The ray-traced pictures

A two-decade-long search is over.

A couple of years ago I wrote up the efforts required to recover a tiny sound demo for the Archimedes computer. In there, I made brief mention of a sample from an Arc sound editor named Armadeus, of a man saying “the mask, the ray-traced pictures, and finally the wire-frame city”. That wasn’t an idle comment. Bill and I have been looking for that sample for twenty years.

You’re thinking, I bet it’s not been twenty years. And you would be wrong. Here’s Bill posting to comp.sys.acorn in 2003, for a start.

My daughter knows about this sample. Jono knows about it. I use the phrase as a microphone test sentence, the same way other people use “testing, testing, 1, 2”. It’s lived in my head since I was in middle school, there on the Arc machines in CL0, which was Computer Lab Zero. (There was a CL1, which had the BBC Micros in it, on the first floor. I never did know whether CL0, which was on the ground floor, was a subtle joke about floor levels and computers’ zero-based numbering schemes, or if Mr Irons the teacher was just weird. He might have been weird. He thought the name for an exclamation mark was “pling”.)

Anyway, we got to talking about it again, and Bill said: to hell with this, I’ll just buy Armadeus. This act of selfless heroism earns him a gold medal. And a pint, yes it does. I’ll let him tell the story about that, and the mindblowing worthlessness of modern floppy drives, in his own time. But today it arrived, and now I have an mp3!

Interestingly, I thought it was in the other order. The sample actually says: “The ray-traced pictures. The mask. And finally, the wire-frame city.” I thought “the mask” was first, and it isn’t. Still, memory plays tricks on you after this many years. Apparently it’s from a Clares sound and music demo originally (Clares were the (defunct) company that made Armadeus. The name appears to have risen from the dead a couple of times since. No idea who they are now, if anyone.) Anyway, I don’t care; I’ve got it now. And it’s on my website, which means it will never go away. We found it once before and then lost the sample; I’m not making the same mistake again. Is this how Indy felt when he found the Ark?

Also, a shout out to arcem, which is an Archimedes emulator which runs fine on Ubuntu. It’s a pain in the bum to set up — you have to compile it, find ROMs, turn on sound support, use weird keypresses, set up hard drives in an incomprehensible text file, etc; someone ought to snap it or something so it’s easier — but it’s been rather nice revisiting a lot of the Arc software that’s still collected and around for download. Desktop sillies. Someone should bring desktop sillies back to modern desktops. And reconnecting to Arcade BBS, who need to fix all their FTP links to point to telnet.arcade-bbs.net rather than the now-dead arcade.demon.co.uk. I got to watch !DeskDuck again, which was a small mallard duck that swum up and down along the top of your icon bar. And a bunch of old demos from BIA and Arcangel and so on. I’d forgotten a bit how much I liked RISC OS, and in particular that it’s so fast to start up. Bring that back.

Nice one Bill. Time for a pint.

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