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About Me

electranaut [Add Friend]
 

I have been interested in computer graphics pretty much ever since I saw Disney's Tron way back when.

At that time (okay, I was a schoolboy, but we were encouraged to think about the future), I wanted to get involved in CGI but it was virtually impossible to choose it as a career path since there were only a handful of places in the world where such things were going on and they all had ludicrously huge supercomputers to work with. Cray X-MP's (used in The Last Starfighter, the second real CGI film) were pretty thin on the ground in my home town- or indeed, the world- so, I laid the whole idea off for a few years.

I fell back on getting involved with computer programming; initially BASIC programming on my first computer- a lowly, working-class ZX Spectrum (middle-class kids had C64's, of course, or even Apple II's if they pulled in plenty of coin)- but later progressing on to 68000 assembler coding on my later-acquired Amiga 500 and 600 computers. My first 68000 program was an Amiga version of the old Spectrum game JETPAC (seriously updated, of course) and called SPACEMAN, which utilised all of the Amiga's custom chips, ran in one frame, had hi-score tables, cheats and everything. It was only meant to demo my skills and so was never released to the public, but if I ever get to loading Amiga programs onto my PC, I might well chuck it out there somewhere for the Amiga emulators amongst you.

As soon as I saw the Amiga's days were numbered (shouldn't have been; the processor was loads better architecturally than the woefully outdated x86; it had loads of expandability etc. But, blame Commodore for resting on its laurels extremely heavily. For many, many years.), I got a (very) cheap PC clone and started to get into C. Once I got over the paradigm shift that jumping from BASIC and assembly language to the function-based methodology of C involves, I found I really liked it and managed to steer around certain issues, such as lack of maths co-processors (bit-shifting to simulate fixed-point arithmetic was a trick I learned in 68000 days) and flat-vs-protected memory modes back when that was an issue. I managed to produce a few pieces that involved sprites (I wrote a sprite editor one day whilst on a course in between programming excercises), multi-level parallax scrolling, 2D vectors and rudimentary 3D engines (yep, I read the classic Foley & Van Dam bible on 3D and learned to calculate normals, cross-products, dot-products and so on). Later, much of this hard work was negated by my learning DirectX (version 5 at the time, I think).

I took a break from all this study to build PC's for a while (good fun) and to try to get into other languages such as VB, but while I could build the PC's I didn't really like the VB approach to programming. I like the stripped-out style of a handful of instructions (processor style), not a telephone directory-sized instruction manual on hundreds of them. But that's just me, I guess.
I applied to games companies; nearly got in on so many occasions but didn't quite make it (reasons are a bit arcane; one of the companies doesn't like me simply because I was friends with some of their ex-employees; another came down to my application landing on the wrong person's desk, according to my insider at the time). I'd like to say "well, it's their loss," which I suppose it is in a way because I was a damn good coder and loved learning stuff, but I can't deny it is much more my loss, since I didn't get a job. Still, I could have been a contender, etc.

Thought I'd probably fare better if I actually had a recognised qualification in all this stuff I learned at home from books and experimentation (hey, this was pretty much pre-internet- you couldn't just look stuff up on a whim, like you can now) so I did a 3-year college education to get certified in languages I don't actually like using such as C++, VB and SQL. Qualified fine, but now too old to be considered for employment, it seems. Meanwhile, my classmates- who had never even touched a computer before the course- went on to get decent programming jobs. This is after I wrote them excercises and helpful notes explaining things such as pointers and how C handles them. I don't hold any malice towards them for doing so well- heck, who wouldn't take the opportunity- and they've all tried to put in good words for me, so I can't knock them for that. But if you want to know if I'm bitter about it all, you can pretty much guess the answer. 

It's now back to what I wanted to do all those years ago, I suppose. Obviously, times have changed: The work carried out on Tron's supercomputers over a matter of many months can be done on a low-budget PC with some shareware (or even free) software in a jiffy. A cheap, almost-disposable PC graphics card can display an image a thousand times more detailed than any of those in Tron around sixty times per second. So, of course, while concentrating on my programming I've missed out on a few generations in between, but I do try. I just want to make a few things for public consumption (freestuff) and to try to earn a little- not too greedy- buck out of some stuff that takes a lot of time.

So, I hope you like what I choose to give away for free and I hope you don't hold it against me too much if I charge a little for things which take me a lot of time. Heck, I'm unemployed otherwise- I really do need the money :)


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