As part of our retrogaming interests nothing keeps us better informed (and that Nintendo vs. Sega fire in our belly burning) quite like The Retro Hour podcast, hosted by Ravi Abbott and Dan Wood. We caught up with the guys ahead of their appearance at the Play Expo event in Manchester this weekend (4/5 May 2019). It’s an interview that answers all of life’s important questions, such as When To Vacuum a ZX Spectrum…
Alix: So how did you guys end up here?
Ravi Abbott: I was always the boy who would not shut up about Amiga. I met Dan online and we suddenly realised we live in the same city and both had the same passion. The power of the internet has brought us together!
Dan Wood: I’ve had a background with computers ever since I was a young kid. My parents both worked in the industry in the 70’s (my mother was a mainframe operator, my dad a system designer) so you could say computers are in my DNA.
From a young age I was fascinated by the computers at school (BBC Micros) and got a home machine (a Commodore Plus/4) when I was around 6 years old. While most kids were getting bedtime stories read to them, I would sit on my mother’s knee and type in listings from computer magazines in BASIC.
WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK
Alix: What do you both do for work away from the podcast?
Ravi Abbott: I work as a web coder currently starting my own company between America and England. I did work for FriendUp coding web apps which was really good fun as it meant could fill the app store with all kinds of crazy things. I mainly work with WordPress now as it’s so popular but learnt to code in hand from Amiga Format on those early browsers!
Dan Wood: Despite my family’s I.T. background, I chose to work in media (maybe a teenage rebellion thing!). I’ve always liked creating articles, videos and audio shows. I was kind of making “YouTube” style videos in my bedroom back in the early 90’s with a VHS camcorder and doing system tours of my computers and consoles, only nobody could watch them except my friend and me – I wish I’d kept the tapes!
Dan Wood (continued): Luckily both my passions of technology and media have aligned over the last couple of decades as more media has moved online, so I have been able to combine the two. I’ve worked as a radio broadcaster for most of the big commercial networks in the UK, and have been hosting my current daily show for 8 years now.
I also do social media management and create content for various companies, and I’ve worked with the team from Friend Software for the last 2 years, we have created a fully-customizable operating system accessible via any device that can support a modern web browser, and I’ve become immersed in the blockchain and next web technology space.
As much as I love retro, I am just as passionate about current and upcoming technologies too. I’m also a voiceover artist and a House music DJ – I play at clubs, bars, festivals and online.
THE RETRO HOUR PODCAST
Alix: How did the podcast first start?
Ravi Abbott: Me and Dan for years had been going out to town, having a drink and going back to his place to chat video games, we thought why not record it! We were both YouTubers and wanted to collab somehow and this seemed to work much more then video. Since a child I have worked with video game events and professionals as my dad used to run ‘ScreenPlay: Festival’ in Nottingham in the late 90’s so always had a huge passion for them and technology.
Dan Wood: I started rediscovering older technology and machines around 2008, and slowly started recollecting a lot of the systems I had as a kid. Around that time I thought I’d stick a video up on YouTube to see how it went, and my videos became pretty popular (by 2008 standards).
I did host a podcast called Logic Weekly around that time (a bit of a rip-off of This Week in Tech) with a guy from Seattle called Craighton, but it was at the end of the first wave of podcasting popularity, it was still hard work to get people to listen to podcasts. They either had to play them on a PC, or download them to an iPod as smart phones were in their infancy and it wasn’t an easy experience. Luckily by the time we had the idea to start the Retro Hour in late 2015, podcasting was becoming popular again and it was a lot easier for listeners to access.
Dan Wood (continued): The show really started as Ravi and I both had our own YouTube channels, and wanted to work together. Doing an audio format seemed logical as it is a better medium for longer-form content (you can listen whilst doing something else), and we both have a background in audio (mine in broadcasting and Ravi had experience as an audio engineer).
Having a guest every episode was always part of the plan, as we wanted to learn from the show and have a chance to speak to our childhood heroes who created our favourite games and systems. We timed it right, as there seems to be more interest than ever in retro games at the moment. The fact that you can walk into Game on the high street and pick up a new NES or Commodore 64 in 2019 is still mind blowing!
ONE FOR THE KIDS
Alix: What games would you recommend showing the kids of today that there is still great value in retro video games?
Ravi Abbott: I think a fantastic game for kids would be the original Pokémon Red on the Game Boy. It’s cute, has a huge world, is very addictive and still stands up today. I think retro games have a value today depending on the system and format. Playing some of those early 3D titles can be very hard these days with slower FPS and issues that can put people off. Then others need stand up on their own and are classic!
Dan Wood: I do love to see parents with their kids at the many retro gaming events we attend. Seeing young kids playing enthusiastically on the classic arcade games and systems is very nostalgic and great for family bonding. The games that seem to be most fun and accessible are multiplayer games, where parents and kids can play together. I was playing Double Dragon IV on the Nintendo Switch and Sonic Mania with my 6 year old nephew recently and he loved it.
Games like The Simpsons arcade and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where mum, dad, brother and sister can all play together are just as popular today at retro events with families as they were 25 years ago. Mario Kart is obviously a great title, but I’d go for the current Mario Kart 8 Deluxe over any of the older games.
AT THE MOVIES
Alix: Movie tie-ins don’t always lead to great video games but they do serve as a good introduction to video games in general. Do you have any personal favourites?
Ravi Abbott: I struggle trying to find a nice movie tie in. I was a huge Tomb Raider fan and disappointed with the films. I think Jurassic Park was pretty cool as each system had a completely different section, from stop motion side-scroller on the MegaDrive to FPS sections on the Amiga.
Dan Wood: I loved the Back to the Future Telltale adventure game, having Christopher Lloyd involved felt like a fourth movie. The 2009 Ghostbusters game was great fun too. For retro titles, of course GoldenEye 007 on the N64 and Alien VS Predator on the Atari Jaguar was awesome.
Alix: You’re regular attenders to retro gaming events such as Play Expo, but what other privileges has the podcast given you since it’s launch so far? Do either of you own a Nintendo World Series gold cartridge yet…?!
Ravi Abbott: The advantage of these shows is so many amazing people are in one place! I managed to get my A1200 signed by many legendary Musicians like Rob Hubbard, Jon Hare, Tim Wright and the sadly passed Ben Daglish.
Dan Wood: I think we attended 11 retro gaming events in 2018! Already this year we have 7 booked in across this summer not only in the UK but in Poland, Norway and Germany, too. Hosting the podcast live to an audience is always great fun, and meeting fans of the show is always humbling. In terms of perks, well it is pretty cool attending the after-parties when gaming events are closed to the public and having access to all the systems and arcade machines to ourselves! 🙂
SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
Alix: I have recently found my old Sinclair ZX Spectrum that was collecting dust in the loft. Where do I begin to restore such a thing, without blowing up my house?
Ravi Abbott: I would get the thing opened, have a vacuum inside and see if anythings leaking. Then look for somebody that can recap! You can often do it yourself with little packs of caps from eBay.
Dan Wood: The main thing to check with the older systems are the power supplies, a quick check with a voltage meter should verify they are putting out the correct outputs before hooking it up to the system. Buying a modern replacement power supply is a very good idea.
As Ravi said, capacitors are also something to look at, for some systems you should do it immediately especially if they use SMD electrolytic caps from the 90’s, they tend to fail and can leak and destroy the board or any components they were providing current too. I’m not as quick to replace the older through-hole radial capacitors used in a lot of 80s systems as I’ve rarely had any problems with them, but for peace of mind a lot of people would suggest replacing them as they are way past their end of life date, even if still working fine they will die eventually. There are people on forums and Facebook groups, even companies who specialise in retro system restoration. Asking on a forum/group is an easy way to find someone to help.
FAVOURITE ALL-TIME GAMES
Alix: Which are your personal all-time favourite consoles – games to go with it?
Ravi Abbott: The PS1 was my favorite, some amazing titles for that machine and it had such a long life that every single friend had one in their bedroom. Some of my favorite games are ‘Die Hard Trilogy’ ‘Overboard!’ and many European titles.
Dan Wood: I collect for the Atari Jaguar (I nearly have a complete set). With an affinity for the failed systems and underdogs and discovering titles that many people would not have played. In terms of more mainstream systems, the Sega Mega Drive was heavily played in our house as kids.
I still love the system to this day, classics like Sonic 1 and 2, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Road Rash, Decap Attack, Mortal Kombat I & II and Desert Strike are just a few that spring to mind that we played a lot. More recently, the Xbox 360 is the system that really got me back into gaming in a big way.
THE CURRENT GENERATION
Alix: Of the current generation (I’ve lost count of which one we’re in now…) do you enjoy?
Ravi Abbott: I dont really have any new consoles, my latest was the Wii U. It was an odd machine and not very useful at launch. Since it’s been hacked I can run Wii, Gamecube, SNES, MegaDrive, PS1 emulators. Its the perfect machine for it and all the lovely pro controllers work with every game. My Fiance also has a switch for a fun game on overcooked! I also love VR and have a HTC Vive.
Dan Wood: I own an Xbox One and PS4, but I play the Nintendo Switch the most by far. The games are usually more of the “pick up and play” variety. I can pick it up for a quick 30 minute gaming session when I get time. It doesn’t suffer from the huge updates that games on the other platforms often need. For example, I recently had a spare few hours and wanted to play Red Dead Redemption 2 on the Xbox One – a title my wife bought me for Christmas last year, by the time I had put the disc in and installed and downloaded around 80g of data the afternoon had gone and I didn’t get time, I’ve not picked it up again since. The Switch is a wonderful platform though for modern games and has a wealth of retro titles and remakes of classic games for it, it’s really the only system I play most weeks, plus the fact I can take it with me and play it on a train, plane or in a hotel room is great.
Alix: Away from videogames what are you guys reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
Ravi Abbott: I am really into 4k UHD movies so have been watching back some of the classics that have been restored for 4k. Recently they released a fantastic Silent Movies collection. I have been watching all the remastered Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Chaplin films.
I also love old tech so have been dusting off my record collection, Mini-Disc player and old amp. Loving some of the old albums I could never afford as a kid. Currently trying to get a complete ‘Rage Against The Machine’ collection.
Dan Wood: I don’t watch much TV, and if I do it’s mostly one-off documentaries. We did binge watch You and Dirty John on Netflix over the last few months. I don’t really have the attention span to watch many movies these days. The only time I really do is in the cinema but I generally have Youtube videos playing when I’m working. I watch a combination of technology, business and lifestyle videos, a few vloggers and a lot of lectures and talks. I enjoy learning while doing something else. Also, I listen to a bunch of other podcasts, a few of my current listens are:
- The Internet History Podcast
- The Half Hour Happy Hour
- The Gary Vee Audio Experience
- Happier with Gretchen Rubin
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
- Olly Mann’s The Media Podcast
- Iain Lee’s The Rabbit Hole
I listen to audiobooks on long journeys, usually factual books. Out and about you can usually spot me listening to house music or disco/funk mixes from Mixcloud on my earphones.
You can listen to The Retro Hour podcast on all good platforms! Learn more about the guys and their back-catalog of episodes over on their website now:
As for the wonderful Play Expo event, tickets are still available! It takes place over the course of 2 days and there is plenty to see: