Interview with Phil South
November 1997

 

How did you get started in computer journalism?

By accident. A friend of mine called John Molloy introduced me to Kevin Cox, my editor on a number of magazines before we both reached Your Spectrum/Your Sinclair. When we first started at Your Spectrum it was published by Sportscene Specialist Press, owned by Felix Dennis of Oz fame. The name of the company was later changed to Dennis Publishing.

When did you first see a Spectrum and what were your first impressions?

Wow. A colour computer for only �125! Since studying computer science at college I'd been trying to get computer time to write games. Apart from my friend John's Apple ][ this was my first computer. I programmed on it for months.

I was working as a graphic artist at a local government sponsored print shop when a friend asked me if I was interested in writing reviews of computer software. I said yes, and I've been trying to escape from computer journalism ever since. That was 13 years ago. I've only just made it.

How did you leave the Spectrum scene? Were you sad to leave?

I left YS first, to go freelance. The Amiga scene was pretty heavy by then, and I was the first (and probably the last) person writing about the Amiga in the UK. Then YS was sold to Future Publishing. Then it died. But I'd long since moved on to pastures new.

I wrote (and still write) the Amiga column in Computer Shopper magazine. When I left YS I worked for Amiga mags like The One and ACE, then later Amiga Format and Amiga Shopper, then Amazing Computing and others.

What are you doing now?

I do 3D computer graphics, web design and multimedia for big companies. Almost everything I do includes something I learned from having a Spectrum. It's true! I use Lightwave 3D version 5.5 (which I learned to use on the Amiga), Adobe Photoshop 4, After Effects 3.1, and other things. I make videos and music, but my main bread and butter these days is HTML hacking and web site design.

What were the best/worse things about the Speccy?

Games and keyboard, in that order. A proper keyboard would have added to the price, but there should have been a proper keyboard and none of those stupid keywords. To this day I still don't know which key to press to load a tape or type an apostrophe. The only key I know for sure is P for PRINT. And that's only because at least it begins with the same letter.

What were your favourite Speccy games and why?

Head Over Heels, Sentinel, Jet Pac, Pssst, The Hobbit.

HOH was and still is a ground breaking strategy game with few equals.

Sentinel was and still is a ground breaking strategy game with few equals.

Jet Pac and Pssst were from Ultimate and were both stonkingly brilliant and still play well on the old emulator.

The Hobbit was just the best adventure game we'd had up till then. It formed the idea in my head that it might be fun to make your own adventure games, which I did with John Molloy in the form of FISH!

Favourite Speccy coders/artists/musicians?

Jon Ritman, the guy who did Trap Door (whatever his name was), the Darling Bros, Greg and Roy at Gargoyle Games, and Matthew Smith god bless him (whatever happened to him?).

Favourite Speccy journalists?

I hated them all. Well almost. Apart from Macca and Marcus B. Oh and T'zer. And Mike Gerrard... oh flip, except anyone who ever worked on YS. Phew.

Do you use an emulator to play Speccy games?

Yep. You bet. I have most of them. And of course I still have most of the games I got when I worked at YS. And most of the hardware too.

What did you think of Crash and Sinclair User?

They sucked out loud. Actually they still do looking back. They were cheap, tasteless and obvious. We had style. Well for a cheap, tasteless and obvious computer magazine mainly for kids, we did anyway.

What do you think about modern games? Can they compete with the classics? Aren't they all presentation and no gameplay?

Yes. But then so am I. Seriously this is one of my main hobby horses and I don't care to fill up your entire site with the why and wherefore of that.

Suffice to say that game designers could learn a lot from the games I mentioned as my favourites.

Is there anything you miss about the old days?

My hair. Actually I still have most of that. I miss the industry being so small that you knew everyone. I miss the games being cheap to buy and lasting for months. I miss Richard Tidsall's fluffy slippers. I miss the chance to make "the Ninja costume of your smile" jokes and have everyone laugh at them. The kind of thing you can't get away with these days. :?)

Any amusing anecdotes/stories etc about the old days?

What, like Peter Shaw used to work in a piano bar when he wasn't at YS? I've got Hundreds. But no time to type them. Another time perhaps.

Have you anything to say to people who still use the Speccy today?

You sad bastards.

No wait, that's not right. Perhaps I should say "keep the faith" and punch my hand in the air. Or maybe I ought to just mutter something unintelligible and boot up my emulator for a nostalgic game of Jet Pac.

 


Thanks to Phil for doing the interview.

Interview conducted by Philip Bee.
Text Copyright (c) Philip Bee and Phil South.