My first experience of video games was in 1978 at around age 7, when I first played Pong on my older cousin’s Atari 2600 console. He was staying with us for a short time, and on the few occasions I got to play the game, simple though it was, I thoroughly enjoyed it. After a while, he moved out, and it was a while before I got my next taste of these wonderful devices.
You can browse all the systems I’ve ever owned, up to and including my current systems, below. Click on the system names to expand.
My own personal first console was the Acetronic MPU-1000 (a version of the 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System), which my parents bought for me in 1979.
Best of all, unlike my cousin’s Atari, all of the Acetronic games were in glorious colour! The graphics were blocky, the sound was very average, but it was cutting edge stuff at the time, and to an eight-year-old boy, it was extremely impressive stuff.
Among other games, I had Air Sea Attack, and Invaders – a very faithful version of the classic Space Invaders.
In 1982, my parents decided to buy me a computer. After looking through several models at a local store, I decided – for some reason – that I really wanted an Oric 1. The only problem was, I saw it in a brochure, and it wasn’t yet available.
Eventually, my parents bought me a Commodore VIC-20, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. The VIC-20 was an awesome little machine, and apart from some excellent games like Jetpac, it’s also where I got my first taste of programming. My parents also bought me a book of BASIC programs to be typed in; the problem was that the book was geared towards the basic used on the Spectrum, which was quite different from Commodore BASIC V2.
Undeterred, I ploughed through the simple manual that came with the VIC, intent on getting the games working… and in most cases, I did! Not bad for an 11-year-old! With that, I was bitten by the programming bug (no pun intended), and the VIC-20 took me away from pure consoles, and into the world of computers. I would not look at consoles again for many years.
My next system, around 1984, was the unquestionably awesome Commodore 64. I lost countless hours of my teenage years to this system, playing some truly amazing games. Crazy Comets, Beach Head II, Raid Over Moscow, Impossible Mission, Hawkeye, Sanxion, the Summer/Winter Games series from Epyx, Thing On A Spring, Uridium… the list just goes on and on, and the memories always make me smile.
It is no surprise to me that the Commodore 64 remains the biggest selling personal computer of all time. But it wasn’t all about the games… the programming continued, too, and early in 1989, I had a program published in the March edition of Your Commodore magazine. The unimaginatively-titled ‘Letter Writer’ was a simple BASIC program for – you guessed it – composing and printing letters. You can read more about that here.
For my 18th Birthday in 1989, my parents bought me a Commodore Amiga 500. Not only was it revolutionary at the time, with full colour graphics, stereo sound and a true multi-tasking operating system, but – in my personal opinion – the operating system is still better than most around today.
I’ll admit, I cried when I unwrapped it. I’d wanted an Amiga so badly since seeing the Amiga 1000 at the World of Commodore show, Novotel, Hammersmith in 1985. The years of waiting, coupled with the amount of alcohol I’d consumed at the party, meant that I was a little over-emotional when I finally got my hands on the A500. The Commodore 64 had taken a big chunk of my teenage years, and the Amiga would continue that trend into my twenties. I loved the Amiga so much that I even went as far as having the logo tattooed onto my upper right arm!
To this day, I consider the Amiga range to be among the greatest computers ever made, and it’s such a shame that Commodore failed to keep on top of things. The Amiga was years ahead of its time in every single aspect, and the computers had something genuinely personal about them which today’s bland, sterile PCs and Macs can never hope to replicate.
Some time in early 1991, I bought myself a Nintendo Gameboy, along with a number of games. It was bought mainly as a response to my inner gadget-freak; it was new, small and hi-tech (for the time), so of course I just had to have one.
I soon regretted it, though… the games were poor and uninspiring, the screen was too small, the sound was irritating, and… well basically, it was only fit to play Tetris, and I soon tired of that. The Gameboy was soon put away, and only ever retrieved in moments of intense boredom.
Now this was a bit more like it! In late 1991, I bought a SEGA Game Gear from a local computer shop. This was, for me, what portable gaming should be like… colour, back-lit screen, and 3D games like Afterburner. Okay, it chewed through batteries in no time, but it was streets ahead of the Gameboy.
I had a number of games for the Game Gear, and also bought the huge rechargeable battery pack, Wide Gear magnifier and the TV tuner module. Even after I’d stopped using the Game Gear for games, I continued using it as a portable TV. I recall taking it in to work with me during the 1996 European Championships to watch some of the matches.
The first computer I ever bought for myself was the Commodore Amiga 500 Plus in 1992 – the Cartoon Classics bundle. I kept the A500 my parents had bought me in 1989, and over the following months, purchased two Philips CM8833 Mk II monitors for the Amigas, and a GVP HD8+ hard drive for the A500 Plus with 80MB hard drive and 8MB of FastRAM.
I had both of the A500s set up and running alongside each other, and at one point even had some basic networking going on between them, allowing me to transfer files between the two. There wasn’t much point in having the two running at the same time, but I was so in love with everything Amiga that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the older machine.
Also in 1992, I purchased a Commodore Amiga CDTV. Though expensive and ultimately unsuccessful, this was a wonderful system, and the first ever system to be supplied with a CD-ROM drive as standard – once again, Commodore were well ahead of their time. The CD-ROM based software was also amazing for the time. The amount of video and interactivity was unlike anything possible on standard floppy-disk based software, and the audio quality for standard CD playback was outstanding.
The build quality of the CDTV was excellent – as good as any high-end VCR or CD player you could get at the time – and it was a joy to use. I also bought most of the extra peripherals for the CDTV, including keyboard, wireless mouse, trackball… even a black external 3.5-inch floppy drive.
By this time, though, Commodore’s decline had begun, and support for the system was limited. It’s a shame that it never got more of a chance.
Yes, yet another Commodore system! The Commodore Amiga CD32marked my return to dedicated home gaming consoles for the first time since the Acetronic MPU-1000 in 1979. I had not bothered with the various popular home consoles from Nintendo and SEGA as the vast majority of their games had never really interested me; to this day, I still don’t see any appeal in the likes of Mario or Sonic.
I was far more interested in the huge selection and variety of games available on the home computers. But the CD32 promised to bring those two worlds together – a dedicated gaming console, with the types of games that I actually wanted to play. So I purchased one, along with the MPEG/FMV video unit to play Video-CDs.
Sadly though, Commodore went bankrupt, and not for the first time, one of their amazing creations was left pretty much unsupported by software companies. My favourite hardware manufacturer was no more, and I’d have to make do with what I had for the next couple of years.
With my Amiga computers starting to show their age, the CD32 unsupported, and Commodore gone, I was looking to once again upgrade my gaming equipment, and the Sony PlayStation was about to become my new favourite system – though I didn’t know it yet.
I was desperate to find something new to play on, and had been impressed by the TV adverts for the SEGA Saturn showing off Panzer Dragoon, so in October 1995 I went to a local GAME store with the intention of buying one. However, when I got to the store, they had a PlayStation on display just inside the door, running Wipeout. I was speechless! Blisteringly fast 3D graphics, and that awesome soundtrack thumping away. Of course, it also helped that one of my favourite Amiga developers, Psygnosis, had produced this astounding game. I just had to have one, so I bought my PlayStation and a copy of Wipeout, and with that, the hole left in my gaming life by the loss of Commodore and the Amiga was filled by Sony and the PlayStation.
The amount of fun I had with my original PlayStation inevitably meant that I’d be getting a Sony PlayStation 2, so I pre-ordered as soon as I could after hearing about it. Come the European launch on November 24, I had the day off work and was in the queue outside my local GAME store at 7:30am ready to pick up my new system, along with TimeSplitters, Ridge Racer V and Moto GP, and spent the entire weekend playing them.
For me, the PlayStation 2 was the C64 of its generation – the best system with the largest selection of games, and the sales to match – over 136 million as of December 2008.
I hadn’t been planning to buy a Microsoft Xbox, but after spending a lunchtime at work watching internet videos of Halo, I decided I probably should. So on the evening of launch day, March 14, I headed up to the local Tesco to see if I could get hold of one. To my surprise, there were still several on the shelves, so I bought one, along with Halo, Project Gotham Racing and Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really take to the Xbox. I found the original controllers to be very heavy and uncomfortable to use, even though I have large hands. I later bought a ‘Controller-S’ (the smaller controller), but other issues and problems still prevented me from really liking the system.
About a month after launch, Microsoft dropped the price by £100 because it wasn’t selling, which despite the ‘freebies’ they offered, didn’t impress me. I also had a number of problems with the system. First, the hard drive failed; then the DVD-ROM drive started scratching my game discs; finally, around three years after the launch, I discovered that I had one of the systems that was a fire risk. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and not long after receiving my new power lead, I sold the Xbox.
Like the Microsoft Xbox, I had never originally planned on getting a Nintendo Gamecube either. But after trying one out at a friend’s house, playing Star Wars Rogue Squadron and Super Monkey Ball, I once again changed my mind. This was largely due to the fact that Nintendo had secured exclusive rights to two games from my favourite franchise, Resident Evil Zero and a remake of the original Resident Evil.
So some time after its launch (around June, I believe), I bought myself a Gamecube, with Rogue Squadron and Super Monkey Ball. The Resident Evil games followed, along with the excellent Eternal Darkness and a few others.
In October, I decided to buy a slimline Sony PlayStation 2, even though my original launch PS2 was still working perfectly. Why? No reason, other than I wanted to! I sold my original PS2 and a few games I’d finished with via an online auction site, which practically covered the entire cost of the new model. The new slim PS2 would continue to be my most played system for the next few years.
September saw me take delivery of my first portable console since the Game Gear – the Sony PlayStation Portable. I got my pre-order in with GAME well ahead of time, and my PSP was delivered on launch day, September 1, along with the games Ridge Racer, Lumines and Mercury.
I absolutely love the PSP; there are stunning games available, the screen is the perfect size, and it’s almost like having a pocket-sized PS2. And of course, it will play your favourite movies and music.
Another pre-order with GAME saw me take delivery of my Sony PlayStation 3 on launch day, March 23, along with Resistance: Fall of Man, Motorstorm and Call of Duty 3.
The arrival of the PlayStation 3 also saw me take my first serious steps into online gaming, and along with a friend I met on a forum many years earlier, the Yuuzhan Vong Clan was formed. Initially comprised of only 4 members, the Clan was formed for the sole purpose of playing Resistance. Though we’ve played many games since, the Clan is still small, and is made up purely of friends and family; we don’t ‘recruit’ new players like most Clans, and play primarily for fun.
In April, some six months after it officially went on sale in the UK, I decided to upgrade my PSP-1000 to the newer PSP-3000 model, in Mystic Silver.
As with my earlier PS2 upgrade, there’s nothing wrong with my old PSP, I just wanted an upgrade for the better screen and TV output.
September 2009 saw the release of the PS3 Slim, which I decided to purchase on day one. My older ‘fat’ PS3 never gave me any problems, but since the new system ran cooler and quieter, I couldn’t resist. The original model still functions perfectly well, but is in storage for now.
After my disappointment with the original Xbox, I decided to skip the Microsoft Xbox 360 when it first arrived, and waited for the PS3. Given the widespread problems with the first several models of the machine, it was a decision I never regretted.
However, after the release of the ‘slim’ version of the console, I started to keep an eye on the system, and finally purchased one in December 2011, along with Forza Motorsport 4 and FIFA 12.
My Sony PlayStation Vita was delivered on launch day, 22nd February 2012, with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Everybody’s Golf and a 32GB memory card. I also bought Super Stardust Delta, Escape Plan and MotorStorm RC.
The Vita is a fantastic system. The twin analogue sticks make all the difference for control, the SIXAXIS motion control works really well (sniping in Uncharted: Golden Abyss just feels so right), and the touchscreen and rear touchpad combined open up a whole new range of input options for entirely new gaming experiences. The AR (Alternate Reality) titles also work really well, with the free/cheap games great for filling in time when you don’t have hours to spend on the full-blown games. Highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t have one yet.
I pre-ordered my Sony PlayStation 4 from ShopTo.net in February just after the reveal. It was delivered on launch day, 29th November 2013, with Killzone Shadow Fall and Battlefield 4. I also picked up Resogun and Contrast from the PlayStation Store.
Sony have delivered a top quality gaming system second to none. The user interface, ease of use, and wealth of features are amazing for the price, and it will only get better as future firmware updates add features.
Apart from the systems listed, there have also been other platforms I’ve used for gaming over the years.
My first 3 PCs were all from the MAXX PC range built and sold by games retailer Special Reserve, who sadly went bust at the end of 2005. The first, in 1996, was a Pentium at 150MHz; the second, in 1998, was a Pentium 3 at 500MHz; the third, purchased in 2001, was a Pentium 4 at 1.7GHz.
All of the PCs were top-of-the-range at the time they were purchased, and had the kind of price tags you may expect. Unfortunately, with the costs involved, I’ve grown tired of trying to keep up with PC gaming technology, and no longer play games on my PC. My current system is a Dell Inspiron 530, with a Core2 Quad CPU at 2.4GHz, which cost a quarter of the price of my previous systems. While perfect for everyday use and the occasional spot of video editing, is not capable running many of the latest games. So I’ll be sticking to console gaming, at least for the foreseeable future.