Once Upon a Pivotal Christmas
The Amiga A1200 I took delivery of on Christmas
day 1993 was a complete surprise. I wanted a computer and I had
badgered my parents that little bit extra that year. A Christmas
Amiga though is something I hadn’t thought possible so I
hadn’t even really mentioned one. Instead, I can remember
pawing through the Argos catalogue trying to decide between a
NES and a Master System. I thought asking for a £299.99
MegaDrive or SNES was a bit cheeky, and so had convinced myself
that I would be getting my very own 8-bit system for Christmas.
It wouldn't be state of the art but that didn't matter. It would
be a computer and it would be mine.
Christmas Eve turned painfully, slowly, and
sleeplessly into Christmas day. I woke up early, and as was traditional
for Christmas mornings back then, met my sister on the landing
before pestering Mum and Dad to come downstairs with us. Shivering
with excitement we opened the lounge door. My sister had a rocking
horse that was immediately obvious despite Mum’s best efforts
to wrap it up properly. This bode well for me ‘we must have
been a bit flush that year’ I thought to myself. Near the
horse, sitting on a new computer desk was my wrapped-up present.
Not the kind of desk you use to store a NES. The paper was soon
off and there before me was a brand spanking new 32-bit Commodore
Amiga A1200... to say it blew Graham's BBC out of the water was
a bit of an understatement and I was absolutely over the moon.
Actual event itself (recreated using
TMUK is played here by Ronnie Corbett)
Fast forward an hour. The sun has risen to reveal
a beautiful frosty Christmas day. My sister is still on her new
rocking horse, Mum is putting the turkey in the oven and Dad is
swearing at an RF cable, surrounded by various unhelpful Commodore
manuals. I seem to remember it taking forever to set up, but once
it finally was I had a few blissful hours alone with my new machine
before my cousins turned up. The bundled games; ‘Oscar’
and one called ‘Dennis’ were both platform games (Dennis
was a shockingly bad one, whilst Oscar was much better). They
blazed with a smooth, multi-coloured sheen so far from what I
was used to. Deluxe Paint IV AGA and Wordsworth still sat there
unopened of course; unexplored treasures waiting to be experienced
Launch-packs used to be more fun
Around midday, the extended family turned up.
My grandparents dragged themselves out of bed and shuffled downstairs
and my Auntie and Uncle traipsed up the garden path with two shrieking
younger cousins in tow. The forced pleasantries began in earnest.
After a sharp look from Mum I regretfully switched off the Amiga’s
power and joined in.
That Christmas Day passed much like the 11 I
had seen before and the nine I have seen since. Inevitably, Grandpa
Clowes would have had one too many sweet Sherries and would have
turned an alarming shade of red. We would probably have sat around
and watched old Liz on the TV, and I'm pretty certain that I would
have received a pen set from some unknown Aunt. But what set Christmas
Day 1993 apart from the rest was that sleek beige computer, sitting
proudly atop its black-ash desk, patiently waiting for its new
owner to return and love it some more.
Almost 10 years on and my parents still have
great difficulty understanding my love affair with that machine.
Only last night I carefully lowered it—or its replacement
I should say: another story—down from the cupboard and tenderly
set it up once again. It's disk drive sleepily whirred and creaked
to life, it flickered it's little light on and off a few times
and then presented me with that familiar purple Kickstart screen,
just as it had done all those years before. Perhaps that's why
a young person’s first machine means so much; years can
fly by in a cheek flapping supersonic blur, times may change but
the ROM stays true and faithful.
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