘200 and ‘300.
By 1990 my Father once again let the smoke out of this VZ300 when trying to make up a two transistor amplifier for the speaker, so it was back to the VZ200 for quite a number of years.
During this time, he spent ages trying to determine what was dead in the VZ300. Replacing the Z80, GA003 and GA004. Never did get it to work properly again.
1990 I bought a Speech Synth from Dave Boyce. The VZ speaks! Based on his project in various mags and journals.
1991 A mate Ben Hobson and self started on a ‘Robot’ project for a Year 11 school assignment. I made mine out of the technical lego bulldozer, and it is still sitting in a box. We had them running off the printer interface centronics plug.
Simply wrote a program to control the relays which were hanging off D1-D4 via transistors. Do a Google search and the circuit diagram is somewhere there. I pulled it out again in 2013 and took some youtubes of it running.
1992 Having a love of creating VZ smoke, I started building the Compumuse kit, however, it took me another 18 years to finally find the heart of it – a Texas Instruments SN76489AN sound chip. Look at that, I just rolled that chip name off my tongue just like that.
Finally got it finished in 2010? and was highly disappointed hearing the bird ‘chirp’ sound.
1993 My school mate Ben gave me his collection of VZ300’s (About four), with twin drives, memory packs , casettes, floppies and joysticks galore.
1994 (?) attempted to make a VZ Lightpen from an article in HVVZUG journal. It did’t work. Its in a state of being finished off one day.
1999 I finally accidently killed my VZ200, by this stage it was inside a VZ300 keyboard. Yourself, Jason Oakley, offered to sell one of his VZ300’s and I grabbed it quicker than I could blink.
Somewhere along the lines I scored another working VZ300, but have no memory of where it came from.
2018 Grabbed a FPGA with VZEM emulator, thanks to Leslie #2.
Coolest hardware project by far is the VZ bulldozer robot; worked first go after finding the correct ports with the use of the OUT command.
Q. Do you still have a VZ and peripherals?
Yes, still have two working VZ300’s with all peripherals still working as far as I’m aware, apart from the three dead cassette players.
Speech Syth, Music Synth, Floppy drives (should) still all be in working order.
Q. What was your first game? What was your favourite game(s)?
My Father came home with Ghost Hunter, Circus, and, DSE at the time must have been selling a intro four-pack of : Matchbox, Poker, Blackjack and Hangman.
Fairly certian that Hoppy was next, and spent ages (years?) playing it.
Favourite all time commerical game : toss up between the four big titles : Circus, Hoppy, Ghost Hunter and Dawn Patrol. Oh and to some extent, Ladder Challenge.
Hard to rate them; ok, I’ll be boring and say Ghost Hunter. I had too higher expectations for Ladder Challenge; expecting it to be faster/better than what it really is.
Lode Runner was ‘the’ game to play at that period within my social scene.
Q. Did you visit any computer groups or subscribe to any newsletters?
Unfortunately it was years before I discovered that there were VZ groups out there, and had been out there for years.
I did not ever attend a single grouping, however, subscribed to Hunter Valley VZ Journal, Le VZ Oop, VZ DOwn Under and Jason Oakleys VZ Disk Mag — and purchased all back copies of mags that I had missed.
I have beaut memories when I think of those times that a brand new HVVZUG journal arrived in the mail.
Q. Why did you come back to the VZ on the forum and Facebook page?
Way back in ’98 it was initially it was to try to help in anyway that I could to get an emulator up and running, and to preserve the VZ software.
Received an out-of-the-blue email from George Lui in October 1998 to help out. I still have that email :
“Hi there !
Do you still have the VZ 200 ?
The authour of Xtender (Paul Robson) wants to write an emulator for it.
Can you help by providing the BASIC ROM image ?”
So, that was that. I started to handtype the entire 16k ROM by hex by hand into DEBUG. Took me six weeks.
And of course, it goes without saying to also keep in contact with other crazed persons that love this little computer.
Q. I remember you having participated in my VZ DiskMag, having contributed some programs. Can you tell us about them or other contributions you made to VZ Newsletters?
My memmory is shot, however, I recall making/drawing “A walk in the Park” where a fellow is walking along , stops by a park bench, and a flying UFO comes along. I’m sure I ran out of ideas at the time.
Was done in perhaps ten or 12 mode(1) screens – it is on side 2 of one of the diskmags, and I was stoked seeing it there, coming to the realisation that others would see it. I think that that was the only thing I ever contributed to any newsletters. I stole a few BASIC listings from wherever, sent them into ETI magazine over a period of a few yeas, and made about $50 all up.
Ben Hobson submitted our Robot project with listings and circuitry to VZ Down Under to be published, however, am not too sure if it ever was.
Q. What VZ hardware and/or software stuff have you been involved in lately?
Very little in the way of hardware of late. I have played with the new FPGA a little, though am waiting for the floppy/SD card ROM to be finished and finalised for it to work, which should be brilliant.
The picture quality coming out of this thing is equivalent to may as well just call it High Definition.
Software wise: I have a hundred little software projects all going on. My VZ directory is well over 4 gig; I have snippets of C and ASM code here , there and everywhere. Its a maze of directories that needs some serious cleanig up.
I have unfinished projects still on the go from 20 years ago, and some that I did last week that didn’t quite work and … “Oh, look, shiney thing!”
In February or March 2019, I finally got my first 1-bit music assembly listing from the ZX Spectrum to work — and that has kicked started a whole new spawn of love of 1-bit music from the VZ. I’m now up to around 22 engines that I’ve attempted to convert over. Quite a few are failures and need more work; again, “shiney thnig”. And I move on to the next.
Some are working brilliantly and sound awesome. I have also had four or six attempts at some of these more sophisticated listings with little to no result.=, as a result of the listing being in perfect timing with the ZX Spectrum, and is nowhere near designed for the VZ’s sound latch on bits 0 and 5 at $6800.
However, it has taught me a great deal of Z80 assembly, and I find it hard to find enough time to give it the attention it deserves. I find myself at work scrolling through listings, changing an opcode here, assembling and seeing what the outcome is.
I also have always had the love of old PC demo’s. Take me back to Future Crews ‘Panic’ and ‘Unreal 2’, Trion’s ‘Crystal Dreams’ and ‘Crystal Dreams 2’ and Renaissance’s ‘Amnesia’, all released in the 1991-1993 era.
Thusly my 20 year software project is to produce a brilliant MODE(1) demo with 1-bit music in the background. Unfortunately when I saw Five Finger Punch’s 2018AD demo it killed my enthusiasm somewhat, because deep down, I’ll never produce anything anywhere near this quality. 2018AD just blew me away.
However, snippets of code are still lurking, and I have a tinker every now and then when I make the time and am in the right mood.
Q. What future VZ stuff are you interested in going on with?
As above, asm programming music and graphic demos. Its a love hate thing. Hate being ‘Line 1344 : illegal error’
Continuuing on learning to optimise Z80 code. Port the TiCalc’s Wolfenstein 3D code.
Both Kings Quest and Space Quest for the VZ!
And finally I’ll also add the delight in finding a new bit of software, be it either just newly written, or it existed 25 years ago.
Q. What would be your ultimate VZ game in the future, taking into account limitations in graphics, sound and processing the VZ can handle?
A really nice port of DOOM would do me fine just to be able to answer the fabled question : “yes yes, but will it run DOOM?”
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
- Was Morgoth ever released for the VZ by Cosmic Software?
- Was issue 44 the last Hunter Valley VZ User Group Journal?
- I’d love to see Five Finger Punch release another demo. And for them to release the source of 2018AD.
- Shout out to the VZ lads whom have disappeared over time: Juergen, Dirk, Gernot Tillmans, Pingo, EmuCompBoy.
Thankyou, and goodnight.