Passing the Baton

Written by admin on February 10, 2016 Categories: 

Thoughts from Dale/wgoodf/Twitter Monkey:

Calling it quits.

This January has been my 21st RetroChallenge in a row. Twenty-bloody-one! One every six months for ten years!

The first year I took part, it wasn’t actually running – however myself and LD8 didn’t realise that nobody else was playing and we spent the month together, him in Canada and me in Scotland, playing with and blogging about old kit.

Back then we had things like the ‘Endurance Challenge’ which meant that no modern kit was allowed, so neither of us had proper internet until the end, and it was then we found out, we were alone.
Hail LD8, who i still chat to online after all these years. (

The event after that was organised by myself, after that LD8 took over with a little help from me; that continued for a while with the addition of BBS hosted on old machines, first by LD8 and later by a guy called Lorance, eventually Urbancamo did a bit of that too. LD8 stepped down, i picked it back up and it ran for a bit longer and eventually Urbancamo arrived to take over the web hosting responsibilities with me as his trusty side kick – i became the Twitter Monkey. (Well this is my jaded memory anyway)

The RetroChallenge produced many great things, most recently the RC2014 computer, but surely the best was the very short run we had of an actual magazine called 300 Baud. Co-produced by myself, LD8 and a bunch of RetroChallengers who were cajoled to write about a topic of interest. The PDF are i am sure are kicking about the web somewhere. I am quite proud of mine; issue one came with a free music CD full of LD8’s Apple II music and we also had a ‘Win a Robot!’ competition. Genuine collaborative publishing over three issues. And as a proper paper magazine delivered to your door. I am proud of that.

The RetroChallenge has also changed a lot over the years; back at the start people were excited at getting an Atari 800 online, now people are building computers and languages from scratch. Each year i am more and more impressed…and intimidated!

But ten years…
In that time my kid went from a one year old just learning to talk, to an 11 year old who is learning to talk back.
I went from a minion to a manager, a sofa grouch to a political activist. We had a referendum!
Which we lost.
I had a midlife crisis and I bought a motorbike.
By golly, a heck of a lot has happened over that ten years.
And now, if i am honest, i don’t have the time anymore, or the inclination – have i told you i have a ham radio?

And if there is ever a sign to pass it on then it is that.
The RetroChallenge isn’t mine, isn’t Urbancamo’s and after wrestling it just a little bit from them, it didn’t belong to the 68k Macintosh Liberation Army either – which is where the whole thing started, in 2005, or was it 2004.

The point is that it belongs to the folks that take part and that means you, well a couple of you at least. Myself and Mark wish to pass the baton over and sit back and see what others may make of this thing called The RetroChallenge. The competition with few rules if any. The competition where nobody and everybody wins.

Its been a bloody riot over the years, i have my favourite entries of course, and i have said it before, but i still take my hat off to Printstar, the Fortran and DEC Rainbow nut, who gave us a DOS game review every day for a month – you could see the tiredness and desperation drip off the page as he was nearing months end, true endurance that was. Great reviews too.

So to close, thanks to everyone who has ever took part and there have been a lot of you; trust me, the names have changed a lot over the 10 years, regulars have faded away and new stallions have appeared, themselves replaced after a couple of seasons. Each and every one of you, thank you. Appreciated.

We can pick the conversation up on Twitter later, but for now, be bold, be brave and offer your services to the new generation!

Keep the black flag flying.
Peace Love & Anarchy

Thoughts from Mark/Urbancamo/Website Monkey:

Doing RC Justice

During the week following Retrochallenge a discussion started between myself and Dale about how we could continue to do the Retrochallenge justice given the level of distraction we both had experienced during RC2016/01. My thoughts initially were to make the judging process less onerous on ourselves but I think the time has come for a rethink about the entire process.

One option which we openly allured to was to move the competition to months that are clearer for ourselves, but I think with Dale’s resignation that his time has come to pass the baton on I have come to the conclusion that the discussions are really only a stop-gap measure to the main issue which is lack of time in general and sometimes not being ‘in the zone’.

My history with Retrochallenge began in 2009 with my first entry which explored the use of a VAXstation 4000/90 as my sole computer both as the subject of my challenge and the tool for blogging and interacting with the online world. Fun times. Possibly my finest hour was as a winner of the 2009 Summer Challenge where I wrote an implementation of a Clifford Pickover algorithm in VAX/VMS Macro 32 to generate Chaotic Dusty swirls. The RetroBBS needed a new home at some point, I forget when, and for a couple of years it ran on a dedicated Dell Inspiron 7500 laptop on top of NetBSD. That hosting was eventually taken over by a fellow competitor who ported the BBS software to Linux when the Inspiron started getting flaky.

I’m immensely proud of the growth that the Retrochallenge competition has experienced since its’ humble beginnings. The downside of this is the task of running Retrochallenge has also grown and in later competitions I’ve found myself having to dial back my own entry in order to keep the competition running. I feel this does a dis-service to fellow competitors – and indeed to myself.

Mirroring Dale’s situation I’ve gone from kids who were in bed by 6pm to staying up later than me, homework, kids after-school activities and a wife who does Panto in January and basically very full weeks in general. I rediscovered my love of cycling, started Karate and generally now try and keep as fit as I can (kicked into gear by the sky-high results of a cholesterol test a couple of years ago – now thankfully substantially reduced). It seems like a very long time ago that I spent all my time sitting in my freezing attic till the early hours of the morning grappling with the nuances of All-in-1 and WPS/Plus (the attic is now triple insulated thankfully!)

We did try peer-based judging in the past with some measure of success and this would certainly reduce the burden at the end of the competition. When I have time to digest all the entries and write an end of competition summary I’ve found the process rewarding and educational but when I don’t have time I get equally frustrated.

It would be great if there is enthusiasm within the current competitors to do as we have done and take over the competition organisation and running with the zeal that we have afforded it in the past. Anyone feel up to the challenge? I’m not planning on quitting and running – there would be every support provided during the transition.

The purpose of this page is to foster discussion. For the competitors we should explore what their experiences have been, what frustrations they have felt, whether the support provided by myself and Dale was at all lacking, whether the format could be improved? Our aim is to make the competition better and ensure it remains the best it can be.

Cheers! Mark.

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