The Order of the Bed website has been updated with a new page – How To Post a Letter. One of the Order’s top brass has been working in a sorting office lately and the resultant feedback and interesting tales have been used as the basis for this article. Naturally we refuse to take responsibility if you follow all the guidance and your letter goes missing anyway.
It aims to provide a bit of interactivity of the most basic sort in order to keep you interested.
Yesterday started off as a brilliant day. I had a conditional job offer upgraded to a firm one and am now employed by the railways. This is going to mean moving, so expect a shift in the locations of Seasonal Area pictures. (February’s Penryn picture and September’s Forest of Dean picture should survive this shift.)
Something in the back of my mind said that this was too good to last long. (When I’m in a good mood a creeping bit of subconscious looks at a full glass and says it’ll be empty soon. When I’m feeling a bit down another bit of subconscious points out that the empty glass only needs taking back to the bottle of squash and it’ll soon be full again.) However, bustling round writing emails and webpages soon suppressed this.
After a walk I woke up my Atari 520ST and did some typing. I’m rewriting a story of a dystopian world set in the Chepstow area from a series of scripts into something prose-based. Since I have work to do, radio programmes to listen to plus more scripts in this theme and another book to write, this has been progressing sedately and generally as an excuse to work on the 26-year-old Atari, of which I am very fond.
After a couple of hours I hit Ctrl+V and left the Atari whirring happily to itself as it saved the file to disk while I went to tea (or dinner or supper or whatever your neck of the woods calls it). Upon coming back I found the bottom half of the screen had turned into a series of barcode-like strips.
“Damn,” I thought, assuming that the Atari had developed a new means of crashing. They’re always interesting, since it doesn’t crash often so the sight of them is something to be surprised by. But having some writing to do and being keen to find out if it had finished saving before it toppled, I pressed the little button on the back to reboot it. The screen went black – or, it being an Atari, 70% grey.
And there it stayed, through several attempts to turn it off on the back and at the wall. All the lights came on when booting up, but the drives didn’t spin in the familiar manner. The monitor remained blank. Twenty-four hours on, the computer remained silent.
The 520ST is possibly the most loyal and obliging computer I’ll ever know. It’s been in the family 26 years. I’ve run it as my own since I was 5. GCSE coursework, several of my favourite scripts and two Infocom games have been completed on that computer. It runs an array of obsolete and, in a couple of instances, unique programmes. I learnt most of my core computer skills on that machine, which to be honest says more about my skills and expectations with computers than the Atari.
It’s been going downhill for a while – the mouse has been struggling for some years – and I haven’t spent much of my computing time on it lately. But there’s something about that silly curved monitor, minimal memory and whirring disk drives that ’80s computing enthusiasts will probably understand and everyone else will think I’m being weird and sentimental over…
Anyway, I’m househunting at the moment, so I will leave you with an excerpt from a skit that I wrote on the Atari some 6½ years ago (very mildly modified so the excerpt makes a trifle more sense). It remains, at the risk of sounding immodest, one of my favourite moments in my own work.
Cut to see the estate agent and the buyer walking through a deserted and dusty room.
Agent: This is the dining room. Round the corner is the kitchen.
Buyer: I see.
Two doors lead from the living room into the dining room – the agent has already opened one, and the buyer opens the second one.
Agent: Oh, I wouldn’t do that sir. You see, the house can be unstable in cases of earthquakes or heavy lorries driving past, so we leave that door shut.
He tries to force it back in – it won’t fit. He wrestles with the door for some time. The frame has been bending during this bit of the sequence and deforming away from the walls; at this point it snaps with a distressingly obvious curve in it.
Agent: And if you’d just come upstairs sir.
We cut to show them entering a bedroom with a sagging rear wall.
Agent: This is the main bedroom, and across the corridor is the bathroom
The rear wall suddenly flies downwards in a cloud of dust and crashings. The door snaps in half and falls into the room, just missing the buyer. They both turn around to look at the wreckage. The bath in bathroom is now visible. The dust gently settles. The agent looks up at the ceiling, alarmed, as the crashing continues and then dies away. He hurries the man out.
Agent: The bathroom you’ve seen…
And at this moment someone will note that the Atari spends the above being referred to in the present tense and the problems are in the past. Shortly after writing this post it was passed over to the family IT expert (unusually Dad, not me; I view most computers as a tool and anyway he has more experience than me) and returned 40 minutes later with an invoice for £200. The solder in the “On” switch on the back had got a bit mucky, inhibiting current flow.
Tomorrow will be spent with some more househunting (anyone in Swindon want to share a house?) but some time on Invader.Prg may not go amiss…
(Ok, no obituary. Well, it was when I started and I hate changing titles. Don’t worry, the Atari’s next big script is due to be the tale of someone who begins a story saying that they’re looking back on how they ended up dead and, in a dramatic and unexpected plot twist, finishes up dead. This outcome is somewhat unusual at the moment.)
Finally, after mentioning the Bourne lithographs yesterday, Steve Bell of the Guardian had a cartoon yesterday in his usual slightly bad taste but with beautiful historic references…
(The location is one of the giant ventilation shafts in Kilsby Tunnel.)