Game Over

I finally finished a game. I don't mean I played a game and completed it, I rarely do that, I get so carried away looking at the scenery and lighting. No - I finished writing a game.

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Mr. Cola killed my pop

I like pop. I used to drink it every lunchtime. The worst place to buy pop is from a place with a "Coke fridge". My heart sinks when I see one. Everything in there will be from a small, prescribed selection of boring, globalised, bland drinks. The best place to buy pop is from a place with a "free-house" fridge. They're usually a bit shabbier, and are becoming rarer, but promise variety and taste. There could be anything in there: drinks you may not have heard of, as well as flavoursome ones like Irn Bru and Vimto.

For a while I used to go to a Marks and Spencer's (M&S) for lunch and so bought their pop. They have a great selection: ginger beer, cranberry lemonade, orange, cloudy lemonade and cola. Each of these comes in a diet variety which doesn't taste like battery acid like other diet drinks. I'd rotate through the flavours but preferred the cola: it actually had a cola flavour - unlike Coca-Cola which paled in comparison.

Then, around 2016, I'm not sure exactly when, their cola disappeared. Gone. Vanished. The other flavours were still there, but no cola. Weird.

The nice ones - no more cola though

I did notice at the same time that Coke appeared in its place. Marks and Spencer never sold Coke before then. Why would they when they had a better version? If their orange had been replaced by Tango or their ginger beer by Idris for example, that wouldn't have been so bad. But their cola and Coke were polar opposites in flavour: it was the worst one to replace. Obviously I didn't buy the insipid usurper and so cola was gone, but not forgotten, from my lunch rotation.

Cuckoo Coke is now stocked at eye-level and the nice pops, cola-less, are relegated to the bottom shelf

I thought it might be temporary, or just in my region, but no. The good cola had been replaced throughout the UK (or Europe for all I know). Wow. That was some shelf-prioritisation marketing pressure, I thought, but maybe I can still get the good cola from the back of the shop. I asked the staff but no one was aware of the swap. I looked online expecting some kind of campaign on behalf of people up-in-arms about losing their tasty cola, but nothing. And still in 2020 there is no mention of it online. I can barely find a picture of the old M&S cola, let alone an article about its loss.

If I search the M&S website I get:

"We found 0 results for cola, but here's what we found for cool".

So I keep digging over the years, because I really miss the cola flavour and wonder why no one else does, and still nothing. Until today - I find a clue; I make a possible link; an explanation, perhaps.

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The Planets

While scanning a Solar System poster and comparing the planets' distances from the sun I noticed a pattern I'd not seen before. I've been fascinated by space since I was a young child and have been studying astronomy in one form or another all my life but I'd never heard anything like this pattern mentioned.

OU Solar System poster

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The last James Bond film I watched was Moonraker, but I recently caught the ending of Skyfall on TV and realised why I don't watch them anymore.

According to wikipedia, the section I saw was when Bond took M to his Skyfall home and with Kincade's help they set up a series of booby traps throughout the house. Silva's men arrived.

Now, these men looked pretty well-trained to me and I'm sure they were fully expecting a booby trapped house. One of the first traps you might expect would be some kind of pressure plate or trip-wire on the entrance to the house grounds.

Yet I watched with disbelief as all Silva's men got out of their jeeps and, when presented with a derelict gateway with waist-high walls either side of it, funnelled through the gate shoulder to shoulder.

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The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Keyboard

When I was 12 years old, I got sight of an actual computer. One day at my cousins' house, set on a table and wired up to their TV was a small, black rectangle. They were pressing keys on it to play games (Schizoids and Ant Attack I remember). I was curious - the games looked more interesting than the simple arcade games I played on my Atari console. I got closer and peered over and saw the keyboard and it changed my life. Here's what I saw:

By Bill Bertram - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=170050

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Order Yourselves


Are you going to a festive, company meal this year? Many restaurants want you to pre-order your food. This usually involves a number of frustrating, error-prone steps[1]. And, unlike ordering at the table, guests are in the dark about what everyone else is choosing.

There is a better way: FuseOrder.

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Space Invaders

Osaka Invader

We invent games to build worlds, often founded on reality. Chess is an ancient example. The chess pieces represent real-world characters from the time of the game's creation. The medieval world had fighting kings and queens and knights on horseback and... bishops? As a child, I found it strange that there were bishops on the chess battlefield, not realising that the church used to be a more militant power.

Bishop Invader

Games let us replay history and simulate what-ifs and what-might-have-beens.

Computer games also build worlds, in ever more immersive ways. They are simulations of their time. The seminal video game Space Invaders was released by Taito in 1978. A genre-defining shoot 'em up, it introduced the concepts of multiple lives for the player and high scores.

Space Invaders screenshot

The creator of Space Invaders was Tomohiro Nishikado. This guy was driven: for over a year he designed and built every part of the game himself. He built his own hardware and composed the sound effects, programmed the game and designed the artwork.

Space Invaders was released around the time of Star Wars, not long after the race to the moon. People believe the game is about defending Earth from waves of invading alien creatures from another planet. It's not. The game is about an earlier time.

Tomohiro Nishikado was born in the city of Osaka, Japan in March 1944.

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How your bank is tracking your phone

I strongly suspect that my credit card company and my bank have access to my mobile phone location. Here's why:


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