Hard copy sure does fill a floppy
Part 4 of the memoirs of a man who's quite possibly not totally sane is here and this time it's all about an object that a much younger leader of the Decepticon Army had no idea existed until a chance meeting through a friend of a friend. That's how the 1980's and 1990's gaming scene worked. Meeting someone new often meant getting a game or a thing you had never dreamed of.
That little grey box on the left of this text isn't just a sweet looking lump of plastic, oh no! It's way more than that. Surviving over 25 years in his Games Room it's the peripheral that made purchasing his cool £149.99 Super Nintendo so much more worthwhile. Amiga piracy was over and it was time to change his ways... Yeah right! Because Megatron always does the right thing eh?
The return to 'Video Gaming' innocence...
It’s one thing to actually purchase your very first Sega Megadrive or Super Nintendo, it’s another thing entirely to build a collection of games for them, especially when you are still a teenager and your only source of income is a Saturday job paying £1.74 an hour and two paper rounds whose pay check often was spent on games magazines before payday even came around. The thing is that while a lot of people may claim gaming is expensive now those people are often either mistaken or when they were young came from very rich families where some sort of pocket money big enough to slaughter a Blue Whale was available to make sure they always had new games to play. Gaming is way cheaper now... FACT!
In all truth it’s very possible what I am saying is resonating with many on here who also lived through the early 1990’s with Christmases and Birthday’s being the only opportunity to be guaranteed new software to play on those shiny expensive consoles. It’s also worth noting that the machines themselves in the UK where I am from were not exactly given away in cereal packets either, for a long time the Sega Megadrive was £179.99 just for the machine and crappy Altered Beast and the Super Nintendo was not that much cheaper at £149.99, although it did come with Super Mario world which was essentially perfect! Think about those prices for a while… Now remember the early 1990’s the UK was in a serious recession and people got paid rubbish hourly rates.
I purchased both my consoles second hand from friends, there was no rich mummy and daddy throwing them around for me to take advantage of and neither were snapped up straight away, in fact it actually took me until 1992 to get my Megadrive and 1993 to get my Snes, before that going round my mates houses and actually swapping machines and games with each other for things they didn’t have like an Amiga 500 was how I attacked getting my hands on these cartridge based beauties. I was so massively into my Amiga because getting games for it was insanely easy because Piracy was rampant, owning cartridge based systems was a different ball game entirely as it was impossible to copy them… Or so most people thought! Myself included.
Curiosity, surprise, the monarch will rise...
He placed Sonic into the top of the unit which he had slotted into the cartridge port of the Megadrive and then using the menu screens selected something called ‘Copy’ I was very taken aback by this and began to ask him what he was doing, he refused to answer merely smiling and telling me to wait. Soon enough the process was finished and he then removed Sonic from the unit and pressed the eject button on the disc drive unit connected to it. He took out the disc showed it to me then put it back in. Sitting there with a face looking like I was trying to guess who farted in the elevator he then hit ‘Load’ on the same menu and after a very short time a message came up saying ‘done’ He handed me the Megadrive controller and told me to press the button. Still puzzled I did as I was told and the next thing I hear ‘Seeeeeeega!’ and Sonic The Hedgehog pops up on the screen.
I drop the pad followed by a statement of ‘What the Fuck?’ He laughed like I was the village idiot applying for the mayors position and as I sat shifting my gaze between him, the console, the disc drive then the game cartridge of Sonic on his desk he simply said ‘Yes, you can pirate Megadrive games!’ It’s impossible to re-create in words my emotions at this point however I clearly remember my eyes widening and a massive sense of happy style panicking. There were more words but to this day I have no idea what he said cause in my own mind that little voice that sits there always trying to get me to do the bad stuff was prodding me, laughing like a James bond Villain. The Pirate Kind had returned… Yes!
Over the course of the next few hours ‘Phil’ proceeded to assault my eyesight with every single game he had (which by the way was tons) it took me nearly the whole time there to realise this was not a practical joke and that this was real. He had two Amiga disc boxes full of games which at this point was essentially every single Megadrive game out. I asked him where had got this from and he informed me he had purchased it from his mate at school who imported videogames and other cool stuff.
My next question was… Can I meet this guy! At this point I was told no as his mate was extremely private and didn’t like contact with anyone so my next question was… Can you get me one of these please? The response to that was that if I wanted I could purchase this one for the princely sum of £150.00 to which my response was… YES! Yes please. I know of course now that the guy selling these was always open to meeting new people and that ‘Phil’ just wanted to sell this machine to get a Super Nintendo however I genuinely at that point didn’t give a damn and even now still don’t care.
Now as most reading this know, my love affair with software piracy was something that had been with me since the micro computer 8-Bit era of the ZX Spectrum, with a mate with a double tape deck and with many of us in the local area owning one this meant that one game purchased by each in a month meant that all of us would end up with about 5 or 6 games as we all shared everything. The same followed with the Amiga however by that point a ton more people I knew had them and as I was very much the center of everyone’s friends circles I got the whole lot (see my memoir on Piracy for a more detailed story) To suddenly go from every game under the sun to maybe 3 a year was like coming off crack cocaine! It was absolute torture. It was during this period that I came across something called Public Domain which is a whole new story but thanks to this and the wider community I managed to meet a kid who had something really rather awesome!
A friend of a friend of a friend I accidentally got talking to him one day when a few of us in different groups ran into each other and as I was halfway through saying how I still loved the Amiga because getting games for it was easy and it was impossible to get games for my Megadrive he stopped me and told me he had something I would like. Back in those days making new friends over videogames was a normal thing so inside a week I was at his house and true enough he presented me with something that blew my god damn face off! Called the Super Magic Drive it was an ugly combination of a round-ish unit that sat on top of the Megadrive itself and through a parallel port connected to a 3.5 inch disc drive. At first glance I thought it was some sort of way to make a Megadrive into a computer so was very curious however he turned the power on and everything I thought I knew went out the window!
A chance meeting leads to something unknown and exciting...
Returning home I was suddenly then faced with a dilemma of how to hell to raise £150.00. Considering I was earning less than £27.00 a week doing my jobs this would take ages to save up for after my other essential purchases (like Mean Machines etc) With this in mind I proceeded to sell my Printer for my Amiga to a guy from work (and then tell my mum he was borrowing it - lol) Sell off 50 discs a time for £20.00 to several friends as by this point I had literally thousands from my Amiga Piracy days and also borrow some money from my mum under the guise of getting something else entirely. Am I proud of all of that, nope! But at the same time, yeah of course I was you crazy people!!! I was a teenager, it was my duty to be a twat!
Two weeks after first seeing this Super Magic Drive it was in my home with all those games and suddenly I was that cool kid again who was the envy of everyone he knew. The two guys who had first showed me their Megadrive’s and even let me borrow them (Craig, Peter) were gutted that suddenly their much poorer friend had a games collection that made theirs look like a joke. I never shoved it in their faces though as I knew that whilst I was the lucky one right then this was never going to always be the case, plus you know… New games came out all the time and they got them all - lol. Even better was that recently a small shop had opened up in my town that rented actual Megadrive games. For £2.50 you could borrow a game for 5 days or in my case, have forever! For those wondering my very first pirated game not given to me was Phantasy Star 2 followed the same day by Chakan, good times indeed!
It looked ugly and I was constantly scared it would break but this £150.00 spend was one of the greatest purchases in my life, it allowed me to be able to keep up to date with everything the mags were talking about whilst also allowing me to see everything around and then pick the games I wanted original, yes that’s right people I still carried on purchasing games, piracy for me has always been about seeing everything not owning everything for free. I have OCD so I am always collecting everything I can get my hands on and even though I was rampant with copying on the Spectrum and Amiga I still had software collections in the hundreds, by the time the Megadrive years were over my original games collection was nearly 80 strong.
Just over a year later I repeated it all over again when I got (from the same guy) his Super Nintendo and Super Wild Card machine which was exactly the same thing but this time for the Super Nintendo console. He was about to go off to university and wanted to sell up everything he had so I got the unit itself plus his console, even more discs - lol and a few original games for the same amount of money £150.00.
That ladies and gents is what you call a bargain in 1993! The Super Wild card however was a much nicer unit that had everything built into one unit that sat nicely on top of the Snes itself and the original carts went in the top and the floppy discs in the side. For absolutely ages it was my most favourite thing and even when I had my newer consoles like the Amiga CD-32 and 3DO it still got played more because, well, how else am I gonna get my Megaman X fix eh?
Sell sell sell... To save save save...
Before emulation, before everdrives, copiers saved gamers lives... And cash!
By this point however my Magic Drive unit for the Megadrive has both broken (later fixed) and then ultimately got sold on because it was unable to copy the larger capacity games such as Streets Of Rage 2, Eternal Champions etc and as someone who wanted everything I simply copied games for the Snes and purchased the original Megadrive games. Once more I had managed to be able to keep up with everything thanks to breaking the law, a bit of luck and also clever strategic use of available funds. A few of my local friends had also managed to get hold of the Snes Super Wild Card after seeing how mine worked and also making contact with the guy who was the one brining them in from the far east and selling them on.
For many years this guy was the top dog in the entire town if you wanted import consoles, games and for a long time pirated PS1 and Sega Saturn games. I thought this guy was a bit of a legend in all honesty however he eventually showed his true colours when I found out he was selling me stuff for a more expensive price because I purchased tons more than anyone else he knew (because I was getting things for friends) essentially he was ripping them off through me and guess who got the blame when the truth came out? Yup you guessed it, Me! I guess it was Karma’s way of punishing me for the years of piracy and doing the wrong thing in how I got a big game collection. At the time I was furious because it ruined friendships but now as an older, wiser man I see that I deserved that. I wasn’t the one doing the wrong thing to my friends but my time for getting punished for being such a massive software piracy arsehole was by that point way overdue.
Some great memories though, looking at pictures in the magazines and playing some of the games round friends houses were great, truly brilliant times however actually having the ability to do what only a tiny amount of people I have ever met who were into playing videogames back in those days is something I look back on with massive fondness. Some games I only have memories of because of playing them on floppy disc, in fact to be very blunt many of my friends only ever played a ton of games because I was the one with these copy devices, a huge amount of their memories are because I was that naughty teenager. I guess when I look how much cash I have spent over the three decades I have been collecting original games it all balances out, ive given back way more cash than the average bear! Plus you just can’t put a price on the great times I had with these two fantastic copy devices. The Super Nintendo one you see in the pictures is actually that exact unit I talk about in this article, it’s still with me after all those years and it still works a treat! The Megadrive one was sold on so the pictures used are from the internet, sorry about that but the story is all mine!
To finish, the kid who I met that time who sold me said copy devices for my Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo did in fact go to university, passed with flying colours, got married, had two kids and is now a high ranking member of the metropolitan Police Force… And that people is no lie! Phil if you are reading this, you sir were one of the coolest people I ever met, we played games, broke the law of the land and one day someone paid you cash to police said law. You’re a genius mate!
Any chance you got a PS4 copier officer??? lol