Stairways to Starways

For over ten years now, one of my favourite web-sites has been “The Stairway To Hell“.  This web-site has been an invaluable resource to anyone who ever had a BBC Microcomputer or Acorn Electron in their youth. As well as being a fascinating site in its own right, it was also bolstered by a lively and interesting forum.

At the end of March this year Dave Moore, the web-master, decided it was time for a change. His initial plan was to replace the site with a new one – BBCMicro.com – that would be less focused on gaming.

He asked if I could provide an image to close the site down, and thought something similar to the kind of screen you got when you completed one of the Repton games might be nice.

I completed Repton 2 in the GNU/Linux port of the BBC Microcomputer emulator B-Em, screen grabbed the final screen:

Once was enough Tim!

I loaded the BBC Micro version Repton 1 into the screen memory in B-Em so I could cut and paste from the Repton1/2 font:

Repton 1 loaded into the screen memory

Now I used the letters from the Repton 1 screen to edit the Repton 2 screen in The GIMP to say what Dave wanted:

Pristine Screen

However, this didn’t really look “retro” enough. The look I was going for was BBC B on badly tuned domestic telly with some interference.

So I ran this image through my own simulated PAL filter which I wrote in Python for The GIMP. Then I used some VHS noise that I extracted from a old recording of ATV Today using Grain Extract and then added it to the image using Grain Merge. I also added a Lens Distortion in The GIMP and desaturated the colours slightly.

Click to enlarge

I was delighted to find out that some people thought the image was actually a real screenshot.

A few months after this picture went up, Dave shelved his plans for BBCMicro.com. His work with the CGEU with organising shows such as R3PLAY and Acorn World meant that he no longer had the time to devote to creating a new site.

However, this wasn’t the end, as Peter Edwards stepped in to carry on the good work with a new site called stardot.org.uk. He asked me to amend my image accordingly:

Click to enlarge

Sadly I didn’t do such a good job on this image as I was in a hurry – it’s a bit dark. But the most important thing is that the on-line Acorn community is thriving and stardot.org.uk looks destined for great things.

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