A Gremlin in the Works – Reviews

A small collection of reviews for A Gremlin in the Works.

They Were Our Gods – Paul Morrison


Retro Games Master – Peter Ward


Sheffield Digital – Mel Kanarek


Games You Loved – Andy Pryer


Movies, Games and Tech – Andrew Edney


Gaming Respawn













Memoirs of Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict (@SpectrumAddict)

Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict is a full-length documentary by Andy Remic, chronicling the life of the humble ZX Spectrum through the eyes of its designer, journalists, games, developers and fans. After a successful Kickstarter in 2015, two years of filming and editing, the digital version is now available to purchase and download, with the physical release to follow.

The film’s chapters are introduced by a neat Spectrum LOADing SCREEN$ display of the title – which sounds clichéd but works quite well. What doesn’t work so well is the 80s intermissions, or “dramatic re-enactments” such as swapping games in school or going to bed thinking about the Spectrum. I can see the attempt to set the scene better than a voice-over, but they end up being very distracting and somewhat more like am-dramatic re-enactments unfortunately.

Each chapter contains a nicely edited sequence of interviews from the main protagonists. There are plenty of familiar and knowledgeable faces – including the eccentric and ever-green Oliver Twins (who I believe are still linked via serial cable), the restrained Simon Butler, football star Kevin Toms, the statesmanlike Roger Kean (alongside Oli Frey whose amazing artwork adorns the film), and the effervescent Jim Bagley. What does ensure that the same Speccy paths aren’t retrodden is the introduction of other contributors that are somewhat unique on screen: The velvet Mevlut Dinc, forthright Mark Jones, cheeky chap Richard Stevenson, Clive “Pint of Bitter” Townsend and the clever use of fans such as Mark “Lord Arse!” Howlett.

There are few niggles though:

The technical information voice-over at the start is so very dry. I’m not sure it’s needed, or adds anything. Maybe a more flowery introduction would have been better suited and the technical jargon kept for the booklet to accompany the physical release?

Secondly, the contextual display of games and other information is very sporadic. Random characters walk the screen and you occasionally see the games in discussion (but why the sound effects are kept to beep over voices is strange) but in other places these aide-mémoire are missing altogether. The biggest example of this is when Rick Dickenson discusses the design elements of the machine, each nuance, curve, and reason for its shape and construction – and we never see the computer at all.

Thirdly, the chronology of the film seems to have slipped from the structure offered in the Kickstarter. This was something that From Bedrooms to Billions did brilliantly – plotting the timeline, the rise and the fall and the rise (ish) of the British industry. From discussing piracy (a nice chapter) and the magazines, Memoirs jumps back to the start and asks how each of the talking heads actually got into the industry. The main runners and riders, and the twists and turns of the machine are never really discussed. Imagine? Ultimate? Gremlin? Ocean? US Gold? The Amstrad purchase? The decline? All missing.

Finally, there’s one major issue. The games. Where are they? That’s really what the Spectrum was all about, and the main focus for all these chapters throughout the film. It was fundamentally a games machine and it’s why we loved it, why it was such a huge success and why it retains such a fondness and following. I really wanted to see and hear more about those titles that we played, swapped, pirated and coveted.

All in all though, I really enjoyed the film. There’s a distinct variation in picture and audio quality, and I have my gripes but we must remember that this is a fan production at the end of the day. Andy and team have poured a lot of their persona and soul into the making of it and there’s some lovely touches; the out-takes, for example, and the wonderful Steve Turner playing an acoustic rendition of the Dragontorc theme tune.

There’s also the promised additional material to look forward to, hopefully with some edited-out contributors (more of Simon Butler too please) and more of the “Making Of” content. But, with the standard film at just over 2 hours long it’s well worth the money.

Oh, and I want to meet the Oliver Twins elder brother and find out what happened to Ocean’s unreleased Batman: The Adventure!

Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict is available to buy now from Remic Films.

Follow Andy Remic on Twitter via @AndyRemic, and the film @SpectrumAddict.

If you need convincing further, then a 12 minute taster is also available here.

Sam Mallard – The Case of the Missing Swan from @MMicrogames

Sam Mallard – The Case of the Missing Swan is a ZX Spectrum title from “real-media” indie publisher Monument Micro Games. The game, originally written by World of Spectrum contributor Ersh in 2016, was destined for the Commodore 64 many moons ago, but then rescued, resuscitated and re-written from scratch for our faithful rubber keyed Spec-chum.

“The clock had turned midnight and I was just about to leave my office when there was a knock on my door. It was a Mr Swan, owner of the Swanline shipping company.”


Mallard is a graphic adventure game, heavily inspired by film noir, and has a classic and well trodden storyline – jobbing Private Detective is hired by man to find missing wife. The game starts in Mallard’s office (where else?) after our main protagonist has accepted the case, and follows him off on the hunt of the missing and mysterious Mrs Swan.

Dispensing with the traditional typed input of this type of game, Mallard presents its information on a well laid-out screen where verb-noun choices are made via a SCUMM-esque “Action” menu by using either the keyboard or Kempston joystick. Locations are described in an uncomplicated fashion, with the majority of locations having a functional, and nicey-drawn image in the top right-hand corner. The whole screen is rendered solely in black and white fuelling further the noir atmosphere.


The game engine however, doesn’t come without it’s quirks:

  1. The strange “inventory” system, where you can’t EXAMINE things from the “action” menu but you have to navigate to the inventory, select the item, then select examine.
  2. Using just an up and down combination to enter a sequence of numbers (required for a telephone and the obligatory safe) several times is tiresome.
  3. Many items are not identifiable from the location text, so you are constantly selecting verbs in each area to find them.

“The End”

It’s very short, and will probably be completed in less than an hour – but don’t let that put you off. The writing is competent, makes a good stab at the genre and the author has shoehorned in a few basic teasers, a homage red herring, and a couple of thought-provoking puzzles. Fear not though, those of a The Secret of Monkey Island disposition should get the first, and the second puzzle concerning a safe is slightly harder, but very rewarding to (pun fully intended) crack.


In places the storyline does make huge hand-held leaps, and the end comes up a bit suddenly – feeling slightly rushed. Perhaps the author ran out of steam or reached the poor Speccy’s RAMTOP limit? Nevertheless, it’s a lovely example of the popular homebrew and indie scene that the Spectrum continues to enjoy and a testament to the passionate people behind the cottage-industry publishing labels such as Monument.

“The Swag”


Grabbing the game was quite an aside for me. I rarely buy new releases for old machines (my only other purchase being C64anabalt by RGCD) but I was very pleasantly surprised when the game arrived. Credit must go to Monument who have done a stellar job with the game’s packaging and contents.

The inlay is superbly designed and professionally printed and contains a hoard of goodies:

1 x art card
1 x instructions
1 x badge
1 x CD-ROM
1 x game cassette

The CD-ROM is a nice addition and contains a WAV sound file that can be streamed directly into a Spectrum emulator such as Spectaculator, or played back into a real Spectrum by using a standard audio jack cable and LOAD””ed – if you don’t have a cassette recorder. Also on the CD is a handy TAP format file that is ready to run.

Even with the short playing time, the paltry £8.50 for Mallard is fantastic value for money considering what you receive and how well the whole thing is put together. From their website blog, it seems that the game has been a success for Monument, so that’s great to hear.

What are you waiting for? Smoke your last lucky (thanks Fergus), grab your fedora and mosey on over to the publisher website and grab your own copy, or hit them up on Twitter.


The Cream Crackers

22 Carver Street, Sheffield was the address of Just Micro, an independent computer game shop remembered for being much more than a retailer of games. It was a youth club, a community centre and a games space. It was a place where teenagers would hang out for the entire day, playing games, talking games and discussing how to program games.

This ethos wasn’t a mistake and it didn’t happen by accident. It was the environment that founders Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn fostered, and made Just Micro an iconic location and the “go to” computer game shop in Sheffield.

The Demoscene

One of the products of the shop’s ecosystem was a group of young programmers who called themselves “The Cream Crackers”. They didn’t make games, but instead created standalone demonstration programs for the Commodore 64 computer showcasing their programming, artistic and musical skills.

The “Crackers” were Berni Hill, Paul Gregory, Scott Guest, Mike Lister and Vincent Paggiossi, respectively known as Berni, Greggs, Mule, The Claw and Pag. A fifth member, Peter Lawless was also part of the team.

[Above: Mega Jive, one of the demos created by The Cream Crackers with a very long scrolling message that contains a shout-out to Sheffield’s Just Micro.]

Tony Casson was one of Just Micro’s first “Saturday lads” recalls the Just Micro atmosphere and the demo groups: “As for them coming in, there was a group of us that use to go in after school, and if honest sometimes when we should have been at school. There was a group of about ten or so regulars. Some young ones but I think Pag was probably the oldest. There was another older lad, I think his name was Lennie – he was the grand master at Boulderdash. At first, it was almost a game swap location where we would all swap and copy games off each other.

Even when I worked there, the same gang would come in after school and even after some had started working, this was pretty much daily for many. At times, it was more like a youth club, with selling some games on the side. Saying that, it gave Just Micro a great atmosphere, there was always some of them in the shop. Many would just offer advice to other customers.”

The Employables

Berni, Mike, Paul and Scott graduated from the demoscene into working for Gremlin Graphics – Berni Hill and Paul Gregory as artists and Mike Lister and Scott Guest as a programmers. They worked together on several Gremlin titles in the late 80s and early 90s including Zool, Dark Fusion and Footballer of the Year 2.

[Above: Dark Fusion, Scott “Mule” Guest’s first game for Gremlin aided by fabulous artwork from Berni “Berni” Hill]

Tony remembers the Cream Crackers’ transition upstairs from the Just Micro shop floor, to the offices of Gremlin: “Bernie got his chance at Gremlin, and Greggs worked in the shop with me. I remember him doing some work for one of the demos and I think he managed to get a trial at Gremlin on the back of it. Scott was very similar, and he got a trial through another demo. If I remember correctly he was always a star on the coding front and I swear he mentioned ‘catching a raster’ every other sentence.”





British Summer Time and Circle with Disney (@meetcircle)

One word of note if you have imported a fantastic Circle with Disney device to help manage your children’s internet consumption at home – you’ll need to adjust any time settings that you have made for British Summer Time.

The time servers that Circle uses must be US based and not take into account BST. So, make sure you allow for the time differentials in setting weekend, bedtimes, etc.

A Gremlin in the Twerks

No, not the Yorkshire version of A Gremlin in the Works, but a Twitter guide to contributors and other persons of interest who resides on the soapbox social media platform.


Ian Stewart (@IanStewart10)
Jenny Richards (@wigjceo)
Peter Harrap (@montymoleharrap)
Tony Crowther (@Ratt2007)
Carl Cavers (@TurboCarlos)
Richard Stevenson (@rs6060)
Dave Kirk (@DesktopGamer)
Steve Lycett (@S0LSUM0)
Graeme Ing (@GraemeIng)
Ritchie Brannan (@Icabod66)
Neil Goodman (@sefless)
Marc Silk (@marcsilk)
Rob Toone (@VoodooChief)
Tim Heaton (@TimAtCA)
Kevin Crossley (@KevfCrossley)
Phil Wright (@PhilWright62)
Damian Hibbard (@titaniumHog)
Andy Ritson (@GremlinAndy)
Ian Richardson (@vectorboro)
Jacob Habgood (@jacobmph)
Darren Mills (@d2mls)
Travis Ryan (@travisxuryan)
Alan Coltman (@coltmaninov)
Joe Chetcuti (@joechetcuti)
Steve McKevitt (@StevenMcKevitt)
Andrew Fox (@_andyfox_)
Kim Blake (@LynxKim)
Simon Phipps (@simorph)
James Sutherland (@jamessutherland)
Philip Bak (@niinegames)
Jeremy Heath-Smith (@Jezzahs)
Paul Beech (@guru)
Ruth Bartles (@Auntyruth)
Jason Perkins (@PerkyUK)
Chris Shrigley (@Chigley)
Jamie Woodhouse (@mrqwak)
Paul Porter (@SumoDBoy)
Mark Sample (@marksample)

Alligata Software

Ross Goodley (@EinionYrth)

Micro Projects Limited

Anthony Clarke (@anthonyjclarke)
Phil Harrison (@MrPhilHarrison)

Magnetic Fields

Andrew Morris (@Mowian)

Krisalis Sofware

Roger Womack (@rwomack)
Simeon Pashley (@simeonpashley)

The Warp Factory

Ed Campbell (@SuminellStudios)


Dave Vout (@DaveVout)

Imagitec Design

Lance Abson (@iphonegamesapps)
Barry Leitch (@BarryLeitch)

DMA Design

Dave Jones (@MrLemmings)
Gary Penn (@GaryPenn)
Brian Baglow (@flackboy)
Steve Hammond (@snap2grid)
Mike Dailly (@mdf200)

US Gold

Tim Chaney (@timchaney09)

Novotrade Software

Antal Zolnai (@tonizolnai)

Micro Power / Program Power

Christopher Payne (@effortfreelife)

Boys without Brains (@bwbgames)

Alternative Software (@AlternSoftware)

Roger Hulley (@RogerDHulley)

NAPS Team (@NapsTeam)


Lee Kirton (@Leearigold)
Bruno Bonnell (@BrunoBonnellOff)
Sean Millard (@PoonyHooman)

The Designers Republic

Ian Anderson (@ianTDR)

Peter Andrew Jones Art Studio (@pajartstudio)


Mark Green (@markwearsgreen)
David Rowe (@DJRowe)
Roger Kean (@Gallienus85)
Violet Berlin (@VioletBerlin)
Gremlin Presents (@GremlinPresents)
Andy Payne (@PercyBlakeney63)
Gary Bracey (@gbracey)
Chris Mann (@mann_music)
Lizi Attwood (@LiziAttwood)
Glyn Williams (@Carniphage)



A Gremlin in the Works – Expansion Disk Contributors (July 2017)

“A Gremlin in the Works”, published by Bitmap Books has what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of contributors to the Gremlin Graphics story than ever before.

The list includes many key personalities that have never been interviewed before or talked Gremlin before, including Kevin Norburn, Chris Kerry, Jenny Richards and Bruno Bonnell.

After publication of the hardback, I have continued to collect resources and to interview more former employees of the great company when the opportunity arose. These interviews are being collected in The Expansion Disk – an electronic addendum, free to all of those who purchased the original hardback.

The Expansion Disk

Steve Marsden (Gremlin Lincoln)
David Martin (Licensing Director)
Mark Gallagher (The Warp Factory)
Ed Campbell (The Warp Factory)
Stuart Cook (Twilight Software)
Andy Payne OBE (Mastertronic, The Producers)
Alex Syrichas (Programmer)
Glyn Williams (Particle Systems)
David Bracher (Artist)
Graeme Ing (Programmer)
David Palmer (Alligata, Alternative, Hi-Tec)
Peter Frith (Alligata)
Fabio Capone (NAPS Team)
Domenico Barba
(NAPS Team)

Along with the contributors to the print version:

The founding fathers

Kevin Norburn
Ian Stewart

Monty Moles

Antony Crowther
Peter Harrap
Shaun Hollingworth
Chris Kerry

The Gremlins

George Allan
Ashley Bennett
Sarah Bennett
Neil Biggin
Paul Blythe
Steve Camber
Adrian Carless
Tony Casson
Carl Cavers
Joe Chetcuti
Richard Costello
Ben Daglish
Colin “Fungus T. Bogeyman” Dooley
Andrew Findlay
Andrew Fox
Stuart Gregg
Jacob Habgood
Jeremy Heath-Smith
Tim Heaton
Damian Hibbard
Paul Hiley
Greg Holmes
Tony Kavanagh
David Kirk
Wayne Laybourn
Steve Lycett
Ricki Martin
James North-Hearn
Jason Perkins
Pat Phelan
Simon Phipps
Phil Plunkett
Jenny Richards
Ian Richardson
Mark Rogers
Christian Shrigley
Les Spink
Richard Stevenson
Patrick Strassen
Tony Wills
Phil Wright

Micro Projects

Anthony Clarke

Magnetic Fields

Andrew Morris
Shaun Southern


Philip Durbidge

Camel Advertising

Richard Bridgwater

Wizard Development

Malcolm Gillott


Peter Frith

Krisalis Software

Matthew Furniss

U.S. Gold

Geoff Brown
Tim Chaney

Micro Power

Christopher Payne


Rod Cousens CBE
David Rowe

DMA Design

Mike Dailly
Steve Hammond
Gary Penn
Chris Stamp


Barry Leitch

Astros Productions

George Karboulonis

Boys Without Brains

Mario van Zeist


Antal Zolnai

Newsfield Publications

Roger Kean


Bruno Bonnell
Sean Millard


Lizi Attwood
Peter Andrew Jones
Violet Berlin
Chris Box
Matthew Clark
Will Frost
Simon Hallam
Ian Harling
Patrick Titley
Andy Turner
Glyn Williams

With thanks

Chris Ash
Jonathan Beales
Andy Brown
Martyn Carroll
Anthony and Nicola Caulfield
Charles Cecil MBE
John Darnell
Mat Dolphin
Sam Dyer
Frank Gasking
Mark Green
Ric Lumb
Simon Marston
Dave Moore
Jason Moore
Paul Morrison
Jonathan Needle
Andy Payne OBE
Gordon Sinclair
Gerard Sweeney

“Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius” -Mahatma Gandhi

Some intriguing excepts from Blood, Tears and Folly authored by Len Deighton that I am currently reading. The book delivers thought-provoking opinions laying the appeasement blame on French officer Gamelin instead of British PM Chamberlain and is highly critical of the BEF’s actions on the continent.

For the excepts, read as follows, lain as German troops swept westward across Europe:

“… in the Indian newspaper Harijan on 22 June, Mahatma Gandhi wrote ‘Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, as a brave man, a matchless organiser and much more.”

“The democratically elected government of Denmark, which the Germans had kept in place, allowed gratitude to overcome its respect for democracy and announced: ‘The great German victories, which have caused astonishment and admiration all over the world, have brought a new era in Europe, which will result in a new order in a political and economic sense, under the Leadership of Germany.'”

“The Aga Khan cast aside his feelings about alcohol and promised to drink a bottle of champagne ‘when the Fuhrer sleeps in Windsor Castle.'”

More time with Circle with Disney (@meetcircle)

It’s been around two weeks since I installed a Circle with Disney device at home and so far it has been a flawless experience.]


I’ve done a few more tests of the kids filtering, and have made use of the pause button as a bargaining chip with two unruly daughters!


Of course, no filtering is 100% perfect, but so far, so good with Circle. All of the terms I tried under pornography, drugs and violence were blocked. As you can see from the above device test, a filter page appears when accessing a restricted website. The filter restrictions are in conjunction with the Circle working well to enforce Google Safe Searching at all times. Great stuff.

Technical Support

I’ve contacted technical support a couple of times via Twitter and e-mail and have received prompt replies both times. At the moment I’m awaiting a more in-depth look at how the filtering works on the device and what lists/algorithms the device pulls from. I’ll post that once I get a reply.

In the meantime, more information on the filter levels can be found here, and how to set custom filtering on websites and mobile apps here. You can gradually adjust and tweak the filters as you see fit.

EDIT (24/12/2016) I received an update from Circle about their filtering databases: “‘We work with third parties for part of our filtering database, and we modify what we have for our own purposed on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true for the platform filtering.’“.

Feature Requests

There area  few things I’d like to see implemented.

  1. Warnings 1: Though I accessed a restricted website on one device I couldn’t find a warning to the main Circle hub that I’d done so? Perhaps enabling push notifications, a red warning icon on the profile avatar on the home page, or perhaps at least a red highlight on the “insights” history page. (NB Filtered pages are shown in a useful “filtered” view on the history page).
  2. Warnings 2: Perhaps even move the “filtered” pages to become a separate option on its own under insights. I’m sure this would be very useful for parents to analyse what has been going on? If Circle can further categorise each website it would make for a more clearer, concise and simple way of browsing links – rather than the website URL or IP.
  3. Insights per device as well as per profile: Very useful to attain which device is which on a network, and what guests are up to with the devices they bring. It may also be useful in spotting rogue devices on the network.
  4. Filter screen: It would be useful to tell whoever triggered the filter to why they have been filtered.


Circle with Disney (@meetcircle) – Initial thoughts

Circle is a hardware device that helps parents filter content and manage screen time. It started life as a failed Kickstarter, but undeterred, Memory, the creator company, continued with their vision and eventually interested global giant Disney who have helped bring it to market.

I’ve bought one because of the abject failure of manufacturers Apple and Google to add effective parental controls to their devices – even after all this time. I’ve also had constant problems with software controls and their flakey and complex VPN set-ups and high subscription costs. Thankfully Circle, though starting life on a subscription model is a one-off payment. No doubt the hardware makes a profit, but somewhere or other they’ll also be sustained by feeding dollars into Uncle Walt’s empire.

I purchased the device from Amazon.com – the only place that I could find that would ship to the UK. Amazon.com added a reasonable shipping rate and automatically calculating import/custom fees – which was welcome to avoid the annoyance of having to pay to the courier. Even with the “brexit” pound, it worked out around the £90 mark – so probably two year’s subscription to a software model.


It’s a beautifully package, with the square (!) Circle device, US power adapter, micro-usb cable and super-short (obviously designed to be close to your router) ethernet cable. Having swapped the US plug for a UK model it was plugged in and powered up.


All of the steps to setup the device are simply documented here:


It was a case of downloading the iOS app, and using it to pair the Circle to my phone (using an SMS text message access code) and router. It was a very simple process, even recognising the country of residence thus to get the mobile phone text number correctly.

I then setup the management profile using the simple and concise interface, adding which device belonged to the profile and which level of filtering to use. You could assign multiple devices to one profile, so if you have a laptop, phone and tablet for example.

The only caveat with this stage of the setup was the device list. It hadn’t recognised all of the devices in the house but the app noted that it would take time to do this. One way to speed up the process was to either power-cycle all devices or toggle airplane mode if available to disconnect and re-connect them with the household router.

Even after this I had a few generically named devices, ie “Apple Device” or “Liteon Device”. Using the app and device list I noted the MAC address of each and was able to identify which was which. Of course, for a novice user this may be a little daunting.

One useful feature to note on the “device list” was the ability to instantly “pause” the internet on that MAC address. Great if you need to barter with an unruly child (or adult)!


So, so far so good.

Its got a default “home” profile that you can assign to a restricted filter. So, my kids are around the same age, and thus I’ve no need really to create a profile for each of them unless I want to receive “insights” – reports that give me a look at their screen and app time. Every unassigned device by default connects to the “Home” profile. If you have a party or your children’s friends come round and ask for the wi-fi password you are safe in the knowledge that they are automatically assigned this default filter and control level.

What I like about the filtering is that you have granular control over apps and content categories as well as forcing YouTube restrictions and Google Safe Search by default. Any other search engines are blocked. The kid filter “filters out Social Media, Explicit Content, Mature Content, Gambling, Dating and Malicious Content by Default”. Excellent.



I’m really impressed so far. No problems straight out of the box, quick and easy to setup. I’ll keep an eye on internet speeds – though it is connected via ethernet to my router the device only has a 10/100 NIC. Hopefully it won’t slow things down too much.

I’ll start to play around with limiting screen time, app time and applying a bedtime and some of the other things the package has over the next few days.