Prestel and Micronet800


Who remembers the golden days of Prestel and one of their top service provider partners, Micronet800?

For those that don’t, Prestel was actually developed in the late 1970’s by a software team at the research and development laboratories of (what was then) the Post Office, based at Martlesham in Suffolk. Prestel became a commercial service provided by the UK’s largest telephone carrier, BT (British Telecom) and utilised Videotext (viewdata) as its display medium. By today’s standards it seems archaic but the 40 column, 24 line 8 coloured ANSI/ASCII screens were very new and exciting back then, far in advance of anything available at that time.

Prestel Welcome Page

Unlike the Ceefax and Oracle services which were read-only teletext services available on your home television (data transmitted between the visible scan lines on your television), Prestel was the first “interactive” service that was available to home users. It was accessible via a home computer such as a BBC Model B microcomputer or a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the addition of a dialup modem (often an acoustic coupler modem). It is difficult nowadays to explain the joy that was had from using your 48K Spectrum to dial up through a Prism VT5000 modem on your telephone line and connect to Prestel at a speed of only 1200/75 baud. Once connected you were greeted by the welcome screen you see above.

Prestel was, in essence, the internet of its day but by the mid 1980’s it had been overtaken by home computers and a fledgeling internet with technology that could not have been foreseen back when Prestel was first launched.

There was a monthly subscription fee to use Prestel and Micronet800 services but in addition to that were the telephone charges themselves which, if you weren’t careful, could stack up very quickly. Most home users would attempt to connect after 6pm in the evening or at the weekends, which was commonly known as “cheap rate” time when the cost per minute was only 1p (pence: smallest UK coin denomination – equivalent to about 2 cents). Any time outside this window would result in charges as high as 7p a minute (14cents/minute). Navigation around the screens in Prestel and its service providers was done by punching in 3 digit numbers that corresponded to page numbers as well as the use of control characters # and *

There were a bunch of services and information available through Prestel itself but much of the content was provided by what were considered tier 1 service providers. For the younger generation insterested in games and chat forums etc., the principle provider was called Micronet800 (see screenshot below – Thanks to R.T.Russell for this screenshot).

Micronet800 Welcome Screen

British Telecom eventually purchased Micronet entirely around 1989 . Micronet’s editorial staff were originally based out of Clerkenwell in London but after they were acquired by B.T. they were moved to a new B.T. location in Apsley, Hemel Hempstead. The technical staff were originally based out of offices in Peterborough but were moved down to offices in London back in 1986.

Multiplayer Games on Micronet800: StarNet & SHADES

The reason why I wanted to write this blog entry was to mention two of the most exciting things about Micronet800’s service. The multiplayer games.

SHADES
Micronet800 brought us two of the world’s first multiplayer games. The first was called SHADES, a realtime (kind of..), ascii text driven Dungeons & Dragons type role playing game where the goal was to get to immortal status. Shades was written by a guy who called himself Hazeii. I forget his real name but it was something like Ian or Neil I think. I spoke to him (in-game) a few times back in the day as he was kind enough to a) listen to player feedback in respect to modifications or additions to the game and b) would sometimes appear in the game itself as a god-like immortal character.

StarNet
The second game was called StarNet (Not to be confused with a little known southern Florida BBS called “Star Net”). Not many people who played StarNet and also owned a Sinclair ZX Spectrum realized that the guy who developed the enormously successful Speccy computer games, Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge, was the same guy that developed StarNet, Mike Singleton of Beyond Software. You can read a really old interview with Mike Singleton here.

StarNet was based very closely on a PBM (play by mail) game Mike had developed called Star Lord which he ran on a commodore PET in his home. You can read more about it here.

In brief, StarNet was a turn-based, space strategy game in which players had to make economic and military decisions. At its peak, StarNet could accommodate up to 500 players.

You played a space captain and began the game with 50 starships in a fairly safe part of the galaxy (I think it was 50 . . . it might have been 200 starships.. my memory isn’t what it used to be) . As stated, the objective was to make economic and military decisions which would eventually lead you to be in a position to defeat the emporer (another real world player who had become very powerful indeed) and take over the galaxy.

You could form alliances with other players and coordinate your turns as a group in an effort to grow, attack, and take over other players’ starships, planets and even whole sectors. The game really was an excellent concept and a wonderful experience at the time. You would enter your moves for all your ships, acquisitions and attacks and wait impatiently for the following day when all the players’ moves would be calculated and the results executed.

Starnet Welcome Screen

One of the things I loved about StarNet was that all the names were only 5 characters long and in caps so for example, my StarNet captain was called “ULCER”. It was quite a challenge to come up with original new names that were only 5 characters long. There were basically 3 factions within the game: those who formed alliances against the emporer, the emporer himself and those that allied to him, and pirates(renegades) who were basically players who chose to play solo and not ally with anyone at all.

The excitement of logging in the next day and making your way to the StarNet pages of Micronet800 to see the results of your moves from the previous day (and/or those of your allies) is not something you can explain to someone easily these days. A ‘game’ could last months. Once the emporer was finally defeated, the player who defeated him would himself become the new emporer and so the game would begin again.

I made numerous friends through that game and we initially kept in touch through the chat services provided through the Prestel service itself. Eventually we got friendly enough to actually call each other up on the phone, and, in the ultimate demonstration of geekiness, we ended up scheduling a StarNet meet at a pub in London. Good times!

If anyone remembers playing StarNet and remembers their StarNet game name or that of friends I would be very interested in hearing from you. I’ve been thinking of compiling a list of players.

Time for a Revival?
I would love to see StarNet revived in a web-based emulation , complete with blocky viewdata graphics. I’m sure someone who knows how to program in Visual Basic, Java or php could come up with something that could be hosted on an ftp site and serve pages to a user on his/her web browser perhaps tied in to a simple MySQL database to manage the players, their ship inventories and affiliations and some simple server-side code to execute the moves/turns and serve the results.

I’ve spent many an evening scouring the web for someone that might have made any efforts in this direction but sadly the only thing I’ve been able to find are genuine teletext or viewdata emulation efforts by the viewdata purists out there. Personally, I don’t think it would be necessary to actually simulate viewdata (and all that entails) only emulate it so that it looks like you’re looking at the Prestel/Micronet800 type pages, especially if those pages could easily be created with a basic text editor as opposed to created with a genuine ANSI editor and forced to abide by the teletext standard.

Where is Mike Singleton Today?

“Mike Singleton where are you?” If you read this Mike, get in touch. If someone who knows Mike knows of his whereabouts and what he’s doing these days, please let me know. Just to know he’s alive and well is sufficient. I don’t need his personal banking information and shirt collar size. I believe Mike hailed from Merseyside (Liverpool, England) so some kind Scouser must know the answers we seek.

Advertisements

72 Responses to Prestel and Micronet800

  1. Bill Hoggett says:

    Last we heard Mike’s living in Switzerland, working on a massively multi-player RPG.

    If you check out http://www.icemark.com and contact [name removed] he can put you in touch with Mike should you wish to talk to him about StarNet. Beware though, there was an unsavoury episode a couple of years ago when someone pretending they were someone else used [name removed] to contact Mike and this ended up leaving a bad taste when the truth eventually came to light, so there may be a little resistance.

    I’m afraid I can’t comment on StarNet myself, having only heard about it in recent times. I’m involved in running a Lords of Midnight inspired multi-player strategy game called Midnight/MU (see the website link) and we have a forum at http://forum.midnightmu.com, where you’ll find plenty of Mike’s fans should you wish to visit.

    Thanks so much for the feedback Bill. Its great to know that Mike is still doing well. Based on the information you provided in the first paragraph I have removed the contact name so that said contact doesn't get inundated. Especially given the background of recent events you provided. I'm sure a smart reader can figure it out if they really want to.

  2. Pat says:

    I never played STARNET, but I did used to put the two 5 1/4 diskettes into the BBC micro that ran the universe! Does that count? Mike invented the idea behind the game, and wrote the original code, but towards the end it was someone else’s code that ran the game. Good to hear that someone remembers the online days before the www!

    Thanks for commenting Pat. In all honesty I believe those days held a kind of wonder and sense of discovery that is totally lost today. Add to that the fact that you actually had to be quite smart back then to understand the technology and process necessary to get online and enjoy such services. Sadly today, anyone with a credit card can purchase an internet-ready computer and be 'online' within 5 minutes of opening the box.

    If you loaded the universe does that mean you worked for Micronet800? Any chance you knew George Row?

  3. Jez says:

    I don’t know what made me think of Shades/Prestel etc…. weird! Anyway, I worked for BT just after they bought Micronet and all the staff from Herbil Hill moved in! Those were the days – editing Prestel pages and playing Shades everyday. Happy memories.

    I remember when BT closed down Micronet (proved to be an embarassment to their corporate image), and soon after sold off Prestel! I managed to “borrow” the original artwork that was used to market Shades – now hanging up in my study!

  4. nitecloak says:

    Thats excellent. Thanks for dropping by and introducing yourself Jez. I’d be fascinated to hear anything at all you can remember about those days. Like how you edited the pages (what tool if any did you use) and about the folks that worked on Prestel and Micronet. Those were trailblazing days!

    Why did Micronet prove to be an embarassment? I must have missed the politics on that one.

  5. Todd Scure says:

    CEMAL – a pre-generated name from before we could pick our own names. I had another account under a psuedonym (so yes a whole second account just to cheat at Starnet) – ANGEL, leader of the (short-lived) Space Angels alliance. Back then JEMAL was running the biggest alliance and FALCO was either his 2IC or had his own alliance and worked with him, can’t remember which.

    The lengths I went with that game. I wrote a battle simulator in BBC Basic to trial my moves. Every 2-3 days when the new player listings came out I saved off the listings and wrote a crude program to trawl through the lists looking for new players who I’d then immediately invite into my alliance. Wouldn’t even know where to start doing something like that now. One time I found a guy who’d been sitting without making his first move in a sector FALCO was in and hand picked him a set of moves that meant every star in the sector was taken while Falco was sending his whole fleet to pick up stragglers at one of those stars that leached ships from every planet each turn. No planet to return to meant he was put out of the game. Boy he was pissed off about that. Shortly afterwards we got creamed by his guys. People can take backstabbing so personally.

    I remember a few of the other guys who hung on the Starnet “Chatline” like BLOOD, DRUIN, BROCK. DAZZZ(I think) and LANDO. BLOOD, DRUIN and DAZZZ were particularly good friends.

    I even played in a play-by-mail (postal) game, whose name I can’t remember, with Jemal and Dazzz but we lost. That was an experience. I remember mapping out star systems on graph paper. I had 16 sheets of A4 selloptaped together just to manage the map for my sorry end of the universe in that game.

    If you EVER get Starnet rezzed then let me know by the email provided. I had so much fun with that game.

    I played Shades a bit too but couldn’t really afford it at the time. I played as, I think, Hakenslash but really didn’t get too far.

  6. Todd Scure says:

    There was also a guy Paul Sengupta who was a half-Indian chap from Wales who taught me Nos Da and Bore Da. His dad was a GP. I want to say he also had a Wizard in Mud/Mist whose name was Rincewind but that may just be brain fever.

    These are just general Micronet thoughts….

    If Paul Sengupta reads this can he email me at mu d p u p spm @ ntlworld.com (cut the spaces…) and just say hi! He was one of the nicest people I’ve met online and, yes, I think that is at least 63% because he was Welsh.

  7. NellieMcK says:

    WOW! I landed on this page whilst trying to explain to my WII obsessed daughter what real gaming used to be like, trying to show her what Prestel and StarNet looked like. Many happy memories flooding back.

    I was Captain NELLY, and remember being in the same sector as FALCO, and being in his allience. I also remember starting a very poorly judged attack on him when I switched sides. Oh well, the follies of youth!

    It was excellent fun dialling up Keats or Yeats or Dickens to connect (after 6pm of course!) and find out what had happened in the previous 24 hours.

    I’m with you, BRING BCACK STARNET!!

  8. GRiSm says:

    Well well well….

    The guy that wrote the StarNet code for the BBC Model B was known variously as GUDIL or GROMB, but known to us at Micronet800 as Lawrence Kirby.

    I’ve suggested to him before that he should resurrect it, perhaps for mobile phones etc, but no luck so far!

    I was GRISM, also factioned with FALCO, but I was an awful player, no patience. I preferred Shades and Trash, which were both designed/owned by Neil Newell. Shades is still running over at http://games.world.co.uk/shades

    As for editing the pages, we used to use a system called Genesis written Lawrence that updated it’s pages through the Bulk Update interface of Duke Computer. We’ve still got the code knocking about somewhere for the entire rewrite of the Prestel platform (again Lawrence) and also the specification manuals.

    From the names Pat and Jez, I’ll assume they’re my erstwhile colleagues Patman and Jez? Pat used to have the Prestel diamond sign in his kitchen!

  9. nitecloak says:

    Thanks Todd, Nellie and GRiSm for your replies. I’ve had my head buried in other work now for almost a year and have had so little time to pursue my hobbies that my blog is suffering some serious neglect. Hope to rectify that before too long.

    I was known as ULCER on StarNet and I was part of a small unit captained by a young guy called FLICK. I can’t for the life of me remember who we were allied with. I do remember that FLICK arranged for all our comrades to meet at some pub in London in a function room above the bar itself. I was surprised when about 30 people actually showed up, from all over the country. I was in Yorkshire at the time so it was quite a trip for me as I was only in my late teens at the time. Anyway it was a great night and I distinctly recall this one young lad who had a very powerful presence in the game itself but when we met him in person he turned out to be a small, ginger-haired, freckled, bespectacled kid. LOL

    I played Shades heavily for about a year until my parents went ballistic when they realised I was taking the monthly phone bill from something like 46 quid to over 200 quid. Got grounded for that. I actually spoke to Neil (HazeII) on a couple of occasions and he seemed a nice guy but was typically too busy for smalltalk.

    I also got to know (through a friend) Pippin the Wizard who was famous from the original Essex MUDD and had a persona in SHADES too. Now there was a strange eccentric character. Very rich from patenting the first soft contact lens design and openly gay (which was rare back then). Last time I had communication with him he had chosen to live a hermit’s lifestyle half way up some mountain in an African rainforest or something, eating breakfast with wild Monkeys every day. I seem to recall he was using an early packet-switch or satellite method to communicate with through his computer which was pretty damn revolutionary back then.. and bloody expensive too.

    Back to STARNET.. I would imagine there’s a lot of us who are in the early 40’s to late 50’s who would like to see a STARNET revival. How many, who only knows.

    • Richard says:

      Hello there,

      For nostalgia sake I searched the web for references for starnet. Imagine my surprise when I found your site. My old starnet name was..FLICK who warrents a mention on your blog. The alliance we had was the DRUIDS headed by myself and Garet who was my brother-in law. Your mention of Yorkshire rang a bell-didn’t you visit Wroxham (or close to) in Norfolk and met me and my then wife for a trip to Yarmouth?. I’m sure I have this right?. Other names you might remember are RENDA (Andy) who is still a mate, EXPOR BLADE SOLOS to name but a few more in the DRUIDS who I believe one boasted 20 odd members thanks to Andys amazing recruitment powers.

      • nitecloak says:

        Hey Rich. Yup its me.. Rich. LOL. Blimey who’d have thought after all these years we’d finally catch up with one another on the internet. I was down on vacation in the Norfolk Broads and we were staying in Horning with my first wife (looks like we’ve both moved on). We met up yes but I forgot where we met, didn’t realize it was in Yarmouth. I never throw anything away and even though I’ve lived in the States for the last 10+ years I still have a letter from you somewhere. Will have to dig it out and see what it says. Ah good times, simpler times. RIP Starnet!

    • James says:

      I played starnet as Darth. Would play again if it was available.

  10. Gordon Alexander says:

    My wife and I played Starnet, and we loved it – in fact I remember driving home three times a week from holiday to make our moves. Our characters were Krull and Ythri, and we formed an alliance called the Federation. (Of Independent Star Traders)

    I seem to remember we did pretty well in the alliance and individual charts but that may just be the rose-tinted perspective of retrospection……

    I definitely remember we had one stupendous victory wiping out a 10,000 ship fleet with a pincer action which surely merits inclusion in the Starnet hall of fame. If I could only remember who it was we were fighting…….

    Kind regards to any former allies or adversaries who may read this 🙂

    Krull & Ythri

  11. Tao says:

    My friends mother used to work for Prestel (or Micronet – no sure) back in “the day”.
    We used to spend hours playing Shades, getting our character up to a higher level.
    We even drew out little maps for the game.

    I am pretty sure the characters name was Cyborg – and there was even an area on there where you could make your own pages of text and graphics. I think it was done using some sort of ALT type code to get the colors/graphic blocks to show up. We did a Cyborgs recipe page. The only other person on there I remember was someone called Foxy or Miss Foxy or something like that!

    Flashing Cyan-Magenta anyone?

  12. Gary says:

    The good old days of Prestel, Micronet800 and BBS systems. Things are just not the same anymore.

    Used to play Starnet and Shades (can’t remember any details of my user names though, to many Club 18-30 holidays since then) and enjoyed the excellent content in Micronet800 including the ramblings of Micromouse (allways my favorite read at the time).

    I would love to see Starnet come back. Maybe if some has some good specs for the games they could put them on getafreelancer.com and maybe some programmer will produce it for a dollars.

    I can also relate to nitecloak I also had my modem taken away by my parents once a phone bill for over £300 was received although I suspect that was more down to me using the PSS (Packet Switching System) to connect to services in the states then Prestel.

  13. John says:

    Wow! this brings back memories!! Another 40+er that would love to see STARNET make a return.

    My user names were ARIOC and STOMP – can’t remember who I was aligned with but vividly remember the excitement of working out my next moves and waiting for the next evening to see the (usually disasterous) outcome…

  14. Sarah says:

    Hehe.

    http://games.world.co.uk/shades

    Some things NEVER truly die..

  15. Varptr says:

    Yep – I was there too. I didn’t do too well and I think I reached the rank of “Seeker” unfer the name “Alice” (I also used the name above). I remember a Wiz being present in one location I passed through and he changed my name to “Alice the Looking Glass Seeker”, apparently they could do that.
    Happy and expensive days.

  16. Mike Brown says:

    Interesting times! I was Technical Director at Micronet from its birth until BT decided to buy everything. Then I went into business with Neil (Hazeii), creating Tessier Ashpool Ltd (for all you neuromancers out there) and running the Shades licence until BT closed Micronet down. Neil is a man of truly unique genius.

    Strarnet had its own special group of PBM devotees. The strategy was beyond my mortal brain, but it was great pleasure working with Lawrence – another hero in the pantheon of world-class coders. Lawrence’s dad, I remember, had a very lucrative business making cattle cake from beyond-expiry-date confectionery like Mars Bars.

    Have you read Cybergypsies by Indra Sinha? Beautifully written, and brings back Shades and the whole of the 80’s in glorious technicolor.

    I’m sure it was Falco who ran an insurance policy on the Shades chatlines, whereby you paid him a monthly ‘premium’ of treasure in return for which he would guarantee to recover your status and your possessions in the event you were killed by one of the more bloodthirsty wizards. His strapline for the business was “You CAN take it with you”.

    I was just wondering today what Micromouse would say about the House of Lords decision to allow the extradition of the hacker Guy Mackinnon to stand trial in the US.

    Mike

    • Richard Tyner says:

      Hi Mike,

      This is Richard Tyner. I well remember my trips with you and I would love to say hello again.
      Hope you have kept the faith and we will see the back of The Eton bunch soon.

      Peace and love,

      Richard

      • Mike Brown says:

        Hi, Richard! Great to hear from you. How are you and the family doing? Drop me a line at brovnik@sky.com. I miss your lilting Irish voice. Are you still running? Lindsay and I have 5 kids now but three of them are borrowed, and one beautiful granddaughter. This government is a government of millionaires by millionaires for millionaires. But not for long. Love, Mike

  17. Darran Smith says:

    Heyyyyy!

    Starnet rules – what a great game, i remember finishing work. racing home a logging on – could not get enough of that game – regularly racked up phone bills of £300 + per quarter !! and only erning £30 quid a week !! – oh happy days.

    Captain REVDA and my brother was MYDAS and we were in the OVERLORDS who did overthrow the emperor and installed GANUS – i remember FALCO – a BT engineer as i recall – the hated ememy!! hehehehe – Went to several meets in the Jeremy Bentham Pub in London and waking up on a train somewhere the next morning!

    Best regards
    Revs

  18. Paul Vigay says:

    Gosh! What’s this? A Micronet 800 reunion? hehe. I just happened to stumble across this page whilst doing some research into teletext graphics for some software I’m developing (still on RISC OS – the operating system developed by Acorn as a successor to the BBC Micro)
    I was Acorn editor for Micronet in the late 80s until the closure in 1991.

    Good to see some familiar names still around! I’m still in touch with Daemonn and Paul Needs (and Ian Burley occasionally)

    Paul

  19. Mark Cripps says:

    I was talking to someone yesterday about ‘how I’ve been working online since 1984’ and he did not believe me. It’s mostly true!

    Back then I was actually working for Prism Microproducts selling the modems that gave access to Micronet for Sinclairs etc (1200/1200 baud!!) …. and I also devoted lots of energy selling you guys subscriptions packages to the Micronet service. It seemed all pretty advanced back then. Bring back accoustic couplers I say!

    For some serious nostalgia, check these out:

    http://74.125.45.132/search?q=cache:9GkGpMLoIUcJ:k1.dyndns.org/Vintage/Sinclair/82/Peripherials/Unsorted/Micronet%2520800.pdf+micronet800&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=6&client=firefox-a

    http://www.worldofspectrum.org/hardware/feat24.html

    Cheers

    Mark

  20. Adrian Clint says:

    What a great read to bring back memories. I was looking around t’internet for some old viewdata/micronet images to stick up on a webpage (something to do over the xmas hols) and I found this. I started playing MUD & hanging around Micronet when I mentioned the MUD article in Adventure Gamer to a friend at college and he said he was playing. I borrowed a Sony KTX9000 9″ Viewdata terminal from work and was hanging around the Micronet MUD chatroom on the ACC pages within days.
    When the Gallery started I was one of the first to sign up (*323000009#) and created a very popular site called MudSpit.. a satire news page combining Spitting Image type humour with MUD graphics and stories. After wining the 2nd Gallery page of the month I was invited to edit on Micronet proper and got used to editing using a BBC Micro Viewdata program and uploading to the Duke computer on Sunday evenings.
    I even managed to get the hang of the dynamic viewdata page editor and did a popular dynamic image of a MUD player’s (based on Jez San) degeneration after too much time at the keyboard, parodying Spiting Image parodying the AntiDrugs message of the day…. (I can handle it…..etc)

    I still regard the Gallery as the first implentation of a user editable text and graphics webpage, years before the www and html came along.

    Then I got into Starnet and like most of the MUDders joined the FALCO alliance. I was pretty pathetic to being with. Then after looking at the whole …how many men do I need to attack and win, but if he moves more men to where I attack then I need to retreat so I need to protect my base….. calulation I had help from my college maths teacher and solved it all with some simulatious equations…..see I did learn something! Within a couple of weeks I think I was top 10 for troops and top 3 for money. I stopped playing the whole lot when I moved to London and didnt have access to telephones and modems.
    I still went to the Micronet meets and Shades meets (never played much even though Neil wanted me to do some Shades satire stuff) and remember the Shades parties Pippin used to host at his house in Redhill. Which usually ended up being just a big foodfight in the Marquee, as you would expect as so many Shades players were so juvenile – literaly. Remember TMMC? The midnight microneters club?

    Who also remembers reading Skweeky the mouse (Steve Gold) and then the infamouse Duke of Edinburgh mailbox hack with Robert Schriffen?

  21. Steve says:

    Yeah I remember the days .. seems like a life time ago that I was asking my parents to use their phone so I could connect via my 1200/75 modem.

    I doubt this has ever been published on the net but does anyone know if the software download chart exists (I guess it was for MicroNET). I wrote something back in the mid 80’s on the BBC Micro that was an Artificial Intelligence Simulator called Arty and I got 25p for every sale .. woohooo .. only mad a few hundred quid but it was better than school and doing my part time job at Safeway 😉 Anyway I guess the chart list was binned a long time ago. Wow it really does seem a lifetime ago!

    • Paul says:

      Another much delayed stumbling onto this page. I was googling Prestel Download Chart as I had two programs (a Connect 4 clone & Pontoon) in the top 10 for a while (I think the upload server packed up just after they went online so for a few weeks they were the newest content) I was 16 at the time and couldn’t afford Prestel so a friend managed it all in return for a cut of the profits. I don’t remember getting rich so must have been a big cut !

  22. Anthony says:

    Crikey, names from the depths of the woodwork!

    Played Starnet as Vulch, also a member of Falcos alliance The Terminators if ancient memory serves. I was probably better known for Old Vulch’s Starnet Almanack in the Gallery than for my playing ability.

    Somewhere I think I’ve still got a large pile of discs with old turn data and possibly old editions of the Almanack. I should dig them out and see if they’re still readable.

    • Gordon Alexander says:

      Now that I’d love to see 🙂

      Krull

    • Anthony says:

      So two years later I’m looking for something else and find a box of discs with things like “Moves 120-139” written on them. Most of them are database files in some odd format but there were 4 complete sets of maps labelled 161 to 164. I’ve extracted the files, chopped out the core of Rob O’Donnells convertor to turn them into images, run up a quick PHP front end page, and they’re uploading to http://starnet.vulch.org/ as I write though it may take an hour or two for the DNS to propogate.
      First time you’ll be dropped in a random location, after that your position is held in a cookie. Navigate by clicking on the Up/Down/North/etc links at the bottom, the “Map Index” link steps you through the four turns available. The Gate Jump doesn’t work, mostly because I don’t know which pairs were linked, but there was also a copy of Bonzos BBC Basic tools which I think had them recorded.

  23. Richard says:

    Hey Nitecloak,

    After my original post I spent the whole evening trying to remember your christian name which turns out to be rather dim of me it would seem. If memory serves I think we met initially at a Starnet meet (oh such happy days bring the back!) and got on pretty well so when you came down to darkest Norfolk we met up.
    These days when I look in the mirror I’m surprised to see an old guy of 47 look back at me. All those years ago when I was 23/24 the oldest member of our old alliance was EXPOR who I thought at the time was ancient as he was 45 odd. Very nice bloke to chat to by the old mailbox though. Just think he would be almost 70 now!.
    Its getting late-ish over here tonight and I can’t do the late nights like I used to with Starnet-2 in the morning was nothing!. If you have no objection at a later date I’ll clutter the place up with some more Starnet memories-names, alliances etc.
    Took the liberty of mailing the link to this page to RENDA.

    Bring back Starnet!

    Catch up soon
    Flick

  24. Hi. Been pointed at this page by another ‘netter. I too used to work for Micronet, in THD (Technical Help Desk) downloading the support mails each morning (to paper!) and spending most of the day answering them, in between uploading telesoftware, writing help pages, running Gallery updates, and generally having a lot of fun. Nice to see a lot of familiar names!

    I’ve lately been trying to put together a website dedicated to this genre of system – http://www.viewdata.org.uk – so feel free to pop over and share any memories, data, screenshots, etc!

  25. […] my first mmo on this computer via my first modem ! I think it was 300baud and you used connect to micronet , which was run by prestel part created on post office premises and run by BT which i think was a […]

  26. Ian says:

    Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be (and nor is my memory!) istr 2 names were allowed when I played Starnet?

    Bogey and Snott were mine.

  27. Falco says:

    Blimey! Was surfing around and suddenly found my name beaming out of the page.

    Those were the days, hacking into Essex Uni to play MUD at night from a bedsit in the Edgeware Road or even County Hall basement. Playing Diplomacy over Prestel to everyone’s amazement and the total addiction to StarNet or TenRats as a lot of us termed it.

    I remember setting up our first Falcons live meet in the upstairs bar of the Jeremey Bentham too, made a lot of good mates there and also we got a load of new recruits from other alliances we had invited.

    The game was not only addictive, it was one of the first where you had to combine the skills learned in playing Diplomacy with a lot of logic and hopefully an ability to cater for the totally unexpected.

    I still have some printouts of the original game and also a few lists of Falcons so if anyone is interested I can rekindle a few memories.

  28. Arius says:

    There I was, minding my own business, the History Channel on TV in the background, when I heard the name Dr Geraint Evans. Although the guy on TV didn’t have a Welsh accent I instantly thought ‘Blood’.

    I had nothing better to do so Googled Micronet 800 and StarNet and found this site. Seeing all those old familiar names is like stepping back 20+ years. Druin, the Rochdale Cowboy. He came second in the Monopoly game I GM’d online. It must have taken about twelve hours and a gallon of Guinness to get through that night. Can’t remember who won though.

    A snappy salute to my old CO, Falco (how ya doin’, Paul?).

    Once the writing was on the wall for StarNet I gave away all my ships to a newby and just sat waiting for the vultures to pounce. The last few weeks were hectic, everyone trying to top the kill list. I hadn’t made a move for a few weeks and as soon as one of these vultures was poised to strike I threw myself at a Lotus Star. I’m still there…watching the universe go by…

    BTW, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s password was 22222222. A pointless piece of trivia…

  29. John says:

    Wow, i was surfin’ and i found some references to Micronet 800 and Mike Brown. I used to work on the help desk in P’boro and then London with Mike and another John. Heady days! When i talk to friends now i don’t think they really believe that i had anything to do with something so ahead of it’s time and really the internet in it’s infancy. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days.

    • Mike Brown says:

      Hi, John.

      Great to hear from you. Hope you’re well. I occasionally meet up with Simon D’Arcy, but none of the others. I did meet Babsky on the Underground a few years ago, but didn’t get his email address! All the best, Mike brovnik at sky.com

      • Richard Tyner says:

        Hello Mike,
        I left a message for you last month. I will give John an hello as well,

        Richard

    • Richard Tyner says:

      And a lot of beer as well.

      Regards,

      Richard Tyner

  30. Rob Raine says:

    Had the urge to google for ‘starnet’ today, and came across this article. Great bit of nostalgia! I used to play as ‘RASTA’, and names I remember from the chatlines are RC (Rochdale Cowboy), CLOWN, ASHBY, NACRO…and many others that have slipped from my mind… though who could forget FALCO, or the accident-prone GRAPE? 🙂
    A modern-day revival of Starnet sounds interesting – anyone got any screenshots or a battlecalc?

  31. Bel Riose says:

    Like others, I found this page via a search (quite low down the found items it must be admitted) wondering if I had correctly remembered the name Starnet (yes) and whether there was anywhere a detailed description of how the game worked (no, this is the closest).

    RIOSE was my five letter name taken from a character in Asimov’s Foundation books. Seeing the name FALCO above rang some bells; I think I was vaguely aware of alliances but wasn’t sure how they worked.

    Moves were processed daily, you had to submit your move by a certain time and the universe would be updated at a known time some hours later. If I was going to be away from the BBC computer for some days (visiting parents or whatever), so have no access to Prestel, I had to calculate what could happen in the intervening days and plan accordingly.

    The stars in the galaxy had, I think, five letter names that were sort-of systematic so XUJIM and XUJIP were close by and I imagined there was an algorithm to convert them to coordinates. You could view the local region, a certain number (9?) of stars on one screen and single click links to the adjacent regions. Whether the universe was 2 or 3 dimensional I have no idea.

    If someone was to create something close to Starnet, still with one move a day and with no need for fancy graphics, I’m sure it would have a following. Of course, the original blog post is >4 years old so maybe not likely to happen. Ah well.

    Bel.

  32. Rupert Goodwins says:

    Hah… Mud! Micronet800! Happy days…

    Rupert “Micromouse” “*800651#” “sorry, mate, was that your password?” G

  33. I used to love starnet. My first handle was Romeo.

    • Ian MacDonald says:

      Wow, what memories! I used to be an Overlord back then under the name ASTRA. Where did all of that time go?
      I too used to get huge phone bills, £200 odd a month playing Starnet, Shades and such like. I never achieved that high a score in Shades as I’d normally go on the attack as soon as I could get my mitts on the rusty long sword! Had some good tussles with Winseer and death monk among others.

      I remember that BONZO used to input my moves on Starnet towards the end as he did with others. Unfortunately the one time that my move would have taken the emporer, my account was suspended because I hadn’t paid one of my massive phone bills! Sorry B.

      Take care everyone,

      A.

  34. Steve Gold says:

    Who is this Rupert Goodwins? Micromouse? Must be an imposter 🙂

    *90#

  35. Where is Lawrence Kirby these days? Anyone know…?
    Woj…

    • Rob says:

      He was fred@genesis.demon.co.uk but that seemed to last be used in 1997. I’ve not been able to trace any other contact details, or any postings under his name later than this – I’d like to get in touch too, assuming he’s still alive, in the hope that he’s still got some archives of Prestel/Micronet stuff we can rescue and publish.

  36. On the same day I learnt that an ex-colleague at Leavesden, Watford (the successor BT building after Apsley, Hemel Hempstead) died of a stroke at the age of 43, it’s as chilling to see an old posting here from Paul Vigay, RIP…
    Queue Twilight Zone theme tune.
    Woj…

  37. Hi, bit late to comment on the Starnet reminiscing (only 5 years after the posting!), but I’m interested for a couple of reasons. Firstly, back in late ’87 (I think!) I went to Prestel in Herbal Hill for a job interview. I can’t remember what the job was, and I didn’t get it which was a shame, as I thought I might have a chance as I was creating teletext pages for BBC 2 CEEFAX and then sending them to the editor via Prestel at the time. Anyway, I am currently writing a magazine article which is going to include reference to Starnet and I’d love to get some fresh info and anecdotes from players for inclusion in the article (for Retro Gamer magazine). The article is actually about Starlord (the PBM and the computer game that was published in ’93. Anyone willing to be included in the article?

  38. Spooky! Every time I stumble onto this page (I must have ‘followed’ it at some point) I experience a rushing sound as I’m sucked back through time to my days in M800!

    And then there’s that sad moment when I see Paul Vigays’ postings… 😦

    Life goes on nonetheless, and me with it.

    Back to all that lovely BT Data Quality rubbish now… 😉

    Woj…

  39. Blotted but never forgotten. The Mafia will have its day once again… Fugazi/Deathmonk, Mak, Minotaur, Smig, Juarez.

  40. Steve Gannon says:

    ^ It’s Smit not Smig. And don’t forget Taurus xhehe.

    Juarez here, stumbled across this when Googling Micronet. Who were you Mark? Watched Taurus play one night at a mafia meet at Minotaurs, his speed typing was quite amazing.

    Ran up a small fortune on Micronet/BT bills back then, as did we all. Problem for them was, we were all kids and couldn’t pay. I argued that I had invested well over £1000 on a wizard which then got blotted (and later ostracised when I made Wiz again). No Wiz, no money. After a few phone calls and Micronet realising they had no control over the content of Shades, they agreed to write it off.

  41. Paul Needs says:

    Steve Gold – *90#. 😦

  42. Adrian Clint says:

    Squeek! RIP steve gold. I just found out from Paul’s comment. I think it was an article C&VG that he wrote that started MUD and Micronet 800 for me. What a hero.

  43. Earl says:

    I played Starnet as Gorgo, and ran the small Scorpions alliance, I was at the starnet meet in London as a teenager and got rat arsed. I know Sloan from The Sloan Rangers still, and remember Dwarf, Falco, Shkil and Hayne.
    Theres a game called space invasion thats ‘Starnety’ and Planets nu.

    Great times.

  44. Sabbath says:

    Anyone want a wiz making? Wiz-a-week – just need your account details. And Lordant is a…

  45. Michael Decker says:

    Blimey – old Shadists never die… I played Dimmy for years, and was good friends with Helly who sadly is no longer with us, and fond memories of many other players on the game and IRL. I remember a couple of Chinese meal ‘meets’ (hi Paul Needs – still on the crispy aromatic duck?), and the Brighton Meet, and several held at that pub behind Euston Tower. I even went to a Bon Jovi concert with Octavia as I recall. But mostly I remember struggling against the Mafia on an STC Executel (yes, Like Prince Phillip’s) while everyone else was on those hyperfast V22bis modems. Sadly I was also involved in the ‘firebomb’ threat (it wasn’t *me* making the threats) that shut down the clines for good…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: