You'll all have seen this EUG's "opener" (a tradition in itself) by now featuring a snoozing baby Tweety Pie and Bugs Bunny. Its cute feel leads nicely into my own personal account of contributing to, and eventually running, the Electron User Group. In fact, there is all manner of symbolism attached to this latest peaceful image. Not least, after three years of giving EUG my all, I will finally be able to get some rest.
The Acorn Electron was my second computer, bought for me at about age seven, when my Vic-20 blew up. The dearth of games for it in the local shops led me to sell it when I was eleven and it was replaced with a 48K Spectrum, and quickly in turn with an Amiga. My efforts at using AMOS on the latter came to nothing and by 1992, my only interactivity with it was playing games like Monkey Island and Weird Dreams. At this time, Micro's Computer Mart magazines were being passed around the classroom containing quite a lot of adverts for cheap BBC/Electron equipment. The BASIC language on the Elk had never caused me any problems in my formative years so I decided to write a game (that would eventually become Sunday) on one. I paid £20.00 for a working second-hand unexpanded Electron with five big box Acornsoft games.
By this time, EUG was quite into its stride and was being given the odd passing nod in the advertisements and contacts' columns of The Micro User. The first issue I received was EUG #7 so it was not long before it lost my attention when it transferred to disc at #9, a format I didn't have access to.
This changed about a year later when a friend recommended I upgrade from the Electron (By now it was fitted with at least a Plus 1) to a BBC Master. "Imagine your game on disc! It would just pop up after a second instead of you having to wait a good fifteen minutes for each part to load in!" he enthused. (Of course what he didn't tell me was that the programming style I'd used on the Electron made my game incompatible with the BBC Master. I was left to discover that when it wouldn't work!)
With a BBC Master and disc-drive installed, I was able to collect up those back issues of EUG from #9 onwards that I'd missed. Surprisingly, only five of them had actually been published since and the most recent had Will bemoaning his job and saying that, without either a different editor or more contributions, the situation was going to get even worse, not better. Not until I'd read this did any contribution from me appear in the magazine. And what was that contribution? Why, it was a baby Bugs Bunny character. A screen done in glorious monochrome in EUG #15! I am going out the same way that I came in. Albeit in a different Mode.
At EUG #14, of course, came "the first handover". EUG's editor changed from Will to Gus. There were many changes (explored in a companion article The Very Last Straw in this issue) and, as the magazine continued, its contents became ever-more varied. I went off to Sweden and Norwich for a good few years before coming back home. SUNDAY had long since been finished, the EUG subscription had long since expired, even construction on my skyscraper of BBC and Electron software had been temporarily halted. But by EUG #30 I was back in touch and remained that way, contributing a few games, screens and articles, until EUG desperately needed a new Editor at EUG #44.
By this time it was over five years since I'd read EUG #7 and my computer room which once housed only an Amiga, was now fit to bursting with all manner of retro equipment. The Electron had been fitted with an Advanced Plus 3/4 and disc drive and several hundred Elk titles had been picked up second-hand from all over the country. BBC software had been sold on. The Elk had become my primary concern. Taking over EUG seemed a very logical next step.
"The second handover" happened quickly and presented me en masse with more unsorted raw data that I could shake a stick at. Discs from defunct PD libraries, of personal household correspondence, from EUG readers, from professional software companies and from magazines have littered the floor since. The first task was production of the latest EUG issue. But on the side, a mammoth sorting and filing operation was taking place. This latter project eventually became a restoration of all original EUG discs, including transcribing the early paper-based ones. All discs, hardware or tapes in duplicate had to be sold.
It is indeed incredible how much time compiling an issue of EUG does take. I don't propose to go into how lack of submissions have caused its failure yet again here because it is obvious that the less people send, the more work I have to do personally for each issue. It being obvious, I didn't point it out to EUG readers the way previous Editors had and perhaps this was a mistake. Encouraged by the take-up rate from those who discovered details of EUG on the internet or from retro contacts, I worked flat out on improving all aspects of EUG.
But really it was money, not submissions, that were flooding in. And I was to learn that, as the bubble burst, more diversity had been wanted by these new readers. I'd concentrated just on presenting what EUG was in the most positive light, sprucing it up with graphics, slideshows and loading screens, but basically keeping the format identical to that of Will Watts' day. This wasn't enough. The die-hard BBC/Electron fans hung in but general retro players, expecting new machine-code games from EUG on the original format, did not.
Still, nobody can accuse me of not trying and I remain proud to have been the head of EUG throughout its restoration. And I remain committed to filing, sorting and making available as many other BBC/Electron discs as possible via the internet. Now the time preparing each new EUG is free, it means I will be able to set up a site to accompany Stairway To Hell and 8 Bit Software, showcasing those professional educational titles not carried by either.
The whole EUG library will be made available on the internet, both where established at 8BS and through the new site which will take over www.acornelectron.co.uk. Here, any visitors will be encouraged to give their views or even make contributions. I hope that some of you reading this will visit. If there is enough input, new EUG discs will be able to be compiled from the process. EUG may not be dead yet. Like Tweety and Bugs, it may just be taking a well-deserved hibernation.