Fear and Loathing

John Minson

Free Lunch and Loneliness at the CES

There are many ways of obtaining bargain air travel but none so cheap as getting deported. Quite what I was doing in that state of undress at that time of the morning in central Stockholm is a story in itself, but as it has nothing at all to do with computers it will have to wait. This has been a packed month.

I was personally escorted from the plane at Heathrow under orders never to return — which I will — just in time to thumb a lift from a passing executive coach. A strange recognition of faces dawned through the alcohol induced haze. Good God — the computer press!

Quite by chance I had become a guest of Ariolasoft, launching their Golf Construction Set at Wentworth. This is of absolutely no relevance to anything as it will never appear on the Spectrum — though the remark of one Chris (Think!) Palmer, that it may encourage you all to buy a decent machine is more interesting! Keep sending the money, Palmer, if you want to escape the wrath of Spectral Mafia or I may tell them where you live!

I did do some sweet talking though and... yes, here at last is that photo of the lovely Mandy Barry indulging in a little, innocent bondage with two cowboys — a sight previously only thought fit for the sick minds of C64 owners! Is that the sort of micro you want to own?

This month’s mega-lunch award goes to Hewsons though. Their Waldorf bash was so prestigious even Graeme emerged from his Ludlow den and with him the delightful Hannah on her first official outing. The occasion was, of course, the launch of Quazatron. Steve Turner is back on top form and never one to stop for rest (Andrew Hewson won’t let him!) he’s already writing the next test of strategy and reflexes.

Accompanying this was probably the best meal I’ll eat all year — though other software houses are urged to try to better it! A three course sit down job with good company too. Inevitably the main topic of conversation was Amstrad’s buy out of Sinclair. Nobody was able to tell me if Alan Sugar’s purchase of all Sir Clive’s trademarks includes that unmistakable shiny dome? Will the balding boffin now have to pay royalties on his pate or wear a toupe? I think we should be told!

The Dark Side of Computing: Gorgeous Pouting Software Bondage Bird Amanda Barry. Previously only thought suitable for the eyes of depraved Commodore owners, this salubrious snap can now be made available to Spectrum ‘gamesters’...


I think we should also be told why the CES show was so feeble. The Spring preview of all that is electronic in home entertainment was meant to be a major bash. Instead no Amstrad — or any other hardware company — no Activision, Ariolasoft, Ocean, U.S. Gold. And where were the visitors? There was even talk of last minute advertising to open the hitherto exclusively trade show to the general oiks. It was so empty I had half an hour on a sun bed before anybody noticed!

One visitor who had obviously hoped to sneak in unannounced, late on the last day, was Sir Clive Sinclair (TM Amstrad Consumer Electronics plc) himself. How strange to suddenly find myself next to him in an Olympia bar — a location matching its lack of comfort with extortionate prices! Fumbling for the correct form of address for a Knight of the Chip I missed the chance to ask him a real question. Why was he there? Was it to suss out the competition in the cordless telephone or satellite receiver dish fields — both of which he is interested in? My guess is not. There were plenty of car radio aerials on display, so probably he was looking for the best to flog from the boot of a C5 — considered by many to be a sound marketing tactic!


I wandered damn near lonely as a cloud. Some bright things to report such as Mastertronic celebrating their second birthday in style with their chateau bottled brew — though sources inform me that gorgeous Alison Beasley was up all night converting Carlsberg cans with sticky labels! Mikro-Gen were previewing Equinox, a new arcade adventure with superb graphics, and dropping hints about Ricky ‘Stainless’ Steel — a hero who is definitely not in the Wally mode.

Mirrorsoft had the biggest stand for Biggles and poor Pat Bitton and the gang were risking insanity from constant exposure to the film’s irritating theme. Meanwhile Cheetah are following up the spectacular SpecDrum with a bargain basement sound sampler which digitally records noises for musical play back. Inevitably some wag had programmed in a flatulent effect and was busy farting around up and down the scale. Thank God they’ve not developed a smell synthesiser.

Round the corner Dave ‘Cuddly’ Carlos was busy peddling porn — or should that be The Pawn. No, it’s definitely the former — an adventurer’s wet dream! It’s also the second piece of software to get mentioned here that will never appear on the humble Spectrum. Also on the Rainbird stand was Paula Byrne, still hung over from her farewell party at Melbourne House, two days before!


Further round the bend and Beyond with a decidedly dodgy video. No — not that sort but a poor quality preview of games to come. Through the snow I managed to decipher a new Mike Singleton mega-offering. As I did so the previously amiable Eligible Baxter pounced.

‘You’ve got a printer belonging to one of my clients,’ he said in claim-you-can’t-deny tones so I didn’t deny it. Indeed I do have an Ibico LTR-1 Letter Quality printer, as distributed by Saga Systems.

And indeed I have been intending to review it but... So we did a deal. Here, first, is the Hunter S Minson review for this month.

The LTR-1 is a good quality printer, capable of handling A4 paper and producing pretty nifty results for the price via its testing, I can tell you. My only complaint is that it sounds like Sir Thomas Beecham’s description of a harpsichord!

Which brings us to Mike’s part of the deal. Obviously Saga can’t sell the thing — stained as it is with spilt Bloody Mary — so they’re going to offer this fine, albeit secondhand, device as a competition prize. Just write in, to the usual address, (Third Bloody Mary on the Left, CRASH TOWERS) reminding us just what Beecham’s description was (and it wasn’t ‘like an LTR-1’!)

First out of the cocktail shaker on 26th June gets the chance to print out junk like this.

And while I’m creating work for the post room, I’ve a request for help. There was a rumour round CES that (name removed at insistence of publisher’s lawyers) is in fact a werewolf! Anybody offering proof of this leading industry figure’s lycanthropy will be richly rewarded!

Right — that’s enough of this drivel for now. It’s that cocktail time of the morning again and I’ve already overfilled my space. Next time, I’ll be bringing you a Hewson attempt to get in The Good Lig Guide two months running. And if Graeme would like me to fly to Chicago to cover the American CES — which has all the razmataz this one lacked — I wouldn’t be in the least surprised. What would surprise me is, if he’d pay for a return ticket!

Yours in food and ligging
Hunter S Minson